The Glowing Doughnut

Please do not misunderstand me.  I am, indeed, very impressed that scientists have managed to take a picture of the event horizon of a black hole that is 55 million light years away.  55 million.  That means that the stuff we just saw a picture of was in that position, in that state, 55 million years ago.  The dinosaurs had only been extinct for about 10 million years.  Nothing resembling a human being would walk the earth for another 50 million + years.  But, that’s how long it took for the light to reach the Earth.  In other words, that black hole is very, very far away.

The picture looks like a big, glowing doughnut, as if a celestial doughnut shop had a sign out, a large doughnut shaped sign with a light inside it.  That’s because it’s not really a picture of the black hole (which would just look black), but of the stuff in the event horizon.  It’s sort of like a photograph of the rings of Saturn, without Saturn.
The photo is impressive, both scientifically and in terms of the intenational co-operation that went into it.  Telescopes all around the world, even one in Antarctica, were linked up.  This is both impressive, and a good omen for the future.  The world’s politicians might be corrupt, self-serving, back-stabbing, inept morons, but the world’s scientists are capable of co-operating and pulling off a thing as big as this.
It makes me wonder, though.  All the exoplanets that we have discovered, it’s through analysis of data from radio telescopes, and not actual images.  If we can photograph something that’s 55 million light years away, why can’t we focus our telescopes on Proxima Centauri, which is only about 4 light years away (i.e. 54 million, 999 thousand, 996 light years closer to us), and get close up, finely detailed images of the planets which are circling it.  I know, they are obscured by the light of their sun, but there are filters for that kind of thing.  We might see clouds.  We might see oceans.  We might see cities.
That’s what I want to see.

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18 Candidates

According to this article here, there are 18 Democratic candidates for president at the moment, but it’s sort of like counting the number of countries in the world, or number of planets in the solar system – a lot depends on how you count.

The list includes Marianne Williamson, who has written a couple of books but her main claim to fame is ‘spiritual advisor to Oprah.’  Oprah, of course, has said she is not running, never had any intention of running, and just because some of her fans are nuts doesn’t mean she is. (Oprah didn’t say that last part, I did)

It includes Andrew Yang, who I haven’t heard much about for a couple of weeks.  I guess nobody thinks UBI, or circumcision, are major issues.

It includes Wayne Messam, who is the mayor of Miramar, Florida, which means he has the same qualifications as Pete Buttigieg, but I’d never heard of him before reading this article.
It does not include Joe Biden, who I reckon has about a 50/50 chance of running, and about a 0 chance of winning, or Mike Gravel, who is trying hard to get enough unique donors to get into the debates, but I doubt he’ll make it.  He was important 40 years ago, but hasn’t held public office since then, and is best remembered for throwing a rock into a lake.

It seems like a comically unwieldy number, but it’s not unprecedented.  It’s early stages, and there’s no one candidate who thinks it’s her turn and is determined to stonewall any opposition, and has control over the party machinery, and the media.  This is what Democratic primaries sometimes look like.
Now, there are some who are worried that this will be a problem.  They point out that having lots of candidates means it will be hard for Bernie to get over 51% on the first ballot, and then the “Democratic” party can retire to a back room with cigars, and the superdelegates will pick whoever they want.  Who, knowing the Democrats, will be somebody who stands for nothing and will lose to Trump.

I’m not so worried.  There are two key facts.  First, pretty much everybody is admitting that he is the front runner at this point, and if even CNN is admitting it, you know he must be the front runner by a lot.  Secondly, Bernie’s electoral history is that the more people get to know him, the more they like him.  In his first succesful bid for office, he became Mayor of Burlington by only 10 votes.  After that, though, he kept getting re-elected to the office and his majorities grew with each election.  Likewise in Congress, and in the Senate.
So, he’s the front runner and he’s attracting more voters all the time.
I don’t think anybody should take anything for granted, but I’d say he’s moving from ‘front runner’ to ‘inevitable.’

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Parellels and non-Parallels

The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, richest man in the world (who just paid out $35 billion in a divorce settlement and is probably still the richest man in the world), and financially supported by the CIA, has just run a ridiculous hit piece on Bernie Sanders, calling him ‘the Donald Trump of the left.’
It includes this passage: “Fundraising and polls show that many Democrats think the best answer to an angry old white guy with crazy hair, New York accent and flair for demagoguery is, well, another angry old white guy with crazy hair, New York accent and flair for demagoguery.”
It’s partly true.  They are both angry old white guys with crazy hair and New York accents, except that Bernie is angry about economic injustice, and Donald Trump is angry that black people exist.

Also, the bit about Bernie being a demagogue is made up nonsense.
Whereas Donald Trump makes use of bombastic statements, buzz words, racist dog whistles, and pig ignorance to whip up his followers into a lather, Bernie Sanders lists his topics, give logical arguments in favor of them, cites statistics, and explains how everything will be paid for – it’s pretty much the exact opposite of demagoguery.

Some other differences between the two:  Bernie has been a mayor, a congressman and a Senator.  He excelled in every position, and is the most popular politician in the United States.  Donald Trump had never held any public office at all before becoming president.  While Donald Trump is younger by a couple of years, Bernie is way fitter.  While Trump plays golf, and reportedly cheats at it, Bernie shoots hoops.

It’s true that they both talk with a New York accent (they both say yuge instead of huge), but it is not the central word in Bernie’s vocabulary.  Also, he can pronounce the word ‘origins.’

Trump thinks windmills cause cancer.  Bernie is not an idiot.

He is not the Donald Trump of the left.  There is no Donald Trump of the left.  The left doesn’t have that shit.

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Purity

Words are tricky things, and Barack Obama is a master of using them.  For example, let’s analyze this little gem of a quote: “One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives: we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’ where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.”
In the first few words he manages to call himself a progressive, just by saying “we,” while setting up an attack on progressives, because he is not one.
Secondly, ‘shooting at your allies’ is exactly the point of a primary campaign.  It’s to weed out the candidates whose ideas, or whose character or past voting record, don’t hold up to scrutiny, so that the strongest candidate goes forth to face the opposition.
The ‘circular firing squad’ is an effective image, but it’s not precisely circular.  There are clearly two sides here.  Those who are in favor of health care, and the environment, and financial equality, and criminal justice reform, and on the other side those who take money from the pharmaceutical industry, and the oil industry, and the banks.
That’s where the ‘purity’ charge comes in.  I’ve seen a lot of commenters of Facebook also using this ‘purity’ charge, as if purity was a bad thing.
If you support purity, you want your candidates to be clean, untainted, and that is a good thing.  We want purer air, and purer water, and more transparency in government.  If you are against purity, you are for impurity.  You are saying we should support candidates even if they take a few bribes here and there, even if they are trying to dilute the programs we need to save the environment, to save public education, to save sick people from dying.
You’re goddamned right we want purity, Mr. Obama.  You’re not going to make us feel guilty about that.

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Dance Day

It was a perfectly lovely little Spring Saturday.  Woke up early and went back to bed, but still had to be up and on the road by 9.  Isabel had a dance competition in Kadan, a town I’d never even heard of before.  Sam had football, so he stayed home.

We stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast, the one next to Šarka, with the spectacular view.
We got there in plenty of time, dropped Isabel off, and walked into town.  Not exactly what you’d call a bustling place.  The square was lovely, but empty.  We found a cafe, and sat on the terrace for a while, and looked down at…nothing, really.  But after that we took a walk down that way, via ‘the narrowest street in the Czech Republic, and at the bottom of it we were on the outside of the town walls, which we followed until we came to the river, a broad and narrow stream with a couple of weirs for water to tumble over, and there was a nice walkway.  We saw a couple of people on bicycles, but it was still not crowded at all.  Walked back inside the walls, saw the castle, which was not very impressive, as castles grow, walked through a park with a local painting and photography exhibit, and into a toy shop and a shoe shop without buying anything (as I said, it was a good day) and got back to the sports hall in plenty of time for Izzie’s performance.

There, the atmosphere shifted from peaceful, natural Spring in bloom in a quaint, little town to the inside of a sports arena with a milling crows, large stuffed animal mascots, and a terminal level of noise.
Then, Izzie’s group won!  I was surprised at that, but pleasantly so.

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They Step Up, They go Down

They keep popping up.  They keep fizzling.  Some faster than others, but mostly it doesn’t take long.  Andrew Yang.  One day you’d never heard of him, the next day he was going to save America.  The UBI idea is not bad, I haven’t given it too much thought.  But, after that internet discussion on the pros and cons of circumcision (which he’s against) you suddenly don’t hear much about him any more.
Then there is Perky Pete, who speaks 34 languages and is a piano virtuoso in his spare time, besides being a genius.  But, once people took a look at his record and his platform, they started to realize that he didn’t have much of a record or a platform.  He’s not out yet, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t fade soon.
Then along came Biden.  He hasn’t even said he’s running yet, but he hasn’t said he isn’t, and a wink is as good as a nod to a blind man, as they say, somewhat perplexingly.  He’s got a horrible record, just boxes and boxes full of stuff he’s done that progressives don’t like, and then there’s Gropergate.  Which wouldn’t have been so bad, he could have ridden it out, but then he gave a super lame apology and is already back to making jokes about it.  That just shows that he doesn’t understand women.  You don’t joke about this shit.  He’s toast.
Then, Ive seen messages today, like lots of them, urging me to sed a dollar to Mike Gravel.  Now, there’s something to be said about his candidacy.  He’s anti-war, for instance.  But, he’s nearly 89 and hasn’t held a public office for nearly 40 years.  He’s most famous for dropping a stone into a lake.
I think he can be discounted, as well.

One advantage of this canddate-a-week program is that we haven’t been hearing so much about Warren, Harris, Gillebrand et. alii  That is a fact.

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Front Runner Status

(note – I am still a Gabbard supporter and she appears to be within a couple thousand donors of that 65,000 individual donor threshold, which may have been designed to keep lesser known candidates out of the debates but actually amounts to a buy-in, which should be against the rules, instead of being the rule.  I love her anti-war stance, her ‘lead with  love’ slogan, and her whole persona.  But, to love Tulsi is to love Bernie, too, because on most issues they are indistinguishable.)

I saw three articles today saying ‘Bernie is now the front-runner,’ which is kind of a left-handed compliment, as they say, because he’s been the front runner ever since he’s announced, but still…we’ve been begging the media to stop ignoring him, so if that’s what’s happening, I welcome it.
One was from Daily Kos, whose polls he keeps winning even though they sometimes do stuff like forget to interview anybody who’s under 30.  Another was from The New Republic, and a third was from Jake Tapper.
Well, three in one day is a big deal, it’s triangulation, maybe even a trend. I am glad they are recognizing the obvious.  Since Bernie Sanders has consistently been America’s most popular politician, for the last couple of years, it was kind of a no-brainer that if he announced, he would be that automatic front-runner.

Add to that, he’s in favor of Medicare for All (it’s his program), a $15 an hour minimum wage (which he’s won for employees at Amazon and Disneyland, without even getting legislation passed), legalizing marijuana, ending private prisons, repairing infrastructure and converting to a green economy (although Green New Deal is a much catchier title), and taxing the living shit out of the rich, all ideas which are supported by a large majority of the American people, and you’ve got an almost unstoppable candidate.
Almost.  The DNC will do anything they can to cheat him, and if they can stop him from having over 50% on the first ballot, they could go ahead and nominate whoever the fuck they please.

And then Trump would win again, but that’s just the way the DNC rolls.
So, front runner or not, he’s got his work cut out for him.  He doesn’t just have to beat old Joe Biden, lightweight Pete Buttigieg, corrupt Kamala, lame Lizzie, Amy ‘the mean boss’ Klobuchar and Kirsten ‘who?’ Gillibrand.  He has to beat them all combined.
A tall order, but I believe he can do it.

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