Sperm, brains, and China

A new report suggests that sperm counts in men in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have decreased by half in the last forty years.  According to lead researcher Dr Hagai Levine,

“Eventually we may have a problem with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.”

sperm-study-graph

The report doesn’t dwell too much on the why part of this finding.  Still, the implications are disconcerting.

Another  newly-released study looked at the (postmortem) brains of NFL (and other) football players and discovered that almost all of them had brain damage.  More specifically, they were diagnosed with Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a “progressive neurodegeneration associated with repetitive head trauma.”  A summary breakdown of the study, as illustrated by the Los Angeles Times, looks like this:

player brains

Finally, China seems to be fortifying its border with North Korea (as described in USN&WP, Fox, CNN, Newsweek, Business Insider, and, for those who can afford the subscription, the WSJ).  All of these articles set out to explain why China is doing this.  Unfortunately, the one thing they all fail to explain is why China is doing this.  Maybe the Chinese got an advance copy of the sperm report.

Jeff Sessions

I know–you’re thinking the title of this blog entry should be Sean Spicer.  Or, maybe, Gerald R. Ford.  Sure, those are good back-ups.  But, it was just a matter of time before poor Sean would have been thrown from the bull and it was just another matter of time before the US navy ran out of real presidents to name their big boats after.  It’s not like they can call them Cadillacs.

Jeff Sessions is in the news (albeit a bit buried) because he now seems to be caught up in the Russia scandal along with so many others in the administration.  Also, his limited hangouts are becoming progressively less limited (First he didn’t meet with the Russians, then he didn’t recall, then they didn’t talk politics, then maybe they did but not about the election, then maybe about the election but nothing important…).  I guess you have to be pretty dirty to become the US attorney general and all but it does seem like kind of a shame when the guy gets to do a photo op after the major take down of darkweb black markets AlphaBay and Hansa and then, instead of kudos, gets busted for having illicit meetings to support the Trump campaign AND gets publicly dressed down by Trump in return.  I’d love to be in a bar having a beer with Jeff and Sean right now.  At least one of them would be happy.

Ramble on

President Trump fascinates me.  That’s probably pretty clear at this point in the blog.  I love reading transcripts of his monologues.  There a bit like those mysterious dot posters of the early 1990’s that seem to contain no image until you stare at them blankly and let your eyes go out of focus and then, all of a sudden, a field of red and orange and blue dots turns into a porpoise or a space shuttle or something.  I feel like that reading Trumpian streams of consciousness.  The words are recognizable (like dots) but the sentences are ungrammatical and incoherent.  But then, at the paragraph level, sometimes I start to understand what he’s trying to say, especially on topics about which I already know what he thinks (like whether he’s right about this or the best at that or guilty of anything).

So, true to form, his latest interview with the mother of all fake news outlets, the ‘failing’ New York Times offers a smorgasbord of entertaining thoughts.  Most folks seem worked up about Trump’s dismissive comments about the attorney general or threats to Robert Mueller’s investigation team.  Of course, it’s right to pluck out these nuggets, I suppose, especially as they relate to the administration’s efforts at a counterattack to the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russian interests, including the Russian mob.  But it’s also just enjoyable to ponder who Trump is playing to when he says things like

“I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.”

I really wish Trump comments came with citation notes.  His enemy, the New York Times reported the speech neutrally.  They did note that the Poles in attendance liked it (I imagine there was some self-selection involved).  The Times actually collected comments about the speech from several sources and points along the political spectrum, although I didn’t see any surprises.  Still, it was interesting to hear a Stephen Miller speech again.  Ok, I didn’t actually mean to spend that much print on that comment, I just thought it was funny.  Also, it came right before this exchange regarding the French president, which is really what I wanted to quote:

TRUMP: He [President Emmanuel Macron of France] called me and said, “I’d love to have you there and honor you in France,” having to do with Bastille Day. Plus, it’s the 100th year of the First World War. That’s big. And I said yes. I mean, I have a great relationship with him. He’s a great guy.

HABERMAN: He was very deferential to you. Very.

TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.

TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

_________

TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.

I think that may be all I really know about the French president right now.

Random momentous events

A bunch of things have happened that have been building up for a while.  I’m not sure if they’re important, but here they are.  Several nations have decided that having nuclear weapons is bad.  (None of these nations have nuclear weapons.)  China has decided (somewhat uncharacteristically) to set up a foreign military presence.  Chinese scientists teleported a photon.  An iceberg came loose.  And humans are causing Major Extinction Event number six.  Otherwise, things are fine.

North Korea’s ICBM

Well America, Happy Fourth of July.

North Korea now has missiles that can reach American shores.  I won’t say that Fox had the best reporting on this, but, considering the response from the U.S. administration, I think it is fair to say that Fox is the most appropriate source for this story, in that, if anything, I’m guessing they did what they could to make the U.S. president sound competent.  But, of course, there’s only so much anyone can do.  Here is the story by Fox (and the Associated Press), with a bit of color commentary thrown in from yours truly.  (Here is the story from the fake news sources (NYT, WP, Reuters, CNN) for those inclined to believe them).

North Korea successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time on Tuesday, U.S. officials confirmed to Fox News.

The ballistic missile flew longer than any North Korean missile test conducted by the rogue regime to date, U.S. Pacific Command said — meaning Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship may now possess the ability to strike Alaska.

North Korea launched previously a missile on Mother’s Day that flew for 30 minutes and reached an altitude 1,000 miles higher than the international space station. But Tuesday’s missile flew for 37 minutes and reached a height of 1,500 miles, leading missile experts to conclude it could have reached a target 4,000 miles away, putting Alaska in its cross-hairs.

The U.S. on Tuesday requested a closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting to deal with ramifications from the missile launch.

“The threat is much more immediate now,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters prior to the launch. “So it’s clear we can’t repeat the same failed approach of the past.”

He added: “So the president has directed us not to do that, and to prepare a range of options — including a military option, which nobody wants to take, right?”

So, according the the United States National Security Adviser, the president has directed him not to repeat the failed approach of the past.  I wonder what the failed approach of the future will look like.  Exciting times!  Because, you know, like, totally nobody wants the military option, right?

Vice Adm. James Syring, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, previously said, if it didn’t already exist, it would only be a matter of time until North Korea was able to attack the U.S.

And yet, regrettably but undeniably, North Korea does indeed exist.

“We have to assume that the capability exists today to attack the United States,” Syring said.

If the U.S. decides the threat posed by North Korea is too great, the nation has options.

Ooh, options!  I love options!  What are they?

For the first time since the 1990s, the Pentagon ordered two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups to be positioned off the Korean Peninsula last month. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said the U.S. could use other means to undercut and diminish Pyongyang.

Ah, aircraft carriers.  Great deterrent, because North Korea wouldn’t dare to sink those.  Kim Jong Un knows that would anger the United States and make him look powerful.

“We do have covert capabilities, and I think it would be wise for the United States to use those covert capabilities as a way to continue to undermine the North Korean government,” Panetta said. “If they do anything stupid, it could end their regime, period.”

Spies in North Korea.  That’s what you’ve got?  And, you’re thinking their worried about doing stupid things that would end their regime?  You mean, like testing ballistic missiles?  And you couldn’t even be bothered to find someone currently in the administration to say something this dopey–you had to dredge up Panetta?

Russia and China, in a joint statement released by each country’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, tried to de-escalate the situation by proposing that North Korea declare a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and the United States and South Korea refrain from large-scale military exercises.

They do understand which countries they’re trying to be reasonable with, right?

The statement was issued following talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is set to have a bilateral meeting with President Trump on Friday at the G-20 summit in Germany. The North Korea crisis is now likely to be one of the topics the two leaders will discuss.

Ya think?

North Korea claimed its launch marked the “final step” in creating a “powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth.” State media said it was ordered and supervised by dictator Kim Jong Un, according to Reuters.

Well, not quite anywhere, but Kimmy Boy is about as interested in making factual statements as is Big Daddy Don-O.

President Trump immediately responded to the launch in a flurry of tweets.

Why do his tweets always come in flurries.  Ok, deep breath.  How bad could they be?

“North Korea has just launched another missile,” Trump wrote. “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

Mic drop.  The leader of the free world has tweeted.  Now the world will take America seriously!

The launch sends a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, while also allowing North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program. It came on the eve of the July 4 holiday, days after the first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of South Korea and the United States, and ahead of the G-20 summit set to take place in Germany.

The missile test could invite a new round of international sanctions, but North Korea is already one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth. U.N. Security Council resolutions ban it from engaging in any ballistic activities. Since late 2012, North Korea has placed two satellites into orbit with long-range rockets, each time triggering new U.N. sanctions and worldwide condemnation.

Sanctions.  Wait, did we go through all of the options yet?  Weren’t we going to talk about options?  Aircraft carriers, spies, sanctions…are we missing anything?  What about Dennis Rodman?

Last year, North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth atomic bomb tests and claimed a series of technical breakthroughs in its efforts to develop long-range nuclear missiles. The fifth nuclear test in September was the North’s most powerful atomic detonation to date.

In their meeting last week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump vowed to oppose North Korea’s development of atomic weapons.

I, too, make this vow.  With all three of us on board, I think we can solve this.  But I’m not moving to Seoul anytime soon.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alex Jones

It’s 10:30pm and I’m listening to local fireworks celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary.  I’m listening and not watching because it takes so long to get dark outside this time of year that the kids are long asleep before the fireworks start.  Happy birthday, Canada.

***

But the real story tonight is space.  Not only was yesterday International Asteroid Awareness Day (started two years ago by astrophysicist and lead guitarist of Queen!), the U.S. president has issued a “Presidential Executive Order on Reviving the National Space Council.”  “Why?” you ask.

(b) In particular, the Council is directed to:

(i) review United States Government space policy, including long-range goals, and develop a strategy for national space activities;

(ii) develop recommendations for the President on space policy and space-related issues;

(iii) monitor and coordinate implementation of the objectives of the President’s national space policy and strategy;

(iv) foster close coordination, cooperation, and technology and information exchange among the civil, national security, and commercial space sectors;

(v) advise on participation in international space activities conducted by the United States Government; and

(vi) facilitate the resolution of differences concerning major space and space-related policy matters.

So, this may be part of a big push to go to Mars.  It’s unclear to me what exactly the president’s “national space policy and strategy” is, but, as the president wisely noted, “At some point in the future, we’re going to look back and say how did we do it without space?”  Indeed, space will certainly be involved in this effort.  But what will we find on Mars, if we go there?  According to the Alex Jones show, the answer may be surprising.

A guest on Jones’ show on Thursday, Robert David Steele, has confirmed what none of us has suspected all along–that NASA is kidnapping children and sending them to Mars to be slaves.  NASA (in typical NASA fashion) denies this (Daily Beast, Space.com, WP).  Instead, they claim to be trying to figure out how to stop asteroids, which, I suppose, is a fitting thing to be doing (or pretend to be doing) on Asteroid day.  It’s not like the asteroids are our friends after all.  But, let’s get back to Jones.  I don’t see a reference to Robert David Steele on the Thursday show (please feel free to listen for it on the four-hour broadcast and let me know where it happens), but the man is certainly a regular on Jones’ show.

So, here’s the deal.  Is Jones a lunatic?  It hardly matters.  Jones is a showman who panders to the lunatics.  This, in itself, is not so problematic.  There are charlatans out there for all of us.  What concerns me is that Jones is the answer to a question.  And, the questions is this, ‘Who can trump Trump?’  When Trump flames out, as he must, and his furious groupies are looking for a 2020 replacement, who will they look to?  Trace the trajectory of Republican presidents over the last few decades and you can see that there is really only one suitable candidate for the next U.S. general election–a man with even more self-aggrandizing, shameless, unhinged bombast than the current man in office.  Alex Jones, 2020.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.  Maybe the Martian kids aren’t so bad off after all.

Hersh reality

Seymour Hersh has a way of confirming my most cynical suspicions.  It seems that whenever there is some niggling minority report that is generally dismissed as wacky nonsense, especially when it makes the establishment look bad, Hersh later comes along and shows, with impeccable sourcing, why the dominant narrative was wrong and how naive we were to believe it.  So it goes with his recent expose showing that Syria did NOT use chemical weapons in it’s recent bombing (the bombing that precipitated the US administration’s rash, awkward, and feckless response).  The odd thing this time is that Hersh’s article isn’t found in the New Yorker.  Why?  What could possibly come between Hersh and the New Yorker?  I hope I’m not going to have to pick sides, although, if Hersh gets custody of the cartoons, I probably will.

***

I’m trying to figure out if there have been fewer terrorist incidents since Trump’s inauguration.  Has anyone been keeping count?  Trump was very proud of himself for being able to say ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ in public.  He would probably also have fun deriding ‘eco-terrorists’ and other left-wing extremists, but are there right-wing terrorists in the US, too?  It seems so.  According to an article in Reveal, there have been about twice as many right-wing terrorist incidents as Islamic incidents in the last nine years.  Time to close the borders.