A Feud for Fun and Profit

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I was doing my usual day’s end wrap up routine — shutting off the lights, checking the windows, reading the headlines to make sure the planet hadn’t blown up before I shut off my computer.

And this bullshit came up at Google News, just below the Epstein-Acosta coverage:

I’ve seen in my Twitter feed all day the hullabaloo about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ chief of staff’s remarks and the subsequent flurry of feedback between different factions among the House Democrats. Some of it is hotly reactionary, some of it is measured, and a lot of it swings wildly in between.

But that snapshot of my Google News front page is EXACTLY what the real problem is: the internecine conflict is a fulcrum on which the right-wing and foreign agents can act to divide the party at a time when it can least afford it.

And the right-wing media like Fox News is using that same point for its own amusement and profit.

Even neutral-to-left media is using the tensions to gin up clicks and increase readership.

They have zero interest in the manifold crises on which the entire spectrum of Democrats — from stick-in-the-mud conservadems to hot-under-the-collar progressives — must work together. The media is only in this for fun and profit.

Meanwhile there’s a wholly corrupt, malignant narcissist intent on undermining everything on which our country was founded. House Democrats need to quit their circular firing squad and get their heads together. They need to focus on that wretch and the debris field he’s making of our nation instead of allowing themselves to be used as a profit center by the media.

Focus on the fact only 86 House Dems have committed to supporting an impeachment inquiry. ~132 more votes are needed to pass a resolution kicking off the process.

We are now nearly 191 days into the 116th Congressional term. Trump continues to lock up children in cages and take babies from their parents at the border, leaving them in concentration camp conditions which wouldn’t be tolerated for dogs. He continues to trash the Constitution from threatening war to ignoring Supreme Court decisions. That an impeachment inquiry hasn’t already been launched reflects badly on the entirety of House Democrats, from Speaker Pelosi to the 2018 Blue Wave freshmen.

~ ~ ~

This weekend I have a couple of voters staying with me who identify as independents. They tend to vote for Democrats but they won’t commit to being Democrats. They’re 25 years old, college-educated, and they actually watched the Democratic presidential candidates debates a couple weeks ago, rushed home from work to make sure they caught both nights in full.

These young people are fed up. They’re worried, angry, disgusted. They want real and rational leadership, especially because they’re deeply concerned about the pace of climate change.

They are NOT impressed by the inability of House Democrats to pull themselves into a cohesive cohort to stop Trump.

The more senior House Dems need to understand social media presence and follower count may not convert to votes on the House floor now, but these convert to votes in primaries next year. They convert to many small donations online between now and November 2020 as well as shoe leather when canvassing and GOTV matter. These two independents visiting me are exactly the people who’ll be persuaded by what they read in their Twitter feed and watch at YouTube; they have the disposable income to make regular donations. They’re not impressed by representatives who suck up to corporations over individuals especially when there’s campaign donations involved. They’re impressed by accessible representatives who do their homework and then do their best to ensure government oversight.

They want House Democrats to get their act together and stop Trump.

None of the tweeted and reported bullshit I saw being slung between House Democrats gets them any closer to doing what the 2018 Blue Wave told Democrats needed to be done. I don’t have a good explanation for these young voters as to when House Dems will pull out of their navel-gazing spiral. I can only hope it’s soon.

This is an open thread.

OPEN THREAD: FIFA Women’s World Cup Final — U.S. vs. Netherlands

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

FIFA Women’s World Cup Final will be played today, Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET/5:00 p.m. CET at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France.

U.S. meets the Netherlands which won playoff match 50 against Sweden this past Wednesday in extra time, 1-0.

Megan Rapinoe is expected to start; she was unable to play in match 49 against England due to a minor hamstring injury.

This is Netherlands’ second World Cup competition; the final pits them against three-time World Cup champions.

I’ll add links here to scoring and any alternative live feeds I can find as soon as FIFA updates information on the match so that sports news outlets can access it. The match will be streamed on Fox Sports and Telemundo.

CBS Sports shared a link to FuboTV which will stream the final live. You can watch it on FuboTV if you sign up for a free trial. Kind of funny that CBS is promoting a streaming partner since it doesn’t have the license for FIFA WWC itself.

There are two men’s finals scheduled for exactly the same time slot, by the way, one attributed to a “clerical error.” This is total bullshit, yet another typical patriarchal erasure of women.

In anticipation of the match you might check out these articles:

Netherlands beat Sweden, will face U.S. in final

The USWNT will play the Netherlands in the World Cup final. Here’s what you need to know

Opinion: Messages matter, and teams in World Cup final send good one with female coaches by Nancy Armour, USAToday

So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend by Sue Bird

I helped spark the Rapinoe-Trump war. Trust me, put your money on the soccer star by David Hirshey, LAT

Opinion: USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe is living her patriotism at World Cup. What’s your excuse? by Nancy Armour, USAToday

UPDATE — 11:34 a.m. —

The Guardian has a live coverage page for the match.

Here’s the Twitter Moments page for the match.

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union

Last year when I wrote a post for the Fourth of July holiday I shared the full text of the Declaration of Independence.

Since that post our country slid increasingly backwards toward an autocratic monarchy, losing sight of the reasons why this nation’s founders threw off a long train of abuses and usurpations, dissolving the American colonies’ relationship with Britain.

Today in our streets fought for and paved by the American people, a belligerent, petty and abusive tyrant who obtained and holds his office by questionable means will have the military parade he has envied other autocrats.

Across town his minions in the so-called Department of Justice will continue to chip away at the Constitution in search of some means to deny to persons within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws in the execution of the 2020 U.S. Census.

And persons of color who’ve fled to the U.S. seeking asylum from violence will continue to suffer inhumane treatment at the hands of federal employees who swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution including the same equal protection spelled out in the Fourteenth Amendment.

(Do take note there have been no raids by ICE ejecting white birth tourists like the Russians in Florida. No Congressional caucuses will find these birth parents in American concentration camps.)

Noting the grim slide we should recall this holiday has always been aspirational. It may mark the day when the republic’s birth began but this nation has always been in a state of becoming.

We have yet to form a perfect union; we can only work toward perfecting it.

To this end it’s worth revisiting this year a historic address by Frederick Douglass delivered on July 5, 1852 — nine years before the Civil War began, when the country was 76 years old. He did not stint when reminding his audience the holiday observed meant little to slaves:

… What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival. …

Our shouts of patriotic fervor ring hollow today when one thinks of the undenounced tyrant occupying our White House making a mockery of this nation of laws through his numerous frauds and manifold obstructions while willfully, shamelessly persecuting helpless children and their families, and ignoring the thousands of American deaths he has caused through his bad faith execution of office. Revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, indeed.

As grim as things are today, it cannot be more so than it was for Douglass who could not know as he spoke that it would be another thirteen years before slaves would be emancipated, or that it would be another 113 years before the Voting Rights Act would pass Congress, to secure the right to vote for persons of color.

Or that we would still be fighting voter suppression of minority voters 167 years later even this week as the Supreme Court failed to protect minority voters’ rights and the same petty tyrant rejects his oath to protect and defend the Constitution including its Census of all persons.

Somehow Douglass, an escaped slave himself, remained optimistic:

… Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. …

What lies ahead is not as dark and unknown as that which lay before Douglass in July 1852. We have seen better if not perfect. It can be had again and improved upon with a re-dedication to the principles the founders laid out in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution.

We must recall our nation’s identity began with a shared belief that we are all created equal, that we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Seeking to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, we instituted a government to secure our inalienable rights and these common interests.

We can and will check this government of and by the people when it fails us just as we checked a monarch in 1776, just as we’ve checked executives and other elected office holders who have failed their oaths. We have continually refreshed our representatives and justices to the same end.

As we have for 243 years we still have work to do. Ted Kennedy spoke of the ongoing nature of this nation’s mission when he said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Recommitting to the American dream, I leave off with hope that we can and will continue to pursue a more perfect union.

Wishing you and yours a safe Fourth of July. Consider this an open thread.

OPEN THREAD: FIFA Women’s World Cup — England vs United States

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

I am putting up an open thread because 1) I need a break from all the heavy, and 2) Megan Rapinoe and the U.S. team are goddesses, and 3) a certain Brit needs to eat a shit sandwich.

This guy, specifically:

 

What a massive wanker. This misogynistic prat has no problem when men take pride in their sports:

 

 

Megan Rapinoe didn’t start today; the score is now US 2, England 1.

And the score off the field:

 

Ridiculous. Pay the women.

Have at it.

 

UPDATE — 11:45 p.m. 02-JUL-2019 —

Do you smell something burning?

Livestream Tonight: The Investigation — Mueller Report in 10 Acts [UPDATE]

[NB: As always, check the byline. Thanks! /~Rayne]

Tonight only at 9:00 p.m. EDT (sorry, Rachel Maddow) the (nonprofit-?) organization Law Works will stream a live play based on the Mueller Report.

Read about the program at Variety, which calls this a “star-studded” “live reading” of the report.

This is one way to educate a portion of the public who can’t or won’t read the Special Counsel’s report. One might wonder if members of Congress might give this a shot or if they will continue to avoid the truth about the Trump campaign and administration.

If you happen to stream this Law Works’ production, share your thoughts here.

This is an open thread.

UPDATE — 9:15 p.m. EDT —

Running into 500-502 errors at Law Works’ site. Streams a little jerky through their Twitter account.

Ishmael, the All-American Boy

Well, it’s Summertime, and I’ve been on the road, and as usual, it seems like more fun to write about something completely different. Recently I saw a production of the opera Moby Dick, composed by Jake Heggie, libretto by Gene Scheer, which inspired me to re-read the book. I say re-read, although it’s been so long that I barely remember it

About ten years ago I started re-reading books that meant a lot to me as a young person, including Kidnapped by Robert Lewis Stevenson, Men of Iron by Howard Pyle, One, Two, Three … Infinity by George Gamow, The Myth of Sisyphus and other books by Albert Camus, and a whole bunch of science fiction, my first serious love, to name a few. I have vivid memories of these books, and was not often disappointed; they held the same intensity that I remembered. I also reread several books every two or three years, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Possession by A.S. Byatt, and chapters of Philosophy and Social Hope by Richard Rorty,

There is a lot to be said for re-reading. For one thing, I read more carefully when I’m not desperate to find out how it all comes out. For another, as I grow older I see different things in old favorites. In the case of Pride and Prejudice, for example, my earliest readings were focused on the courtship of Elizabeth and Darcy. In later readings, I began to appreciate the way Austen contrasts existing family relationships and those formed throughout the novel. I also began to see the ways other characters saw these relationships, especially the sharp-witted Charlotte. In Capital In The Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty talks about the basis of Darcy’s wealth, which I had not understood. Then my colleague Rayne pointed out that each of the women in the novel negotiates their economic situation differently, and how much Elizabeth risked by turning down Mr. Collins, something I hadn’t noticed on multiple readings over decades. She also posted insightful comments on the book in response to this post.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through Moby Dick. I’ve learned a lot about whales and something about the work of the crew on whalers, and read several fascinating stories about other ships and crews. Two larger themes have emerged for me: religious and civic tolerance.

Religion enters in the first sentence: “Call me Ishmael.” Ishmael is identified in the Bible as the son of Abraham by Hagar. Sarah suggested that Abraham sleep with her slave to conceive a child when it becomes clear that Sarah is too old to bear children. When Sarah produces a son in accordance with the promise of the Almighty, Sarah insists that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away. in the desert as she weeps in desolation, an angel appears and tells her that Ishmael is a son of Abraham, and therefore the Almighty will make a great nation of him and his children.

Ishmael is claimed by Muslims as an ancestor of the Prophet. It is said that Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca, and that Abraham returned to construct the Kaaba. That Ishmael is included in both Jewish/Christian texts and Islamic texts is a duality that seems relevant to the personality Melville’s Ishmael reveals to us.

Ahab too is a Biblically freighted name. Ahab was a king of Israel, and Ishmael knows this:

And a very vile one. When that wicked King was slain, the dogs, did they no lick his blood?

Compare 2 Kings 21:19 with 2 Kings 22:38.

In the beginning, Ishmael is on his way to Nantucket, planning to ship out on a whaler. He stops in New Bedford at the Spouter Inn for a couple of nights. The bar is made to resemble a whale’s head, including the entire jaw bone of a sperm whale. Standing under this arch is the bartender, called Jonah. The story of Jonah and the Whale is one religious thread.

Ishmael goes to a whaler’s church for Sunday services. The church is built on the model of a ship. There are plaques on the walls commemorating men who died at sea. The preacher, an ex-whaler, climbs into the tall pulpit on a ship’s ladder, and gives a sermon on Jonah. He paints the story from the perspective of a sailor, with vivid descriptions of the ship’s crew and captain, and the storm. He draws two lessons. For the sinner, Jonah is a tale of proper repentance:

.., Jonah does not weep and wail for direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that spite of all his pains and pangs, he will sill look towards His holy Temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance: not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment.

Compare this to the words of Abraham Lincoln in the Second Inaugural Address.

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”

Christianity isn’t the only religion. Ishmael meets the harpooner Queequeg at the Spouter Inn. He is the son of royalty on the island of Rokovoko, “an island far away to the west and South”. He’s Black, and a cannibal, and a head hunter; he’s bald, has sharply filed teeth and is a large and imposing man and a highly skilled harpooner. He also practices his religion, seemingly centered on a small ebony figure he calls Yojo. Queequeg explains to Ishmael that Yojo wants Ishmael to select a ship for them. While Ishmael somewhat unwillingly sets out on this errand, Queequeg begins a ritual with Yojo: he sits cross-legged with Yojo perched on his head and stays that way for 24 hours, unmoving. Ishmael calls this a “sort of Lent or Ramadan or day of fasting, humiliation and prayer”, the best explanation he can envision because Queequeg doesn’t explain and Ishmael doesn’t aask.

A strange scene of religious import takes place after the Pequod kills its first whale, flenses it, and beheads it, preparatory to extracting the valuable sperm oil. Ahab leans over rail staring at “…that blood-dripping head hung to the Pequod’s waist like the giant Holofernes’s from the girdle of Judith”, and gives this elegy:

“Speak, thou vast and venerable head … which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed — while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!”

Chapter 70. Later the crew is drawing out buckets of sperm oil from a hole drilled in the whale’s head guided by the harpooner Tashtego. Suddenly the hooks holding the head slip out, and Tashtego is thrown into the hole in the whale’s head. The head breaks away from the tackle holding it to the ship and falls into the sea, carrying Tashtego down into the deeps. Queequeg somehow manages a rescue. The godless parallel to the Jonah story suggests Ishmael’s secular religion.

That brings us to the second point: civic tolerance. Recall that Ishmael met Queequeg at an inn, forced to share a bunk. Ishmael is in bed when Queequeg arrives and scares the daylights out of Ishmael. But shortly, Ishmael reconsiders. Queequeg agrees to the joint sleeping arrangement, and the tomahawk in this passage is both a pipe and an ax:

“You gettee in,” he added, motioning to me with his tomahawk, and throwing the clothes to one side. He really did this in not only a civil but a really kind and charitable way. I stood looking at him a moment. For all his tattooings he was on the whole a clean, comely looking cannibal. What’s all this fuss I have been making about, thought I to myself — the man’s a human being just as I am: he has just as much reason to fear me, as I have to be afraid of him. Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.

Chapter 3. It doesn’t take long for the two men to become actual friends as well as co-workers, and the respect each has for the other becomes relevant in several episodes in the book.

Ishmael’s attitude is genuine. He’s interested in people, and observant without judging his crewmates by class or nationality or cannibalism. There are several chapters discussing the members of the crew, and there is not a word of judgment, just statements of fact.

It’s also a parallel to the treatment of religion. He is most familiar with the Christian Bible, but has a basic knowledge of other religions, again without judgment, and without making much of his own views, at least directly.

This kind of tolerance, religious and civic, cheerfully informed by wide experience of various people and an open mind, seems to me to be a perfect demonstration of an important virtue of idealized America. It turns out it’s a sad reminder of what we no longer care about in this country, of what we have abandoned as civic virtue. Maybe I just can’t read anything without recognizing our own times, with our depleted national identity.

A Fine Crop of Golf

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

I’m fried. I’m mentally and emotionally burnt right out, which is probably the aim of Agent Orange Chaos — to grind us all down until we roll over and allow this country to be a haven of corruption.

Imagine everything you need becoming even more transactional than it is now — systematically corrupt. Need a new cable TV line installed? Pay a bribe for access. Need to move to a different apartment? Pay a bribe to access a better list of buildings. Need a specialty item for your health, something that can’t be obtained through Amazon? Pay a bribe.

Sure, we’re used to paying fees for access in many different ways. But Americans are not used to the kind of petty and persistent corruption which is endemic in other parts of the world. Instead we pay taxes to support a legal system which is supposed to ensure fair dealing. Imagine paying these taxes and not having any expectation of justice AND paying bribes or extortion all along the way.

We’re so unused to and under-educated about the idea of corruption touching everything we do that I think we suffer from cognitive dissonance. It’s right there in front of us and yet we fail to recognize for what it is and for the slide in our ethical standards it represents.

One example niggling at me is Trump and his goddamned golf. You’ve probably read some of my posts about golf before in which I spell out the possibilities for corruption if one owned a golf course and how normative the golf life is to a class of people.

Our country is drowning right now, staring at multiple crop failures across a huge expanse of farm land, and our fearless leader is surely off golfing on our dime instead of looking into how to help farmers weather both the affects of the deepening climate emergency and the fallout from fearless leader’s hacktastic tariffs.

Corruption. Skimming money off us while farms and farm land drowns.

And too many farmers who will receive federal aid are not universally single family owned farms but mega corporate oligarchs — like the crooked Brazilian meat packing billionaires who will receive $62 million in aid for distribution to the farms supplying them meat.

But you know in your gut this won’t happen. And it’s corruption.

Journalists have covered the Brazilians raking in cash from our tax dollars, fortunately. They saw the problem and reported on it. But the public hasn’t mustered adequate outrage because this hasn’t yet hurt them in the wallet.

Wait until winter when holiday baking begins.

I don’t need to wait that long to feel it. I’m plenty pissed off because it’s another Saturday, another day at the golf course, and we’ve completely lost count of that orange mooch’s sponging. Which of his courses is he at, with our Secret Service personnel renting more golf carts to follow him around while he plays another round cheating both at the game and at life?

Ah, and there it is, he’s leeching us dry yet again with each crappy swing of his club:

As of the end of the day he’s been in office 876 days — which means he has spent 29.7% of his total time at one of his properties, 22.2% of his time in office play golf at one of his clubs.

Corruption. Just makes me want to puke.

We’re just supposed roll over and let them grab our taxpaying pussy while they tee off on our dime. They’ll argue our legitimately-elected representatives don’t have the right to oversight when he’s manipulating our tax system for his own personal gain to our collective detriment.

Like the New York park land he donated after he was refused permits to develop a couple million dollars of property into golf courses — Trump org declared them worth $26 million to write off the capital loss and reduce the taxes paid.

What really pisses me off is the story no reporter has yet covered as far as I can tell: if Trump’s Bedminster NJ golf course is classified as farm land for tax purposes so he can avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes, is Trump org going to claim federal relief for this farm, too?

It’s right there under our noses. So corrupt and he and his oligarchic sponsors want this to become the norm.

Fuck that. If this guy was your direct employee you’d have fired his ass  already.

This is an open thread.

Memorialize This

[NB: Byline check. /~Rayne]

Today’s All-American holiday didn’t come about in one fell swoop. Its origins have been a bone of contention — did it begin in the South? did it start in the North? Was it an African American celebration?

Depending on who you ask you may find yourself in a discussion not unlike those surrounding Confederate statuary — fraught with past and present politics.

And good old-fashioned racism.

The first large formal observation of this holiday was marked by African Americans of Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 when their Civil War dead were reburied.

Read more about it at Zinn Education Project.

Most Americans aren’t aware of this history, not even lifelong residents of Charleston. The reason is racism manifest through cultural erasure.

I live in the first state to declare Memorial Day a statewide holiday. In 1871 Michigan set aside what was then called Decoration Day to pay tribute to its war dead. We lost more than 14,000 of the 90,000 men sent to fight in the south — about 3.5% of the state’s population lost to the Civil War.

A Union soldier from Michigan wrote to his wife,

The more I learn of the cursed institution of slavery, the more I feel willing to endure, for its final destruction … After this war is over, this whole country will undergo a change for the better … Abolishing slavery will dignify labor; that fact of itself will revolutionize everything … Let Christians use all their influence to have justice done to the black man.

He was killed not long after by a Confederate sniper.

We sent this man and others, our flesh and blood, to fight for what is right, to defend a more perfect union, to defeat the denigration of fellow Americans then enslaved. We’ve allowed the lingering toxins of the Confederacy to obscure why it was this nation went to war — not because of states’ rights but because of an economic system dependent upon the reduction of humans to mere chattel.

We’ve sent our family members to defeat oppression in other wars, too many paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Now we’ve strayed from fighting for the ideals our country was founded upon. What was once defense against oppression has become offense for corporations, serving the US ill over the long run. It has become an excuse to create profits for the military industrial complex while ignoring the exercise of soft power through diplomacy. Our friends and loved ones who’ve died or have been injured or sickened for life are merely collateral damage along the way.

The latest threats against Iran are a perfect example in a string of poor leadership. Who benefits from military action against Iran? Or against beleaguered Venezuela? How would military action against either nation support our values?

One could see a case for highly-limited, tightly-focused action if North Korea pointedly prepares to attack the U.S. or its allies. But if North Korea simply develops weapons for its own defense given its proximity to both China and Russia, what then? Should we place our family members in harm’s way over North Korea’s right to self-defense?

Why is our diplomacy so weak that we don’t really know what Kim Jong-un’s aims are? Why are we tolerating the crazed tweets of a malignant narcissist as diplomacy when we have blood and treasure on the line?

It’s beyond time we really look at the price our nation has paid in flesh and blood and honor the ultimate sacrifices made by reassessing our values and recommitting to them — and not just on a day set aside for observation.

A rational and effective reassessment will also look at the fitness of the president to realize our values in the execution of their duties.

This is an open thread. (Featured image on front page: Korean War Memorial, National Mall, by Brian Kraus via Unsplash.)

Here for Misogyny’s Ratio

[NB: Not Marcy, check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

This tweet is a flaming POS and the ratio of Comments to Likes reflects a similar collective sentiment (currently running 7-to-1 Comments to Likes:

Wipe the shocked look off your face, Andrew. Believe it or not, secondary education instructors often have day jobs, and professionals often have instruction gigs.

Those day jobs ensure they are more qualified to speak about their field than instructors who teach on the subject directly out of school.

Best classes I ever took were taught by adjunct professors because they had real life experience to use as examples. (My favorite was my business ethics class taught by a local judge.)

This isn’t restricted to the law, either; pick a field from humanities to STEM and you’ll find instructors who are working in their profession while teaching.

But Andrew Kaczynski isn’t the only problem. The article he retweeted has a problem smack in the middle of it which gives me pause — it’s so bad I have to wonder how much of the rest of this report by Washington Post journalists Elise Viebeck and Annie Linskey may need vetting.

This bit:

One of her most controversial clients was Dow Chemical, which she advised in the mid-1990s. A subsidiary that manufactured silicone gel breast implants faced hundreds of thousands of claims from women who said their implants caused health problems. Dow Chemical denied that it played a role in designing or making the implants and sought to avoid liability as its subsidiary, Dow Corning, declared bankruptcy.

“In this case, Elizabeth served as a consultant to ensure adequate compensation for women who claimed injury from silicone breast implants who otherwise might not have received anything when Dow Corning filed for bankruptcy,” Warren’s list of cases read. “Thanks in part to Elizabeth’s efforts, Dow Corning created a $2.35 billion fund to compensate women claiming injury from Dow Corning’s silicone breast implants.”

The Post could not immediately verify this figure.

Emphasis mine. It took me less than 30 seconds to Google “dow corning $2.35 billion fund” and come up with In re Dow Corning Corp., 280 F.3d 648 (6th Cir. 2002):

And I didn’t have access to resources like the Washington Post’s team — cripes, WaPo probably reported on this case. It’s probably in their archives. What else in this article picking through Elizabeth Warren’s work history is just as thinly researched?

We have a malignant narcissistic lifelong scofflaw in office because the media was unwilling to do adequate research into his background before 2016. They focused to excess on the leading female candidate who had already been heavily researched during her tenure as First Lady, junior senator from New York, and Secretary of State.

Now we see slapdash research pushed misogynistically, to the detriment of a candidate who has also served in public office and proven her work history has informed her work as a senator and her policy proposals.

Imagine it: a corporate lawyer who, after working as a lawyer for corporate clients, decides they need more oversight like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and corporations’ owners need to pay more taxes.

But the media wants you to take away from their coverage that she’s been paid by corporations you may not like while teaching at the same time.

Wait until they figure out she’s a mother, too. OMFG!!1! What kind of being can possibly do all that — parent two kids, teach, and bill out at $675 an hour?

Give me a fucking break.

Reporters: Stop this goddamned double standard immediately. Do a better job of reporting, stay focused on what’s relevant and quit making sensation out of nothing.

Readers: Be more skeptical of everything you read, and when you read, do so carefully. Don’t rely on stupid white men’s tweets to tell you the truth. Demand better quality reporting.

This is an open thread.

A Growing Problem: Agriculture, Climate, and Trump

[NB: Check the byline, please, thanks! /~Rayne]

I’ve been thinking about the Green New Deal and how policy will meet the turf when it comes to agriculture.

Fortunately I have a farmer in the family I could ask about one issue in particular — that of tillage.

Average Americans munching away on their toasted bagel at breakfast, their grilled cheese sandwich at lunch, and their crispy nachos at dinner don’t think about the amount of soil preparation — tillage — which goes into the crops they consume over the course of three square meals. They not only don’t think about all the fuel and oil soil prep requires, they don’t think about the additional passes over a field for seeding, weed control, and harvest to follow, all of which require more fuel and oil, and chemicals derived from or with oil in the case of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer.

There’s been an increasing amount of interest in low-till and no-till farming as part of conservation farming because of the amount of oil required along with concerns that tilling may do more harm than not when turned-up top soil is washed or blown away.

An equally important benefit is carbon sequestration. In the simplest terms, plants are carbon capture mechanisms. They take in carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O), and nutrients to build tissues. The produce we harvest is carbohydrate — carbon, hydrogen, and water stitched together in a compound we consume. What’s left in the field after our harvest, all that plant waste matter, is mostly carbon compounds lying on the surface of the soil.

When left undisturbed, plant waste matter left to decay releases nutrients, provides mulch to reduce moisture evaporation, stabilizes top soil against erosion by wind and water, while acting as a carbon sink. The more carbon we can sequester in organic material, the less carbon there is in the air in the form of CO2. No-till farming allows the carbon sink to accumulate rather than disturbing it with cultivation which prevents its accumulation.

Not to mention the soil develops a more complex microbiome freeing additional nutrients from the earth and the compost mixture above, potentially increasing nutrient value in crops.

No-till sounds like the method we should already be using as widely as possible, yes? Sadly, we aren’t.

The rate of no-till’s adoption has been problematic. It’s used more frequently in the U.S. than in Europe, but studies in Europe have been used to shape the approach to no-till’s adoption.

One issue affecting farmers attitudes is weed control. They end up using more herbicides on no-till which may offset any environmental gains made by reducing oil consumption. It’s not clear from the studies I’ve read whether the problem is weeds reducing crop yields — in the case of wheat, no-till results in a 5% reduction and in corn, 7.6% reduction — or if it is in part a long-held bias against weeds and for action to eliminate them.

The bias has been documented in research and appears to be based in education. Farmers with a higher level of education are less reluctant to adopt no-till, but these same farmers may be more efficient and not experience the same level of output reductions as less educated farmers.

There remain concerns about crop yields which could be mitigated with use of methods like allelopathic cover crops — like planting rye to winter over before planting another crop over it in the spring. Rye inhibits the growth of broadleaf weeds. Unfortunately, rye also interferes with corn productivity depending on when the corn is planted. A season like 2019 makes it very difficult to manage when planting will happen due to the amount of moisture from snow melt and rain.

There aren’t many identified alternative allelopathic crops either, for use as cover or not. It’s an area ripe for research but we all know how the Trump administration is toward any science which may affect corporate donors like Big Ag and Big Pharma (the latter has strong overlap with the former).

All this brings me to that conversation I had with the farmer in the family.

They grow one fairly simple crop: hay. That’s it. That’s their specialty, that’s all they’ve done on their small farm for decades. The entire family pitches in some way and they earn enough to pay the property taxes on the small farm and the family home along with covering home heating, electricity, and maintenance. Not big money but subsistence level.

I asked about no-till and if they could use it on their farm. They explained the type of soil they had — gave me a name for it which I won’t share because it can too easily be used to identify a part of the country. This type of soil didn’t do well with no-till, they explained, while looking at me skeptically because I’m a suburbanite.

This set me off researching soil types. I didn’t know there were more than 20 in my own county and they were all different from the soil types in the subject farmer’s county

Look for a soil survey of your own home county; it’s highly educational and may even explain somethings you might never have noticed or attributed to something else. Like the layout of towns and cities and their relative organization compared to soil types; I had NO idea that the location of my town wasn’t dictated solely by a couple rivers’ paths but by the adjacent soil. Some areas that remain heavily wooded also happen to be near soil which is difficult to farm and/or in flood plains; other areas which have great soil remain wide open, undeveloped, and under cultivation. Still other areas which have crappy soil according to old maps were built up with businesses and residential developments.

But in the course of researching soil I learned something unfortunate: the farmer in my family was wrong about the type of soil on which they farm, or they were misled/misinformed about the type of soil on which they farmed, or they didn’t want to answer truthfully about the soil because I was some lefty suburbanite nosing around about no-till farming.

I don’t think I want to ask any more questions of them for fear of stirring up a rat’s nest in the family. But I do want to stir the pot a bit here, because this has proven to be a far more complex topic than the average American realizes yet depends on every day and agriculture policy will be critical to the Green New Deal.

Just looking into soil preparation to grow crops opened up a huge can of worms, touching on so many different issues.

Like culture — is some of the bias against no-till based in cultural identity which may prove resistant to change whether about farming techniques, agricultural policy, or the Green New Deal?

Like education — how will we ever develop more and better approaches to efficient, fossil fuel-free crop production without more and better education?

Like economics — can we provide enough incentives to pay farmers an offset for their reduced yields until they become practiced at no-till and other conservation farming techniques? Can we do it with carbon offsets?

Like politics — can we push back against Big Ag and Big Pharma so that farmers can migrate toward more aggressive conservation farming without corporate-captured policy working against them?

The worst part of this dive — which is by no means comprehensive and probably shot through with errors of my own understanding — is that the clock is ticking. We don’t have much time, like a handful of years. We don’t have enough research and we’re fighting the highly toxic combination of ignorance, bias, corporatism, and corruption to overcome this insufficiency.

The worst case could already be upon us if we look at the mid-section of this country. 51% percent of corn is late for planting, and with the rain expected from Texas through Iowa this week, the percentage may not shift much. This past week only saw 5% of the corn crop planted, while only 19% of the country’s soybeans have been sown.

Imagine a couple years of this, combined with the additional pressure Trump has placed on farmers by fomenting a trade war with China. What crops they’ve grown, especially soybeans, earmarked for export have gone unpurchased. In some cases they spoiled in this spring’s floods. Farmers who might have been on the bubble before and during the tariffs might not be able to swing the cost of late planting if it cuts into yields. How do farmers budget when the season is so out of whack that forecasting pricing let alone yields seems impossible?

Not to mention the cost of capital equipment like tractors. Farmers must already have slowed or halted their orders because tractor manufacturer John Deere is cutting production by 20%.

At what point do we begin to worry about global food shortages due to crop failures here in the U.S.? The U.S. is the largest producer of maize, which may take a particular beating this year due to the wet planting season.

What really gets my goat after reading about all the challenges farmers face trying to make a living using traditional or conservation farming techniques in the face of now-unavoidable climate emergency and unnecessary political hassles: that Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf course draws $80,000 in tax credits for farmers because his course keeps a handful of goats and a small hay patch within the course’s property. His “farm” may even receive more credits post-tariffs since it’s small scale and I’m not certain anyone is looking to see if Bedminster qualifies or not.

Enjoy those nachos while you can, folks.

This is an open thread. Bring all your non-Trump-Russia issues to this thread.

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