Archive for May 2016

They Are Who We Thought They Were

May 16, 2016

Exhibit A, from Trump’s “butler”*

Anthony Senecal told West Virginia newspaper The Martinsburg Journal on Friday—one day after a Secret Service agent called Senecal regarding online comments he made calling for Obama’s death—that he believes the President is a “traitor” who deserves to be killed.

…“I think they (Secret Service) wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to go there with a rifle,” Senecal told the newspaper. “I told them it was too far to drive…

The 84-year-old…told the newspaper that he stands by the comments he made in his Facebook posts.

*I swear that has to be code for some other function. Pharmaceutical grade toad purveyor, perhaps?

And then, there’s this guy, who is actually (attempting) to stake a claim on Washington:

“Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call President, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country…

Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_-_The_Shipwreck_-_Google_Art_Project

It’s hard to pick where to start.  Should it be with the backwards-jacket level delusions concerning Obama-the-Destroyer (damn that doubling of the stock market; damn that cut in unemployment by half; how will we survive millions of our fellow Americans gaining access to health care; how wretched it is for our troops not to be on their fourth or fifth deployment and so on).

No: it is with the raw racism — enabled since 2009 (and really, since 1968) by the more “genteel” members of the Republican Party, who have made the fact of a black President such a horror to those who know in their bones that such a event cannot be permitted to happen in any well-behaved universe.

So yeah, while it’s easy to point and laugh at an aging crazy who perhaps sipped too much of whatever it was he brought The Donald, or to slap down Beruff’s vile manners, never forget the story behind the story:  these folks feel empowered to speak of the best president of a generation (or more) as if he were disqualified from the human race by those who trained ’em up.

There are lots of reasons the Republican Party must not merely be defeated this fall, but wrecked, utterly.

This is one.

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, The Shipwreck1805

This Is One For Every Patriots-Hater Out There

May 4, 2016

The invaluable Charles Pierce on Donald Trump’s distinct political superpower:

It was Jeb (!) Bush who learned the second-worst thing for a candidate to be if he’s running against He, Trump—which is a humorless, privileged fop. The worst thing to be is what the Tailgunner was—a self-important dweeb with delusions of sacred grandeur. In both cases, you are a big bag of hot air in search of a needle. That is He, Trump’s only consistent political skill. No wonder Tom Brady loves him. Nobody is more skilled at deflating people than He, Trump.

I’d add — it’s hard for me to read this as anything but Barack I’m-So-Going-To-Miss-This-President Obama’s parting gift to that self important dweeb with delusions of sacred grandeur:

The White House is considering the creation of a national monument to the gay rights movement on a small piece of Greenwich Village parkland across the street from the Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 uprising helped inspire the push for equality, advocates said on Tuesday.

I know, I know. Not a done deal yet; just kicking the tires; who thought to get this out there today…

But still, even if it is a coincidence (and I’m really not sure that it is), a fine story becomes that much sweeter juxtaposed with Torquemada Cruz (you can’t torque ’em ada anything) on the occasion of his exit, stage far right.

Pedro_Berruguete_Saint_Dominic_Presiding_over_an_Auto-da-fe_1495

So yeah, while as many have noted, Trump is a terrifying existential threat to the idea of the Republic, I still get at least some naches any day that Ted Cruz gets his comeuppance upside and down.

Open, the thread, it is.

Pedro Berruguete, Saint Dominic Presiding Over an Auto-da-fe, 1495

Brave New Worlds

May 2, 2016

You may have caught this news, but today Nature published a report on the discovery of three earth-scale planets in orbit around just about the least impressive star it’s possible to be.

Edvard_Munch_-_Starry_Night_(1922–24)

What’s most intriguing is that the dimness of that parent star — now known as TRAPPIST-1, after the instrument at the heart of this discovery — makes it just possible (if you squint just right) to glimpse a possible opening for life on its planets.

It’s tricky, because the two better-characterized planets are terribly close to their sun, with orbits of 1.5 and 2.4 days.  But TRAPPIST-1 is what’s called an “ultracool dwarf” — and even at that distances, the two planets would have equilibrium temperatures that are pretty damn hot.  But — if everything broke just right, there would be some locations that could be cool enough to support liquid water on the surface.

That’s one of the big pre-conditions exobiology researchers/dreamers imagine would be valuable/necessary for the emergence of life beyond earth.  Given how many ways we can imagine (and all the ways we can’t) that those circumstances might not pan out, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a signal from our new friends on a distant world.

But the real juice behind this finding comes from the fact that these planets are decent candidates for transmission spectroscopic analysis of their atmospheres (if they have them) during their transits across the face of their star.  All it will take is the next generation of large, infrared-capable telescopes:  the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, and instruments like the Giant Magellan Telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope, both now starting construction in Chile, and the Thirty-Meter-Telescope, now stalled in Hawaii.

I write more about this over at The Atlantic. It’s a fun tale — a small team pursuing a hunch that has led to a significant (or at least enticing and delicious) advance in our grasp of the possible out there.

So — if you’re tired of terrestrial politics, have some fun contemplating possible home worlds for the Lectroid going by the name of Cruz.

Image:  Edvard Munch, Starry Night, 1922-24

May Day!

May 1, 2016

Happy International Workers Day!

That’s one incarnation of a classic — and here’s another, with a lovely story to frame it.

So, to channel my inner President Obama, talking to Senator Sanders last night “this is the time and place” in which I wish all my comrades a happy, peaceful, easeful international labor day.  We may all Tikkun Olam again tomorrow.