Sunday in the Sun + 28 May 2017

Sunday in the Sun logo

It’s rather odd, this whole gnews thing, as keeping up with with all the asinine stuff Republicans seem to be doing these days could be a full time job. Seems to me a whole bunch of folks in New York and Washington HAVE made it into a full time job. The NYTimes and the Washington Post are enjoying they’re strongest circulation increases in years, despite Herr Drumpf insisting the evil media is the enemy of the people. Yet…from the Montana special election, brought to you by the World Wrestling Federation, to the ongoing RussiaGate scandal, brought to you by Prince Vlad the Impaler, it’s like the Party just can’t go a day without another outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease breaking out. Yet…they seem to be made of Teflon…all the stuff just slides off and disappears.

Which is why I thought I’d start this edition with something nearer and dearer to my heart: Jupiter.


Yes, Jupiter.

NASA’s Juno Mission is just returning some spectacular images, and many have been posted this week. CNN did so, as did National Geographic, but what the heck, I thought I would too, so here goes:

jupiter-nasa-mission-juno 3

Oddly enough, there’ve been precious few Jupiter fly-bys. Voyager did, Cassini did too, but Juno is a horse of a different color (so to speak). The purpose of the Juno Mission is to get up close and personal with the Jovian atmosphere, down (relatively speaking) into the clouds, so detail coming through in these images represent a real first (for us humans, anyway, as I’m sure the Mothership goes there to refuel):


I’ve not had much luck imaging planets with my scopes over the years – so, well, I gave up. I’m lucky to get the Jupiter’s bands with a four inch refractor, and, of course, the four principle moons, though I do get better detail from my nine inch Takahashi Mewlon. Thing is, when I center either Jupiter or Saturn in the eyepiece all thought of imaging disappears…just goes away. With the scope tracking along, I sit there, when it’s warm enough, anyway, for literally hours at a stretch, mesmerized by the sight. Still, I’ve never seen anything like these images, and even Hubble’s images are nowhere near this detailed.


Of course, this is a timely reminder that Herr Drumpf is intent on cutting back NASA’s science budget, including missions like this one. Way to go Team Red! Read this, from Wired this week:

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S PROPOSED 2018 budget will never actually determine how the government spends your money: Potus proposes and Congress disposes. But that’s no reason for relief. In fact, it makes this document even more of a nightmare. It doesn’t direct funding, but it does put the Trump administration’s underlying philosophy of governance on display. And it’s a harsh one.

The science cuts make this most visible. Now, stipulated, governments don’t have to fund science. Since World War II, though, America has; the rationale comes from a 1945 report written by Vannevar Bush, then-director of the US Office of Scientific Research and Development. In Science: The Endless Frontier, he wrote: “Since health, well-being, and security are proper concerns of Government, scientific progress is, and must be, of vital interest to Government.” Basic research would drive innovation, and that would be the engine of the American economy.

Built into Bush’s idea was the notion that if the free-enterprise, free-thinking citizens of the United States created any problems in pursuit of that progress, well, progress could solve them, too. Industrial revolution polluting all your rivers and air? Keep going, and we’ll eventually build power sources that don’t cough out poison. Cigarettes giving you cancer? We’ll figure out a cure. Pouring antibiotics on every damn thing until even the most basic infection can resist the drugs? We’ll make new ones. Scientific advances would surf the wave of calamities both natural and synthetic. Problems lead to solutions lead to problems lead to … you get it.

Oh, NASA is letting citizen image-processors in on the Jupiter fun, as the impressionist rendering below reveals. Good getting more people involved now. Remember Donald, people love NASA, and they can still vote (for the time being, anyway).

jupiter-nasa-mission-juno 1

On the other hand, liberal firebrand Bill Maher disagrees with the whole space thing, too, notably going to Mars. He seems to think space exploration is a waste of money, and things like missions to Mars, or even interstellar missions, are “out” in his worldview; we’d be better off spending the money fixing the planet we have. Well, maybe, but that’s still putting all your eggs in one basket, and even setting aside climate change, we’re just one city-sized asteroid strike away from extinction. Or, say, a Yellowstone super-volcano eruption. That said, there are more than a few climate scientists who speculate we’ve already passed a tipping point and that things are somewhat unstoppable now. They point to Venus as a model of what might happen in the near term, which, when you get right down to it, would ruin your hairdo – and fast. Also, his position is predicated on the notion that, ahem, human beings are through being explorers. Guess what, Bill. Go smoke some more pot, and remember how mathematicians get rid of constipation. They work it out with a pencil. You know? A pencil, with a good eraser? Things used to do science with??? You just lost my vote, too.


Well, it’s hard to know where to start next, so lets just keep on forging ahead – with another story about – rockets and space… There’s a new kid on the block down in New Zealand getting into the rocket biz, and this story in Wired will cue you in on what they’re up to, and why. Seems there’s an interest in doing things small after all. Interesting read. Think geospatial revolution!


I’ve been harping on a basic point about the current iteration of the Republican Party for some time now. They’re mean. Their policies are mean-spirited. They like disenfranchising opposition voters, and one assumes they do so because they know they’ll lose elections otherwise. That’s faith in democracy, isn’t it? The seem to like disingenuous strategies to obscure their real agenda items, too, like making America Great Again is just more smoke and mirrors about cutting taxes for the richest people in the country.

Case in point, the ACHA. Yes, TrumpCare. The Republican Party’s well considered (ahem) repeal and replace option for doing away with THAT NEGROES socialist health insurance giveaway. Well, they passed their bill and had their big confab in the rose garden (oh, those pictures of smiling white guys!) without waiting for the CBOs assessment of the real world implications of all their hard work. Guess what? The 50-65 age set, as well as the poor, get screwed again, while the rich get more tax breaks. Read just one assessment here, in the NYTimes. Go to your nearest landfill to read more.

I’m telling’ ya…some of those folks are mean as snakes, and maybe a little lower, too.


28 April.jpg

Mean? Want a little proof of that assertion? Read this, from Slate:

Let’s set aside the pomp and baggage of Donald Trump and let’s look at the things he does and says and, apparently, thinks. When you do that, without prejudice or Fox News blaring in the background or the tinted glasses of the Republican leadership, it’s clear what’s wrong with Donald Trump and his young, upheaval of a presidency: Donald Trump does not believe in American values. I mean that literally. He doesn’t even really pay lip service to even the foggiest conception of American values. Donald Trump does not believe in fairness; he does not believe in due process; he does not believe in democracy; he does not believe in human rights; and on and on.

The latest example of Donald Trump’s aversion to principles most Americans hold dear came via the Washington Post on Tuesday, which followed up on reporting several weeks ago on President Trump’s call to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. We already knew Trump invited Duterte—who has waged a deadly extrajudicial war against “drugs” in his country since being elected last year—to the White House for a visit. We already knew Trump expressed admiration for Duterte’s bloody domestic battle that has killed thousands in the streets, some drug dealers, but many drug addicts and bystanders with little regard for which are which.


Trump’s embrace of Duterte and his drug policy that has been condemned from all corners was astounding when relayed through spokespeople and secondhand diplomatic sources last month. But the Post got a copy of the actual transcript of the call between the two and Trump’s outright fawning over Duterte and his murderous drug war, right off the bat and totally unprompted, is staggering.

Of course, this is beyond simple meanness; it takes us into the realm of fascism. Which seems to be the path many Republicans have embraced of late, but I do hope I’m wrong.


Of course, we can count on Sean Hannity, over at Fox, to beat the drum calling liberals the real fascists. But take a look at recent trends in advertisers pulling support from The Hannity show after crap like this. Then we get this from everyone’s fave pseudo-paranoid schizophrenic, Alex Jones, reporting that the wrestling congressional candidate from Montana was in fact set up. See a pattern here, folks? Twisting events to fit a narrative, perhaps? And of course we end up with another psychopath in Congress because the Republican moral universe is out there in “cult-land”…they don’t watch or listen to anything but what’s approved by their “leadership,” so nothing can or will change. Anyway, don’t get all guns-ho that Democrats are going to retake Congress in 2018. Ain’t gonna happen. Republicans are HAPPY with the way things are playing out in congress. Because they’re mean.

Because alternative realities have been embraced by Republicans. Like, who knows anything anymore!? There’s no such thing as the truth…only “our” truth.

But that’s called Moral Relativism, folks, where morality is in the eyes of the beholder. That’s how things like the Final Solution happen, by the way. As in – right under your nose – until you have to deny what you smell exists, even as you frantically try to scrape it off your shoes.


Food for thought from Fortune Magazine:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income as a solution for inequality, joining a growing chorus from Silicon Valley.

“Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it’s time for our generation to define a new social contract,” Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech Thursday at Harvard University. “We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful.”

“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things,” he said.

Zuckerberg told the class of 2017 that he was able to pursue his passion in Facebook because he knew he had a safety net to fall back on. “If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code,” he said. ” I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

The idea of universal basic income—in which the government unconditionally pays all citizens a small amount of money to cover basic needs—has recently gained traction within the tech community, as phenomena like automation and the startup culture emerge.

Major figures who have publicly supported the idea as a form of more efficient government welfare include Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who argues that the concept is a solution to unemployment caused by automation.


Irony alert, from Fox News:

A Fox News poll came out the other night, and I tweeted some of the findings about President Trump.

No analysis, no commentary. Just a few numbers.

“Trump approval at 40%, down from 45% last month. 53% say his agenda is coming apart; 44% say he’s shaking up Washington.”

And: “68% approve of DOJ naming a special counsel, 29% disapprove.”

Well, you’d have thought I had called for the president’s impeachment.

I practically got buried under an avalanche of angry tweets.

Most of them didn’t seem to want to engage in an actual discussion. They just attacked me, Fox, and polling in general: 

“The way Fox is headed. This poll is wrong. I talk to people from all over the US everyday. Trump is still tops. No one unhappy. All cool.”

“BS polls again. Trying to manipulate population.”

“You just don’t get it.. We don’t believe any b.s. polls you media types hail don’t care don’t believe them move on.”

“Who the hell did you poll???”

“100% of me thinks Fox is joining the MSM. Fake news.”

“Your polls are a bunch of crap. Never polled us.”

“NO ONE CARES abt the dumb polls-they were wrong calling election- case closed!”

“Stick it up your liberal [blank], Howie!”

You gotta love social media.

Now far be it from me to defend all polls. Sometimes they’re flawed, or just wrong. And the media are overly addicted to them.

You could also argue that Trump has faced consistently negative media coverage, especially over the Russia investigation, and that is depressing his numbers.

But the barrage from Trump supporters didn’t have much to do with that.

It was about simply dismissing news organizations, including Fox, and their polling as mere fiction.

Many are so persuaded that the media establishment has it in for Trump that they don’t want to hear contrary information. They are tuning it out.

I know this because of the comments I get if I analyze anything from, say, the New York Times or Washington Post, even if the stories turn out to be true. And Fox News is no longer immune to these complaints.

The Fox poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 people with a 3-point margin of error, was hardly an outlier. In the last two days, Gallup has Trump’s job approval at 39 percent, Quinnipiac at 37, Ecoomist at 40 and Reuters at 37. The exception is Rasmussen, which puts Trump at 48 percent.

The everyone-I-talk-to argument betrays a lack of understanding of how scientific polling works.

For the record, the final Fox poll before Election Day gave Hillary Clinton a 4-point lead, overstating her margin, but keep in mind that she won the popular vote. Trump is president because he won key Electoral College battlegrounds.

The troubling thing here is that we no longer agree on a common set of facts. Conservatives and liberals are increasingly in their own silos, turning to their own opinionated media sources and constructing their Facebook and Twitter feeds the same way.

If everything is fake news, then the role of news in fostering intelligent debate is decimated.

And I don’t need a poll to be sure of that.


From the Dallas Morning News:

Tell me this: Do the politicians you elect to represent you owe you an explanation for the decisions they make, the votes they cast? Are they accountable for the policy decisions that affect your life?

If you think so, you have been assaulted.

You were assaulted Wednesday, when a Montana congressional candidate physically attacked a reporter who had the temerity, the gross affrontery, to ask him a question.


And finally, we’re getting rain up here on the mountain most of the time, but still some lingering snow in the evenings and overnight. Below, early morning clouds over the lake, Friday morning.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, y’all! Drive safe, and finish reading Red Storm Rising!

mnt rain

6 thoughts on “Sunday in the Sun + 28 May 2017

  1. Fake pictures of a fake fly by of a fake planet.

    In a valley filled with thousands of apple orchards you can’t find a good hard cider. Go Figure. And only one pub or restaurant lists fish and chips, and they are both frozen.


  2. After visiting at least 5 wineries per day for 6 days a scrumpy with fish sounded really good.
    Alas it was not to be.

    You’re right about Sysco.


  3. Interesting you should mention Sysco. We have a neighbor who is a sales rep for Sysco, and another who manages a popular beerstro that serves local microbrews and makes speciality pizza. They will use Sysco for the kitchen staples, but source their dairy, veggies, and meat from local farms. The menu will reflect what they found. Like the Peter Christians tavern in Hanover, there is always a line waiting to get in. The big food service companies also run University food services and stadium concessions now. Aramark runs the concession stands at Fenway now, no matter what the sign on the stand says.


    • The efficiencies of large scale distribution networks helps keep overhead down, but adding locally sourced grub makes sense, for multiple reasons. I’ve heard Sysco is run a little like a mafia operation, buy this and buy that regardless of need, but I guess that’s the price of doing business with them. Sysco makes sense – until fuel gets too expensive to haul food across the country for processing, then back out again to restaurants. Still, with a global reach, they have helped broaden tastes. All in all, not the worst thing possible…


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