Saturday, January 16, 2021

Sen. Patty Murray Responds to My Letter Regarding President Trump's Responsibility for the January 6, 2021, Attack on Our Nation's Capital

 

Dear Dr. Badalamente,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the transfer of power between President Donald J. Trump and President-Elect Joseph R. Biden. 
 
 I come to the Capitol every day to fight for what I believe in. I often have issues I feel very strongly about—whether it’s a woman’s right to choose, or immigration, or health care, or the issue of the day. I use my voice to tell people what I believe to be right, and I listen to the other side. We hear each other out, we vote, and whoever has the votes wins. That is what our democracy requires: people having a voice, being able to use it, and all of us accepting that no one person or group should get their way all the time.
 
On November 9, 2020, people used their voice and elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next President and Vice President by a wide margin in both the Electoral College and in the popular vote. They won, as well, with historic turnout—the highest in over 100 years. Make no mistake: President Trump decisively lost a legitimate election.
 
However, instead of accepting the will of the people, as our democracy requires, President Trump and the Republican Party have repeatedly attacked the results at every turn: peddling false, baseless allegations of election fraud; pursuing meritless lawsuits which have been repeatedly rejected in court; ignoring multiple recounts states have conducted to ensure the accuracy of the vote; and ultimately, by inciting and then unleashing against Congress a violent mob, fueled by white supremacy, dangerous conspiracy theories, and Far-Right authoritarianism, in a lethal domestic terrorist attack and act of insurrection.
 
President Trump told a crowd of his supporters on January 6, 2021, that they should never accept defeat, saying, “you’ll never take this country back with weakness.” In response, his band of insurrectionists stormed our nation’s Capitol with weapons, zip-tie handcuffs, Confederate flags, and more. They violently attacked and injured police, assaulted members of the press, smashed windows and offices, called for the hanging of public officials, erected a gallows with a noose outside of the Capitol, planted pipe bombs and incendiary devices at other nearby buildings, and tried to rush the halls of Congress with members inside—all in an attempt to upend a democratic election. Their siege tragically resulted in several deaths and the murder of a Capitol Police officer—however, it did not stop Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at 3:41 am on January 7, 2021.


 There can be no normalizing this attack. To fully heal from the damage of that attack, we need transparency and accountability for everyone responsible. 
 
We need questions answered about the profound breakdown in security. The stark difference in the treatment of this violent mob compared to legions of women, people with disabilities, members of the clergy, and activists of color who have peacefully protested in and around the Capitol complex needs to be recognized as unjust and accounted for. The insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol must be held fully accountable for their actions under the law. The House has already impeached President Trump a second time, and the Senate must now hold a trial—as quickly as possible—and bar him from holding future office. 
 
As a Senator. I reserve my right to use my voice to fight for what I believe in, and I respect those who disagree with me. But at the end of the day, our job is to keep this country a democracy where voices win, not brute force. Any Member who stands up and supports the power of force over the power of democracy has broken their oath of office and should no longer serve. That is why I have called for Senators Hawley and Cruz to resign, which is something I do not do lightly.
 
To families in Washington state and nationwide, please know that as frightening as this has been, there is reason for hope because of your participation in the very same processes the President and his followers are seeking to undermine. Because of you, we will soon have a President and Congress determined to protect and strengthen rather than dismantle our democratic institutions. We will soon have a President and Congress who are committed to fighting white nationalism and the mass radicalization, facilitated by online platforms, that continues to threaten our communities, and especially communities of color. Continue to have faith in yourselves, be kind to each other, participate in our democracy, and we will get through this together. 

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. If you would like to know more about my work in the Senate, please feel free to sign up for updates through the subscribe button below.



Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator     

Sunday, January 10, 2021

To Further Divide the Country

Charlottesville "Unite the Right"

Republican Senate and House members, Republican politicians generally, conservative pundits appearing on the “fair and balanced” Fox News, and evangelical pastors with their faces at once beatific and doleful, all joined in expressing unctuous concern over Speaker Pelosi’s intention to move ahead Monday with the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, for “Incitement of Insurrection.” The politicians, pundits, and pastors seem united in their opinion that impeachment will “further divide the country.”

For myself, I find this another example of Republicans and their constituencies lacking what I refer to as an “irony gene.” They seem immune to the fact that what they say is the exact obverse of what they do. Republicans have been going about dividing America at least since Newt Gingrich made a science of combative, take no prisoners, partisan politics. Gingrich is remembered for a 1978 talk he gave to young Republican activists at college in Georgia in which he said, “One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.”*

Republicans have been led for the last 4 years by the “Divider in Chief,” Donald J. Trump. They have followed him slavishly, and parroted his divisive, crass, insulting dialogue and Twitter feed. They have refused to criticize him even when his behavior is beneath contempt and his policies are contemptible. There weren’t “very fine people on both sides,” but Republicans, fearful of losing a significant portion of their constituency, were loath to call out white supremacists. And when Trump told them to "stand back and stand by," these Republicans said nothing, until they began saying, "they stole the election from you."

Well, at least most of these irony-challenged Republicans aren’t saying that incitement of an insurrection isn’t impeachable. They’re just concerned that actually impeaching the son of a bitch that did it will “further divide the country.

 

Insurrection, January 6, 2021

 _______________________________________
* Mitch McConnell is said to have “transformed from a moderate Republican who supported abortion rights and public employee unions to the embodiment of partisan obstructionism” as a result of observing the effectiveness of Gingrich’s tactics (Alec MacGillis, “The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell,” 2014).

Friday, January 8, 2021

Sedition

President Donald J. Trump speaking at his "Stop the Steal" rally in Washington D.C., January 6, 2021.


On January 6, 2021, Donald J. Trump, the sitting President of the United States, incited a riot that resulted in the storming of the U.S. Capital, and the successful breaching of its defenses by domestic terrorists, led by a “huge contingent of Proud Boys.” This occurred as the Congress, with Vice-President Pence presiding, was counting the 2020 Electoral College votes.

This count was to be a ceremonial function celebrating America’s democratic institution of free and fair elections, as Congress has no power to change the vote of the electors chosen by the 50 states. Joe Biden had amassed 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

Trump told a crowd of raucous supporters on the Ellipse just south of the White House, “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical Democrats.”

Trump went on to reiterate his evidence-free charges of fraud, made erroneous statements about how elections were run in swing states “by Democrats," and in a rambling aside bragged about his “history-making” achievements, berated the Media’s corruption, asked where Hunter Biden was, berated Georgia Governor Brian Kemp for not overturning the Georgia result, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, and commended Rudy Giuliani as a “real fighter.”

Trump concluded by exhorting his followers, “We will never give up. We will never concede. It will never happen…" Pointing at the crowd with his black-gloved hand he said, "We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And I’ll be with you…because you'll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong.”

And they did as the President asked them. They marched to the Capital, and stormed the Capital, and desecrated the Capital. People died.

Trump did not go with them. He was driven back to the White House where he watched what he had wrought on television.

The U.S. Capital, January 6, 2021


 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Welcoming 2021 [and everything that comes with it]

Happy New Year!

I’m not sorry to see 2020 go — you? On the other hand, I’m not expecting to dance in the streets welcoming 2021 (that would be exhausting), because all we’re talking about is a tiny mark on a bone.

The bone, found in Ishango in Central Africa (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) was an early version of our calendar. It dates to about 9000 BCE and was marked with scratches to show lunar phases* and track the passage of “time” (really just the behavior of a mottled silver disk in the sky). This is not a calendar you’ll receive from the World Wildlife Fund — they’ve converted to paper (although an animal bone would seem appropriate for the WWF).

My point is that moving from one mark on a bone to the next doesn’t change the spread of disease, the distribution of vaccine, the exploding U.S. national debt, or the play of the Jacksonville Jaguars. So, we’ll still be wringing our hands (and hopefully washing them frequently) over all the worrisome things happening in our world.

I hope you have a plan for how to survive 2021. I’m working on mine, and hope to have it finished before Mitch McConnell is revealed as an alien “Lizard Man,” because although a lot of Americans might be pleased to say, “I told you so!” I’d be scared out of my Gourd.

Please be safe, be well, and try to bring some happiness into your lives and that of others as you move through the New Year towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

* It was Claudia Zaslavsky, an ethnomathematician, who suggested that the creator of the tool may have been a woman, tracking the lunar phase in relation to the menstrual cycle.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

We Have the Technology -- Do We Have the Political Will?

 

Discourse of Climate Delay (art by LĂ©onard Chemineau, based on the diagram below)
 

by Jon Phillips

Commercial technologies currently exist that can transform the entire electricity generating sector. No new technology is required to take action. All that’s required is to agree and develop the practical legal basis to rapidly ramp up that transformation. Detailed studies of at least two practical approaches have already been done.
 
Transportation and land use sectors are more difficult than electricity. But parts of those sectors can already be addressed and there’s nothing in the way of moving forward except a lack of agreement to do so in legislative bodies at Federal and State levels. You don’t have to have the full solution to make enormous progress. We should make increased electrification of transportation a direct link to the electricity sector approach and get moving on that.
 
Even Germany’s ill advised approach may work out in the end. Certainly it’s better than doing nothing. In a decade or two, they’ll be in an ideal place to reverse their anti-nuclear stance and accept new and far safer technology to back a renewables rich infrastructure that they’re currently building. Then they could quickly expunge nearly all coal (they’re still using coal) and quite a bit of natural gas backing. Hydrogen production and large fuel cells are proto-existing technologies that are certainly more competitive than solar — which they’re over installing all over the place at tremendous cost.
 
Ultimately, carbon pricing is the solution and that’s a matter of law and regulations. It would immediately spur infrastructure transition (which means a huge source of labor and technical jobs that cannot be offshored). If we could make rapid progress on electricity and on electrification of the personal transportation market, plus some big mass transit markets that could use rail, that would be a great start.
 
Harder targets like air transportation and commercial trucks might resolve more easily later. Agriculture, meat production, and forestry practices require revamping. We should press hard on building codes to require more energy efficiency and installations of passive and active solar solutions that already exist.
 
Dual Axis Trackers (pv magazine)
 
Farmed solar isn’t such a great idea from a land use perspective, frankly it’s very destructive to local ecosystems of undeveloped land and even bodies of water (I’ve seen whole lakes covered in floating photovoltaic panels. It creates artificial shade that inherently alters the ecosystem. I’ve seem massive installations that are no better than clear cutting a forest — except that a forest might eventually grow back.
 
We need to be smarter about solar. For example, if there’s a decent solar resource in a given place, it should be required in building codes for roofing applications and for parking lot coverings, etc. That land is already in developed use and you’re not destroying a habitat in the boondocks. The only problem is libertarian thinking about building codes. People scream when you try to make requirements about their neighborhood.
 
Agrivoltaics is emerging as very interesting in arid & semi arid areas where solar panel performance improves with plant transpiration cooling and plants are more productive with some protection against extreme heat. And irrigation water need drops by a third to a half.
 
William F. Lamb, et al., in Global Sustainability, Vol 3, 2020

The real problem isn’t technology and know how, it’s lack of agreement to put laws and regulations in place. All of the excuses above are just a dodge to avoid even the slightest near term inconvenience of groups of individuals (same psychology as NIMBY). Human psychology is far more attuned to what will happen today and tomorrow than in decades to come. It’s that same reason people get mired in revolving credit debt. The inability to suppress the urge to seek immediate self gratification is very destructive.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Accountability for Politicization of Science? Lysenkoism in the U.S.

by Natalka Poltavka*

"Working hard will give you a good farm," USSR collective farming, 1947

It took 97 days from the outbreak of the first Covid-19 case in the U.S. to get to 1 million cases and 44 days to hit 2 million cases. Since summer we have experienced exponential growth in the number of Covid-19 cases, as more and more people seem to ignore simple public health warnings.  In November alone the U.S. added 4 million new cases, going from 10 million on November 9th, to 13 million 18 days later.  And this is before the fallout from Thanksgiving travel is felt.

This is distressing in the extreme, especially in a society where we conduct complex global stock trades, multilateral business meetings, and exchange of technical equipment with the international space station, all using complicated technology. And yet millions are unwilling to engage in life-saving behavior using the simplest techniques -- wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing. And half the population mocks those who do. How did we get here?

I keep returning to something that has been troubling me for a long while and is now disturbingly evident -- the rise of Lysenkoism in American science.  One could argue that there were disturbing signs of this in April as President Trump mocked epidemiologists and public health specialists and started to brush their recommendations aside. Then with the elevation of Dr. Scott Atlas to the WH Coronavirus task force, and kangaroo panels of doctors peddling unproven and even crackpot theories antithetical to proven and established public health practices, the rise of Lysenkoism in public health and to some degree, medical science, became more evident. Yet again I find myself asking, how could this happen here?  Most of the world's public health specialists are enacting proven methodology that many of them learned in the U.S. and U.K to combat Covid-19 and even in the face of global surges, they are having more success than in the US. These experts are bewildered by the undermining of proven public health practices and frightened when the most renowned infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists are mocked, denounced and threatened!

Nikolai Vavilov, 1933

I often think that some of the cruelest tragedies are found in Russian history, and certainly one of the bitterest ironies in recent Russian science history is the fate of Nikolai Vavilov, noted agronomist, and genetic biologist, who died of starvation in a freezing Saratov prison in January 1943.  A scientist who pioneered plant breeding to help Soviet agriculture and created a bank of seeds from around the world to foster research to produce better crop yield to feed more people in the world, starved to death, a martyr to the political takeover of science that denied Mendelian genetics and elevated a peasant "agronomist," T.D. Lysenko, who embraced long-disproven Lamarckism.  Stalin, looking for someone to blame when collectivization failed spectacularly, found Vavilov a convenient scapegoat.  Many experts like Vavilov, along with his students were persecuted, arrested or shot.  Yet they refused to yield to what was politically mandated, some of them undertaking heroic efforts to save the seed bank in Leningrad during the Siege, when starvation was rampant and rats and people were vying for food -- the cats having long ago been eaten. Vavilov's seed bank by that time had grown to over 250,000 samples.  During this purge of expertise and actual science, T.D. Lysenko rose in the institutes and academies and his pseudo-scientific theories prevailed.  This set back Soviet genetics, agronomy and biology for a generation. And yet, Lysenko's popularity in Russia is "currently enjoying a revival in his homeland, where anti-American sentiment runs strong."

And so now here we are with Trump, blaming public health and infectious disease specialists for the damaged economy, yet offering no coherent plan to bring the numbers down and give us a fighting chance. By opening too soon, he ironically prevented the economy from rebounding.  Instead he and his Atlas acolytes undertook and expanded an insidious campaign of disinformation that is killing hundreds of thousands of Americans.  While millions eventually died from Stalin's repression of agriculture, biology and science, death took its toll over time, except for the immediate repercussions that Vavilov himself suffered.

Scott Atlas resigns from Trump Coronavirus Taskforce, Dec 1, 2020

The current pandemic and its unfettered surge in the U.S. due to willful denial of science, is having a more immediate effect -- hundreds of thousands have died and thousands more will die of Covid-19 by January 2021.  More despicable is that several of those preaching an anti-Public Health message -- much like Dr. Atlas himself -- are trained doctors, among them Rand Paul (a "self-certified" ophathalmologist).  This is even more damning than the misguided self-aggrandizement of a peasant Ukrainian pseudo-scientist. People are continuing to die needlessly.  And, just like the destructive impact on Soviet Science, the U.S. Public Health field and possibly nursing and medicine itself, will also suffer in the long term.  Already state public health specialists are resigning from their posts, fighting a losing battle against disinformation and increasing death threats to themselves and their families. Doctors and nurses are working around the clock to save lives of Covid victims -- many of whom deny the existence of the disease from which they are dying.

Where is the accountability for this?  For the lives that are being lost, for the grave damage dealt to what was once a crown jewel of U.S. medical expertise -- public health?  When experts like Vavilov paid with the loss of their careers or their lives, where was accountability in the USSR?  Yes, Vavilov was "rehabilitated" by the Soviets, and an institute named after him, but long after he was dead. And after Soviet biology/genetics had to make a long climb back.

When millions fall ill weekly and the death toll approaches half a million by February, and the Public Health field is decimated, will Trump, Atlas or Paul be held accountable? Or will they, like Lysenko, be admonished by scientific publications (Stanford and the Hoover Institute have distanced themselves from Atlas's positions), but serve out their days at their Institute or office or on Fox & Friends?

I thought the rise of Lysenkoism and the tragic fate of Vavilov was something unique to authoritarian regimes ruled by ideology and could not happen here.  Yet it has, with equally tragic consequences. We cannot overlook this.  This isn't a matter of disagreement over two scientific approaches.  One approach is unscientific; it has been disproven, it is wrong. Those responsible for promoting pseudo-science, conspiracy theories, or simply ignoring the worst pandemic in more than 100 years, must be held accountable.  

________________________________

'Natalka Poltavka' is a pseudonym for a long-time friend working as a foreign affairs specialist in the U.S. government. She has studied Soviet and then Russian affairs for over 4 decades.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941


The Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, and destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships, including 8 battleships.

Sen. Patty Murray Responds to My Letter Regarding President Trump's Responsibility for the January 6, 2021, Attack on Our Nation's Capital

  Dear Dr. Badalamente, Thank you for contacting me regarding the transfer of power between President Donald J. Trump and President-Elect...