Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It Would Have Been Much Easier For The Republicans To Stop Trump BEFORE He Was The Presumptive Nominee

How? you ask. Remarkably easy: all they would've had to do is keep 5 or 6 other candidates in the race. Trump got more votes than any other candidate in almost every Republican primary, but while there were a bunch of other candidates in the race, he was still getting far less than 50%. That's back when he was threatening that there would be riots in Cleveland if he wasn't named the nominee, remember? Back when it didn't look at all certain that he'd come to the convention with 50% of the delegates. He claimed he had a right to the nomination whether he had 50% or not.

And of course, he was wrong about that. The way both the Democratic and Republican conventions have worked, for a long, long time, maybe for as long as there have been Republican and Democratic conventions, I don't know, but definitely for a long time, is that if no one gets 50% on the first ballot, you vote again and again until someone has 50%. and after the first ballot, no delegates are pledged anymore.

All the Republicans had to do, back during the primaries, was keep Cruz and Rubio and Kasich and a couple more people in the race against Trump, and get together and decide who was going to win after the first ballet.

Oh, that doesn't sound simple to you? Compare it to trying to nominate someone else now, with a clear majority of delegates committed to Trump. My way would've been easier. And there was no reason for them to be intimidated by Trump's threats of riots: on the contrary, that's the sort of statement they easily could have used against Trump. Well, looks easy when Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren and John Lewis and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Barack Obama and Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean do it.

I think that the effort to stop Trump at the convention, when he has a big majority of delegates, will fail spectacularly, and sow acrimony and discord among Republicans generally, and leave Trump an even weaker candidate than he is now. So, as a Democrat, I'm all for it. I suspect that some of the Stop Trump Republicans have given up a while ago on winning the Presidential election, and figure that the best they can do for their party is to put as much distance between it and Trump as they can. Still, it's their party that put Trump in the the position he's in now. To some extent, all Republicans have to own that at least a little. And I think that shows that their party is in deep trouble.

Some Highlights From The History Of Solar Power

Before 600 BC someone had figured out how to start a fire using the sun's light and a magnifying glass.

In 1767, a solar oven was invented by Horace de Saussure.

In 1876, William Grylls Adams and Richard Day discovered that selenium produced electricity when exposed to sunlight. Werner von Siemens said that the discovery was very important. Selenium was not yet a cost-efficient source of power, but it was a beginning.

In 1883, Charles Fritts made selenium-based solar cells.

In a paper published in 1905, Albert Einstein formulated the photon theory of light.

In the 1920's solar warer-heating systems began to be installed in houses and apartment buildings in Florida and California.

In 1953, Calvin Fuller, Gerald Pearson and Daryl Chapin made the first silicon solar cells, efficient enough to power small electrical devices.

In 1956 solar cells were sold commercially for the first time. These were sold powering novelty devices and not yet as practical generators of electricity.

In 1961 the United Nations held a conference on "Solar Energy in the Developing World."

The Telstar satellite became the first solar-powered satellite in 1962, and in 1967, the Soyez 1 was the first manned spacecraft using only solar power while in orbit.

In 1971, J Baldwin of Integrated Living Systems developed the first building powered exclusively by solar and wind.

In 1972, a laboratory devoted exclusively to photovoltaic research opened at the University of Delaware. In 1973, the lab has created ahiuse, called Solar One, powered exclusively by solar.

In the 1990's, a grid-supported photovoltaic system was completed and installed in Kerman, California by Pacific Gas & Electric.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California proposed a program to have solar roofs on one million buildings in the state by 2017.

Currently, Hillary Clinton supports a plan to install 500 million solar panels nationwide by 2021.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Holy $%#@! One Of The Other Guys, Marquez, And ANOTHER One Of The Other Guys 1-2-3 At The Dutch MotoGP!

This is the most surprising MotoGP race result in years. In a lot of years.

MotoGP is world-class-, king-of the-hill, best-of--the-best motorcycle road racing. MotoGP races are held all over the world. You could think of MotoGP as being to motorcycles what Formula 1 is to cars; in fact, many MotoGP and Formula 1 races are held on the same tracks.

For the past couple of seasons MotoGP has been dominated by Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi of the factory Yamaha team and Narc Marquez of the factory Honda team, also known as the Repsol team, famous for its wicked-cool orange wheels:

Rossi has won 7 top-level World Championships, plus a couple more on smaller bikes when he was coming up; Lorenzo has won 3 on the big bikes and 2 more on smaller ones; and Marquez won the championship his first 2 seasons in MotoGP, plus a couple of earlier ones.

And a half dozen or so other guys might give them a run for the top three in any given race, including Dani Pedrosa, Marquez' teammate shown in the picture above, Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso of the factory Ducati team, Pol Espargaro on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, Pol's brother Aleix riding a factory Suzuki, and Cal Crutchlow on an LCR Honda; and then there are about a dozen other guys.

Don't get me wrong: those other guys are probably among the best 2 dozen motorcycle road racers on the planet right now. They're all very, very, very good, stunningly fast, or they wouldn't be in MotoGP. Still, going back to 2007, every season the champion has been Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez or a 4th guy who won twice and has since retired. 2006, another guy who has moved on to other things won, and 2001-2005 it was Rossi, and, although I don't gamble, I would imagine that the odds of the champion continuing to be either Lorenzo, Rossi or Marquez for a while to come are pretty good, or at least they were pretty good before today.

So it's very impressive that Whatsisname won today in Holland and that Whosits finished 3rd. This is shocker-headline news. Good for them!

PS, 27.June 2016: This story from Fox Sports provides some of the statistics behind how incredible the other guy's win is: how Whatisname is now the 10th-youngest-ever MotoGP or 500cc winner, bumping Johnny Cecotto out of the top 10; how just 5 guys had won 147 of the previous 150 races; how long it had been since someone on a non-factory ride had won (pretty darn long), and so forth. Like I said, this is a real Holy-Shnikey! type of story.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Get The Impression More And More That Brexit Won't Happen

And after you've cried a lot, look around a bit and tell me just exactly how Brexit is actually going to happen.

Cameron could officially start the exit, but he won't. Parliament could vote to start the process, but they won't. Another Prime Minister will replace Cameron in a few months. Will the next PM be anti-Brexit? Gee, d'ya think?

Millions of people have already signed the petition calling for a do-over on the referendum. Brits who voted Leave are regretting it remarkably quickly, to say the least, and even the leaders of the Leave vote seem distinctly queasy. The only people I've seen who are impatient for this to actually happen are -- EU leaders from other countries.

What's their problem?

Clearly, the charts and memes telling us that 20-year-old British voters who will suffer the effects of Brexit for 70 years because of the votes of people over 70 are a bit overly melodramatic -- it's not going to take 70 years for the UK to rejoin the EU if they actually do leave it.


Bill Maher: "Islam Needs A Reformation"

One thing which made me tired of the New Atheist movement was the unrelenting tendency to equate Christianity with fundamentalism, Islam with ISIS, etc.

And, as I've mentioned before on this blog, there's the very unfortunate combination of constantly talking about religions with not knowing very much about them, not studying their history, which pretty much amounts to not studying human history in general. Again last night on "Real Time," Bill Maher -- who is not all bad, and who started off the show in a very knowledge-based way, talking to an environmentalist and saying, quite accurately, that climate change is the world's #1 political issue at the present time, because if we don't deal with it it will kill us all -- said not for the first time that Islam needs a Reformation.

Spoken like a New Atheist who knows squat both about Islam and about the Western Christian Reformation. (Western Christian: the Orthodox and Syriac and Armenian and Coptic and Ethiopic Churches weren't involved in the Reformation. It all happened among Catholics.) For one thing, there is no one thing which Islam needs because Islam is very far from being one unified entity. (Although I'm sure that one thing most Muslims would appreciate is if people like Maher would learn more about them and pontificate about them less.)

For another thing, an atheist who calls for a religious Reformation knows squat about the Reformation. The leaders of the Reformation, Jan Huss, Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, were much more pious and rigidly literalist and grimly fanatical than the Catholic Church around them, not less. Hus wore a hair shirt and trembled his whole life at the memory of how as a youth he had had a couple sips of wine and played a few games of dice. Before he invented Lutheranism, the Catholic monk Luther traveled to Rome and was outraged by how secular and worldly and non-Biblical the Church in Rome had become. And when some peasants misunderstood Luther's break from the Catholic Church as a call for them to rise up and free themselves from their feudal masters, Luther wrote to those masters and urged them to kill the rebellious peasants like dogs, which they did. Jean Calvin, besides giving the world the doctrine of predestination, was also an avid hunter and burner of witches, and the Puritans who hung and crushed dozens of witches in Salem in the 1690's were largely Protestant in their theology.

That was the Reformation: the hardcore nuts among the Catholics breaking away from the main Church because it wasn't hardcore enough. Protestantism has changed quite a lot since it began, and diversified so much that it's difficult to define the entire group of Protestants in any meaningful way, and there have been some ironic changes, such as that way that the Congregationalist Church, which used to be the witch-hunting Puritans, is now one of the most liberal and free-thinking of Christian denominations. But that was the Reformation.

What does Islam need? Well, different Muslims need all sorts of different things. One thing which I think would benefit all people, Muslims, Christians, atheists and others, is if history were more intensively and rigorously studied. That would tend to decrease the frequency with which people said clueless, unhelpful things, like Bill Maher saying that Islam needs a Reformation.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pliny The Elder Really, Really Liked Elephants -- A LOT

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) did not write the first encyclopedia in the world, but his encyclopedia, usually referred to in English as the Natural History, is the earliest one which survives in more than just fragments, and, as I say, Pliny was exceptionally fond of Elephants.

Pliny's Natural History consists of 37 books (Think books of the Bible -- a book was a unit of writing that would fit onto an average-sized scroll -- and not, for example, the much larger volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.) His descriptions of elephants cover the first several pages of book 8. He said that of all the animals, the elephant was closest to humans in intelligence. I do not know whether Pliny originated the belief that elephants never forget, but he did say that their memory was exceptional. He also said that when it came to honesty, wisdom, judgment, respect for the stars and reverence for the sun and moon, they actually very often out-did humans. (Pliny had a lot of reverence for the sun and moon.) He said that they are very gentle; for example, Pliny said, if an elephant happens to get caught in the middle of a herd of sheep, it would pick sheep up with its trunk to make sure that it would not step on them.

Pliny said that sometimes, elephants fell in love with humans. He said that they would gather up bunches of plants and drop them into the beloved human's lap. He said that when the beloved human was absent, the elephant would lose its appetite. He said that elephants in love were awkward and adorable.

He praised their courage, their loyalty to each other and also to humans, and their ability to be trained. He said that once, an elephant which was below-average in intelligence, and had repeatedly failed to perform a certain exercise correctly during military training, was discovered in the middle of the night, wide awake and practicing the exercise it was having so much trouble with.

He said that when baby elephants got tired, adult elephants carried them on their backs.

I don't know whether the idea that elephants are terrified of mice originates with Pliny, but he did say that elephants despise mice, and that if they see a mouse in the feed they will refuse to eat anything from that entire portion.

And Pliny has much more to say about elephants, much of it things which we today would tend not believe.

And the reason I'm telling you this is that until I reached book 8, I often found Pliny's writing style a bit boring (although sometimes information transmitted in that writing style was fascinating), but at the beginning of book 8, when it became obvious that Pliny was in love with elephants, I found it awkward and adorable, and well worth reading and recommending to other readers for what it says about Pliny, and not necessarily for insights about elephants unavailable elsewhere to the modern person.

The Headlines About Bernie Today, The 24th Of June

So, what exactly has Bernie done this Friday? It seems to depend who you are: if you're Bernie-or-Bust, the headline over your latest newspaper story or blog post probably says: Bernie's Revolution Continues! If you're really tired of waiting for Bernie to endorse Hillary, it seems it's much more likely that your headline is, in effect: Bernie Says He'll Vote For Hillary!

Bernie actually said both of those things this morning: he said his campaign and his "revolution" (*severe eyeroll*) are continuing, and he said once that he'll vote for Hillary, and then a little later that he'll probably vote for Hillary. But I'm seeing very few headlines which mention both the continuing campaign and the voting for Hillary, and point out that both together don't make sense. I've seen exactly one headline saying that Bernie had been revealed as a Wall-Street Shillery sell-out, but that was not from a diehard Bernie-or-Bust source, but from a news-parody website. Most of the headlines saying that he said he'll vote for Hillary leave out the "probably" part.

I was about to say, as I have been saying often in this blog, that fewer and fewer people are paying attention to what Bernie says, and thank goodness for that, but I just caught myself: I don't actually know for sure that fewer people care what Bernie says and does. I should have been saying: I hope fewer and fewer people are paying attention to him and his meshugganah campaign, but I don't know that that's true. Just like both the Bernie-or-Busters today exulting that The Revolution Continues! and the people more focused on the reality of Trump vs Hillary who have taken exactly the same material, the same two interviews today and said that their message is: Bernie Will Vote For Hillary! I have been indulging in wishful thinking when I was purporting to be reporting the news. Sorry about that, I'll try to do better.

So what exactly did Bernie do today? Two things which tend to cancel each other out: he said that he's voting for Hillary, and that his campaign continues. Where is Bernie going from here? Good question! Who knows?