Thursday, March 21, 2019

Facebook & Twitter Notes, March 21, 2019

“Bee-hunting remains a dangerous profession, sometimes you come across a snake coming out of a hole and bees can also sting you in the face,” he says.
A bee hunter for 15 years, the muscular man learnt the skill from his father who worked in this field for decades. “He taught me this old tradition to perpetuate it,” he explains. In spite of teaching his son how to collect wild honey, Kathery says that this ancient tradition will one day "completely disappear".
Less affected by the rampant modernisation of lifestyles, the southern governorate of Dhofar is nevertheless no longer a haven for bee hunters. “In 1997, those mountains were blessed with honey and I collected 42 bottles from a single place. Now, I harvest no more than two bottles a month."
In the crowded alleys of the Central Market of Salalah, Dhofar’s capital city, Ahmad Jabali sells honey collected from the mountain at a hefty $260 for one bottle. The natural liquid is served with food but also used for its therapeutic powers

From Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine.

Indeed, medicinal importance of honey has been documented in the world's oldest medical literatures, and since the ancient times, it has been known to possess antimicrobial property as well as wound-healing activity. The healing property of honey is due to the fact that it offers antibacterial activity, maintains a moist wound condition, and its high viscosity helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent infection. Its immunomodulatory property is relevant to wound repair too. The antimicrobial activity in most honeys is due to the enzymatic production of hydrogen peroxide. However, another kind of honey, called non-peroxide honey (viz., manuka honey), displays significant antibacterial effects even when the hydrogen peroxide activity is blocked. Its mechanism may be related to the low pH level of honey and its high sugar content (high osmolarity) that is enough to hinder the growth of microbes. The medical grade honeys have potent in vitro bactericidal activity against antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing several life-threatening infections to humans. But, there is a large variation in the antimicrobial activity of some natural honeys, which is due to spatial and temporal variation in sources of nectar. Thus, identification and characterization of the active principle(s) may provide valuable information on the quality and possible therapeutic potential of honeys (against several health disorders of humans), and hence we discussed the medicinal property of honeys with emphasis on their antibacterial activities.

Brian Schatz is the Senator from Hawaii appointed to succeed Senator Inouye in 2012.

Hard to know which is more durably ignorant, the anti-vax crowd or Trump's core supporters.

Joseph Dana's op-ed is a thumbnail sketch of the impasse of progress toward a two-state goal.

The National, founded in 2008, is an English-language daily in UAE.

As mainstream candidates such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make alliances with extremist parties, it is clear that Israel’s nationalist shift is all but complete. Openly racist discourse about Palestinians is now the norm in political debates.
Meanwhile, the ascent of politicians such as Naftali Bennett has shown Israelis and the world that any commitment to peace and the temporary nature of the occupation was a smokescreen.
These politicians have made it clear that they intend to hold on to the West Bank and make no attempt to conceal their prejudice and hostility towards Palestinians.

A Facebook friend posted a link to a good NY Times op-ed by Bret Stephens focused on Hamas' military dictatorship in Gaza.
Together with a link to Wikipedia's Palestinian Diaspora I posted this screencap & comment:

Good analysis as far as it goes. Hamas is a poster child for despicable oppressive military dictatorships.Meantime, Israel's divide-and-conquer strategy continues to effectively keep Palestinians from forming a state.They are not only split apart in the occupied territories, but scattered all over the world as well.

China's electric busses caught my eye. They are a glimpse of the future, still in the opening stages.

From the Guardian:
Meanwhile, cities such as London and New York are accelerating their drive towards electric buses. London plans to make all single-decker buses emission-free by 2020, and all double-deckers hybrid by 2019. New York plans to make its bus fleet all-electric by 2040.

Steve Inskeep tweets "No matter how much I learn about slavery, new details of its depravity shock me all over again. This was the case with Andrew Delbanco's book. It circulates amid the debate over reparations."

Delbanco's interview with Terry Gross last November (37 minutes) is a powerful lesson in our loss of civility. (Transcript at this link, or listen below.)

Ralph Waldo Emerson said at one point, no one tastes blood in the treats - blood in the treats. New Englanders didn't think about the fact that they might have had personal investments in the State Street Bank or some other bank that was making indispensable loans to plantation owners. They didn't think very hard about the fact that the Industrial Revolution that started to pick up steam in Massachusetts in the 1820s and 1830s where textile mills were at the center of that activity, that those textile mills were weaving slave-grown cotton into cloth. They didn't think about the clothes they were wearing on their own backs.
People, I think - you know, how many of us are really willing to think hard about where the comforts and pleasures and the conveniences of life that we take for granted, where they actually come from? What kind of laborers are producing these things for us, under what conditions? So again, I think it's easy to sit in judgment on people in the past and say, well, they should have thought about it; they should have realized that slavery was as much their problem as it was that of the slave owners. But I'm not sure we're in a position to make that moral judgment.
In any case, what the fugitive slave law did - Emerson said it again. He said it was like a sheet of lightning at midnight. Another phrase of his that I like very much - it was a university to the people. It taught the fact that there was an intricate web of connection between the slave owners of the South and the industrialists and indeed the citizens of the North.

And finally, I posted this little message in the hope that some of my Christian friends might connect the dots. It breaks my heart (and pisses me off) that many otherwise good people have been led to believe that President Trump is somehow an incarnation of a man with eschatological significance. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Facebook & Twitter Notes, March 20, 2019

A decade ago, lots of people worried that the internet was ruining their brains. In 2008, Nicholas Carr published an essay in the Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”—a question that pretty much answered itself. Carr felt sure that his increasing inability to concentrate, to immerse himself in a book or even a long article, had to be the result of his cognitive functions having been rewired by the web, making him hopelessly distractible. The counterargument to Carr’s theory, voiced by the usual gang of get-with-it-Grampa tech-positive pundits, held that every new communications technology is greeted by some form of panic and that if the internet fosters a skittering, browsing form of reading, well, maybe that’s what’s required in the brave new world we have created. At the time, blogger John Batelle wrote that when he was “jumping from link to link, reading deeply in one moment, skimming hundreds of links the next” and “devouring new connections as quickly as Google and the Web can serve them up,” he was “performing bricolage in real time” and getting “a lot smarter.” Besides, the internet has made more information, and therefore more knowledge, accessible to more people. And how could that be wrong?

Mondoweiss has a great survey of Bernie's campaign. 
Lots of links.
Don't skip the rich, intelligent comments thread. 

Bernie Sanders is officially running against Israeli apartheid! Yesterday Sanders posted an ad on his Facebook page featuring excerpts from activist Shaun King’s introduction of the Vermont senator at his Brooklyn College campaign launch March 2. King embraced the label that Donald Trump has given Sanders, of being crazy.
Listen, he has always rejected the status quo. He spoke out against apartheid in South Africa when crazily that was an unpopular thing to do. And even today he speaks out against apartheid-like conditions in Palestine even though it’s not popular. Listen, I don’t care if 45 calls him Crazy Bernie because he is a little crazy.
The ad uses the apartheid reference with the graphics above and below, including the statement, “Bernie smashes the Israel status quo.”


Notes on The Guardian's long read, Why Israel is quietly cozying up to Gulf monarchies...

The Trump presidency may be a blessing in disguise. I hate saying that out loud but in a global context he is simply an echo of a trend toward authoritarian government around the world. For countries historically run by dictators nothing much changes from one regime to the next. In some cases, dynastic control passes from one generation to another very much like corporate creations operate in the global economy where founders or executives with the most stock maintain control in their respective environments. China is the most prominent global example of collectivized state control, monarchies are the dynastic models and single dominant political parties run the rest. In all cases maintaining power is the number one objective. 
Evidence is mounting of increasingly close ties between Israel and five of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – none of which have formal relations with the Jewish state. Trump highlighted this accelerating change on his first foreign trip as president – to the Saudi capital Riyadh – by flying on directly afterwards to Tel Aviv. Hopes for Saudi help with his much-hyped “deal of the century” to end the Israel-Palestine conflict have faded since then. Yet Netanyahu is seeking to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia. And there has even been speculation about a public meeting between him and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Saudi crown prince who was widely blamed for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October. That would be a sensational – and highly controversial – moment, which is why Saudis are signalling frantically that it is not going to happen. Still, the meeting with Netanyahu in Warsaw went far beyond anything that has taken place before. The abnormal is becoming normal.

The subtitle of this piece echoes his main theme: After decades of hostility, a shared hatred of Iran – and a mutual fondness for Trump – is bringing Israel’s secret links with Gulf kingdoms out into the open. So as I read a steady drumbeat droned in the background. Backing away from this one issue, the chemistry of Israel and her neighbors and Donald Trump's catalytic effect, my mind wandered to many other ways this presidency is lancing old abscesses and ripping off scabs that have been part of the political landscape for years. I think of many examples but here is a partial punch list that comes to mind.

  • Racism generally and white supremacy in particular
  • Religious extremism -- Christian, Muslim, Hindu largely but others as well
  • Overbearing nationalism
  • Revisionist history
  • Skepticism of science
Each of these subjects and more are ideal subjects enabling individuals or systems in control to strengthen their grip on whatever population is involved by the use of divide-and-conquer tactics. For example, in the same way that segregation in the American South or apartheid in South Africa was used to control black people, Israel uses the same model to maintain control over Arabs in Israel and Palestinians in the occupied territories by keeping alive arguments about conflict resolution -- to maintain control not shared in any meaningful way with Palestinians. 

A subset of the population always seems to be suspicious or even outright hostile to science. Opposition to vaccines, for instance, is nothing new. Almost immediately when the first vaccinations were used to prevent smallpox, there was widespread opposition and suspicion that it was the work of the Devil and preventing disease was contrary to the will of God. Diseases, many believed, are a Divine way of punishing mankind for their sins. The idea that some individuals are  innocent of wrongdoing is easily dismissed by citing examples of whole nations or populations destroyed because they collectively opposed God's will. After all, everyone spoke the same language until they tried to build a tower to reach Heaven but were forced to abandon the idea when God split them up. They woke up one day speaking different languages. See how that works?

I could go on, but the point is clear. Thanks to this new "leader of the free world" being in most ways the opposite of his predecessor, he is either following a trend that has been growing since the end of World War Two or emerging as the logical result. It turns out that free world is becoming an oxymoron, with the only truly free places being those protected by tough, virtually impenetrable geopolitical boundaries. Trump's name appears 14 times in this link, and that of Obama 8 times, nearly always illustrating either a diametric contrast between them, or how both move in the direction of autocracy. 


That's all for today. Long reading tends to produce more hours of thought and reflection. And that's a good thing. 

The Dog Years of This Presidency

The Dog Years of This Presidency

John Pavlovitz
April 15, 2018 

Yesterday was a long decade.

By the end of the day, when my head finally hit the pillow I felt ten years older; as if I’d somehow spent far more than merely 24 hours on the planet, gone through much more than just one earthly rotation.

By nightfall, after weathering another turbulent day here, I felt disproportionately older than I should have.

I know I’m not alone.

This exhaustion is a national epidemic.

This fatigue has become commonplace here now.

In this Presidency, America is living dog years.

We’re all aging unnaturally rapidly, friends.

This is what happens when every day is packed to bursting with real and manufactured crises; with perpetual legislative assaults, with relentless nonsensical Twitter rants, with continually cycling bad news stories designed to heighten our urgency.

It’s the logical result of being deluged by so many relational fractures to tend to, so many emotional land mines to try and navigate, and by an ever-growing mountain of horrible to try and climb out from under.

Getting exposed to prolonged stress like this isn’t sustainable to the brain or to the body.

The heaviness is naturally going to take its toll; on your emotional state, your physical health, your spiritual wellness— and you’re going to get older faster.

If you look carefully you see it in people; the worry etched deep into their faces, the frazzled disbelief set into their eyes, the hunched countenance they carry themselves around with.

You may see it in the mirror too.

I caught up with a friend recently who I hadn’t seen in a few months. “You look tired today” he said to me, with sincere concern. I told him that he was right, but assured him that this was not an isolated reality.

“Yeah, I looked tired yesterday too—and the day before that.” I smiled and said. “This is how I look now.”

Yeah, you look tired, America—and I don’t blame you one bit. You’ve been through a lot.

Everything seems exponentially multiplied right now:
the number of Administrative scandals to keep track of,
the environmental protection rollbacks to lament and push back against,
the attacks on marginalized communities to martial energies against,
the home-grown humanitarian emergencies to respond to,
the sheer breadth and depth of our Government’s cruelty to brace ourselves for.

Whether or not this Presidency lasts four years, we’ve already sustained decades of damage; worry line-manufacturing atrocities, the effects of which will be irreversible. No miracle cream or magic fix or fountain of youth elixir will erase it all.

These days are taking years off of our lives. No matter what happens, we’ll never be able to recover some of what we’ve lost in such violently accelerated times. We’re just going to have to learn to see the much older version of ourselves and our country and live with it.

Hopefully with this artificially advanced age will come some useful wisdom too.

Maybe we’ll make sure we never do this again.
Maybe we’ll be more vigilant in the future.
Maybe we’ll guard against the apathy that got us here.
Maybe we’ll communicate with each other across divides better.
Maybe we’ll be louder in opposing the hatred that found traction again.
Maybe we’ll each find a personal activism that leverages our lives better in the cause of love and goodness.

If we never again put our nation through the world-class farce we’re now living in, we’ll have at least not aged this horribly for nothing.

If our children never have to endure this worry and fatigue and sleep deprivation; if their days are more like days and less like decades, we’ll at least be able to know we did right by them.

We’re living dog years, America.

Don’t waste a moment.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Facebook Notes, March 19, 2019

The NY Times takes a granular look at Donald Trump's finances.

He's not the first president who turns out to be "all hat, no cattle."

In 2003, a Deutsche Bank team led by Richard Byrne — a former casino-industry analyst who had known Mr. Trump since the 1980s — was hired to sell bonds on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. Bank officials escorted Mr. Trump to meet institutional investors in New York and Boston, according to an executive who attended.

The so-called roadshow seemed to go well. At every stop, Mr. Trump was greeted by large audiences of fund managers, executives and lower-level employees eager to see the famous mogul. The problem, as a Deutsche Bank executive would explain to Mr. Trump, was that few of them were willing to entrust money to him.
Mr. Trump requested an audience with the bank’s bond salesmen.
According to a Deutsche Bank executive who heard the remarks, Mr. Trump gave a pep talk. “Fellas, I know this isn’t the easiest thing you’ve had to sell,” the executive recalled Mr. Trump saying. “But if you get this done, you’ll all be my guests at Mar-a-Lago,” his private club in Palm Beach, Fla.
The sales team managed to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of bonds. Mr. Trump was pleased with the results when a Deutsche Bank executive called, according to a person who heard the conversation.
“Don’t forget what you promised our guys,” the executive reminded him.
Mr. Trump said he did not remember and that he doubted the salesmen actually expected to be taken to Mar-a-Lago.
“That’s all they’ve talked about the past week,” the executive replied.
Mr. Trump ultimately flew about 15 salesmen to Florida on his Boeing 727. They spent a weekend golfing with Mr. Trump, two participants said.
A year later, in 2004, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts defaulted on the bonds. Deutsche Bank’s clients suffered steep losses. This arm of the investment-banking division stopped doing business with Mr. Trump.

I was excited about the new landmark on the West Side until I saw this...

For the record, this is my Congressman.
I rarely bother to contact him.
It strikes me as a lost cause. 

Did I mention Amy Klobuchar kicks ass?

Links for future note...

...and this NPR report may be related...

I'm not posting this Tweet on Facebook because I don't want to give it any more oxygen. This note is for future reference.
Here is the president of the United States.

After reading this link about Beto I had to post a screencap to Facebook.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Tweets & Links That Caught My Eye

Tweets that caught my eye...

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio