“Nobody,” a Hong Kong protester, wrote to his Dad, “I worry that you will cry and feel devastated, But…

THERE IS NO WAY THAT I DON’T TAKE TO THE STREETS.”

While Trump is showing us how not to act the youth in the streets of Hong Kong by their extraordinary courage are showing us how to act. Would that the Republican Senators, whose cowardice is spectacular, were listening, would that they knew the meaning of courage. Our elected Senators, unlike the Hong Kong protesters, have nothing to fear except perhaps losing their comfortable jobs. Their lives are not at stake.

In this morning’s Times Cora Engelbrecht writes:

Preparing for the worst, Hong Kong protesters have started writing last letters or notes to their loved ones… in case they don’t return. These notes chronicle the mental and emotional state of frontliners coming to terms with risking death for their beliefs.

As violence escalates between demonstrators and the police, protesters have started writing “last letters” to their loved ones, in case they don’t return. Orlando de Guzman/The New York Times.

“When you find this letter, I might have already been arrested or killed.” This is how a 22-year-old protester in Hong Kong began what he worries could be the last letter to his family. He used the pseudonym “Nobody”; like most of the young people who have been confronting the police on the front lines, he fears arrest or death.

Cora met “Nobody” and his cohort during a recent Sunday demonstration. After 19 weeks of street battles with the police, the protesters’ roles are well rehearsed: They move swiftly, each to his or her appointed task, using codes and sign language. They assemble barricades in minutes, only to disperse in seconds.

She came to observe handiwork of a different kind. As the violence intensified over the summer, she learned that young protesters were writing farewell notes to family and friends in the event that they were arrested or killed. They call them “Wai Shu,” or “last letters.” Some carry handwritten copies to the streets in their backpacks or wallets. Others hide them at home, in drawers and under mattresses. Several people read them off their phones.

“Nobody” said he wrote his letter when he was at a protest last month in Causeway Bay, after witnessing an undercover officer fire into a crowd. “Right in front of me, live bullets,” he said. “At that moment, I learned that my life was at stake.”…

On the street, “Nobody” and his teammates blend into the crowds of protesters clad in black, faces covered and armed with gasoline bombs. But their individual missives set them apart, chronicling their lives and loves and what might be lost.

“Dad, I’m unfilial for leaving you so early, before I could fulfill my obligations as a son, to be there for you,” “Nobody’s” teammate Ming wrote. “When I’m gone, please take good care of yourself.”

“I actually worry that I will die and won’t see you anymore,” he wrote to her in his letter. “I worry that you will cry and feel devastated. But there is no way that I don’t take to the streets.”

A must read from today’s Times by Paul Krugman.


God Is Now Trump’s Co-Conspirator

By Paul Krugman Oct. 14, 2019

Listening to the speech William Barr, the attorney general, gave last week at the University of Notre Dame Law School, I found myself thinking of the title of an old movie: “God Is My Co-Pilot.” What I realized is that Donald Trump’s minions have now gone that title one better: If Barr’s speech is any indication, their strategy is to make God their boss’s co-conspirator.

Given where we are right now, you might have expected Barr to respond in some way to the events of the past few weeks — the revelation that the president has been calling on foreign regimes to produce dirt on his domestic opponents, the airport arrest of associates of the president’s lawyer as they tried to leave the country on one-way tickets, credible reports that Rudy Giuliani himself is under criminal investigation.

Alternatively, Barr could have delivered himself of some innocuous pablum, which is something government officials often do in difficult times.

But no. Barr gave a fiery speech denouncing the threat to America posed by “militant secularists,” whom he accused of conspiring to destroy the “traditional moral order,” blaming them for rising mental illness, drug dependency and violence.

Consider for a moment how inappropriate it is for Barr, of all people, to have given such a speech. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion; the nation’s chief law enforcement officer has no business denouncing those who exercise that freedom by choosing not to endorse any religion.

And we’re not talking about a tiny group, either. These days, around a fifthof Americans say that they don’t consider themselves affiliated with any religion, roughly the same number who consider themselves Catholic. How would we react if the attorney general denounced Catholicism as a force undermining American society?

And he didn’t just declare that secularism is bad; he declared that the damage it does is intentional: “This is not decay. It is organized destruction.” If that kind of talk doesn’t scare you, it should; it’s the language of witch hunts and pogroms.

It seems almost beside the point to note that Barr’s claim that secularism is responsible for violence happens to be empirically verifiable nonsense. America has certainly become less religious over the past quarter century, with a large rise in the number of religiously unaffiliated and growing social liberalism on issues like same-sex marriage; it has also seen a dramatic decline in violent crime. European nations are far less religious than we are; they also have much lower homicide rates, and rarely experience the mass shootings that have become almost routine here.

Nonetheless, William Barr — again, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, responsible for defending the Constitution — is sounding remarkably like America’s most unhinged religious zealots, the kind of people who insist that we keep experiencing mass murder because schools teach the theory of evolution. Guns don’t kill people — Darwin kills people!

So what’s going on here? Pardon my cynicism, but I seriously doubt that Barr, whose boss must be the least godly man ever to occupy the White House, has suddenly realized to his horror that America is becoming more secular. No, this outburst of God-talk is surely a response to the way the walls are closing in on Trump, the high likelihood that he will be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Trump’s response to his predicament has been to ramp up the ugliness in an effort to rally his base. The racism has gotten even more explicit, the paranoia about the deep state more extreme. But who makes up Trump’s base? The usual answer is working-class whites, but a deeper dive into the data suggests that it’s more specific: It’s really evangelical working-class whites who are staying with Trump despite growing evidence of his malfeasance and unsuitability for high office.

And at a more elite level, while a vast majority of Republican politicians have meekly fallen in line behind Trump, his truly enthusiastic support comes from religious leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., who have their own ethical issues, but have called on their followers to “render to God and Trump.

Patriotism, Samuel Johnson famously declared, is the last refuge of scoundrels. But for all his talk of America first, that’s not a refuge that works very well for Trump, with his subservience to foreign autocrats and, most recently, his shameful betrayal of the Kurds.

So Trump is instead taking shelter behind bigotry — racial, of course, but now religious as well.

Will it work? There is a substantial minority of Americans with whom warnings about sinister secularists resonate. But they are a minority. Over all, we’re clearly becoming a more tolerant nation, one in which people have increasingly positive views of others’ religious beliefs, including atheism.

So the efforts of Trump’s henchmen to use the specter of secularism to distract people from their boss’s sins probably won’t work. But I could be wrong. And if I am wrong, if religious bigotry turns out to be a winning strategy, all I can say is, God help us.

My thoughts and internet notes regarding Trump’s brazen attempt to steal our country.

The most straightforward answer to why I’m not sleeping is the constant stream of Trumpian antics, of the foolish, outrageous, dangerous to the country’s health, but often amusing behavior. What keeps me awake is Trump’s being totally unfit for the office of president, yet fully occupying that office. This drives me to rage at him, at what he’s doing and saying, and even more at his enablers in the Senate.

Thoughts, too many thoughts with a heavy concentration on politics, much like these here keep me awake. Thoughts of Trump, his base, the Republican Senators, and the bevy of lawyers transformed into spineless sycophants surrounding him, so far have not stopped coming, without being asked, and seizing hold of my consciousness.

And there is no end in sight (maybe November of 2020?). As a small child my parents would tell me to count, (sheep was it?) to get back to sleep. It worked and I did get back to sleep. Now, try as hard as I can to grab hold of sleep, I’m not able to, and sleep doesn’t grab me and I remain awake.

Just a few days ago I read in the news thatTrump’s men and women trolls, flunkies all (a flunky’s job is to do whatever he or she is told to do, preferably without question in a servile, docile, dutiful way) had declared war on the House impeachment inquiry by announcing that they, Trump’s gaggle of flunkies, would not cooperate with what they now called an illegitimate effort on the part of Congress “to overturn the results of the 2016 election” and in the process setting the stage for a constitutional clash with far-reaching consequences.

But who is it that is setting the “stage for a constitutional clash” but Trump himself. This is Trump’s method, you try to impeach me and I will impeach you. He lives by the idea, that the best defense is an offense. Never give in. What he had learned from his Trump Hotel and Tower lawyer, Roy Cohn. Make up the rules of the game as you go along. Don’t wait for Trump/Cohn to concede that his own words and actions are bringing about the “constitutional clash with far-reaching consequences.”

“To overturn the results of the 2016 election?” Is that what the Dems are doing? Not at all. Here’s what the Constitution says about Impeachment: that which they are really doing:The House of Representatives shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. (Article 1, section 2.) What’s happening now is simply that, the House is exercising its legitimate power. The 2016 election is over and done with. No one, and certainly not the House of Representatives, is trying to resurrect it. The House is merely doing its Constitutionally assigned task.

Donald Trump’s stonewalling of the United States Congress is not unlike what he describes earlier at a rally in Sioux City Iowa:

“You know what else the polls say about my people? They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”

Well just yesterday Joe Biden suggested that this is what is happening, except that nowTrump is “shooting” our Constitution, making holes in our system of Constitutional checks and balances (in particular the checks on the president). Again Trump disregards the Constitutionally assigned oversight powers of the Congress in order to further his own personal interests.

There are myriad examples of unbridled kingship (or emperorship) in our history, many fewer examples of democratic government. History is full of the actions of kings, not full of the actions of democratically elected peoples. Why sometimes to even find a real democracy we have to go back to the Greeks, and then 5th century Athens while admirable in so many ways was anything but a real democracy. It does seem that history will always be more about kings and tyrants than about peoples. Hence Trump.

Our country’s own history is becoming the history of the actions and words of an individual, Trump. Trump is there and has been running roughshod over our democracy because he is totally without the rule of law and totally supported by the Republican Senators totally without backbones.

The greatest moments in history have often been real or imagined battles between individuals, Alexander and Cyrus, Hannibal and Caesar, Hitler and Eisenhower.

Now this is a momentous time in our own history, but there is only Trump on the one side. On the other side in opposition to Trump there is, for the moment, no one. So far whatever opposition there is doesn’t seem to have what it takes to stop Trump in his tracks.

Impeachment should be as described in the Constitution, but the Democrats are allowing Trump his own idea of impeachment , allowing him to devise his own battle plans for its undoing. The democrats do not yet seem to have a comparable impeachment strategy of their own.

In a letter to House Democratic leaders, (see Nicholas Fandos, Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman. Oct. 9, 2019) the White House said the impeachment inquiry had violated precedent and denied President Trump’s due process rights in such an egregious way that neither he nor the executive branch would willingly provide testimony or documents.

The phrase due process rights embodies society’s basic notions of legal fairness. A first reading of the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which prohibit government from taking a person’s “life, liberty or property without due process of law,” suggests a limitation that only relates to procedures. In fact many due process cases do involve the question of fair procedures or procedural due process. However, question of legal fairness may be related not only to procedures, but also to legislation that unfairly affects people. As a result, courts in the U.S. have interpreted the language of these Amendments as a limitation on substantive powers of legislatures to pass laws affecting various aspects of life. When applying what is called substantive due process, courts look at whether a law or government action unreasonably infringes on a fundamental liberty.

In a case from 1833, the Supreme Court  of the U.S. decided that the Fifth Amendment was not directly binding on state governments. As a result of that case, neither the Supreme Court nor the federal court in general exercised much control over the substance of state laws or over the processes by which states administered their laws during America’s early years. This situation changed dramatically with the passage of the Civil War Amendments (13, 14, and 15), which were designed to prevent discrimination by states against blacks freed from slavery as a result of that war.

The Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause was almost identical to the Fifth Amendment’s clause. But the Fourteenth Amendment was specific in limiting the actions of the state governments. Courts have interpreted these two clauses identically: the Fifth Amendment now limits the power of the federal government and the Fourteenth Amendment limits the power of state (and local) governments.

What are the due process rights of someone undergoing impeachment by the Congress of the United States. In the present situation you have a president is clearly unfit for the office, and this by itself ought to be enough for impeachment. At least while it’s in the House of representatives it’s not a trial, with all the settled agreements as to how a trial should be conducted. The House is looking at the prepared “articles of impeachment” and if in their majority the members of the House agree that the president in this case (the AG perhaps in another case) is “guilty,” that what he has done is clearly a example of reasonBribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The House inquiry couldn’t be more “constitutional” than it is. The origin of the impeachment push in this instance is to protect the constitution. The Republicans are disregarding the constitutional role of the House.

But in refusing to cooperate with what Mr. Trump on Tuesday called a “kangaroo court,” the president risked ensuring the very outcome he would rather avoid. House Democrats made clear that his failure to comply with their demands for information could form the basis for its own article of impeachment.

Now what is a Kangaroo Court? —— An unfair, biased, or hasty judicial proceeding that ends in a harsh punishment; an unauthorized trial conducted by individuals who have taken the law into their own hands, such as those put on by vigilantes or prison inmates; a proceeding and its leaders who are considered sham, corrupt, and without regard for the law.
The concept of kangaroo court dates to the early nineteenth century. Scholars trace its origin to the historical practice of itinerant judges on the U.S. frontier. These roving judges were paid on the basis of how many trials they conducted, and in some instances their salary depended on the fines from the defendants they convicted. The term kangaroo court comes from the image of these judges hopping from place to place, guided less by concern for justice than by the desire to wrap up as many trials as the day allowed

The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”

The White House letter came shortly after the White House blocked the interview of a key witness, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, just hours before he was to appear on Capitol Hill. A senior administration official said no other witnesses or documents would be provided, putting a “full halt” to cooperation.

The president’s decision to resist across the board is itself a potentially precedent-setting move that could have far-reaching implications for the inquiry. Democrats believe that it bolsters their list of impeachable offenses, adding the stonewalling of Congress to the tally, but it could also deprive them of crucial witnesses and evidence they might need to lodge credible charges against the presiden.
Trump reversed himself after investigators were given text messages that called into question his assertion that there was no quid pro quo when he pressed Ukraine’s president to investigate Democrats while dangling a White House invitation and withholding American security assistance.

The White House letter to Ms. Pelosi and other Democrats was part constitutional argument, part political statement. Over eight pages, Mr. Cipollone listed various ways House Democrats have diverged from precedents set during impeachment inquiries against Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.

Read the Constitution:

But the writers of the “White House letter” seem to be ignorant that The House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.— Article I, Section 2, Clause 5
And that the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.
[
The President] … shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.—Article II, Section 2

The PresidentVice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, TreasonBribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.—Article II, Section 4

Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, you have the power here. Wield it!

The powers of Congress are enumerated in several places in the Constitution. … The last paragraph of Article I, Section 8 grants to Congress the power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and properfor carrying into execution the foregoing powers“–the “Necessary and Proper Clause.”

Oversight is an implied rather than an enumerated power under the U.S. Constitution.[2] The government’s charter does not explicitly grant Congress the authority to conduct inquiries or investigations of the executive, to have access to records or materials held by the executive, or to issue subpoenas for documents or testimony from the executive.

Oversight also derives from the many and varied express powers of the Congress in the Constitution. It is implied in the legislature’s authority, among other powers and duties, to appropriate funds, enact laws, raise and support armies, provide for a Navy, declare war, and impeach and remove from office the President, Vice President, and other civil officers. Congress could not reasonably or responsibly exercise these powers without knowing what the executive was doing; how programs were being administered, by whom, and at what cost; and whether officials were obeying the law and complying with legislative intent.

The Supreme Court of the United States has confirmed the oversight powers of Congress, subject to constitutional safeguards for civil liberties, on several occasions. In 1927, for instance, the Court found that in investigating the administration of the Justice Department, Congress had the authority to consider a subject “on which legislation could be had or would be materially aided by the information which the investigation was calculated to elicit”.[4]

AMENDMENT V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

AMENDMENT XIV – Passed by Congress June 13, 1866.

Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Finally here is Paul Krugman on October 11. Hooray, for he tells that ultimately we are saved by the President’s own mental deficiency:

What still hangs in the balance is the outcome. And if democracy survives — which is by no means certain — it will largely be thanks to one unpredictable piece of good luck: Donald Trump’s mental deficiency.
I don’t mean that Trump is stupid; a stupid man couldn’t have managed to defraud so many people over so many years. Nor do I mean that he’s crazy, although his speeches and tweets (“my great and unmatched wisdom”; the Kurds weren’t there on D-Day) keep sounding loonier.
He is, however, lazy, utterly incurious and too insecure to listen to advice or ever admit to a mistake. And given that he is in fact what he accuses others of being — an enemy of the people — we should be thankful for his flaws.

Our Almost Empty Universe, Robert Piccioni

A must read, I think…

What follows is the most recent “newsletter” from Robert Piccioni. I have no idea, or rather little understanding of what he is talking about, but there are two observations in what he writes below that I get, or at least I think I do.

These being one and two—

1. Our observable universe is almost completely empty and 2. Everything we see is comprised of the 1-in-a-billion surviving particles of matter.

Now most people probably prefer that our universe not be empty at all but be filled to overflowing with the love of an all seeing and all knowing God, the Father or Mother figure. I guess I prefer that myself, but my preference and probably that of some 7 billion others is based on no observable evidence. And hence why we speak of the ultimate incompatibility of science and religion.

Anyway here’s what he writes in his recent newsletter of October, 2019. This sort of thing has always been for me must reading, for I still want to understand what so far I’ve been unable to understand.


Amazingly, even with 100 billion galaxies, each averaging 300 billion stars, our observable universe is almost completely empty.
These two facts should clarify the emptiness of space.

1) Imagine a giant balloon surrounding our Sun that expands until it reaches the nearest neighboring stars. That balloon would be big enough to contain every star in our observable universe, and then some. But, it actually contains only 1 star. Most of the universe is the space between galaxies, which is even emptier.
2) Everything we see — stars, oceans, mountains, even lead bricks — is almost entirely empty space. All we see is made of atoms comprised of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Physicists believe electrons have zero size. Protons and neutrons are also probably almost entirely empty space, but just for fun, let’s say they are solid balls with radii of about 1 trillionth of a millimeter.

We know the radius of our observable universe is about 45 billion light-years, and that it contains 10^80 (1 followed by 80 zeros) protons and neutrons. So, even if protons and neutrons were solid, our universe would be: 99.999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,999,93% empty.  To save you from counting, this number has 45 nines.

Anything other than empty space is very special indeed.

One might ask: Why is there so little stuff? But, the really interesting question is: Why is there anything at all?

When our universe began in a Big Bang, energy was converted into exactly equal amounts of matter and antimatter. If this equality had continued, every particle of antimatter would have annihilated with a corresponding particle of matter, taking both into oblivion, and leaving only light. Our universe would have been entirelyempty.

Our existence depends on a tiny, inexplicable asymmetry in one of the four forces of nature: CP-violation in the weak force.

Symmetries are powerful simplifying principles that physicists love. Here, C denotes the symmetry operation of replacing particles with their corresponding antiparticles and vice-versa, and P denotes taking the mirror image.

The strong nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity all seem perfectly symmetric under C alone, P alone, and the combined symmetry CP. These three forces treat matter and antimatter exactly the same, thus preserving their relative numbers. But, the weak force, an iconoclast in many regards, is just a little bit different.

The weak force is completely antisymmetric under C, and under P.
For example, nature produces left-handed neutrinos but never right-handed neutrinos — a 100% P-violation. Nature also produces left-handed neutrinos but never left-handed antineutrinos — a 100% C-violation. But for every reaction that produces left-handed neutrinos, there is a comparable reaction that produces right-handed antineutrinos.

Physicists were distraught to discover nature violated C and P, but at least nature was decisive — violating these symmetries 100% of the time. And at least nature preserved CP-symmetry…or so we thought.

About 50 years ago, physicists discovered CP-violation in several decay modes of KL, the long-lived neutral kaon. One of those experiments was my Ph.D. thesis. [“Long-lived” is relative — the KL lifetime is 52 nanoseconds, 578 times longer than the short-lived neutral kaon.]

In KL decays, which involve the strange quark, CP-violation is a 0.3% effect. This is even more distressing than C and P-violation — why is nature 99.7% symmetric?

Theorists showed this tiny effect must be indirect; it could only result if there were as-yet-undiscovered particles mediating these processes. And over the next 25 years, physicists discovered a complete third generation of fermions — the top quark, bottom quark, tauon, and tau neutrino.

In some decays of the bottom quark, CP-violation is as much as 70%. We now know CP-violation occurs both directly in the weak decay processes and indirectly in the mixing of quantum states before decays.

While 50 years of research has improved our measurement precision from 10% to 1%, we still have no clue why CP-violation exists. But, we wouldn’t exist without it.

Without CP-violation, matter and antimatter would have completely annihilated one another, leaving only light.

CP-violation enabled a slight shift in the matter/antimatter balance. In round numbers, by the time the universe was 1 second old, for every 1 billion particles of antimatter, there were 1 billion and 1 particles of matter. The billions annihilated one another, creating the ubiquitous cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), and leaving only the 1 extra particle per billion of matter.

Everything we see is comprised of the 1-in-a-billion surviving particles of matter.

The exact number is critical. If slightly more matter had survived, the universe would have collapsed into a single black hole. If slightly less matter had survived, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for stars to develop. Only in an extremely narrow range would just enough matter have survived to make our universe habitable.

We know precisely what the survival rate was, but have no idea why it has that specific value. This remains one of our universe’s charming mysteries.

Dr. Robert Piccioni  is an author, experienced public speaker, educator and expert on cosmology and Einstein’s theories. His goal is to present real science to real people in a way that everyone can understand and enjoy.

Rachel Maddow’s new book, Blow0ut

I haven’t read Rachel’s new book, Blowout, and I probably won’t until there is a summarized version on Blinkist. ( a premium book summary service helping you to digest the key insights of books in 15 minutes.) I listen to Rachel on MSNBC weeknights at 9 pm. I like Rachel and would like to say a few words about her book, and without having read it.

I did read the following Review from Penguin Random House:

Big Oil and Gas Versus Democracy—Winner Take All

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.

With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.”

Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher.

For Rachel the bad guy in all this is the oil and gas industry:

“the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry”
“the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas “
“[the iindustry] has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers”
“the world’s most destructive industry”
and finally,
“democracy either wins this one (the war with oil and gas) or disappears.”

But is this what has brought us to the point we are at today, when the world’s wealth (now mostly represented by the oil and gas industries) is concentrated in very few individuals in very few countries? Is it the bad guy that Rachel would have it?

Sure the world labors under extreme inequalities between people and peoples. But was there ever a time when the world’s wealth was distributed equally? Now I don’t know, but the little I do know about our past, the past of homo sapiens, some several tens of thousands of years, would have me say no. Certainly the answer is no for the recent past, before the discovery of oil and gas in the ground, some few thousand years, when most people shared very little of the world’s wealth whatever it was at that time with the kings and emperors and tyrants.

For the inequality that we see around us everywhere in the world today is the oil and gas industry most to be blamed? I don’t think so. The oil and gas fat cats have simply replaced the kings and emperors of the past. Men have not changed.

In respect to numbers democracy has always been on the losing side of the battle for men’s minds. Democracy has never captured the minds let alone the hearts of men and women, in the same way as has the material wealth of the earth. If you believe otherwise talk with the men and woman on their way to the gold mines in the California of the 19th. century. These men and women didn’t bring democracy with them, rather their lust for gold. At best democracy would become at a later date in our history a just another way of defending the new divisions of the world’s wealth, brought upon all of us by the rise of the oil and gas industry.

I haven’t read Rachel’s book, not yet even the Blinkist summary, but I would disagree with her conclusion that “democracy either wins this one or disappears.” If for no other reason that we are closer today to having real, world wide democracy than ever before and this is so even when the evil oil and gas industry still controls the world’s wealth.

And in any case the real battle yet to begin in earnest is that between the oil and gas industry and the proponents of global warming who would replace oil and gas by wind, sun, and water.

Oil and gas either wins this one or disappears.

how dare you! Mr. Trump!

Greta Thunberg’s speech to UN secretary general António Guterres.

For 25 years countless of people have stood in front of the United Nations climate conferences, asking our nation’s leaders to stop the emissions. But, clearly, this has not worked since the emissions just continue to rise.

“You come to us young people for hope. How dare you?” she thundered.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing.”

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

She added that in her talks with leaders, she had been told that the youth were being heard and the urgency was understood.

“But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that, because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.”

[Thunberg, who often appears uncomfortable in the limelight and is seen as a reluctant leader, then detailed the various targets that were being missed, heightening the risk of “irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.”]

She also took aim at the summit called by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to ask countries to expand their commitments saying: “There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today because these numbers are too uncomfortable, and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

“You are failing us,” she concluded. “But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.

“The eyes of all future generations, are upon you, And if you choose to fail us. I say, we will never forgive you!”


[Rich countries like Sweden, where Greta’s from, need to start reducing emissions by at least 15% every year to reach the 2 degree warming target. You would think the media and everyone of our leaders would be talking about nothing else — but no one ever even mentions it.]


And then there’s Bill McKibben writing in the New Yorker of September 17,2019:

Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns

What if the banking, asset-management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?

Following the money isn’t a new idea. Seven years ago, 350.org (the climate campaign that I co-founded, a decade ago, and still serve as a senior adviser) helped launch a global movement to persuade the managers of college endowments, pension funds, and other large pots of money to sell their stock in fossil-fuel companies. It has become the largest such campaign in history: funds worth more than eleven trillion dollars have divested some or all of their fossil-fuel holdings. And it has been effective: when Peabody Energy, the largest American coal company, filed for bankruptcy, in 2016, it cited divestment as one of the pressures weighing on its business, and, this year, Shell called divestment a “material adverse effect” on its performance. The divestment campaign has brought home the starkest fact of the global-warming era: that the industry has in its reserves five times as much carbon as the scientific consensus thinks we can safely burn. The pressure has helped cost the industry much of its social license; one religious institution after another has divested from oil and gas, and Pope Francis has summoned industry executives to the Vatican to tell them that they must leave carbon underground. But this, too, seems to be happening in too-slow motion. The fossil-fuel industry may be going down, but it’s going down fighting. Which makes sense, because it’s the fossil-fuel industry—it really only knows how to do one thing.….

Banking

Around the turn of the century, a California-based environmental group called Rainforest Action Network (RAN) was trying to figure out how to slow down the deforestation of the Amazon. It found that Citigroup, then the largest bank on earth, was lending to many of the projects that cut down trees for pastureland, and so it ran a campaign that featured celebrities cutting up their Citi credit cards. Eventually, Citigroup joined with other banks to set up the Equator Principles, which the participants call a “risk management framework” designed to limit the most devastating lending.

Asset Management

Every year, Larry Fink, the C.E.O. of BlackRock, writes a letter to the C.E.O.s of the companies in which his company invests. This year, his letter was about capitalism with a “purpose.” Along with making a profit, he counselled, the C.E.O.s should be running their businesses to help “address pressing social and economic issues.” Given that the rapid heating of the planet would seem to meet that criteria, some have suggested that Fink should look at his own operation; BlackRock is the world’s largest investor in coal companies, coal-fired utilities, oil and gas companies, and companies driving deforestation. No one else is trying as diligently to make money off the destruction of the planet.

So now consider extending the logic of the divestment fight one ring out, from the fossil-fuel companies to the financial system that supports them. Consider a bank like, say, JPMorgan Chase, which is America’s largest bank and the world’s most valuable by market capitalization. In the three years since the end of the Paris climate talks, Chase has reportedly committed a hundred and ninety-six billion dollars in financing for the fossil-fuel industry, much of it to fund extreme new ventures: ultra-deep-sea drilling, Arctic oil extraction, and so on. In each of those years, ExxonMobil, by contrast, spent less than three billion dollars on exploration, research, and development. A hundred and ninety-six billion dollars is larger than the market value of BP; it dwarfs that of the coal companies or the frackers. By this measure, Jamie Dimon, the C.E.O. of JPMorgan Chase, is an oil, coal, and gas baron almost without peer.

Insurance

In some ways, the insurance industry resembles the banks and the asset managers: it controls a huge pool of money and routinely invests enormous sums in the fossil-fuel industry. Consider, though, two interesting traits that set insurance apart.

The first is, it knows better. Insurance companies are the part of our economy that we ask to understand risk, the ones with the data to really see what is happening as the climate changes, and for decades they’ve been churning out high-quality research establishing just how bad the crisis really is. “Insurers were among the first to sound the alarm,” Elana Sulakshana, a RAN campaigner who helps coördinate the Insure Our Future campaign for a consortium made up mostly of small environmental groups, told me. “As far back as the nineteen-seventies, they saw it as a risk.” In 2005, for instance, Swiss Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, sponsored a study at the Center for Health and the Global Environment, at Harvard Medical School. The report predicted that, as storms and flooding became more common, they would “overwhelm the adaptive capacities of even developed nations” and large areas and sectors would “become uninsurable; major investments collapse; and markets crash.” As a result of cascading climate catastrophes, the day would come when “parts of developed nations would experience developing nation conditions for prolonged periods.” In April, Evan Greenberg, the C.E.O. of Chubb, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, said in his annual statement to shareholders that, thanks to climate change, the weather had become “almost Biblical” and that “given the long-term threat and the short-term nature of politics, the failure of policy makers to address climate change, including these issues and the costs of living in or near high-risk areas, is an existential threat.” To its credit, Chubb soon took a step that no other big U.S. insurer has managed, and announced that it was restricting insurance and investments in coal companies. But it still invests heavily in oil and gas, and so does virtually every other major insurance company.

Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College. His latest book is “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?Read more »


Progressive populism, conservative populism, and the winner is, moderate liberalism

Wouldn’t that be great! Wouldn’t that mean dancing in the streets, which we haven’t done since when? since Barack Obama was elected to a second term as president nearly 8 years ago.

We’ve been living through, and still are, difficult times. In that regard it’s enough that Donald Trump is the president. David Brooks looks back from the year, 2050, and tells us what happened 2020 and what’s happened since then, things we all want to know, now in 2019.
Follow these two links:

1, Brooks: A Brief History of the Warren Presidency, A look back at American politics from the year 2050.
David Brooks has placed himself in the year 2050 and he tells us what has happened, in 2020, and since then.

2. Goldberg: Dare We Dream of the End of the G.O.P.?
Michelle Goldberg, still in 2019, brings us the words of the polster, Stanley Greenberg, who tells us with great assurance what will happen in 2020.

For what I write below I have first David Brooks and then Michelle Goldberg and of course the pollster, Stanley Greenberg, to thank.

DAvid Brooks

First David Brooks, the big events he writes about during the 2019-2050 period were:

  1. In the Democratic primary Elizabeth Warren triumphed over the other progressive populist, Bernie Sanders,
  2. Then in November of 2020 Trump’s unfitness for the presidency as well as the fact that he had tied himself down to a white ethnic national narrative that only appealed to a shrinking segment of white nationalists, meant that Warren would and did win convincingly in November.
  3. Also the Democrats won an even bigger majority in the House, and even a slim majority in the Senate.
  4. After that election, the Republicans suffered a long, steady decline. Post election Trump was reviled by everyone and once out of the Oval Office he learned he had no loyal defenders, not even his sidekicks Pence and Pompeo. Furthermore only 8 percent of young people called themselves conservatives. Republican voters, mostly older, were dying out, and were not making new ones. For the ensuing two decades the party didn’t resonate beyond its white rural base.
  5. In 2020 while the progressive populists (Berni Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), and the Republican populists (Trump, Pence and Fox News and friends) did desire radical changes our democracy, for sharply breaking with the past, only the the progressive populist, Elizabeth Warren came out on top.
  6. But the euphoria, the dancing in the street that greeted the expulsion of Trump from the Oval Office, all that quickly came to an end when Warren tried to pass her radical legislative agenda. One by one, her proposals failed in the Senate: Medicare for all, free college, decriminalizing undocumented border crossing, even the wealth tax…
  7. And when the recession of 2021 hit, things got ugly. It became evident that the nation had three political tendencies — conservative populism, progressive populism and moderate liberalism, and not one of them could put together a governing majority to get things done.
  8. With the Republicans powerless and irrelevant, the war within the Democratic Party grew vicious. Democratic progressives detested the moderate Democratic liberals even more than they did the conservatives.
  9. The struggle came to a head with another set of Democratic primaries in 2024. Here the moderate liberals triumphed easily. Progressive populism burned out as had right-wing populism before, and the Democratic moderates became the nation’s majority party.

We’re left after reading Brooks’ article with the big question, which Brooks doesn’t answer, even from the 2050 perspective, what had happened to the moderate liberals, those who had won the election of 2020, those with a basic faith in American institutions, in capitalism and the Constitution, in the classical liberal philosophy that was embedded in America’s founding, the philosophy inherited by Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s and embodied in a millennial nationalism, a sense that America had a special destiny as the last best hope of earth. We’d like to think that this was David’s country in 2050, but nothing he says makes us, or him probably, believe it. Wishful thinking.

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg’s article doesn’t look ahead to 2050. We’re back in 2019, and we’re still preoccupied by what will happen in 2020. Michelle introduces us to the present thinking of the polster, Stanley Greenberg who in his new book, “R.I.P. G.O.P,” makes a thrilling prediction, delivered with the certainty of prophecy.

“The year 2020 will produce a second blue wave on at least the scale of the first in 2018 and finally will crash and shatter the Republican Party that was consumed by the ill-begotten battle to stop the New America from governing.”

“It sounds almost messianic: the Republican Party, that foul agglomeration of bigotry and avarice that has turned American politics into a dystopian farce, not just defeated but destroyed. The inexorable force of demography bringing us a new, enlightened political dispensation. Greenberg foresees “the death of the Republican Party as we’ve known it,” and a Democratic Party. “liberated from the nation’s suffocating polarization to use government to advance the public good.”
I’d like to believe that, and maybe you would too.

Michelle goes on to say:
“This is not the first time that experts have predicted the inevitable triumph of progressive politics. Seventeen years ago, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira published “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which argued that the country was on the cusp of a liberal political realignment driven by growing diversity, urbanization and gender equality…. But Republicans still have more power than Democrats, and in 2017, Judis disavowed his book’s thesis, arguing that only populist economics could deliver Democratic victories….”

Yet going into 2020, Greenberg believes that what he calls the “rising American electorate” — including millennials, people of color and single women — will ensure Democratic victory, almost regardless of whom the party nominates. “We’re dealing with demographic and cultural trends, but we’re also dealing with people that are organizing and talking to one and another and becoming much more conscious of their values,” he said.

Srtanley Greenberg

In his polling and focus groups, he’s seeing that the reaction to Trump is changing people. “The Trump presidency so invaded the public’s consciousness that it was hard to talk to previously disengaged and unregistered unmarried women, people of color and millennials without them going right to Trump,” he writes.

A resolve to resist has led many voters to define their own beliefs in opposition to Trump’s. On immigration, for example, “every Trump outrage increased the proportion of Americans who said, ‘We are an immigrant country,’” writes Greenberg. Indeed, according to recent Pew data, 62 percent of Americans say that immigrants strengthen the country, while 28 percent, a near record low, see them as a burden.

The specter of California haunts the modern right; many conservatives see it as a portent of what demographic change will do to Republican power nationally. But California can just as easily be seen as a sign of how a political party can drive itself to ruin by making a cruel, doomed stand against the coming generation. If Greenberg is right, national Republicans, fearful of going the way of those in California, may have ensured precisely that fate.


And Goldberg: “But is Stranley right? … His confidence will not be enough to lessen the insomnia that has plagued me since the cursed night when Trump was elected. But his book should be a corrective to the media’s overweening focus on the mulish devotion of Trump voters. Trump hatred is a much more potent force in this country than Trump love. “


Stanley Bernard “Stan” Greenberg (born May 10, 1945) is a leading Democratic pollster and political strategist. A political scientist who received his bachelor’s degree from Miami University and his Ph.D. from Harvard. He spent a decade teaching at Yale University before becoming a political consultant. He is the CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a polling and consulting firm, and co-founder (with James Carville and Bob Shrum) of Democracy Corps, a non-profit organization which produces left-leaning political strategy.[ He advised the Presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, as well as hundreds of other candidates and organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe and around the world, including Gerhard Schröder, the former Chancellor of Germany and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister. (Wikipedia)

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Theodosius Dobzhansky, born in Nemiriv, now in Ukraine, on 25 January in 1900, was the son of a high school mathematics teacher. He belonged to a family of Russian Orthodox priests. During his childhood, Dobzhansky developed a passion of collecting butterflies and ladybugs, and was an ardent fan of outdoor activities. In his high-school days, he decided to become a biologist.

After graduating in biology from the University of Kiev in 1921, Dobzhansky accepted a position at the Polytechnic Institute of Kiev as a zoology instructor. He moved to the University of Saint Petersburg in 1924 as an assistant to Yuri Filipchenko, head of the genetics department.

Dobzhansky is now most remembered for these words: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Well, that makes sense to me. Evolution as the dominant idea that would explain all life. In my ownlife there has never been a more powerful idea.

Trump has never apologized

Quora Question: Has Trump ever apologized, for example, to former President Obama for spreading the Birther lie?

Answered by Bruce Spielbauer, July 12, 2019

“Actually, your question can be truncated, as follows: “Has Trump ever apologized?” And, the answer is (of course) no. Trump has never apologized.”

Trump has never apologized for any of the damage that he has done to this nation, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the citizens of this nation, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the allies of this nation, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the planet, nor has he apologized for the damage he has done to the human beings who inhabit this planet.

And, he never will.

Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité