Very Important Jackal Announcement

From the redoubtable, irreplaceable EFGoldman:

I’m home.

After my 90th day in various hospitals and rehabs.

Surgery in October. Some rehab, much farther to go.

No sharing, I don’t do that.

I’ve been weeping for an hour.

I think I speak for the Balloon Juice community: Welcome home!

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Pushing Back the Darkness & the Cold

Garden season’s pretty well over for most of us northern-hemisphere Balloon Juice jackals. So here’s a gift from senior beagle rescuer and long-time commentor Tony S“Halloween: Celebrating American Family, Community Diversity”:

Let’s get real. Heartland America isn’t some 97% white community. Where the true pulse of America beats strongest are in its diverse, growing, vital communities.

I had a realization that night. Thanksgiving isn’t America’s only celebration of family. Halloween does that, too, with an added ingredient: Community.

Once a year, I get to stand on my porch and share with the neighbors I rarely see and the friends I don’t visit with often enough.

Halloween is my wife, Celine’s favorite holiday. Every year, she hands out not just candy, but hand-made goodie bags. This means we have a very good idea of how many people visit our home. This year the number topped 600.

It was wonderful seeing proud parents and thrilled kids grace our spooky, 115-year old home with their smiles, polite “Trick or Treats” and carefully crafted or freshly purchased costumes, from a 52-year old “Disco Grandma” to a spotted baby seemingly straight out of the crib.

Demographic analysts say true American heartland towns are a mix — the ratio is somewhere around 30/30/30 of the most prominent ethnic groups.

Liars, con-men and parasites try and make us fear the other — when they are the other, with their bleached personalities and toxic policies. Last night, in Peekskill, the real America was on view.

Read more

Bulletin on greennotGreen

So that it doesn’t get lost in the Trump news, here’s the latest bulletin from greennotGreen’s sister:

I’m sorry for not blogging yesterday, but frankly there’s not much to report. gnG is now sleeping 95% of the time, although she did get up out of bed at about 2 AM before I could stop her. (She’s tethered by oxygen cannula and IV pain pump, so she couldn’t have gotten too far.) The only thing that might interest the BJ community is the discussion we had with hospice nurses over the use of oxygen to raise sats. One nurse favors it, one feels it just prolongs the very disturbing agitation phase. The family is left to make the decision. I couldn’t quite bring myself to lower her sats on purpose, although she might have preferred it. Dying at home is best for the patient, but my god, what a trial to the family.

Cheryl Rofer Guest Post on What is Going on in the DPRK Right Now: Fireworks

(and a mushroom cloud hat too!)

Sunday is the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the father of North Korea and grandfather of its current president, Kim Jong Un. The North Koreans promise a big event and may have prepared some fireworks for the celebration. Reports of activity at their Punggye-ri nuclear test site suggest that the biggest firework will be underground.

Sunday is also Easter for Christians and part of Passover for Jews. North Korea likes to intrude on others’ holidays. It’s something of a tradition. And this year brings the added frisson of showing up an American president whose bluster approaches Kim Jong Un’s.

The New York Times has an extensive article on the preparations. 38 North has better overhead photos.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and is working toward a nuclear weapon small enough to be carried on their missiles, which they also have been testing and improving.

The way in which this test could be different from the previous five is that an American carrier group is heading toward Korea. Its purpose has not been stated, but it is obviously part of the Trump administration’s desire to show off its military strength. There is nothing it could do, short of starting a war, to stop a nuclear test.

I’ve been thinking about the estimates of North Korean nuclear weapons. The common way to estimate is to take the estimate of fissile material, an estimate of what is needed for a weapon, and divide the second into the first. But there are other considerations. I’ve worked some of them out and come to the conclusion that North Korea doesn’t have as many nukes as sometimes is claimed. My best guess is a half-dozen or fewer. But even that could cause a lot of damage.

Cheryl has indicated she’ll hang around in comments for about an hour to answer whatever questions you all might have.

Sunday Movie/Serial Club : It is Time… Emissary, DS9 Season 1, Episode 1

Welcome back, Schroedinger’s Cat!:

Moving is not fun, no matter how many times I do it. Whether it is across continents and oceans, states or to the neighboring town, it never gets easier. I am so glad that the Insufferable Movie Snob kept the blog going on, posting her detailed and funny reviews. If you haven’t already checked out her reviews you should do so now. She rocks! Here is a link to her last review.

My last movie/TV review post before my brief unplanned hiatus was on Star Trek Deep Space 9. Unlike The Next Generation, aliens of DS9 were more than just obnoxious caricatures and Star Fleet officers were not always perfect. Main and recurring characters experienced growth and change. The show had strong women characters who had more to do than just look pretty. I have be re-watching DS9 since the fall and I for one would like to revisit Terak Nor more than once. It has a wealth of episodes pertinent to this moment in history that we are all a part of.

When I asked which episode you wanted me to review, these were the episodes that came up in the comments.

His Way (6.20)
Its Only a Paper Moon (7.10)
Far Beyond the Stars (6.13)
Blood Oath (2.19)
In the hands of the prophets (1.20)
A Time To Stand (6.1)
Tears of the Prophets (5.26)
Once More Unto the Breach (6.7)
In the Pale Moonlight (6.19)

Most of these episodes are in seasons 6 and 7 when DS9 reached its climax. Because of the serialized nature of the show I think it would be better to go in chronological order. So people who haven’t watched DS9 before can join in if they want to.

With that in mind, I will start at the beginning with The Emissary. I also think Duet is a must watch of the season one episodes and we can end our season one watch with In the Hands of the Prophets. If you would like me to cover any other first season DS9 episodes leave a comment.

This is a complete list of season 1 episodes. Without further ado let’s dive in and begin at the beginning.

The scene of action is Deep Space Nine, an outpost at the edge of the alpha quadrant near Bajor, a planet devastated by war and occupation by the Cardasssians . When the show begins the Cardassians have just left, or should I say wrecked the station, before leaving. Our hero, Benjamin Sisko, a commander in StarFleet is named the commanding officer of the station. Benjamin Sisko has a young son, Jake, who is none too thrilled by this transfer to the middle of nowhere, where the replicators are broken and the living quarters are missing a bed…

Click the link to read the rest!

Guest Post From Cheryl Rofer: The Department of Energy, What Does it Do? 🤔

(Not Cheryl Rofer!)

Fails Dancing With The Stars, Wins Nuke Prize

by Cheryl Rofer

According to the New York Times, Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, presidential aspirant, and now Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy, um, didn’t know what the Department of Energy does when he accepted Trump’s nomination. “Sure I’ll be Ambassador for Oil and Gas,” he said. Twitter is meeting this revelation with humor and “We’re all going to die.”

In a better world, like the one we’ve been living in the past eight years, Cabinet secretaries actually know something about the organizations they are leading. It’s time to disrupt that fusty idea. We have Betsy DeVos, who wants to eliminate public education, as Education Secretary, a fast-food executive as Labor Secretary, and so on. Rick Perry has advocated eliminating the Department of Energy, so he was the natural pick.

Does that mean we are all going to die? That’s not so much the purview of the Energy Secretary. The President has a military guy who carries around the “football,” which is the most immediate starter of nuclear wars. As far as policy goes, the Secretaries of State and Defense have much more to say about starting wars nuclear and conventional. And, surprisingly for this administration, they actually seem to have responsible views on nuclear weapons. Here are excerpts from James Mattis’s and Rex Tillerson’s testimony to Congress. They are quite different from what Donald Trump has tweeted, and much more like the policies that Obama has followed.

Mattis almost says something that the arms control community has wanted to hear from the president:

the role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

Change that to

the only role of nuclear weapons is “[t]o deter nuclear war and to serve as last resort weapons of self-defense.”

and a lot of arms-controllers would be very happy.

The Secretary of Energy is in charge of building and maintaining nuclear weapons, so there is some concern about accidents and such, but fortunately it will not be Rick Perry handling the wrenches or working the gloveboxes. A big downside of someone like Perry is that there is no way he can play the role Ernie Moniz did in developing the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Now the question is how much influence Mattis and Tillerson will have on their boss.

Late Evening Report From the Electoral Field: The Bella Q Files!

The Ohio election system is made up of two (or more) separate yet equal parts. The people that cast the votes and the lawyers, like commenter Bella Q, who observe them. This is Bella Q’s story… (donk donk)

Earlier today commenter Bella Q did a stint as a (legal) observer in OH, here’s her report from the field.

I had a Saturday 12-4 shift as an observer at my OH county’s Board of Election – the only early vote location – and voters were in remarkably good cheer, even when the line was an hour and a half. Many brought children with them, nearly all of whom were impressively well-behaved.  They seemed interested to be on the outing while staying close by the parent(s) and being very still and quiet.  In the 5 hours I was there, I heard perhaps 3 children out of many dozen making fussy noises.

There were several combinations of parent(s) and new teenaged voters, as well as a number of other self-identified 1st time voters, many of whom appeared to be naturalized citizens based on their audible accents. That was at the end of a counter of 11 check in stations where I was sitting.  All the poll workers – most of whom are regular Board staff were consistently and sincerely pleasant with voters, which was clearly critical to keeping the atmosphere pleasant to just short of festive.

A taco truck with a sign: Guac the Vote was handing out tacos to voters. There was a table next to it with coffee and candy in the morning, water and candy in the afternoon, and pizza in the late afternoon. They had music playing as well.  The progressive group organizing those booked a chili truck for tomorrow; I know this because I was chatting with a woman staffing that event as those arrangements were being made. They were meticulous about not mentioning candidates or causes because they were within the distance at which electioneering is prohibited.

Biscuit the taco dog came over from Indy to protest against Trump; she posed patiently for many photos. Her handler was asked to keep her across the street from the voting line, but he reported that the request was polite, and he didn’t know about distance requirements and immediately complied.



1767 people voted during the 12-4 period, with the last voter at about 5:10 pm.  There was nothing to observe, since it was Board staff; essentially I was there to report the line lengths/wait times and the vote total to the Regional Voter Protection Director.  And interesting statement dogs.  Had there been any incident(s), that report would have been relayed as well.  I was struck by how efficiently voters were accommodated through the process as well as how pleasant they all seemed even when they’d had a lengthy wait.