Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Niall Ferguson Again Shows What A Bozo He Is -This Time On JFK


Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, textSome four years ago (June 16 post to be exact) I skewered the semi-educated Brit twit named Niall Ferguson over his distortions of the fracking industry and its effects on water.. (Ok, actually I recounted Josh Fox's snappy takedowns of this puffed- up former Oxford don, noting how Josh  "ate his lunch" in the course of an appearance on Bill Maher's Real Time.)

Now, Ferguson is offering his inane, know nothing bloviations again, this time as part of a London Sunday Times polemic against John F. Kennedy. (One would have thought these latter day academic goofballs who know next to nothing of the Kennedy presidency would by now have steered clear of it, but like blind fools they put their feet into it every time).

In this specious polemic Ferguson makes use of a "contemporary" verdict on Kennedy's presidency to arrive at this sloppy conclusion:

"The resemblances between the two presidents are more than superficial. In particular both were too much inclined to see politics as a family affair. What the Trump presidency has revealed is not the way the presidency has changed as an institution but the way the American press has changed."

Implying that every major media piece blindly praised Kennedy as opposed to excoriating him. But anyone who paid attention to the media at the time knows this is bare bollocks.  For example,  the central organ of finance capital - The Wall Street Journal -  launched various diatribes accusing JFK of being a "statist" and other things. Some of those articles include:

- 8/6/62 'No Cause for Celebration'; p. 6;

- 3/26/63 'Too Much Money, Too Little Thought', p. 18;

- 8/15/63 'When Friends Become Foes', p. 8

Meanwhile, Henry Hazlitt, contributing editor at Newsweek (The Washington Post's sister publication) was airing many of the same complaints against JFK. These polemics, appearing regularly in Hazlitt's 'Business Tides', included taking JFK to task for his tax policies - including the proposed tax on U.S. business earnings abroad while he also chastised Kennedy for "welfare spending".

One month after the 8/15/63 WSJ article, Fortune implored Congress to stop JFK from using tax policy "as instruments to manage the economy". ('The Dream Businessmen Are Losing', Sept. 1963, p. 91).


As for the "contemporary  verdict" cited by Ferguson, it was undoubtedly excavated from one of the Reich wing nuts that detested him and all he stood for. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his book A Thousand Days, pulls no punches on how Kennedy was vilified:

“…in the domain of the radical right it all became much sicker and nastier. Not since the high point of the hate-Roosevelt enthusiasm of the mid-thirties had any President been the target of such systematic and foul vilification. Everything about Kennedy fed resentment: his appearance, his religion, his wealth, his intelligence, his university, his section of the country, is wife, his brothers, his advisers, his support of the Negroes, his refusal to drop the bomb.”


All this is germane now as we continue to see codswallop penned by semi-educated screwballs like Niall Ferguson.  The 'family affair' charge alone discredits everything else Ferguson writes. By way of historical note, JFK appointed his brother Bobby to the position of attorney general. A one off in terms of any claimed "nepotism". That was it. Trump meanwhile has had Don Jr. running campaign aspects and lying about meeting with Russkies (even getting the number he met with wrong), as well as son-in -law Jared making nice with the same Russkies and virtually taking over all State Dept. functions while wife Ivanka has set up her own office beside Daddy's in the White House. What exactly does Ivanka do? Who the hell knows?

How has Ferguson managed to make such an outsized mark for his over-inflated intellect? One theory advanced by Daniel W. Drezner in his book, The Ideas Industry  is that  "the extraordinary rise of the American superrich, a class interested in supporting a particular genre of ideas", has led to their wider dissemination.  According to a recent article in The New Republic ('The Rise of the Thought Leader: How The Superrich Have Funded A New Class Of Intellectual', June).

As the piece explains:

"Whereas public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky or Martha Nussbaum are skeptical and analytical, thought leaders like Thomas Friedman and Sheryl Sandberg “develop their own singular lens to explain the world, and then proselytize that worldview to anyone within earshot.” While public intellectuals traffic in complexity and criticism, thought leaders burst with the evangelist’s desire to “change the world.” Many readers, Drezner observes, prefer the “big ideas” of the latter to the complexity of the former. In a marketplace of ideas awash in plutocrat cash, it has become “increasingly profitable for thought leaders to hawk their wares to both billionaires and a broader public,” to become “superstars with their own brands,"

Ferguson is also included in this class of plutocrat- funded nattering nabobs, e.g.


"Similarly, the historian Niall Ferguson leapt headlong into brand-building: crafting books intended as scripts for TV series, giving lucrative speeches, and writing for a dizzying array of publications. Like other overstretched thought leaders, Ferguson landed in trouble when his Newsweek cover story on President Obama in 2012 turned out to be riddled with errors and misleading claims. Interviewed for The Ideas Industry, Ferguson is frank about his transformation from Oxford don to thought leader: “I did it all for the money.”

Well, it is pretty clear one can also conclude vast errors are replete in his pseudo-historical comparisons of JFK to Trump.  And if he's already produced a tract "riddle with errors" on a relatively recent president, why the hell should anyone trust him on one living more than fifty years ago? Ferguson may know some history all right, but all of it ersatz history.

The NR piece again:

"As Drezner notes, some of the marquee names in thought leadership are distinguished by their facile thinking and transparent servility to the wealthy."

So clearly it would serve Ferguson's purpose of servility to the plutocrats to enhance Trump comparisons to Kennedy despite the fact virtually none exist (apart from being the offspring of a rich guy). This also explain how Ferguson could write such twaddle as:

"Perhaps if JFK had been a Republican, he would have been treated with the same ferocious animosity as DJT is treated today for much less luminous acts".

But I already showed how false this claim is by reference to much of the financial press at the time. A real historian -   as opposed to a pretender like Niall Ferguson - would have been competent  enough at his job to turn up the many instances in the larger media where JFK was attacked. But, like his defense of fracking 4 years ago, his knowledge of Kennedy is half-assed.

But maybe we have another explanation (besides sheer incompetence)  for why Ferguson's pontifications are so patently half-assed. For example,  when he so aggressively defended fracking four yeas ago. The New Republic again (ibid.):

"Corporate sponsors, in turn, have grown bolder, pressuring scientists and others to steer their research away from conclusions that might threaten profits, and working to discredit those who insist on following the facts where they lead, particularly in climate science. "

Bottom line: the guy is a plutocrat's dream: a yapping 'yes' monkey and historical revisionist,  prepared to hock his principles for a fast buck and who merits no more respect now than he did when Josh Fox ate his lunch  four years ago.

See also:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2017/01/dont-even-think-of-comparing-trump-to.html

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How Changing Solar Magnetic Fields Complicate Space Weather Forecasting

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Solar magnetic field lines depicted above based on a model. They are subject to further change (twisting, looping) on encountering near Earth space. This results in errors in space weather forecasts.

As noted in previous blog posts, space weather is the term which embodies all manner of phenomena that impact the Earth or its magnetosphere including magnetic substorms, sudden ionsopheric disturbances (SIDs), and CMEs or coronal mass ejections. Each of these merits forecasts but the last is particularly critical in terms of priority.  Powerful CMEs of such magnitude that they merit the name "Carrington events" and originate at the solar central meridian (relative to Earth observers) are events we wish to avoid. Even a glancing blow from a CME has the potential to knock out one or more power grids such as occurred in Quebec in 1989 after a giant solar flare.

The "ultimate" CME then is that which smacks us broadside, knocking down power grids like tenpins across the side of Earth facing the Sun when it strikes. Five years ago this led to one projection from a University of Colorado astrophysicist that sheds a good deal of insight:

"It’s believed a direct CME hit would have the potential to wipe out communication networks, GPS and electrical grids to cause widespread blackout.......Just 10 minutes without electricity, Internet or communication across the globe is a scary thought, and the effects of this event could last years. It would be chaos and disaster on an epic scale."



Thus, the interest in CMEs and space weather forecasting is not some mere armchair academic obsession but has real world consequences. Even magnetic substorms which spawn SIDs can wreak their own  form of havoc including disruption of short wave and even higher radio band signals, as well as affecting navigation controls on aircraft.

My own research had focused on the origin of SIDs from a specific type of flare identifiable from its soft x-ray signature. This led me to postulate,  in early 1984,   sudden ionospheric disturbance-generating (SID) flares, with the release attendant on a change in initial free magnetic energy (E m = B2/2m ) given by:

/   t  {òv  B2/2m  dV} = 1/m  òv div[(v  X B) X B] dV 

 -   òv  {han | Jms |2 }dV       

where the first term on the right side embodies (loop) footpoint motion, and the second, joule dissipation, but with Jms the current density at marginal stability – since the marginal stability hypothesis is required for a driven process, and h an  is the anomalous resistivity. In the same paper, it was shown how the flare distribution corresponds to a Poisson process of the form P(t) =    =   exp (- l)   lt  / t!, where theoretically the Poisson mean rate of occurrence is: lm =   l Dt.

Thus tying both SIDs and CMEs together in terms of the magnitude, time and location of the flare that produced each, though in an empirical-statistical context.    As I pointed out in a paper published in The Meudon Solar -Terrestrial Predictions Workshop  e.g.
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this was the best one could do  - minus the necessary physical details -  for a valid theoretical model. My paper ‘Limitations of Empirical-Statistical Methods of Solar Flare Prognostication’ appeared on pp. 276-284 of the Proceedings and received much attention from the other contributors - since of course it impacted in multiple ways on their work as well.  Up to the time of the paper (and even beyond) we have been constrained to rely on empirical statistical methods to compensate for the lack of more precise physical, quantitative models.

The project itself saw the input from over two  hundred solar and space physicists covering every aspect of the problem of solar-terrestrial interactions, including: long, medium and short term solar  forecasting, geomagnetic activity and auroral (substorm) forecasts, as well as ionospheric predictions.

Understandably, the more energetic and complex the solar flare the more difficulty in arriving at the prognostication needed.  The sheer diversity of flare morphology, combined with an insufficiency of detailed observations - owing to lack of proper observational tools - adversely affects the degree to which reliable forecasts can be made.  This will be expected to change with the launch of the Solar Probe Plus - renamed the Parker Solar Probe. The probe will  travel to within 4 million miles of the solar surface  (photosphere) and withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 F.  We expect the optical observations to approach the resolution of 0.1 arcsec, which many solar physicists believe is the limit needed to identify the energy release volume in coronal loops. 

Even with greatly enhanced resolution and  the acquisition of other critical data, moving beyond statistical models to wholly physical ones (yielding their own self-consistent aspects) will not be easy.
In the case of CMEs,a theoretical, quantitative strategy would revolve around obtaining the rate of increase of the poloidal magnetic flux   (Φp) associated with a specific flux rope (e.g. that shows kink or other instability) e.g.

dΦp(t )/dt

Then, for a predictive basis one would require the related function be adjusted for each potential CME (dependent on its current heliographic location) that best fits the total observed data. This function would normally be given in terms of the electromotive force associated with the active region so that:

E(t ) ≡ −(1/c)dΦp(t )/dt

Where the preceding would constitute a forecast from the theory for each CME trajectory.  This would be called a "theoretical forecast" say compared to an empirical forecast, i.e. based on analyzing the frequency and intensity of fluctuating microwave bursts over time (say several  Carrington rotations).   In the above case we see that rapid changes in the poloidal magnetic field, Φ ,  can throw off theoretical model forecasts.  Hence, the more we can learn about the genesis and maintenance of such localized fields the more the models (and forecasts) can be improved.

Then there is the influence of the much larger scale solar magnetic field. Beyond all the above considerations, space weather forecasting requires understanding what happens when the Earth’s magnetic field meets the Sun’s in space. When their field lines make contact, for example, they can suddenly link up and explosively realign. Like a snapping rubber band, the field lines rebound, sparking geomagnetic storms and sending dangerous radiation toward Earth that can damage satellites and threaten power grids.

However, some conditions are more conducive to this process, called magnetic reconnection. Particularly important is the orientation of the Sun’s magnetic field. Although the Earth’s magnetic field is fixed about its North and South poles, the Sun’s magnetic field is warped throughout space, and the Earth may find itself in a part of the field pointing in a different direction at any given time. The best conditions for magnetic reconnection are when the Sun’s magnetic field is aligned southward, antiparallel to Earth’s.

Recent studies have shown that the direction of the Sun’s field can shift by the time it reaches Earth’s magnetic field, apparently twisting after passing those satellites. This could lead to inaccurate space weather forecasts. To determine why this happens, Turc et al. analyzed archival data for 82 solar storms caused by approaching magnetic clouds ejected by the Sun. The team compared solar wind measurements with data from closer satellites orbiting in and around Earth’s magnetic field and used a model to reconstruct the conditions in between. Their work zeroed in on two factors.

1) The bow shock that the Earth creates in the solar wind. Like a ship plowing through water, the Earth creates a shock wave in the solar wind as it flows past, which the Sun’s field lines must traverse. Turc et al's analysis showed that depending on their relative orientations, the shock could alter the direction of the field.

2) After crossing the bow shock, the solar field lines encounter the Earth’s magnetic field. They don’t simply meet it head-on, but instead  overlap  the Earth’s field, and are warped in the process.

The authors report that these two factors combine to shift the direction of the field, which could alter the probability of magnetic reconnection. In some cases, it even reversed a benign northward field into a reconnection-prone southward field, and vice versa. These reversals spanned roughly 20% of the Earth–Sun magnetic field boundary and lasted over half an hour, making them significant enough to potentially throw off forecasts of geomagnetic storms.

The authors report that their models successfully reproduced the observations roughly 80% of the time. But more work must be done to improve their performance and incorporate them into real-time forecasts.



In the case of SIDs and CMEs the space weather forecasting difficulties are even more formidable. But I am confident that the Parker Solar Probe will finally put us on the path to genuine space weather forecasts for all phenomena that affect the near Earth space environment.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why No Health Care "Compromise" Is Possible With The Right

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Amidst millions of gallons of ink spilt very few have pointed out that the Senate Healthcare Bill ("Better Care" - so called) never fessed up to its central premise: to cut federal medical benefits to the bone. So no wonder so few citizens are enthused about it, opting to engage in high profile protests (with the disabled in wheelchairs) including at Senators' offices and outside their homes.

Meanwhile, the ideological Right pushes its "free market" (i.e. you're on your own) agenda in op-eds and other forums to get the Reep bill passed, any bill. Alas, that bill resides in limbo as Mitch McConnell waits for John McCain to recover from blood clot surgery to return to D.C. and vote. Of course, McCain - like McConnell-   has a "Cadillac" level of care in what is provided via his Senate health plan. Too many millions of Americans do not.

How bad is what's on offer? Over the past few days we beheld the organization known as AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans) put the kibosh on the version of the Reepo bill offered (via amendment) by Ted Cruz. To remind readers, Cruz'  proposal (called "mini-Med" by critics ) would let insurers  sell low cost plans with skimpy coverage as long as they also sell policies providing a stringent set of services they're already required to provide under the ACA, aka "Obamacare".  But the AHIP and its sister organizations (e.g. Blue Cross - Blue Shield Association) have asserted this would:

- Be unworkable in any form

- Increase premiums

- Lead to widespread termination of coverage

Bottom line, this gimmick would encourage the healthy to go "lowball" and buy the bare bones policies leaving sicker people (who need comprehensive coverage) confronting unaffordable costs. In fact, two insurance groups assert premiums would skyrocket for those with pre-existing conditions, especially for middle income families who don't qualify for the bill's tax credit (which is pathetic as it is and in no way compare's to the generous ACA subsidies that actually made a difference).

But hey, this is exactly what the Repukes want! A bare bones, mock "health care" bill masquerading as a real one to provide PR cover so they can deliver tax cuts to the rich. Once one grasps that, and that cutting the biggest piece of the health care puzzle (Medicaid) is what the Right is all about, then it becomes evident why no compromise is possible.

Let's start with the delirious Peggy Noonan who recently wrote in a WSJ op -ed  ('On Health Care, A Promise,  Not A Threat', July 1-2, p. A13) that a Democratic Senator ought to come forward to work with the Repubs for a health compromise thereby "showing a little humility and humanity".  According to her "this person would be a hero in the Beltway which prizes compromise and constructiveness".

Adding:

"The Democratic Party made this mess. It's on them to help dig out of it. If they show some humility, Republicans would look pretty poor in not responding with their own olive branch."

I have news for Miss Peggy, the Republicans already look pretty piss poor with their barbaric Senate bill - even after a proposal to remove the tax cuts for the rich. Why the hell should any Dem with more than air between the ears help these fools out of their morass?  Besides, there is simply no way to any such compromise given it would be political suicide for the Dems to go along with gutting Medicaid, which is the core basis of McConnell's bill.

Since the Repukes will not cooperate with the Ds unless Medicaid is cut (some $774 b by 2020)  and the Ds will not cooperate with the 'pukes if they insist on such cutting - then there is absolutely no way to any Noonan-style compromise, whether the Beltway likes it or not.

None of the conservo opinion writers, as I will show,  appear to grasp that the entire state -federal funding system for low income and disabled citizens would be changed to a per capita cap if Medicaid was cut.  Such a move would forever limit federal spending to the states - many of which are already facing huge budget crunches, deficits. What do you then think would happen? Well the disabled and sick would be tossed out to beg for any help they could get.

The 'pukes talk of getting these low income folk into cheaper policies (like Cruz' advocates)  but what they're really advocating is putting them into health care ghettoes: exploitative policies preying on pools of the mostly sick featuring monumental deductibles combined with outrageous premiums and very limited care (e.g. no maternity care, no mental health care, no ER visits).  What sort of  political moron would sign onto that  and have his/her name on the legislation? Certainly no sane Dem!

Thus, Noonan's blather that "the GOP donor class would likely hate a compromise bill as the Democratic Party's nihilist left - which wants no compromise" misses the point because she doesn't grasp the fact that giving away the store to make nice is a losing wicket. Once again, for a million economic reasons, gutting Medicaid to salvage McConnell's bill can't be part of any humane compromise.

The steady, stupid spin of the Right in assorted op-eds and thinktank blather also has antagonized the Democrats. One of the most ignorant and disgusting of all was rendered by Peter Cove in his July 5th WSJ piece ('Get Able-Bodied Americans Off The Couch') depicting those on the Medicaid rolls as deadbeats and latter day welfare queens.  He argued that basically there were millions of "able bodied" - including men- just laying around and grabbing Medicaid without working - when they could work and get health benefits from a company.

One had to wonder what this asshole was drinking or what manner of dope he was smoking.  Other WSJ  letter writers also echoed his babble including that "those in poverty have the luxury of saying 'no' to a job and suffering no consequences when they choose not to work".  Suffer no consequences? What is this dense cretin thinking? How about his kids without enough food, or having his utilities shut down or his home foreclosed?   Added to the earlier drivel,  this other ignorance: "Someone who loses a job loses not one penny of cash assistance nor his food stamp vouchers nor Section 8 housing".  Again, no remote idea that de facto cuts have already been applied to those programs.   For example, in March, 2016 a budget decision by the Repukes  led to up to 1 million in 22 states losing their food assistance (SNAP)  benefits after three months regardless of how hard they were looking for work.

But that's the key characteristic of these Philistines on the Right:  they don't care that people are already working.  If they're not earning enough money it's all on them,  not the economy,  which is geared more to Wall Street than Main Street. (Look at how the DOW has shot past 21,000 yet consumers have cut back on spending the past two months, according to the WSJ , July 16).

No wonder the above sort of comments and Cove's piece elicited furor in the Colorado Medicaid care and recipient community. Moe Keller, a Vice President of Mental Health Colorado noting (Denver Post, July 9, p. 16A):

"There is a shocking ignorance about who these people on Medicaid are. They (op-ed writers, public officials, much of the public) think they're just siting around eating bon-bons and watching TV. They're not. They're working individuals."

Or - they are people who have worked hard, and  are not now in a physical condition to do what they used to.  At least one WSJ letter contributor - an M.D. - did provide the proper perspective. As he wrote in his reply to Cove's piece (July 17):

"Some of my unemployed patients are over 50, have a history of back or similar injury, abuse or previous jail time. Employers don't want to take the risk of employing such an individual as firing them might entail claims of age discrimination, or payment for work-related injuries......A person on Medicaid with significant and costly chronic medical problems who wants to work simply cannot afford to take the chance of losing public health benefits as private insurance with its copays and deductibles are overwhelming at entry level positions"

In other words, the choice not to work (if one's job potential is limited) - for whatever reason  - is a rational one. It is also a rational one to go onto Medicaid if one is already covered by their own insurance but have a child with severe brain damage whose physical needs would not be fully covered by that private insurance.

This is the case of Jennifer and Matthew Fischer highlighted in the Denver Post's extended look at Medicaid recipients in Colorado (op. cit.). Both, as the Post notes, "have health insurance and work full time".  It "covers major medical issues picks up substantial costs for their child's medical care" - though they inevitably hit their maximums in January each year.   But there is much it doesn't provide and that's where Medicaid comes in. That includes: the wheelchair ($25,000), the formula their 11 -year old (Cecilia) which needs to be ingested through a feeding tube. ($500 a month), and the nurse who accompanies their daughter to school and attends to her needs.  As the Post explains:

"All of that is covered through a Medicaid waiver, making Cecilia among the 45 percent of the state's Medicaid recipients who are age 20 or younger."

This insight is critical in skewering the whining of other Right nabobs like WSJ columnist Daniel Henninger who has pissed and moaned  ('The GOP's Fatal Infatuation', July 9):because "Medicaid's original purpose was to ensure medical care for the disabled and poor women and children" i.e.  not middle class people.  So, of course, Henninger like other pro-GOP whiners has complained long and hard about Obamacare's "evil genius" in expanding the program.  Henninger concedes that GOP gubernators in "expansion states" have had no choice than to swallow "the kool aid" and accept it, because their citizens have grown dependent on it..

According to Henninger (ibid.):

"Once the governors took expanded Medicaid payments, they were hooked"


Adding that "Medicaid is already lowest common denominator medicine"

Well, try telling that to the Fischers who have seen their daughter Cecilia reach a level of capacity she wouldn't have otherwise, i.e. without Medicaid.  It's easy for  one percenter nabobs like Henninger to dismiss Medicaid when they reap Cadillac level care via their elite jobs, like at the WSJ. But for those who have it and depend on it, especially to keep sick and disabled kids and family  cared for at home, it's as gold standard as one could want.

Another Rightist letter writer, commenting on the Post's Medicaid story (July 16, Perspective), exceeded all lows for a normal human of any sentience by bellyaching that most Medicaid beneficiaries had "gotten themselves into their economic predicaments by their own choices".  Adding: "Why should I as a taxpayer have to bail them out?"  Well, uh...because you are supposed to be a decent person with some measure of humanity and care for your fellow citizens?

But let's not kid ourselves here. The Right, essentially, has zero interest in providing any kind of viable health care to those who most need it because such quality care costs money - which they may  have to pay for via taxes. So they'd rather engage in PR stunts and obfuscation than come clean to the American people about what they're really doing.  That is, to gut the one program that nearly 76 million depend on and which stands between them and medical catastrophe or bankruptcy and penury.

One of the most spot on observations made by one Medicaid recipient (via the ACA) appeared in the latest TIME (July 24, p. 34):

"The party that would have me crucified for having an abortion now wants to make it impossible for me to keep him alive."

Again, betraying the whopping magnitude of hypocrisy on the Right pertaining to abortion: that all it cares about is life before birth - but not afterward.

There is no way any sober and sane Democrat could ever agree to a compromise with this lot that demands the gutting of Medicaid.

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/donna-smith/74038/ode-to-the-sicko-decade-and-single-payer-power

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Coloradans Cancelling Their Voter Registrations By The Thousands In Wake Of Trump Voter Fraud "Commission"

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Yeah, I just made up the Voter Fraud Commission from my illegal voters conspiracy theory! Deal with it!"

Consider the original claim of Trump  that there has been massive voter fraud that cost him the popular vote, including that "three to five million more voted illegally for Hillary Clinton".  Consider this is coming from the guy who actually WON the electoral vote - the only one that counts- and yet his ego is still too traumatized to accept that fewer citizens voted for him than his opponent.

Consider also that there is not one scintilla of evidence to support his fantastic claim - which btw-  is negated by 50 Secretaries of State (including from  37 Republican- governed states) that the integrity of their election processes were never compromised.

Despite all this, as I noted in my July 3rd post, Donald Trump barely weeks ago signed an executive order to create a phony  "Voter Fraud Commission".  Let's again cut through the fog of fake news, media crappola and outright lies to recognize this commission for what it is: a putrid excrescence of Trump's malignant agenda created to support his favorite conspiracy theory, i.e. he lost the popular vote because millions of illegal immigrants voted.

But despite being bogus, it's already having a chilling effect on voter participation here in Colorado.  That is, thousands of  Colorado residents are suddenly canceling their voter registrations,  terrified the data amassed from state files will be used against them. As reported in the Denver Post, this action is in the wake of the Trump administration’s blanket request for voter information earlier this month. Trump   established the advisory commission in May with a broad mandate: a sweeping review of U.S. election integrity, with a focus on voter fraud, voter suppression and other “vulnerabilities.”

The resulting withdrawal panic is alarming county elections officials who say they’ve never seen such a surge of withdrawals in their careers. The worst aspect? The defectors are coming mainly from the largely Democratic precincts around Denver. As The Post observes:

"Nearly two weeks have elapsed since the commission requested all of the state’s publicly available voter data, and state and county elections offices say they’re still being flooded with calls and emails from voters with two chief complaints: they don’t trust President Donald Trump’s voter integrity commission, and they didn’t realize just how much of their voter registration information was already public under state law."

According to Amber McReynolds, Denver’s elections director:

"People are concerned and confused about all of this. We have the same concerns. At this point nobody really knows what (the commission) is doing."

As of yesterday, The  Denver Post reported that 3, 394 voters had canceled their registrations  — a staggering jump from the 20 people who did so over the two weeks prior to July 3rd, according to the state elections boards. In Boulder County, the trend was much the same: 329 voters withdrew their registrations the first 10 days of July, according to the clerk’s office. During the same period in June, only 15 people did.

The bulk of those who called or emailed either cited concerns about the commission’s motives, or about their own privacy.

It seems like an assault on our personal freedoms — of speech and privacy first and foremost,” one Denver voter wrote.

The outcry over personal information that’s been publicly available for decades has some wondering if state lawmakers will seek to close some of these records  next year. This is especially after a lengthy fight the last two legislative sessions over making more public information available in a digital format.

According to Amber McReynolds:

I think it brings up another question for the legislature that they may want to consider. Voters did not and have not been aware that this info that’s being provided is public.”

Under Colorado law, a wide range of voter information is publicly available by request, including a voter’s name, address, party affiliation and which elections they’ve voted in,  though not the candidate they voted for. More than 100 organizations and individuals -  including media outlets, marketing firms and both major political parties -   obtained the data in 2016 alone, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Some entities have even published the data online for all to see.  Indeed, all my voting data is blatantly online, as per Colorado law - which is also inciting these withdrawals among other citizens. Evidently they, like me, had no clue of the extent to which state law allowed voter info to be published, shared. Having learned this to their shock and horror, thousands are now canceling registrations. I see no point because first, merely canceling your voter registration will not instantly remove your information - we all know how the web world works!  Second, I have no intention of giving up my franchise out of fear some n'er do well will use it some nefarious way. I suspect that is part of just what the Trumpites want.


Nevertheless, most of us -  canceling registrations or not -  aren't buying the excuse or rationale that this level of disclosure is needed to show "transparency" to prove to outsiders that the Colorado voting population is legit.  For example, the "justification" from  Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall  who wrote in an op-ed to the Daily Camera: 

Without voter registration and vote history being public there would be no way for any outside individual or organization to independently verify our election processes. It would simply have to be a ‘trust us’ scenario with your state or local elected official maintaining the voter rolls with no external oversight."


So WHAT? What's wrong with 'trust us' if the statistics for minimal voter fraud support it?  After all, none of this was needed 40 years ago, so why now? Just because the new incarnation of Repukes got a hard on for voter suppression and began yapping about "voter fraud"?

As I noted in my earlier post this is a Macguffin.  The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law conducted extensive research on all this and subsequently released a report that looked at a previously conducted national study. The latter looked at the non-citizen and potential fraudulent voting in the 2016 election. Their final conclusion?

"From the tabulation of 23.5 million votes there were  only 30 incidents of suspected noncitizen voting referred for further inquiries or prosecution. Thus, improper noncitizen votes accounted for 0.0001 percent."

Get that?  Not one percent, not one hundredths of one percent, but one ten thousandth of one percent of the total votes!

The news that the ACLU is now bringing a lawsuit is welcome. However, let's be clear it is not to KO this artifact as unconstitutional but rather to charge that the body isn't following federal law requiring it to be open to the public. The lawsuit joins a growing number concerning the commission that have been filed by civil liberties groups in recent days.

Led by Vice Chair Kris Kobach, the bogus commission has held only an initial meeting by telephone since it was created two months ago, and that was closed to the public, the ACLU charged. According to ACLU staff attorney Theresa Lee:

"Since the [law] applies to all meetings, even telephonic meetings, the commission has already violated [the Federal Advisory Committee Act],"

Let's hope this lawsuit is only a first iteration and further ones are initiated on more substantial constitutional grounds.  It is crucial that the latter, especially,  prevail in whatever court hands down the final verdict.

Meanwhile, in the latest twist to this saga, angry voters poured it on with 112 pages worth of emails directed at the Trump stooges, according to today's Washington Post. Some of the comments included:

You will open up the entire voting population to a massive amount of fraud if this data is in any way released,” one voter wrote.

Many people will get their identity stolen, which will harm the economy,” wrote another.

“I respectfully request, as an American-born citizen legally eligible to vote for two decades, that you leave my voter data and history alone, do not publish it, and do nothing with it,” said another

Unfortunately for these voters and others who wrote in, the Trump fucktards did not redact any of their personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public. In some cases, the emails contained not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and places of employment.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Ending School Floggings: As Important In Barbados Now As Managing Its Debt

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During our recent holiday in Barbados the topic du jour (every day) was school flogging and why it needs to be banned , given the island was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990).   Incredibly - or maybe not - this topic even trumped the ongoing, deplorable Barbados bond position and its growing debt.

Among the most cogent appeals to treaty faithfulness we saw was the following editorial in The Barbados Advocate.

https://www.barbadosadvocate.com/columns/editorial-ignoring-our-treaty-obligations

As articulated therein:

"As appears to be the national practice, we seemed blissfully unaware of the precise nature of the obligations we had ratified and thus there is an air of resentment every time we are reminded that the local practice if corporal punishment is out of step with the norms of the Convention."

Ending with:

"We acknowledge that the immediate likelihood of Barbados reforming its laws to proscribe the corporal punishment of children in the school and at hone is at best slight. We are not a people easily given to change and a withdrawal from the treaty at this stage would be a national embarrassment. Hence, for the foreseeable future we will continue to be scofflaws to our international obligation..."

Perhaps it's useful to reflect what conditions were in Bim's secondary schools when I arrived in Peace Corps in 1971 to teach at a country school in the (northernmost)  St. Lucy parish. What shocked me to the core - and the three other PCVs based there -was how every morning a long line of students (many females) were lined up in front of the headmaster's office. When I asked one of the Bajan teachers what this was all about she was basically nonchalant: "This is Mr. Jordan's flogging assembly. Each lines up and each gets five to seven lashes on the back."  Of course, our eyes literally popped out of our heads.

About seven years later at another secondary school near the Garrison  Savannah, the headmistress - a Miss Hunt - was regarded in awe and fear by the students. PCVs based there related how when she paddled or flogged a student you could hear his or her screams across the whole school grounds.   The word out was she never gave less than ten strokes and each one was more merciless than the last.

It was these sort of incidents, often recurring, that led the island to be a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

And yet, as the NATION editorial puts it, the signing has still not eradicated the practice in the schools. Indeed, not long after the editorial was published an indignant woman wrote to the press under the header 'Spare the rod? NO!' quoting the biblical passage from Proverbs 13: 24:

"Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. ."


Then arguing forcefully that a good thrashing shows love and to ignore the application of the "rod" is to perform a disservice to the child later.  There were many furious replies objecting to this nonsense, but the arguments of Ms. Faith Marshall-Harris that came before ('The Goal is to end all Flogging') were among the most cogent and convincing.

In her lengthy piece, Ms. Marshall-Harris not only reviewed  the several principles embraced by the Barbados delegation to the 74th session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, but also presented insights into the Swedish model.

In introducing this model, Ms. Marshall-Harris  writes:

"It was our (Barbados delegation) view that Barbados needs to evolve on this matter and I have proposed the use of the Swedish model to get us to the desired objective."

Elaborating:

"The Swedish model programme was started by first teaching mothers-to-be how to discipline children when they attended prenatal clinics.  Young parents were similarly taught on the maternity wards. Community workers were sent into the homes to continue the teaching process after the mother and baby went home. All this was to reduce the incidence of corporal punishment in the homes.

In the meantime, corporal punishment was banned outright in the schools. Thus there was a two-pronged approach."

While Barbados can hope to emulate Sweden based on this template, one must bear in mind the economic quality of life also enters into how people conduct themselves.  In this regard Sweden's economic indices weight far higher than Barbados' which already has seen another bond downgrade (by Moody's)  to Caaa3+.   We beheld many poor people (the most likely to flog children at home) struggling to buy even basic goods (bread, milk, eggs)  at the supermarkets, and now higher prices and taxes soon to come with release of the new budget May 30, see e.g.

https://www.barbadostoday.bb/2017/05/30/budget-2017-sinckler-appeal-to-barbadians-to-make-major-sacrifices/


Oddly, it may take the island nation getting its economic house in order before the flogging problems can finally be resolved.  Why? Because social workers' stats disclose financial angst,  mounting debt and insecurity play a major role in fueling rage - along with an entrenched sense of helplessness to improve one's station. Children are often the victims of this sordid saga.

Addendum: About Faith Marshall-Harris:

She was a consultant hired by the Barbados government to review all the laws relating to women, children and their families.  At  the 74th session of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child she presented a White Paper that not only reviewed 37 Acts but also made 126 proposals, some of which have already taken effect.

See also:

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2017/03/barbados-bond-downgrade-reignites-talk.html


And:

http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/97332/key-reply-2017-financial-statement-budgetary-proposals



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Based On Army Field Manual Template Trump Is Unfit For Leadership

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The nitwit jpeg being circulated by ardent Trumpies. If they knew or processed the actual truth about this maggot they'd be less likely to be led by the nose.

Now we know, based on the specific use of the Army Field Manual and its psychological profile for leadership, that Donald Trump isn't fit to run a dog kennel far less be President of the United States.  This is important to know, especially for the purblind Trumpies who seemingly will follow the Donald to the ends of the Earth and likely the catastrophic end of our own nation. We saw how this glorified baboon acted at the G 20, like an ape that was immediately recognized and isolated by all other real leaders. (Never mind the WSJ op-eds and some other Right sources tried to dismiss it as a "PR performance")

Chris Uhlman, political editor of the Australian Broadcasting Service, had perhaps the most acerbic view of Trump as an isolated, clueless aberration at the G 20. In his words:

"He was an uneasy, lonely, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense that some of the leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him.  So what did we learn? We learned that Donald Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the United States as a global leader. 

He managed to isolate his nation, to confuse and alienate his allies, and to diminish America.. He will cede that power to China and Russia, two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules in the twenty first century.  Some will cheer the decline of America but I think we will miss it when it's gone."

Powerful observations from an outsider, but cogent in that no thinking citizen can have missed the fact that Trump is no more than a cutout, an ersatz leader who lacks any scintilla of deftness, ability, knowledge or class. He is, as much of the media has portrayed him, an ignorant buffoon who doesn't even merit being a dog catcher.

This has now renewed examination of Trump's capacity for leadership in terms of his volatile mental state. As per a recent LA Times headline:

Is Trump mentally fit to be president? Let's consult the U.S. Army's Field Manual on Leadership

At the center of the story is past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Dr. Prudence Gourguechon who - in an MSNBC interview last week - referenced the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.  According to her:

"How would we determine that a president is unable to carry out the duties of his office? And I had the idea a couple of months ago that continuing to diagnose him was not going to go very far. First of all, you can never get three psychiatrists to agree on a diagnosis. And as FOX News pointed out the other day, forty nine percent of presidents have served with a mental health diagnosis.

So how would be decide this president can't carry out his duties?  I started building a checklist and ended up discovering the Army Field Manual. This is a fantastic document based on really sound psychiatric and psychological knowledge going back a century.  It comes up with a set of criteria, a set of capacities and abilities that a leader with strategic responsibilities has to have.  And so I put them into a pocket sized checklist of five core capacities straight out of the Army Field Manual. 

And anybody, you don't have to be a psychiatrist or doctor - any observant person - can take a look at these and ask: Does Donald Trump have these capabilities?

She laid out these capabilities in the LA Times piece:

- Trust 

- Discipline and self-control

- Judgement and critical thinking

- Self-awareness

- Empathy

Any one capability failed means the presumed leader fails in his putative role.

In terms of the second, 'discipline and self control, the "deal breaker" according to the AFM  "reacting viscerally or angrily when receiving bad news or conflicting information."

Something we've observed with Trump time and time again, especially in his fulminating tweets - whether attacking the judiciary, Hillary Clinton, Mika Brzezinski, Comey ("a nut job"), or anyone who arouses his petulance and ire at a given instant.

Trump is also woefully unable to anticipate consequences of his actions, including second and third degree consequences, thereby undermining any capacity for sound judgment.   And as Dr. Prudence Gourguechon noted:

"If you lack self-discipline you can't think, you can't strategize and you can't plan."

Especially damning was Trump's tweet about Mika Brzezinski, for which "every one of the criteria fell short."  In other words, no sense of trust, no discipline, no critical thinking - certainly no judgment (inflating a morning anchor's criticism to the level of a state crisis), and no empathy or self-awareness,, i.e. of how this even looks coming from the leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

So every one of the failing criteria that would get one knocked out of a leadership position in the Army was met by Trump in one fell tweet.  As to whether the Army Field Manual meets present day expectations of what a leader should be, Dr. Gourguechon is adamant, i.e. We clearly know what  it takes to be a human being with vast responsibilities for the life and fortune of others.

The issue then is not merely how we define mental illness,  but the capacity to shoulder enormous responsibility.  Thus the question to be asked is whether he has this capacity, not whether this or that psych diagnosis applies.

 The answer clearly is that Trump misses the most basic capacity threshold by a mile on each count. The man is an embarrassment and has no business being in any leadership position of consequence. Now, what we need is the Trumpies to see that, and cease invoking idiotic rationalizations and false equivalence narratives to prop up their clown prince.

But to reach that milestone we may have to wait for hell to freeze over - or at least all the ice sheets and icebergs on the planet to melt!

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/don-hazen/73907/is-trump-simply-the-worst-human-being-we-can-imagine-14-experts-weigh-in


 
Excerpt:

"Trump may be the worst human being alive—the most hated person in America and throughout the world today.How do you decide whether someone is the worst person alive? You probably include in your criteria stupid behavior, lies and cheating, lack of grace and charm, cruelty, obsession with revenge, and constantly putting other people down—the weaker the better. But it's also important to check in on public opinion, or rather media opinion, to contextualize Trump's horrific standing.

TV Cheat Sheet likes to keep track of all the truly unpopular people, and it has dubbed Donald Trump the "most hated person in 2017" so far. Trump was also number one in 2016, which kind of says it all."

-------
Added note:

No comments will be posted from here on out that seek to enlist any kind of false equivalence takes, perspectives or "arguments". Sorry! If you want to see that sort of dreck put up go to Breitbart.com

Solving The Mystery Of Stellar Motions In The 'Hercules Stream' Of Our Galaxy

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Polar view of Milky Way galaxy showing L4, L5 Lagrangian points and the solar neighborhood.

As I noted from an earlier (May 15, 2011) post, analysis of the motions in the spiral galaxies like the Milky Way is not easy or straightforward.     As an example, assume the (polar) coordinates for a galactic rotating frame are given as (r, φ) with:

dφ/dt = dΘ/dt -
W p


where Wp is the angular velocity of the rotating frame for the galaxy. Then orbits are described by a Hamiltonian (recall the Hamiltonian adds kinetic and potential energies of the system):

H = ½(pr2 + pφ2/r2) + V(r) - pφ
Wp

where the pr, pφ  are the particle momenta referred to the associated coordinates, and V(r) is the gravitational potential. The point is that H can change depending on the coordinates, and what is presented for the previous frame as H = E - J
Wp (with simplification, pφ = J) may well be different for another frame.

Such considerations enter into investigating the cause of the motion of the so-called "Hercules stream".  This is a group of stars (about 10 percent in the solar neighborhood) which exhibits an oddly distinctive collective motion. It includes stars that are moving away from the galaxy center while actually falling behind the galaxy's general  rotation.

What this means is that the group's average orbital angular speed is less than the angular speed of the galaxy (e.g.   W  <  W p )


According to standard theories of stellar evolution, new stars typically condense with other new stars out of the same dense, cool region of dust and gas. Hence, since stars are born more or less at the same time they "inherit" the motion at that position of the galaxy coincident with their birth place.  The problem is that the Hercules stream is different with spectroscopic observations revealing stars of widely varying ages. How can this be? Whatever the basis of the streaming motion it operates across vast scales of time and space.


One suspect is the dense central bar of stars (see highlighted in graphic) from which two of the galaxy's spiral arms sprout. The solar neighborhood lies beyond the orbit of the ends of the bar, but the Sun (and stars of the Hercules stream) are close enough to feel the bar's gravitational influence. As the stars orbit the galaxy they oscillate toward and away fro the galactic center.


The number c of epicycle oscillations per orbit about the galactic center is given by the ratio of the star’s epicycle frequency (ko)  to its orbital angular speed, W.


Or:   c =  ko / W  


If it happens that the star's radial oscillation resonates with the bar's rotation the star can end up with an extra 'kick' away from the galactic center.  The resonance, the outer Lindblad resonance, has been invoked to explain the Hercules stream but more recent observations have identified flaws.  In fact one major flaw in that since the bar rotates more slowly than originally thought the outer Lindblad resonance is too distant to be the stream's primary mover.

Recognition of this disparity has been incorporated in a new dynamical model proposed by Angeles Perez - Villegas and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute  Their model has succeeded in not only re-creating the positions and velocities of the Hercules stream but also revealed the cause of the unusual motion.

It turns out the stream's stars are orbiting two local maxima, identified as the L4 and L5 Lagrange points. (See diagram at top).  The Lagrange points mark positions where the combined gravitational pull of the two large masses provide precisely the centripetal force required to orbit with them.  In this case,  the masses are the galaxy central bar, and the Hercules stream.  The key point to note is that the L4 and L5 points are in the bar's effective gravitational potential, V(r) = - GMm/r.

Note more specifically that the L4 and L5 points are situated on the bar's perpendicular bisector close to the distance where stars co-rotate with the bar.  In the Perez -Villegas et al model the majority of stars in the Hercules stream originate from the inner part of the galaxy where stars tend to be older than the Sun. Then their looping orbits, i.e. around L4 and L5, take them all the way into the solar neighborhood but not much beyond it.