Sunday, September 27, 2020

More Space! Space is the Place

Today I'll take a break from posting chapters of Polemical Judo. (Last time I offered one suggestion - out of 100+ under-appreciated maneuvers in the book - just one that might forestall every 'October Surprise,' thwart most of the cheating, and prevent most pre- or post-election violence. Two sentences. Just two.)

Only now let's take a break for science! (Remember when much of our news cycle was about such things?) I just finished participating in the annual Symposium of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC)... and you can watch some of the amazing - just short of science fictional - projects here.

But the following non-NIAC items are straight out of the (scientific) headlines!

Caltech’s robotic Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) - to search of unexpected flares of light in the night sky - on May 21, 2019, detected a visible light flare that appears to be correlated with gravitational wave event S190521g that was recorded at about the same time by the LIGO and VIRGO gravitational wave detectors. Graham reported, “In our study, we conclude that the flare is likely the result of a black hole merger, but we cannot completely rule out other possibilities.” So kewl.

Interesting! The Air Force’s secret space plane the X-37 is hush hush so I was surprised by this article about an experiment to test converting sunlight into microwaves, eventually leading to prototype space power-beaming systems.

Future space travelers may have to conduct lifesaving surgical procedures in the near-zero gravity environment of spaceThat could be a messy — and potentially dangerous — endeavor.  The prospect of gushing clouds of blood and intestines might partly be solved by lacrosopic surgery techniques. Even better, injectable robots. Meanwhile, one of the coolest new NIAC grants goes to Dr. Lynn Rothschild’s team developing simple, spore-based ways to grow a variety of drugs when and where needed, via astropharmacology.

Alas, in contrast... not all "space news" credible 

NASA Discovers Huge Potential Caches of Metal On the Moon.” Seriously? A slight change in the parts per millions of some metal OXIDES? Most of it buried deep underground? None of this changes my mind. Except for some water ice at the poles - and maybe some scattered meteoritic iron grains - there is nothing “there” on Luna. None of the supposed exploitable “resources” that some boosters dishonestly yammer about. Nothing compared to the riches at asteroids. One more reason to end this lunatic – literally – administration of science and fact-haters. 

Leave the Moon to the kiddies, desperate for their rites of adulthood, making footprints on that (for now) dusty-useless ball. (Though US companies are welcome to rent out hotel rooms and landers for those tourists! And keep sending robots to check for when... not if... I'll someday be proved wrong.) 

Meanwhile, along with the Japanese and Europeans, we can go for the real riches, doing what no one else can do.

== More space! ==

Might “Planet Nine” be a primordial black hole, orbiting at the fringes of our solar system, occasionally flaring when it sucks in a drifting comets? Or perhaps micro gravity-lensing background star fields? Those betraying encounters might be detected by a new telescope that will give us better all-sky awareness than ever before.

Venus appears to have volcanoes… and remnant ones arrayed in patterns that appear to mimic in some ways Earth’s “Ring of Fire” and hot spot mantle plumes like under Hawaii and Yellowstone.

Two huge planets orbiting a young but sunlike star 300 light years away have been directly imaged. Wonderful.

A piece of Mars that fell to Earth decades ago is heading back to the Red Planet.

Most of the super-energetic sources seen in this spectacular full map (shown above) of the X-Ray Sky - around 77 percent - are supermassive black holes actively accreting material in the cores of galaxies, or active galactic nuclei.  “Within the Milky Way, stars with hot, magnetically active coronae make up 20 percent of the objects. The remaining one percent is made up of an assortment - bright X-ray binaries, supernova remnants, and flares…”

The Dynamic Red All-Sky Monitoring Survey (DREAMS)  to be completed 2021 will be able to map the entire southern sky in infrared in just three days, allowing astronomers to rapidly find and track cosmic events. A major step… alongside the new Synoptic telescope in Chile… toward all-sky awareness.

A group of scientists at Harvard and other universities has received NASA’s first-ever funding to search for alien technosignatures—artificial signs of intelligent life—around other stars. The scientists will look for signs of industrial pollutants in other planets’ atmospheres, as well as light reflected from solar panels—both of which could indicate a civilization technologically similar to our own.  

More galaxies appear to spin counter clockwise (Earth coordinates) than clockwise, leading to a theory that the universe itself was born with angular momentum and a complex set of spins.

Bing Chen points out how Loren Eiseley stated in his last book The Invisible Pyramid, "If man goes down I do not believe he will ever again have the resources or the strength to defend the sunflower forest and simultaneously to follow the beckoning road across the star fields. It is now or never for both and the price is very high".

== Ponderables ==

Might there be a subtle variation of the fine-structure constant with extreme distance in the universe… and even with directionality effects? If this new study is correct, however, it instead presents a universe with a dipole structure, not unlike the North and South poles of a magnet.

Just 1000 light years away, a black hole found only from the tight orbits of two nearby stars. One of them visible to the naked eye! Close! “An invisible object with a mass at least 4 times that of the Sun can only be a black hole,” and  “There must be hundreds of millions of black holes out there, but we know about only very few,” and there are likely many more, some closer still.

An now it is asserted that there may be a LOT of stellar range black holes out there... perhaps enough to account for dark matter?  Perhaps they gather in compact clusters, similar to those that ancient races seek as their final homes in the "embrace of tides" effect, you read about in Infinity's Shore and in Heaven's Reach?


Emily Levesque's The Last Stargazers takes you on a personal journey through the art, science, frustrations and passion of  modern astronomy, especially those ever-evolving mountaintop tools that let us pry secrets out of the sky - those magnificent telescopes.

Finally.... A cute rap song about cosmology! And a nice video in which some whipper snappers make a to-scale model of the solar system out on a California lake bed.

And for you geeks.... Wow. An artillery shell that incorporates a ramjet to triple its guided range.

And yes, if you don't want to face the business end of munitions, this phase of the American Civil War must be won decisively, overwhelmingly and soon, so we can end the violent fevers (both covid and confederate) and get back to being joyful problem solving, with facts and science.

Next... Chapter nine of Polemical Judo...  

America’s place in the world - Part 1:

Pax Americana and the rise of China


David Brin said...

I answered Duncan in the last posting but no biggie.

duncan cairncross said...

Yes I remember now

Every congress critter gets a subpoena once a session

That would be much more often than our MP's get a free legislative slot - but have less direct effect

David Brin said...

I disagree Duncan. Getting your chosen witness in front of cameras for 3 hours can have huge effects. If not uncovering impropriety then testifying for a bill and persuading colleagues better than you can.

Zepp Jamieson said...

One scientific story I'm surprised didn't make this week's list was the ongoing theory of underground life on other planets, Mars in particular. There's a body of thought that Earth has a vast population of anaerobic life between near surface and to the bottom of the crust that may out-mass all life found on the surface or in the oceans, and that Mars is an excellent candidate for similar life forms, since there are underground lakes on Mars. Venus is another good candidate, but for obvious reasons, considerably more difficult to explore.

Larry Hart said...

The Obama-era law is facing its biggest test in years as the court reexamines the individual mandate, the provision requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The mandate faces questions again over its constitutionality since Republicans in Congress repealed the penalty and reduced it to zero as part of the 2017 tax cut bill.

The ACA, which has been the subject of arguments before the high court half a dozen times, has come under assault from Republicans since its enactment in 2010, and proponents are loudly sounding the alarm with the potential for the entire law to come undone in the landmark case, California v. Texas. A federal court, supported by the Trump administration, ruled that because the individual mandate has been invalidated, the entire Affordable Care Act should be dismantled, a decision that would have monumental consequences especially amid an ongoing pandemic.

I'm not a lawyer, but to me, the proper ruling on this case is a no-brainer. Legal scholars seem to agree, while only partisan hacks (six of whom unfortunately get to vote on the issue at their whim) say otherwise. Yet no one seems to be making the specific argument that should shoot this entire line of "reasoning" down.

IIRC, judicial review works like this. Congress passes a law, and the court then rules on whether that law is unconstitutional. Or maybe someone has to challenge the law before the court gets to rule on it. Either way, the court rules on the law, not on whether the rest of the US code in total is rendered unconstitutional by the passage of that new law.

So if the court is finding that the reduction of the non-compliance penalty to 0 conflicts with the otherwise-Constitutional law, then the recduction of the penalty to 0 should be ruled unconstitutional. How anyone--even Republicans--can credibly argue it any other way remains a mystery to me.

David Brin said...

"Be careful what you chase, you may catch it." Now the goppers will have no excuses. The ACA and Roe-V. Wade get tossed and a GOP nightmare ensues. They wanted these issues as hot memes to rile the troops. What they'll rile now is - by comparison - the Hulk.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
I agree the testimony could well be more effective - but it would be indirectly in that it would THEN make legislation happen

The legislation "lottery" can go directly to the problem! - IF it passes!

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Okay. Now I've gotta get to work.

You posted some oddity regarding the fine structure constant and my dissertation made a 'prediction' about such and such possibly being detected as if the universe had more than one. Basically a split in the constant IF conditions were right. Now I've got to go look and see if my work would suggest the conditions are right. Maybe spread across a spectrum of conditions.

Probably not, but... {Blows dust off a bookshelf}

Alfred Differ said...


...then the reduction of the penalty to 0 should be ruled unconstitutional.

In general, it doesn't work that way. The most recent action of Congress is likely to be interpreted as the most recent intent of Congress. There is precedent for this. If not for that, one Congress could bind a later one with mere legislation. That has been ruled upon as NOT one of the powers of Congress. (Takes an amendment)

The right way to argue this is for the Court to punt. They can EASILY argue that if Congress intended to invalidate the ACA, they could have said so. In fact, exactly such a statement failed to pass. Recently.

Acacia H. said...

At this point, Dr. Brin, I think the GOP are looking at the larger picture.

They know that their days are numbered. They will not be able to remain in power, at least the way the political system currently is. And their end-game of forcing a Constitutional Convention and rewriting things won't happen either at this point.

So they encourage Trump to contest the election, get the Trumpists out with guns to cow the liberals, kill a few people, and seize power. They then rewrite the rules to ensure THEY retain power and no one else can take it from them. And they already have heard the military state "we won't get involved" so all they need is for the police and militias to break a couple thousand heads, arrest a bunch of minorities and put them in slave camps/private prisons, and it's a done deal.

And those Republicans that protest? Well, they were traitors anyway and should be put up against the wall with the Democrats.

About the only thing that is going to break this is if there is such a Blue Wave that there is no way they can claim any legitimacy. Even then, if Trump tries to seize power, they'll likely back him by not denouncing him.


TCB said...

The NYT just dropped a Vesuvius of a story on Trump's taxes. Some years he paid under a thousand in federal taxes, claiming that his businesses were money losers.

Already, the Biden campaign is selling stickers that say I PAID MORE TAXES THAN TRUMP.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign is selling stickers that mock President Trump over a bombshell New York Times report that finds he avoided paying income taxes for 10 years of the 15 years before he was elected president.

According to The New York Times, Trump also paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

The stickers are $7.50 each, a nice round number.

David Brin said...

To those who complain the NYT was immoral to get or release Two Scoops's taxes - ALL of your arguments to ram a SC nominee down America's throats, against the public will, boil down to "because we can; ethics don't enter into it." Hence, you putin-boys may never object to anything dems do on ethical grounds.*

As for LEGAL grounds, the Times can simply quote the Trumps: "Send your lawyers and be damned." ...

Oh, if the KGB agents win and set up a Putin-puppet dictatorship, starting with revoking the 140 year old Civil Service act, Barr will send his goons. But we're more ready for that than the Proud Boys can remotely imagine.

As for the core fact: no taxes in 10/15 years and 2 more with almost zero? MAGAs will declare "That shows he's smart!" Huh. Tell it to 200,000 dead Americans and the Red States now aflame with covid infections.

*Oh, as for moral grounds, one of my standard wagers on offer is that the number of top Republicans exposed as pedophiles, criminal abuser-perverts or enablers will turn out to be greater that 3:1 vs the number of top Democrats. If it is JUST 3:1 I forfeit. If we go with gambling and divorce, the ratio is FAR higher. How the sanctimonious have fallen.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I haven't actually seen anyone complaining the Times was immoral to run the story, although I've no doubt they exist. My response to such a plaint would not be ... merciful. I've only encountered one Trump defender this evening, who grumbled that all taxation is theft. I don't even waste time on those.
Brad Parscale holed up in his house and threatened to top himself. Always a sign of a happy and peaceful campaign when something like that happens.

Der Oger said...

@Zepp Jamieson: "Brad Parscale holed up in his house and threatened to top himself. Always a sign of a happy and peaceful campaign when something like that happens."

I hope this is JUST a breakdown of a cocaine-addicted burned-out narcissist who has failed to serve his masters well and was removed from his position.

If not, one could wonder what he exactly knows and cannot live with anymore. In that case, I hope he shares that knowledge with the voters, lightens his burden of guilt, and redeems himself.

Der Oger said...

When watching the exoplanet video, an old question of mine popped up:

Can an existing gas giant later ignite and become a sun? What would be the critical mass (perhaps in Jupiters) or event needed? Or is this out of the possible, since it lacks the proper prerequisites for a starburst? (Associated bonus questions: What would happen if Jupiter turned into a sun? Or a sufficiently advanced civilization discovered a way to turn gas giants into tiny suns ... with their moons suddenly in the habitable zone?)

The astrosurgery article made me wonder. Sure, in surgery, the lack of gravity could be a disadvantage ... but what of other medical conditions? Decubiti certainly wouldn't develop ... and I wonder if a lack in gravity would actually help people regain their mobility after strokes and multiple traumas (if the general loss of muscles is compensated and, possibly, the loss of ability to feel your body is addressed).

scidata said...

Mulled over the fine structure constant last evening. The second worst roasting I ever got was when I suggested (to a group of cosmologists) that computational models might someday provide a tool for probing universality more deeply. Wow. Just wow. Sacred Cow much?

Probably caused my bizzaro dream last night. Found myself in the middle of a 3D printing and AI festival based on woodworking. Think Hell if it was built by IKEA. Wandered into a just-ended presentation by Isaac Asimov. He was describing the Prime Radiant machine he'd built (presumably the subject of the presentation) in animated Brooklyn Yiddish. After glancing at the pedantic Big Data contraption (everything in a dream is vague), I said something to the effect of his design being all hat and no cattle. Didn't end well. Don't meet your heroes.

Glad to see morning come.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

The right way to argue this is for the Court to punt. They can EASILY argue that if Congress intended to invalidate the ACA, they could have said so

I wasn't aware of the argument that by reducing the tax to 0, Congress intended to invalidate the ACA. I thought the argument was somewhat opposite--that by essentially removing the penalty for non-compliance but leaving in the requirement for compliance, Congress implied an even harsher enforcement mechanism, such as the point of a gun. The court was ruling on whether this as-yet-hypothetical harsh enforcement mechanism would violate Constitutional rights.

It sounds like an absurd Rube-Goldberg argument, but Article III says the supreme court can do whatever it wants.

With that in mind...

"...then the reduction of the penalty to 0 should be ruled unconstitutional."

In general, it doesn't work that way. The most recent action of Congress is likely to be interpreted as the most recent intent of Congress.

I'm not sure I buy your argument here. You seem to be treating it like Prohibition where a law is passed which explicitly says an older law no longer applies. That's cool. But if Congress makes a tweak to an existing law, and that tweak creates a condition that violates the Constitution where no such violation existed before, doesn't it make sense that the tweak--the new legislation--is the one that is unconstitutional? Not the rest of the law which was ok before and which hasn't changed?

Acacia H. said...

I just had a realization about an old ethical argument.

Do you remember the old ethics problem on "if a woman steals a loaf of bread to feed her children, is it unethical?" Sometimes it's "if a woman steals medicine her child needs, is it unethical" but basically the question is "is it ethical to steal for someone's survival?"

That's the wrong question. Let's turn that around.

"Is it ethical for capitalists to keep food and medicine out of the reach of the poor and undesirables even though without these things, those people will starve and suffer?"

It seems that some grocery stores now keep infant formula under lock and key because it is frequently shoplifted. While some people love to claim "drug dealers use it to dilute their drugs" that's a lie. Drug dealers use what is cheap and available. Baking soda is frequently used for this purpose. So are other materials that are far easier to acquire than baby formula - in fact, a drug dealer is more likely to be using infant formula for their own babies than for drugs.

So. Is it ethical for corporations and businesses to allow infants to starve out of greed and a desire to maximize profits? Is it ethical for businesses to price life-necessary medications out of the reach of the poor so to make increased profits?

Anyone who would argue that it is ethical... are the type of people who the Republican Party is currently in bed with. It is this sort of argument that will sway people away from the Republicans because if you ask poor Republicans if they ever struggle with paying bills and groceries and medicine, no doubt many would say they do... and if their leaders double down on saying "it's ethical for these companies to keep life-saving products out of reach of poor people" then these people may very well open their eyes and realize they are, in fact, voting for someone who hates them.


Zepp Jamieson said...

@ Der Oger: Yeah, it's a very good possibility that Parscale's breakdown had nothing to do with the Trump campaign. Or at least nothing to do with Trump tactics and strategy.We know that Trump has a long record of ruining people who cross him, or simply want to be paid what he owes them.

Tacitus said...

"Think Hell if it was built by IKEA."

I have little doubt that it in fact, has been.


David Brin said...

Remind me... how do I get bold or italics when I post on Facebook?

Robert said...

Acacia, remember the propositions at the end of John Brunner's novel "Shockwave Rider"?

#1: That this is a rich planet. Therefore poverty and hunger are unworthy it, and since we can abolish them, we must.


Well — how did you vote?

matthew said...

Brad Parscale's wife showed signs of recent physical abuse and confirmed it to the police.

Spousal abuse is something of a constant with the current administration. There have been multiple resignations / pulled nominations / etc. associated with it and Trump's WH.

And, of course, Trump is alleged to have committed physical abuse (other than the sexual assaults / rapes) as well.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Dr. Brin: beats me.

I don't know about just a witness being revolutionary, after watching all the variety of tactics used to cut witnesses off in the last few years.

A witness *with a protected time where only committee-staffed lawyers can do the questioning*, however.... THAT would change the game entirely.

on the ACA (Larry, Duncan, Alfred): As much as it would tickle me to see a ruling that invalidated the zero-out and thus re-instituted the tax on being uninsured... Gorsuch could be talked into being enough of a literalist, but I don't know that Roberts could.

Sure, the premise "setting the tax to zero makes the ACA unconstitutional" is plain-on-its-face absurd. Yet here it is before SCOTUS, so clearly at least four SCOTUS justices are ready to take the absurd "seriously". Punting would be prudent, and Roberts would probably prefer it, but if ACB is allowed to hear arguments and cast a vote on the case, he may no longer be able to stop it.

Acacia: You give too much credit to think there is a "GOP" viewpoint anymore. I would agree that McConnell has that viewpoint -- or at least that, under honest rules, the House is probably lost to a white-dominated GOP forever; and the Presidency is close to being lost forever as well -- Texas is almost a swing state (and .45 has accelerated the process markedly), and it's even bigger than Florida. Even a purple Texas puts the GOP at an incredible Electoral College deficit; without it, they start with only about 130 "safe" EVs, whereas the Democrats start with around 200. Very soon now, the Senate and the courts will be their only means of wielding power... and the Senate is iffy. Ergo the occult court-packing via deliberate neglect of duty.

The trouble with the strategy is that if the abuses are egregious enough (and they're well on the way), and if a Democratic trifecta emerges, the rules of the federal judiciary can and will be rewritten, and all those souls will have been sold for a mess o' pottage.

-- Abu Kittenfish

TCB said...

@ Acacia, all I have to say to you is that you are spitting fire right now and I am loving it.

@ Der Oger, who writes:

Can an existing gas giant later ignite and become a sun? What would be the critical mass (perhaps in Jupiters) or event needed?

If the orb in question is massive enough, it ignites spontaneously. An article on red dwarfs tells us that

Red dwarfs include the smallest of the stars, weighing between 7.5% and 50% the mass of the sun.

Wiki tells us that Jupiter has about a thousandth of the Sun's mass. Therefore a red dwarf can be as massive as 500 Jupiters or, at minimum, as massive as 75 Jupiters. Bodies that don't quite reach the 75 Jove limit and do not ignite their cores are called brown dwarfs. There may be a lot of them out there, attached to no other star. Small things tend to be common things.

Given this, we can expect a brown dwarf to stay that way for a long time... but there must be the rare collision with another super-Jupiter object that makes the resulting object massive enough to fire up.

As for Sufficiently Advanced Civilizations, (spoiler alert), in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a horde of monoliths ignites Jupiter for the benefit of life on Europa.

TCB said...

There's no native way to bold or italicize on Facebook. Instead, the workaround involves Unicode.

Hailey said...

Dr. Brin as far as I can find you need some way to generate bold/italic Unicode text (like or then copy/paste it into FB

Zepp Jamieson said...

Addendum on Parscale: Channel Four is reporting a effort by the Trump campaign in 2016 to isolate and deter some four million black voters. If the story verifies, then it would have been a Cambridge Analytica project--under Brad Parscale.

TCB said...

Here's a list of GOP pedophiles that someone on Reddit compiled. It's a year old; we can assume it is far from complete.

Smurphs said...

I'm not on Twitter so I have to leave this here:

I'm retired. Technically I have no income, just IRA withdraws of money I already earned.

And I pay more income tax than Donald Trump.

(Best game I've played in a while!)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Scott Huckabye, who I'm sure everyone regards as their moral avatar, dismissed the Trump tax story by saying, "Well, I didn't hire Trump to be my tax accountant."
Yeah, I didn't hire Nixon to be my sound engineer, either.

Alfred Differ said...


I wasn't aware of the argument that by reducing the tax to 0, Congress intended to invalidate the ACA.

If Congress felt it unconstitutional, they could have repealed it. They didn't.

Instead they reduced the penalty to zero effectively asking the Court to legislate which it does not have the power to do. The Court can punt... but will they?

Larry Hart said...


I'm retired. Technically I have no income, just IRA withdraws of money I already earned.

Well, assuming you mean a regular IRA (not a Roth), the money you already earned was tax deferred, so you're paying the tax on your past income (plus capital gain). I know you know that already, but it should be said out loud.

The pundits like to pretend that lowering capital gains tax helps everyone who has a 401k or IRA because they receive capital gains. Like we're too stupid to know that 401k or IRA withdrawals are considered regular income for tax purposes.


It would probably be easier to list all of the male Republicans who aren't pedophiles.

Catfish 'n Cod:

on the ACA (Larry, Duncan, Alfred): As much as it would tickle me to see a ruling that invalidated the zero-out and thus re-instituted the tax on being uninsured... Gorsuch could be talked into being enough of a literalist, but I don't know that Roberts could.

Roberts was the swing vote to not rule the ACA unconstitutional in the first place. I don't want to be too optimistic, but I can envision both Roberts and Gorsuch opting for common sense here.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Scott Huckabye, who I'm sure everyone regards as their moral avatar, dismissed the Trump tax story by saying, "Well, I didn't hire Trump to be my tax accountant."

Typical right-wing strategy to try to frame the issue as simple as "Dems complain that Trump didn't file his taxes more professionally." As opposed to "Trump's tax forms show that he mismanages his own businesses and engages in massive corruption."

Acacia H. said...

Personally? I want the Supreme Court to do the stupid thing and declare the ACA to be unconstitutional, and then to declare abortion illegal. I want this new Justice to be outspoken and truly stupid with her comments so that the non-voting base will wake the fuck up and completely root out Republicanism and Neo-Conservativism. I would love for all of those absolute fuckups who kept insisting they'd not vote for Hillary to realize just how badly they fucked things up here.

But what I'd like to see more is for enough Republicans to see the writing on the wall and refuse Trump's Supreme Court nominee because it's too close to the election, let's just wait for the new President. I'd even be willing not to salt the earth that current Republicanism grew from if we got that result.


David Brin said...

Acacia nailed it. Actually GETTIN an end to ACA and RvWade is a nightmare to GOP Lords.

David Brin said...

Oog, the head spins! Now Pelosi demands we bend our efforts LESS to elect Biden than to House races (and state assemblies) in purple states where ONE seat might flip it all. (Obey her!) Flip just two more House delegations and we’re safe from the nasty ploy described below. Flip half a dozen state assemblies and gerrymandering and other cheats vanish forever!

But okay, let’s study the insanely damnable scenario being discussed (one of many) by the Cheater Party. Imagine Dems win a landslide but several delegations of electors are negated through trickery, and hence the matter goes to the House. At this point the Goppers crow in glee, because although the Dems have a majority of members, it’s a majority of DELEGATIONS that chooses the president. And right now 26 are Repub majority (hence Pelosi’s plea.)

Okay, suppose the goppers pull this off and “elect” Trump over the outrage of a vast majority of voters. Now suppose the dems do win massively in popular vote and take the Senate. So the Senate chooses BIDEN as VICE-President. What then?

If you read POLEMICAL JUDO (chapter 16) You’d know!

At any point, the VP can ask the cabinet to declare the President unfit, under the incredibly poorly written 25th Amendment. Now it’s Trump’s cabinet so they’ll refuse… even though the democratic Senate won’t have confirmed ANY of them. But there’s a workaround! The 25th says:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

Did you see the part: “or of such other body as Congress may by law provide”? If Dems have both houses they can appoint an ‘other body” to rule on the VP’s request and declare Trump unfit. There’s an ambiguity whether Trump could veto the establishment of the other body. So sneak it into any bill. Or you might get enough repubs to sign on to just this sliver of integrity.

The “unfit” thing is temporary and there ensues a back and forth of letters that could go on and on and on, till either Trump or Biden break a cerebral vessel. But during those days that Biden has the power, his orders will be obeyed. During Trump’s alternating days, he’ll bluster and be ignored.

Meanwhile the fact that the nation WANTED Biden as president will weigh on all of this heavily, as one GOP Senator after another says “enough.” When that number reaches TWELVE or so, the House impeaches Trump and the Senate removes and that is one way the nightmare ends.

And yes I am a science fiction author. But I have also been more right in my predictions than anyone.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor, Acacia, the GOP are at a point where, whether they achieve destruction of the ACA and women's rights or not, they are going to be immolated. For years, they dangled ending abortion as a means to suckering in the religious no-choice crowd (and they could have legislated abortion out of existence for six of Reagan's eight years, and four of George W. Bush's--they didn't). But they've lost control of the religious loonies, and that, along with the Barrett nomination, will further fracture the religious vote. Even that crowd didn't want a female version of Ignaceous J. O'Reilly on the Court. Similarly, promises to repeal the ACA was meant to attract Wall Street money and the hard libertarian right, and Wall Street, at least, now realizes that destroying health coverage now would cause a total meltdown in the entire medical sector. At some point economics overcome ideology, and the street is near that point now.
The Republicans are done for at least two generations. They only choice they have is whether they should take the rest of us down with them.

Alfred Differ said...

The Republicans are done for at least two generations.


Just as the Germans were after 1918?

Sorry. It won't be two generations. Either they'll be back in a couple years or their party will collapse and those same people will show up elsewhere.

The Civil War doesn't end.
None of them ever do without genocide... which I sincerely hope doesn't happen here.

In case anyone things we will be able to worry about the color of the hydrants in 2021, I suggest otherwise. This election battle will is only in the 2020 phase. There will be an important one in 2022 as well. While I'd like all the hydrants to be bright red, I'd rather the Senate wasn't.

duncan cairncross said...

Zepp said
"The Republicans are done for at least two generations."

Are they??
Remember how long it took for the voters to forget about the worst president for centuries - Bush 2
Historic levels of disgust

And two years later the GOP took the House

Smurphs said...

Larry Hart said:
" I know you know that already, but it should be said out loud."

Of course I know that, it was just a tweet. But I had a mental bet with myself on who would call it out first, you or Alfred.

You won. I'll buy you a beverage of choice should we ever meet. ;>

Smurphs said...

Zepp said"
"The Republicans are done for at least two generations."

I've been reading here that THIS TIME THE GOP IS DEAD for at least 10 years. Even if the GOP loses everything on November 3rd, their strategy has been working for 25+ years. They will just ride out the current blue wave for a few years. Recent History has shown the Dems can't hold it all together for more than 2-4 years. Sad but true.

I'm hoping the Dems can do better this time. I'm hoping they can pass all the Doc's 31 points. And more. I'm hoping they can build a more perfect union. But mostly, I'm hoping that in four years, the Dems have more to run on than HOPE. Again.

" They only choice they have is whether they should take the rest of us down with them."

Look around at all the talk of Civil War, nationwide protests, armed militia in the street, etc. They have made the choice already, they are taking us down.

But if we go down, we'll go down fighting.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

The Republicans are done for at least two generations.

Sorry, but I've been hearing since 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) or so that "The Republicans are reduced to a regional party". And yet, they keep winning so much that I'm sick of winning. They're so entrenched in the courts now that Article III might as well say they can do whatever they want.

Larry Hart said...

BTW, over the weekend, I felt compelled to re-watch Casablanca and The Great Escape. It felt good to be reminded that Nazis used to be the bad guys, and that the patriotic American thing to do was to fight against them.

Hailey said...

Alright, I've signed up to do some phone banking, and I'll report on how that goes. Though after talking with a lady in my social group who's been out canvassing registered voters who didn't vote in the last election, I'm considering doing that too. She said the most effective tactic she's found to change their position from "not planning on voting" to "planning on voting" is to get them to talk about someone they love, because if people are feeling isolated and alone they're more likely to feel indifferent and not care about voting. But, remind them of people they care about and get them to remember those feelings, and they realize that voting is important too!

Larry Hart said...

Non-elites often see elites’ obsession with abortion rights as evidence that they are slaves to ambition who don’t see that “family comes first.” But look closer and one can find embedded in this ideology a powerful critique of capitalism: “I think we’ve accepted abortion because we’re a very materialistic society and there is less time for caring,” as one woman told the anthropologist Faye Ginsburg. The feminist historian Linda Gordon agreed: Those against abortion “fear a completely individualized society with all services based on cash nexus relationships, without the influence of nurturing women counteracting the completely egoistic principles of the economy.”

And yet, they ally themselves politically with the followers of Ayn Rand, who are specifically in favor of that very basis of society--that everything including dinner at grandma's house is a transaction that should be paid for with gold.

Der Oger said...

@TCB: Thank you. Clarke is still on my bucket list. 75 Jupiters, then.

Larry Hart said...


But I had a mental bet with myself on who would call it out first, you or Alfred.

You won.

But did that make you win or lose the bet?

Larry Hart said...

It seems to be a fatal flaw in our system that the only remedy for a corrupt president is impeachment, but impeachment itself is not perceived by the populace as a legitimate tactic, but rather as a partisan effort to undo an election.

Since impeachment as a concept is so discredited, Article II might as well say that the president can do whatever he wants.

Robert said...

I wonder how many contemporary Americans would guess the source of this quote (without looking it up):

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

(Although judging by what I see in the news of Republican politicians, they know full well who said it, and erasing the author's legacy is part of the plan.)

Alfred Differ said...


Heh. I would have said that traditional IRA withdrawals are income and Roth ones aren't. In the taxable sense anyway.

However, I screwed up one tax doc in my recent house sale/purchase combo and now I owe a bunch of money. I'm just not in the mood.

Lesson for everyone... hire a pro to do it all for you when it comes to real estate. Mistakes are expensive. My wife is a saint, but some might not be so forgiving. 8/

Larry Hart said...


“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Abraham Lincoln, right?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Lesson for everyone... hire a pro to do it all for you when it comes to real estate. Mistakes are expensive. My wife is a saint, but some might not be so forgiving.

I'm one step ahead of you. My wife is a realtor.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. I would have said that traditional IRA withdrawals are income and Roth ones aren't. In the taxable sense anyway.

But Roth withdrawals aren't capital gains either, in the taxable sense. I guess you could say they're just found money, although you "pay for" them by having paid the taxes up front instead of earning returns on that money.

Back when I started working, just about when Roth IRAs became a thing, I did a quick spreadsheet to compare what I'd have if I contributed to a regular 401k (subtracting the tax I'd pay at withdrawal) vs contributing the same funds to a Roth (less compounding, but what there is is tax free). What I discovered is what I expected to discover--that you can gamble about how tax rates and interest rated fluctuate over time, but if you assume they stay constant, then the result is identical. You pay on the front end or the back end, and it doesn't matter.

Larry Hart said...

I thought I posted this already, but I don't see it anywhere, even in my browser's "back" function, so I guess it disappeared. Apologies if it becomes a double-post...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. I would have said that traditional IRA withdrawals are income and Roth ones aren't. In the taxable sense anyway.

Roth withdrawals aren't even capital gains in the taxable sense. They're like found money. You've already paid the tax when you earned the income, but any gains are yours to keep free and clear.

Back when Roth IRAs were just starting out, I wondered why the government allowed such a thing. What's in it for them? Well, I did the math on a spreadsheet, comparing the ultimate benefit from contributing to a traditional tax-deferred 401k (subtracting the taxes off at the end) vs contributing the same money to a Roth (subtracting the taxes at the start) assuming they both earn the same interest.

As you might suspect if you think about it, the result is essentially the same. Oh, you can gamble over whether interest will be higher or lower over time, or what your tax rate is now vs when you retire. But if you assume constants for both interest and tax rates, it makes no difference whether you're taxed up front or upon withdrawal. The government gets the same cut either way. They forego the tax on your capital gains because they can earn their own capital gains on the money instead.

TCB said...

Yep, it was Lincoln.

Heard a nice bit on the public radio this morning about how Lincoln would compare himself to Blondin, a very famous and daring tightrope artist of the era (pushing a wheelbarrow on a rope over Niagara Falls? Or carrying a man on his back?!?) Lincoln said that like Blondin he had to go straight down the middle, not off to one side or the other as people demanded he do.

David Brin said...

Where did I talk about Justice Democrats, remind me?

David Brin said...

TCM, there's a paragraph in Frederick Douglass's eulogy of Lincoln thatg sums it up.

Larry Hart said...

There's a seal over the two candidates (at the debate) which reads "The Union and the Constitution Forever". Isn't that already biased against Trump?


Larry Hart said...

I don't like what I'm seeing at the debate. The format favors Trump being blustery, while Biden, being (understandably) exasperated at Trump's ridiculous assertions comes off as weak if not exhausted.

"I got rid of the individual mandate. That was the most unpopular part of the ACA." Dumb statements like that are going to come off as reasonable policy.

I fear for the future. I'm also going to bed, because I can't sit through ninety minutes of "So's your old man!"

Der Oger said...

"Stand back and Stand by!"

If anyone had doubts, this line shows what the president plans. The remaining weeks before November 3rd might only be the calm before the storm.(And I am already worrying about what other nations will do in what can be perceived as a global power vacuum.)

Tim H. said...

I read once the the essence of conservatism was that there should be a class that the law protected, but did not restrain and a class that the law restrained, but did not protect. That could use a closer look at what it implies, a tax code that is less onerous to large accumulations of money, a vastly more lenient moral code for the wealthy and the dehumanization of over half the population. It might be fair to consider contemporary conservatism* a back to nature movement, back to dominant males and harems. It's fair to say this looks like something Trump's "Personality" might mesh well with, to be Lord of a Nation of thralls, with every woman available. Myself, I'd rather not live like a baboon.

*Only fair to distinguish between what we have now from the departed conservatives who still could distinguish a sales point from reality.

Larry Hart said...

[ headline: ] What a Sh*tshow

From the 20 minutes I managed to sit through, I totally agree.

For example, he [Biden] did a terrible job of explaining why Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court should be held open until Jan. 20, 2021.

Because Republicans are correct when they say Trump has the right to nominate a replacement and the Senate has the right and responsibility to confirm one. Democrats can't plausibly explain that the seat is required to be held open for the next president because it's not true.

What they need to explain is that the reason so many people think the seat should be held open for the next president is because that's what the Senate Republicans argued so vociferously in order to deny President Obama's nomination. Mitch McConnell is correct (ever think I'd say those words in that order?) when he says that the Senate not only has the right but the responsibility to act on a nomination. It was that responsibility that they failed to live up to in Feb 2016, and it rankles in the minds of fair-minded Americans that they gained so much by that dereliction of duty.

Trump repeated McConnell's contention that he deserves to nominate supreme court seats because he won the presidency and the Senate, as if it was business as usual that a Republican Senate held a seat open for a year. I sometimes fantasize about what the court would look like had a Democratic Senate held Reagan's and Poppy Bush's seats open for the subsequent presidents. But the fact is that the system has never worked like that until 2016. Sure, Democrats rejected Robert Bork. That was an objection to a particular nominee, not "holding the seat open". Reagan nominated someone else who eventually got confirmed. W's nomination of Harriet Miers was correctly rejected by his own party. A "nay" vote isn't a dereliction of duty. Holding the seat open is an entirely different thing.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle on Twitter:

If you're still undecided at this point, you're basically those Germans who pretended they weren't actual Nazis while watching the ash from the crematoriums fall in their yards like snow.

A.F. Rey said...

Mark Hamill definitely won for the best quip on the debate last night.

"That debate was the worst thing I've ever seen & I was in The Star Wars Holiday Special."

Jon S. said...

Well, Larry, I guess you missed the part where Donnie was asked to condemn white supremacy, and instead gave the Proud Boys marching orders.

And the part where Donnie interrupted Biden while Biden was discussing Beau, then tried to smear Biden with talk about Hunter's addiction issues (which Biden addressed pretty clearly, I though).

And the part where even Chris Matthews seems to be restraining himself from saying, "Mr. President, shut the hell up." (I was pretty sure he was going to at the end, when Donnie wanted to keep rambling on even though the time was up.)

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

Well, Larry, I guess you missed the part where Donnie was asked to condemn white supremacy, and instead gave the Proud Boys marching orders.

Yes, I had to catch the highlight reels this morning (or is that blooper reels?).

At this point, MAGA hats should be treated like surplus camouflage was in The Postman.

A.F. Rey said...

Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.

Does this mean that Trump has just deputized the Proud Boys? :o

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

"Stand back and Stand by!"

If anyone had doubts, this line shows what the president plans. The remaining weeks before November 3rd might only be the calm before the storm.

I know the calendar makes it impossible, but if there was any poetic justice in the world, this election day would be November 9th. Krystalnacht.

Der Oger said...

Larry Hart:

"I know the calendar makes it impossible, but if there was any poetic justice in the world, this election day would be November 9th. Krystalnacht."

Remember it also was the das when the Weimarian Republic was proclaimed and the Berlin Wall fell.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

"November 9th. Krystalnacht."

Remember it also was the das when the Weimarian Republic was proclaimed and the Berlin Wall fell.

Maybe the Mexican Wall will fall as well. :)

Also, November 9 is "Nine-Eleven" in European format. As Dave Sim would say, "What's the significance to you?"

Der Oger said...

Larry Hart:
"Maybe the Mexican Wall will fall as well. :)"

I read somewhere it already crumbles ...

WAIT ...

"Donnie, you are so bad at building ANYTHING that even the communists built better walls than you." :-)

"As Dave Sim would say, "What's the significance to you?""

November 9: I'd say it is one of mixed feelings, of shame (November progromes, Hitler-Ludendorff putsch) and one of joy (Fall of the Wall, Proclamation of the Republic). It is not an easy date. But it hasn't have to.

It perfectly suits into our post-heroic, uptight, ambivalent and sometimes neurotic handling of patriotism that makes wielding the national flag only during sport events a socially accepted norm (outside of it, eyebrows will rise, at least).

When I read your comments today, I remembered a conversation in my family, thirty years ago. My aunt uttered "We have to get over with it. We cannot feel guilty forever."

Just a few days ago, an AfD member was exposed by a brilliant piece of investigative journalism. He spoke of luring refugees to the country, in order to gass and shoot them. He proposed destroying the country, because by this, they would rise in power. He got fired the day after the interview aired, but enough members of that party uttered similar stuff.

Here is a link concerning this matter:

(This is only the newest scandal concerning this party. It seems it both radicalizes and splinters more and more each day, but I have a glimmer of hope that they might be gone in a few years.)

I say, never forget. Never get over with it. Fight fascism each day of your life. Do not bind your heart to symbols, because it can be corrupted by this link. Never let down your guard, never become so self-assured that it won't happen again.

Ausschwitz is always only one election away.

Ahcuah said...

Dr. Brin asked: "Where did I talk about Justice Democrats, remind me?"

Is this what you are talking about (in the comment, where you reference a Facebook posting of yours)?

Direct Link

TCB said...

Here's something I just saw posted elsewhere, and I am really feeling it.

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?' There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.

• ⁠Kurt Vonnegut

TCB said...

Here's an article that says a mouthful.

Democrats' cowardice must end: It's time to teach the GOP a lesson

Weakness emboldens bullies, liars and cheaters. More often than not, the only way to force such unsavory characters to play by the rules is to punch them in the nose every now and then (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Thanks to the Democrats’ cowardice, Republicans – like the cheaters and hypocrites some of them are – are making a mockery of American politics.

As Steve Bannon aptly noted, “We [the Right] go for the head wound, and your side has pillow fights.”

Too true. Democrats seem all too content bringing safety scissors, a sippy cup and diapers to political showdowns with bazooka-wielding Republicans.

Why? The GOP represents a minority of voters and the most economically unproductive parts of the country, making Republican bullying beyond egregious — and Democrats’ timidity too absurd to comprehend.

Whole article is very quotable.

TCB said...

Another Lincoln quote, still true:

“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia...could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”

—Abraham Lincoln

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

If it is one election away, it is probably zero elections away. If all it takes is a leadership change, the cultural inclination is already present.

For example, we didn't need a new election to put Japanese citizens in our equivalent of concentration camps. All we needed was a trigger to make us really angry. You'll find similar egg-shell walking through most of our history. Yours too? Yah. Probably everyone.

That just makes you MORE correct, though, when you point out that we can't let down our guard or become too self-assured.

Larry Hart said...

From the article TCB posted above:

Why? The GOP represents a minority of voters and the most economically unproductive parts of the country, making Republican bullying beyond egregious — and Democrats’ timidity too absurd to comprehend.

It is comprehensible in this manner: Because approximately 70% of Americans live in 15 states * , which means that 70% of the Senators represent (the other) 30% of population. The electoral college is skewed by that as well. Democrats cannot win without at least the tolerance, if not actual support--of that 30%.

And much of that 30% actually believes that Democrats are communists who want to move MS-13 members into their communities and that masks are a socialist plot to enslave them.

* Ok, I read that that will be the case by 2040. It almost is now anyway.

David Brin said...