Storm Personified

Thunder God, Katsushika Hokusai, 1847

Last Sunday, we attended a potluck dinner party. We were one of six couples there. Seated around the table were a cadre from our army of bike buddies. All of us still are or were members of the Kaldi’s Bike MS charity team. We talked cycling, travel and then I touched the third rail, politics. The demographics of this discussion was pretty homogeneous. We were all white, upper middle class, heterogenous, empty nest boomers and most importantly, Democrats. So, although I did touch the third rail of politics, there really wasn’t that much danger of causing that many sparks.

As of last Sunday, we had just endured a pretty bad week for the Democrats, what with a less than satisfactory conclusion to the impeachment trial, the unholy spectacle of the State of the Union address and the debacle of the Iowa Caucus. We were united in opposition to Trump, so most of the discussion had to do with a comparison of the Democratic candidates vis-à-vie their chances of beating him. The metric for choosing seemed to be for someone who could win.

Neither of the two frontrunners, Bernie and Buttigieg, seemed to garner much enthusiasm. Bernie was judged too liberal to win, likewise Warren. Buttigieg being gay was viewed as an impediment to victory. Biden, already wounded by then, seemed to have been most people’s candidate, but his show of weakness seems to have made people turn away from him. Everyone wanted a winner. There was some talk of Klobuchar, but since she hadn’t shown herself by then, it was only lukewarm at best. Most of the enthusiasm seemed to be reserved for Bloomberg. This gave me the chance to recite a New Yorker cartoon caption, “Look up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s the good billionaire.”

The Missouri presidential primary isn’t until the week after Super Tuesday, so a lot of water will have flowed under the bridge by then. However, Anne and one of the couples will have to absentee vote before then. Anne will be working as an election official on primary day and this other couple are traveling to India. They are planning on delaying as long as possible. There is nothing worse than voting early for a candidate, who then drops out before the primary. Bottom line, everyone is looking for that person who will win in November and the positions that they espouse are only important in how they effect their electability. 

Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi, Babylon, 2000-1600 BC

Cuneiform text that records a portion of the 282 laws that are collectively known as the Code of Hammurabi are pictured on this fragment of a clay tablet. This codex is one of the earliest known set of laws ever created. The law’s ethos reflect what we would now call Old Testament, think an eye for an eye. These laws regulate a wide variety of subjects, including commercial, property and family law.  

Many properties of modern jurisprudence descend directly from this code. The accused is given a presumption of innocence. Both the accused and the accuser have the opportunity to present evidence. While the code strived to achieve some equality, biases still existed within it. It reinforced the society’s class structure, with one law for the rich and another for the poor. For example, the punishment for a doctor who kills a rich patient, was the loss of both hands. While, for poor people, the same offence only warranted a fine as punishment. Sexism was also enforced within the code. For men, having sex with servants and slaves was permitted, but for women any adultery was punished. And then there was the whole codification of slavery.

Law is built on precedence. It is thought that the Code of Hammurabi originated first as a collection of his rulings, before it eventually became codified as law. From this start, almost 4,000 years ago, the law has evolved much. Sometimes moving forward, sometimes back. The human flaws inherited from Hammurabi have rippled through time. The current impeachment trial lies both outside the realm of normal jurisprudence, while still being rooted within the law. Infused with politics, its justice has become corrupted. Making any verdict that this trial decrees suspect. Giving neither a conviction nor any true vindication. 

That Voodoo That You Do So Well

Haitian Vodou Vévé

It was disclosed this week that earlier this month, Trump’s spiritual adviser, televangelist Paula White, had prayed the following:

In the name of Jesus, we command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now. We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs that it’ll miscarry, it will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction, any plan of harm.

Here’s the clip. White, who leads the White House’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative and provided the invocation prayer at Trump’s inauguration, defended her prayer in tweets. This disclosure comes on the heels of Trump’s attendance last week at the anti-abortion rally March for Life, where he proclaimed, “Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.”

Maybe it’s just me, but commanding someone to miscarry doesn’t seem very pro-life. Pro-lifers tend to view every child as a gift from God and that no one should ever pray for any woman to miscarry. Christianity teaches that no one should ever pray for evil or harm to befall another person. Jesus asked us to pray for our persecutors, not to curse them. To love our neighbors as ourselves.

It was also unclear what she considers to be a satanic pregnancy. Do parents have to be belong to some sort of devil worshipping cult or is just being a Democrat good enough? In the past, White has characterized Trump’s enemies as being aligned with evil. On the other hand, it could become an abortion loophole. Doctor, I need an abortion because my baby is satanic. Most religious leaders view White at best as a charlatan and at worse a heretic or maybe it’s the other way around. As he claims, Trump always picks the best people.

M-Peach-Mint

M-Peach-Mint

After the 2016 election, Anne knitted herself a pink “pussy” hat that she wore in protest. That was then, this is now, nevertheless she persisted. Her pointy needle activism remains unrestrained. Cue her latest creation, an M-Peach-Mint cap. I mailed it off to Carl, who Anne credits the idea. I asked and she has enough yarn for another. Plus her favorite yarn store, Knitorius, is going out of business and she feels compeled to shop there at least one more time. Anyone want to help her out here? There is no guarantee that any such hat would be finished before the trial is over, but it should be done well before the 2020 election.

This week, the Virginia legislature ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Making it the 38th state to have done so. Normally, this is enough states to add an amendment to the US Constitution, but the ERA’s has a long and checkered history. Passed by Congress in 1972, it was given a ten-year window to reach ratification, which it did not make. Its critics declared it dead then, but its proponents did not give up. By this self imposed deadline only 35 states had ratified it. Subsequently, five states rescinded their ratification, but three new states eventually ratified it. So, a total of 38 states have ratified it.

The US Constitution is one of the oldest and shortest constitutions. It does not speak to the idea of a state rescinding its ratification, which could make such an act unconstitutional. The only time an admendment was ever reversed, as with prohibition, it took another admendment to do so. Similarly, the statue limiting the ERA’s period of ratification was enabling legislation that was not part of the amendment and is an idea that also has no support in the Constitution. Now that the ERA is purportedly ratified, any legislation limiting it could also be seen as unconstitutional. Hey, I’m no legal scholar, but on this blog, I like to play one. 

5G to Be or Not to Be

Mr. Pointy, Takashi Murakami, 2011

This last week at gyrotonics, I noticed a stack of flyers disclaiming the dangers of 5G. Luddites Unite! The gyro studio is accoutered with many new age artifacts and I assumed that these flyers dealt with a new age subject that I wasn’t familiar with yet. The flyer listed ten alternative facts warning of the health dangers caused by 5G, but according to the New York Times, this campaign against 5G is a Russian propaganda campaign, brought to you by some of the same trolls who rigged the 2016 Presidential election, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself. What is 5G?

5G is the next generation cellphone network communications protocol. I was a late adopter of cellphone technology (Luddites Unite!) and by the time that I took the plunge, they were already on a third generation network or 3G. Since then, we moved onto 4G, making 5G the next rung on the ladder. In addition to its detractors, 5G has also created a lot of positive buzz. Most of which is also fake news. There is a version of 5G, called 5G Plus that offers a 10X increase in data speeds over 4G, but cellphone providers are not going to go that way.

Now all you conspiracy theorists out there, take off your tinfoil hats. They have a valid reason for doing this. 5G Plus uses millimeter technology, with radio signals that are broadcasted at wavelengths that are shorter than an inch. All other cellphone radio waves have been on the order of a foot. The millimeter technology cannot penetrate buildings (no bars), while normal cellphone radio waves are doing pretty well. This limits the utility of 5G Plus to open air venues, like football stadiums, where we could see some application of this technology.

AT&T and Verizon, the two big US cellphone networks, have both announced their plans to rollout 5G nationwide in 2020 and Apple and Samsung plan on releasing 5G compatible phones this year too. So, what does 5G buy you, other than a good excuse for getting a new phone? In a word, less-latency. Latency is that interval of time, in-between when you hit return on a Google search and the first results appear on your screen. For activities like streaming movies, this isn’t a big deal, but for interactive activities like video game play or the controlling of other devices in the internet of things, this will have a profound effect. Cue your autonoumusly driving car that will now have a fast enough reaction time to get you home safely, by being able to timely communicate with all the other cars.

So, what is Russia’s deal with 5G? Russia doesn’t really have a dog in the 5G fight, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a dog in the manger and pooping all over our efforts. The country that can put up a fight is China. Like we need another China war. They have gone all in on 5G, but of course their version of it is not like ours. Naturally. Russia has aligned itself with China on 5G, with the hope of swaying Europe, who has been sitting on the proverbial 5G fence. We’ll have to wait to see how this all plays out for this year and in the years to come.

The Four Freedoms

At the Hirshhorn Museum are the above four images and the following text:

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined his vision for a post-war world. One in which four freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom of speech, would become basic human rights for all. In 1943, artist Norman Rockwell responded patriotically with a series of four paintings depicting those freedoms. In 2018, the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur reimagined these paintings and updated those images to more accurately reflect today’s more diverse US population.

I’ve always been a big Rockwell fan and enjoy this reinterpretation of his work. 

Last year, a New Yorker cartoon had the following caption, “Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the good billionaire.” This was a reference to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had launched a campaign for the Democratic nomination. He was a late arrival to the Democratic field and was initially derisively dismissed, out of hand. Now, I see his anti-Trump TV commercials every night. With a worth valued at $56B, Bloomberg can easily out spend the Republicans, by five to one. New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait opined this week, “Winning the presidential election is starting to look hard. How about buying it instead?” 

Back on the ranch, Anne restarted her Early Childhood Center’s first grade gig this week, after the long Christmas break. ECC or more correctly Eck!, is now showing its true colors as plague central. On Monday she sent home a letter to the parents on the subject of head lice. Latter in the week, she sent home a letter regarding strep throat. Yesterday, after one of her students tested positive for influenza, a third letter was dispatched regarding the flu. So, what’s next? How about freedom from illness. Until then, she will go to work every morning, singing the praises of her nineteen (or less) little dwarves, Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to the plague I go. Heigh-ho…