Friday, October 11, 2019

Space marvels - and possibilities

I don't know how much longer I'll be able to offer science and space news, as the crisis of survival of civilization gets crazier and more dangerous, daily. I promise some cool space news, below!

But first... Donald Trump's possibly worst treason, hidden under so much else! I'd talk about how the troops sent to Saudi and the Iranian ship hit by "missiles" all point to a return to an Iran-US dog-wag war. (Remind all your friends of the terms "Tonkin Incident" and 'Gleiwitz' and Reichstag fire. BUT THERE'S NO TIME! I'd get you all to insist the nation's mayors demand huge deposits before any Trump rally gets permits, since they stiff the taxpayers. BUT THERE'S NO TIME! Because something far more important is up!

Yes, a bigger danger. Trump appears to be about to pull the U.S. out of the Open Skies Treaty, by far the most-important arms control compact and the one Dwight Eisenhower prayed for (for all our sakes) till the day he died. Like with the IRBM treaty Trump abrogated, the one wanting this to end is the puppet master Vladimir Putin. Dig it, the KGB (it's renamed version) can already track goings on in the US. The treaty favors us, vastly! And that's why Putin has ordered his puppet to end it. (The IRBM treaty also favored us, hence Trump went 'siegheil comrade' and pulled out.) It is time for eminent officers to tactically and carefully and slowly but emphatically resign-and-speak. This relatively unmentioned move - hidden by other headlines - may be the most dangerous Trumpian Treason of all.

== The Universe goes on, magnificently... though maybe soon without us... ==

A second confirmed visitor from interstellar space appears this time to be a comet about 10 kilometers across as it appears to have a visible tail. Unlike Ou'muamua, this one is not only about six times brighter but is also making its way into the Solar System at about 30 kilometers per second, giving us a much longer period of time to study it.

Didn't expect this for a couple of years. Water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of a super-Earth in a red dwarf's goldilocks zone. We are amazing. And we should be capable of wresting back the revolution that led to all these wonders.

Hayabusa! The Japanese spacecraft at asteroid Ryugo has done it again. Performed difficult sample collecting maneuvers flawlessly. They'd be great partners for NASA to head out and do valuable, exciting new things, instead of joining a crowded field of Apollo wannabes aiming to plant dusty footprints (with zero prospect for benefits) that our ancestors achieved half a century ago. Boldly go. Ikimasho!

Speaking of rocks. Japanese scientists have calculated that the dinosaur-killer asteroid would have ejected  billions of tons of life-bearing meteorites into space. Further, a A previous study found that more Earth ejecta must end up in interstellar space than all the other planets combined. As much ejecta would have ended up on Europa as on the Moon: around 100 million individual Earth rocks in some scenarios. That’s because the huge gravitational field around Jupiter acts as a sink for rocks, which then get swept up by the Jovian moons as they orbit. If life evolved at just 25 different sites in the galaxy 10 billion years ago, the combined ejecta from these places would now fill the Milky Way.

== Steps toward Space Exploration ==

The Moon might be only 50 million years (an eyeblink) younger than Earth itself. The massive collision that tossed a lot of Earth’s crust into orbit, to settle into the Moon, appears to have occurred very early, not the 150 million years previously thought. The newborn Moon was covered in a magma ocean, which formed different types of rocks as it cooled. 'These rocks recorded information about the formation of the Moon, and can still be found today on the lunar surface,' says Dr Maxwell Thiemens, former University of Cologne researcher and lead author of the study. (Terrific work, Max!) Though it doesn’t change the fact that there are no “ores” on that barren dustpile, that is (for the foreseeable future) only good for tourism.

Hollow lava tubes almost certainly exist on the Moon and Mars – we count many openings – “skylights” whose bottoms aren’t plumbed by orbital scans. In fact NIAC has supported small research efforts aimed at exploring these potentially valuable cave systems, which could be crucial for supporting extended human presence, for much roomier habitats that are safer from temperature swings, radiation, meteorites and blowouts.  Most intriguing are pits inside Philolaus Crater near the north pole of the moon. "They might be skylights associated with a network of lava tubes formed not in volcanic lava flows, but in an impact melt sheet, the temporary pool of molten rock that ponded inside Philolaus Crater following the large impact that created the crater," combining the habitat attraction with water ice.

Caves may become important to the future of Mars exploration because they provide shelter from the entire range of harsh surface conditions while maintaining near-pristine interior surfaces and relatively stable microclimates. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter‘s (MRO) cameras have spotted hundred of “candidate” cave entrances, just in the area of the three Tharsis shield volcanoes. Many may just be shaded alcoves but even those offer opportunities for potential future explorers/colonists.  There’s also a chance that these sites have served as water-ice collection sites in places much more convenient than the polar craters where the sun never shines.

A pretty good article detailing how well-prepared humanity is, for discovering and appraising asteroids that might impact the Earth, especially two vital survey telescopes in Hawaii.  Alas, we are in more danger from comets, which can come in with little warning. But there’s work on that, as well. And the NGO-nonprofit you could join, to help prevent that particular catastrophe, is the B612 Foundation.

== Space tech ==

The Bigelow “inflatable” habitat modules keep getting more impressive.

Meanwhile, Collins Aerospace has unveiled its next generation spacesuit, which can be adapted to either micro-gee  or the lunar surface.

Vast sheets of ultra-light aerogel might be key to terraforming swathes of Mars. But there are tradeoffs. Strong enough to last decades? Then when they shred do they become ultimate pollution?

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity.

Soon to be released: Space Exploration: A History in 100 Objects - from Sputnik to Hubble and the Curiosity Rover, author Sten Odenwald visualizes the iconic objects that have enabled us to explore and see further into the cosmos. 

It’s widely believed that the Trump rush to get footprints on the moon is ego driven, to land before the end of his “second term.” But here we see another possible reason… An urgent hurry allows contracts to be given without abiding by competitive bidding and evaluation rules. I’m not saying this is so! But in light of what happened in Iraq, when Bush-Cheney family logistics companies were the beneficiaries of “emergency” no-bid contracts to the order of tens of billions, we should be wary.

Airbus, Boeing, and SoftBank are now developing stratospheric autonomous drones, capable of flying at (and even above) 60,000 feet. Intended to fly for months without intervention, the drones could deliver imaging and even internet services from above.

A new kind of space elevator would evade some of the safety and materials worries of earlier concepts. The Spaceline would be tethered to the surface of the Moon and dangle down into geostationary orbit around the Earth like a plumb bob. “Instead of rocketing all the way out of orbit, astronauts would only need to reach the end point of the Spaceline, cutting back the cost and challenge of rocket launches. Once it reaches the vacuum of space, free of terrestrial gravity and atmospheric pressure, the spacecraft would meet up with the cable and latch onto a solar-powered shuttle that would climb along its length."

My own concept for a moon-anchored space elevator goes in the opposite direction… outward away from Earth, and yet it would serve a similar function… plus one more, over the course of millions of years. Saving the Earth!

We can do all those things! But first -- save civilization.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

A Big-Bold Book of Best-of-Brin Blogs... about Political Judo! 100+ tactics we should be using.

By popular demand, I am creating a quick e-book that merges many of my political postings under the following title:


A Brazen Guide for Sane Americans to Charge Past
 Trench Warfare in Our Life or Death Struggle for Civilization

Sound interesting? See the table of contents, below! Then offer comments/suggestions if you feel so moved. But first a few samples -- examples of how to do "judo" against the treason.

(1) Let's assume Chief Justice John Roberts will use the Court's right wing majority to uphold his clever Roberts Doctrine, of "non-interference between the legislative and executive," allowing GOP henchmen to refuse House subpoenas on lame and unprecedented excuses. They think their passive fait accompli resistance will stymie all investigation and oversight. But there's a judo move that Schiff and Nadler can try. It means appealing to the Fourth Branch of government. It would work. (You might guess what it is from clues... or read it in  the book.)

(2) Here's another judo move that could help empower Congressional committees, now stymied by Trumpist defiance of legal subpoenas. To unleash a tsunami of revelations, announce that your committee will offer immunity for testimony by anyone who has an NDA - or Non-Disclosure Agreement - with Donald Trump. He's bragged about his Great Wall of punitive-protective NDAs. Shatter it and let the revelations spill. (Michael Cohen will tell you who to approach.)

(3) Will anyone ever stand up to the "Fake News" meme, at long last? Lists of "pinnocchio lies" and "fact-checkers" don't work; foxites just call them biased. That tactic can be neutralized in three ways

- At an elevated level, demand - repeatedly - that Trump or Fox etc. name five eminent and widely respected conservative sages to sit on a commission to vet fact-checking services for impartiality, alongside eminent liberals and neutrals. They won't dare offer five names, of course, because 'eminent conservatives' betray the party line with upsetting regularity. But their evasions will hurt them!  Squirming to evade this reasonable demand -- if it's repeated in a pounding refrain -- will start looking cowardly. And that is how you undermine the base.

- Defy rightists to name even one fact-centered profession they aren't waging open war against, from science and journalism to teaching and medicine, all the way to a purported "deep state" of ten million civil servants, FBI and Intel and military officers, all supposedly in cahoots. (While of course Putin, MBS, Murdoch  and Goldman-Sach would never collude.) Hammer them with "Why do your top enemies always happen to be professions that use facts?"

- At a lower level, reporters who get 'fake news!' hurled at them need to respond: "Sir, that is a direct attack on my integrity and I demand your staff support the assertion factually by tomorrow morning. Now getting back to my question..." Again one sentence. Used just once or twice, it accomplishes nothing. Hammered every time? It will devastate his illusion of macho strength.

(4) All right. This one is really immature... almost Trumpian! But it shows the wide range of judo moves that I describe in Polemical Judo - more than a hundred that you've never seen a Democratic politician or neutral pundit apply against this madness. Want it anyway? Okay then, at the bottom... even trolling... end of things, here's a ploy that might garner instant national attention, huge press and infuriate ol' Two Scoops more than anything that ever happened in his life.

Picture one mid level Democratic politician holding a news conference to denounce fellow Democrats for their unsympathetic pestering of an addled old man who clearly qualifies for extra care and kindness under the Americans with Disabilities Act...

I mean it. Close your eyes and imagine that satirical taunt being drawn out, again and again, with an almost straight face. Even those who don't 'get it' at first will catch on, when Trump responds with hysterical, volcanic fury, ironically proving it's true! What a tweet-storm that dig would rouse from Two Scoops! 

Remember, Trump's support base rests entirely upon a delusion that he's strong! The toughness of a Junior High School bully. Repeated expressions of pity would more than gall him into hysterics. It will undermine the fellow’s one pillar of support – the superficial appearance of macho “strength.”

Risky? Sure. But oh, so tasty. And that shows you the range of contents in Polemical Judo, which will offer up (I promise) scores of tactics and maneuvers -- from high-end to low -- that you've not seen (alas!) anywhere other than the pages of Contrary Brin.

== Scan the contents! ==

Below, in the table of contents, many of you long time netizens of Contrary Brin will recognize some of the component blogs chosen for this volume.  Speak up if you have a favorite that appears to have been skipped.

Missing from this TOC are many riffs between chapters that dive into familiar themes like Blackmail, Emergency Readiness, Adam Smith and Heinlein. But all of those will be there in the full book, as well.  

In this TOC, you'll find links to many of the earlier blog postings and magazine articles I've revised and spliced together into (I hope) a cohesive manual for agile politics.

Avidly vigorous pre-readers are already at work. We hope for an e-book very soon.

POLEMICAL JUDO -- Table of contents

Chapter 1           Intro – Americans (left, center
                           and saner right) must learn Judo Polemic 

Chapter 2           Beliefs we share, like suspicion of authority

Chapter 3           Profiles In Judo - IThe Greatest Generation, Adam Smith,  Jonas Salk, Lincoln and… AOC


Chapter 4           End the Cheating First 

Chapter 5           The War on All Fact People  


Chapter 6           Credibility? How Often the Right Has Just Been Wrong

Chapter 7           Oh, the Conspiracies!

Chapter 8           Poison and Antidote - Blackmailers, Henchmen and Whistleblowers

Chapter 9         America’s place in the world. Part 1: Pax Americana and the Rise of China

                        ISSUES THAT MATTER TO FACTIONS 

Chapter 10       Government is the problem?   
                                    Plus… Emergency Readiness and Resilience
Chapter 11       Economics – No, you don’t get Adam Smith… and Other Rationalizations 

Chapter 12       Unreliable Allies: Overcoming Splitterism    
                    Plus… Not just Adam Smith. Goldwater, Hayek and Heinlein… steal their icons!

Chapter 13       Can We make a Deal? “What Would Adults Do?”

Chapter 14       America’s place in the world Part 2:
                                Russia and the need for allies and high moral ground

Chapter 15       Hammer the macho with Wagers! The Name an Exception Challenge 

                        CIVIL WAR

Chapter 16       Our 250 year Family Feud – “Phase 8 of the Civil War?”   

Chapter 17       Exit Strategies – Impeachment, Indictment, the 25thAmendment and all that.  

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Look at impeachment as chess... not a sumo match!

You - yes you - are foolish to demand that we deal with the oligarch-mafia-confederate treason with spasm trench warfare. Charging ahead with full-frontal assaults.

We need generals in this civil war who can play chess and look many moves ahead, gaming out what the enemy might try to do. You can bet that Romney and Ryan and Republican Party elders — overlapping to an unknown degree with the puppet masters Murdoch, Putin, Mercer & MBS etc. — are mapping out a path that can:

1 - cancel out Trump’s biggest liability from their view — that of narrowing GOP constituencies, driving off all professions and educated people, ethnicities and many formerly republican women, crushing their coalition down to a rabid, confederate  base… **(See late news below)

(Of course, desideratum #1 means somehow eliminating Trump himself, since he will not modify or compromise. See below.)…

2- …while somehow not enraging that base against the GOP establishment for ‘betraying” Trump…

3- …while enraging that base instead against lib’ruls…

4- …while raising up new GOP leaders with credibility…

5- …while protecting establishment oligarchs and the pyramid of blackmailed servants…

6- …while protecting the cheating methods that are their only hook into power.

It’s a difficult path to thread, especially since the Party Elders and the Puppet Masters probably part company over the following:

7- the rise of would-be theocrats (e.g. Pence and dominionists) who would continue the narrowing while possibly setting in motion a deliberate (and literal) end of the world…

8- unleashing disruptive waves of violent McVeighs., tearing America apart.

What I desperately fear is the one path that would touch all of these bases at the same time. That path is *martyrdom.* A martyred Trump is the way to accomplish all of them. 

== Martyrdom Scenarios ==

I have long been on-record pointing this out, horrified that no one else has even mentioned it. But I ask you to put all of this together:

A. God bless the United States Secret Service. I mean that and I wish Donald Trump health. But if they fail and the pupeteers do eliminate their liability, then we all need to react tactically, not emotionally! 

It will be counterproductive if you celebrate, encouraging the meme that “lib’ruls did it to our hero!” 

Vastly better ? Express rage and suspicion toward those who would benefit most  from such a martyrdom— the Ryan-Romney-Putin-and especially Fox interests. Indeed, what could be a better judo move than to express compassionate pity for a Donald who was blatantly mentally ill? (See this elaborated -- with wry humor -- below.)

B. The other kind of martyrdom is more likely, of course — with those judo-master GOP manipulators giggling as they back pedal and let democrats clean up their mess for them. Because that’s what hurried impeachment could be, unless done rightgetting rid of their problem for them, while feeding Red America’s paranoias by appearing like a partisan lynch mob. Yes, the impeachment martyrdom would leave a living Trump out there screeching at rallies. So they’ll map it out with special attention to #2 and #3.

C. Most likely of all — a rush to impeachment leads to Moscow Mitch McConnell chortling with glee and getting the GOP Senate to reject the House’s charges, then declare: “All you dems wanted was to get even for the Clinton Impeachment." Allowing that comparison -- a silly ass pursuit of a wayward husband fibbing about some 3rd-base infidelity vs. Trump's weekly felonies and treason -- to stand will give Fox a chance to portray Trump as a martyr, while keeping him and his rally mob party loyal.

Nancy Pelosi is absolutely right (!!) that a race to *rapid* impeachment is stupid. Profoundly stupid! It presents Romney/Ryan + Putin with a rash gift that would feed chess moves #1-8 while failing to deliver any satisfaction. If hurried, it will give them every thing on that list. (And yes, one “chess” gambit they might pull is to let 18 GOP senators who have 4 more years on their terms, swing to conviction and removal, in order to clear decks for Ryan/Romney, counting on time to overcome DT’s fulminating rallies.)

Pelosi is right. Stretch it out! If done right, and timed right, impeachment *can* corner the GOP into a lose-lose. Think! Use “impeachment hearings” to overcome the Roberts Doctrine and regain full subpoena power. Then go after the money-laundering for Russian mobs. Demolish Trump’s reputations as a businessman, as a judge of character, and above all as a “strong man.” (George Lakoff makes clear that his appearance of blustery strength is THE core-psychic root of his redder support.) Chopping away at all of that, across the 2020 campaign, would either lead to an effective impeachment or else corner all Republican senators into an impossible and hopeless position.

I cannot comprehend why some dem leader hasn’t taken the pity tactic, which would infuriate Trump vastly more than the chest-to-chest sumo shoving and shouting we currently see. Any liberal leader who started publicly pitying Two Scoops, speaking v-e-r-y slowly toward this addled dimwit, would win instant cred and become the central focus of Trumpian tweet hate. 

It would chop hard against his blustering "strong man" image.

Moreover, the pity-meme could help us plenty, if the GOP masters go for either kind of martyrdom! “You threw that poor imbecile into a complex world for which he was ill-equipped, just because he’s good at riling up rallies of other imbeciles. And when it all finally overwhelmed him, turning him into a drooling-jibbering liability, YOU threw him under the bus. You monsters, we’re on to what you did to us, and to that pitiable moron!”

== Stop insisting on full-speed-ahead. Instead... maneuver! ==

Again and again, I repeat: Trump is infuriating, but his White House leaks! He is cauterized! The civil servants and defense pros are alerted! Things… could… be… much… worse!  

A Pence White House will be staffed with tightly disciplined dominionists and utterly leakproof. He would smoothly call for comity and calm and negotiation — an utter lie that we have fallen for many times. He will soothe back into line hundreds of thousands of civil servants and officers who’ll sigh with premature relief that the Trump Nightmare is over...

... when in fact the new president will be a much-worse maniac! One who prays daily for an end to all freedom, ambition, curiosity and children and an end to the world and an absolute destruction of the United States of America. And I mean that literally is what he prays for, daily.

No, no, I am not in a rush to remove the cauterized and 80% neutralized Donald Two Scoops, before the timing is right. And it is only right if it helps crush the GOP in the 2020 election! If nothing else, have impeachment on the docket when the NEW Senate takes over, some weeks before the 2021 inauguration. That new Senate -- ordering Trump dragged out of the White House in shame and banned from the Capitol steps -- is a fantasy we might, if we work hard, manage to see.

 == Addendum ==

FINAL scenario.  As one of you pointed out, the gopper secret masters might jettison both Trump and Pence, allowing Pelosi(!) to become president, as a tactical move saddling her with (1) Trump’s martyrdom, (2) presumption that was her ambition all along, and (3) blame for the sudden recession and (4) incumbency during a rejection-election. 

Problems with this scenario. Pelosi would unlock every filing cabinet and every Putin scheme gets uncovered and the election cheating gets harder.  Ryan might go for it. Not Murdoch or Putin.

** Late New Saturday: Former House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly wants to use his position on Fox's board to 'do something' about Trump