Saturday, April 20, 2019

Our take on the Mueller Report: Clear Case of Obstruction, but not Collusion

On reading the entire report of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, here are two takeaways:
Obstruction of justice is clear and inescapable (see Volume II.)
Russian collusion, not so much. (See Volume I.)
You can find the full text of the redacted Mueller Report at numerous sites. Hereʻs CNNʻs. 
Iʻm not sure how many people talking about the report actually read its hundreds of pages. I did, and from my reading, there are three key points on two overarching topics: Russian interference and obstruction of justice.
1. There was ample evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election;
2. There was a lot of evidence that the Trump campaign worked with the Russians to damage Hillary Clintonʻs campaign and to bolster Trumpʻs. Thatʻs what the President is calling collusion. But thereʻs not a lot of evidence they did it knowingly.
3. On obstruction of justice—mainly all the things President Trump to interfere with the investigation—the case is absolutely clear. There was a lot of evidence.
Mueller laid out all the facts and legal arguments needed to reach a conviction on obstruction, but he stopped short of declaring guilt, noting that a sitting president canʻt be prosecuted.
In count after count, Mueller laid out each of the three elements needed to convict. The three are: An overt act of obstruction; Whether that act was tied to an official proceeding; and Whether the obstruction was done with intent.
Here is just one of the many counts, recounted briefly, from Vol. II, P. 12, and Vol II, PP. 44-46:
Obstructive Act: The President repeatedly asked FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn for lying to the FBI.
Nexus to a proceeding: There was evidence President Trump had been informed that there was a likelihood of prosecution of Flynn over Russian issues.
Intent: The President told others that he wanted to end the Russia investigation.
Thatʻs just one of many counts. Here is another, from Vol. II, PP. 77-90:
Obstructive Act: The President ordered several officials to fire Mueller.
Nexus to a proceeding: The President knews that Mueller was investigating him for federal crimes, including the previous firing of the FBI director.
Intent: "Substantial evidence indicates that the President's attempts to remove the Special Counsel were linked to the Special Counsel's oversight of investigations that involved the President's conduct-and, most immediately, to reports that the President was being investigated for potential obstruction of justice."
So, why didnʻt Mueller take the next step and declare outright that the President had obstructed justice?
He pretty much did, but he did it oddly.
"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the  facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state," Mueller said.
A reasonable plain language translation of that would be, "If he were innocent weʻd say so, and weʻre not, so heʻs not."
So Mueller didnʻt outright say the President is guilty. What Mueller did say, in case after case,  was that it takes three things to prove obstruction, and he had all three things."
The Russian interference case is a little less clear.
Mueller clearly lays out the many ways in which the Russian government actively interfered—hacking websites (Vol.1, P. 36), recruiting Americans (Vol.1, P. 31), arranging public rallies (Vol.1, P. 29), using social media to promote pro-Trump and anti-Clinton themes (Vol.1, P. 26), and so on.
And lots of Trump campaign personnel were meeting with lots of Russians, were doing what Russians were asking them to do, and were passing campaign information to Russians. Although that sounds like coordination, Mueller says it is at least possible that some Trump organization people werenʻt aware that they were doing Russian bidding.
Examples of some of the links between Russia and the Trump organization:
Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort gave Russians Trump campaign internal polling data on the states where the Trump campaign needed help. (Vol.1, P. 140)
Russians asked the Trump campaign to help promote Russiaʻs social media activity, and the Trump campaign then tweeted links to Russian-controlled sites. (Vol.1, P. 33) Both President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. were among those tweeting and retweeting Twitter posts (Vol.1, P. 34) prepared by the Russian Internet Research Agency.
What is not clear is whether the Trump campaign always knew that they were responding to and retweeting Russian disinformation.
Mueller concluded that there wasnʻt enough evidence to file criminal charges:
"The investigation did not...yield evidence sufficient to sustain any charge that any individual affiliated with the Trump Campaign acted as an agent of a foreign principal," the report says.
Thereʻs our conclusion: Mueller has laid out a clear case of obstruction, not so clear on collusion.
©Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Climate models keep getting scarier. Think 5-10degF hotter than now,

CO2 over time. Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)

The International Panel on Climate Change, aware of political blowback, has been conservative on its predictions of how fast the planet is changing, and now new studies are arguing that perhaps it should have been leaning the other way.

The new data suggests that things are going to get worse far faster than those conservative estimates, and indeed far faster than the previous worst case scenarios.

This is all starting to read like some science fiction scenario, but itʻs real and itʻs one of our own making. Hereʻs the evidence.

The best climate models from research centers around the world are showing that itʻs getting hotter faster than we thought it would. That translates into faster-melting glaciers, faster-rising oceans, faster changes in storm frequency, faster disruption in weather patterns.

The new climate models are being prepared for the next release of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is to be issued in 2021.
To be clear, the analysis of the newest climate studies is far from done, and it might not be nearly as problematic as it looks. But it might be.

In a post at the blog Carbon Brief, researchers from France and the United Kingdom agreed that the new figures look alarming. 

The last outlook suggested that in a few hundred years, climate will settle—reach equilibrium—at between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Centigrade hotter than now. The new computerized climate models are suggesting that range will actually be between 2.8 and 5.8 degrees Centigrade.

Those are catastrophic numbers. In Fahrenheit, means our descendants will face a world between 5 and 10 degrees hotter on average than now.

Getting higher faster means a lot of bad things. The authors of the Carbon Brief piece suggested one: "Higher warming would allow less time to adapt and mean a greater likelihood of passing climate ʻtipping pointsʻ–such as thawing of permafrost, which would further accelerate warming."

Does this all sound a little like a broken record? Well, yes, it sounds familiar. Thatʻs because records are being broken constantly in this arena.

The U.S. Climate Change Research Program, which is online at, makes the point that the planet is warming faster than at any time in human history.

The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, in its latest State of the Climate report, noted that 2015, 2016 and 2017 were the three hottest years since the tally has been kept, and that both sea level rise and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were also at record levels.

©Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Polynesian tattoos: Out of Tonga, into the world

Tattooing is not a Polynesian invention, but it clearly developed into a fine art in the Pacific Islands.
Ötzi, the fellow who died in the ice in the Italian Alps 5,300 years ago had dozens of tattoos. And his death predates the development of Polynesian culture. Ötzi's 61 tattoos were generally geometric forms. Crosses and stripes and rows of lines. Early Egyption mummies had tattoos as well.
But tattooing certainly developed dramatically during the Polynesian period. A new paper on Polynesian tattooing reviews the way the tattooing art progressed.
(Image: Australian archaeologist Geoffrey Clark of The Australian National University holds a 2,700-year-old tattoo comb from Tonga. Credit: Jack Fox/ANU)
It is "Ancient Tattooing in Polynesia," published in the Journal of Island and CoastalArchaeology by Australian researchers Geoffrey Clark of the Australian National University at Canberra and Michelle Langley of Griffith University at Langley. 
Tattooing is the art of inserting pigment under the skin to create a permanent mark. In its finest form, the skin is used as a canvas for broad patterns. In Polynesia most of those patterns were geometric, but they often represented organic organisms—like sharks or birds.
Much Polynesian tattooing was done with bone "combs," thin planks of bone with a series of sharp points carved into one end. The bone used to make the tattooing combs was sometimes human, but more often bird or pig, and even flying foxes and fish. The sharp bone tips would be dipped in pigment, placed against the skin and tapped repeatedly with a mallet to inject the dye.
One of the interesting things about the history of Pacific tattooing is that tattoo tools don't show up in the earliest archaeological sites, the authors say. It is also clear that while tattoo tools were found through much of the Pacific and Asia, "the most elaborate bone tattoo tools restricted to Polynesia," they write.
People in other parts of the Pacific used other tools—like bits of sharp obsidian—for tattooing, but the Polynesian tattooing comb first appears in archaeological sites dating to about 2,700 years ago in Tonga.
The many similar tattoo tools in Eastern Polynesia, including Hawai`i, date much younger.
"Bone combs are relatively common in the archaeological record of East Polynesia which was colonized 1,000–700 years ago," they write.
The materials are so common that it suggests tattooing itself, while it did not exist 3000 years ago, became a regular part of growing up in Polynesia, particularly in what is now French Polynesia. Joseph Banks, who was Captain Cook's botanist in the Pacific during the 1760s, wrote:
"It [tattooing] was done between the ages of 14 and 18 and so essential it is that I have never seen one single person of years of maturity without it."
In the 1800,s Tongan men who failed to be tattooed were subject to ridicule.
Polynesian tattooing became such a social force, the authors say, that the techniques spread to other parts of Oceania. And although some tattooing was clearly done earlier in Europe—Ötzi being the best example—European whalers and explorers brought back an interest in the tattoo from Polynesia to Europe in the 1700s and 1800s.
"Interest in 'native' tattooing continued during, and after, the voyages of Cook and others to the Pacific during the Enlightenment," Clark and Langley write.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Just in: New El Nino forms--what's the impact for Hawaiian weather?

El Nino is back. What does this mean?

A new El Nino formed in January, "based on the presence of above-average sea surface temperatures across most of the equatorial Pacific Ocean and corresponding changes in the overlying atmospheric circulation," according to the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service.

In Hawaiian waters, the temperatures are still a little cooler than normal, but in the equatorial Pacific, a giant pool of warm water has developed, and it's a sign of ocean-wide changes in the behavior of our atmosphere.

The El Nino has just started, and so far, the evidence is "consistent with borderline, weak El Niño conditions."

And there is no clear sign that it will strengthen further or persist beyond the spring season, forecasters say. They give it just a 50 percent chance of continuing later into the year.

So that’s a good sign, it would seem, for the two major issues that El Nino conditions set up for the Hawaiian Islands: increased hurricane activity in strong El Nino years, and winter drought.

For now, stay tuned.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019

Oxford English Dictionary all hemajang

"Chee, you seen Kaipo? He had karang da reef on his face. Ho, all hemajang. Was uji."

I was reminded of the wonderful Hawaiian pidgin word hemajang when the Oxford English Dictionary announced it was putting the word hammajang on its extensive list of "real" words.

There is, of course, no standard spelling for most pidgin words. And I was concerned the English dictionary OED would create a standard where none existed. I was concerned, because if you were to find a standard, it might not be hammajang.

I wrote OED this email:

I note that you have added a word, hammajang, to the dictionary.

I am a lifelong journalist in the Hawaiian Islands and want to suggest another spelling, which is often used, is pronounced in the same way, is more attuned to the word’s Hawaiian language roots, and doesn’t violate Hawaiian pidgin spelling rules in the way that hammajang does.

The more appropriate spellings, from my perspective, are hemajang, or perhaps hamajang or even hemajeng or hamajeng.  But not hammajang.

I have no thoughts on the origin of “jang, but hema may be from the Hawaiian word hema meaning left or south (used in the sense that English uses sinister, as left but also wrong, odd or unfortunate). Or perhaps hemo, which can mean loose or undone.

The Hawaiian language reduplications, hemahema and hemohemo, emphasize these definitions.

Hemajang is Hawaiian pidgin, meaning it is a spoken and not a written language. There is no consistency in spelling. But one rule is this: As in the Hawaiian written language it doesn’t use double consonants.

This word is sometimes spelled hemajang, my own preferred spelling, which is also the preferred spelling of the classic Hawaiian creole book, “Pidgin To Da Max,” which dates to 1981. I’m not sure whether hemajeng was in the first edition, but it was in later editions of a book that now claims more than 200,000 printings.

And sometimes hemajeng (,

And sometimes hamajang (

If you’re going to stick with hammajang, please at least concede that there are other spellings. But I suggest that hammajang is a nonstandard spelling and that hemajang is the one that gets the most currency.

Pidgin is very personal to folks, and I know that the pidgin I learned on west Molokai is different than the pidgin of Kalaheo and of Makawao and Kunia and Papakolea. There really isn't one pidgin. It changes (at least words, although not so much grammar) with the ethnicities of the community.
I will concede that there are occasionally double consonants in pidgin (but not Hawaiian). Like buggah. And slippa. At least in these cases, the double consonants are a function of English words repronounced as pidgin, bugger and slipper.

I will further concede that some folks in the Islands have used the spelling hammajang. The website does, but then, with all due respect, they also spell hanabata as hanabaddah and uji as ujee. Maybe that's an O`ahu thing.

There are places where a voyage is something on which she went go, where other places she had go.

Certainly, there are a lot of communities that don't use some pidgin words that are common elsewhere. Take tantaran or borot. Some places you hear them, others not so much. (Incidentally, if you can have a conversation about the difference between someone who's tantaran and someone who's borot, you’re up in pidgin master's degree territory.)

And back to the subject at hand, when a European publication decides to decide how to spell a Hawaiian pidgin word. 
That's hemajang.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019