New Publishing Schedule at Frankly Curious

Knight on Horseback - Don QuixoteI’m very fond of the current Frankly Curious publishing schedule. Unfortunately, it’s kind of intense, even if I weren’t doing anything else. But thankfully, I am doing other things, and they are taking a lot of time. The problem isn’t even the writing of articles; it just takes an enormous amount of time reading to come up with six things to post each day. So I’ve decided to change the publishing schedule.

It had occurred to me that I could start posting shorter articles. But when I tried, it seemed that I ended up writing more. Regardless, at this point, there just is a certain level of depth that I expect in an article here: not too short and not too long. Basically, it is the level of depth that I prefer when reading other blogs. If I’m really into a subject, I want the articles to go on and on. But that’s rarely the case for me or anyone else. What’s more, since I’m likely to write about the same thing over time, it makes more sense for me to write a number of short articles rather than one long article.

The point is that I’m not really changing Frankly Curious — just cutting down on the amount of work that I do on it. It will also free me up to throw in non-scheduled articles, which I rarely do anymore. And that will especially be true regarding the first scheduled article I’m killing: the 2:05 pm quotations post. This is something I really like. And under the right conditions, it takes almost no work. But I often find myself flailing around looking for something to use. These are best when they are spontaneous.

As you may have noticed if you have a nose for systems and structures, in addition to the quotations post, there is an anniversary post (5:05 am), a morning music (7:05 am), and three “features” (9:05 am, 11:05 am, and 5:05 pm). The anniversary and music posts have to stay. People tend to comment a fair amount on the anniversary posts, and as best as I can tell, they enjoy the music posts. I’ve come to see them as the very core of Frankly Curious. And even though they can be a bit of work, they are fun to do.

So the obvious place to attack is on the “features.” I’m going to cut them down to just two. Hopefully, this will allow me to expand the breadth of what I write about. It seems I often get bogged down in politics and economics — ranting about things I’ve already ranted about. I’d like to do one post on politics and one on something else. But we will see. It’s generally easier to find things to talk about regarding politics. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t expect it to be a catastrophe, but you never know. One of the rules that guides my life is: all change is for the worse. While not always true, it is a good first approximation.

So here is the new schedule:

5:05 am — Anniversary Post
8:05 am — Morning Music
11:05 am — Feature (Probably Politics)
4:05 pm — Feature (Hopefully Not Politics)

But otherwise, you can expect the same whatever level of insight and entertainment that you’ve come to depend upon here at Frankly Curious. I’m consistent at whatever level I operate.

ISIS Isn’t Medieval

John TerryISIS is not re-enacting the seventh-century Arab conquests, even though some among its ranks may think they are. They’re nostalgic for a make-believe past, and those among them who know plenty about Islam’s first decades have conveniently revised medieval history to fit modern ideological needs…

Islam’s early spread focused on expanding the number of believers without wholesale destruction of existing social structures. In contrast, ISIS’s determined lack of capacity for negotiation is what sets it apart from the early Islamic conquests.

Given this context, ISIS’s insistence on an all-or-nothing caliphate isn’t “medieval” at all. It is a thoroughly modern group.

—John Terry
Why ISIS Isn’t Medieval

Are You Ready for Economic Collapse, America?!

Kevin McCarthyI was strangely concerned yesterday morning when I read that Kevin McCarthy had removed himself from consideration as Speaker of the House. It’s not like he would have been great, but he didn’t seem to be totally insane. And all we are really asking of the Republicans in the House is that they not destroy the world economy for the sake of making a “statement.” So who’s it gonna be now? Currently, we only know of Daniel Webster and Jason Chaffetz — two freaks. Is this what we have to look forward to?

The conventional wisdom — which I have generally followed along with — is that with power goes responsibility. Boehner acted the way he did because he — like all the Republicans — knows (or thinks) that blowing up the economy would be bad for them. Therefore, anyone in the job would be responsible. But that’s a questionable assumption, not a compelling conclusion. This really hit home to me when I heard Ben Carson interviewed on Marketplace. It was clear that Carson didn’t understand what the debt ceiling was all about. And I suspect that this is also true of many, if not most, of the Republicans in the House.

I’m starting to have these visions of Donald Trump in the White House with a General trying to explain to him that bombing Moscow would be a bad idea. Such a large part of the Republican Party has been completely cut off from the real world for such a long time. Their delusions now dictate their policies. And we’ve most definitely seen this with regard to the debt ceiling, where many Republicans have tried to make the case that breaching it would be no big deal. So what happens if such a person becomes Speaker of the House? Or are we going to get what the freaks always claim with a government shutdown: if only they just hung on another day, week, month that they would have “won”? It’s madness, but sadly all too possible.

According to Think Progress, Kevin McCarthy Suggests House Republicans Are Ungovernable, May Need To “Hit Rock Bottom.” It is hard to construe that in any way that isn’t terrifying. When drunks “hit rock bottom” they destroy their lives. The GOP hitting rock bottom could well destroy the world economy.

Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog wrote a really angry, and I think accurate, article yesterday, First They Came for the GOP Moderates… It isn’t even directly about the crazies in the Republican Party; it’s about the likes of Colin Powell, Christie Todd Whitman, and William Weld. He noted, “The party in recent years has made its right-centrists… increasingly unwelcome. And they did nothing to fight back, except occasionally stamp an ineffectual foot…”

I’m angry too. The Republican Party didn’t just wake up this way one morning. And it isn’t just the Republican “moderates,” either. (It’s really kind of a joke. Whitman withheld clean syringes from drug users because facts don’t matter to her any more than they do Louie Gohmert.) It’s also the fault of the Democratic Party — most especially the New Democrats. And it is the fault of the American people for not caring enough to distinguish because a moderate party and proto-fascist radicals.

But perhaps McCarthy is right: sometimes you need to hit rock bottom. But that’s not a statement about the GOP, but the world. Maybe this is what it will take for us all to realize that we can’t allow any country to have the kind of power that the US has. All it takes is a handful of talk radio created lunatics and a disinterested electorate and the economy is destroyed. It’s truly amazing.

Another Debt Ceiling Crisis

Debt Ceiling NegotiationsIs it already that time of year again? Another chance for the Republican Party to destroy the world economy with a debt ceiling standoff? Oh yes! Christmas comes but once a year, but the impending disaster of a US government default is something that pays benefits all the time. And we are but one month from another deadline when all reasonable Americans ask, “Are the Republicans really this reckless?!” The answer to that is: yes. They are like teens left along to monkey with the control room of a nuclear power plant. They don’t want anything to go terribly wrong, but they aren’t wise enough to know what they don’t know.

Back in 2003, the Republican Party raised the debt ceiling on the very same day that they passed a budget busting tax cut that did almost no good for the economy because it targeted the very rich. Imagine that: the Republican Party of 2003 was the careful one. If they manage to control Washington in 2017, I suspect we are looking at things that will make the Iraq War look like a wise and considered decision. I’m thinking: a war with Iran that devolves into a global nuclear war with Russia. I’ll bet Kevin McCarthy is fantasizing about it right now.

There was talk that Boehner might resolve this and various other issues before he stepped down as Speaker of the House. He did say, “I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn. I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there.” But we haven’t heard anything from him recently. And even if he does raise it, is will most likely be a temporary measure — the same kind of thing he did for the government shutdown. Let’s never fix anything! Let’s just push the confrontation ahead a month or two!

Michael Hiltzik has pointed out that the whole idea of the debt ceiling was originally created in 1917 to give the Treasury Department more latitude to deal with the federal budget — not less. It was created so that Congress didn’t have to vote on every little thing. “The debt limit became a fiscal pitfall only after 2010 when talk of holding it hostage for political ends became commonplace.” The only previous time there was anything like this was under Newt Gingrich in 1995. And think about that for a moment. I have lots of policies that I prefer. But the idea of risking default for the sake of winning a political battle should be seen as treasonous.

I know what people say: the Republicans wouldn’t really cause the country to default! But I see no reason to think otherwise. The truth is that it might well benefit them politically. It would send our economy into a tailspin and the American people, in their wisdom, might reward the malefactors with complete control of the federal government. Or it would destroy the Republican Party. I am convinced it is the uncertainty about that which stops the Republicans from doing it. Regardless, the debt ceiling issue will come back, because it never goes away. Not as long as the Republican Party exists in its current form — as a failed party.

Morning Music: Up Tempo

Leo KottkeYou will have to forgive me for spending a second day on Leo Kottke. This is the end of the week, except for tomorrow when I plan to post a whole set by Kottke. And I realized that I hadn’t made it very far through his career. But at this point, he starts to mix it up more — singing, using a band, and also not being on YouTube. So I figured we would stop on this album and it would make a good overview of his early music.

Today we listen to a very nice slide guitar number, “Up Tempo.” It’s a beautiful tune — managing to be both upbeat and sad at the same time. Also, kind of funny.

Anniversary Post: Kepler’s Supernova

Kepler's SupernovaOn this day in 1604, Kepler’s Supernova was first observed. It wouldn’t be noticed by Johannes Kepler until a week later, but he observed it for a year and published a book about it. It’s an important event because it was the last time a supernova was observed in our galaxy. (We observe them in other galaxies.) And that’s really interesting if you consider that just 32 years earlier, Kepler’s colleague Tycho Brahe had observed another supernova. So two supernovas in a small span of time, and then nothing for over 400 years. But that’s the way random events are.

In general, a supernova would have to be closer than 100 light-years from the Earth to have an effect on us. Statistically, we should have one within 33 light-years every 250 million years. That’s one of the things about us being out here on the edge of the galaxy: it’s kind of boring. But it is probably also necessary for the development of advanced life. Further in, life on the Earth would have likely been destroyed before it got too far.

Kepler’s Supernova is thought to have been something on the order of 20,000 light years away. The one Brahe observed was less than half that distance. Still, these supernovas were far, far away — where they belong.