Peaceful demonstrations are starting. There are a lot of military in DC and more on the way. Let’s hope it remains peaceful.
Other cities too
Retired chemist. I've done a lot of chemistry that has to do with policy, particularly nuclear policy.
Cheryl Rofer has been a Balloon Juice writer since 2017.
Peaceful demonstrations are starting. There are a lot of military in DC and more on the way. Let’s hope it remains peaceful.
Other cities too
BunkerBoy emerged to tell us that he’s going to send the military if governors won’t shut down protests in their states. As with all Trump statements, it’s worth waiting to see how this plays out, but there’s danger in his words and actions so far.
The governors are primarily responsible for law and order in their states, but Trump has been urged by some of his courtiers to invoke the Insurrection Act to override the Posse Comitatus Act and allow him to send the military in. He has not done that yet.
A selection of tweets:
A lot of people asking whether 2020 is like 1968, most of them saying that they weren’t there. I was there – not in the riots, but rather focused on my own life. A few years married, in a job at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory that was below my capabilities but learning a lot about reactors. Just moved into a new house. I was not very political, although the Vietnam War was part of every young person’s consciousness.
In 1968, 400 Americans were dying every week in Vietnam. In 2020, more than 1000 Americans are dying every day from COVID-19. In both cases, disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino people are among them. In both cases, the feeling of danger is palpable across the population.
More people are out of work now than in the Great Depression.
We are still at the beginning of the summer of 2020. The summer of 1968 played out over several months.
April 4: Martin Luther King assassinated
April 4 – 5: Riots, particularly in Detroit
June 6: Robert Kennedy assassinated
August 26 – 29: Democratic Convention and police riot
President Lyndon B. Johnson announced on March 31, 1968, that he would not run for another term as president. He recognized that his handling of the Vietnam War would make for a divisive convention and campaign. “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” His vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, became the presumptive candidate, challenged by Eugene McCarthy, who opposed the war. Humphrey was not able to separate himself adequately from Johnson’s handling of the war. Richard Nixon claimed he had a secret plan to end the war.
Donald Trump is a sick human being who is incapable of presidential duties. He has damaged the United States government and sowed division among the American people. His tweets during the riots have been incendiary. Republican elected officials back him unconditionally. The presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, is a compassionate person with long experience in governing. At this moment, opinion polls show Biden winning decisively in November.
Communications and Media
We have smartphones now. Countless photos and videos of provocateurs and police misconduct are circulating on Twitter. Demonstrators are able to communicate with each other better, as are the police. Many more sources of information, bad and good, are available now to the public. It is harder for the media to overwhelm with conventional wisdom, although Trump’s Twitter feed provides too much distraction. Smartphones also allow for greater surveillance. Influential people in the media seem to be recognizing the problems and are beginning to speak out. Other nations are inserting disinformation.
My sense is that more white protesters are involved this time around, but it’s hard to be sure. Otherwise, the protesters are similar. People who feel they’ve been betrayed, who feel endangered, who feel they have nothing to lose, who feel things must change. Provocateurs are at work, probably were in 1968, but the lack of smartphones allowed them more latitude. We need to understand much more about who has been in these demonstrations.
In both years, the police response too often is racist. The demonstrations a few weeks ago by armed white men were treated carefully. The police seem to be rioting, as they did in August 1968, during the current protests. More of their animus now seems directed toward reporters. Police are much more militarized today, both in training and equipment, as a result of the reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001. In a few places like Flint, Santa Cruz, Miami, Fargo, and Atlanta, the police have demonstrated sympathy with the demonstrators and avoided the worst violence. I don’t recall that from 1968.
By the time the 1968 Democratic Convention blew up, my overwhelming feeling was that we had lost the good things that the early sixties won. The early sixties were about opening opportunity and removing barriers, particularly for Black America, but also for women. The later sixties were about reactions to the war, both protests and the retreat to hippiedom and drugs. Everyone lost in the summer of 1968.
I feel more optimistic today, even with the damage of the past few days. We are on the way to removing a disastrous president, and there seems to be increasing recognition that many other things need to be righted.
We have five months to the election, though. There will be another wave in the pandemic. There will be more damaging actions, at home and abroad, from Trump and his allies. There will be more disinformation. White supremacists will continue their activities. There will be more protests.
It’s not possible to predict how things will turn out. My sense, although it coincides with my wishes and is therefore suspect, is that we will remove Trump and rebuild a better America.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner
The Outrider Foundation provides information on nuclear weapons and global warming. They’ve prettied up my words with an impressive set of pictures.
An American test would likely be answered by Russian and Chinese tests, and perhaps by others. Although the United States, Russia, and China have mature arsenals and don’t need the tests to improve design, other countries like India, Pakistan, and North Korea would see an American test as an excuse to improve their designs to fit on smaller missiles.
Read the whole thing.
Coming up at 4:33 pm Eastern. You may also discuss Elon Musk in this thread, which is open.
The repercussions of Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia don’t go away. Michael Flynn is a part of that relationship, although it is not clear how much of his interaction with Russian officials was directed by Trump. Trump keeps interactions at arm’s length so that he can claim he is not responsible for his administration’s wrongdoing. Flynn had connections to Russia before he became part of Trump’s machine.
Attorney General William Barr has requested that the case be dropped against Flynn for lying to federal agents, to which Flynn pleaded guilty. Judge Emmet Sullivan plans to open the case to amicus curiae briefs and has appointed a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s case for dismissal.
Acting DNI Richard Grenell has released records of requests for “unmasking” that resulted in the legal action against Flynn and the discovery that Flynn was lying to Vice President Mike Pence, for which he was fired by Trump. Those records raise further questions of what Flynn was doing.
Flynn had a number of irons in the fire. From a Washington Post summary:
President Barack Obama warned Trump against hiring Flynn, who was forced out of his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of insubordination, making up “Flynn facts,” and generally paranoid behavior. He also promulgated Islamophobia.
Flynn pleaded guilty to two charges of lying to federal investigators about his December 29, 2016, phone conversations with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. At that time, Flynn had been named by Trump as his National Security Advisor.
The list of requestors declassified by Grenell, however, is for the time period 8 November 2016 to 31 January 2017. In that list are 39 requests before the dates of those telephone calls and 8 after. The requests bunch around December 14-16.* We do not know the subject(s) that raised the interest of officials across several agencies.
Those mid-month requests came from John Brennan, CIA Director (2); James Comey, FBI Director (1); Treasury Department officials (6); John Tefft, Ambassador to Russia (1); NATO officials (8); Executive Briefer, DOE Intelligence and Counterintelligence Office (2); Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Deputy Secretary of Energy (1); Chief Syria Group (2); Deputy Assistant Director of NEMC (1) (National Media Exploitation Center, DNI?); Patrick Conlon, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (1); two marked only COS and DCOS (Chief of Staff and Deputy?); and two from CMO (Chief Management Officer DOD?).
It’s possible that these unmasking requests were in reference to more than one incident. The requests from Brennan and Comey could have been about anything. The requests from the Department of the Treasury likely had to do with sanctions. Anyone having questionable conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the United states would be of interest to the American Ambassador to Russia. NATO officials might have been concerned about Flynn’s ties to Turkey.
A topic on which a number of these requestors might converge is Flynn’s venture with a group trying to sell civilian nuclear power in the Middle East. The House Oversight Committee looked into that effort in late 2018 in response to a whistleblower complaint in June 2017 and issued an interim report, which shows that the venture was quite active after the election through early 2018.
The origins of the venture go back at least to 2015, when Flynn partnered with Alex Copson, a nuclear entrepreneur who had been pushing big ideas since 1997. The plan they came up with was grandiose – they called it “A Marshall Plan for the Middle East.” It combined commerce with national security policy. Russia and China would work with the United States to sell 40 power reactors to Middle Eastern countries; Israel would benefit from the power generation. Iran and its allies would be excluded, and Russia would split from Iran in order to sell reactors.
Jeff Stein described the plan in 2017, and I’ve written a description from original documents. The plan changed over time, most significantly eliminating Russia and China as suppliers. A large component of the plan was a private security force to guard the reactors. Early claims were that the program would cost the United States nothing, but the activities that the House Oversight Committee looked into had to do with acquiring US government funding.
One of the odd things about this venture is that only one of those involved in it had any expertise in nuclear power. Nor did the group do any groundwork to bring in reactor manufacturers from the United States, Russia or China. Although at one time Saudi Arabia expressed interest in buying 16 nuclear reactors, plummeting oil prices made that impossible.
They seem not to have understood that the US government must approve sales of nuclear technology to other countries, or to have believed that they could strongarm those sales through without approval. That last is what the House Oversight Committee investigated and is remarkably similar to the emergency declaration for arms sales to Saudi Arabia that the State Department Inspector General is said to be looking into. If it were discussed in those telephone calls, it would have drawn the attention of the Departments of Treasury and Energy as well as law enforcement agencies.
The House Oversight Committee investigation found that IP3 had a plan ready to go and expected it to start right after the 2017 inauguration, with explicit support and promotion by the Trump administration. In December 2017, it looked like furthering this venture was part of Flynn’s motivation to have sanctions on Russia removed. The whistleblowers’ letter quoted Alex Copson as saying that “General Flynn was making sure that sanctions would be ‘ripped up’ as one of his first orders of business and that this would allow money to start flowing into the project.”
One of the principals of the company involved, IP3, is Robert “Bud” McFarlane, who was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal while he was Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor and pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $20,000 fine but was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. Attorney General (then and now) William Barr recommended that pardon.
The willingness of the group to try to direct US foreign policy in the Middle East via a scheme that would make money for them would raise the concerns of most in that unmasking list. But keep in mind that other topics may have been involved in Flynn’s conversations.
Lindsey Graham has sent a letter to Acting DNI Richard Grenell and Attorney General Barr requesting the names of officials who requested unmasking of the names of Trump campaign or transition team members and the reasons given for those requests. Mark Warner, ranking Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has sent a letter to Grenell requesting the underlying reports for which the unmasking occurred. It now appears that Flynn’s identity was not masked in the reports about Flynn’s phone conversations with Kislyak.
*My attention was drawn to these dates by Susan Simpson’s tweet thread.
This is real news, but I don’t know if it will break through the Trump zone flood of shit.
Here you go –
I’ve warned before not to believe one single publication until it is confirmed by others, but this study looks solid enough, and there’s another that partially confirms it.
One of the things that has worried me most about SARS-CoV-2 is that it may not provoke robust immunity. That would leave us all vulnerable to it forever, and it would be impossible to stamp out. These studies suggest that a vaccine is possible, or at least that having had COVID-19 confers immunity. There’s no data about how long that immunity lasts, though.
Science magazine has a readable summary of the research. I’ll summarize the findings.
You can bet that virologists working on vaccines are reading these papers, and the ones whose approach is immunization through viral proteins are feeling good about them. But it’s still a long way to a vaccine.
It’s Friday after hours, so President Donald Trump has fired another Inspector General. This one, for the Department of State, apparently was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The charges that Flynn pled guilty to.
Early warning a half-hour ago
Yes, I’m going to bigfoot MisterMix. I’m also going to say something that will probably piss off others here. I am sick to death of hearing nothing from elected Democrats when the President of the United States is fine with tens of thousands of American deaths. When that same President is destroying the Justice Department and the CDC. Where the fuck are they?
The New York Times obtained a CDC document indicating the likelihood of 3000 new deaths of COVID-19 a day by summer, and a total of 200,000 deaths or more.
The White House says
This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed
Additionally, White House officials say they are using a “cubic model” prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, led by Trump adviser Kevin Hassett. Hassett is the fellow who predicted a Dow Industrial average of 36,000 just before the tech crash. The “cubic model” is said to predict that deaths will drop to zero by May 15.
Let’s take a look at that alleged CDC document.
The header designates the presentation as being for or by the Interagency task force, for a videoteleconference (VTC) presentation. The logos for the Departments of Health and Human Services, of which CDC is a part, and the Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is a part, appear on every slide. So it looks like an official presentation, although it might be a draft. I’ll leave out the footer on subsequent slides.
The presentation has some other interesting information, in forms useful for tracking the epidemic. Looks legit, from what I know of New Mexico’s situation.
I didn’t realize that positive test results were going down in Georgia and Florida. Good for them. We’ll see how long that holds. (I’ve left some slides out.)
Now, from the Data and Analytics Task Force (Reporters, who are these folks? And what model are they using?)
These two are marked “Official Use Only.” They are where the scary numbers come from.
We don’t know enough about the assumptions in this model to evaluate it, but the numbers don’t look that unreasonable to me, particularly with states easing restrictions. If we keep going the way we’re going now, with no big increase, we’ll hit 100,000 deaths by mid-May. That’s four months from the start. So two months more with increases from the rallies now being perpetrated by rightwing funders?
There’s more to the presentation. Check it out.
There’s a great article in Nature with graphics explaining immunity and how vaccines work. I think it was Gvg the other day who wanted more information.
I think the article is ungated. Let me know if it’s not available, and I’ll transfer the graphics here.
The Air Force released three videos of UFOs taken by pilots in flight. At the moment, three blurry videos taken through sensors we don’t know how to interpret are not the most important news out there.
I’ll admit it – my best guess is that these are artifacts in the sensors. I can’t tell you what, but I’ve seen lights in the sky and funny stuff that I could have called UFOs until I looked more closely.
Last year, we had a lot of weather balloons in the area. They are coated with aluminum and reflect a nice bright light in morning or evening. Binoculars showed what they are. I even got a photo of one.
I’ve seen lights moving in peculiar ways at night, usually through the window of a car. If I was able to try to reproduce angles and such, they turned out to be reflections. I’ve seen lights moving across the sky at night when I was looking at the stars, not through anything that could cause reflections. Those come closest to something I might declare UFOs when I don’t see the red and green wing lights. Although every time I’ve looked carefully or through binoculars, those wing lights were there.
There was a much greater flying saucer mystique when I was a kid. The reports turned out not to be spaceships. A few remained unidentified even after a few dedicated people scrutinized the largely verbal accounts. I read everything. I wanted to believe that they were really space ships. But by the time of ET, I had recognized that the likelihood of that was vanishingly small.
Dan Zak wrote an article two years ago about the people pushing this. Rich white boys again. They are probably acting in good faith. As for the military people pushing it, I’ve worked with one of the colonels involved in the “staring at goats” thing. He was not at all informed on science and didn’t learn easily. The military has its incompetents too, but it has lots of money to spread to crazy ideas.
I’m not against crazy ideas, but right now we have another priority. Let’s focus on making this world a safe place to live.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner