Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Eclipse Yesterday.

Yesterday was the Solar Eclipse that tracked its way across the US; another one won't cross the country until the year 2045. Anyway, here in New Orleans we didn't get a total eclipse, but a 75% coverage eclipse.  Between about 1:10 and 1:45 the sunlight--even the daylight--was noticeably weaker and the atmosphere was comfortable and not broiling like it usually is, and was yesterday, before and after the times indicated. Anyway here are some pics I took of the eclipse--not directly but indirectly.


This is a photo of the eclipse--north is at the top--as interpreted through the leaves of a couple of trees onto a wooden plank deck behind the local public library. Note all the crescent shaped splashes of light. The effect is wicked cool, like a Japanese painting of the leaves of a tree. This was taken close to the time of maximum exposure.  Note too that the gaps in the shade acted as pinholes so that the light-rays land in opposite positions (toward the north-northeast) than they were upon entering the gaps (from the south-southwest).


This next was also taken during the time of maximum coverage but the damned iPhone camera made it appear like the eclipse was just ending and the moon was departing to the north-northeast after travelling from the south-southwest over the sun. A pinhole transposes the light to land in opposite direction from the direction it enters the pinhole.




And this last is a close-up of the image through the pinhole. As you can see, one of the corners is obviously rounded, the other corner less so. But it’s fucking annoying when you want a sharper image of the object you’re taking a photo of and the camera can only make it only so sharp—that is, up to a point, and worse (more blunt) when taking an image made by light going through a pinhole.

Friday, August 18, 2017

America Is Finished.



Morris Berman is right, America is finished!

With the ever-increasing mutual backlash between the white supremacist alt-right, the Christian right, the libertarian right, the establishment center a.k.a. the government, the politically correct left and the Marxian-anarchist ultra-left, we are on a vicious (virtuous?) circle toward Civil War 2.0. Actually, like the War Between the States, this will be no real civil war (two factions competing for power like the War of the Roses, the English Civil War of the mid-Seventeenth Century and the Russian Civil War of 1917-1921) but an uncivil war between multiple cultures with irreconcilable differences with each other. Madness!

From The Daily Signal---although I don't agree with the writer's politics I do for the most part agree with this:

  I Went to Charlottesville During the Protests. Here’s What I Saw. (Jarrett Stepman)
In a country of 320 million people of stunningly diverse ethnic backgrounds and philosophies, this is a fire bell in the night for complete cultural disintegration. The end result will be uglier than the already sickening events that took place this past weekend.

The Federalist’s publisher, Ben Domenech, rightly noted what this means for the direction of the country: “[I]t is the open conflict of a nation at war with itself over its own character. This war will end badly, no matter how it plays out. And the way this story ends is in demolishing [Thomas Jefferson’s] Monticello brick by brick.”

There is no arc of history bending perpetually on its own toward justice. History is instead a series of twists and turns, influenced by cultural and social forces as well as individuals and communities.

America has never been a perfect nation. It has benefitted from great ideas advanced by imperfect men, and almost miraculously formed a great and good national community
[Ed-M: really!?] out of widely disparate elements.
A great national community, true, not necessarily a good one.

From Liberty's Blitzkrieg via The Automatic Earth:

  Americans Are Rapidly Descending Into Madness (Krieger)
I don’t live in an echo chamber, partly because there aren’t enough people out there who think like me, but also because I constantly and intentionally attempt to challenge my worldview by reading stuff from all over the political map. I ingest as much as I can from a wide variety of intelligent sources, picking and choosing what makes sense to me, and then synthesizing it the best I can. Though I’m certainly grounded in certain key principles, my perspective on specific issues remains malleable as I take in additional information and perspectives. I try to accept and acknowledge my own ignorance and view life as a journey of constant mental, emotionally and spiritual growth. If I’m not growing my capacity in all of those realms until the day I die, I’m doing it wrong. Life should be seen as a battle against one’s own ignorance, as opposed to an obsession with the ignorance of others.

You can’t legislate morality, nor can you legislate wisdom. The only way the world will improve on a long-term sustainable basis is if more of us get wise. That’s a personal journey and it’s our individual duty to accept it. While I’m only in control of my own behavior, this doesn’t mean that the behavior of others is irrelevant to my life. Unfortunately, what I see happening to the population of America right now seems very troublesome and foreboding. What I’m witnessing across the board is hordes of people increasingly separating themselves into weird, unthinking cults. Something appears to have snapped in our collective consciousness, and many individuals I used to respect (on both sides of the political spectrum) are becoming disturbingly polarized and hysterical. People are rapidly morphing into radicalized mental patients.

What’s worse, this environment is providing a backdrop for the most destructive people of my lifetime – neoconservatives and neo liberals – to preen around on corporate media as “the voices of reason.” This is one of the most perverse and dangerous side-effects of the current political climate. If in your disgust with Trump, you’re willing to run into the cold embrace of these destroyers of the middle class and the Middle East, you’ll get what you deserve. In contrast, if we really want to deal with our very real and very systemic problems, the last thing we need is a population-level mental breakdown that leads to a longing for the criminally destructive political status quo, yet that’s exactly what seems to be happening.
Why do the Gods hate America? 😉

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump's let loose again.

OMG, this guy is an embarassment! 😲

From The New York Times:

Trump Defends Initial Remarks on Charlottesville; Again Blames ‘Both Sides’


WASHINGTON — President Trump reverted Tuesday to blaming both sides for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., and at one point questioned whether the movement to pull down Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.
Abandoning his precisely chosen and carefully delivered condemnations of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis from a day earlier, the president furiously stuck by his initial reaction to the unrest in Charlottesville. He drew the very moral equivalency for which a bipartisan chorus, and his own advisers, had already criticized him.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” the president said in a combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”
Mr. Trump defended those gathered in a Charlottesville park to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. “I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups,” he said. “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Well I'd like to know just who were there who were protesting the removal of the two statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson if they weren't all White Supremacists, Neo-Confederates, Nazis, and the like, because it sure looked to me like they all were, or at least that's the story the pics taken by the news media and others tell me. And that's the whole effect that these extremists groups wanted to convey, with their show of intimidation Friday night.

And where was the violence that Donald Trump alleges was committed by the counter-protestors, you know, those on the other side? I haven't seen it yet. And one alt-rightist meme that was working its way around the web that the motorist who plowed into protestors floored it because his car was being pummeled by big stick-wielding leftist protestors is easily disproven by a simple google search for raw video footage of the collision: it turns out that he, at high speed, rear-ended a white automobile and pushed it into a crowd of pedestrians in a crosswalk and then floored it IN REVERSE, dragging the white car's rear bumper and someone's personal effect with him.

And the statues honoring the Confederate side in the War Between the States? Their removal will probably now be expedited, thanks to the violence that went down in Charlottesville this past weekend. I'm don't like the erasure of history, mind you, better than to reinterpret it and explain it, but when this sort of issue sparks violence, it's the side that initiates the violence and is seen as the most violent that loses control of the argument.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Civil War 2 Brewing?

Robert E. Lee Statue in Charlottesville, VA.
Source: Getty Images.
It appears that both sides overplaying their hand is going to get us all into Civil War 2.0 -- not the Second War Between the States, but everybody fighting each other like starving rats. This past weekend there was a show of intimidation Friday night by various white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA.

White Nationalists' march through the U of Va Campus Friday Night.
Source: dm.com.
White Nationalists surround counter-protestors at Jefferson's statue at the U of Va.
Source: Variety.com

Show of colors by White Nationalists Saturday in Charlottesville, VA.
Source: Slate.com.
White Nationalists confront Antifascists in Charlottesville, VA Saturday.
Source: CBSSports.com
This show was provoked by the city's misguided vote to simply remove equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson back in April. A judge had blocked the removal for six months in May, but somebody heard something through the grapevine and so white nationalists organised a rally for this past weekend to protest the incipient removal. Of course, the city revoked the Unite The Right rally that was supposed to take place yesterday -- apparently, it did -- because of the torchlight march Friday night and somebody was pissed off and now we have one killed and several injured because some disgruntled individual plowed his automobile into a crowd of counter-protestors.

Stonewall Jackson Statue in Charlottesville, VA.
Source: Getty Images.
Here are some facts about the statues:

1. The city council voted to remove the Lee and Jackson statues in April.
2. A State judge delayed the removal by six months so that the Virginia courts can decide or not to permanently block the removal.
3. The first torch-wielding protest march was back in May.
4. The R.E. Lee statue was commissioned in 1917 and completed in 1924.
5. The removal of both statues could cost the city upwards of $700.000.00.
6. There are over a thousand Confederate monuments in 31 states, twenty more than the eleven that actually seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

There's got to be a solution other than just taking down these statues and the thousand-something others; they are a part of our history. Three Confederate monuments and one White Suprmacist monument got removed here in New Orleans this spring; our mayor said there should be "remembrance, not reverence." Judging by how the local removal proceeded and what the removers left behind and the condition they left the monuments' remnants in, it looks to me more like vandalism and forgetfulness. There's got to be a better solution: I say, leave the statues be, but put up some explanatory plaques that mention the mentality of the times when these statues were put up.

ON EDIT: PLEASE NOTE THAT IT WAS NOT THE ANTIFASCISTS WHO OVERPLAYED THEIR HAND THIS PAST WEEKEND AUGUST 11-12, 2017, ONLY THE WHITE NATIONALISTS. IF YOU DISAGREE, PLEASE POST LINKS TO PICS DEMONSTRATING INTIMIDATION AND VIOLENCE BY THE ANTIFASCISTS. THE ONLY OVERPLAYING OF HANDS BY THE LIBERAL SIDE IS IN DELIBERATED LEGAL ACTIONS AIMED AT ERASING HISTORY. LET'S HAVE AND KEEP ALL OUR HISTORY, WARTS AND ALL.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

More Star Wars Scenes We'd Like to See.

This is a short photo essay.

Yoda knows!
Found off the web.

A little fun at Chewbacca's expense. 

A human-porcine relationship will never work.
Besides, she's already engaged.
But at least he's not dating his own sister! 😄

Monday, August 7, 2017

Russia, Chechnya and Ukraine.

I saw and browsed through a graphic novel at the town library yesterday. I wish it was just fiction I had flipped through. Instead it was a narration of eyewitness accounts of a tiny fraction of actual events of what went down in the Dirty War in Chechnya and the recent unpleasantness in Crimea and Ukraine. I wish I could now unsee it. It portrays the Russian military in a very bad light, acting as total brutes. But the Russian Military were the good guys in the previous Chechen War under Yeltsin and they got their hats handed back to them by the Chechens! I'll get the title up at the earliest opportunity.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Damn Fool


By signing the Russian Sanctions bill into law all the while grousing about it, President Donald J. Trump has shown to all the world that he's a damn fool. I'm sure he thought he was on the "winning" side when he signed this thing, rather than to veto it and find himself on the "losing" side. Apparently it was lost on him that vetoing this bill would have given him some political capital, a higher standing amongst his base and grudging respect from others. Instead he signed it into law and became Congress's chump.

From James Howard Kunstler (emphasis original):
Russia hysteria has become a full-blown national psychosis at a moment in history when a separate array of troubles poses the real threat to America’s well-being. Most of these have to do with the country’s swan dive into bankruptcy, but meeting them honestly would force uncomfortable choices on the grifters and caitiffs in congress. Meanwhile, the Treasury Dept is burning through its dwindling cash reserves, and all government activities will face a shutdown at the end of the summer unless congress votes to raise the debt ceiling — which may be way harder than passing the stupid Russia sanctions bill. 
That bill, vaingloriously called The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, will only blow up in America’s face. This country’s actual trade with Russia is negligible, but the bill aims to interrupt and punish Europe’s trade, centering on oil and natural gas, which they need desperately. Mainly, the US bill seeks to interrupt a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea that would bypass several of the Baltic Nations currently being used by America — under the NATO banner — as staging areas for unnecessary and provocative war games on Russia’s borders. 
Germany is certain to not stand for it, and like it or not, they are the straw that stirs the European drink. The sanctions pretend to seek to isolate Russia, but the effect will only be to isolate the United States. Europe will laugh at the measure as impinging on their sovereign prerogatives to trade as they please. And Russia can turn around and sell all the natural gas it wants to customers in Asia. Left undiscussed in the moronic American media is the American gas industry’s hidden role in pushing the sanctions so it can sell liquefied gas overseas — which would only end up raising the price for American gas customers to heat their homes....
So what exactly was Mr. Trump thinking when he signed the “deeply flawed” (his words) Russian Sanctions bill coughed up like a hairball by congress? It’s a ridiculous piece of legislation from any angle. It limits the president’s own established prerogatives for negotiating with foreign nations (probably unconstitutionally), and will only provoke economic warfare (at least) against the US that can easily lead to shattering global trade relations entirely. Some observers say he had to sign it because the vote for it in congress was so overwhelming (419 to 3) that they would only override a Trump veto. But the veto would have had, at least, symbolic value in the Jacksonian spirit that Trump pretended to want to emulate at the outset of his term. Perhaps he sees the Deep State endgame and is tired of resisting.

From The Automatic Earth (Russian PM Medvedev via Zero Hedge) (emphasis mine):
The signing of new sanctions against Russia into law by the US president leads to several consequences. First, any hope of improving our relations with the new US administration is over. Second, the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration demonstrated it is utterly powerless, and in the most humiliating manner transferred executive powers to Congress. This shifts the alignment of forces in US political circles. 
What does this mean for the U.S.? The American establishment completely outplayed Trump. The president is not happy with the new sanctions, but he could not avoid signing the new law. The purpose of the new sanctions was to put Trump in his place. Their ultimate goal is to remove Trump from power. An incompetent player must be eliminated. At the same time, the interests of American businesses were almost ignored. Politics rose above the pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has turned into a key part of not only foreign (as has been the case many times), but also domestic US policy (this is recent).

What is this President, fucking stupid?

UPDATE 8-8-2017: Because Congress adjourned for its 2017 recess last week, the Donald could have let the bill languish until it passed its expiry date, which would have been yesterday. This action is called a Pocket Veto, which US presidents can use anytime they want to dispose of bills they don't like, were passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses (but not always), and were passed close enough to their expiry dates so that they would become null and void without the executive signature. Instead he signed it anyway because he wanted to be seen as a winnah and not a loozah.

Like I said, what is this President, fucking stupid?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Star Wars The Force Awakens

Not too long ago I saw Star Wars The Force Awakens on a DVD. Basically it's a politically correct rehash of the original Star Wars and it really, really should have been different. And the GCI special effects are totally over the top, at some points they look like Disney cartoons. And the First Order should have been portrayed more subtly, not like some cartoon version of Nazi Germany. This was the only Star Wars flick that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth when I finished watching it, and I've seen them all, including Star Wars the Phantom Menace... and that one was a total ripoff.

Here's a half-hour video with a lot of criticisms of the film.


And here's a second criticism - a 5-hour long compilation of many critics panning the film as the worst Star Wars film ever.



Disney should have taken these criticisms into account when doing Star Wars The Last Jedi, coming out this Christmas. Instead, they're adding some of their own "imagineering" to it: when Rey goes into a cave, she sees Yoda appear to her as a spirit... only this time, he brings a lot of the Disney trademark magic spheres with him. Looks like I'll be staying away from the cinema for this one!