Sunday, March 13, 2022

Black holes, pulsars, supernova... and more

While I post daily on social media about the current crises, here on Contrary Brin I try to alternate with content that shows major reasons for optimism. First among these positive trends, of course, is the rising ethical sense of new generations! (I talk about the role of science fiction in generating this shift, here.) Indeed, recent polls show that Vladimir Putin - like Donald Trump over here - is deeply unpopular among younger Russians, helping to explain the tyrant's sense of urgency.

Time (especially since January 2021) is not on his side.

But coming a close second in the list of humanity's assets is science! The brilliance of a species that's genetically no-different than cavemen, but creatures who show daily an ability to question assumptions, honestly measuring them experimentally against objective reality.

These are the fact professions railed-against nightly by shills for oligarchy. So let's see what they have for us, this time!

== Looking far beyond Earth... ==

A supermassive black hole eruption! An amazing video shows the radio galaxy, Centaurus A at optical, X-ray, and submillimeter wavelengths from Earth when compared to the Moon as seen by us. It then zooms out to show the enormous extent of the surrounding bubbles that are observed at radio wavelengths. Astronomers have produced the most comprehensive image of radio emission from the nearest actively feeding supermassive black hole to Earth, 12 million light years away. From here the lobes extend 8 degrees wide or 16 diameters of the full moon.”

A study of two pulsars validates relativity: Over 16 years, an international team of astronomers has observed the pulsar pair, named PSR J0737−3039A/B, finding that the relativistic effects can be measured in the timing of their pulses – just as Einstein’s General Relativity predicted and expected. Researchers performed seven tests of general relativity, including the way the orientation of the binary's orbit changes, known as apsidal precession, and the way the pulsars drag space-time around with them as they spin, called frame-dragging or the Lense-Thirring effect.

LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) will be an ESA-led and NASA supported mission to deploy laser interferometer arrays into an orbit that follows Earth’s, bouncing beams across distances much larger than our planet. European scientists have been working on the concept and testing it for decades. Now we may be ready soon to study gravity ripples vastly more sensitively than the already magnificent (and Kip Thorne-led) LIGO array. 

Apparently Earth sits in a Local Bubble with star formation occurring on the bubble’s surface. Scientists have now shown how a chain of events beginning 14 million years ago with a set of powerful supernovae led to the creation of the vast bubble, responsible for the formation of all young stars within 500 light years of the Sun and Earth. A  series of about 15 supernovae that first went off 14 million years ago, pushed interstellar gas outwards, creating a bubble-like structure with a surface that’s ripe for star formation. “Today, seven well-known star-forming regions or molecular clouds — dense regions in space where stars can form — sit on the surface of the cavity.” About five million years ago, the Sun’s path through the galaxy took it right into the region.

And in the ongoing planet-hunt... how about a  moon bigger than Earth that's orbiting a Jupiter-like planet?  

== Solar System Dangers & Opportunities ==

Is the little “death star” moon of Saturn – Mimas – now on our list of 'IWOWs' (interior water ocean worlds)? Ocean worlds identified in the Solar System so far with reasonable certainty are the major moons Europa, Enceladus, Titan, Ganymede, and Callisto, with TritonPlutoCeresMirandaAriel, and Dione deemed quite possible… Mimas would almost make it a clean dozen in just our Solar System, making it seem likely that liquid water for potential life abodes might be found near most stars, no matter what lies in any ‘Goldilocks” (habitable) Zone.”

Of course Titan is by far the most-interesting! But Ceres? No tidal heating there! But there are other potential sources of heat. 

Water on Mars! As much as 40% of the near-surface material inside the bottom lands of the Valles Marineris “grand canyon of Mars” may be water. Most earlier discoveries detected the substance crucial to life near the poles of the Red Planet. “"The reservoir is large, not too deep below ground, & could be easily exploitable for future explorers," read a tweet on the announcement from ExoMars.”  Except… 

...except that this also makes that canyon the most likely site on Mars to be set aside by treaty, in case there might be come sort of life, down there. 

Moving inward... The mighty Sara Seagar and colleagues present a paper asserting a model of the atmosphere of Venus that predicts the clouds are not entirely made of sulfuric acid, but are partially composed of ammonium salt slurries, which may be the result of biological production of ammonia in cloud droplets. 

“As a result, the clouds are no more acidic than some extreme terrestrial environments that harbor life. Life could be making its own environment on Venus. The model’s predictions for the abundance of gases in Venus’ atmosphere match observation better than any previous model, and are readily testable.”  And “Our model therefore predicts that the clouds are more habitable than previously thought, and may be inhabited. Unlike prior atmospheric models, ours does not require forced chemical constraints to match the data. Our hypothesis, guided by existing observations, can be tested by new Venus in situ measurements…”

… calling to mind my novella “The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss.”

And a reminder that the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will be sent out to L2 in maybe 5 years or so. “Hubble’s sister” will join the Webb out there.  A terrific companion it will be! And if you think it looks a lot like Hubble, there’s a reason for that. Actually a pretty intriguing one.

Of great impact... A new study has found that the mineralogy of the rocks that a meteorite hits, rather than the size of the impact, determines how deadly an effect on the biosphere it will have. Apparently, “meteorites that hit rocks rich in potassium feldspar (a common and rather benign mineral) always correspond with a mass extinction episode, irrespective of size. Potassium feldspar is non-toxic. However, it is a powerful ice-nucleating mineral aerosol that strongly affects cloud dynamics, which makes them let through more solar radiation. This in turn warms up the planet and changes the climate.” Well, so it is asserted. Interesting.

== Interstellar ==

Astrophysicists Release the Biggest Map of the Universe yet: A powerful astronomy instrument called DESI charts millions of galaxies in the night sky. Can it help scientists finally figure out what dark energy is?

Far-out! In another galaxy, a red super-giant (like Betelgeuse) was acting suspiciously and young researchers decided to keep an eye on it for 100+ days, and… paydirt! They were studying it in detail when it became a Type II supernova! The very first time humanity collected lots of data before the big event. Oh, the physics!

and beyond our fringes…. A team of scientists has spotted upwards of 170 rogue planets in a nearby region of the Milky Way known as the Upper Scorpius OB stellar association (about 420 light years away). This effectively doubles the total number of known free-floating planets—a sign that the total population of rogue planets in our galaxy is huge. Not sure I’d call this great news since it might help explain the Fermi Paradox… that interstellar travel may face a minefield out there.

Have fun in our lively comment community, below, taking a break from international madness.


Alfred Differ said...

scidata, (carry over from last thread)

Theories of mind, perhaps (Deep Learning is hitting the wall). Theories of history, very doubtful.

I suspect theories of mind will also be grab bags of heuristics. We don't have all that many examples of 'mind' to act as foundation for theory, but we have enough variety to know it's not simple.

It's really odd the way we ignore or even forget solid, known facts.

I think the much more interesting oddity is that we remember any of them at all. We've recovered some ancient knowledge, but some other bits never left us.


Consider the concept "money" and ponder how ancient it is. I'm not talking about the forms it takes, but the belief that an intermediate commodity can be traded between huge numbers of us for the things we actually want. I give up Thing A for a quantity of "money" and discover someone later who will accept some quantity of "money" for Thing B.

We've been doing "money" since before recorded history. More importantly, some of us DON'T do "money" while others do. Something about the concept clings. We don't forget no matter how many civilizations have come and gone, but it ISN'T universally human.

That's really odd.


Trade itself is another odd thing much more ancient than "money". We don't all do it the same way, but it persists in various forms across at least a thousand generations. Maybe two thousand.

Really odd.

scidata said...

@ Alfred Differ
When I said it's odd that we ignore/forget known facts, I wasn't lamenting the loss of ancient knowledge (but of course that is tragic). I was saying that we often tend to pooh-pooh speculative fiction as too far out there, even if an extremely improbable, yet exhaustively studied, fully verified, and actually recreated Antikythera computer is physically placed on the table. It's almost as if we prefer the mysterious to remain so.

I'm not formal or doctrinal (obviously). So I just use 'theory' as an ersatz shorthand for a model that's even below the level of heuristics. For me, that model starts from a computational, near-mindless, almost natural form such as ideal gas, and progresses via evolution and emergence. Although I do think the emergence card is sometimes overplayed. When we watch a murmuration of birds, are there fundamental patterns emerging, or just Laplacian phantoms in our mind?

It's hard to rely on human cognition as bedrock when a random alignment of local weather and lunar phase morphs into: "The moon was a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas"

Re: Space
I couldn't find the piece I read on recent Breakthrough Starshot thoughts, but here are the facts as I recall:
- 5 grams is enough for a sail, camera, transmitter, and computer
- a single launch could carry many such probes, the limiting factor is Earth-based lasers to power them
- powerful lasers could get a probe to Proxima Centauri in 20y, with the returned data taking 4y of course
- 0.2c fly-by speed, so let's hope the Centaurians are active at that moment. It's doubtful they'd even be aware of a 5g probe, which raises interesting questions about our own ETI-awareness. [cue the Twilight Zone piano keys]
- COTS lasers could enable small, even private, projects to explore our solar system very rapidly (eg Mars in three weeks)
- laser beams from a rotating, revolving Earth are tricky
- interstellar dust, molecules, and even particles could be a problem (let alone rogue planets :)

Unknown said...


This may be older than our at least 1 other chimpanzee species, individuals have been noted trading food for sex.


Dr. Brin,

Re: Martian settlement restrictions

One of Pournelle's short novels was about a revolt on Mars, where the rebelling colonists were betrayed by members of the local scientific community, who feared that plans to terraform and exploit the planet would ruin their research. How would Elon Musk deal with an insurgency? I suspect, not well.


David Brin said...

Top concern among the mad feudalist-zillionaire preppers building fortresses in Patagonian mountains is: "How do I keep my security staff loyal after there is no more law?" In fact I know two methods. I told em one. Keeping the otrher secret.


scidata if you read EXISTENCE you'll see that it's better to send 500 grams to 550au +. than to send 5 grams to proxima centauri.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I told em one. Keeping the otrher secret.

Can you at least tell us the one you already spilled? :)

"How do I keep my security staff loyal after there is no more law?"

Are they even at all concerned with "What will life really be like when there is no more civilization?"

I gather that they have decades of food, water, and energy stockpiled for the long haul. But I would suspect that they'd soon have the problem that many retired people have--that an extended period of living in an epilogue becomes unbearable.

The survivors would almost have to war with each other, just for something to do.

scidata said...

Re: 550au

Yay for me. I actually knew what's at 550au without having to look it up. I'm doing the audiobook of EXISTENCE. I missed a huge chunk when I fell asleep while listening so I'll have to roll it way back. Not any reflection on the author, just on my own dopiness. BTW the narrators are great.

Alfred Differ said...


I was saying that we often tend to pooh-pooh speculative fiction…

Ah. That makes sense. If the lamps on my brow illuminate a course others don't see using their own lamps, I'm "too far out there".

Personally, I think this is our primary survival method. We don't all illuminate the future the same way, thus we make different mistakes facing an inherently impossible problem predicting the future. Some of us get past each possible extinction choice… and the species persists.


There is an old debate about what brains are for. Every other organ in your body has a purpose and we largely agree on what they are. The brain is different because they come in different sizes. In the tiniest shrimps, they aren't more than a few cells related to an olfactory sense that link to muscle movements. In us, they are multi-layered monstrosities capable of analogies where the Moon is a ghostly galleon.

I settled on a brain purpose a few years ago. Brains cause movement. The rich learning layers biological purpose is to adapt quickly to prevailing conditions and cause different movements.
This stimulus leads to that motion. This other one becomes this twitch. It's not as simple as an If-Then statement, though. Nets don't store things that way. They are inherently structures of analogy. This connects to that. All nodes are motions, but in bigger, multi-layer brains that must also include motions within the brain. Oops. Recursive analogies. Attractors as memory and biology goes Boom.

The reason I settled on that was I read one of Hofstadter's books. The Strange Loop one. Before that, I had a narrative rattling around in my head. (Heh. Rattle around. See the analogy?) After that, I began to see a testable narrative… which makes it a theory.

I currently think brains big and small are organs for motion partially repurposed. Historically, they are repurposed section of our sense of smell, but we've repurposed them again to capture and use rich analogical structures.

For what? Motion of some sort.

The ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas doesn't get communicated unless we speak it or pick up a pen. The potential mate ignores us if we don't communicate our fitness.

But our brains are big enough now that we catch ideas communicated by others like sneezes transfer viral invaders. Biology goes Boom again.

Alfred Differ said...

Sorry. I should have been more verbose to be specific.

I meant 'trade not within a kinship group' and not the broader concept which lots of species use for longevity of offspring or the even simpler one for attracting a mate.

Older style humans were more xenophobic than we moderns are. Trade within kinship groups is well documented and extends into the deep pre-human past. Trade between kinship groups is relatively new (couple thousand generations give or take a bunch) and something very unlikely among xenophobes. Long, long before the Y-chromosome bottleneck, something happened to us causing those less xenophobic to have a reproductive advantage.

Xenophobia makes sound biological sense among great apes that can't quite tell when the females are fertile. We stuck together in bands and became serial monogamists way, way back probably separating us further from the lines that led to chimps and bonobos. Serial monogamy is a disease survival strategy still relevant in a world with modern medicine. Many of us still do it, but somewhere along the way we weakened the other element of the strategy.

Xenophobia has been dying a slow death.

It's not gone completely, but some of us have oddly broad horizons of inclusion. We've stretched our 'kinship' concept so much we can find common identity with more people than we can possibly know. The differences between us now are mostly about how broad that horizon is and under what conditions we might contract it… temporarily.

Trade between kinship groups has led to the dismantling of kinship fortresses.

For the record, that's what Pax Americana will be remembered for down through history. Global-scale trade has happened in past civilizations. Before the emergence of The West, the Indian Ocean was a trading lake with Arab hegemons on one side and Chinese on the other. The Roman trade domain was huge. 'Greeks' of various tribes managed to tie together a huge range.

What Pax Americana has done is disconnect governance. You aren't part of our global-scale trade because we rule and tax you. You are in because many of us see you as kin.

Der Oger said...

I told em one. Keeping the otrher secret.

That topic somehow reminds me of the social experiments of Vault-Tec in the Fallout universe, ranging from slightly disturbing to evil, Mengele-like "scientific" setups.

How I'd do it: Since everything I once owned is probably worthless when the SHTF, I'd try to declare that now, everyone is equal, and build a direct democracy type community.
No masters, no servants. Also, I might choose individuals based on compliance to that goal, as well as (sigh) genetic diversity to ensure viability over several generations.

Alfred Differ said...

I still remember an old homework problem from an astrophysics class showing gravitation is too slow to cause early collapse in stellar formation. It was a wonderful bit of practice in estimating time-scales and got to the core difference between physics and astrophysics. Who cares about factors of two when you're six orders of magnitude too high in an estimate for creating a star from the interstellar medium? 8)

Astrophysics was for me a grab bag of estimation techniques founded upon physics theories. The problems were often to messy to do more than envelope estimates before the big digital computation arrived.

I also remember working with one of my professors who studied active galaxies in the era when the digital monsters were finally becoming cheap enough he could get time on them. I was cheap student labor learning how to turn my programming skills into something more useful than sorting sports scores. I got to look for and map shocks in the images he took back before we had properly debugged libraries (let alone fast ones) for Fourier transforms. It was all still estimates, but on finer regions involving invisible gases struck by jets far from a galaxy's center.

It's hard to convey to non-science people how much fun that all was.

I think the biggest take-away for such a person taking the "Visit the research universities" challenge is the joy/frustration we find in these puzzles. It's a blast that shapes us into the people we become.

Anonymous said...

When I was 13 years old, in the early 1970s, my older sister gave me a text book, ASTRONOMY: FUNDAMENTALS AND FRONTIERS, Second Edition, by Robert Jastrow and Malcolm H. Thompson. I love that book. Many of the chapters are badly outdated; so much has changed since that book came out.

I loved Professor Charles Bailyn's Open Yale Courses presentation of Astro 160: Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics. 26 lectures (plus an update episode a few years later). Absolutely brilliant.

David Brin said...

The three EXISTENCE narrators are fantastic. Forget Hugos, it shoulda won an Audie!

Tony Fisk said...

On the wonders of science and rhyming history: Tim Flannery marks a formative moment when, as a boy, he visited the Victorian Museum, and got to hold the fossilised claw of the only Australian flesh eating dinosaur discovered at that time.
Many years later, in another museum in East Berlin, he was doing prep work for a field trip to Melanesia. Staff let him in but warned him to be out before 5, as he didn't want to meet the guards. He lost track of time until he heard some fearsome barking. Oh yes, guards, he thought and departed. His hosts were rather alarmed when he mentioned it to them. Turned out the guards *were* the dogs (fed in the morning, if they hadn't come across a snack in the meantime.)

Larry Hart said...

It's not just me.

Bill Maher is a maverick and an iconoclast—just ask him. And to make sure you know he is a maverick and an iconoclast, he often makes a point of demonstrating his maverickness (mavericity? mavericktion?) and his iconoclasm. Such was the case this weekend, when he appeared on Ben Shapiro's show for a segment entitled "How to Disagree." Because if there's one thing that Maher and Shapiro have mastered, it's listening respectfully to the ideas of others and responding in a thoughtful fashion. Should you doubt it, see this clip of Shapiro, or this one of Maher [ ].

Anyhow, we don't much care to watch Maher's entire appearance, so maybe there really was something in there about how to disagree. What we can definitely say is that there was plenty in there about how to be disagreeable. In particular, Maher has a particular bee in his bonnet about COVID-19. And when he reaches "bee in bonnet" stage, Maher invariably says whatever the hell he wants to say, regardless of how inconsistent or hurtful or dishonest it might be.

So, what's the nature of this particular bee? Well, Maher has observed that obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19. He has also persuaded himself that the media did not do enough to highlight this fact. And so, he has concluded that the media is somehow responsible for untold numbers of COVID deaths. His exact argument was that by downplaying the link between obesity and COVID-19, and by generally downplaying the significance of obesity, the media "has blood on [its] hands."

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: It's hard to convey to non-science people how much fun that all was

After 25y spent advocating Citizen Science, being called an elite by a few yokels* and a yokel by a few elites**, I can say this with conviction: the very future of this civilization hinges on the success of that conveyance.
"The scientific spirit is of more value than its products" - Thomas Huxley

* a small source of pride
** a great source of pride

matthew said...

Since this subject comes up here with regularity, here is a fine article on the disparity in health outcomes in states with different regulatory regimes. Red state versus Blue state excess mortality and life expectancy are covered.

Robert said...

From the last thread:

Again, I invite scenarios for any other plausible path forward, since the pit of hell, in 1942, that would have done better.

I will point out that compared to America Canada had a larger percentage of its population in the military, turned a larger proportion of its economy to war production, suffered more casualties compared to its population, etc. in WWII. Post-war we were part of NORAD and NATO, took part in so many peacekeeping missions that our Prime Minister got a Nobel Peace Prize, and so on.

Not claiming perfection (our elite Airborne Regiment was disbanded in disgrace after its members committed crimes against civilians in Somalia). Nor am I bragging — I'm certain other small countries have done similar things that I don't know about. Just remember the parable of the widow's mite…

My friends from South America would point out that living under an American-supported junta was not obviously better than a Soviet-supported one, or a home-grown democratically-elected government.

So better path forward? Not supporting dictators on the grounds that at least they weren't communist. Not turning the CIA loose on governments that might oppose American transnational corporations. Not invading other countries.

David Brin said...

Robert you say true things and nothing I said dissed Canada. Nor so I deny American mistakes and even crimes.

My challenge (which you ignore) is to name another large nation that was tempted by the powers of emipre that ever, ever had a better ratio of good to bad actions and outcomes. Or any that even remotely MIGHT do better with such power?

Robert said...

And from the previous post:

Oh, and another one was the Canadian embassy getting some of our hostages out of Iran in 1979. You might think I'm referring to the movie Argo, but no, that's another personal recollection of history.

Another (admittedly pre-2000), although Argo dropped most of the Canadian involvement (not to mention British and new Zealand), instead crediting Americans for things Canadians (and Brits and New Zealanders) did.

Thus continuing a fine Hollywood tradition of rewriting history to put Americans in a starring role :-)

Even happens to fiction:

However, in the film version, the action takes place in 1805, during the Napoleonic wars, instead of 1812 during the War of 1812, as the producers wished to avoid offending American audiences. In consequence, the fictional opponent was changed from USS Norfolk to the French privateer frigate Acheron.

Star_Dragon said...

Funnily enough, many Canadians do, if not the same thing, a very similar thing, in regards to the War of 1812. At least there was a United States of America around to do things in the time frame of the history being overwritten. And it was British Regulars, not rag-tag militias(who were fighting to remain British) that burned down the predecessor to the White House.

smitpa said...

I think David is getting through to a few people. Transparency of ownership is exactly what these people are advocating. Working on building a middle class would also defuse a lot of the desire for autocracy. Uplift humanity.

Larry Hart said...


although Argo dropped most of the Canadian involvement (

At the time, we Americans were well aware of Canadian involvement. "Thanks, Canada" was a meme before they were called memes.

Around that same period of time, the fact that our pollutants were causing "acid rain" to fall in the northeast, including Canada, was an oft-mentioned news item. I distinctly recall a political cartoon in the Chicago Tribune which showed frowning Canadians looking at a dark cloud labeled "acid rain" which was shaped to spell out "Thanks, Canada". The clear implication of the cartoonist was that we (Americans) should do a better job than we were at showing gratitude.

Robert said...

the fact that our pollutants were causing "acid rain" to fall in the northeast, including Canada, was an oft-mentioned news item

In BC a crapload of pollution in the Fraser valley turned out to come from a power plant constructed just on the American side of the border. It met all EPA regulations, because apparently the EPA only monitors in America, Environment Canada has no jurisdiction, and the winds blow north into Canada.

I was living in Toronto when we still had a coal-fired power plant upwind. Even then, half our pollution was caused by coal plants in Pennsylvania, which dropped back down to earth in southern Ontario before being swept back across the border. At the time we were being sued by New York State for pollution crossing the border from Canada into New York, half of which originated in Pennsylvania. (Statistically, Pennsylvanian pollution was killing about a thousand Torontonians a year.)

Being sued for American pollution was a bit of a slap in the face.

Robert said...

it was British Regulars, not rag-tag militias(who were fighting to remain British) that burned down the predecessor to the White House

You mean like this?
(Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie song)

Thing is, at the time we colonials were British. Many of the Empire Loyalists were still alive, including a significant number of freed slaves.

At the start of the war we were a collection of colonies. By the end of the war the idea that Canada might become a unified country had taken hold. It took over a generation, but eventually we had confederation, which likely wouldn't have happened without the war.

British regulars, militias, and Indigenous tribes (who were shamefully treated afterwards) all managed to fight together. Led by British regulars, true, but the militias were important nonetheless.
(Stan Rogers song)

Alfred Differ said...

Any of us who have studied our history (in the US) know that 'Canada' as a concept emerged from the 1812 war. It's not that the US survived it, though. It's that the British clearly had no intention of fighting another war to take us back.

1. The collection of colonies that are modern day provinces kinda had to unite. Sorta. In their fractured way.

2. The former collection of colonies that became the US, though, had a motivation to venture north vanish from under them. It's not that northern militias weren't a threat. More like there was no need to poke them and get their guns pointing at us. With no British support, there was no NEED for us spend our treasure acquiring lands and people north of us.

The collapse of our interest in annexing Canada didn't exactly vanish overnight, but sufficient support to make it happen did.

Not the case with certain Spanish and former-Spanish territories.


All this is beside the point, though. David's point is we've been less brutal than other Great Powers. Since we were NOT one in the 19th century, y'all need to trim your attention a bit to the relevant time frame.

We BECAME a top-rank power near the end of the 19th century and proved it about 20 years later. Before the 20th, it can reasonably argued that we were very rich and working our way up to the level occupied by a few of the European empires. No more than that, though.

Larry Hart said...

Ukrainian President Zelensky addressing congress. He knows how to reference previous air attacks on US territory (Pearl Harbor and 9/11) much more than we would be able to reference previous attacks on other countries.

Larry Hart said...

OMG. One more. Zelensky invokes "I have a dream" for defense of Ukrainian freedom.

He knows how to hit us where we live.

David Brin said...

LH I have several times here referred to Great KyevianRus and to it's being crushed by the Mongols and later Lithuania and then Poland, then Moscow... and the seesaw battles over Kharkov.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

By "we", I meant "most Americans".

You're a special case. :)

David Brin said...

Special (nut?) case? ;-)

scidata said...

JWST: All mirrors aligned.

Those aren't ghost images in the background, they're stars and galaxies. Fasten your seat-belts.

Der Oger said...

@Larry Hart:

He knows how to hit us where we live.

One could get the impression that he is the leader of the free world now.*

I am looking forward to the speech in the Bundestag, tomorrow morning.

Just watched Vlad's 5th column speech, maybe he is getting really nervous now.

David Brin said...

" Vlad's 5th column speech". ???

Der Oger said...

" Vlad's 5th column speech". ???


Star_Dragon said...

Thing is, at the time we colonials were British. Many of the Empire Loyalists were still alive, including a significant number of freed slaves.

Half of my point. The other half is that the Regulars were imported, and the ones doing the counter-invading(militias are not very useful on the offense, as was learned in the Revolutionary War, and re-learned in the war of 1812, in American attempts to do exactly that).

Alan Brooks said...

Can understand pulsars because of lighthouses, but have trouble with comprehending quasars. Would you please write something, sometime, about them? They’re more than a brand name on a refrigerator!
There’s a Russian ‘philosopher’ (psycho) Kovalchuk, who blends Christian mysticism, conspiracy theory, and hedonism into what must be a witch’s brew. (With apologies to witches.)

David Brin said...

Quasars = VERY far away and hence very much in the past. They are thought to be the phase of formation of the massive, million-suns black holes we now see in much nearer and hence later galaxies.

David Brin said...

How Putin may seek an exit strategy to save face by declaring a “Mission Accomplished!” moment. Very cogent analysis. Also, this fellow is among the few who describes in detail how under GHW Bush a flock of western vultures - most of them Cheney family-connected - swarmed into Russia to help a hundred or so Soviet commissars snap up shares of sold-off state enterprises… one of several reasons why I rank Bush Senior as unquestionably and by far the worst US president of the 20th Century, who set the stage for our crisis ridden world. Alas, the fellow gets a bit kooky toward the end. !st half is worthwhile.

Paradoctor said...

Five Rules For Nuclear Superpowers

1. Thou Shalt Not Directly Smite Another Nuclear Superpower.
2. It is permissible to bleed another nuclear superpower by funding and arming insurgents.
3. Nukes beat armies, armies beat insurgents, and insurgents beat nukes.
4. Never be the battleground. Let's you and them fight.
5. Power corrupts, and superpower supercorrupts.

David Brin said...

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on Wednesday slammed President Joe Biden for sending more military aid to Ukraine, and said that things would be better off if Ukrainians just gave up their efforts to resist the Russian invasion. Again most of these monster-lampoon caricatures are inexplicable except with the added frisson of desperation that comes from blackmail.

But, um, are those S&M stains? Or just blotches spreading to her 'real' avatar from the picture she keeps in her attic?

gerold said...

I doubt Russia has kompromat on Greene. She appeared out of nowhere, riding on the coattails of Q to nab that seat in congress. Hardly seems there was enough time to collect any dirt. But for Q-tards Putin is an eminence grise to St. Trump, so they're all-in for Vlad.

Her "Christian" conclusion that it's better for Ukraine to die on their knees than to keep fighting is also wrong. The real nightmare for Greene and her ilk is Russia losing this war. And that's what they're doing. They can keep bombing the cities and killing civilians but their ground offensive has bogged down, and Ukrainian resistance is just getting stronger. Russian troop morale is wilting just as Ukrainian fighting spirits wax hotter. Orderly retreats are even harder to manage than all-out offensives, and that may be the next big challenge for Russia. They managed to get 200,000 troops into Ukraine, but how many can they get out?

As for Marjorie Taylor Greene and the rest of her traitorous boot-licking ilk; this war has unmasked the evil visage they've covered with the flag. This war has been a nation building moment for Ukraine, but it just might help the US do some healing too.

Der Oger said...

Bundestag speech:
Mentions/references WWII, the Berlin Wall & Airlift, Babyn Yar, Reagan, our late and reluctant commitment, our "economy first" strategy.

Repeatedly uses the picture of a new Wall build in Europe, built by hesitance and profit-oriented thinking. Noting that "nations over the Atlantic" are closer to Ukraine than we are. Reminds/criticizes Germany for not standing up to the historical responsibility. Putting the finger where it hurts.

Tony Fisk said...

Anybody shocked by the bombing of the theatre in Mariupol, where many children were reported to be sheltering, can offer a fervent prayer to the power of sound bomb shelter engineering. It appears to have stood up to the 500kg ordinance. Survivors being dug out.

Also hearing rumours that the Ukrainians are starting to push back, in Irpol, at least.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

Vlad's 5th column speech...

Putin seems to be making same argument that Kyle Rittenhouse did when he claimed "self defense" for using his gun to kill those who saw his gun as a threat and might have taken it from him and threatened him with it.

If there is any sentiment in the west to "destroy Russia", it is only to the extent that Russia has made itself threatening to us. Otherwise, we couldn't care less what goes on over there. But because they've set themselves up as an existential threat to us, we might want to foreclose their ability to harm us, so in Putin's mind, that proves his belligerence was retroactively justified in the first place.

Larry Hart said...

Marjorie Taylor Greene's appeal is the same as Ann Coulters--the kind of shameless willingness to say anything, no matter how outrageous, if it makes liberals feel bad.

But siding against Ukraine at this particular moment? I honestly can't understand who she thinks this will appeal to. As Paul Krugman once put it, she probably rooted for President Snow against Katniss too.

* * *

Alan Brooks:

There’s a Russian ‘philosopher’ (psycho) Kovalchuk, who blends Christian mysticism, conspiracy theory, and hedonism into what must be a witch’s brew. (With apologies to witches.)

Isn't "Christian mysticism" one of those self-inconsistent terms, like "jumbo shrimp"?

reason said...

David I have a problem believing that Marjorie Taylor Greene could be blackmailed. What on earth would you blackmail her with that is worse than her public behaviour?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) on Wednesday slammed President Joe Biden for sending more military aid to Ukraine...

Remember when criticizing the president during wartime was considered by Republicans to be treason?

Robert said...

Half of my point. The other half is that the Regulars were imported, and the ones doing the counter-invading(militias are not very useful on the offense, as was learned in the Revolutionary War, and re-learned in the war of 1812, in American attempts to do exactly that).

And my point was that, given we were British in 1812, the Regulars were our forces. As British subjects Canadians could (and did) enlist in the British army. I don't know any Canadians who believe that the militias burned Washington (anecdata, I know).

Unknown said...

They'd rather be Russian than Democrat. I read the T-shirts, and I say, "do you need me to chip in to get you on the redeye to Moscow? Because I'll do that. Putin needs fighting men!"


David Brin said...

- reason: while probably 90% of idiots who fall for kompromat lures and give blackmailers grist are male - look how easy to was for Borat to get Rudy! - women can be trapped too. In Susan Collins’s case I’d want someone to take a good, close look at the males she loves, for one who is writhing on a hook.

- gerold my guess is that Putin is aiming for a ceasefire. RF forces may already be concentrating on consolidating and defending what they’ve got while pounding cities with artillery. They cannot rely upon their demoralized troops to make attacks, especially those that might expose flanks to RPG and javelin squads. His problem is that the ‘red areas’ on the map are not fully under his control. A ceasefire would let him focus on that, hoping for a treaty conferring the entire Sea of Azov coast and the old, traditional Donestsk boundaries and an arc above Kiev. Gone is the aim of taking everything east of the Dnieper and leaving the rest of Ukraine a puppet. But if he got all that, Putin might try to spin it into “Mission Accomplished.”

That mustn’t be allowed.

I do wonder why there’s no activity among RF occupier troops in Tans-Dniester. Has Moldova made threats? Romania?

Unknown said...

(I would not make this offer if I though that a group of overweight, middle-aged non-Russian speakers who have never heard a shot fired in anger in their lives would be anything but sniper fodder for the Ukrainian resistance)


Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

Bundestag speech:
Mentions/references WWII, the Berlin Wall & Airlift, Babyn Yar, Reagan, our late and reluctant commitment, our "economy first" strategy.
Putting the finger where it hurts.

He did the same in his speech to the US congress. Hit all of the spots that Americans (and particularly Republicans) just couldn't fail to sympathize with.

It's telling to me that while Republicans continue to attack President Biden, they now do so for his supposed failures to adequately support Ukraine rather than the Donald Trump / Tucker Carlson line that Biden is the one instigating conflict. Before the actual invasion, Tucker was pushing the meme that we shouldn't care at all about a local conflict in that part of the world, and that to the extent that we might care, he was on Russia's side (he actually said so in those words). There's no mileage to be had with that line any longer. Now, it's "We've always been at war with Eurasia."

Jon S. said...

"I do wonder why there’s no activity among RF occupier troops in Tans-Dniester. Has Moldova made threats? Romania?"

Or perhaps the troops turned out to be actual human beings, not computer-controlled NPCs that dutifully obey the orders of the player controlling their side no matter what, and have refused to go any further? My roommate, a former US Army NCO, informs me that the Russian army has no equivalent to our NCO corps, and thus no institutional memory of dedication to the cause or the country above personal considerations. That would seem to hamper things somewhat...

George Carty said...

Dr Brin, I'm not convinced that the rise of Russian oligarchs could really have been prevented (let alone that it was GHWB's fault).

The fall of the Soviet Empire resulted in massive deindustrialization in Russia because most of Russia's industry was hopelessly uncompetitive even by North American or Western European standards, let alone by the standards of the East Asian up-and-comers. (Contrast with reconstructing Germany post-1945: the Germans already knew how to build globally-competitive industries, but their economy had been held back by a hugely overmanned agricultural sector, which was likely responsible in the first place for the rise of the Nazis.)

The only major Russian products that were actually competitive on world markets were:

1) oil and gas, whose very nature makes them easily controlled by the few, and whose prices were in any case low during the '90s (as North Sea oil production was near its peak, and Chinese industrialization hadn't yet got into high gear), and

2) weapons, for which the market was completely glutted in the '90s because Eastern and Western bloc states alike were disarming to cash in on the peace dividend. The Russians could hardly make money selling new weapons when equivalent second-hand ones could be had for barely more than scrap value. (Perhaps the losses of Russian aircraft and armored vehicles in the current Ukraine war will damage Russia at least as much thru lost export orders than in the cost of replacing the destroyed equipment itself?)

Imagine you were a Russian factory worker in the '90s who had been given shares in his factory. Given that the old Soviet welfare state is gone (because the Russian state is bankrupt), the rouble is fast losing value, and you see other factories closing left and right around you, why the hell would you hang on to the shares (knowing that when your factory closes they'll be toilet paper) instead of selling them for whatever money you can get and then spending it ASAP?

David Brin said...

George Carty, sorry it does NOT even remotely wash. The "ex" Svoviet bureaucrats sent every Russian adult a share in each de-nationalized Soviet state enterprise... then followed with letters offering essentially a bottle of vodka to buy the shares (capitalized by Cheney associates in the west). There had been no time for those enterprises to establish a market value. Millions accepted and the oligarchs were born. All this on advice from 'experts' sent by GHW Bush.

All they had to do, instead, was issue the shares one per year to each citizen for ten years. By year 3 a market value would have been established. And meanwhilethe Soviet lumbering state companies could have been broken into naturally competing enterprises.

What happened was a raid on Russia staged by local parasites backed by Republican ones. Your thought experiment was deeply unimaginative though it did express the thinking that allowed that monstrous theft to happen.

David Brin said...

Jon S even if the Moldova RF troops are sitting it out, they are pinning down Ukrainian units needed elsewhere. Moldova and Romania need to do pinning of their own.

Der Oger said...

@Larry Hart:
He did the same in his speech to the US congress. Hit all of the spots that Americans (and particularly Republicans) just couldn't fail to sympathize with.

Over here, the thing developed a bit different over this day. The main media flagships (including the major broadcasting sectors) are currently clubbing the members of parliament (because they did not discuss Ukraine in the plenum and instead discussed Corona politics; because no one seems to have the spine to address things as they are) If this pressure holds, a major change of stance might come in the next few weeks.

On Russia, Ukraine and the sanctions:
If Putin is removed, we should offer the Russians a Marshal Plan with the strict conditions of democratization, reparations to Ukraine and demilitarization. Maybe we can snatch it away from China's grasp? Anyway, 1990 must not repeat itself.

Star_Dragon said...

My point is that there wasn't a Canada for you to be during the War of 1812, anymore than there was a United States of America for us to be during the Seven Year's War.

And each of several times I've seen someone claiming that their country was the one that burned the White House, it was a Canadian, despite the fact that the units in question were the 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot(English), 21st (Royal North British Fusilier) Regiment of Foot(Scottish), 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot(English), and 85th Regiment of Foot(English).

@Larry Hart, your comparison actually works even better when all the facts are considered and the roles reversed, especially that one of Putin's stated goals is to demilitarize Ukraine.
The sequence goes:
Rosenbaum attempted to grab Rittenhouse's rifle (which was legally owned under Wisconsin law, and had never crossed state lines after Rittenhouse acquired it) while Rittenhouse was attempting to retreat. At this point, Rosenbaum and several others were actively pursuing and threatening Rittenhouse.
While Rittenhouse was trying to retreat from that confrontation towards the police, Huber attacked Rittenhouse by using a skateboard as a club, then successfully grabbed Rittenhouse's rifle and tried to pull it away from Rittenhouse, before Rittenhouse killed him with a single shot.
By his own testimony, Grosskreutz approached Rittenhouse, while illegally carrying a Glock. Rittenhouse put his hands up, until Grosskreutz pointed his Glock at Rittenhouse and advance, until Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz in the arm.
Quote from the cross-examination:
"It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him — advanced on him with your gun, now your hands down, pointed at him — that he fired, right?" the defense said.

"Correct," Grosskreutz replied.

For the record I'm more pro-Biden than pro-gun, because the Republicans are bugnuts on almost every issue, and even the most Left of the Democrats only bugnuts on a few.

DP said...

The Russian army has been decimated with loses of men and material grater that 15% to 20% of their invasion force.

(gets around the paywall)

As Russian Troop Deaths Climb, Morale Becomes an Issue, Officials Say
More than 7,000 Russian troops have been killed in less than three weeks of fighting, according to conservative U.S. estimates.
The conservative side of the estimate, at more than 7,000 Russian troop deaths, is greater than the number of American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
It is a staggering number amassed in just three weeks of fighting, American officials say, with implications for the combat effectiveness of Russian units, including soldiers in tank formations. Pentagon officials say a 10 percent casualty rate, including dead and wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks.
With more than 150,000 Russian troops now involved in the war in Ukraine, Russian casualties, when including the estimated 14,000 to 21,000 injured, are near that level. And the Russian military has also lost at least three generals in the fight, according to Ukrainian, NATO and Russian officials.

And (major caveat - if the Russians are actually negotiating in "good faith" this time around) we are getting closure to a peace deal. Cease fire, Russian withdrawal, Ukraine gets security guarantees from the West in return for not joining NATO, Crimea and the Donbas "republics" fate to be decided by a vote, etc. Lots of cease-fires in Syria and Serbia fell apart, but this time the Russians are on the ropes.

For once, I'm going to be an optimist.

Maybe a cease fire soon followed by a peace deal this summer?

Meanwhile oil has dropped below $100 a barrel now that Russian defeat is apparent:

The stock market has bottomed and is rebounding with the Fed starting incremental interest rates hikes to tame inflation without a massive hike that could trigger a recession:

The Covid-19 pandemic is ending:

Russia is finished as a great power:

So is China (they just shut down their biggest exporting province because of 60 cases of Covid-19)

America remains large and in charge without a single rival

Thanks to Brexit, Putin and Xi there is no other safe place in the world to put your money than the USA.

DP said...


Yep, the world will be buying massive amounts of American real estate, especially farmland, driving up prices. Not because of some nefarious plot to take over America's food supply but because this is scared dumb money looking for somewhere to be safe. And the gold standard of flight money is Midwest farmland. Also the US stock market will be kept high once the Ukraine war is over because of massive investments from outside the US. Again, dumb scared money looking for a safe haven.

This tsunami of foreign capital will transform American agriculture, industry and economy. It's free money. Which means it won't mean shit how big our deficits are anymore.

And Biden will get the credit - and rightly so.

If Sun Tzu is correct when he said "Supreme excellence in the art of war lies in winning without ever having to fight" then Biden (like Reagan before him when he brought down the Evil Empire without firing a shot) is a military genius.

Robert said...

And each of several times I've seen someone claiming that their country was the one that burned the White House, it was a Canadian, despite the fact that the units in question were the 4th (King's Own) Regiment of Foot(English), 21st (Royal North British Fusilier) Regiment of Foot(Scottish), 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot(English), and 85th Regiment of Foot(English).

Up here, at least in anglo-Canada, we identify with Britain before Confederation, because at the time we were British. From what I've read of American school textbooks, this is not the case south of the border — you seem to draw a much more definite boundary between Britain and American colonists.

Remember that a good number of the inhabitants on the colonies that later became Canada were Loyalists — those driven out of America because they believed that they were British, not citizens of a new country.

So we (current Canadians) tend to use "we" when talking about events in what later became Canada, and also about British actions taken for/because of the colonies that became Canada.

gerold said...

DB: if Putin is a rational planner he must be considering your scenario: ceasefire, occupy the southeastern Black Sea coast to create a continuous land connection between Crimea and Donbass, and declare victory. The area north of Kyiv might be a bridge too far, but certainly a valuable bargaining chip. Mariupol is another matter; it continues to hold out. Sure would be nice if Ukraine could break the siege and regain control of the Azov coast there.

Looks like we're finally sending some drones. Those little switchblades could be a real game changer if we can get them over in swarm quantities.

The little 300's would make the life of an artilleryman very uncomfortable, and the 600's would make Russian convoys hell on wheels. Ukraine hasn't been able to do much in the way of counterattacks so far, but drone swarms could change all that. At only $6k for the 300's it's a cost effective way to rebalance the battlefield.

Transnistria looks very vulnerable. It's a long, skinny enclave surrounded by hostile forces. I'm thinking they're thinking more about survival than recreating the Russian empire. Seeing how inept Russian forces have looked in Ukraine, I suspect the occupation troops in Moldova are even worse, bloated on protection money and soft after years of garrison duty. Could be a great time to eliminate that abomination.

David Brin said...

My take on the 'ceasefire' being dickered.

Putin needs one desperately, but not with humiliating withdrawal. He wants to freeze the frontlines as-is, in exchange for an end to shelling cities. So he can redeploy forces to actually pacify the areas we are shown as red on maps, where in fact Ukrainian partisans now roam almost at will.

Zelensky cannot accept that and would declare that Putin wanting it means Ukraine is winning. But he might accept a few days respite. Then risking he'll look bad if he's the one to resume.

At-minimum he should demand withdrawl out of artillery range. And a food corridor into Mariupol and neutral observers.

I doubt VP can accept that and still yell "Mission Accomplished!" In fact, he'll give almost anything to see Matiupol surrender so RF makes the Sea of Azov a Russian lake. But the RF soldiers who come in to occupy it will be shaken by what they see and report home, so...

The more I work it out, the harder it is to see the ceasefire that minutes ago I saw as obvious.

I do believe we should be sending emissaries to the RF forces in Trans-Dnistra, urging the commanders to defect. They are safe from retribution (though not their families.) Their soldiers are all watching truthful TV. If those divisions declared neutrality, the gesture would rock the Kremlin to its roots that are built upon the skeletons of Varangian slaves.

David Brin said...

Years ago I started a novel THE KREMLIN IS HAUNTED, about how no one ever gained power in that palace complex and remained sane... or else in power. I put it aside during Gorbachev, but the plot and gimmick and message seems more cogent than ever!

Alfred Differ said...

I think Robert's sense of identity is reasonable. Also, it's not all that different than what we do in the US.

I identify with American Revolutionaries even though…

1. They came in many stripes some of whom would have rejected me
2. My father's father didn't come over until 1928
3. My mother didn't come over until 1961

Yes. 'Our' loyalists had to leave. Some went north. 'We' knew that, so part of our annexation interest came from old animosities. Only during war, though, was their sufficient motivation to drive us north to trade fire.

That all vanished after 1815 when 'the British' made clear they weren't going to fight 'us'. Their colonies up north became less defended with that choice, but also less threatening.

By the time Polk negotiated a firm border and clearer ownership of Oregon, it was all over in terms of conquest. There was no need to argue over anything other than rules of trade.

That still is beside the point David was making. The US as it was in the 19th century wasn't the US at the core of Pax Americana.

Also, whether others like it or not, Pax Americana is actually the entirety of Western Civilization… which includes Canada.

1. No sensible USian doubts the Cold War would have been very different had Canada not been at least moderately friendly to US interests.
2. No USian with a decent education believes Pax Americana would work without all the non-US partners balancing against our youthful barbarism.
3. The Pax DOES require barbarism, though. We know that.

Tony Fisk said...

At this stage, I think Putin's only out is/was Zelensky's announcement that Ukraine would not seek membership of NATO.

20% casualties may be a conservative estimate. I've heard estimates of up to a third of the 150,000 in 'Z Force' are either dead, deserted, or evacuated to hospitals.
That still leaves an awful lot of Russians, of course, but mothers are beginning to hear about this.
As far as I'm aware, no movement from Moldavia has occurred.
The Russians only control the highways in those 'red' areas. And the Ukrainians are starting to take the initiative.
Final point on morale that John Sweeney picked up in conversation with old soldiers: an army (an *advancing* army) that doesn't bury its dead has no future.

Some interesting flight movements from Moscow were noted recently. No idea what they represented.

Arnold Schwarzenegger just posted a very moving appeal to Russian soldiers (assuming they ever get to hear it)

Jon S. said...

"...which was legally owned under Wisconsin law..."

I don't have direct references to WI law in front of me, but am informed by folk who do that WI law only permits such rifles to be possessed by underage persons in areas open for hunting. Far as I know, downtown Kenosha is not recognized as a legitimate hunting area, as few deer or bears are seen there. Is this an admission that Rittenhouse was hunting humans? If so, did he have a proper Wisconsin human hunting license and tags?

Paradoctor said...

Any respectable national capitol building should be haunted. It gives that nation street cred. The White House has Tecumseh's Curse, which struck down almost all Presidents elected on a year ending with zero. The run went on a long time, and ended with Reagan and Bush. But the first lost his mind, and the second ruined his family's political career, so I'd say that the curse has merely been weakened. Biden was elected 2020, so he's up against the curse.

Robert said...

Remember when criticizing the president during wartime was considered by Republicans to be treason?

For Republican presidents, yes…

Larry Hart said...


Meanwhile oil has dropped below $100 a barrel now that Russian defeat is apparent
China (they just shut down their biggest exporting province because of 60 cases of Covid-19)

According to radio host Hal Sparks, those items are related. China's new lockdowns are noticeably lowering the demand for oil.

* * *

Paul Krugman channels our host:

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the advantages of having a strongman who can tell everyone what to do are more than offset by the absence of free discussion and independent thought.
The thing is, all of these [Chinese] failures, like Putin’s failures in Ukraine, ultimately stem from the inherent weakness of autocratic government.

On vaccines, China succumbed to the kind of blinkered nationalism all too common in authoritarian regimes. Would you have wanted to be a health official telling Xi Jinping that his vaunted vaccines were seriously inferior to Western alternatives, especially after Xi’s minions had gone to considerable lengths to claim the opposite?

On zero Covid, would you want to be an economic official telling Xi that the cost of draconian lockdowns, a policy of which China was so proud, was becoming unsupportable?

And as I said, a government that lies all the time has trouble getting the public to listen even when it’s telling the truth.
Yet China, like Russia, is now giving us an object lesson in the usefulness of having an open society, where strongmen don’t get to invent their own reality.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Years ago I started a novel THE KREMLIN IS HAUNTED, about how no one ever gained power in that palace complex and remained sane... or else in power.

"Gosh, Batman, is there anything you don't know?"

Larry Hart said...

Congress as comedy...

When we wrote up the newly passed Senate bill that would theoretically establish year-round Daylight Savings Time, we observed that there was no indication this was coming down the pike, and also that nobody seemed to know why the senators had all of a sudden gotten on board with the idea, en masse.

It turns out that we weren't the only ones who were surprised and a bit confused. In fact, most of the senators were, as well. The bill was passed by unanimous consent, which is really the only way for there to be a unanimous vote in the Senate. What was not publicly known on Tuesday was that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked for unanimous consent, and expected Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) to object. The Floridian didn't actually expect to secure passage, he just wanted to be able to send out an "I'm trying" tweet and press release in an election year. And because Rubio (and everyone else) expected an objection, there wasn't much communication among members of the Senate (or among their staffs), and most members weren't even on the floor of the chamber when the matter came up. That meant that when Wicker, in a rather big surprise, decided he didn't care enough to object, the Senate inadvertently approved the bill unanimously. A sizable number of senators only found out about it when they were asked by reporters, or when they read about it online.

It's hard to believe this is for real, and is not, say, a Marx Brothers short ("Oops! Sens. Groucho and Harpo accidentally declared war on Canada!"). In any case, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has put the legislation on the back burner for now. If she wants to kill it, or if Joe Biden does, there's now plenty of justification for them to do so.

Larry Hart said...


The White House has Tecumseh's Curse, which struck down almost all Presidents elected on a year ending with zero. The run went on a long time, and ended with Reagan and Bush.

There was an episode of Star Trek--an animated episode of all things--in which a disease ravaging a planet was misdiagnosed because one of the apparent symptoms was caused by a coincidence not related to the disease at all. When McCoy figured that out, he was able to develop a cure for the real disease.

I had a similar theory concerning the "zero factor" curse--that the long-lived conspiracy really began against Abraham Lincoln and ended with JFK. The fact that William Henry Harrison just happened to die of pneumonia was a mere coincidence which made it seem as if every president elected in a 0 year was targeted.

David Brin said...

LH... did anyone really care about Garfield? Harding... maybe.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH... did anyone really care about Garfield? Harding... maybe

In my theory--seriously, I'm only playing in the first place--the conspiracy was only about Lincoln and JFK. It had nothing to do with the zero-year thing. The others who were assassinated (Garfield and McKinley) might have had something to do with the conspiracy, but it isn't necessary that they did. And what sort of conspiracy theory could credibly include the ones who died of natural causes?

When I first heard about the zero factor thing, what fascinated me was not how many presidents elected in a 0-year died, but rather how few presidents in history were assassinated at all. All (4) of them were among the "cursed" zero-factor set. Growing up as I did on comic books and adventure stories, I had the sense that assassinations were more of a regular occurrence than they turn out to actually be, at least for US presidents.

Paradoctor said...

Dr. Leonard McCoy, meet Dr. Gregory House.
Coincidence or not, I wouldn't take those odds. Besides, I _like_ having a cool curse on the White House. I think we should make it a tradition for every zero-year president to retire from politics before his term ends.

Paradoctor said...

You don't have to believe in the zero-year factor; only assassins need believe, to make it real. I'm pretty sure that the Secret Service takes it seriously. The zero-year Presidents know, which adds to the health burden of the office.

Larry Hart said...


I _like_ having a cool curse on the White House. I think we should make it a tradition for every zero-year president to retire from politics before his term ends.

Since I stopped even thinking about believing the curse after Reagan, it never occurred to me that it might have made a good reason to vote for Donald Trump in 2020.

You don't have to believe in the zero-year factor; only assassins need believe, to make it real.

Does anyone other than yourself still think about it, now that two 0-year presidents have survived two terms. I mean, Reagan was the oldest president ever back then, plus he was shot in his first year, and still managed to live out two terms. If the curse had any power at all, it wouldn't have taken much to claim that guy.

If the curse was ever real, it's a Potemkin curse by now.

Star_Dragon said...

@Jon S.,
That understanding is incorrect. It might have been the intent of the lawmakers(which often is a guideline at best), and I do believe that it's next to other bits restricting things to hunting, but the law only (indirectly) says that rifle barrels must be more than 16 inches to be legal for minors to possess. The prosecution tried this, and failed hilariously.

The law in question:

Regarding the permanent Daylight Savings Time:
Good thing we've got a bicameral legislature.

@Robert, I'm seeing two related disconnects here: The idea of Canada being a successor state to Britain while Britain still exists(If you were referring to the Commonwealth instead of Canada, it would make perfect sense, and a lack of understanding on your part of what Parliament did to the 13 colonies to make us decide to not be British anymore, or why we declared war in 1812(imagine if the USN started drafting American-born Canadians who had renounced their American citizenship)

I'd like to note that you have to include George Washington's actions during the 7 Year's War in your we, by the definition you're using.

Nitpick: Loyalists moving to Canada was about desire to remain British, not beliefs in being such, as Britain recognizing the United States' independence require recognizing that American citizens were no longer British subjects.

David Brin said...

BTWBenedict Arnold took Montreal in winter 1775 and came within minutes of taking Quebec. Britain woulda retook em, but it might have delayed their taking New York... or vice versa.