Out of This World (Please!)

October 3, 2017

Time to take a little break from the 24/7 cable news siren song of fear, anger and controversy to remind ourselves of the wonders of the world and universe we live in. I was just thinking about the end of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn last week. The long mission to Saturn was a scientific accomplishment worthy of wonder itself, let alone the mind-boggling discoveries made about Saturn and its moons. Imagine the complexity of calculating the numerous variables involved in steering a spacecraft millions of miles around the sun at precisely the right angle, with precisely the right burst of rockets and centrifugal/gravitational forces to gather enough speed to go faster than any man made object ever, then avoid several planets and thousands of asteroids, calculate the force of gravity, and brake at exactly the right orbit around Saturn with communications delayed by hours.

What a wonderful thing when a human brain can sort this incredible complexity into a successful mission. A collection of billions of cells in our skulls creates consciousness in a process we still can’t even understand how to study. Not only does the brain somehow create self-awareness, it creates the ability to think in three dimensions at a rate faster than any supercomputer yet devised. It transforms mathematical calculations into a mission like Cassisni and we see the tangible results in images and data!

Then there are the results of the mission itself to wonder at.  Cassini discovered that Saturn has at least 62 moons, one of which has an ocean beneath a frozen crust that may be able to support life (Cassini was deliberately burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere to avoid harm to any potential life form). Even the Rings of Saturn revealed new discoveries – billions of particles of ice and rock woven like a spinning rope on a perfectly flat plane. Saturn also has a single storm encompassing three quarters of the planet for entire years. It’s a wonder and wonderful.

I think that when we escape the gravity of our own human flaws and self-concerns we discover a wonderful universe and all the fatigue of conflicts evaporates. From the miracle of our brain and consciousness to the universe beyond our world, there is so much to discover and joy that is in discovering. If only we spent as much time staring at the night sky as we do at cable news …


Judge Moore and the “Rue” of Law

October 2, 2017

Most judges respect the rule of law, and even when they try to distort the law to justify decisions they respect the process of appeal. Not so with the GOP nominee Roy Moore. He was properly removed from the bench twice for misconduct – specifically by contemptuously ignoring rulings by the Supreme Court and encouraging other judges and law enforcement agencies to do the same. Although he claims to be following a “higher law” (meaning his interpretation of the word of god), he is proven to be a lawless judge. The likely newest member of the U.S. Senate next year, in fact, rues the law and the Constitution.

Men like Moore seem like caricatures – an amalgam of all the bigoted believes of the antebellum South, but he is not – and his election win in Alabama proves it. You might think that some of his beliefs reflect either the ravages of dementia or some parody of a slave owning Baptist minister, but they are not. He is an unapologetic bigot. Some of his publicly stated beliefs, which include the death penalty for homosexual behavior, banning any public prayers that are not “Christian”, banning American citizens who are Muslims for elected office, would seem to rule him out of any election. It is hard to accept his winning the nomination because the only logical conclusion is that the GOP base in Alabama endorses bigotry. What is even more disturbing is likelihood that he will be win in the statewide election.

Some Republicans will justify their vote for Moore as a vote against the GOP Establishment, as the Rasputin of politics Steve Bannon positioned the race. However, it is inescapable that a vote for Moore is an endorsement of a very bigoted form of religion over the rule of law and the Constitution. A vote for a Democrat would be a rebuke of the GOP, but a vote for Moore is a vote for bigotry. Moore has been clear that his election will be a license to establish “god’s law” over the rule of law. I’ve started to accept the idea that 30% of America is lost in a wilderness of fear and alt.facts, but I’m not sure I could ever accept the idea that a man like that could become a Senator from any state, including Alabama. I mean, Sessions was bad enough, but he was a closet bigot (and something else too). One hesitates to use the phrase “out of the closet” for Moore, but he is as open as can be about his bigotry. Maybe this represents a continuation of the same process unleashed by the election of Trump. Maybe Trump was elected because he said bigoted things and not despite it. Maybe this is a large part of Alabama coming out of its closet and grasping for the glory days of Jim Crow.

I guess we will know next year.