You Can’t Take the Sky From Me

Image: Gabe Pyle via Woot! Shirt

Yesterday Bernie Sanders ended his campaign. After 7 years of supporting his runs for President, it was a difficult moment. I will take exactly 24 hours to grieve for the lost dream of an administration that would put the American citizen first, instead of wealthy corporations and oligarchs… and then I will go back to working for that dream, much as Bernie has done for the last 4 decades in the face of continual opposition and derision.

It will happen. Just not on this day.

Political winds shift regularly, and the political pendulum swings over time. What makes the “Bernie Revolution” so critical in our day is that the pendulum of ideology has swung so far to the right over the last 40 years that putting a moderate or centrist Democrat in the White House will only be good enough to slow the progress of our society toward an evangelical fascist nation, the beginnings of which have been painfully evident in the most gangrenous *administration I have experienced in my almost 70 years of life.

America doesn’t need a moderate right now, it needs a more radical approach to governmental transformation, and Bernie would have been just the ticket.

There’s an old aphorism floating around out there that basically says “If you aim for the trees you’ll hit the ground, but if you aim for the stars you’re more likely to hit the trees.”

Anyone who’s ever practiced archery or marksmanship knows this. If you want to shoot higher, you need to aim much higher than your target, and any candidate who tries to get elected by promising to preserve the status quo is guaranteed to hit the ground and not the target, only dooming America to a continued march toward corporate-funded despotism.

Bernie had thoughts about just about everything. For reference, a basic list of his positions, consistent over decades is found below.

Capital Punishment / Death Penalty: Abolish it
Cash Bail Reform: End it
Cocaine Sentencing Disparities: Scrap the disparity
Mandatory Minimum Sentences Reform: Eliminate them
Private Prisons: Eliminate them
Election Security: Mandate paper ballots
Affordable Housing: Construction funding, rent control and taxes to curb speculation
Big Banks: Bring back Glass-Steagall
Income Inequality: Raise taxes on the wealthy, create new social programs
Minimum Wage: Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour
Paid Leave: Support several months of broad paid leave
Reparations: Study reparations
Charter Schools: Restrict charter school growth
Cost of College: College should be free
Student Debt: Cancel all student debt
Teacher Pay: Boost teacher pay
Campaign Finance: Unlimited spending should not be allowed in politics
Electoral College: The Electoral College should be eliminated
Felon Voting: Felons should be allowed to vote while incarcerated
Nuclear Power: Support closing down existing nuclear power reactors
Oil and gas drilling: Ban fracking everywhere
Reducing carbon emissions: Impose government regulations
Farm Economy: Break up agribusiness
Farming and Climate Change: Pay farmers to adopt climate-friendly practices
Nutrition: Universal free meals in schools
Rights for Farm Owners and Workers: Expand farm worker protections, but no specific plans for USDA civil rights
Assault Weapons: Support a voluntary buyback program
Background Checks: In favor of universal background checks
Bernie Sanders’ views on: Abortion
ACA / Coverage Expansion: All in on Medicare for All
Drug Costs: Importation and patent breaking
Medicare For All: Medicare for All or bust
DACA: Citizenship for Dreamers
Illegal Entry: Repeal the statute
The Wall: Don’t support additional wall funding
Transportation: Boost infrastructure spending, but no stated funding mechanism
Legalizing Marijuana: Legalize it
Marijuana Convictions: Scrapping past pot convictions
Defense Spending: Slash the defense budget
Overseas Deployments: Bring the troops home
Capital Gains Taxes: Increase the capital gains tax rate
Corporate Income Taxes: Eliminate tax breaks for “offshoring.”
Wealth Taxes: Create special taxes on wealth
Rural Broadband: Create a public option for broadband
Social Media: We should consider holding companies legally liable for user posts
Tech Competition & Antitrust: Break them up
China: Support the goal, change the approach
NAFTA / USMCA: Against the USMCA
Tariffs: Use tariffs to crack down on certain countries
TPP 2.0: Oppose joining CPTPP or opposed TPP

I don’t think even the most radical of Bernie’s supporters convinced themselves that every one of these platform planks could be enacted into law. But every one is something that would make life better for all citizens, not just Democrats.

If we could get the three I have highlighted in red enshrined in American law – A decent minimum wage, universal single-payer healthcare, and repealing Citizens United – it would go a long way toward creating a better life for every American.

There’s no question that I’m sad. I know that there are people out there who will be exulting in the copious “liberal tears” that are being shed at the moment, and I’m sad for them as well – because they’re essentially cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Bernie will continue serving the American people without compromising his principles as a senior Senator as he has always done, and until he can serve no more. There will come a day when he will go the way of all the earth, and it is my fervent hope that there will be those who come after – young people like AOC, or others who have not yet arisen – who will mature in government service and pick up Bernie’s torch. In the meantime I will do what I can to support progressive candidates who will work to build a world that works, in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller,

“for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Thank You, Bernie Sanders

As I commented to a Facebook acquaintance, I am approaching the twilight of my life, and in these uncertain days one never knows how much time is left. When my own time comes, I need to be able to go down to my grave knowing that I did all that I could to leave the world a better place for my children and grandchildren; I need to be able to look them in the eye and say that I voted for freedom, for prosperity, for equality, and for human dignity. For me – and your mileage may vary – to support the current occupant of the White House for another 4 years would be voting to keep my posterity in a state of servitude to the wealthy, to say to them in effect “You must remain poor. You do not deserve a living wage. You do not deserve affordable healthcare. In order to get an education, you must undertake a lifetime of debt. You girls do not deserve the right to choose your destinies, you must submit to abuse at the hands of any man who feels like you are nothing more than property, and if you happen to become pregnant, too bad for you. You have no choice.” This I cannot do.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

That 1.5 Trillion-dollar “bailout”

This was posted to Imgur by a user whose name is less than family-friendly, but (s)he put some good information out there that I wanted to share. If you want to see the original, click here.

I have cleaned up the text a bit for readability and only bowdlerized a few things for family consumption.


I’m not a fan of the current administration, but what they did today isn’t a bad thing and it wasn’t a Wall Street Bailout.

Of the $1.5T available today, $297.55B was loaned out with $125B loaned out as a 1 day contract. I hope this helps simplify some things for you peeps. I know it’s not perfect and I doubt this even makes it out of user sub, but to heck with it. I tried.

$1.5 Trillion Wall Street Injection

I’m seeing a ton of misinformation about what happened today with the Fed “injecting” $1.5T into the market and figured I’d teach a few people about what it actually is. I’ll keep it as simple as I can and know that it is more complicated than I’m making it out to be, I’m just lazy.

Fancy words to know:

Repo – Repurchase agreement
Repurchase agreement – Fancy term for line of credit
Fed – the Federal Reserve

“ThEy COUID hAvE glvEn AmErlcAnS $XXXX InStEaD oF BAILİNG OuT tHe RICH”

“EaT tHe RiCh”

No. Just no.

On average, 2 to 4 TRILLION dollars are traded as Repos EVERY DAY. It’s a short term loan backed by bonds, securities, and other things that have a set value. It’s somewhat similar to borrowing $1,000 on your car that’s paid off and worth $5,000. You get cash immediately, but you will have to pay interest.

You pay less interest the faster you pay it off.

These daily Repos are usually on 1 day contracts.

Ever had a money market account?

Wondered where the interest came from? A lot comes from Repo and Reverse Repo operations. Everyone should have one, it’s free money.

So what happened today?

The Fed saw the stock crashing and how the virus is affecting certain industries, i.e. cruise lines, and said “Welp, these folks are in a bad way… for like, at least a month or two.” So Cheeto-in-Chief and the powers that be opened up a $1.5T line of credit for banks, financial firms, and primary dealers. As I said earlier, these are usually 1 day loans with low interest rates. Longer term loans are available but the interest rates go up with the longer terms

The new $1.5T repo operation has much longer terms with low interest rates.

How does this affect/help the American people?

They are anticipating small businesses struggling in the coming months with quarantines and shutdowns and other things so they want make sure they don’t fail. That small business goes to the bank to get a loan to weather the storm, the bank is then able to draw on the $1.5T and give the small business a low interest rate (and Fed rate cuts) because of the low interest on the $1.5T.

Hate the current administration all you want but this was done to help keep the economy going when this virus gets nasty. Think about Carnival cruise lines. They are doomed for a hot minute but they have thousands of employees depending on their employer that isn’t currently making any money. Carnival needs money for operation costs, insurance, paid sick leave, and debts. With no cash flow, this will be their last hope to make it through as long as they can.


My thanks to this user for making some things clearer for those of us who got “C’s” in Econ 101. I am definitely not a fan of the Orange Screechweasel and his *administration, but what they did here will ultimately benefit many people whose businesses might otherwise have gone down the drain.

The Old Wolf has shared.

Please do not patronize these knockoff companies.

I followed a link from Facebook to a CNN article about Roger Stone on my phone yesterday. Almost invariably when I follow links, despite the fact that I own a Pixel phone I’ll choose the option that says “Open in Samsung Internet” because that app includes an ad-blocker that makes my mobile browsing experience infinitely less annoying (no, I’m not a paid shill.) But this time I didn’t for some odd reason, and this is what I saw:

These shirts and many like them are advertised heavily on Facebook and other places. This particular article repeated the same advertisement four times – with the headers “Star Wars,” “Star Wars 2,” “Star Wars 3,” and “Star Wars 9.”

It seems that the way targeted advertising campaigns work is that the page owners – in this case, CNN – either have no control over or don’t care what ads get served up on their site, as long as they get paid for eyeballs and clicks. So whatever algorithm was being used here, it has been heavily skewed in favor of this one company.

Aside from being annoying in general, these web ads for teeshirts have a darker downside: almost all of them use stolen and unauthorized intellectual property. While I can’t say for certain, my bookie assures me it’s a sure bet that these are Chinese companies who change their store names on a daily basis, saturate the internet with ads for shirts of dubious quality using pirated IP, sell a mess of teeshirts and then vanish before they can be tracked down, only to appear the next day under a different name.

And of course, concerns like Facebook are happy to rake in their advertising dollars without a care in the world.

There are many legitimate shirt companies out there. They purchase artwork or license it from its creators. Woot! is one that my wife and I are shamefacedly addicted to, but there are any number to choose from. ¹

Don’t give these pirates your money. Stick with legitimate companies, preferably ones that manufacture their goods here in America.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Nope, not getting paid for this recommendation either.

The temperatures of Sake

Inspired by a facebook post from a friend of mine, a translator and long-time resident of Japan.

Disclaimer: I’ve been teetotal since 1969 and have no personal experience of sake, other than it smells divine to me. If I were a drinker, I would love to sample sake in all its many permutations.

One thing to note: the Japanese word sake (酒) encompasses all types of liquor. The official word for the fermented rice wine that is under consideration here is 日本酒 (nihonshu), literally “Japanese liquor.”

What is the difference between "Hot Warm", "Nuru Warm" and "Kami-Kan"?  [Basic knowledge of sake]

From a Japanese article about basic understanding of sake:

One of the charms of Japanese sake is that it can be tasted at a wide range of temperatures, from cold to warm. In fact, sake changes its fragrance and taste depending on the temperature. For example, when cooled, the fragrance becomes gorgeous, and the mouth feel becomes sharp. In addition, the umami¹ becomes lighter and the alcoholic sensation may be less. On the other hand, warming spreads the scent, makes the mouth feel mellow, increases umami, and spreads the sweetness. In this way, the same liquor has completely different aromas and flavors depending on the temperature. If you understand this, you will be able to know at what temperature to drink depending on the type of sake.

The above screen capture shows the various temperatures at which sake can be served. From the same Japanese website linked above, a key to understanding:

熱 (Netsu) – Hot temperatures

55° C (131° F)
飛び切り燗
tobikiri-kan (extra hot)

50° C (122° F)
熱燗
atsu-kan (hot)

45° C (113° F)
上燗
jōkan (warm)

温 (Yutaka) – Warm temperatures

40° C (104° F)
ぬる燗
nuru-kan (lukewarm – literally “slimy hot”)

35° C (95° F)
人肌燗
hitohada-kan (human skin warm)

30° C (86° F)
日向燗
hinata-kan (sunny warm)

常温 (jōon) – Normal temperature

20° C (68° F)
前後 冷や
zengo hiya (almost cold)

冷 (hiya) – Cold temperatures

15° C (59° F)
涼冷え
suzubie (cool)

10° C (50° F)
花冷え
hanabie (flower cold)

5° C (41° F)
雪冷え
yukibie (snow cold)

Other charts include other temperatures, and there may be still more that I’m not aware of:

-10° C (-10° F)

mizore (sleet cold)

A simple search on the internet for facts about sake will turn up encyclopedic volumes of information, guides, suggestions, and opinions about the various kinds of sake, how they are to be served, what rituals to observe and in what circumstances, what temperature they are best enjoyed at, which foods various kinds of sake should be served with, and on and on to the lemniscate – clearly the oenophiles and beer afficionados have their enthusiastic Japanese counterparts.

For myself, I won’t be able to explore all of these wondrous variations in this life, but if you can, I hope that you find great joy in the exploration.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹umami is often referred to as the “fifth taste,” along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Meaning essentially “savoriness” in Japanese, according to Merriam-Webster, “umami can be experienced in foods such as mushrooms, anchovies, and mature cheeses, as well as in foods enhanced with monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a sodium salt derived from glutamic acid.”

A brief review of the Star Wars saga, sans spoilers

I’ve waited 42 years for this. 42 long years, pretty much encompassing life, the universe, and everything.

Image result for star wars

I went to see Episode IV in 1977 when it was released, and was of course blown away by the innovation and game-changing nature of A New Hope. Like everyone else, I was all, “Huh? Episode IV? What’s that all about?” As time went on and when in 1980 George Lucas’ grand vision for a “nonology” became known, I was ecstatic. Episodes V and VI were released, and the world seemed rosy; a new episode would be released every three years until the series was complete.

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)

Well, about that. George Lucas ran head-on into reality; By 1981, the stress of producing the original trilogy had sapped him of his passion for the series, and he announced that there would be no further sequels. As a result, 1986 to 1999 there was a thirteen-year gap in the Star Wars chronology.

But thanks to changes in technology and advances in the field of CGI, Mr. Lucas changed his mind and ended up producing the Prequel Trilogy, which – together with Episodes 4 through 6 he referred to as “The Tragedy of Darth Vader.”

  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Over the next six years as the Prequels were released, a strange thing began to happen to the Star Wars fan base. Instead of rejoicing in new episodes of space opera and opportunities to revisit old heroes and villains like Yoda and Palpateen, massive opprobrium was heaved at Lucas for things like the existence of Jar-Jar Binks, the acting prowess of the young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), the petulant Skywalker-turned-Vader (Hayden Christensen), and the heavy dependence on CGI rather than classic effects, among other things.

Finally, after the completion of the Prequels, Lucas gave up the Star Wars world altogether and turned it over to Disney, although he hoped that his ideas for the conclusion, included in the sale, would be factored in to any future films. That was not to be, and the saga took a different turn than its original creator had envisioned.

  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The opinion of fans on the final three installments of the saga have been widely divergent. Some loved them, others hated them, for reasons which seemed good to them. As for myself, I just got back from seeing Episode IX this afternoon, and while I promised no spoilers I have this to say:

The entire saga is an absolute masterpiece. My hat is off to George Lucas and everyone who took up the torch after him, or who helped to bring these amazing films to life – from the writers, directors, and producers, to the brilliant actors both old and new, to the stage crews, to the special effects and art and sound and music people, to the people who provided canteen services and emptied trash cans on the set and elsewhere – simply everyone. Bravo. Bravissimo.

The final episode was an immensely satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker epic. I laughed, I cried, I clapped, I cheered, and walked out fulfilled. This is the opinion of one old geek and, of course, your mileage may vary.

And naturally this is not all of Star Wars.

  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Solo (2018)

In A New Hope, a major plot point was the Death Star and the acquisition of the plans (with the weapon’s weakness) by the Rebellion. Rogue One is the story of how the plans for the first Death Star were acquired. And it was poignant, and important to the saga, and brilliant.

While I held off a while watching Solo because in the back of my mind I just kept thinking, “How can they do Solo without Harrison Ford,” when the time came I found that I enjoyed the film thoroughly. It was a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe.

And doubtless, more is to come. Disney+ is currently streaming “The Mandalorian,” which is very well done and has captured the imagination of a new generation with a character called (perhaps erroneously) as “Baby Yoda.” How that will play out remains to be seen. A new trilogy (separate from the Skywalker saga) is in the works, a prequel to Rogue One is planned, and an Obi-Wan Kenobi series is being drafted.

How fans will relate to all of this new material remains to be seen. And while I don’t think I’ll be queuing up in the theaters to see future releases as I did for the original movies, they will definitely be on my watch list.

May the Force be with us all.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Booty from Christmas Past

Cross-posted from Livejournal

Booty!

Shut up, you deviants. I mean Jack Sparrow-type booty. Arr…

In 2010, a chest o’treasure arrived in me mailbox from a pretty wench in a far-off land. A whole bundle of silly, fun things: most useful, all appreciated.

The tie was the most interesting of all. To look at, it’s just a nice Christmas-themed cravat (since I only have one other, this will be a fine addition next Yule season.) But on closer examination, there are bits and snatches of words running through the candy canes.

I could tell the writing extended through the candy canes onto the blue background, but it was impossible to see in normal light, especially with the reflection from the shiny silk. So I scanned it, hoping to bring out a bit of detail.

With a little contrast and gamma manipulation, I was able to get the words to come out a bit more (this is just a small section, and my working image was much larger):

What jumped out at me was “The Christmas Joy”, “around the year”, “spot”, and “frozen”. Doing a Google search on these words came up with one – and only one – hit, a poorly-scanned copy of Down Durley Lane and Other Ballads by Virginia Woodward Cloud, published in 1898(!), and illustrated by Reginald Bathurst Birch which included this poem, “Old Christmas”:

It’s a long way round the year, my dears,
A long way round the year.
I found the frost and flame, my dears,
I found the smile and tear!

The wind blew high on the pine-topp’d hill.
And cut me keen on the moor:
The heart of the stream was frozen still,
As I tapped at the miller’s door.

I tossed them holly in hall and cot,
And bade them right good cheer,
But stayed me not in any spot,
For I’d traveled around the year

To bring the Christmas joy, my dears,
To your eyes so bonnie and true;
And a mistletoe bough for you, my dears,
A mistletoe bough for you!

What a delightful, hidden, and serendipitous message!

Miraculous it was that these words were even clear in the transcription, because it was a raw optical-conversion, and much of the text came out as garbage. What’s more, Virginia Woodward Cloud is a rather obscure poet, not unlike Grace Noll Crowell, (whose works I had hunted for over a period of 40 years, only having success last year thanks to another deep internet search). So the odds of finding one of Cloud’s poems on a Christmas tie are pretty slim.

A bit more digging found a beautiful online, zoomable copy of the book – “Old Christmas” is on page 99.

And all this because I gave the wench a stale crust of bread…

The Old Wolf has spoken

Another day, another shooting.

This was an odd one. It happened at a Naval Air Station, where people essentially carry weapons for a living. So that muddies the water a bit. And, it turns out that the perp was a Saudi national, and an aviation student to boot, which raises a *whole* lot of questions in my mind, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Before anything else, my heart is broken for those impacted; the victims, their families, and their loved ones. People die every day from all sorts of reasons – illness, unavoidable accidents, natural causes, even violence – but death by terrorism is especially hard on those left behind. And I make no apologies for calling it that. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

But now comes the summum bonum of this post: According to CBS News, ” The number of mass shootings across the U.S. thus far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year, according to a gun violence research group. Before this year has even ended, 2019 has already had more mass shootings than any year since the research group started keeping track.”

This doesn’t even take into account the little ones. Individual shootings by unbalanced or patently evil people. As of today, the total is 36,518. Now, in terms of national statistics, that’s only roughly 3/4 the number of deaths by suicide from any cause, according to the CDC, and almost the same number as automobile fatalities in 2018. So some might argue that in terms of overall numbers, it’s not a big deal.

But it is. It’s a big deal. It’s too many, and too horrible, and too traumatizing, and gun violence takes adults, and children, and breaks hearts and shatters families and reduces our safety (the NRA would argue the opposite) and the quality of our life.

Image result for 2nd amendment

So here’s the question, directed at those of my friends and associates who fall on the “cold, dead hands” side of the equation:

What are you going to do to stop this carnage. What are you doing right now to make sure that guns don’t get into the wrong hands, the hands of people who will use them to destroy the innocent?

I exhort you: don’t get me wrong. I support the 2nd Amendment as long as it remains part of the Constitution.

These are patches and such that I earned as a youth. I remain proud of them to this day. I learned gun safety and responsibility and enjoyed target shooting immensely. (Thanks, Hutch.) We own a 30-30. I’m not a “gun grabber,” as the NRA loves to pigeonhole people who advocate for gun control. But the situation today has far exceeded what I consider madness.

The courts have repeatedly ruled that you have the right to assemble an arsenal that would be the envy of a small nation. I think that if the Founders, in their wisdom, could see what that those 27 words had wrought in our day and age, they would weep in outrage and promptly need to go home and change their pants. But that’s my interpretation, and the wisdom of the 2nd is not what I’m discussing. It’s a fact, and we need to deal with things as they are.

I think our nation would be far safer if there were no guns in private hands, but if the right to bear arms is never going away, it needs to be tempered with a responsibility to bear arms safely, and I support treating guns in the same way we treat cars, none of which contravenes the wording of the 2nd Amendment:

  • Gun owners should be trained, licensed, and insured for each type of weapon owned.
  • All weapons should be annually registered, inspected, and taxed.

So what are your solutions? How will you preserve your rights and still stop the daily carnage? Change my mind.

Go.¹


¹ Note: I’m inviting comments for this post, despite the fact that it’s a divisive and often inflammatory issue. I have attempted to be as impartial and even-handed as possible in laying out my feelings. Comments that are ad-hominem attacks (i.e. “You gun-grabbing pussy!”) or not based on reason (“I disagree!”) will simply be deleted without ever being seen. I want to know how you would fix things, and preserving the status quo is not an option. So choose your words wisely.