Associate Professor Jean-Pierre Macquart of Curtin University in Bentley (Perth), Australia is the principal investigator of the CRAFT project that studies Fast Radio Bursts from throughout the universe. These phenomena became a subject of intense interest in 2007. The cause of these FRB’s is still being researched but in June, 2019 the source was determined to be a galaxy 3.4 billion light years from our own Milky Way Galaxy, practically next door.
The theories of the origins of FRB’s are many. However, my favorite guess is that they originate from a highly advanced civilization that is reaching out for contact with other similarly positioned beings. Of course, I still hold out some hope Santa Claus will bring me a pony.
Regardless, if there are intelligent creatures sending out probes it may be because they have been monitoring Earth’s progress for years and are wondering how we are currently doing. If these beings, I’ll just call them Busters for convenience, have been observing us for the last 200,000 years or so they were probably pretty bored until around 5,000 years ago when the “ancient” Chinese, Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians came up with writing and pyramids. The Busters may have followed the careers of Imhotep or Cheops as mankind leapt from hunter/gatherers to farming and architecture. Today the descendants of these great civilizations may get less interest from the Busters, especially as the societies began to engage in efforts to control their neighbors with clubs.
As humans migrated from Africa to the Mediterranean area our curious observers may have followed the writings of Socrates and the Greek culture until the Roman’s discovered the short sword. And while we do not know the length of the year the Busters live with, they probably have figured out ours and our time lines. Therefore, the Busters may have followed the rise and fall of Rome including the decline from such as Justinian to the likes of Mussolini. The Earth at war from 1914 to 2020 may have caused the Busters pause.
One curious aspect of the Fast Radio Bursts is how they were discovered by humans about 2007 and their volume has waxed and waned over the next 13 years. It is as if the Busters may be concerned or confused about recent events. Perhaps they are perplexed by our world’s own fast radio television bursts as current events may appear from outer space to be pure chaos.
For example, I can imagine a cable news Buster asking, “Where did Socrates go and what the devil is a Hannity?”
We begin 2020 with the death of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. President Trump ordered the drone/air strike. The President said:
“The attack was necessary because Soleimani was planning massive attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.”
America has been heavily involved in the Middle East since World War II. Our role until 1990 was mainly diplomatic with some force of arms as a threat. In 1990 we invaded Iraq and re-invaded Iraq in 2003 although we have not completely disengaged since our first incursion.
After the 911 attacks of 2001 we invaded Afghanistan in the hopes of quelling further attacks by Al-Qaeda members who were using Afghanistan to plan operations in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. In 2014 America intervened militarily and diplomatically in the Syrian Civil War.
Iranian college students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1979 and held 52 American hostages until 1981. All were released. The U.S. has had a prickly relationship with Iran since but it has been almost totally a war of words and sanctions.
If we point to 1990 as the metaphorical “Firing on Fort Sumter”, we have been engaged in military actions in the Middle East for 30 years. The strike on Soleimani may expand and extend our involvement. A calculation of costs and benefits of our 30 years of war is far beyond my knowledge. How does one evaluate the lives lost when there is no accounting for them? Did we eliminate terrorists or innocents, a future dictator or someone who might find a cure for cancer? We cannot know. We surely have expended trillions of dollars of national treasure, but would we have spent it any more wisely at home?
Over the last 30 years what have we done with our lives and treasure within our own country? More particularly what have we, and I mean me too, accomplished in our system of criminal justice? If America seeks to punish foreigners for transgressions and seeks to force other countries to behave as we think best, what are we doing and how have we done on imposing justice upon and modifying the behavior of our fellow citizens whom we convict of crimes? These issues, while always at play, rise up as salient as the New Year ensues.
Instead of war with Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran can we think about the legal system and Chris, Danny, Jackie and Jason? Is it logical to compare the behavior of countries to the behavior of individuals? Is it relevant? Is it meaningful or just another method of hoping instead of helping?
Each of the people named were at one time considered by our legal system to be in need of rehabilitation, much as America thinks of those named Middle Eastern countries. And while I have dealt with thousands of our fellow citizens in our legal system as lawyer, prosecutor and judge, this New Year season I have been musing about these four above-named survivors of my attempts at punishment and rehabilitation. In essence these four were given the opportunity to modify their own behavior and they did. Each is now a productive citizen and of more import to me, each is now my friend. Do I deserve any credit; no. Do they; yes.
But if society had continued to demand a pound of flesh from these, and so many others who have turned their lives around, each of them might have returned our slings and arrows with ballistic behavior. Yes, society held each to account just as we must do with other countries. But giving individuals and nations an opportunity for redemption might be worth contemplating.
Yuletide is the Germanic term for the season that begins with the Winter Solstice, usually about December 21 or 22. For 2019 the fleeting moment when Earth’s true North Pole was at its maximum tilt away from the sun occurred on Saturday, December 21 at 10:19 p.m. Central Standard Time. The winter or hibernal solstice marked the twenty-four hour period of the calendar year with the least sunlight and the beginning of longer daylight days. Humans probably have always celebrated this event. It is the true “new” year.
For many people the end of the year’s gradually darkening after the Summer Solstice, about June 20 or 21 each year, is a time to reflect on the past and hope for the future. One need not be superstitious to experience a period of introspection when darkness turns to light. Nature provides the perfect metaphor.
For Peg and me as leftovers from the turbulence of the 1960’s retrospection often includes the days of Jim Crow and America’s legal system. These painful recollections were once again seared into our psyches when we happened to come upon the 2018 movie Green Book while surfing television shows for something of value, that is, something other than the cacophony of vile opinions claiming to be news.
Green Book is based on events from 1962. Dr. Don Shirley (1927-2013) was an African-American pianist who decided to engage in his own sociological experiment concerning racism in America. Instead of designing a laboratory environment where rats are manipulated and observed followed by conjectural opinions, Shirley literally put some real skin in the game, his. He hired a white Italian-American from New York City to be his driver and event manager then, with a white cellist and white bass player, the four of them dove into America before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was not pretty. Believe me, I remember.
I was born in 1943 in the legally segregated state of Oklahoma. I lived the good life of a middle-class white kid and young man with hardly a thought about why everyone I went to school or ate out with looked like me. If I ever had a passing observation of this phenomenon until after Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education in 1954 I do not recall it.
Then in 1957 Oklahoma used “all deliberate speed” to comply with the United States Supreme Court’s decree that its previous decree that Separate but Equal was no longer constitutional. Turns out the Judicial Branch is no more virtuous than the other two. Not surprised? Me neither.
Anyway, the public schools of Oklahoma initiated their version of integration and the “colored” kids from Booker T. Washington School across Bird Creek from the rest of us came to school with the rest of us. Of course, public transportation, restaurants, restrooms and water fountains remained pristinely white until after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Jim Crow still reigned.
Green Book transported Peg and me back to those not so thrilling days of yesteryear. Don Shirley was kept back by the dominant white culture to those dark days symbolized by the Winter Solstice. Perhaps whoever erected the Stonehenge paean to the coming light had their own demons to quell. My guess is there is in human nature a certain element of dark mentality that is constant and that each generation must re-learn and deal with that fact.
Of course, for one to recognize the darkness in our souls we must have the ability to appreciate the possibilities of the coming light. When the light finally expels the dark, if it ever does, we will be able to dispel the competition between good and evil by not just hiding from the long night but reveling in the light.
Happy New Year!
In the musical My Fair Lady by Lerner and Loewe Professor Henry Higgins is a middle-aged speech specialist who attempts to pass off the cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle as a socialite. Eliza is young, crude, pretty and most of all female. Her audacious resistance to Higgins’ efforts to turn her into a fraud is beyond frustrating to Higgins. He sums up his Eliza dealings with a statement to his co-conspirator Colonel Hugh Pickering, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”
I suggest the main reason My Fair Lady is one of the most successful musicals in history is this eons long male quest to control or at least understand their female companions. Every man, especially every married man, commiserates with Professor Higgins. When Higgins asks Pickering if Pickering would get upset if he did not speak to him for hours or if he forgot Pickering’s birthday, Pickering scoffs and replies, “Of course not”.
The reason I raise this subject pertains to Peg’s totally unreasonable reaction to my involvement in our move from Posey County, Indiana to Osage County, Oklahoma. I don’t get it. Regardless of what activity or inactivity I am currently engaged or unengaged in Peg believes I should be doing something else, something she declares is essential to national security or at least to getting us moved. And whatever it is it is vital that it be done immediately! No time to finish watching a ballgame or drink a cup of morning coffee or an afternoon beer.
Let’s take yesterday as an example of Peg’s recalcitrant attitude. I will leave up to all fair-minded husbands if I was in the right. Wives need not trouble themselves with a response.
I turned on the television about eight a.m. and was in the process of continuously switching between CNN and FOX in the hope of finding some news squeezed among the vitriolic diatribes at both ends of the impeachment debacle. My coffee had hardly cooled when Peg burst into the den with fire in her eyes and a dust rag in her hand.
“The buyers must never know we lived here for twelve years without dusting behind those boxes in the closet. Are you about ready to quit griping about the national news media and the government and help me?”
“Uh, can I finish my coffee or will Rome fall if I don’t immediately go searching for dust devils?”
“Oh, don’t let me interrupt your delving into the fine points of who did what, to whom and when. I am sure they will contact you for your solution to war in the Middle East!” I ask you, husbands of the world, does such sarcasm sound familiar? I calmly responded it appeared to me the dusting and packing of yet another item we had not used for years could probably safely wait until my coffee was finished. Such was not to be.
Anyway, it does appear we will get completely packed up this year. I am looking forward to my instructions on unloading and unpacking out on the prairie. Wish me luck all my fellow testosterone travelers.
P.S. From Peg, who has to type all these Gavel Gamut articles, post them to the jamesmredwine.com website, Facebook, and send them on to the newspapers, which happens to take 3 hours of her Friday because the author waits until the last minute to write them: “No wonder the National Organization of Women’s credo is ‘Men just don’t get it!’. And, by the way, I am more like a man! I have had to help my Dear Jungle Jim move quite a few pieces of heavy furniture from one room to another because he decided he wanted them in a different room than the moving crew originally moved them into!”
If you visit our country’s most hallowed military institution at West Point you will find America’s most infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold, is as reviled today as he was in 1780. Arnold had been one of General George Washington’s closest colleagues and was in command of Fort West Point when he plotted with British Major John André to surrender West Point to the British.
André was caught and hanged but Arnold escaped to England where he joined the British Army as a general and then engaged in battles against America. Such treachery is not easily forgiven. When you enter the venerable old Cadet Chapel at West Point you will find there is no mention of Arnold; his name has been removed from where others are displayed with honor.
If even now America has not forgotten what treason truly is you can imagine how the Framers of our Constitution felt when they wrote our Constitution only seven years after Arnold’s betrayal. When Article II, section 4 of the Constitution was drafted treason was the first reason given for impeachment:
“The President, Vice-President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Article I, section 5 gives the House of Representatives the sole power of impeachment and Article I, section 3, subsection 6 gives the Senate the power to try the charge of impeachment with a conviction, and subsequent removal from office, requiring a two-thirds vote.
We have had forty-five Presidents of which three have been impeached: Andrew Johnson (1865-1869); Richard Nixon (1969-1974); William Clinton (1993-2001); and now perhaps, Donald Trump (2017-?). Andrew Johnson and William Clinton were not convicted. Richard Nixon resigned. And Donald Trump’s situation is yet to be determined.
I do not know the significance of why America went from George Washington (1789-1797) to 1973 with only one presidential impeachment then has had two, and perhaps three, since then. My speculation is the bar for impeachment has been lowered from the behavior of a Benedict Arnold to a standard based on personality. Have we transitioned from treason to Tricky Dicky, Slick Willy, and, perhaps, Dodgy Donnie? If so, the cautionary statements of then Representative Gerald Ford and the Founding Father and main architect of the Constitution James Madison may be worth considering. “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the Members of the House of Representatives says it is” (Ford); and we should be aware “Maladministration” [or its kin] is, “so vague a term [as] will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.” (Madison).
A short-hand interpretation of these admonitions is that America should not allow itself to become a nation based on the fluctuating opinions of those in Congress but only upon a system of law as sought by those who crafted our Constitution.
Erma Bombeck says the grass is always greener but usually only over the septic tank. For all other locations what’s beyond the next hill is pretty much the same. But we humans do not let reality interfere with our favorite myths so we keep seeking Eldorado even when we may be happy where we are. And in America the gold ring is often searched for “out west”. That has been true from Plymouth Rock in 1620 until California four hundred years later. We just feel like our lives will be better if we head west.
The Gold Rush of 1849 is the eponym for this belief that paradise awaits us across the Mississippi River. Horace Greeley exhorted America’s youth to fulfill our Manifest Destiny although Greeley decided to remain comfortable in the east editing the New York Tribune. If one drives from say Indiana to Oklahoma she or he will find themselves immersed in a maelstrom of humanity trudging along Interstate 44 in their gasoline powered covered wagons. Instead of a family lumbering along behind a team of oxen with a water bucket clanging against the side and kids peeking out from under the canvas, the parents will be sipping coffee from a thermos and the kids will never see anything but the screens of their cell phones.
Should you, Gentle Reader, have been reading this column recently you may recall Peg and I have decided to join much of the rest of America and move west. Our most recent effort in this regard involved a 26 foot U-Haul truck. It had both heat and air conditioning and covered the countryside at 70 miles per hour; oxen would have had trouble trying to keep up with our fellow travelers who let us know the speed limit is only a suggestion. When we got hungry we stopped at a restaurant. Wild game did not have to be shot. When we got sleepy we stopped at a motel. Blankets on the ground were not our lot. When we got thirsty we grabbed a Coke. Searching for an oasis we did not. Our only hardship was the U-Haul did not have Sirius Radio. Since we took two vehicles we chatted along casually when we wanted to talk to each other by our cell phones while peering out the tinted windows of the U-Haul and car.
What we did fairly quickly realize was what a debt we owe to those who blazed the trail west before us. Those old western movies depicting families suffering dust, heat, cold, hunger, thirst, and medical emergencies while fording streams and crossing mountains took on a personal feel. It feels good and gives one confidence to know we come from such stock. And it certainly puts our trivial complaints in perspective.