Category Archives: Uncategorized

Urgently needed travel ban doesn’t seem all that urgent

The new travel ban signed by President Trump takes effect in 10 days. This on top of the delays since the White House announced a new executive order was on the way.

Previously, the president had tweeted:

travel ban tweet

This doesn’t lend credence to President Trump’s insistence that the travel ban was urgently needed because “thousands” of “bad dudes” were pouring into the US with plans to carry out terrorist attacks.

Who benefits?

Things I learned from reading Malcolm Nance:

Vladimir Putin seeks to rebuild a Russian empire for the enrichment of himself and his fellow oligarchs.

A weakened and dismantled USA and EU are essential to his goal.

An America distracted by chaos and instability serves the Russian leader’s purpose.

The one person who benefits from everything that’s happening in American politics right now is Vladimir Putin. And he seems like he’s getting everything he wants exactly the way he wants it.

With this election, Vladimir Putin, the former director of Russia’s intelligence agency, sees the election of Donald Trump as the fastest way to destabilize the United States and damage its economy, as well as fracture both the European Union and NATO. These events, which start with the election of Trump, would allow Russia to become the strongest of the world’s three superpowers and reorder the globe with a dominant Russia at the helm. — Malcolm Nance, “The Plot to Hack America”

plot

MLK

Dr Martin Luther King Jr:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

How to reform the Electoral College to avoid another “loophole president”

A recent poll shows that a majority of Americans who voted in this year’s election want to do away with the Electoral College, that archaic holdover born at a time when the founding fathers wanted to placate southern slave states so they’d get on board with the new Constitution.

The founding fathers had different ideas for the Electoral College. For some, the idea was to ensure smaller population states (like slave ones) wouldn’t be outvoted in every election. (It’s also the genesis of the infamous “three-fifths clause.”) It wasn’t so much about states’ voting power as it was protecting the south from the north.

Another idea was that the College could be a fail-safe mechanism in case the people voted for a criminal, an idiot, a fraudster, or someone who wasn’t qualified to lead the nation.

Whatever the intent was, it’s an idea fraught with problems. The most glaring fault is when the EC goes counter to the popular vote, as it did this year with Hillary Clinton receiving some 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump, not a small margin. Many feel the current mechanism violates the principle of one person one vote, as it gives people in smaller states much more voting power than people in larger states.

lawrence-lessigProblematic as it is, getting rid of the College would require a constitutional amendment, and that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. But it can be reformed. It can be made fairer. It can be amended so that it more accurately reflects the will of the people.

Last week I spoke to Lawrence Lessig, the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He acknowledged that the Electoral College won’t be consigned to the dustbin of history in the near (or maybe far) future, but he shared a couple of ideas for reform that might correct the faults.

The first way is for states to abolish “winner take all,” the principle where the state popular vote winner (even if it’s just by one vote) gets all of that state’s electors. He said there’s already a group of people preparing litigation to challenge the principle immediately after the election. If the Supreme Court rules that it’s a constitutional violation, and Lessig thinks it would, then the EC and the popular vote would more fairly align. So far, only two states have done away with “winner take all.”

But Lessig was more excited by another idea for change, one that could reform the EC without litigation or a constitutional amendment. He explained:

[…] that change is advanced by the National Popular Vote Project. What that project is, is a compact among states, and what the states have basically said is when states representing at least 270 electoral college votes all join a compact, what they promise to do is to allocate their electors to the person who has won the national popular vote. So if you can get 270 votes together into one, then they will switch their votes to whoever wins the national popular vote automatically and therefore avoid any more questions about the person winning the national popular vote not being sworn in as president.

Lessig said he has high hopes for this idea.

[…] they’re actually on their way to getting to 270, and I’m sure this election cycle is gonna re-energize the movement towards that solution. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time we get to the next election the possibility of this “loophole presidency” will have been removed.

Both of these plans are more workable than abolition, though I must say the best idea is to do away with the Electoral College. Every other elected office in the United States is chosen by popular vote. The presidency should be, too.

(There are some who defend the EC despite its inherent unfairness. The three most common defenses are debunked here. I present the link for additional reading.)

Cassini will meet its doom in Saturn’s atmosphere

By any definition, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been a massive success. The 20-year-old planetary probe has studied Saturn, its moon system, and its rings, since 2004. The mission was originally slated to last only four years, but it’s been extended twice, and the damn thing is still going.

Cassini is finally running out of gas, and it will meet its doom in Saturn’s atmosphere in September of 2017. But before then, it may uncover a few more mysteries.

A couple of weeks ago Cassini began a series of maneuvers that will take it very close to Saturn’s outer rings, just barely grazing them to take measurements of their densities and that of some of Saturn’s moons.

But next April, Cassini will go where no spacecraft has gone before — in between the planet and its inner rings. There, it may solve a big mystery: the mass of Saturn.

Scientists have known the mass of Saturn and its rings, but Cassini will solve the mystery of the mass of the rings themselves and that of Saturn minus the rings. Here’s what Cassini’s daredevil orbit will look like from its point of view:

2016_12_09_12_57_55

Then, in September, Cassini’s final suicide mission will end in the planet’s atmosphere, once again going where no space probe has gone before. On its way down, it will take readings and attempt to send them back to earth. However, NASA scientists caution that the spacecraft’s thrusters weren’t designed for that maneuver, so it’s unclear if any data will get back to us.

But we’ve already received a treasure trove of information: We’ve seen Saturn’s hexagon-shaped south pole up close:

2975_main_pia21052_768w

Cassini also found evidence of an underground ocean on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s many moons. We learned how new moons could form out of Saturn’s rings. Cassini found surprisingly Earth-like geographic features on Titan, including great lakes of liquid natural gas that outweigh all the oil and gas reserves here at home.

The probe has lasted far longer than scientists and JPL mission specialists had expected, but these final maneuvers may end it before its suicide plunge into Saturn. Rocks and debris from near the rings may destroy the craft or damage it enough to disable its ability to gather information or send it back to Earth.

But even if that happens, we’ve learned a few lifetimes’ worth of lessons from the ringed planet and its moons. Here’s hoping that humankind one day gets to see them with its own eyes.

Not very funny lately

At Monday’s night’s SAG-AFTRA board meeting, someone told me that my Facebook posts haven’t been very funny lately. I replied, “What do you expect, with this horrible disappointment that we all have to live with?” I mean, seriously, how can anyone be funny when we know we have to wait until 2018 before there are new episodes of Westworld?

Yes, that’s right. The producers of the fantastic HBO show say it’ll be 2018 before the second season.

And there are a couple of other recent events to be a little depressed and worried about, but they pale in comparison to the hellish wait we’ll have to endure before we can find out what happens next for Dr. Ford, Bernard, Delores, Maeve, and the hapless members of the DELOS board.