Thursday, December 14, 2017

Memo To #MeToo: Proportionality Is Not Compatible With "ZeroTolerance"

Image result for zephyr teachout
Sen. Al Franken - victim of a zero tolerance #MeToo Movement and Zephyr Teachout.

Even as allegations of rape were made yesterday against entertainment phenom Russell Simmons, and Harvey Weinstein's pig nature of sex aggression has been exposed in an op-ed by Salma Hayek, e.g.

We've seen a few others are reconsidering harsh sanctions (such as resignation)  meted out against lesser transgressors - such as Sen. Al Franken. They appear to have recognized that conflation of serious sexual aggression with boorish and loutish behavior is not in the long term interest of the #MeToo movement.. Indeed, it is likely to be counterproductive as the political costs become more apparent, especially after the Ds possibly lose Franken's seat next November.

According to Zephyr Teachout, in a NY Times op-ed (I'm Not Convinced Franken Should Quit), she's now having second thoughts over Sen. Al Franken's ouster by the "MeToo's". It is well she (and others) should, especially liberals that fell for this farce. We now know Franken was absolutely correct when he said he shouldn't have had to resign with the  POS Trump still in office. The worst aspect of Franken's loss is that MN governor Mark Dayton plans to install his Lt. Governor as a caretaker until the primary next year.  A real Dem Senate candidate would then, presumably,  make him or herself known and compete. But unlike appointing an official sitting Senator there is no guarantee the seat will be retained by the Ds. (The last time that was done, in 1992, a Repuke won - the Dem all but hobbled from the primary.)

MSNBC political analyst Steve Kornacki was himself dumbfounded by Drayton's move as he tried to explain it to Rachel Maddow last week. He finally came up with the excuse that: "Well, he's made it clear he's retiring so he doesn't want to leave on a partisan note and would rather let candidates fight it out in primaries".  Fair enough, but that dumb move isn't likely to help the Dem numbers in the Senate - even if Doug Jones AL win holds up. And it is nearly as dumb a move as the Dems ousting Franken in the first place.

Teachout argues that in Franken's case there was not enough nuance, and she is correct. At the same time she claims to also share the "zero tolerance" approach of others in the #MeToo movement, which I have already criticized as moral absolutism. In other words,  like accusing a jaywalker and murderer of the same magnitude crime and punishing each to the same extent.  By its very definition zero tolerance accepts NO form of misbehavior - whether boorish groping or actually assaulting a woman- as deserving differential sanction.  All must be punished to the same extent. So Franken had to suffer the exact same punishment - resignation - as if he'd actually been accused of a sexual assault, similar to Matt Lauer's numerous aggressions before his firing from the Today show.

Teachout's statement is as follows:.

"I also believe in zero tolerance. And yet, a lot of women I know — myself included — were left with a sense that something went wrong last week with the effective ouster of Al Franken from the United States Senate. He resigned after a groundswell of his own Democratic colleagues called for him to step down."

Yes, he did resign and as I previously posted the "groundswell" against him was actually a Dem- sponsored and abetted Kangaroo court that ousted him. Thus Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's exclaiming "I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping you are having the wrong conversation."   Adding:
"You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is O.K. None of it is acceptable."

"None of it is acceptable"  so therefore even if you act like a boor and overgrown teenage horn dog you have got to go. Same as if you were Harvey Weinstein assaulting dozens of women.  Or Roy Moore preying on young girls. Pardon me, but this is insane.   But this is precisely where the contradiction enters in Teachout's piece, i.e. she is basically contradicting herself - on the one hand expressing the need for more "nuance" but on the other believing in zero tolerance. Sorry, you cannot have both. Logically this is analogous to trying to square the circle. It doesn't work. If you opt for zero tolerance you cannot be for any form of nuance - which as I've written before- demands "a weighing or interpolation of actions based on critical thinking combined with the exercise of ethical provisionalism. "

Where the latter "provides a middle ground for sanctions imposed on a scale of actions or infractions." On the other hand, with zero tolerance there is "total loss of moral perspective which then insists on the same penalties for all transgressions  - the serious and simply boorish."

Yet Teachout appears to truly believe these can actually be integrated, as when she writes:

"Zero tolerance should go hand in hand with two other things: due process and proportionality. As citizens, we need a way to make sense of accusations that does not depend only on what we read or see in the news or on social media. Due process means a fair, full investigation, with a chance for the accused to respond. And proportionality means that while all forms of inappropriate sexual behavior should be addressed, the response should be based on the nature of the transgressions."

Thereby proving she is logically attempting to square the circle.  "Due process" itself implies a measured legal response - weighing the infraction against legal sanctions historically meted out for such. Hence, one does not (as a rule) impose the same ten -year prison sentence for destroying property with a pipe bomb as for spitting on the sidewalk.  Due process then is the very opposite of the rush to judgment which characterizes the mob action of Franken's fellow Dems - especially the female contingent led by Gillibrand.

"Proportionality" means just what I wrote earlier: that there is an interpolation of the gravity of actions which then necessitates an interpolation or weighing of proportional penalties. For sure what Franken was accused of - while boorish and immature- doesn't measure up to what Matt Lauer and Russell Simmons (as well as Roy Moore) were accused of.

She goes on:

"Both were missing in the hasty call for Senator Franken’s resignation."

Yes, because it is the nature of a zero tolerance or moral absolutist milieu to enable a rush to judgment. That is exactly why nuanced ethical provisionalism is counter to zero tolerance, and why the latter must not be employed in these cases.

She goes on:

"Some might point out, rightly, that Congress doesn’t have good procedures for dealing with harassment accusations. In fact, the congressional process to date has gone something like this: Lift up the rug and sweep the accusations underneath. It’s delay, deny, pay hush money and avoid the consequences."


"Here’s what a fair system might look like: Congress should empower an independent arbiter to investigate complaints — like a Government Accountability Office, with trained experts in the field. Clearly understood mechanisms for reporting should be established. A timetable should be set that ensures complaints receive a prompt response. Both the accuser and the accused could submit questions and would have access to trained advocates and free legal consultation."

But this is a pipedream that'll never happen. At least not until the whole political culture is changed which means many more women in top Senate positons and in the Congress overall.  It also will never happen until those voices like Zephyr Teachout's come out squarely on the side of proportionality and reject the meme of zero tolerance. As I forecast to wifey, and she agrees, on the absolutist path the movement is currently going it will implode. This will happen as a sizeable faction of liberal women break off, especially after they behold the political costs of having gotten rid of Al Franken - and a goddamned Repuke mutt taking his place next year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

No, Not A Good Idea To Try To Bounce Radio Waves Off A Possible Alien Artifact

Object named Oumuamua now transiting our solar system. IF it is an alien artifact it's not  good idea to bounce radio waves off it.

Trajectory of asteroid
The eccentric trajectory of the object, i.e. out of the plane of the solar system, suggests it originated from outside our system - possibly another star.

By now millions of Earthers are aware of an extraterrestrial intruder having entered our solar system. In the shape of a mangled stogey, the thing designated as 1I/ 2017 U1 (aka Oumuaua) was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October.  Its orbital properties suggest it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our cosmic neighborhood. More fascinating, its cigar-ish shape marks it as a potential alien artifact.

To wit, Yuri Milner's Breakthrough Listen program released a statement which read: "Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust."

In addition, we've learned from measurements that it has a dense structure and is comprised of rock and metal, but with little - if any - water-ice. 

What about observations? Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, said: "'Oumuamua's presence within our Solar System affords Breakthrough Listen an opportunity to reach unprecedented sensitivities to possible artificial transmitters and demonstrate our ability to track nearby, fast-moving objects."

The first set of observations are to commence today at the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia is due to last for 10 hours.  These radio observations will be made across four different radio frequency bands. If passive "listening" is as far as it goes - no active bouncing of radio waves, i.e. transmissions off its surface -then that ought to be okay. But nothing more.

Stephen Hawking and others have already come out and warned if there is any chance of making ourselves known - revealed- to a much more technologically advanced civilization, we'd be wise not to do so. A nest of bugs happily ensconced in a corner of a home's kitchen won't have a very long life expectancy if the home owner finds them.

In 1978 the British Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Ryle, pleaded for extreme caution in restricting any and all types of electromagnetic signals and noise emanating from our planet. He warned that it would be foolhardy to be anything but passive listeners given we don't know anything about alien intentions - should they receive a calling card from another world. Of course, Sir Martin likely based his cautions on a paper in the journal Science two years earlier, which showed how an advanced alien civilization could put together a detailed picture of life on Earth, especially of our defense capabilities.

Sir Martin may also have been reminded - as I am now with this object - of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's novel, Rendezvous with Rama - published in 1973. Set in the 2130s, the story involves a cylindrical alien star ship that enters Earth's solar system.  Images obtained from unmanned spacecraft reveal  that Rama is a perfect cylinder, 20 kilometers (12 mi) in diameter and 54 kilometers (34 mi) long, and almost completely featureless, making this humankind's first encounter with an alien spacecraft.

In a 1962 high school research paper, long before Hawking’s or Sir Martin's alien warnings emerged, I showed how any encounter with a truly advanced alien intelligence would likely be disastrous for the human race. While scifi films (e.g. 'Earth vs. The Flying Saucers') often painted the meetings or altercations in cartoonish terms, I reasoned a hostile future encounter was almost inevitable and that our (putatively) lesser civilization would fall to a much more advanced, alien one. It was impossible to avoid, and this may have been the basis of a 1960 Brookings Institution REPORT to that effect. (Which I cited in my paper)

Brookings Institution thinkers feared any contact with highly advanced aliens would trigger social, economic and religious upheaval - and collapse of civilization.  The Brookings Institution's conclusions were largely based on the public reaction to the infamous Orson Wells' radio broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" and the local panic that ensued in 1938.

Let's also not forget that in 1972 - at a conference on potential interstellar contact- physicist Freeman Dyson warned that the first species we are likely to encounter is going to be technologically advanced and also highly aggressive -  more likely to be predators than cosmic pals willing to share their techno secrets.. 

As one Brit astronomer put it to the BBC, this is all likely huff and puff and merely a strange shaped natural object, say asteroid. But if there's even a 1 in a billion chance it's really of alien origin, we'd be best to keep our encounter totally passive.

Could Child Predator Roy Moore Steal Back The Alabama Senate Election?

Many Republicans rushed to distance themselves from Roy Moore in the aftermath of allegations.
Child sex predator Roy Moore after his apparent defeat last night. He refuses to concede to Doug Jones, perhaps because he expects thousands of provisional ballots to be thrown out.

The Alabama special election results are now (seemingly)  in the history books, and  moderate Dem Doug Jones appears to have defeated the child rapist Reeptard Roy Moore,  by 49.0 to 48.3 with 99% of precincts reporting.  The vote difference numerically is 21, 300.  At Jones’ election night party hundreds of supporters, many waving signs, erupted in cheers at a hotel ballroom in Birmingham when, on giant TV screens, CNN declared the race for the Democrat. There were hugs, smiles, tears and chants of “We want Doug!” The raw emotion was evident.
Supporters celebrate as Doug Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering.
If one tuned into left-leaning MSNBC one could sense the jubilation  after NBC called Doug Jones the "apparent winner". Also that Trump and Bannon had taken a hit, and Alabama - long regarded as a backward hinterland full of inbred crackers - had finally stepped into the 21st century. Also it had avoided a big scarlet letter had it elected a slime ball like Moore into Senate  - which had even days earlier sent chills down the spines of young Senate pages.

But all this may well be premature, because it may not be over yet. Moore has not conceded and if one tuned to "Trump TV" - home of assholes like Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson- one could see why. On the air at about 10:05 p.m. MST was the Alabama officer of elections who warned all and sundry to basically chill out. He pointed out to the Fox anchor that "thousands of provisional ballots and write in ballots" still had to be certified and this wouldn't be done until December 26th at the earliest and January 3rd at the latest.

The election officer emphasized that there is no final count yet and there can't be until certification. Also,  he would be rigorously adopting the state statute 17.16.20 in the examination of the provisional and write -in ballots. We can therefore expect, from his tone, that if any t's aren't crossed or i's dotted those votes will end up in the dustbin.

I suspect that nearly all the provisional ballots would have been cast by African-American voters who reached a whopping 30 percent turnout in the state - the highest since Obama's 2008 election.  In all African Americans went 96% for Jones, and whites barely 30 %.   In other words, nearly 7 in 10 white Alabamans remained diehard, red crackers on the side of Moore and Trump.  This is why we shouldn't listen too much to breathless pundits who claim Alabama has undergone a major post- segregation, post - George Wallace transition.

As for the huge number of African -American votes which put Jones over the top, the problem with these ballots is almost certainly going to be whether valid IDs were available or not.  Also whether adequate information was provided at the time the ballot was submitted. As we have seen before with other elections, i.e. Ohio in the 2004 general election, provisional ballot status almost always enters when an ID isn't available or presented.   Also, many OH provisional ballots were dismissed because of names or addresses not being verifiable with existing voters' lists. This means the potential exists for thousands of provisional Alabama ballots to be disqualified.

This could reduce the margin of Doug Jones' victory to below the current 1.6  percent.  At the critical 0.5 percent difference an automatic recount would be triggered, according to the AL election officer. Even if the margin should somehow reduce to one percent, Moore could call for a recount. 

So clearly this is why Moore isn't conceding. He also may well put his faith in the officials tallying and certifying ballots, believe they will dump all the provisional ballots  - or most. Thereby likely swinging the election back his way. It could happen!

Let's go back to the matter of the provisional ballots and how so many thousands might have originated. We do know white racists in the state had set up a voter suppression system to keep African -American voters at bay. .In 2011, these bigots passed a photo ID law, ostensibly to combat voter fraud, i.e. via voter impersonation.. But “voter impersonation” at polling places virtually never happens.

As I noted in a post earlier this year,  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!

So the ungodly truth is that these racist Alabama vermin wanted to keep black and Latino voters away from the ballot box, to prevent a Jones' win. We know this because they’ve always been clear about their intentions.
The bill’s sponsors were even caught on tape devising a plan to depress the turnout of black voters — whom they called “aborigines” and “illiterates” who would ride “H.U.D.-financed buses” to the polls — in the 2010 midterm election by keeping a gambling referendum off the ballot. Gambling is popular among black voters in Alabama, so they thought if it had remained on the ballot, black voters would show up to vote in droves.

One state senator had tried for over a decade to get the bill into law, and told The Huntsville Times that a photo ID law would undermine Alabama’s “black power structure.” In The Montgomery Advertiser, he said that the absence of an ID law “benefits black elected leaders.”  In other words, creation of such a bogus law would stymie them and also limit any expression of black voter will.

Of course, many sympathetic with these cracker racists, often make light of voter I.D. laws with the egregious response: "What's the big deal? Everyone has to get an I.D. anyway to drive or to even travel on airlines? If you don't have an I.D. it must be because you're either too dumb to get one or you're a terrorist!"  Which is clearly poppycock.

Photo ID laws may seem innocuous to most American whities, but they are often onerous for many minorities in the populace .  While it might be easy for a typical middle class white to take a few hours off from work, drive to the nearest department of motor vehicles office, wait in line, take some tests, hand over $40 and leave with a driver’s license or plain ID, it isn't a gimme for many others. It often requires resources that many rural, low-income people- especially minorities -  simply do not have.

This is relevant to the overwhelming African-American vote for Doug Jones in the Yellowhammer State. While heavy African-American turnout on Jones’s behalf overcame Moore’s margins in rural, predominantly white parts of Alabama, this might all be for naught, if a good chunk are tossed out because of being invalid - due to lack of photo IDs.

Photo ID laws, let's be clear,  are written to make it difficult for the poorest people - often elderly African-Americans-  to vote.  Many, indeed, lack formal birth certificates or even marriage certificates, which are generally essential to obtain a photo I.D. - say from one's local Department of Motor Vehicles. (DMV).  A study by Zoltan Hajnal, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, comparing the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, found that the Alabama  voter ID law kept black voters from the polls. After Alabama implemented its strict voter ID law, turnout in its most racially diverse counties declined by almost 5 percentage points, which is even more than the drop in diverse counties in other states.

The study controlled for numerous factors that might otherwise have affected an election: how much money was spent on the races; the state’s partisan makeup; changes in electoral laws like early voting and day-of registration; and shifts in incentives to vote, like which party controls the state legislature.

In Alabama, an estimated 118,000 registered voters do not have a photo ID they can use to cast an acceptable vote. Black and Latino voters are nearly twice as likely as white voters to lack such documentation. In other words, Alabama’s  photo ID law is nothing but a naked attempt to suppress the voting rights of people of color.  While blacks did come out in their numbers for Jones yesterday, it remains to be seen how many ballots (especially provisional) actually are certified as votes.

Let's say 21, 300 votes currently separate Jones and Moore's totals, and that 30 percent of those 118,000 registered black voters came out to try to cast ballots exclusively for Jones. That is 35, 400 votes.  But imagine that only 10, 000 of these ballots end up certified because the others lacked a photo ID or other ancillary validation. That would mean  a total of 25, 400 votes wiped out for Jones, or more than enough to eliminate Jones' current vote advantage  and giving Moore a 4, 100 vote lead- - and the presumptive win.

It is more than likely this scenario is what Moore invoked when he said last night: "I ain't conceding. Let's just wait and let this process play out and have faith in God".

Hmmm... have faith in God or the Alabama state office of  elections to overturn Jones' win.

Bottom line: Buckle up and hold your breath as the state certification process plays out. Also, that it may deliberately take longer than the new Senator (if Jones) can be installed - to ensure a Repuke tax victory.

Finally, let's note that even in the event Jones' win is preserved, it's only for two years - since that was the balance of Jeff Sessions' term - once he left to be appointed Attorney General.

See also:


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Godwin's Law And Obama's Warning About Hitler And Trump's Rise

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

It is a common and stupid fallacy that seems to have spread around the net that we are all to beware that "if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds." The corollary to Godwin's law  has been deemed even more canonical, i.e.  that "anyone who introduces Nazis or Adolf Hitler in a debate or discussion automatically loses by default". Of course,  this is arrant codswallop. If the comparison is applicable then we are enjoined to make use of it, and this is more and more the case with Donald John Trump. No, he hasn't launched concentration camps yet- but he is destroying norms and practices on a pace to what Hitler did - to Weimar Germany - from 1930 to  1933., ultimately leading to the Enabling Act, e.g.

The preceding provides a cautionary tale,  contrary to many pundits who beseech us to "chill"  because our Constitution is "too resilient"  to be trashed by a deranged authoritarian narcissist. . They are, of course, dreaming. History shows that even well-designed constitutions can fail. In this regard, the 1919 Weimar constitution was designed by some of  Germany's greatest minds. Its long -standing and highly regarded Rechsstaat ("rule of law")  was considered by many as sufficient to prevent any government abuse. But it could not have forecast the abnormal circumstances of the rise of Hitler, or his disrespect for German norms and laws that allowed him to use the very machinery of German democracy to overthrow it.

Thus, Godwin's Law does not dispute the validity of references or comparisons to Hitler or the Nazis. This is given (as I will show)  such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate in a discussion. What Godwin has really argued is that overuse of the Nazi comparison should be avoided as it dilutes the impact of any further analogies that might be even more valid. In other words, pick your Hitler (and Nazi) comparisons judiciously!

Over a year ago I drew parallels between Hitler and Trump in terms of consideration of their premoral characters,  see e.g.

In each case, I showed the gestation of the particular narcissistic authoritarian complex arose from the mistreatment by parental figures: Savage beating by his father Alois in the case of Hitler, e.g.

In the case of Trump, we learned (e.g. Ch. 2, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump) of his parents' abandoning him to the New York Military Academy,, thereby arousing a sense of parental rejection and incipient doubts in his self worth. This was after he was reported by Queens' cops for making  "all purpose"  switchblades and testing them on cats.  Perhaps even at that young age Dotard was honing his savage bullying and depravity.
Much of this was also   referenced in the book, 'Hitler:The Psychiatric Files'  by Nigel Cawthorne who  examined the detailed comparative  traits of Trump and Adolf Hitler..  I will go through a number of these traits shortly but first wish to point out the danger to democracy is not just destroying norms and government as a protective bulwark for citizens via regulations, see e.g.

But also creating degenerate support in a minority faction of the populace - who are severely propagandized to follow their leader (like the "Good Germans") - and also to despise their fellow citizens.  The dynamic enables easy identification with fellow Trumpies via their mutual hatred of  political correctness  and  "establishment elites"  Their narcissistic hunger (in some cases driven by a sense of inferiority) has also compelled them to identify with Trump in his destruction of norms, which has exacerbated political divisions in the country.  In a similar vein, Hitler's S.A. fanatics had no problem beating up socialists, Jews or labor leaders if they protested at Hitler's rallies.   The S.A. - many of whom were unemployed lower class workers seeking status-  felt they attained it by executing the Fuhrer's orders.

Now, as  Trump's extraordinary malfeasance and dereliction grows by the day, Barack Obama,  invoking the specter of Nazi Germany has warned against complacency..   Is this  "Hitler" excess? A violation of "Godwin's law"? Of course not. Obama's warning is very timely and apropos. Speaking before the Economic Club of Chicago, Obama said:

"The danger is "grow(ing) complacent.  We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly."
That's what happened in Germany in the 1930s which, despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolph Hitler rose to dominate.   Sixty million people died. . . .So, you've got to pay attention. And vote."

Obama didn't mention Dotard Trump by name, but really he didn't have to. At the same time he didn't expatiate on very cogent comparisons to Hitler's and his Nazis' success in destroying Weimar democracy.  Perhaps he chose not to elaborate, worried that even the liberal media might invoke Godwin's law to criticize him. So be it.

He  didn't mention that even before Hitler and the Nazis assumed power, Weimar democracy was under assaultGerman tribalism was sown by Hitler's brown shirts (Sturm Abteilung) especially against Jews socialists, and labor unions.  Historian and author Ian Kershaw in his magnificent account of Hitler’s rise to power (‘Hitler Nemesis’) showed that the pre-Reich Weimar Republic constituted a weak democracy which had little or no control over the most radical Rightists, especially Hitler. They were aggregated into gangs of thugs who would regularly beat Marxists, socialists, and any leftists on the streets while holding up signs that read: “Tot dem Marxem!” (Death to Marxists!)
The final piece to undermining German democracy was for the big business capitalists to fall in, believing they would be able to "control"  Hitler. Kershaw again (‘Hitler Nemesis’, p. xxxiii):

“Leaders of big business, though often harboring private concerns about current difficulties and looming future problems for the economy, for their part were grateful to Hitler for the destruction of the left-wing parties and trade unions. They were again ‘masters in the house’ in their dealings with their work force”

With the left wing, socialists and labor unions virtually demolished and in chaos by the 1933 elections Hitler and the NSDAP had a clear route to dominance in the Reichstag.  They only needed a simple majority of the factional votes and once that was achieved they could demolish the democratic edifice using Hitler's Enabling Act- which link I posted earlier.

Make no mistake our democracy is currently under vicious attack by Trump - though not  (yet) in as violent and daring a manner as Hitler. Though various voices,  like those of batshit crazy floozy Jeanine Pirro  on "Trump TV",  have called for Mueller and surrogates to be "in cuffs".  See e.g.

 Rabble rousing Trump brain slaves and Harpies like Pirro  are also stoking rebellious passions among their brain dead herd.  This is very likely to foment violence  in case indictments of Trump and family are handed down. (Which they very likely will be soon).

So one can definitely call it a slow rolling destruction, beginning with the undermining of the pillars of our democracy: calling out the press as " enemies of the people") and excoriating the judiciary for doing their jobs. Even castigating our constitutional  divided government - preventing a Trump dictatorship.

As referenced in a recent article in The New Republic ('How A Democracy Dies', Jan/Feb. p. 16):

"If 25 years ago someone had described to you a country where a candidate threatened to lock up rivals, and the government was accused of election fraud, you might have thought of Ecuador or Romania. It wouldn't have been the United States of America."

The piece also notes there were good reasons why no extremist demagogue ever won the presidency before. One was that parties themselves served as important gatekeepers, to prevent a "free for all" where one or more contenders might be authoritarian nuts (like George Wallace in 1968) or psychos.  The other was that the Electoral College would do its job if enough of the people - through ignorance, stupidity or misplaced passion - chose a demagogue. Then the Founders expected the electors to do their jobs and prevent the ascension of the unqualified screwball. But neither of these proved true in 2016.

Trump rumbled through all the debates and emerged on top after numerous instances of name calling and vitriol. Then, the electors turned into useless, inanimate props and just rubber stamped state vote tallies as opposed to acting like the adults, quashing them and concurring with Hamilton's take, i.e. in The Federalist # 68:

"The process of election (by state electors) affords a moral certainty that the office of President shall never fall to the lot of any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications..."

Is Trump endowed with such qualifications?  Absolutely not! But one can certainly make plausible comparison to Adolf Hitler in terms of being a mentally deranged authoritarian. These include:

-  Hitler exhibited a pronounced absence of objectivity, which translated into his tendency to project his own ego on external reality "to the point of delusion" (HPF, p. 51).  Analyzing his speeches and writings, investigators found a disorganization of ideas and uncommon inability to express himself which at times verged on the pathological.  At one point (p. 52) we note that:

"Hitler operated on thalamic energy rather than rational planning"

All of these have been observed in Donald J. Trump as well, from his notorious ability to distort reality by projecting his own ego and wishes onto it ("biggest inauguration crowd ever",  "greatest electoral win since Reagan" etc.), to the inability to express himself as a rational, mature adult man ("Believe me you're gonna luv it!"), to his tendency to operate according to his "gut" and "instincts" (thalamic energy).

- Both Trump and Hitler share the attribute called "narcisensitivity" (p. 61) whereby the person  constantly exhibits a low tolerance for any depreciation, criticism, or contradiction - along with an inability to take a joke. Thus with Trump one beholds an almost pathological sensitivity such as displayed in his ranting tweets against attacking everyone who even mildly criticizes him, from Meryl Streep, to Joe Scarborough, to  Alec Baldwin for his Trump portrayal on SNL ("inability to take a joke")

- Among the most prominent characteristics of Hitler was self-exhibition, including self-display, extravagant demands for attention and obedience, desire for applause and vainglory. Recall Charles M. Blow's description:

"things had to be gilded to be glamorous. All modesty — either real or contrived to guard against exposure — was absent from the man. He was a glutton for attention and adoration. He chased the spotlight and pimped celebrity for profit. He valued flaunting over philanthropy"

Recall also Charles Krauthammer's comment:

"Trump's own instincts and inclinations (are responsible). A thirst for attention that leads to hyperactivity. He needs to dominate every news cycle which feeds a compulsive tweet habit. It has placed him almost continuously at the center of the national conversation and not always to his benefit".

- Verbal depreciation in belittling the worth of others, especially rivals and potential critics. (Fusion of verbal aggression and rejection).

As with Trump. e.g. during the campaign. Recall how he belittled a disabled NY Times reporter who criticized him about post 9/11 lies), as well as assorted others including the intel agencies, and the press. Also how he has chronically belittled women as "cows, pigs, dogs etc."

- Counteractive Aggression - always to repay in insult in double measure: A tooth for a tooth to avenge an injury perceived or other. Always to attack opponents, critics and frustrators. Inevitably the mandate is to: accuse, condemn, depreciate or mock an enemy - to his face or behind his back. Often by "unwarranted criticism, smear campaigns

All of which has also applied to Trump and his assorted tirades, and attacks on others. Once described by conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer:

"Trump simply can’t resist playground pushback. His tweets gave Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes screed priceless publicity. His mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger for bad “Apprentice” ratings "
- The incessant craving for superiority" (winning at all costs, devil take the hindmost) that actually arises out of an unbearable feeling of inferiority".

Hitler derived his sense of inferiority from living in Vienna for four years as a destitute artist.  Also, even after attaining the Chancellorship he was keenly and painfully aware he himself came from peasant stock and there was not the slightest trace of the Nordic (Aryan) "superman" in him, that he came to obsess over and hold as a model to the German people.

NY Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow has also pointed out how Trump hasn't accomplished anything in his first year on the scale of Obama, hence his nursed resentment. Also, he's always been painfully aware of never having been accepted by NYC's upper class while Obama has been.  As Mr. Blow writes ('A Ticket To Hell'):

"With a hustler’s spirit and some sleight of hand, he made it, but not in total.  He made the move, made the money and made his mark on New York’s skyline, but he never quite made it into the inner sanctum of New York high society. I’m convinced that this is part of his obsession with former President Barack Obama. Obama was quickly granted the thing Trump never had: upper-class acceptance and adulation."

In like manner, Hitler never enjoyed the acceptance and appreciation allotted to Paul von Hindenburg, the previous Chancellor. This infuriated him just as the elites and intellectuals embrace of Obama has infuriated Trump. 

The new theme is Trump being infuriated with Robert Mueller and his investigation. Obama then is very right that we need to pay attention. This is not the time to doze, get bored or not keep our eyes on the "ball".   According to the latest TIME (with "person of the year') Trump has already undermined the respect for the office of the presidency by his wayward tweets and lack of self- control. Our democracy is the next target and it behooves us all to attend to what he's doing and find ways to mitigate the growing threat.

See also:



  • Psychiatrists sound alarm: Trump deteriorating by the day. We are all in danger.

  • Monday, December 11, 2017

    The H3 N2 Flu - Are We Ready For The Onslaught? What About An Avian (H5 N1) Pandemic?

    Electron micrograph of the H3 N2  influenza virus.

    My first introduction to the H3 N2 flu virus arrived in December, 1968, after I'd just flown home to Miami from New Orleans for the Christmas holidays.   Within 2 days of my arrival I was hit by one of the nastiest flu viruses,  called "the Hong Kong flu".   A micrograph of the virus is shown below:

    I was basically laid up in bed with body aches, chills, severe nausea and fever for 8 days, and could not partake of any Christmas dinner. Since I was unable to do so, my parents decided to visit my younger brother, John, at his Naval Air base in northern Florida.  They asked if I'd be ok alone, and I assured them I could tough it out. There were plenty of cans of chicken noodle soup, as well as bread (for toast) and other assorted stuff - even some slices of spiral ham -  if I was able to consume such later.

    Most of my time was spent just watching the tube, and reading - when I could. I was perhaps 90 percent better by the time I returned to New Orleans but within two days had to take extra time off from the oil company I worked at - after a relapse. (At that time, most proper companies gave employees 2 weeks sick leave, unlike the penny pinching, greedy rats today.)

    We now know the arrival of the Hong Kong flu in 1968, started with a half million cases in Hong Kong. This was also the first (then known) arrival of the H3 N2 flue virus.   From Wikipedia we learn:

    "The Hong Kong Flu was a category 2 flu pandemic caused by a strain of H3N2 descended from H2N2 by antigenic shift, in which genes from multiple subtypes reassorted to form a new virus. This pandemic of 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one million people worldwide"

    We also learn:

    "Both the H2N2 and H3N2 pandemic flu strains contained genes from avian influenza viruses. The new subtypes arose in pigs coinfected with avian and human viruses and were soon transferred to humans. Swine were considered the original "intermediate host" for influenza, because they supported reassortment of divergent subtypes."


    The Hong Kong flu strain shared internal genes and the neuraminidase with the 1957 Asian flu (H2N2). Accumulated antibodies to the neuraminidase or internal proteins may have resulted in much fewer casualties than most pandemics.The Hong Kong flu was the first known outbreak of the H3N2 strain, though there is serologic evidence of H3N? infections in the late 19th century. "

    This is useful to know now as the medical gurus are warning of a new onslaught and incarnation of this flu - after it literally tore through Australia during the Aussie winter. Even two months ago, because of our ages - we were warned by our PCP to not miss the flu shots this year. Not long after we each got the  quadrivalent recombinant flu vaccine, as well as the special   PCV13   pneumonia vaccine. Given severe flu can easily lead to pneumonia (and my dad died from pneumonia in 2009) this was a no brainer.

    What we know already is that the the flu vaccine is only about 10 percent effective, and the quadrivalent vaccine may be slightly better. Each year matching the vaccine to the projected influenze virus to emerge is a literal crap shot, because the virus mutates so easily.. So what might have worked 8 or 9 months ago now no longer does.  Like other life forms, viruses adapt as well to external conditions and even to other flu viruses.  As noted earlier, one can have an antigenic shift, in which genes from multiple influenza subtypes reassort to form a new virus.

    Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University, told the UK Daily Express it is expected to be the oncoming H3 N2 season is expected to be the most serious flu outbreak since the 1968 pandemic that started in Hong Kong and killed more than a million people world wide.

    From 2003 to 2013, the three flu seasons that were dominated by H3N2 strains of the flu had the highest mortality rates - causing more deaths on average than other years (excluding the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu).  All this is happening - with the new H3 N2 outbreak almost upon us - as we near the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Flu pandemic. This was estimated to have wiped out nearly ten percent of the global population at the time - or up to 50 million.

    Coincidentally, the World Health Organization is closely monitoring a new strain of H7 N9 in China, also known as Avian flu. To be sure this is a cross species form or Avian flu and not anywhere as deadly as the H5 N1 which is keeping researchers like Pardis Sabeti of Harvard up at night.  Why? Because it holds the greatest potential for human annihilation.

    In 2003, world-renowned virologist Robert G. Webster published an article titled:  "The world is teetering on the edge of a pandemic that could kill a large fraction of the human population" in American Scientist. He called for adequate resources to fight what he sees as a major world threat to possibly billions of lives. 

    On September 29, 2005, David Nabarro, the newly appointed Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, warned the world that an outbreak of avian influenza could kill anywhere between 5 million and 150 million people. The reported mortality rate of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in a human is high; WHO data indicate 60% of cases classified as H5N1 resulted in death. My take, given the H5N1 would incept a "cytokine storm" - similar to what the H1N1 Spanish Flu did, is that at least 500 million would perish, and possibly as many as 1 billion
    Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses.jpg
    Electron micrograph of H5N1 influenza virus particles. 

    Research on genetically restored Spanish flu discloses that death likely arrived via a cytokine storm, i.e. the victim basically "drowns" in their own lung fluids. the current Avian flu cases.  In a number of  documented Asian cases, victims with H5N1 experienced diarrhea followed rapidly by a coma without developing respiratory or flu-like symptom. This shows that one can perish that suddenly, and with no evident breathing problem.  The inflammatory cascade triggered by H5N1 has been called a 'cytokine storm' by some, because of what seems to be a positive feedback process of damage to the body resulting from immune system stimulation. H5N1 induces higher levels of cytokines than the more common flu virus types.

    There have been studies of the levels of cytokines in humans infected by the H5N1 flu virus. Of particular concern is elevated levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a protein associated with tissue destruction at sites of infection and increased production of other cytokines. Flu virus-induced increases in the level of cytokines is also associated with flu symptoms, including fever, chills, vomiting and headache.

    Genetic sequencing of avian influenza A (H5N1) viruses from human cases in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia shows resistance to the antiviral medications amantadine and rimantadine, two of the medications commonly used for treatment of influenza. This leaves only two remaining antiviral medications (oseltamivir and zanamivir) that should still be effective against currently circulating strains of H5N1 viruses.

    Highly pathogenic H5N1 symptoms in people can include:

    • Fever and cough

    • Acute respiratory distress

    • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing

    • Abdominal pain

    • Diarrhea


    • Pneumonia

    • Respiratory failure

    • Shock

    Will next year, the 100th since the Spanish Flu pandemic usher in a killer flu pandemic of its own? We don't know, but as Prof. Pardis Sabeti pointed out on a recent CBS health segment, the virus does keep changing, mutating - adapting. This is why she's kept up at night pondering the consequences if it seized on the right confluence of factors to trigger another deadly pandemic. And the next one - possibly of H5 N1 - may also eliminate 10 percent of humans...or more.  There is little pre-existing natural immunity to H5N1 virus infection in the human population. If H5N1 viruses gain the ability for efficient and sustained transmission among humans, an influenza pandemic could result, with potentially high rates of illness and death worldwide.  Let us hope we dodge that infernal