Abuse of Power

What should outrage us is not what appears or is suspected to be Burr’s insider trading, but that any representative of the US government, and in this case a particularly high-ranking one, is permitted to own stock. It is as if there is no relationship between government decisions and market developments. The fact that this is possible, that a powerful senator like Burr can be deep inside of the government and yet play the market, exposes the exceptionally high levels of corruption permitted in our political system.

thestranger.com

Fascism in America

The only constitutional freedoms ultimately recognized may soon be limited to those useful to wealthy, Republican, White, straight, Christian, and armed males— and the corporations they control. This is wrong. Period. This is not America.

James Dannenberg

Like Mussolini, Trump can’t even make the trains run on time. He certainly can’t protect us from a virus.

Hat/tip to:

March 14, 2020 (Saturday)The reality of the novel coronavirus pandemic is sinking in as our infections continue to…

Posted by Heather Cox Richardson on Sunday, March 15, 2020
Facebook – Heather Cox Richardson

The Power of Oil

“I’m like a corporate political prisoner,” Donziger told me as we sat in his living room recently. The attorney, who is 6-foot-3, graying, and often used to be mistaken for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio when he was able to walk the city streets, was surprisingly stoic and resigned about his predicament during my two visits to the apartment he shares with his wife and 13-year-old son. But on this particular Wednesday, as the winter sunlight in his living room was dimming and the charger for his spare ankle bracelet battery flashed on a nearby shelf, his optimism about his epic battle against one of the biggest oil companies in the world seemed to be flagging. “They are trying to totally destroy me.”

The Intercept

…when you read stories like this one, It is easy to see why Glenn Greenwald thinks the US is behind all the bad things that happen in the world. I wonder if Chevron will ever be made to pay for the damage they’ve done?

Working in Pajamas

Me? I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

Stonekettle

Blue Dot is 30

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot
NASA/JPL – Voyager 1 image of the Earth

In 1989, Voyager 1 was about to leave our Solar System. Dr. Sagan, who was a member of the mission’s imaging team, pleaded with NASA officials to turn the camera around and take one last look back at Earth before the spaceship left our solar system.

He then presented that grainy image of the pale blue dot to the world in this press conference.

The Planetary SocietyCarl Sagan unveils the Pale Blue Dot, 1990

Hat/tip to the Planetary Society. The featured image is the composite family portrait that the blue dot picture is part of.


Editor’s note. I ran across a story a few months ago that reminded me of this photograph, and while I was digging up the image at the Planetary Society website I realized that the image would be thirty years old today.

Rather than quote a story written for the twenty-sixth anniversary I wrote the above quick piece and scheduled it for the thirtieth anniversary date. NASA had been planning for this date longer than I had, though. They had been working on an updated image, and they had scheduled the release of the image for the day before the actual date so that news of it would make headlines on papers and websites well in advance of the anniversary. That’s the kind of impression you can make when you wield the manpower and economic force of a national agency.

nasa.gov

Respect for Mitt Romney?

The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did.

New York Times
C-SPANSenator Mitt Romney votes to convict President Trump – Feb 5, 2020

…but even Mitt Romney thought it was okay for the president to stonewall the House of Representatives in their desire to investigate the president. Again I ask, who would have thought this way if Obama had stonewalled all eight (yes, eight) of the Benghazi hearings? Almost no one.

RAnt(hony)-ings

The Curse of Faction

The Republican Party … was literally shattered into fragments, and we had no fewer than five Republican Presidential candidates in the field. In the place of two great parties arrayed against each other in a fair and open contest … the country was overrun with personal factions. These, having few higher motives for the selection of their candidates or stronger incentives to action than individual preferences or antipathies, moved the bitter waters of political agitation to their lowest depths.

President Martin Van Buren, writing about the election of 1824.

His book is a free Kindle book. Read the whole thing.

Inquiry into the Origin and the Course of Political Parties in the United States (1867)

Hat/tip to Facebook – Robert Reich. My Facebook share.

Climate Change: Australia's Wildfires

The fires raging across the southern half of the Australian continent this year have so far burned through more than 5 million hectares. To put that in context, the catastrophic 2018 fire season in California saw nearly 740,000 hectares burned. The Australian fire season began this year in late August (before the end of our winter). Fires have so far claimed nine lives, including two firefighters, and destroyed around 1,000 homes. It is too early to tell what the toll on our wildlife has been, but early estimates suggest that around 500 million animals have died so far, including 30 percent of the koala population in their main habitat. And this is all before we have even reached January and February, when the fire season typically peaks in Australia.

Scientific American Blogs

Hat/Tip to Cool Physics and Mopery With Intent to Gawk

New York Times: The Daily
Stitcher – The Daily – January 13, 2020


Today, ExplainedOne billion animals dead – Monday, January 13, 2019

Anti-Vaccination Agitation

One way to look at it is this – a small minority now has the ability to hijack public health policy by waging their own shadow campaign on social media. They are accountable to no one. They can force the expenditure of limited public health dollars just to minimize the effect of their own campaigns. This is also an asymmetric campaign, because it is much easier to spread fear than proper information. At the very least it is reasonable to filter out their harmful misinformation from private platforms. Panels of experts can be used to provide the filter, and fair processes can be made available for appeals. At the very least these options need to be explored.

Sciencebasedmedicine.org
Sciencebasedmedicine.org

Mailed to Freedom

“I felt my eyes swelling as though they would burst from their sockets, and the veins on my temples were dreadfully distended with pressure of blood upon my head,” Brown wrote. “I felt a cold sweat coming over me that seemed to be warning that death was about to terminate my earthly miseries.”

Washington Post – Henry ‘Box’ Brown

…he then turned his escape into an act that he made a fortune with.