Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Discovering "Hot Jupiter" Exoplanets Using CUTE (Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment )

Hot Jupiter illustration
Artist's depiction of vaporization of a Jupiter-sized exoplanet



In our solar system, there are no "hot Jupiters". The only Jupiter we know is a frigid (-161 C) gas giant:
Jupiter and its shrunken Great Red Spot.jpg
It is some 86,000 miles in (mean) diameter, and at a distance of 5.2 AU (778 million km) from the Sun.   Given that semi-major axis distance then by Kepler's 3rd law of planetary motion, the orbital period would be 11. 86 years.

But now consider another, distant solar system which features a "hot Jupiter" as an exoplanet.  A hot Jupiter is a giant gaseous planet that orbits close to its parent star, at times taking only a couple of days to complete a trip compared to the 88 days it takes Mercury to orbit the Sun.  How close would a planet have to be to its Sun to complete an orbit in 2 days? By  Kepler's 3rd law:

3 = P 2



Where P = 0.006 yr.  So:  a = [P 21/3   =   0.033 AU

Or, just over 3 million miles distant, which is approximately 12 times closer to its Sun than Mercury is in our own solar system.  At this close distance the parent star would dump 400 times more radiation into the nearby planet, superheating it. This would then cause the planet's atmospheric gas and particles to move ever faster until they exceed the escape velocity, shooting out of the large planet’s gravitational pull.  This would be represented by the depiction shown in the graphic.

Now introduce the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment or CUTE, a shoebox-sized satellite equipped with a telescope that will launch in 2020. Its objective will be to study 12 to 20 exoplanets:  gigantic gaseous planets called “hot Jupiters,” which have evaporating atmospheres trailing behind them akin to a comet.

In February, NASA allocated $3.3 million of funding for four years to the CUTE project. CUTE will leave the lab at University of Colorado-Boulder where it is being built in 2020 to hitch a ride to space along with another NASA mission. It will still be operated from the CU campus — with the help of students — as it hangs in low orbit around Earth for a year, studying “hot Jupiters.”

If it goes well, the CUTE team will ask NASA for approval to continue the research.  The candidates sought as hot Jupiters will have certain signatures for sure. The CUTE team will seek evidence for a
planet which becomes big and puffy and  continues trucking around its star as stellar wind drags the atmosphere into a tail.

Hot Jupiters aren’t found in our solar system because no gas giants are found any nearer our Sun than Jupiter at 5.2 AU..  Our space neighborhood doesn’t even have the most common planet in the Milky Way: a "Super-Earth", or a sub-Neptune as some call it. This is a planet that’s a little bit larger by volume,  and a bit more massive than Earth.

The hot Jupiter phenomenon was first discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope.  But no such entity has ever been photographed a hot Jupiter, The discovery is made by the indirect light curve method, e.g.
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 Thus, any planet that passes in front of its Sun blocks most of the light. But scientists have (in this caae0 noticed times when a planet had already passed its star but the light continued to be partially blocked, as though something was trailing it. This tipped researchers off to the planets’ tails.

The CUTE team includes Kevin France - the project leader and assistant professor at the CU Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and other LASP researchers. The latter include professional research assistant Rick Kohnert, engineers and several graduate students. CU’s Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences research professor Brian Fleming is also part of the team.

Outside of CU, the CUTE team includes researchers from the University of Arizona, the Space Research Institute of the American Academy of Science in Graz, Austria, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, the University of Toulouse, France, and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
When asked if the CUTE acronym was intentional, one team leader (France)  let out an extended “yeah” and then started to laugh.

When casual observers ask 'what's it all for'?  France and his team deliver a solid, coherent responose - as articulated by Keven France himself:

"All of exoplanetary science is about understanding our place in the universe. It ties into all of those big picture questions. Are we alone? Is Earth unique? Are there other solar systems like ours?"

The CUTE project will go a long way toward answering many of those questions.

Accounting For Male Sexual Harassment: A Return To Simpleton Theory

Image result for Gayle King Shocked face image
"I'm still in shock. That is not the man I know." So said Gayle King after Charlie Rose was suspended from CBS for harassment.

As the eruption of sexual harassment allegations and accusations continues, they have now claimed long time PBS interviewer and CBS news anchor Charlie Rose. Rose, after a Washington Post expose, has been accused not only of groping of various female underlings (especially in connection with his PBS show)  but also prancing around in the nude while they were working at one or more of his homes.

The reports  obviously flabbergasted CBS Early Show  co-hosts Nora O'Donnell and Gayle King, with Gayle even exclaiming on yesterday's show: "I am still reeling and barely slept last night. This is just not the man I know.:

Hmmmm....."not the man she knows"  but that elicits the question of whether she really knew Rose at all. She may have thought or believed she did, but her reaction discloses she really didn't. If this is so then it must be possible for people - not just men - to present differing faces or personas at different times, in different conditions. How these different personas get triggered should therefore be a matter of interest to us all.

Twenty-six years ago Neuroscientist Robert Ornstein, in his book The Evolution of Consciousness, Prentice-Hall, 1991, used  a novel "simpleton" model to account for radically divergent personality attributes and behavior. His central premise was that human behavior is a confluence of the new brain (neocortex) as well as a more recent ape-jackal brain (mesocortex) and an ancient reptile brain (paleo cortex).   The latter has also been called "the lizard brain". 

Ornstein associated specific modes of behavior with particular neuronal sub-assemblies to assign relatively distinct units of dominant behavior. He called these sub-units "simpletons".  The operational functioning of a human brain then was essentially the result of the interaction of these sub-assemblies or simpletons, e.g.

{H} = [A] + [P] + [L] + [R] + .[D].......

where [A] = Altruistic, [P] = Playful ,[L] = lustful, [R] = reflective, [D] = Dominating  and so on.

A dozen or more such "simpletons" may "inhabit" each human brain - and come to the fore if the correct stimulus appears. Thus, a "hostile-aggressive" simpleton may appear if one is cut off in a lane of traffic, or is chewed out by one's boss. A "lust" simpleton may appear for any number of stimuli-images which I won't bother to detail, but which anyone can imagine. A "caring-loving" simpleton may appear in response to words of endearment, or an affectionate hug from one's spouse, or child. A "comic" simpleton may appear spontaneously - and proceed to play a practical joke, or take a humorous perspective on everything for the time it is "in control".

Ornstein points out that many humans "require time to get their simpletons in place" for particular situations. A father of two young children may need a half hour or more after he arrives home from work to "chill out" to allow his hostile-aggressive simpleton to depart, to make way for the "loving-caring" simpleton that can address his children's needs without yelling at them, criticizing them or swatting them. Far better, as Ornstein indicates, to allow decompression time for a simpleton change, than to invite disaster. Ornstein argues that if a person makes any kind of effort - he or she can identify most of the simpletons at work in their personality, and learn to recognize them - and bring a desired one on when the situation calls for it. (As in the case of the father above).

What does all this tell us about the human brain? First of all, that it's extremely complex. In fact, the brain is not "one" but three: composed of a neocortex (center of abstract thought), a mesocortex, and a paleocortex (wherein emotions, instincts, lust and territoriality reside). The interplay between one or more of these parts - as well as between what Ornstein calls the "thought circuit" and "emotion circuit" can bring a particular simpleton into play. Often changing simpletons - say from "hostile-aggressive" to "caring"-   is not easy, because the thought and emotion circuits are nearly detached from one another (the former localized in the neocortex, the latter in the limbic system-hypothalamus). This lack of "communication" is the cause of endless problems or misunderstandings in human social interactions.

Because of the intervention of simpletons,  Ornstein has observed that morality and justice meted out often run into complications. This may be because:

i) The typical human is not one steady, stable persona (identity) but up to a dozen or more co-habiting the brain, with more or less equal power shared.

ii) For a given misdeed or crime, which simpleton (brain sub-system) do you hold accountable? If you hold the whole person accountable you are perhaps assuming more than is warranted by our current brain architecture and its dynamic interplay.

After all, why should one's WHOLE self be held accountable because the Lust simpleton briefly got out of control? Or because one's murderous-rage simpleton did?

The answer is that for society to function, as Ornstein notes, it needs to hold the whole person responsible, even if only one part of his collective simpletons was the perpetrator. Sophisticated brain discrimination, say to parse the origin of specific immoral actions, is simply not at the level needed to identify individual simpletons, guilty of the specific misdeed.. (Though obviously, say in a case of rape, a lust simpleton can be brought under control by chemical castration).

Other conclusions also arise:

i) Humans possess no constant or persistent self, but a gaggle of competing "selves" (simpletons) any one of which can seize control at any given time. Thus, the concept of a fixed personality is a fiction or artificial construction.

ii) For a truly genuine concept of "free will" one therefore needs to look not just at a person's acts, but the interplay at the time for his different selves. In other words, how does the presence of multiple selves within a person alter the concept of free will at its core? 


None of this, obviously, is meant to excuse the behavior of a Charlie Rose, a Roy Moore, a Harvey Weinstein or anyone else accused of serious sexual transgressions.  What it is meant to show is that it is preposterous to assert after the fact: "That wasn't the person I knew".  Of course not, because the "person" you thought you were interacting with was merely one of many simpletons governing that individual's neuro-dynamic.  The "person" is not an integral unit but comprised of disparate selves called simpletons. In the case of all the  serial male sexual harassers a specific simpleton combination ([L] + [D]) dictated their actions with respect to those they abused. Superficial observers were often shocked on seeing the first reports of their abuse because the only simpletons they'd ever seen previously were "normal" ones, not the [L] and [D} combo.

Ornstein's simpleton theory is something to keep in mind as this tsunami of abuse and harassment allegations continues and especially if assorted people exclaim: "That was not the guy I knew!"

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/david-swanson/76362/are-tweets-making-everyone-twits

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

One End Of Life Care Decision You Better Not Get Wrong

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Reading the posts in the prostate cancer survivor group to which I belong is sometimes enough to get you depressed for days. And that's why I only read them now occasionally, especially as the cryotherapy results are still ambiguous in terms of getting rid of my cancer. Some of the more depressing posts are made by those who've already gone through three or even four treatments only to have the cancer return. By that point many are exhausted and this is downright understandable. Why keep going on if it looks like I'm going to lose the battle anyway?

The medical complex, of course, wants (and often demands) we go on until there is essentially zero chance of changing the game. Hence, they regard the palliative option as failure, even though added treatments may only marginally increase life - but usually at the expense of life quality. (E.g. hormone treatments for advanced prostate cancer can increase life by 1-3 years but usually with side effects including: memory loss, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, enlarged and tender breasts, shrunken testicles, zero libido and hot flashes such as suffered by menopausal females.).  Most do agree that if a guy has recurrent disease and a biopsy shows it has spread to the bones ("bone mets"), his days are basically numbered - though certain treatments (e.g. Radium 223 or "Xoftigo") will allow some limited life extension.
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The PET scan image above shows bone mets even in the spine. Each met is in reality a locus of prostate cancer.  Most oncologists examining this image would say the guy's days are numbered and the best option is just to make his final months- days comfortable, say with hospice care.

When, in June 2016,  I confronted my primary care physician and told her -  after the latest PSA test came back at 6.0 - that I planned to do nothing more, she asked what options I had. The first thing that came to mind was hospice care.  She wouldn't hear of it. Short of strapping me down to the exam table and coercing me, she said I HAD to see the urologist and listen to what he said concerning the latest MRI results .  "What's wrong with hospices?"  I asked, incredulous.  She replied, "Nothing, IF you manage to get one that tends to your needs and has the staff to meet them".

At the time, though I believed this was balmy, I did comply with her urging and went on to get a 3D staging biopsy at UCHealth in January of 2017, then focal cryotherapy in June of this year.

It wasn't until yesterday, in the latest TIME magazine (Nov.27-Dec. 4, p. 50) I came across the hair raising accounts of what can go awry under hospice care in the article 'Hospices Promise Peace At The And But Many Don't Deliver'.  It started with the horrific story of a 66-year old who chose hospice care at Mat-Su Regional Home Health and Hospice Care in Alaska, and when he needed it most, couldn't even get pain meds or a catheter.  According to the piece:

"Patricia had enrolled her husband in hospice when the metastatic prostate cancer reached his brain."

(If you check the PET scan image above you will see the black mets in one patient's brain, taken from a UCSF study)

Continuing (ibid.):

"She expected him to receive the same kind of compassionate, timely attention that he had given his own patients. But Bob had the misfortune to require care during a long holiday weekend when hospices are too often short-staffed to fulfill written commitments to families. The consequences, as documented through a review of written documents and interviews are dire."

In the case of Dr. Robert E. Martin "it took six days and many calls before he received the liquid methadone he needed"

To add insult to injury:

"The Hospice denied Patricia's request for a catheter and she and her son had to cut away Bob's urine-soaked clothing and bedding, trying not to cause him additional pain. A nurse who was supposed to visit never showed up, saying she was called for jury duty. The supervising hospice doctor never responded. Bob dies just after midnight on Jan. 4, 2014."

So in effect, this is what my PCP was trying to spare me, or at least the chance of ending up in such a place by having to play "Hospice roulette".    This, despite the fact - as the article points out - the Martins had entrusted Bob's care "to one of the nation's 4,000 -plus hospice agencies which pledge to tend to a dying person's physical, emotional and spiritual needs."

Can you say travesty? I can!  Some facts pertaining to hospices in the US of A extracted from the article:

- Hospice is currently a nearly $20 billion a year business which serves 1.4 million Medicare patients (including over a third of Americans who died the same year as Bob)

- The mission of hospice is to leave patients and their loved ones in control at the end of life.

- Hospice care is available through Medicare to critically ill patients expected to die within 6 months who agree to forgo curative treatment.

- To get paid by Medicare hospice agencies must lay out a plan of care for each patient, snsuring they'll treat all symptoms of the patient's illness and be on call 24/7.

- Hospices must stipulate in each patient's care plan what services will be provided, when and by whom and update the plan every 15 days.

-  Hospices are licensed by state health agencies and subject to oversight by federal Medicare officials and private accreditation groups.

- Though many people think of hospice as a site where people go to die, nearly half of hospice patients receive care at home.  (This was the case for my mother who died of Alzheimer's in November of 2014.)

The above basically outlines the game plan of how the hospice system is supposed to work and what underpins it in terms of the regulations. (Which you can be sure will be upended if the GOOPs tax plan goes through and Medicare is cut to the tune of $25b a year).

For example, an investigation by Kaiser Health News in collaboration with TIME "analyzed 20,000 government inspection records, revealing that missed visits and neglect were common."


In fact, "families or caregivers filed over 3,200 complaints with state officials in the past five years. These led government inspectors to find problems in 759 hospices - with more than half cited for missed visits or other services they had promised to provide."

Though CMS tightened the rules in 2014 - requiring states to increase their oversight and records reporting by 2018 - the hospices don't face inspection each year to retain certification. Indeed, the only sanction now is termination and "CMS records show that the termination is rare".   SO basically there is little or no accountability and hospice staff will figure they can still get paid by Medicare (which they do) even if the cut corners, fail to provide needed services - or even alter records (as one hospice nurse reportedly did - p. 53 - altering the time she had reported being at a home).

Without  stricter regs, and enforcement, we are thus facing a hospice care environment run by too many renegades.

Why should you care? Well, if you give one damn about how much money is now being spent on elder care in the last years, this is a no brainer.  As one salon.com writer (Josh Zepps) wrote in a 2016 'We The People Live' podcast:

Medicare costs more than $500 billion per annum, 30 percent of which is spent on the five percent of beneficiaries who die each year. One third of that is spent on the final month of life. The final month. I mean, you want to talk about priorities, let’s just take that one datum. More than $50 million each year spent on the final month of life.

But - can he or anyone else blame seniors for grasping on to the curative straw at the end of their days, if the hospice situation means playing roulette?   (As the TIME article notes, p. 52: "1 in 5 respondents said their hospice agency did not always show up when help was needed according to the Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems'")

So - though I am leery of spending any more money on prostate cancer treatments - especially if the latest treatment result goes south I am not about to risk going the way of "Dr. Bob" in Alaska playing hospice roulette - and not even being able to get a Foley catheter when needed. No, I will stick on the curative - treatment path so long as warranted (by my PCP, urologist and others).

A waste of money? Maybe. But if that's the case - and it likely is for many hundreds of thousands  - then we need to fix the damned hospice system so severely ill patients (and their families) can feel confident going that palliative route!


Monday, November 20, 2017

Selected Questions -Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (Earth flares?)

Question: For the past several yeas I have observed brilliant, colorful flashes in the sky and I have formed a hypothesis that these are Earth flares. Flares similar to the Sun's but occurring on Earth. What do you think of this hypothesis?

Answer:

It is quite possible, though you haven't clarified the atmospheric conditions, that what you've been observing are electrical discharges called "sprites", e.g.

Image result for sprites atmosphere

According to a Wikipedia entry: "Sprites are large-scale electrical discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, or cumulonimbus, giving rise to a quite varied range of visual shapes flickering in the night sky. They are triggered by the discharges of positive lightning between an underlying thundercloud and the ground."

In contrast, what we call flares are detected as explosive eruptions on the Sun (solar flares)  in which a vast amount of magnetic potential energy ("free energy") is stored  until released by a process called magnetic reconnection. Technically speaking one need not have magnetic reconnection to qualify for a flare. However, one would need to have at least a magnetic mirror system in place, and this should include structures called double layers, which basically act like capacitors to store electrical energy across large potential drops.

If the voltage drop is large enough, one can observe flare conditions. According to Alfven ('Cosmic Plasma', 1981), any double layers within regional "separators" will explode before a saturation level of current is reached such that:


I_s = [V(b) – V(D)] / R


where V(b) = L(dI/dt) + RI

with L the inductance, and I the current, R the resistance and the flare power can be estimated using:

(P) = I V(D)


where V(D) is the voltage across the double layer. The problem with the Earth flare hypothesis is that it is impossible to see how a magnetic mirror system would operate for it, given the low altitudes at which the phenomenon appeared to be seen by the observer(s) you cite. No magnetic mirrors, no likely Earth flares!

Also, you stated having formed a hypothesis but merely making observations and then a conjecture based on them does not constitute such. What are the key elements of it? How will you test it? What indicators for the test will show the phenomenon is an Earth flare? What observations will you require to support that? What observations will falsify it? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for an "Earth flare" to occur or exist?

Right now, all you really have is a constellation of peculiar observations or anomalies to which you have attached some significance or physical meaning via intuition (for lack of a better word) but devoid of any formal measurements you yourself have performed. When you perform those measurements, or at least publish the photographs of the assorted phenomena (YOU have taken), I will be more inclined to take "Earth flares" as something substantive and distinct and not merely another UFO manifestation.

Again, 'UFO' is not intended as a putdown, but a simple statement of fact of what you actually have here, minus any compelling data of your own or photos, measurements. These latter might enable a more quantitative basis for analysis and even working out a model for your "Earth flare".

Even if you can't provide a model, you should still be able to at least hypothesize based on observations-data that you yourself obtain. It is all very well to go back to historic sightings, magnetic records, but these still don't make the case that an entity such as an "Earth flare" really exists.

Note also when one uses the term "flare" one means something specific in a context of rapid emission of energy. This applies to every case for a genuine solar flare or what we understand by such.  I see no comparable basis to make a similar claim for Earth  flares.

I encourage you to keep on with your observations of assorted optical phenomena.  In one of my original papers I referred to "transient optical phenomena of the atmosphere" - which paper you might find useful to read, e.g.

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1980JRASC..74..168S

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jon Caldara Tries To Use Skewed "Gun Math" To Defend AR-15s And Other Semi-Automatics

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Jon Caldara is at it again, in his recent (Nov. 12) Denver Post op-ed ('The Assault Weapon Attack On Math') in which he attempts to diminish the impact of semi-automatic weapons based on the much more prolific stats of killings by other means.

He first cites the 374 "killed by rifle" last year -but points out it is only a small fraction of the 11,004 total killed by "firearms". In other words, 10, 630 were killed by handgun - not rifle So his argument is the media attention to semi-automatic weapons is skewed. He then goes on with:

"Shouldn’t there be over four times the media coverage on the 1,604 people killed with knives last year? Some 472 were killed with blunt instruments like clubs and hammers, some of which had polymer, not wood, handles. And nearly twice as many people were killed with hands, fists and feet?"

Err no, because you are mixing chalk and cheese. Human homicides - given the variety of circumstances (and potential weapons available)-  will always show a diversity of usage, of instrument. But that diversity of assorted killing instruments does not refute the fact that semi-automatic (and  automatic) rifles are an anomaly in terms of the Second Amendment.  By that I mean the authors could no more have imagined such weapons than they could imagine Space Shuttles.

The informal fallacy employed by Caldara is the ignoratio elenchi fallacy also known as irrelevant conclusion. This is the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid, but fails nonetheless to address the issue in question. The issue in question here before us is whether semi-automatic or automatic rifles are truly allowed under the provisions of the 2nd amendment as originally interpreted.  More on this later.

Even on its own logical terms, Caldara's arguments can be challenged, say in terms of  "the proportion of the mode of killing dictates media and legal attention."  Hence, if the proportion of kills by an assault rifle is low - say compared to other modes of killing - it should receive less attention (including legal) and the others more. Never mind more people can be killed at one time, as we beheld in Vegas.  But if this argument were solid, then - in the arena of air accidents- the FAA would do little or nothing in the way of investigation after plane crashes in which 50 - 60 were killed (say matching the numbers mowed down in the Orlando and Las Vegas mass shootings.)  But the fact is they take such plane crashes very seriously and go over everything - including recovering black boxes. This despite the fact that in the tragic sphere of accidental deaths many more people (37,000) are killed in auto crashes each year., or lightning strikes - as Caldara references.

The takeaway is that single events in which many dozens of people are killed bespeak such anomaly that they cannot be ignored or minimized. This is even more crucial when human motivation is behind the mass killing, i.e. in the case of use of semi-automatic or automatic rifles -  weapons putatively allowed under the 2nd amendment. This is exactly why Australia, after its April 1996  Port Arthur, Tasmania massacre, bought and destroyed more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms. This was in a scheme that cost half a billion dollars and was funded by raising Aussie taxes.  In other words,  they took this mass shooting deadly seriously. They didn't diminish its import by false analogy or conflating with other types of killing, e.g. by knives, fists, etc.

Recall that  FDR's Solicitor General framed the argument to the Supreme Court thusly:

"The Second Amendment grants people a right that is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only exists where the arms are borne in a militia or some other military organization provided by law and intended for protection of the State."

The SC decision was unanimous in agreeing with that take..

While this sane interpretation prevailed for several more decades, it started to unravel by the 1970s. Then various Right wing groups coalesced to challenge gun control based on spurious "private gun ownership" interpretations, and successively overturned laws in state legislatures.  This despite the fact then Justice Warren Burger had clearly stated this later interpretation was "one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

Well, it's good Justice Burger didn't live to see the arrival of semi-automatic weapons and the claim that the 2nd amendment provided for the ownership of those too! A cockeyed notion that has been pumped by the NRA ever since, more recently with the batshit crazy ad that "your man card is reissued". If you need an AR- 15 to be a man, then decidedly you've a long way to go to reach that phase.

Caldara also tries to muddy the waters regarding the use of semi-automatics vs. automatics  as when he writes:

"There’s no better example of the media’s ability to emotionally bait an issue out of all mathematical proportion than that of “assault rifles". Lett’s clarify again what most reporters don’t, likely since it runs counter to their anti-gun bias. Very, very few people own assault rifles. They are nearly impossible to get due to the limited supply and regulatory burden to get one. An assault weapon is capable of firing several rounds of ammunition with one pull of the trigger. What is falsely reported as an assault rifle is just an average semi-automatic rifle, where only one round is fired with every trigger pull. "

This bit of sophistry ignores a number of hard facts, and hence makes it easy for those not rifle savvy to gloss over his claims. For reference let me quote part of a WSJ article dealing with the AR-15 (Caldara's semi-automatic rifle) published on 12/9/15. It noted:

"The AR-15 re-cocks itself immediately after firing. The only thing keeping the gun from firing again on its own is a sear, a piece inserted in the gun that stops the cycle from continuing. By replacing the sear and a few other key components, an AR-15 can be made fully automatic."

Note then that although Caldara glosses over it, the AR-15 is not any old  single shot rifle, certainly not like the bolt action rifle I used to own and fire when I lived in New Orleans. In other words, it took time - measured in seconds - to work the bolt action to fire again, it did not "immediately re-cock itself after firing"  There IS a qualitative difference. My argument is that if any Founders could be brought back to inspect either type of rifle - and how it works - they'd more surely side with my old bolt action as the one allowed under their  2nd amendment, but not the AR-15.
In Murdock, FL, ca. May, 1986, with an AR-15. 

Once more I am not an anti-gun nut. I have owned and used rifles and fired off shotguns as well in target practice.  (Including in 1968 in New Orleans when testing the "jet effect" nonsense peddled by JFK conspiracy deniers). However, I've never owned anything semi-automatic, or with multi-capacity clips.  This is all by way of full disclosure.  My sticking point here is how the Founders themselves would have interpreted semi-automatics like the AR 15 under the 2nd amendment.

Unlike the whacko contingent of gun owners, I also don't believe the 2nd amendment gives people the "right" to own rocket propelled launchers, bazookas, .50 caliber anti-aircraft guns, or military assault type weapons - capable of mass slaughter. The Second Amendment authors - inhabiting a world where single load muskets were the rule - would have been flabbergasted to see the extent to which their amendment had been misconstrued today, such as by the NRA and their denizens.

As for Caldara's nitpicking about the difference between semi-automatics and automatics, let's just say it is tweedledum vs. tweedledee. As Stephen Paddock showed, one only needs to include a LEGAL bump stock to effectively transform a semi-automatic into a functional automatic. One doesn't  need to be a genius or legal guru to understand the enhanced efficiency and lethality when a bump stock is affixed to a normal semi-automatic.

The argument that the new high powered rifles - such as AR-15s, and Bushmaster .223s are entitled to be owned as a "right" is just plain bollocks. No, you can own a true single shot 30.06  bolt action as a right, because it's a legit rifle with which to go out hunting. You can own a .22  bolt action as a right, and it does a nice job of killing small game especially if you use hollow points.  But you don't need semi-automatic weapons, or AK 47s

Even  though I don't believe the 2nd justifies such powerful weapons, I do acknowledge our laws have been distorted over decades and realize that  - once the horse has escaped the barn- it is difficult if not impossible to get it back in. Thus, I am not for banning such guns, but properly regulating them, using a national registry system such as adopted in Australia and similar to what we already have for auto vehicle ownership. Thus you receive your gun owner ID with photo, and registration number (with serial nos., of all weapons) entered in a national (or state) database and computer -connected to the Homeland Security fusion centers across the country.

Once any mass shooting then occurs, the fusion centers will instantly be able to pick up on the serial number(s) of the weapon(s)  used, the perp and his background. No fuck ups as with the military not reporting certified psychos to the FBI for the current national database.  At that point of infraction in the new system,  the perp is facing justice - if not meted out at the scene - and his gun license permanently revoked.  I would also assert licenses need to be revoked for reckless actions, such as target practicing on trees  (near camp sites) as occurred near Pike National Forest several years ago.

That father, shot in the head, would still be alive today with his family had stringent registration requirements been in effect. Those would have deterred the gun crazy lunatics from firing their Bushmasters in a forest- near camping grounds.


See also: 'What Jon Caldara Gets Wrong About Assault Weapons':

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/11/17/what-jon-caldara-gets-wrong-about-assault-weapons/
 

Moral Scolds Will Try To Take Sen. Al Franken Down - But They Will Lose


In any eruption of moral indignation - justifiable or not - there will always exist scolds who play the game of false equivalence: equating one brand of misdeed (say Roy Moore's groping of under-aged girls) with a comedian's skylarking before he even became a Senator. That latter refers to the case of Sen. Al Franken, recently "exposed" by Leeann Tweeden in a photo showing a comic "hands on breasts" photo taken while she was sleeping - on the way to an overseas gig (USO tour) for the troops.   MSNBC’s Capitol Hill Correspondent Kasie Hunt reported to viewers that Franken was “not actually groping” Tweeden, he was "mock groping" as in barely placing mitts over her chest to create a joke image.  There is a difference, but one wonders how many will process it before going ape shit hysterical.

But that hasn't stopped Left scolds like Amanda Marcotte - in her latest salon.com piece- to call on Franken to resign and "take one for the team" just in case this is all a Reepo dirty trick. According to Marcotte "if this is a political stunt then the people behind it surely want Franken to stay" adding "every day Franken remains in the Senate as  visible symbol of liberal hypocrisy, Republicans get a free pass to grope, harass and abuse women."  This cowardly willingness and pseudo-moralistic pose would be bad enough but then she expects nothing to come from robust Dem or media defense of Franken and distinguishing it from Trump's and Moore's antics, writing: "Any effort by Democrats or journalists to hold them accountable will be met with 'what about him?'  

So Marcotte would wave the white flag of surrender, like your typical surrender monkey, before even firing a shot - or in her case "digging in a heel". How pathetic! But as Bill Maher put it this evening such a move is a non-starter, and if Repukes do play that game it's on them. And if they try to use Franken's case to justify more groping we HOLD THEM To ACCOUNT!  We don't turn tail, cry and whine how terrible the Reepo bullies and exploiters are. WE KNOW THAT! Truth be told, Marcotte ought to be ashamed for even writing such tripe.

But it is possible we can make some allowances for her based on unresolved, deep-seated anger issues and neuroticism.  She's already been called out on a different issue by LA Times blogger Charlotte Allen who cited a "hilariously off-the-wall -- earlier Slate post of hers in which she, citing a sociological study, denounced the idea of cooking for your husband and children as an imposition on women’s time, money and emotional well-being."    Marcotte claimed:  “The main reason that people see cooking mostly as a burden is because it is a burden. It's expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food anyway,”  Her post originally bore the title “The Tyranny of the Home-Cooked Family Dinner".   Tyranny?  Methinks she needs a chill pillSo does Ms. Allen who adds:

"Marcotte is known all over the blogosphere for her virulent tirades against almost everybody she deems to harbor sexist misogyny -- and that’s a lot of people."

This elicits the question of whether she suffers from "noisy kettle" neurosis  (my niece Shayl's term): always 'whistling' in order to be heard over everyone else by writing the most atrocious, despicable attack posts.  If this is the case, and I'd like to give her the benefit of the doubt (despite how she went after Bernie's people last year),  maybe we can just ignore this particular whistle over Franken.

Look, no one is asserting Franken - back in his comedian past- was doing any noble action in this USO incident, and yeah, it disrespected Tweeden. But it is emphatically NOT on the level of what the Alabamy slime ball Roy Moore has been accused of doing, including to a young girl of 14. Anyone who tries to mate those two things on a moral spectrum is guilty of false equivalence. It is also up to those of us capable of critical thinking to make that distinction clear, not to confound it by playing into the Reepos' false equivalence hands like Amanda Marcotte would like to do.

But you can be sure in the current climate of #MeToo, there will be many who make an effort to brand Franken with a red letter for "misogynist" or worse, and even attempt to drive him from the Senate in an "ethics committee investigation".  Franken himself, obviously hoping to be pre-emptive, has called for such an investigation. But as Michelle Goldberg put it on 'All In' last night:

"What does that even mean to investigate a sitting Senator before he became a Senator?

Well, no one seems to know, and even Steve Kornacki - appearing on Rachel Maddow last night-  couldn't recall a single instance where that ever happened.  But one thing we DO know is that there once was a Repuke House member (David Vitter) who was involved in a D.C. prostitution ring, and actually WON a seat in the Senate. My beef then: if a so-called "ethics committee" was fine with overlooking that:  they also need to overlook (in the sense of forcing expulsion)  Franken's one off transgression now. Not to do so is to flagrantly accept a double standard.

And again, what Franken did is in no way comparable to what Vitter did, let's get that straight. We have to because in the midst of the cumulative clouds of high moral dudgeon it is easy to lose sight of perspective. Without moral perspective everything becomes relative ("one act is as bad as another"), and also everything becomes absolute-  in the sense that the groping of bare breast or pussy by a Dotard is judged absolutely equal to the mock groping (and rehearsed deep kiss) by a Franken.

For sure,  politicians who acknowledge frequenting prostitutes usually don't get elected to any office - especially Senator.. Except that Vitter went public with his ties to the "D.C. Madam" way back in 2007. And, in 2010, he won reelection to the Senate by 19 points over a sitting Democratic member of Congress.  Subsequently nothing ever came of Vitter's ascension though he did lose a later race, the take at that time being he finally had a real "hard seed"  primary opponent.

The other aspect is why hold Franken - as a current sitting Senator - accountable for something he did as a comedian 11 years ago. Likely as not at that time he hadn't the foggiest notion of ever going into politics or becoming a U.S. Senator. People in their earlier stages of life often do things ridiculous or untoward not thinking it will affect them later, but they do. Should people forever be punished for past minor moral transgressions or sexual skylarking? (Again this is not what Vitter or Roy Moore are guilty of).

Yes, "conduct unbecoming" is something to reckon in - as was the case with former Sen. Bob Packwood.   The Republican resigned from the Senate in 1995 amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assaulting women. The Senate ethics committee had voted unanimously to recommend his expulsion.   BUT he was already a Senator!  

There seems to be no standard at all for going after a guy like Franken, who committed his "misdeeds" against one woman while a comedian. As Ms. Goldberg said: "What would that ethics investigation even look like?"  Well, a joke, to be sure. Steve Kornacki correctly observed this could even be tested in the courts if Franken decided to play hardball- and not roll over for the pseudo morality scolds.

Meanwhile, we had the likes of Donnie Dotard- who kept his twitter shut down on child predator Roy Moore-   tweeting about Franken:

"The Al Franken picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words  Where do his hands go in pictures 2,3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?"

Well, obviously Dotard would be thinking "grab her pussy" - because that's what HE would do in the same situation. After all, we heard him on the Access Hollywood tape bragging about "grabbing pussy."  Let's also recall more than a dozen women came forward during the campaign - including Miss Universe contestants - who complained about Trump's attempts at fondling- incuding their bare breasts. Yet this asshole became a sitting president.  So, I don't want to hear any BS now from moral scolds going after Franken's mock grope  when they don't also demand Trump resign.. If Marcotte wants to be taken at all seriously, then she places a demand for Trump to resign before making any demand Franken do so.

No one is saying that in this new climate of sensitivity to sexual harassment Franken deserves to get off Scot free. But at the same time, whatever sanction has to be both judicious and sensible for misdeeds done before even assuming political office. The only one that stands out as just, to my reckoning, is censure. Anything more -  like expelling him from the Senate - is analogous to using a gas chamber to punish a jaywalker.  Bottom line: any sanction must have temperance built in  especially in light of the Vitter precedent.

If Sen. Franken is proactive in his own defense, and invokes the preceding - especially how David Vitter escaped any expulsion  -  he should not lose his seat. If Dems, instead of acting the part of incessant moral scolds, come to his defense by exposing the double standards at work,  this is even more probable. What they can't do is appease noisy neurotics  like Amanda Marcotte - who appears so terrified of GOP "dirty tricks" in Al Franken's exposure that she can't think straight. At least before she writes.  Bill Maher was correct that it is time people learn to tell the difference between two wholly different classes of actions. Unlike Marcotte, they also need to assess the dramatic consequences of tossing a Senator - who made one mistake - under the political bus merely to seek safety from the Reeptard bullies. Short answer: There is no safety, you have to stand and fight!


See also;

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/jordan-riefe/76290/sexual-harassment-and-accountability-al-franken-vs-roy-moore

Excerpt:

President Trump, who has remained silent on the accusations leveled against Moore, was quick to comment on Franken’s case through Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with the spokesperson telling reporters the Senate ethics probe is theappropriate action.”

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Toxic GOP "Tax Reform" Atrocity That May Well Eliminate The Safety Net - HEADS UP!!



"It's hard to imagine  a more venal and hard-hearted device to pay for a tax cut for the wealthy than what the GOP has on offer" - Ron Klain

"This is the most irresponsible tax legislation in the history of the United States...there is absolutely no justification for this legislation." - Economist Bruce Bartlett

It is a curious feature of the human brain that it is easily overwhelmed by a torrent of bad news, or even news of a particular type. Much of this also plays into the current narrative of "information overload", or the fact that too many are confronted by so much new information it's like trying to drink water through a firehose.

Alas, there are times when this tendency to take the eye off the ball is understandable - but not now. Not with this latest iteration of the GOP tax "reform" bill which is as close to a political atrocity as we've seen in recent times. Thus, people need to grasp the warp and woof of this abomination - especially the fact - as economist Bruce Bartlett pointed out last night ('Last Word') that once the tax reform plan itself passes the stage is set for worse. This is because the next step will be reconciliation with the budget that has already passed!

Why is this an atrocity? Because the budget the Republicans passed to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion , in Bartlett's words: "also contains 4 trillion dollars in cuts to Social Security and Medicare".

Thus a BIG part of what's paying for this egregious tax cut are future spending cuts to the most needed safety nets, including Medicaid as well.  Bartlett also sought to alert viewers that once this perfidy passes, the  worst is still to come. In his words:

"The Congressional Budget Office pointed out yesterday that because of existing law called 'pay go' automatic spending cuts will take place the minute this legislation takes effect and $25 billion will be cut out of Medicare in fiscal 2018  and for many years to come - and that's already in law."

We expect these cuts to Medicare will be indirect, in the form of cuts to  physicians' reimbursement by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  This means many Medicare beneficiaries  will no longer be able to get medical access because doctors will no longer accept them. As it is, millions of Medicare recipients have to do arduous searches to find providers because Medicare doesn't reimburse at private insurance rates. It also lays the ground for the implementation of a voucher system.

The scale of the spending cuts cited is mind boggling and it is likely that the first Social Security target - as has often been cited in the WSJ - will be Social Security disability insurance. Since the Great Recession this has increasingly become the final financial backstop for millions of unemployed - many laid off in the wake of the 2007-08 financial meltdown. After that as David Leonhardt has pointed out in the NY Times, the template is set for the CPI (Consumer Price Index) to be shifted to a less inflationary measure so that the Social Security COLA can be reduced. This will effectively be a higher tax on seniors as well as an increase in Medicare premiums.

All of this adds to an economic atrocity.

The GOP tax reform is even more hard- hearted and dastardly  as we've recently  learned that 46 percent of the world's wealth is controlled by 0.07 percent of its population.  Added to the sheer economic savagery are two poison pill insults  embedded into this misbegotten,  legislative  farrago masquerading as help to the middle class.

1. It includes a provision for drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Yep, you read that correctly - and these miscreants are hoping you aren't conscious of it.

2. It includes yet another effort to validate "personhood".  (Since so many state referenda efforts have failed like here in Colorado).

As Slate author Christina Cauterucci points out:

"In a provision about tax benefits for college savings accounts, a section wholly unrelated to health or pregnancy, the bill’s authors proposed a new definition of life itself:

'Nothing shall prevent an unborn child from being treated as a designated beneficiary or an individual under this section,' the legislation reads. 'For purposes of this paragraph…the term ‘unborn child’ means a child in utero. … The term ‘child in utero’ means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

Adding:

It takes some audacity to slide ostensibly “pro-life” language into a bill whose egregious tax cuts for the wealthy would be funded by life-threatening cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

Consider this anomaly on its own merits: these GOOPr dweezils are inserting this "pro life"  bafflegab even as they seek to terminate any life potential for the elder citizen - given his Medicare and Medicaid (for those in nursing homes) will now be on the chopping block. How perfidious does it get? Well, much more!  Rationale? As Cauterucci observes:

"Giving fetuses access to tax benefits could trigger an If You Give a Mouse a Cookie situation that ends with microscopic clumps of human cells getting birth certificates, marriage licenses, and political appointments.."

Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that no sane person   in his or her right mind (pro-life GOOPs excepted)  can possibly regard a "zygote" as a person, or a fetus as an "unborn child". There is simply no standard by which that passes even elemental laws or tests of logic, or science.  A child cannot be "unborn" because by definition it is already born!  Thus, we send the 'child' to school, to take his medicine and so on. If unborn, it's a fetus, not a "child". Don't these ignorant Reeptard tax reform twits know any better?

Meanwhile, a person, a human person, must have at least minimal capacity for basic cognition and rudimentary choice. It must possess a brain, at the very least, which evinces definite brain waves. Anything that doesn't is a proto-human entity, but clearly not a person. The logical error made is called the "genetic fallacy". That is, arguing that because a thing is going to become something, it IS something. It would be like me picking up an acorn and claiming it's an oak tree. Nope. No way.
Apart from this refuse, on which basis this slop that passes for a bill ought to be DOA anyway, there is this overarching axiom: This tax bill is solely designed to rob most of America of its social safety nets in order to deliver an average tax cut of $58,000 to each millionaire  What might these entitled ones do with their extra loot - compliments of raiding the health plans of the rest of us (the CBO forecasts 13.8 m will lose their health care in the first year after this piece of shit passes - if it does)?  

Well, let's see now, the 1 percenter wives might jet off to special villas in the Caribbean (e.g. St. Lucia) where they can partake of "chocolate scrubs" and "rose wine wraps".















Pretty good, eh? While some poor elder schmuck is dying of caner -  because it's regarded now as a "pre-existing condition" - which will no longer be covered.  But hey,  the extra $$$ will allow a fatcat and his pal to jet off to the same destination for 18 holes of golf in idyllic surroundings
- Say while a kid perishes from a peanut allergy because his mom could no longer afford epi-pens and their ACA benefits were nixed because of terminating the Obamacare mandate.


On getting home, these wealthy scions and recipients of GOP tax fortunes  can check their portfolios again, and ensure their hedge funds are still making money while all the little guys are losing with their pathetic and pedestrian mutual funds.

Ah yes, the life of the typical one percenter. How sweet it is under the Trump-  GOP Reich!

But we haven't even gotten started yet - at least I haven't. Let me reference that while many of the Dems are scratching their heads about how pulling the ACA mandate got into a tax plan, a WSJ editorial two weeks ago ('Tax Reform and Obamacare') first dropped the sordid seed, declaring:

"Republicans are looking under every seat cushion to finance tax cuts....One surprising potential 'pay for' - believe it or not - would be repealing Obamacare's individual mandate."   

Adding:

"Killing the mandate now would also make it easier to revisit health reform next year."

Asserting then that "with the mandate already gone, the CBO would most certainly find there would be fewer uninsured under any new reform the GOP would propose."

Well, of course! And the CBO on weighing this new iteration has found that 13.8 million will lose coverage - hence be "uninsured". But that is most certainly not a good thing as the Journal tries to portray it, other than being more expeditious for the GOP in their next health care try. It means those 13. 8 million people will be without a health safety net and will risk losing everything should a bread winner be in a car crash or even come down with this serious H3N2 flu due to flare up soon.  In terms of the sheer tax benefit, i.e. finding the cash to cover what is given to the rich so they can enjoy their chocolate scrubs and golf  - the CBO estimates a $330b "savings". Transl. $330 b less to spend on citizen health so it can be transferred to the rich who can now enjoy more private Caribbean villa getaways.  (And we aren't even reckoning in the $4 trillion future cuts to Medicare, S.S. to further fund the lifestyles of the Trumpian rich.)

The next piece of germinating codswallop that surfaced around the same time, also appeared in the WSJ ('Corporate Tax Reform Is The Key To Growth') in an op-ed by Martin Feldstein (Nov. 6, p. A17).  In it we read:

"The most important reform is to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent - the highest among major industrial nations - to 20 percent. This will increase corporate capital directly by reducing the tax burden. Cutting the corporate  tax rate to 20 % would raise retained earnings by $2 trillion over ten years"

Adding:

"Capital in the U.S. will move from low productivity uses in agriculture and housing to corporate investments that can create good jobs and raise real wages."


I don't know what planet Marty is living on, but the one I inhabit badly needs affordable housing - also enough food to eat! If he regards agriculture and housing as "low productivity" it must mean he wishes to shift capital away from those economic activities. But in the real world that means lower supply of food and housing, hence higher prices for each because the demands of a larger population will drive it. (The rents in Denver are already at a whopping high of $1,800 a month for a 1 bedroom apartment).

So he is asking us to believe that these fantasy potential "higher wages" will cover the costs of ever scarcer housing units, and less food. Is he nuts, or merely gobbling too much MJ candy?

Now, let's cut the crap and interject some reality, in the form of actual fact pertaining to the corporations.  As I've posted on before, the corporate profits are at near record levels but they are not being used to invest in labor capital or even infrastructure. Companies are in fact spending most of their loot on stock buybacks or issuing dividends rather than creating new jobs. So it is the epitome of delusion that with even more profits - compliments of tax cuts - they'd all of s sudden become noble corporate citizens.   No they would not, you can take it to the bank.

More reality:

While it is true the U.S. has the highest statutory tax rate for corporations among developed nations, this is not what they actually pay. Thanks to the thousands of deductions and exemptions in state and federal tax codes many corporations pay zero . That is how desperate many states are to secure jobs (say from Amazon) that they are prepared to give the CEOs whatever they want - even as their states suffer.

Further, as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) the total U.S. tax burden - covering all levels of government - was ranked 28th out of 32 developed nations.  Read that again, as the fourth LOWEST overall tax rate in the freaking world!

Let's drill this down one more time that supply side tax cuts never work. In previous posts I already went over how Gee Dumbya Bush cut taxes deeply and growth effectively collapsed. A Financial Times analysis even confirmed it. The end result is that real GDP rose barely above what it was in the 1990s.

Also the idea that corporate tax rates create jobs is utter nonsense.  Sara Anderson of the Institute of Policy Studies looked at 92 profitable large corporations what already pay at or less than the 20 percent rate the GOP humpers want - thanks to loopholes in the existing code. But know what? these same 92 corps have been laying off - not adding workers over the past three years.

In the end if this abomination of a tax reform plan goes through it means that the tax cuts will be paid for via vicious cuts to government spending that affect many millions of citizens.  These cuts will involves not only ACA access but also Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid cuts as well. People who stand to get maybe $15 in tax cuts, will be dinged in the ER for thousands of bucks in medical fees once they're no longer covered under the ACA - once the individual mandate goes.

But as we know there is always political payback. The results of the state elections last week, especially in VA and NJ, showed people - voters are paying attention and they have not liked what they've seen with GOP efforts at cutting their health care. The GOP thereby paid at the polls with significant Dem wins. They will pay in ever bigger form in next year's mid terms, if this atrocious GOP tax bomb passes. 

After that, I look for the steady decent of the GOP into political oblivion, just like the Whigs. Because it will show once and for all these reprobates can't be trusted with citizen welfare or security. And the ultimate citizen security is having good health  - hence having access to affordable health care.  As Sen. Patti Murray put it:

"The elections last week clearly showed the American people are paying attention and they don't want their health care taken away."

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/chuck-collins/76270/stop-talking-about-winners-and-losers-from-corporate-tax-cuts

Excerpt:

"The driving motivation behind this bill, rhetoric and packaging aside, is to deliver a whopping $1 trillion tax cut for a few hundred badly behaved global corporations — and another half a trillion to expand tax breaks and loopholes for multi-millionaires and billionaires.

All the other features of proposed tax legislation are either bribes (“sweeteners”) to help pass the bill or “pay fors” to offset their cost. The news media has been talking about “winners and losers” like this were some sort of high-minded tax reform process with legitimate trade-offs, as in 1986.
But this isn’t tax reform. This is a money grab by powerful corporate interests."