Vladimir Putin’s e-mail hacks: have the Democrats become soft?

Vladimir Putin's e-mail hacks: have the Democrats become soft?

Based on evidence from the CIA and other important intelligence agencies, the Russians interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election, by way of an extensive e-mail hacking scheme. It’s important to note that these intelligence services are the most important and accurate sources of information for critical decision making in the U.S. government, with extensive networks of experts gathering and analyzing data.

Clearly the Russians wanted to make sure Donald Trump was elected, and Hillary Clinton was not. Intelligence experts believe two Kremlin-affiliated groups, operating independently, were responsible for the hacks, one from Russian Military Intelligence, and the other from the FSB Spy Agency. And Vladimir Putin appears to have been involved with the schemes.

The Russian leader has great enmity for Hillary Clinton, going back over four years. He believes she was responsible for a wave of protests in 2011 and 2012, when Putin ran for a third Presidential term. He believes that the protesters were paid by Clinton, who was still Secretary of State in President Obama’s administration, in an attempt to meddle with the Russian election. So the 2016 election hacks were essentially payback for Clinton, from Putin’s point of view. Putin was basically taking revenge.

In contrast, Putin’s view of Trump is much more favorable. He’s viewed as a fresh face, sans baggage, and a deal-maker with whom he can negotiate, not as an ideological hard-liner, and personal enemy, like Clinton. And Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson (President and CEO of Exxon Mobil) sits well with Putin, who has negotiated many favorable deals with Tillerson for the drilling of fossil fuels.

Tillerson is quite close to Putin, and the Russian government even awarded him the country’s Friendship Decoration in 2012. Clearly the Trump administration is poised to do a lot of business with Russia in the energy markets over the next four or more years. And so, in addition to a great deal of personal bad blood between Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, Russia has some pretty clear economic interests at stake, making it logical for the Russian government to prefer a Trump victory in the U.S. Presidential election.

So at this point we must ask, what’s wrong with the U.S., what’s wrong with American Citizens, and what on earth is wrong with the Democratic Party? We have clear evidence, from top intelligence services, particularly the CIA, that Vladimir Putin’s Russia hacked the U.S., and conspired to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump, who in fact ended up the actual winner.

In other words, a foreign power put its thumb on the scale of our election process, and was rewarded with exactly what it wanted! This is obviously an outrage, but nonetheless, many stand by passively. Where’s the outcry? Where’s the fiery concern for democracy and the sacred inviolability of the vote? Americans, and America’s Democrats in particular, need to stand up and be counted. They simply can’t allow this to pass.

For 70 years the preeminent power in the world has been the United States. Is that now changing? Was our 2016 election actually Russia’s great moment of triumph, its ascendancy to influence on the world’s stage, following it’s time in the doldrums of power after the collapse of the old Soviet Union? Has Russia finally outplayed the United States?

So what should we do in response to the hacking scandal? Surely something. Not simply—-nothing. Should we delay the Electoral College vote by a week or more, to help figure this mess out? Maybe. Should we declare the election results null and void, due to foreign interference, and run a new election? Probably. Are the American People and the Democratic Party so soft, so disinterested and sheep-like, that they…that WE… simply let this outrage pass? Shouldn’t we, for the love of our country, freedom and democracy, take this terrible revelation as a chance, and a reason, to take decisive action, and start over again?

 

Photo: By DonkeyHoteyVladimir Putin carrying his buddy Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

 

Alan Thicke, writer, composer and actor, dies at 69

Alan Thicke, writer, composer and actor, dies at 69

Alan Thicke, the writer, composer and actor who’s best known for his portrayal of Jason Seaver, the work-at-home psychiatrist and caring father, on the 80s sitcom “Growing Pains”, died this week, at 69. He passed away suddenly from a heart attack while playing ice hockey with his 19-year-old son. His role on Growing Pains won him the love and admiration of countless fans.

But this wasn’t his only claim to fame. Thicke was multi-talented, and composed several theme songs, including the theme for “Diff’rent Strokes,” another iconic sitcom. As a veteran performer, he’d worked in the entertainment industry for over 5 decades, playing many parts on television over the years, sometimes playing himself, in addition to his work on Growing Pains. On a personal note, friends and family remember his kindness, generosity, and real-life skill as a father.

Learn more about Alan Thicke (CNN)

 

 

Photo:By ToglennOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Genocide in Aleppo, Syria as Assad loyalists retake the city

Genocide in Aleppo, Syria as Assad loyalists retake the city

News reports of civilians, including women and children, executed in the streets of Eastern Aleppo as forces loyal to Bashar-al Assad retake the city and move into areas once held by rebel fighters, are horrifying the world, and follow on the heals of desperate pleas from activists that the city is suffering a genocide.


Raw news footage from Aleppo, Syria via USA Today

The U.N. Human Rights Office has relayed reports that at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, have been killed, while unconfirmed reports from activists place the number much higher. And large swathes of the city itself are in ruins, following heavy bombing. Over the course of the 5-year-long Syrian war, over 500,000 people have been killed, and millions of refugees have been displaced, many of whom have fled their homes to take refuge in other countries.

Claims of genocide are of course extremely serious and must continue to be verified as news reports come in. The execution of civilian noncombatants, including women and children, is clearly an unconscionable war crime that must not be tolerated by the international community. Murdering members of an unarmed civilian population for any reason is unacceptable and must end immediately. Such an outrage clearly violates all standards of international and military law.

The suffering of the Syrian people over the course of this terrible war is tragic, and should move all decent people to action. The international community must redouble its efforts to bring this violent conflict to an end, and punish those guilty of war crimes, no matter what what political or military affiliation they claim.

Learn about Aleppo genocide claims (USA Today)

 

 

Photo: Syrian raw news feed via USA Today (screen capture)

Consider this Petition to the Electoral College

Consider this Petition to the Electoral College

Many believe that a Trump Presidency would be anathema to American values. But more importantly, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by well over 2 million votes. And according to national intelligence organizations, including the CIA, Russian hackers influenced the election results, which is both a violation of U.S. law, and a national security crisis. For this reason, many are urging the Electors of the electoral college to vote for Hillary Clinton.

So consider this Change.org petition, which calls for Electors in relevant states to cast their votes for Clinton. Here’s a video, which explains further:

Patti Smith sings at Bob Dylan’s Nobel Tribute

Patti Smith sings at Bob Dylan's Nobel Tribute

Legendary musician Patti Smith delivered a heart-felt performance of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna A-Gonna Fall,” at Dylan’s Nobel Prize tribute, in Stockholm. She was so nervous she stumbled and forgot the words, needing to start over, which greatly endeared her to the crowd. Audience members, including prominent dignitaries from around the world, were visibly moved, some to tears, by the music, and Smith’s sincere emotion and vulnerability. Bob Dylan, who chose not to attend the award ceremony and related festivities, won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, for his life’s work as a singer-song writer with a strong poetic bent.

Photo: Youtube screen capture / Pete Sugarman

Climate Change is Simple: David Roberts’ TEDx talk

Climate Change is Simple: David Roberts' TEDx talk

The management of Face Activities is very concerned about the environment and threats to the health and welfare of our planet, animal habitats, and human life, caused by environmental dangers, like climate change. In this spirit, we will periodically present pieces on significant threats to the safety of our planet, including climate change, pollution, and over population. We urge our membership to stay active, and involved, in making our planet a better, safer, and cleaner home.

 

David Roberts, a staff writer for Grist.org, gave a TEDx talk about climate change, called “Climate Change is Simple,” in 2012. It remains an excellent, simple introduction to the subject, and a call to arms. The threat of warming global temperatures, caused by human activity, is a great risk to the long-term survival of humanity, and all life on earth.

Roberts explains how critical the problem is. By burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, we are pouring billions of tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere yearly, which acts like a blanket, trapping heat from the sun that would otherwise radiate back into space. This heats up our atmosphere and oceans relatively rapidly. Natural atmospheric warming of a similar sort has happened before in our planets prehistory, but slowly. In our post-industrial revolution era, global warming is happening at a much faster rate than ever before. So, what are the effects?

According to Roberts, scientists and politicians proposed a somewhat arbitrary 2 degree Celsius limit on the global temperature rise. If average temperatures went above this threshold, then negative effects from climate change would be likely. Unfortunately this threshold was set much too high. Negative effects are likely to become quite noticeable at just 1.5 degrees Celsius (note that we’ve currently reached the 1 degree mark, since the start of the industrial revolution.)

Roberts also notes that if we continue on our current course, with our current green house gas emission rates, we could reach 4 and even 6 degree rises. This level of warming would have devastating effects on world populations. Over half the species on earth would die, and 40% or more of the habitable land on the earth’s surface would be stricken by drought, risking the world’s food supply. Sea levels would rise dramatically, flooding many coastal lands and cities, and hundreds of millions of people would become refugees. We would have a very real problem housing and feeding the world’s population.

In the worst case scenario, global warming could trigger feedback loops in the environment, causing a run away warming trend that’s irreversible. For example, if the permafrost in Siberia melts and releases significant quantities of methane gas into the atmosphere, which is a potent green house gas, then temperatures could sky rocket, causing the average global temperature rise to hit 12 degrees Celsius by the year 2300. In such a case the world may become virtually uninhabitable. Half the earth’s surface would literally be too hot for human habitation. For example, a place that now has an average temperature of 80 F could reach 170 F! Human beings may not have the technology to survive in a world that hot, and life as we know it now would surely be a thing of the past.

Roberts urges action now. He recognizes that many hold back from climate change activism because they don’t understand the science very well. But he presents his TEDx talk in order to over come that barrier. To Roberts, the principles of climate change are simple, and its consequences are dire. We must greatly limit carbon emissions over the next few years, or risk a significant and lasting increase in global temperatures, threatening our safety the habitability of planet earth.

 

Photo: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed) – Climate change is simple: David Roberts at TEDxTheEvergreenStateCollege / Youtube

Senator John Glenn, first American to orbit the earth, dies at 95

Senator John Glenn, first American to orbit the earth, dies at 95

Former Senator John Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the earth as a Mercury astronaut in the fledgling U.S. Space Program, died this week, at the age of 95. He’d been challenged by ill health following a stroke a few years ago.

His long and illustrious career spanned the military, the space program, and politics. His achievements as a Mercury astronaut captured the minds and hearts of people around the world, and earned him an important place in the history of space exploration.

Senator Glenn served for 24 years (4 terms) in the nation’s highest legislature as a democrat, following his career at NASA. He retired from politics in 1999. In an interesting reprisal of his earlier role, he flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery for one mission, in 1998, at the age of 77, with special permission from NASA, making him the oldest person to fly in space.

As a young man John Glenn served as a marine aviator. An expert military pilot, he flew in both World War II and Korea, logging a total of 149 combat missions, and earning numerous military decorations. After his combat role ended he served as a military test pilot, an extremely dangerous job that’s highly respected in the aerospace industry, and was ultimately selected for NASA’s Mercury program, which was a rapid response to the Soviet Union’s early success in Space exploration, following their launch of Sputnik.

Glenn’s successful 1962 orbital flight was fraught with drama. He spoke from space via radio describing the beauty of the view to countless listeners—-a first in the United States (Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had already completed the first ever orbital flight the previous year.) But there were concerns his capsule’s heat shield was severely damaged, which would have lead to grave consequences during reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. But the fears proved unfounded, and he returned safely to earth, and to new found fame as a record-breaking astronaut.

In the Senate, John Glenn was an advocate for education and basic scientific research. He believed strongly that strength in these key areas afforded the United States its edge on the world stage. He was, not surprisingly, a big advocate of NASA, and also strong on national defense. He once ran for President, but lost the democratic primary to Walter Mondale. He also lost the Vice Presidential role to Walter Mondale, when Jimmy Carter selected the other politician during his run for the White House.

Senator John Glenn is widely regarded as a genuine American Hero, who helped beat back the boundaries of ignorance and push the U.S. Space Program forward significantly. He assumed great physical risks throughout his career, for the advancement of human knowledge, and for greater good. He was also widelyh recognized as a personable, gentlemanly individual, with a keen, inquisitive mind.

Learn more about Senator John Glenn’s passing (NPR)

 

 

Photo: By NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA-GRC) – Downloaded from the NASA NiX Digital Image Collection: ID: C-1999-00429, Public Domain, Link

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

This week the United States commemorated the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which heralded the entry of the U.S. into World War II. Over the next four years, a violent war raged across both Europe and the Pacific, culminating in two devastating atomic detonations at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States, knocking Japan out of the war and securing victory for the U.S. and her allies. Clearly Japan’s initial aggression failed to achieve a lasting goal. So, why did Japan launch this violent attack at Pearl Harbor?

Starting in 1931, when Japan invaded resource-rich Manchuria, Japan sought to build an empire throughout Asia and the Pacific, rivaling the empires of Europe during the 19th century. The Japanese called this the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” but countries within this relationship were subject to Japan’s authority, and were forced to submit by force, if necessary. To achieve this end, Japan required raw materials to fuel its war machine and industrial centers.

This didn’t go over well with the United States, which controlled the Phillippines at that time, and had extensive business interests throughout the region. The 1930s were therefore marked by increasing competition and tensions between these two powers. After capturing Manchuria, Japan attacked China and moved into French Indo-China as well. In response, the United states and key European nations, including Great Britain and the Netherlands, initiated increasingly potent economic sanctions intended to curtail Japan’s war machine and limit the spread of its imperial ambitions, thereby protecting U.S. interests.

On the military front, the United States was the only Naval Power in the Pacific capable of posing a threat to Japan, and the bulk of U.S. Naval forces were concentrated at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Finally, the U.S. instituted devastating oil sanctions which threatened to stop Japan’s military-industrial complex in its tracks. At this point, Japan had to choose between dropping its imperial ambitions, or expanding its war effort, in order to capture more resource rich lands with which to continue fueling the Japanese war effort and expansion. Japan chose the latter option, but recognized that the U.S. was a significant impediment to their success.

Japan determined that a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, if timed absolutely perfectly, would cripple the U.S. fleet, rendering it incapable of defending the pacific. A key part of this plan was the goal to destroy the five U.S. air craft carriers anchored at Pearl Harbor. Following such an attack, the Pacific would be defenseless, and Japan would have all the territory and resources it needed to build its empire and rise as a great power to rival the western nations. Japan didn’t have ambitions to invade the U.S., and Japanese experts determined that the U.S. would likely bow out of a confrontation, retreating to lick its wounds, leaving the Pacific to the stewardship up and coming new power—-Japan.

So Japan launched its attack, and it was truly devastating. However, Japan failed to destroy the five U.S. carriers, which was a major failure in hind sight, since it afforded the U.S. some heavy fire power with which to continue prosecuting a war effectively. Outraged by the attack, and fearing that an invasion of the U.S. homeland might be imminent, the United States declared war on Japan and prosecuted a long and bloody war in the pacific, punctuated by large battles at sea, and a brutal island-hopping campaign.

The five U.S. air craft carriers were used to great advantage, particularly at critical conflicts like the Battle of Midway. In hindsight it’s clear that once the United States committed to war, the fate of Japan was effectively sealed. The smaller power, though skilled in war and well equipped at the start, was no match, in the long term, for the much larger country, with its great industrial might to back up its navy.

By the close of the war, the U.S. and Japanese forces had suffered greatly, though the U.S. ultimately had the upper hand. Japanese soldiers were known for great ferocity in combat, and a refusal to surrender. Japanese Prison camps were brutal places where many American service men languished and died. For these reasons, the U.S. leadership thought that the Japanese wouldn’t surrender if their homeland was invaded. The prospect of a brutal, protracted invasion loomed.

And fueled by long simmering rage over the attack at Pearl Harbor, which Americans viewed as underhanded and despicable, and perhaps also fueled by the racism of the day, which can’t be denied, as evidenced in war-time propaganda, and the tragic story of the Japanese internment camps in the United States, the U.S. Government, under the command of President Harry Truman in the final months of the war, decided to use their secret weapon, the atomic bomb, which had been developed by a team of expert scientists and engineers in Los Alamos, New Mexico, throughout the war years.

In the summer of 1945 the U.S. military dropped two nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with devastating results. The loss of life from the initial blast as well as the lingering effects of atomic radiation was horrendous. These attacks did serve their purpose: Japan surrendered, ending the war. But they also ushered in a new era, redolent of the threat of nuclear warfare, which upped the stakes for large-scale military conflicts, and triggered an arms race which has put the very survival of the human race in question.

 

 

Photo: By U.S. Navy – Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-K-13513 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage Command, Public Domain, Link

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