"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday Science: Oops!

I have a link for an article that was to form the basis of today's Saturday Science, but 1) I'm too tired right now to think, 2) Firefox and/or my connection is/are being a pain, and 3) it may actually serve as a reference for a series I'm thinking of doing.

More on that later.

Today's Must-Read: Threats and Intimidation (Updated)

No, it's not about Donald Trump. It's about Bernie Sanders.

This, via The New Civil Rights Movement:

Rachel Maddow Friday night broke news that attorneys for the Bernie Sanders for President Campaign have just sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee formally demanding the disqualification of two Democratic Party platform committee chairs: former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. . . .

She adds, "the Sanders Campaign then ends this letter with a threat. If the Committee doesn't kick Gov. Malloy and Barney Frank out of those leadership positions the Sanders campaign will essentially grind the process of the convention to a halt."

"They will gum up the works so nothing happens."

For the video of Maddow, click through to NCRM. (Once gain, Blogger does not want to accommodate MSNBC's clips.)

NCRM has also posted the letter (which I attempted to do, but Blogger insists on displaying it at a size that's too small for clarity, no matter how I fiddle with it in Photoshop).

And do keep in mind that Sanders is not a Democrat and has never been a Demnocrat.


The DNC has reacted:

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has responded quickly to the Bernie Sanders for President Campaign's demand that two high-profile Democrats, Gov. Dannel Malloy and former Rep. Barney Frank be removed as co-chairs of the convention's platform and rules committees.

“Having carefully reviewed your challenge, we find that it fails to meet the criteria for the foregoing reasons and pursuant to the Regulations and Bylaws Committee for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Reg. 3.4(G)(i) we are compelled to dismiss it,” Jim Roosevelt and Lorraine Miller, co-chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee wrote to the Sanders Campaign, according to The Hill.


Some Numbers

Amidst all the hoopla, hype, doomsaying, and head-shaking going on over The Hairpiece's showing in the primaries, I got to wondering that this actually says about the depth of his support in the general election, so I did a little digging.

Let's start with the total votes cast in the 2012 election, per the FEC: 129,085,410.

That's a starting point. (As an aside, the table on page 11 of the document at the link is worth a look -- who knew there were that many people running for president from that many parties?)

So, next question, how many people have voted for Donald Trump so far? According to Wikipedia, 11,677,035 out of a total of 28,046,678 to date. Not included are California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota, which have their primaries on June 7. Considering that Trump is the last candidate standing, and that voters tend not to care -- it all depends on who's still on the ballot -- I don't know how to project a final figure. Just to provide a figure, let's add about 7 million to Trump's total.

I'm figuring, the contemporary Republican party being as lock-step as it is, that most Republicans will vote for Trump. Say, 80%? Based on 2012 results, let's say roughly 50 million. (Can he be more unpopular than Romney? Anybody's guess -- the teabaggers love him.)

Now, on the Democratic side, we have a couple of big variables: the pouting BernieBots, and the right-wing smear campaign against Clinton (which Trump will participate in, full throttle). But, Clinton so far has garnered 13,192,713 votes, versus 10,158,889 for Sanders.

Again, it's hard to figure how many Sanders supporters are going to hold their noses and vote for Clinton. I'll say 50%. As near as I can work out in my head, that gives her maybe 85% of the Democratic vote, or 56 million.

So far, this is showing a low turnout for November, which I don't expect to be the case, but this is what I'm looking at now.

This is just a mental exercise, worth as much as any other projection at this point, but I don't see Trump winning in November.

As a sidebar, I've grown more and more disenchanted with Sanders as the campaign has rolled on. This is just one reason. I tend to not trust ideologues in public office, and Sanders is looking more and more like an ideologue. And, as I noted to my father when he started bitching about all the candidates being the same, Clinton, at least, knows what she's doing.

Saturday Science: Tsunami! On Mars?

Martian coastline, after tsunami?
It looks as though that may very well have happened. Big ones:

Mars, despite its current rusted and parched appearance, was once a world where water flowed freely. Detailed observations of the red planet’s atmosphere and surface have led scientists to speculate that perhaps about 3.8 billion years ago, Mars had enough liquid water to form an ocean occupying almost half of its northern hemisphere.

However, scientists have not been able to find this primordial ocean’s coastline despite there being strong evidence that such large water bodies once existed on the fourth planet from the sun.

A new study has now revived the ancient ocean hypothesis. The study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, suggests the ocean’s shorelines were overrun and buried by two ancient mega tsunamis that occurred approximately 3.4 billion years ago.

It seems the first one, possibly caused by a meteor strike in the Martian ocean, was bad enough. Then the planet cooled down and the oceans froze, to the second one was an ice tsunami.

I don't even want to think about that. But, happily, someone did:

The scientists found evidence for another big meteorite impact, which triggered a second tsunami wave. In the millions of years between the two meteorite impacts and their associated mega-tsunamis, Mars went through frigid climate change, where water turned to ice, Fairén said: "The ocean level receded from its original shoreline to form a secondary shoreline, because the climate had become significantly colder."

The second tsunami formed rounded lobes of ice. "These lobes froze on the land as they reached their maximum extent and the ice never went back to the ocean - which implies the ocean was at least partially frozen at that time," he said. "Our paper provides very solid evidence for the existence of very cold oceans on early Mars. It is difficult to imagine Californian beaches on ancient Mars, but try to picture the Great Lakes on a particularly cold and long winter, and that could be a more accurate image of water forming seas and oceans on ancient Mars."

There's another possibility here that's intriguing: Where did life originate on Earth? The oceans. And brine, as in ocean, doesn't freeze as readily as fresh water.

These icy lobes retained their well-defined boundaries and their flow-related shapes, Fairén said, suggesting the frozen ancient ocean was briny. "Cold, salty waters may offer a refuge for life in extreme environments, as the salts could help keep the water liquid. ... If life existed on Mars, these icy tsunami lobes are very good candidates to search for biosignatures," he said.

That's one thing I love about science -- every answer generates more questions.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Image of the Week

I haven't done this for a while, but I am trying to get back in the swing of things after being so hit-or-miss over the winter.

Let's see what's in my files. . . .

Here's one from last spring -- pretty urban, actually:

Believe it or not, it's about edges. Pretty much.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Today's Must-Read: Who Would Have Guessed?

The headline says it all:

Inspector General's Report On Clinton's Email Greatly Exaggerated By Media Outlets

It goes on:

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its anticipated report on the State Department's handling of email and cybersecurity. The report covers Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, but also includes an examination of other State employees use of email, including Colin Powell's use of a private email service.

Almost immediately, the media was full of headlines such as "State Department report slams Clinton email use" from CNN, "State Dept. inspector general report sharply criticizes Clinton’s email practices" from the Washington Post, and "IG: Clinton didn't want emails 'accessible'", from The Hill.

Lost in the hyperbole is the fact that the OIG report was meticulous and thorough, but also dispassionate, just like any other OIG report I've read. There was no direct criticism of Clinton, sharp or otherwise. The OIG was examining the State Department's practices, not specifically investigating Clinton's actions.

You may have noticed in the past that I've come to have a certain -- shall I call it "disdain"? -- for the press. Stories like this only reinforce that attitude. Everyone wants to be Fox News, apparently.

Don't believe everything you read in the papers. Or on the Internet.

Footnote: Add "sloppy" to "bias":

Oh. my. gawd. Someone put up a TrumpTweet on CNN's screen with replies before they'd actually read the first reply in the chain.

If they had, they would have thought twice, because it asks if Trump's penis is as orange as his face.

Today in Disgusting People

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be exact. They've come out with a really syrupy video about how allowing gay men and lesbians to marry is a violation of their religious beliefs. As you might imagine, it's just chock full of lies. Here's just a few:

"As an attorney, I represent a number of clients who are being punished and coerced by the government to change their views on marriage," Fiedorek notes. "We're seeing this happen to florists, to bakers, to photographers, we're seeing this happen to judges and to clerks who are authorized to solemnize weddings and have a religious objection to doing so."

"Fiedorek" is Kellie Fiedorek of the Alliance Defending Freedom (which, strangely enough, the SPLC doesn't seem to have listed as a hate group), so you can guess what anything she says is worth. As for her statement, no one is being coerced by the government to change their views on marriage. They're being "coerced" to obey the law, just like the rest of us have to do.

"The implications of the redefinition of marriage for religious freedom are vast," says Fiedorek. "I think that the short term effects we will see will first come in the attempt to silence people of faith, or people that hold a conviction that marriage is something sacred, something special, they will be silenced."

Silenced? No one can get them to shut up for a minute. What are we going to do -- cut their vocal cords and take away their keyboards?

"I've been really surprised that just saying that it takes a man and a woman to create a child, that a child deserves a mom and a dad, is viewed by some as hate speech. As if acknowledging where a child comes from is discrimination," says one man. . . .

OK, that's off the rails. Who, exactly, is arguing with the fact that it takes a man and a woman to produce a child? As for a child deserving a mom and dad (and do note the folksy tone), I hate to intrude with reality, but that's not always possible. What children do deserve is a safe, stable home with parents who love and support them. All the research to date indicates that two men or two women are fully capable of providing that.

"If in any way shape or form, you disagree with the prevailing narrative about what is appropriate in terms of sexuality, same-sex marriage, even a hint of it, it sort of takes the air out of the room," says Gloria Purvis. "People begin to think you're closed minded, you're a bigot, and you're hateful."

If you're trying to impose your views on everyone else, then you are a bigot.

And do note the equation of marriage with procreation, a basic tenet of Catholic teaching. Marriage doesn't require children, and it's obvious from the statistics that marriage isn't necessary to produce a baby. It's just another facet of the Church's basic view of humanity as domestic animals -- in this case, breeding stock.

There's also a sequence in the video about how Catholics are feeding the hungry all over the world. Maybe if the USCCB spent more time focusing on that, and less on fighting gay rights and shielding child molesters, I might have a different reaction.

Here's the video, if you can stand it:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Culture Break: Michael Nyman, "Sometime Like Apes" (from "Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs")

Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs is probably my favorite thing by Michael Nyman, although he did a very good soundtrack to Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books, which, like N,S & A, as based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. He also did a ballet based on the same play, so I guess this work was intended to get it out of his system. I might add that Nyman is one of the more protean composers I've run across -- one of those American Individualists who seem to follow no set pattern.

And yes, the video is from Prospero's Books, which, all things considered, is one of the more outrageous adaptations of Shakespeare I've seen.

Maybe There Is a God

You may remember this idiot from a few days ago:

Bruner disagreed: "When we only teach theory -- it's a theory, theories are unproven -- but in the science class, if only one theory is taught then we're teaching a religion. It is the religion of atheism."

That's not the worst of it -- she's the one who was saying that Obama paid for his drugs in college by working as a male prostitute.

Well, she lost:

Texas voters on Tuesday decided the state’s school board should not include a retired teacher who claimed President Barack Obama was a gay prostitute and said dinosaurs might still be around if Noah had more room on his biblical ark.

Mary Lou Bruner, 69, an arch-conservative with a penchant for conspiracy theories, lost by 18 percent to fellow Republican Keven Ellis in a primary race for the board that sets policies for the nation’s second-largest school system, unofficial Office of the Secretary of State results showed.

The nation's textbook publishers are probably breathing a deep sigh of relief.

The scary part is that she only lost by 18%.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Idiot du Jour

Sandy Rios, of one of those hate groups -- right, American Family Association (sorry, but they all sound alike). But then, Sandy Rios is an idiot every day. Her pearls of wisdom on the confirmation of Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army:

Yesterday, American Family Association official Sandy Rios criticized the confirmation of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary. Rios didn’t find anything wrong with Fanning’s qualifications, she was just upset that he is a gay man.

As a gay man, Rios said, Fanning cannot be an “alpha male.”

“When it comes to leading men into battle, when it comes to being secretary of the Army, I’ll take an alpha male any day,” she said. “I’m sorry. I know these war-like men too well and I don’t think most of them — very few of them are gay. You that are in the gay community, if you were to describe your friends and colleagues who are in this community, I don’t think you would describe them as warriors. I’m sure there are some, but still, I would prefer an alpha male.”

First off, the Secretary of the Army does not "lead men into battle." That's why we have generals. And we sure as hell don't want a warlike man in that position.

But, taking her at face value: Alcibiades, Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great, Baron von Steuben, just off the top of my head. I'm sure a little digging would turn up more.

As for the idea that a gay man cannot be an alpha male -- pfft! Does she even know what an "alpha male" is?

Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Jumping On the Bandwagon

I suppose I should have seen this coming:

Activists hoping to keep transgender people out of bathrooms just got a new ally: the Ku Klux Klan.

An Alabama neighborhood received fliers speaking out in support of laws like the one passed in North Carolina, that confine bathrooms to gender assignment at birth. They also begged for new recruits and solicit donations.

“It appears to be against transgender and transgender bathrooms and it was basically a recruitment flier,” Capt. Will Benny explained to the Dothan Eagle.

It seems that trans folk using the bathroom is the best fundraising gimmick since gay Boy Scouts.

All I can say is, you're known by the company you keep. (There's a Tony Perkins joke in here somewhere, but the connection is just too easy.)

Today's Must-Read: Whistleblowers

This is what happens to whistle-blowers who go through channels:

But if you want to know why Snowden did it, and the way he did it, you have to know the stories of two other men.

The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed.

Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored.

Edward Snowden learned from Drake's experience, revealed in the story of another man, a senior official at DoD:

But there is another man whose story has never been told before, who is speaking out publicly for the first time here. His name is John Crane, and he was a senior official in the Department of Defense who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake – until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well.

His testimony reveals a crucial new chapter in the Snowden story – and Crane’s failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations.

During dozens of hours of interviews, Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake’s identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge.

This is horrible enough in itself, but think of what we're in for if, by some bizarre circumstance, someone like Donald Trump actually becomes president -- which is to say, someone with no concern for the rule of law.

Read the whole article.

Via Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The State of Things

This is interesting: CAIR made the decision to help the family of the San Bernardino shooters, and the fallout was pretty much what you'd expect:

Later that day, Ayloush and CAIR took a step the group had never taken before: It would advise the family of a suspected killer and terrorist. Soon, Khan spoke to reporters at a news conference organized by CAIR.

The organization received angry calls and critical coverage from conservative media, including Breitbart, which ran a headline asking, "Why is CAIR helping San Bernardino terrorists after the fact?" Others wondered why CAIR was getting involved before it was clear whether others — possibly even other family members — had known of the attacks before they occurred.

Almost half a year after the deadliest attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001, Ayloush said CAIR does not regret the decision.

"It is not about what is popular or convenient," Ayloush said. "We wanted to make sure no one is punished for the sins of others."

What a refreshing change from the attitude of so many "Christians," who seem to think that somebody (else) must be punished, no matter what. It's sort of emblematic that Breitbart would automatically cast the family members as "terrorists."

Sometimes I think this country can be pretty disgusting, and then I remember that we're hearing from the fringe.

Let's Build a Wall Around Texas

and make them pay for it. Then we might be spared things like the Texas State Board of Education, which has undue influence on the content of textbooks nationally and seems intent on electing only the most rigidly ignorant to serve:

"Ms. Bruner has said that she wants creationism taught in science class," Inside Texas Politics host Bud Kennedy noted. "And that her views represent those of the district. Are you Christian enough to represent this district?"

"Yes, I am," Ellis insisted. "I've taught Sunday school and Bible quiz in my church in 20 years. And I believe it's my responsibility to teach my faith to my children. The catch of when you get religion in school is whose religion is going to be taught?"

Bruner disagreed: "When we only teach theory -- it's a theory, theories are unproven -- but in the science class, if only one theory is taught then we're teaching a religion. It is the religion of atheism."

It's not only the lack of knowledge in her last statement, it's her complete inability to make a coherent argument. "If only one theory is taught, then we're teaching a religion." -- WTF?

The sad part is, Bruner will probably win.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

It's Sunday

That means more reviews at Green Man Review.

You know what to do.

Another WTF? Moment

Courtesy of Fox:

Um, excuse me -- the bald eagle is a bird.