Lunacy

Posted November 12, 2016 by Tom
Categories: astronomy, rare sincerity, Uncategorized

Tags:

I’ve got some brewing thoughts about what comes next, in line with and in some cases following on from what others, made of stronger stuff and able to drag words out rage and despair more quickly than I, have already written.

But we do not live by politics alone, however much we may have to over the next months and years. So here’s advance warning of a little bit of wonder, ours for the having:

But this month’s Supermoon is special. The eccentricity above is calculated based upon the Earth-Moon system, but other celestial bodies also influence the Moon’s orbit through gravity. The Sun plays the largest role, but so too does Jupiter and even some of the smaller planets. When factoring in these other influences, the eccentricity of the Moon’s orbit can actually vary by as little as 0.026 and as much as 0.077.

A more eccentric lunar orbit brings the perigee [its closest approach] nearer the Earth, and when this perigee occurs during a full Moon, we get an extra-Supermoon. That is what will happen on Nov. 14, when the Moon will come to within just 356,509km of Earth, which is the Moon’s closest approach since Jan. 26, 1948. The Solar System won’t line up this well again for a lunar approach until Nov. 25, 2034.

joseph_wright_of_derby_-_a_view_of_vesuvius_from_posillipo_naples_-_google_art_project

That sucker is going to be big, really big –a “normal” Supermoon is 14 % larger and 30% brighter than a full moon at apogee — the point on an elliptical orbit farthest away the focal body.  It’s actually hard to perceive the effect as a casual observer, but it is naked-eye detectable.  The absolute peak of the phenomenon comes at 8:25 a.m. ET this coming Monday, but if you’re up early and/or catch the rising moon Monday evening, you’ll get a fine approximation.  As they say:  check local listings.

One of the consolations/delights I take from nature is the sense of connection to something larger than myself. That’s the same feeling I get from the acts we take to make the world better, from the kindness we show to one person at a time to the actions we’re stumbling to figure out right now, here on this blog and at every turn.

I’m going to stare at that moon Monday (sky permitting) and think of the world I want the next time this particular geometry rolls around, twenty eight years from now.  My son will be thirty four then.  If I’m fortunate enough to be here with him, I’ll be seventy six.  It will be a better world then, if we make it so.

And if it makes me a lunatic to think so, I’ll take that label gladly. Beats the alternative.

Image: Joseph Wright of Derby, A view of Vesuvius from Posillipo, Naplesbetween 1788 and 1790.

White Before Black, Men Before Women

Posted November 9, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Uncategorized

To get things out of the way: the way I feel right now is exactly the sensation — body and mind — I’ve only felt before when I got news that someone close to me died unexpectedly.  I’m basically paralyzed, and my brain is moving…not much, and not in any coherent sequence.

That said, I’ve only one thought to add to those I’ve been reading at Balloon Juice, the group blog to which I contribute.  I’m completely down with the core themes others have already written about there:  la lucha continua, the struggle continues, and in days like these the kindness we show each other is paramount.  And I agree with the hints at a post-mortem below.

My sole notion is that whatever her formidable strengths and her evident vulnerabilities, Hillary Clinton ran right into an absolutely familiar trap.  American politics is hostile to women.  We saw it in Massachusetts recently enough.  Martha Coakley was all kinds of not-great (read, terrible, especially her first time out) as a candidate for senator and governor.  But in both cases she started up with a sixty pound rock on her back male candidates don’t have to carry.  Massachusetts had, until Elizabeth Warren came along, never elected a woman to the top offices.  (And it’s notable that Warren also seems to face a woman tax as measured in approval ratings, at least as compared with her perfectly solid but unspectacular male colleague, Ed Markey.)  Several tried, but it’s clear that while women can aspire to state treasurer or AG or a House seat, gunning for the top slots engaged the fear/loathing-for-powerful-women, leading to the results we see.

That’s true nationwide, I believe.  The old line goes white men before everyone else (got the vote in 1783); then other males (black men got the vote in 1665); then women (who got the vote in 1920), with, of course, white women gaining access to power and agency ahead of women of color.

john_singer_sargent_001

Whatever else we may conclude about the Clinton campaign and this terrible outcome, one thing it reveals is that racism still powerfully motivates the revanchist white right, to a depth I certainly didn’t forsee.  It also reminds us that misogyny strikes deep within our body politic.  One more thing to deal with, as best we can.

One afterthought.  Typing that sentence about racism above, I’m reminded of the ways privilege so subtly seeps into one’s bones.  Y’all know my politics, I think, and I’ve come by them through life-long engagement from a childhood in Berkeley in the 60s.  But I’m white, male, working in the elite, pretty secure, still pretty damn white-and-male setting that is an R 1 university.  I’ve got a good friend , a Latino writer who has some of the same cocoon now, but certainly didn’t come up within those comforts and protections.  He’d been freaking out about Trump’s rise, especially after the Comey ratfucking, and I kept reassuring him with the polling internals and the early vote stuff and all that.

I emailed him this morning to tell him the obvious: he’d been right and I wrong.  He wrote back saying he’d known that disaster was looming — and that is was time to fight.  On that last, of course, he’s right.  It was the first half of that response that pulled me up, because I realized in that moment what should have been obvious: a nice liberal white guy like myself, whatever my politics and however deep my convictions doesn’t have the deep knowledge my friend does of just how much pure racial hate and resentment is out there.  I can get glimpses, and through my friends can get to empathy (I certainly hope), but the truth remains: I don’t live in daily direct confrontation with that hate.  And that, I think, as much as anything else, led me to miss whatever signs there might have been that our disaster was upon us.

As noted, that’s a penetrating glimpse of the obvious, of course.  But it’s also key.  I have no idea at this moment how to climb out of the deep hole we’re in.  I hope its not a grave.  But whatever else we do, we have to out work and out number the reserves of awful that have proved so potent this year.

And that’s all I got, rambling away, on this grim morning.   Good luck to us all.  We surely need it.

Image:  John Singer Sargent, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit  1882.

I Hate Every Democrat…

Posted November 5, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Uncategorized

Tags:

…Who keeps on sending me begging email, even (or especially) five minutes after I’ve dropped a few more bucks.

the_scream_undated_drawing_edvard_munch_bergen_kunstmuseum

I care about politics. By all the noodly appendages of the FSM, y’all know that, right?

I genuinely believe this is an existential election, one in which it’s not enough (though vital) to take the presidency.  We need the Senate, and we pretty close to need the House, which we are unlikely to get, alas.  It takes dollars to do all that, I know.  I understand that you don’t get if you don’t ask, which means the campaigns gotta try.

But I hit the breaking point yesterday.  My wife and I had decided to drop our last contributions in a flurry of mixed support and magical thinking (this $10 bucks to whoever will propitiate the electoral gods…or this one…or this on…).  I allowed all the emails from all the campaigns we’ve given to over the last  year, plus all the campaigns and PACs folks who bought my info from someone I actually support, to accumulate over a few hours.

There were more than 200.  I ended up sending off a cash to Hillary, the DSCC, the DCCC, and the top Senate races I’ve been following — PA, NC, NH, MO, NV.  YMMV, but that’s where I completely unscientifically decided to put what final $s my wife and I figured we could spare. Deleted all the emails. Exhaled.

Within a few minutes — really — more rolled in.  No surprise; why should the folks I didn’t give to stop — how could they know I’m tapped out?  But still, I was getting tired of the whole thing when I noticed within not that long yet more email from some of the folks I’d just given to.  I snapped.

I don’t want much.  Maybe a three hour window between last contribution and next ask? (I’d prefer 24 hours, actually, but I’ll take what I can get.)  And perhaps a little less agony in the subject lines? Every now and then, maybe a positive note — even something like “let me tell you how we’re going to put each new dollar to use”?

Anyway. Just ranting. Good news out of Nevada, and seemingly so out of Florida, which has me off the ledge.  And I’ll further calm myself by getting out and doing something — GOTV tomorrow and Tuesday in New Hamster.*

But sweet Jeebus on a corndog, it’s not just the sheer awfulness of the campaign on the other side, nor the grotesque reality of racism, sexism and misogyny, anti-Semitism, the power of post-truth ideology, the failure of the elite media, and all the rest of the horrors the Trump freak show has dragged up from the shadows.  I’m ready for this to be over so that all my first-name email friends quiet down. Just a bit.

Please.  I’m begging.

*Yeah. I’m a Masshole.  I wear it proudly.

Image: Edvard Munch, The Scream, undated drawing.

Stamina! (And Tactical Thinking)

Posted November 4, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

I’ve reached the point where my sleep patterns and the kindness I’m able to show my family demands that I step away from the election noise machine — staying off Twitter as near totally as possible, for example — but I haven’t yet given up one habit: checking the official campaign schedule pages for both Trump and Clinton.

At this stage of the race, the only absolutely equal resource the two sides have is time, and without having any deep insight into the workings of how professionals think about deploying their stock of hours and minutes, I still find it interesting to see what each side is doing.  Right now, there’s quite a contrast.

The Republican ticket lists only what the two principals are doing.  On a quick glance Donald Trump and Mike Pence have eighteen events on their docket between now and Monday evening.  That’s deceptive, however, as the schedule includes two events at which both appear.   So that’s sixteen headlined campaign rallies over the next four days.*

william_hogarth_032

The Clinton/Kaine campaign is doing it differently.  Hillary’s campaign lists not just the ticket’s events, but those of her top surrogates.  Including those gives Clinton/Kaine sixteen events just today.  Two by the candidate (compared to four Trump rallies today, btw), one Kaine-led farrago — to which add appearances by Obama, Biden, Bernie Sanders, Bill C., Chelsea C., and a Cleveland, OH concert headlined by Jay Z. (Props to Bernie, doing four events today, three in IA and one in Nebraska, and then  two more tomorrow, in IA and CO.  Not leaving it on the table is our Senator from VT.)  Twelve tomorrow, without POTUS and Bill, but adding Katy Perry, Stevie Wonder and Jon Bon Jovi appearing in two concerts in PA (Perry and Wonder0 and FL (Bon Jovi).  Sunday and Monday see fewer events, but with similar star power — Obama back on the trail, with Michelle joining him and Clinton, Bill and Chelsea for an election-eve rally in Philadelphia.

In all, and not counting some Cher-led fundraisers, the Democratic campaign has thirty eight events between now and election day.

In terms of geography, the two campaigns basically agree on what’s left to fight about.  Both show up in all the usual suspects: FL, NC, OH, PA, MI, IA, CO, and NH.  Trump, somewhat oddly, heads to NV for the rally that is half his Saturday schedule. (Odd, because early voting ends today in NV, so he’s missing a chance to give a boost to that  process, which will finish with half, perhaps as much of 70% of all ballots cast.)

Clinton, Kaine and their surrogates will skip Nevada but add stops in  Nebraska’s one gettable electoral vote (with a Sanders visit), in Colorado on (four rallies on two different days — three led by Bill Clinton, one by Sanders), and one Joe Biden visit to Wisconsin.

So there you have it:  broad agreement on where this election will be settled (if it isn’t already), and very different deployment of publicly visible resources to fight those battles.  None of this speaks to the ground game or any of the secret sauce which we believe (and I deeply hope) favors the more organized and technically skilled Democratic operation.

Make of it what you will.  For me, this kind of thing helps me detox from election madness. YMMV.  The effect won’t last that long, but I’ll get myself some help by heading to NH to GOTV on Sunday, and probably again on election day.

Open thread!

*An bit of strangeness:  while Trump is indeed making good on his promise to fill a heavy campaign schedule, Pence only has three solo appearances slated.  I’m not sure what that means, if anything — could be Trump doesn’t see the point of spending money on his number two; could be that Pence is dialing it back; could be what the goat’s entrails told someone.

Image:  William Hogarth, Canvassing for Votes, from the Humours of an Election series, 1754-55.

All Hat, No Cattle

Posted November 3, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Oops, Republican knavery, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Too f**king little awfully late in the game, but the Grey Lady has come up with another good story on the long-con that is Donald J. Trump.  Ross Buettner reports:

…an examination of his tax appeals on several properties, and other documents obtained by The New York Times through Freedom of Information requests, shows that what Mr. Trump has reported on those forms is nowhere near a complete picture of his financial state.

pietro_paolini_-_card_sharps

The records demonstrate that large portions of those numbers represent cash coming into his businesses before covering costs like mortgage payments, payroll and maintenance. After expenses, some of his businesses make a small fraction of what he reported on his disclosure forms, or actually lose money.

Donald Trump got his start in life with his dad’s money. The rest of us helped him out by paying his taxes for him for almost two decades.  Shafting his subcontractors and partners helped build the kitty.  And he still can’t actually make (much) money at his supposed vocation.  I loved this bit:

On the financial disclosure forms that Donald J. Trump has pointed to as proof of his tremendous success, no venture looks more gold-plated than his golf resort in Doral, Fla., where he reported revenues of $50 million in 2014. That figure accounted for the biggest share of what he described as his income for the year.

But this summer, a considerably different picture emerged in an austere government hearing room in Miami, where Mr. Trump’s company was challenging the resort’s property tax bill.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer handed the magistrate an income and expense statement showing that the gross revenue had indeed been $50 million. But after paying operating costs, the resort had actually lost $2.4 million.

Donald Trump is a bigot, a thug, the kind of man whom women know all too well.

He’s a braggart, a bully, and the least self-made alleged rich guy short of the Walton kids.

And through it all, he’s crap at the stuff of which he claims to be the world champeen.  Would you trust the coffee fund, much less the national budget, to this guy?

But time and again, what the form presented as income did not match what was reported in other documents. Mr. Trump also runs several publicly owned attractions — the carousel and ice rinks in Central Park and a golf course in the Bronx — under agreements with New York City.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure forms reported income from the Wollman and Lasker ice rinks of just under $13 million last year, and $8.6 million the year before. But accounting figures provided by his company to the city show that those figures represent gross receipts…Recent figures were not available, but a 2011 city audit showed that for the previous three years, an average of $25,340 a year for both rinks was left after expenses.

With Logan Airport charging roughly eight bucks a gallon for Jet-A fuel right now, that would pay for barely more than a quarter of a tank of gas for The Donald’s aging jet.  He’s a bust-out artist, not a businessman.

Last word to the magistrate who heard Trump cry poor on his misbegotten Doral Golf Course purchase:

“So he spent $104 million to lose two and a half million dollars a year,” Mr. [Leonardo[ Delgado said. “I know how to lose that money without having to spend $104 million. How ’bout you, Murry?”

I’d laugh, except for the non-zero (though still small) chance that this lying sack of ferret fæces could be President-elect next week.

OK. I Laughed

Posted November 1, 2016 by Tom
Categories: random humor, The Way We Live Now

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The Reddit MeIRL crowd produces some of my son’s favorite internet snark — and provides a bridge between 16 y.o. consummate savvy and [mumble mumble mumble] technological cluelessness.

Here’s what he shared with me today:

snek

May your day be one in which all your sneks are garters.

(And no, not that way. This is a family blog).

You’re The Puppet

Posted October 31, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

Franklin Foer is up with an almost-incendiary new piece at Slate on Trump’s secret email link to a Russian bank. And here’s what Foer has found:

The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

russian-puppet

Alfa Bank deep and old ties to Vladimir Putin in an admittedly complicated history described in part (as Foer cites)in this work.

Yesterday, when Senator Harry Reid posted his letter suggesting that FBI Director Comey was sitting on “explosive” information about Trump’s ties to Russia, some serious people suggested that was just Reid blowing smoke — the way he provoked Romney with his claim that the 2012 GOP nominee hadn’t paid taxes in a decade (which wasn’t true, at least for the two years the RomBot deigned to release his partial returns.)  I got into a twitter fight about that with Tom Nichols, who many (including me) see as a smart and honest-broker conservative.  Reid’s tactics pissed him (and many others) waaaaay off, and the default was to assume that this latest was more of the same.

Well, perhaps, not so much.

One of the interesting aspects of Foer’s stories is that the New York Times is on it too.  Foer writes:

Around the same time [September], the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers began chasing the story. (They are still pursuing it.)

I have been (today! on Twitter) extremely critical of the Times‘ coverage of this election, particularly its disastrous refusal to accept the sunk cost of their dry-hole Clinton email investigation. This would be a good moment to redeem, in part, the institutional failure there to follow up on Trump stories with the kind of in-depth reporting that the Post’s David Fahrenthold and Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, among some others, have produced.

But leave aside the press wars for a moment, and contemplate what Foer has uncovered, partial and circumstantial as it is.  For months, with communication peaking at politcally significant moments, Donald Trump maintained a secret communication link with the highest levels of the Russian kleptocracy.

Throughout this election one of the core unanswered questions has been “Who owns Donald Trump.” The single real failure of journalism in this campaign has been the lack of a sustained effort to crack that query.  Now we have a partial answer, circumstantial, inferential, but more solid than all the months-long Trump denials of connections between his organization and Russian institutions.

Absent any better information, the prudent response is that the possibility that Putin owns Trump is non-trivially real — and hence makes it waaaaaay too risky to allow him and his associates anywhere near power.

And, of course, we are within days of the choice that could make him President of the United States.

Mind boggling.

Image: Big Philanthropic Puppet Bazaar Saint Petersburg, 1899