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Look Up

If you have a clear night tomorrow, the sky will have a special treat:

The eclipse, which will occur overnight on Jan. 20-21, will be the first lunar eclipse of the year and the last total lunar eclipse until 2021. It will be visible in North and South America as well as parts of western Europe and Africa.

January’s full moon is sometimes dubbed a “wolf moon” in the folklore tradition because it occurs at a time of year when hungry wolves howled outside villages. And since the moon will be at its closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit around our planet this weekend, it will be a “supermoon.” As a result of these special cases — and because lunar eclipses are also known as “blood moons” — some are calling this eclipse a “super blood wolf moon.”

It will be late tomorrow night, but it will help to distract from our problems for a short time.

January 19, 2019   No Comments

Old News

NPR reports that for the seventh consecutive year visa overstays exceeded illegal border crossings.

The article notes that approximately 400,000 Mexicans having been going home every year for several years reducing the number of undocumented in the US.

So, 38% of the undocumented are illegal border crossings and 62% are visa overstays, so the government should be shut down over the 38%?

January 17, 2019   No Comments

Today in “Romper Room”, DC

Kevin Hassett, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser advised the 800,000 furloughed government workers to “get a loan”. How much of a loan [one paycheck, two, three] and from whom? Banks and credit unions have rules and criteria for making loans, and having your paycheck cancelled three times in two years doesn’t make loan officers happy.

After cancelling the aircraft for the Congressional delegation someone figured out that they had better cancel the trip to Davos for the World Economic Forum. The reasons given were the same that were stated in Speaker Pelosi’s letter postponing the State of the Union.

Over at CNN check out the video: Erin Burnett scorches Trump’s ‘unpresidential’ letter. Stay for the end where she has the scene of an Air Force C-32 [Boeing 757] taxiing at Andrews taking Melania to Mar-a-Lago. That’s probably the aircraft that would have been used for Speaker Pelosi’s trip. There are C-37 Gulfstreams available for small parties. Speaker Pelosi uses one to fly home to California [as the Speaker and 3rd in line, she is required to stay connected.]

January 17, 2019   No Comments

Power

Speaker Pelosi suggested a date change for the State of the Union until after the end of the shutdown or for Trump to just submit a written report.

The standard State of the Union address requires action by the House and the Senate to pass resolutions, and neither has done so yet. It is staged in the House chamber and requires the invitation of the Speaker as it is “her House”.

She says that it would be better from a security standpoint for the Secret Service to be paid during the planning and execution of the event. Currently the Secret Service is working without pay. It is difficult to focus on your job when you are concerned about paying your bills. Financial problems are often cited when security clearances are revoked.

While it is obvious that this is primarily a reminder to Trump of the power of the Speaker, I have never been comfortable with that much of the government gathered in one place at a known time. Most of the Presidential line of succession are at the speech, as well as the Supreme Court. Imagine Betsy DeVos being the designated Cabinet member not at the speech and something happening.

A written SOU was good enough Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, so it should be good enough for Trump. I don’t see the networks giving him any more free airtime after his last stunt.

January 16, 2019   No Comments

Not That It Matters

It’s just a bunch of facts, statements of reality, so the Republicans will ignore them, but: crossings along the southern border peaked at 1.6 million in fiscal year 2000 and are running at about 400,000/year; the vast majority of people on the terrorist watch list cross on the northern border; according to testimony at the trial of the cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, drugs enter the US through tunnels under the walls, inside vehicles at ports of entry, or in fishing boats, not out in the unprotected areas of the border.

Congress authorized $1.3 billion last year for construction along the border and it hasn’t been spent, but now Trump demands $5.7 billion more without any planning on how it would be spent beyond “wall”. With almost two years to do something about “wall” while Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, “wall” didn’t become a priority until Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter complained about it.

Trump and the Republicans are going to continue to lose support as more and more people suffer from the effects of the shutdown. At some point Mitch McConnell is going to have to say to hell with it and pass spending bills with veto-proof majorities. The votes are there in both Houses, so stop screwing around.

January 15, 2019   5 Comments

Reality Check

A member of the White House economic staff has characterized the government shutdown as extra vacation for workers. Sorry, but three+ weeks without pay is the equivalent of the punishment for a severe infraction of rules, not extra vacation time. Further, for the half of the employees still required to work, it’s called slavery.

January 13, 2019   6 Comments

Rivet Ball

Fifty years ago, in the early hours of January 13th, 1969 I was forced to accept something that I had known for a while, but had pushed to the back of my mind: I was mortal and was going to die.

This was the first of several incidents when my chance of survival was a good deal less than 1 in 2. This wasn’t the scariest, but it was the first, and following on the heels of the terrible events of 1968, it had the biggest impact.

In the end the only “death” was an airplane, Rivet Ball, the Air Force’s only RC-135S. The military version of the Boeing 707, the fuselage broke in half, like an eggshell, on impact. A very talented pilot, John Achor, the aircraft commander, was responsible for that miracle.

I provide more detail on my other site.

January 13, 2019   No Comments

FYI

For Fox talking heads: you have to be a US citizen and 25 years old to be elected to the House; a US citizen and 30 years old to be elected to the Senate; and a natural born US citizen and 35 years old to be elected President. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be 30 in October and can’t run for President until 2024. Except for AOC’s age, you were taught this in the eighth grade.

NBC has an opinion piece on the wall:Trump’s wall with Mexico follows in the footsteps of authoritarian leaders throughout history. One of the things that makes this piece interesting for me is that it was written by Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva, former Soviet leader Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev’s great granddaughter. Spoiler Alert: she didn’t think much of her great grandfather’s wall in Berlin.

The OED say that an emergency is “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.” Digby notes that the New York Times has the statistics showing that there is no emergency, while a three week shutdown show that Trump doesn’t believe in “immediate action”.

Trump is a week away from the end of his second year in office and he has shut down the government 3 times. While Nancy Pelosi is the current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan was the Speaker when this third shutdown started. With Republicans in total control of the government, it has been shut down three times!!! He can’t even make a deal with his “friends”. There are votes in both house to override a veto – just do it and stop messing around.

January 12, 2019   No Comments

Medieval 0 – 1 Modern DIY Tools

Like I wrote before Christmas, DHS testing of steel slat border wall prototype proved it could be cut through with saws available at Lowes/Home Depot. [Home Depot’s parking lots were always places to hire casual undocumented labor when I lived in California.]

The Maginot Line didn’t stop the Germans at the beginning of WWII, and the Siegfried Line didn’t stop the Allied armies at the end of WWII. The walls of Rome fell; the walls of Constantinople fell; the walls of Berlin fell; Napoleon wasn’t stopped by the walls of the Moscow Kremlin. Masada is on the top of a mountain, just like Monte Casino, and they both fell.

In case you missed it, it wasn’t the Congressional Democrats who asked that a steel slat fence replace a solid concrete wall, it was the Border Patrol.

January 10, 2019   6 Comments

Trump’s Wall

Lego Great Wall of China

For $50 Trump can get this “Great Wall”, or buy big boxes of Legos and build a wall around his desk. That makes about as much sense as taking land from the people who currently live along the border to build a monument to a campaign mnemonic.

None of the 7 8 Democrats and 1 Republican House members who represent the Congressional districts along the southern border support building a wall. They find all of the claims about crime along the border to be an insulting distortion of the facts. If the situation was a real “crisis” wouldn’t there be an effort to pay the people who are charged with maintaining the effectiveness of the border?

In fiscal year 2017 there were 415,517 apprehensions at the southern border. During the same period 701,900 people overstayed their visas. The southern border isn’t the problem and a wall isn’t the solution.

Update: According to the BBC the correct number of border Congresscritters is 9, with Will Hurd of Texas-23 the sole Republican.

January 9, 2019   6 Comments

Well, That Explains It

[Via Digby] NBC News has come up with the actual US Customs and Border Protection data on “terrorists” at the border:

Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons.

On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

The border with Mexico is 1,954 miles and is patrolled by 16,605 agents which is a density of 8.5 agents/mile. The border with Canada is 5,525 miles and is secured by 2,048 agents which is a density of .4 agents/mile.

Given the numbers it is not logical to address a supposed problem on the southern border when you have 7 times as many non-US persons in the Terrorist Screening Database attempting to cross the northern border. With the disparity of resources it would make more sense to direct increased resources to the Canadian border. The illogical reason for what Trump wants to do is the race of the people coming across the southern border.

January 7, 2019   4 Comments

Orthodox Christmas

С Рождеством Христовым to my Orthodox friends who are still waiting to see how the calendar reform works out.

January 7, 2019   No Comments

This Isn’t Good

Does anyone actually believe that Trump could find Montenegro, Belarus, or Afghanistan on a globe or map? Does anyone actually believe that Trump has studied the history of any of those countries? Why does it appear that Russian agitprop has the root password for Trump’s memory storage and is able to download Putin’s foreign policy talking points?

Rachel Maddow noticed that Trump is curiously well versed in specific Russian talking points and talks to former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul about Trump parroting of Russian revisionism on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Nicolle Wallace talks to former DEA head and DOJ official Chuck Rosenberg about possible Mueller interest in this phenomenon. And, finally, Joy Reid asks Trump watcher Timothy O’Brien, former FBI agent Clinton Watts, and former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks about this very strange behavior by Trump.

This is a really troubling as a symptom of the level of control Putin seems to have over Trump. The man can’t remember what he decided 15 minutes ago, but he can recite Putin’s talking points by heart.

January 6, 2019   No Comments

Feast of the Epiphany

Today marks the Feast of the Epiphany, end of the twelve days of Christmas, and Día de los Reyes in Spanish-speaking countries.

This is the customary day for gift exchanges in many Christian cultures because it is the day that the Magi finally arrived in Bethlehem with their totally inappropriate gifts after putzing around for a week and a half because they didn’t want to ask for directions.

[Give me a break! They bring soft metal, smelly tree sap, and bitter medicine associated with embalming to people who could use a hot meal, baby clothes, and diapers.]

January 6, 2019   No Comments