Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Cabinet of Deplorables - Trump Log #3

I told myself that I would limit myself to one link per day on these Trump logs, but there is so much wrong with our President-elect. His incessant tweeting, the acts of hate in his name, his potential Cuban policy, the return of water boarding, threats to the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid, conflict of interests, climate change denial and a cabinet of deplorables, the guy isn't even president yet and I'm already sick of him. I can't get them all in this log. I only have so much time. I have a full time job.  

11/29/16 -Trump threatens to throw people expressing the First Amendments rights of freedom of speech in jail.  (Source: Slate)

11/28/16 - Trump wants to keep some parts of the Affordable Care Act, the good stuff, and do away with other stuff. The problem with this is that what he wants to do away with actually pays for the good stuff. (Source: New York Times)

11/27/16 - Trump continues his tirades on Twitter, acting more like a teenage troll than the future leader of the free world. Clinton and Stein are in their right especially in races that were so close: Wisconsin he won by 0.8 percent, Michigan by 0.2 percent and Pennsylvania by 1.1 percent .... especially, when Russian hacking is expected. (Source: Slate)

11/26/16 - The pile of conflicting interests are piling up. The president may be exempt from conflict of interest laws, but this is more of a question of ethics than it is of law. (Source: New York Times)

11/25/16 - Trump offered Ben Carson the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Carson has no experience in government nor in housing. In his own admission, he is not qualified for a job in the federal government even though he ran for president. (Source: New York Times)

11/24/16 - Happy Thanksgiving 

11/23/16 - Trump will eliminate NASA's climate change research. (Source: The Guardian)

Past Trump logs:
Issue # 1 - posted November 15th, 2016
Issue # 2 - posted November 22nd, 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The First Submarines

Designs of the submarine go back to antiquity, but the first actual useful submarines were not used until the 19th century. The first time a submarine was ever used in combat was in the American Revolution but it failed. It was used again in the War of 1812 but it failed again and the pilot died. In the mid-19th century they were propelled by occupants either by oars or a hand crank, because of this and poor air circulation, the crew were exhausted after using it. In the American Civil War both sides used submarines to deliver mines. They had a small effect on the war effort in the long run. It wasn't until World War I that their impact was significant.

At the beginning of the World War I, submarines were considered nuisances and still not taken seriously. They had a lot of limitations. Being stationed on sub was a miserable experience. They did not have a lot of room. They had a crew of 30 or so and had no room for food. They had to scavenge on islands or get fish by intimidating fishermen. If they ate submerged, the ship smelled of fish. This compounded the usual stench of diesel and body order. The hot engine and the warm bodies contrasted with the cold water on the exterior making for a humid environment, roughly 100 degrees F, much like a tropical jungle. All clothing was wet. They couldn't bathe and had one bathroom which could only be flushed when it was above water or in shallow water. Morale was low due to poor living conditions.

They also had limited tactical advantages. Early submarines were at its most vulnerable when they were submerging. They were defenseless to being rammed by a warship or being fired upon. Buoyancy was highly dependent on temperature and salinity. It was easier and quicker to descend in the Baltic Sea than it was in the North Sea because of this.  Sudden shifts in salinity was dangerous so when a submarine went by a river delta, it would suddenly rise. Sudden shifts in temperature and salinity could make you rise above water and appear in front an enemy destroyer. Also, they weren't sure what they were firing on when they did so. What they could see from a periscope was limited. They had no communication with the outside world because they were often very far from the rest of the fleet.  When they were in radio range, they had to be above water to transmit on the wireless. The captain of the sub was on his own with many of the decisions on whether to fire or not. The subs were packed so tight that when a torpedo was fired, the men would have to shift positions to redistribute the weight that was lost. Torpedoes had a 60% chance of failure and when they did fail, the crew could not tell why it failed.

It wasn't until the sinking of the Lusitania that the submarine was thought be of great use. Before the Lusitania sank, it was thought be impossible for a sub to sink a huge ocean liner.  The U20 German Sub sank it with one torpedo that caused a second explosion that brought it down. No one knows for sure what caused the second explosion. Some think it was carrying a cache of explosives, but there is no proof of this. It was carrying a supply of American made rifles to be delivered to the German's enemy Great Britain but that was the only armaments on board. The explosion was much too small to be a cache of explosives. Another theory was that the first explosion knocked loose coal dust which were ignited. The most official explanation was that a "thermal shock" occurred which is what the Lusitania's captain, William Thomas Turner, opined. This a steam explosion probably caused by the cold sea water entering the boiler room. Regardless, with the land war losing popularity among German citizenry, the new submarine war became very popular.

Of the 1,962 people on the Lusitania, only 764 survived. With the exception of two soldiers on leave, they were all civilians, 128 were Americans. The sinking of ocean liners by German u-boats continued, but this was the first big one and it changed public opinion of the war in the states. I always thought that the President Wilson immediately declared war on Germany after it sank, but it took two more years for the US to declare war. The Lusitania being compared to Pearl Harbor is not a good analogy. By 1917, ships leaving British ports had one in four chance of getting sunk. Who knows how many lives would have been saved if the US had gotten involved earlier.

Most of this information was found in the excellent book: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It's Their Party and I Will Cry If I Want To - Trump Log - Issue # 2

I can think of only one good thing about Trump being our next president, it proves me right. I have been saying for years for how disgusting the Republican party is. I really wish I were wrong. We have white supremacist groups rallying, we have hate crimes on the rise and a potential cabinet of scary monsters.  I don't know what other proof any reasonable person needs to want to wipe this party off the map. If there were any decent Republicans before left the Trump election, I would think they would have left by now. 

 Here is this week's Trump log:

11/22/16 - During the campaign, Trump threatens to eliminate the freedom of the press, one of our core freedom protected in the Bill of Rights. Now that he is president elect, he assembled the main television network's news people for an off-the-record meeting. He says he wants a "cordial" relationship with the press. But that isn't the press's job, is it?  (Source: NPR

11/21/16 - It is clear that Trump will not change and will not start acting presidential. He continues to lash out on Twitter. Over the weekend he lashed out at Saturday Night Live and the cast of the Broadway musical, "Hamilton." (Source: New York Times)

11/20/16 - Trump's nomination for National Security Adviser is General Michael Flynn who seems unhinged. (Source: New York Times)

11/19/16 - Thousands of acres of conservation land could be in jeopardy of being opened to logging, coal mining and oil drilling under Trump's Interior. Do yourself a favor, visit Glacier National Park before it is devastated. (Source: New York Times)

11/18/16 - Trump continues to fill his chambers with deplorables. Jeff Sessions gets nominated for Attorney General. We don't have enough problems with race in this country, but now we're going to have a racist as AG.  Sessions, an ex-Senator, was rejected for a federal court seat in 1986 because he was deemed unfit. (Source: The Guardian)

11/17/16 - Trump campaigned to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). He has since back pedaled and said that he would like to keep some of it, which is good news. But one of things that he plans to do away with is the Medicaid expansion which will hurt the poorest among us.
(Source: New York Times).

11/16/16 -Trump plans to roll bank a good portion of the Dodd-Frank bill which is distressing for two reason. 1) He wants to eliminate the Volcker Rule which is the provision that prevents banks from using your savings for risky investment. The intention of the rule was to help prevent another banking crisis.  2) They want to eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is Senator Warren's baby. It is obvious that they are playing to their base. No, not the poor white people that voted for them, but the millionaires and billionaires ... his real base. (Source: New York Times)

Past Trump logs:
Issue # 1 - posted November 15th, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

The American Interstate Highway System

On family road trips when I was a kid, I would sit up front with my dad. While he was driving, I'd ask him questions about his driving and the road ... why he was putting his directional on or why the yellow line in the road was double sometimes and sometimes not solid.  I would often keep track of state license plates. I'd get excited if I saw one from Alaska or British Columbia. I learned the rules of the road, how to read a map and basically, how to love the road. Also, I learned a few things that I probably shouldn't have like when to high-beam someone or throw them the finger, but most of the stuff I learned was useful. When I see families on road trips now with their DVD players in the car or the kids all looking at their electronic devices, I wonder what is being lost on the American road trip.  I also worry ... what kind of drivers are we producing. I see the results already. They can't even drive without looking at their screens. It is purely an anecdotal observation, but it seems that about half the drivers don't even know the rules of the road. Driving fast in the left lane, passing on the left, not knowing the rules of right-of-way, these aspects of driving seem to be getting lost on the future generation. Maybe, it just won't matter if we're all using self-driving cars soon.

I also mourn the death of downtime. To be alone with your thoughts, staring out the window as the road goes by, the world enfolds ... is this not where creativity is born? Is the lack of boredom producing non-creative adults? That is where creativity comes from is it not, our boredom? If we are never bored, where does the creativity go?

Today, the day I started this blog entry, is the anniversary of our numbered highway system. In 1926, a standardization of numbering highways was adapted. But people don't even understand that. When I was grad school, my favorite class was one of the most challenging. We had to read a novel each week and then write a short story in the style of the novel. We also had to read all our classmates short stories and give feedback each week.  I read a lot that year. I was probably the oldest person in this class. One of the better writers in this class wrote a story based in Texas. In the story, he mentioned Interstate 95 (I95). During the feedback session, I pointed out to him that I95 didn't go through Texas. He said, "How do you know?" I explained to him that there is only one I95 and it runs from Maine to Florida, nowhere near Texas. It occurred to me that most of the people in the class, some very intelligent young people, had no clue about the American highway system.

The US's interstate highway system got underway after the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1957 was passed under President Eisenhower, a Republican president in an era when Republicans weren't against using government to actually get things done. This was attempted a few times before but some other priorities, like World Wars, got in the way. Eisenhower was inspired by a cross country trip he made in a military convoy that took 56 days driving 10 hours a day. This was obviously too long from a military standpoint. If he were attacked on one of the coasts, we would need to get reinforcements cross country quicker than that. Developing the interstate system would also have practical uses for leisure and business. Its construction was considered complete in 1992, but even then parts of interstates 95 and 70 were not contiguous.

Here are some simple rules that will help you on a road trip on the US interstates:
  • Odd numbered routes run north to south (like 95 and 5).  Even numbers run East to West (like 90 and 70). 
  • The numbers run from low to high from West to East with I-5 being on the West Coast running through California, Oregon and Washington State and I-95, as mentioned earlier, runs the entire East Coast. Obviously, if you are driving on one of the I-50's, you are in the middle of the country like Interstate 55 which runs from the Mississippi delta to Chicago.
  • Higher numbers are in north and lower in the south. Interstate 10 runs from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida where it connects to Interstate 95. I90 connects Seattle to Boston (or as they call it in Boston ... the Mass Pike). I've driven on most of this highway.
  • The major routes are below 100.  
  • When the hundred digit is odd (which is called a spur), it connects two major cities or economic centers. Interstate 195 (which connects to Interstate 95) in Providence goes east to Cape Cod and ends. 395 connects Washington DC with Richmond, Virginia.
  • When the hundred digit is an even number, a circumferential, it goes around major cities. 295 goes around Boston. 495 does an event bigger loop around the city and 287 goes around New York City. 
Route 90 is longest at over 3,000 miles. The shortest interstate is interstate 73 which is a little over 12 miles and is entirely within the state of North Carolina which begs the question, why is it an interstate? 

I love our interstate highway system. It is easy to use and allows me and my wife to take road trips across this beautiful country which is one of the joys of my life. I can't imagine how long and complicated driving cross country would be before our interstates. But like all change, it comes with both good and bad and some unexpected consequences  Some cities were unscathed by interstate development, like Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the super highways were developed far way and didn't cut through the city.  Or like Providence, Rhode Island where the highways followed an already existing barrier (like the Providence River).  But some cities were devastated by the highway plowing through their town like I-84 cutting Hartford in half, knocking down mostly homes of African Americans. A similar thing happened to Charlotte, NC, Jacksonville, FL and Birmingham, AL. Some of these cities have never recovered. Some entire neighborhoods were flattened. This hasn't only affected black neighborhoods. The City of Boston used to have a West End. It was mostly an Italian and Jewish neighborhood; this is where actor/photographer Leonard Nimoy hails from. In the 1950's it was destroyed to make way for I-93. The neighborhood still exists but it is mostly commercial buildings now.  If you bought a house to be near your church, when they build a highway between the two with no on-ramp, you were out of luck. Blight ensued. Then the wealthy used these same highways to flee the city and to commute from the suburbs they left it with even bigger problems, no tax bases.

This is something think about when you are looking out the window, not your smart phone screen, on a road trip through an American city. When we look out upon an urban landscape which is mostly blight, just remind yourself, this was done for your convenience. With Trump coming into office, who seems to have little interest in infrastructure, don't expect it to get any better any time soon. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trump Log - Issue #1

It has been a week since the election. Not many historical events have done more in altering my world view.  When I was young, the assassination of John Lennon changed my outlook on life. It reminded me that this shit is real. In my adult life, if the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 did anything to me, it made me ever more skeptical of religion, but this was not earth shattering for me. I was already done with religion. What really changed my world view was the day after 911,  September 12th, 2001. When I saw how my country reacted to the attacks, I knew it was not in the country that I thought I was. The hate, the fear and the rage ... had me questioning my life here and how I fit in, if at all.  While a little of that still lingered, it mostly scabbed over to a point that I could ignore it. The womb opened again last Tuesday. I have a feeling that it is going to be a long four years.

While I am grateful that the American president does not have a lot of power there are a lot of things that he can do that could damage our country and planet for years to come. I am mostly talking about the environment, but the economy and his potential Supreme Court nominations terrify me. 

To keep myself sane, I am limiting myself to one disturbing report per day.  You will find them below. Consider it my Trump log. If I keep this up for the next few years, I will have a nice reference point for you when you are arguing with that racist friend of yours ... or maybe for the toppling of a tyrant.

Trump Log issue #1:

11/15/2016- If the US pulls out of NAFTA, we are supposed to follow WTO rules when dealing with Mexico.  Trump claims that he would ignore this. This would not only devastate the Mexican economy but could result in international sanctions against the US.
(Source: The Guardian)

11/14 - Among Trump's list of possible candidates for Energy Secretary, is an oil billionaire from North Dakota. One of the top priorities will be the repeal of the Obama's Clean Power Plan, an executive order that helps to limit carbon emissions from power plants.
(Source: PBS)

11/13 - Trump names three of his grown children and his son-in-aw to his transition team along with well known white supremacist (aka alt-right) Stephen K. Bannon.
(Source: New York Times)

11/12 - Trump's tax plan is not only bad for everyone except the very rich, but will badly affect charitable giving.
(Source: New York Times)

11/11 - Trump campaigned that he would not have any lobbyist involved in his administration. Three days into his president-electhood he breaks that promise.
(Source: New York Times)

11/10 - Sarah Palin is being considered for a cabinet appointment, possibly Secretary of Interior. We'd have a developer in the White House and an idiot in charge of the National Parks. 
(Source: Slate.com)

11/9 -Myron Ebell is spearheading Trump’s transition plans for the Environmental Protection Agency. He is a well known climate skeptic. You can kiss the Paris agreement good bye ... no America, no China or India either.
(Source: Scientific American)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Message for the Democrats #TakeBackCongress2018 #Hindsight2020

It is fairly obvious that I am not happy about the election this year. Not only do we have a white supremacist as president but his party, the Republican party, has control over both Houses of the Congress. I find this terrifying.  I have said it many times here in this blog that I am not a Democrat because I think they are great. I am a Democrat because the Republican party terrifies me. They are a group of privileged rich people, many of them are racists, many of them are misogynists and many are religious extremists. My wife says to me often, so-and-so isn't so bad and I reply, if he/she wasn't so bad they would have left that party long ago. The last Republican I voted for was in 2000, Jim Jeffords, and he quit the GOP the very next year. Currently, our president-elect believes that global warming is a plot invented by China. Our our vice president elect doesn't believe in evolution. Trump's cabinet nominations are rolling in and they are just making me want to put a blanket over my head and roll up into a ball.

So who is to blame?  Blame is spread widely. Ultimately, the voters are to blame. I blame each and every voter who voted for Trump. Yes, I know people are hurting and anxious, but that doesn't excuse voting for this monster. I throw most of my invective your way. The poor will be the people hurt most by his administration and if you voted for him, you deserve it. I also blame the Never Hillary people. Johnson and Stein are not options when there is a chance that Trump could (and did) get elected. I know Hillary was not an ideal candidate.  Having her as a president would be a headache, but I will always choose a headache over an infectious disease. Trump is an infectious disease and now he has a bully pulpit to spread his vitriol. I also blame the people who didn't vote. Apathy is a problem. If just a small number of these people showed up in key states (Florida, Ohio or North Carolina) and voted for Hillary Clinton, we wouldn't have this pig as a president. 

I also blame the Democrats. The Democratic National Committee put their finger on the scale for Hillary. Bernie Sanders would have been a better candidate to beat Trump. His past is squeaky clean and he had enthusiastic young voters behind him. Hillary did get more votes than Trump in this election, but there was a huge enthusiasm gap. Hillary lawn signs and bumper stickers were nowhere to be found. I know that Hillary beat him by 3 million votes, but how close would it have been if the DNC didn't schedule the debates on Saturdays when nobody watches television. The culture of disdain for Sanders at the DNC badly affected his ability to get his message out and to fund raise. I am also disappointed with some of my local politicians. Living in Vermont, I expected my local politicians to support Sanders as Super Delegates. Some of them didn't. Some of them were high profile Dems. My Senator, Patrick Leahy, voted against Sanders.  If Leahy runs again in 2022, I will be voting for a third party candidate. Howard Dean voted against Sanders.

This is a big deal. It is possible that Trump will get four Supreme Court nominees in the next four year. Scalia's spot is still open (thanks the Republican incompetence in the Congress) and we have three Supreme Court Justices that are over 70 years old. Any or all three of them could die by the time Trump is gone.  Think of that for a moment. Liberal complacency needs to stop.  Everything we've worked for over the last 40 years, could be wiped out here.  Good bye abortion rights, good bye any chance to reform voting rights and welcome back Jim Crow.

I usually don't vote for a third party candidate because they usually don't have a chance to win. The idea to vote for the person that will beat the Republican. But since the Democrats are so incompetent that they can't even beat a racist pig with no government experience, they have made it clear that they can't win either. So I might as well vote for someone in the Green Party. Democrats, consider yourself on notice. If you don't take the Senate back, at least, in 2018, you are dead to me. The first thing that Trumps does that is considered an impeachable offense, you better act on it. I don't want to see his name on the ballot in 2020.  In 2020, we will remember how we felt in November 2016. Hindsight is 20/20. #Hindsight2020

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Please Let Me Know If You Voted for Trump So That I Can Stop Being Your Friend

I may know who some of you are, but since I was not in the voting booth with you, if you are a friend of mine please let me know me know if you voted for Trump. I need to stop being your friend. This is something that I have been thinking about for a while. At some point, it occurred to me that some of the people I care for supported this man for the Presidency of the United States of America. Arguing about the subject stopped yesterday.

I never liked Trump. I only thought he looked like a fool and was an extremely privileged man but I didn't give him much thought at all.  But, like everyone else, I've gotten to know him since he started running for president. I have grown to know him as a white supremacist, a misogynist and a fear monger. Also, his vice president, Mike Pence, believes that homosexuality is a sickness. I am writing this today, the morning after the election. I have many emotions. None of them are positive.

I feel angry that I live in a country that is far more racist and misogynist than I thought. I feel anxiety as what this means for our future, for our Supreme Court, for our environment, but mostly for my friends. Oh not for the friends that voted for Trump, but for my black friends, for my Hispanic friends, for my Muslim friends and gay friends. This morning I see a lot of grief. I see friends reaching out for immigration lawyers because they fear for the status of a loved one. I see people wondering what to tell their kids, now that we have a president that hates them or hates their friends.  Mostly I see people who are scared and you, who voted for Trump, caused this.

Perhaps I should have acted earlier. Perhaps I should have been more clear earlier how unacceptable your behavior was. I apologize if I wasn't more clear but here I am now and .... I am through with you.

I am not being a sore loser. If we were in 4th grade, this term might apply. We are adults and I have been through many elections where my candidate lost. I was a big supported of Al Gore in the 2000 election. You didn't disgust me when you supported W; we simply disagreed. It is not a matter of just disliking Trump. It is a matter of him representing everything that is wrong with the world: ignorance, hate, unchecked privilege, fear mongering and animosity among others. If you want this person to be the most power person on the planet, then obviously you were not the person I thought you were when we made friends. 

You don't have to make a drama about.  Just drop me a line if you voted for Trump.  I promise you it will be quick and we won't ever have to talk to each other again.