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    • Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019
      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy Give No Heed to the Walking Dead [The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] The People’s Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced […]
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Sunday News – Science Section

Lockheed Martin's Proposed L2-Farside Mission

The regular news is just to irritating with Obama working hard to cut Social Security benefits, surprise, surprise, among other things. So I thought I’d focus on just the science section of the TC paper today. Oh, and I’m horribly late due to getting back late from an away game (i.e., meetings, yuk), and sleeping in. So let’s see what’s happing with people actually trying to do something good in the world unlike our politicians.

First up, stars, stars, stars, my god, look at all the stars. It turns out we have been underestimating the number of stars, even in our own galaxy, by an order of 100. That’s a lot:

Red dwarfs are stars like the sun, but smaller, fainter and cooler, with somewhere between one-half and one-tenth the sun’s mass. They may be small, but they are legion—astronomers estimate that red dwarfs outnumber sun-like stars in the Milky Way by a factor of 100.

Until today’s result, astronomers had been forced to assume that the 100-to-1 ratio held in other galaxies, too. But evidence has been mounting recently that elliptical galaxies—which lack the distinctive spiral arms of galaxies like the Milky Way and are usually made of older, redder stars—had more stars relative to their dark matter than spiral galaxies do.

“Within these galaxies, a good chunk of the mass that had been ascribed to dark matter is probably stars,” said Pieter van Dokkum, the lead researcher on the project.

And of course you know what that means. More stars, more planets, more planets, more places where life exists. More things that say “eep, eep.” Wave at your new neighbors tonight.

Oxygen has been found on Saturn’s moon Rhea. The Cassini probe did a fly by and sniffed some sweet, sweet oxygen:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has taken a breath of oxygen while passing over the icy surface of Saturn’s second-largest moon, marking the first time a spacecraft has directly sampled oxygen in the atmosphere of another body. Cruising just 60 miles above Rhea, one of more than 60 moons orbiting Saturn, Cassini found an extremely thin atmosphere of oxygen and carbon dioxide likely sustained by high-energy particles slamming into the moon’s frozen surface.

Rhea’s isn’t the only other atmosphere in the universe, but it is so thin that Cassini had to fly through it just to confirm that it was there at all (other atmosphere’s have been detected and studied from afar by tools like the Hubble Space Telescope). According to Cassini’s onboard science instruments, Rhea’s atmosphere contains something like 50 billion oxygen molecules per cubic meter, matched by 20 billion carbon dioxide molecules.

Lockheed is pitching a program to go to the dark side of the moon (see image above). Of course the obvious question that comes to mind is, no, not can we afford it, but will Pink Floyd music be involved:

The mission, Lockheed says, will serve several purposes. Most immediately, it would allow astronauts to study, via unmanned robots, some lunar real estate that hasn’t been seen with human eyes since the Apollo missions. But its real function is to test out technologies and skills that will be necessary to make a manned trip to an asteroid, and then on to Mars.

The idea is to park an Orion space capsule at the L2 Lagrange point about 40,000 miles above the moon’s far side, where the combined gravity from the Earth and the moon would allow the spacecraft to essentially hover in one place in sync with the moon. From there, the astronauts would deploy and conduct remotely-operated surface science, collecting rock samples and exploring the South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the oldest craters in the solar system. From the L2 point, the capsule would continuously maintain line of sight with both the Earth and the far side of the moon.

I think unmanned missions is the way to go for a lot of these explorations. Much more cost effective and quicker to execute. We can revolutionize our materials science, our manufacturing, and our economy with such efforts. Or if we don’t, China can.

Some amazing progress has been made in our understanding of the aging process lately. Here are some recent results of interest:

Harvard scientists may be a step closer to a medical fountain of youth after figuring out how to reverse the aging process in mice. The breakthrough could lead to a way to slow the aging process in humans which in turn could extend quality of life by reducing the impact of age-related ailments like heart disease or dementia. That is, if it doesn’t kill them first.

Harvard Medical School scientists turned unhealthy old mice into youthful versions of themselves by tampering with an enzyme called telomerase. While the aging process is not totally understood, one of the many factors that causes the deterioration of the body’s tissues is tied to telomeres, which protect the end of each of the chromosomes in DNA. When cells divide, the telomeres are cut shorter and shorter until eventually they stop working altogether and the cell either dies or goes into a dormant state.

The researchers genetically engineered mice that lacked telomerase, an enzyme that stops telomeres from shortening. As such, the telomeres rapidly grew shorter and the mice aged quickly, developing all the signs of old age including damaged organs, a shrinking brain, and infertility. The researchers then injected the mice with a cocktail that reactivated their telomerase. This didn’t just slow the aging process, but actually reversed the effects of aging, essentially making the mice grow younger.

But rejuvenating old organs in mice does not necessarily mean a human treatment is on the way, the researchers warn. For one, mice make telomerase throughout their lives, but the enzyme is switched off in adult humans, as it can cause unchecked cell replication (read: cancer). None of the mice in the study developed cancer, but there’s no telling if human tissues would tolerate the treatment so well.

A lot of anti-aging research seems to come down to age vs. cancer. That is, if you can change cells so they don’t age, then the chances of cancer increases tremendously. And in fact there seems to be a direct relationship. It may turn out that in order to make more progress in dealing with aging issues, we need to get better at understanding and dealing with cancer. A win win in my opinion. More efforts to figuring out and stoping or reversing cancer sounds good to me.

We might be on the verge of a whole new computer technology revolution. Nanophotonic computing, or light based vs. electron based computing, has been under investigation for some time. IBM just showed off some new results lately that look promising:

Silicon chips will be communicating with pulses of light instead of electrical charge starting in 2011, according to International Business Machines Corp., which described its CMOS Integrated Silicon Nanophotonics (CISN) technology Wednesday (Dec. 1) at a tradeshow.

At Semicon Japan in Chiba, Japan, IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) heralded silicon nanophotonics as the enabler for future exascale processors that can execute a million trillion operations per second (1,000-times faster than today’s petascale supercomputers).

“The CMOS silicon nanophotonics technology we have developed at IBM can meet the requirements for exascale systems, by scaling up per-chip transceiver bandwidth and integration density,” said Will Green, an IBM researcher involved with the CISN project. Green worked on CISN with Yurii Vlasov, manager of silicon integrated nanophotonics at its T.J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and fellow researchers Solomon Assefa, Alexander Rylakov, Clint Schow and Folkert Horst.

I for one welcome our new nanophotonic based overlords.

In the slightly creepy news department, researchers are able to tag eggs and embryos with bar codes:

Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona have come up with an ingenious solution for keeping track of embryos and egg cells during in vitro fertilisation procedures: microscopic bar codes.

These mouse eggs were tagged by injecting microscopic silicon bar codes into their perivitelline space, the gap between the cell membrane and an outer membrane called the zona pellucida, which binds sperm cells during fertilisation.

The bar codes, which carry unique binary identification numbers, are biologically inert: they do not affect the rate of embryo development and are shed before the embryos implant into the wall of the uterus. The technique aims to simplify individual embryo identification, streamlining in vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer procedures.

OK, sounds like it’s for a good reason. But still, a bit creepy.

And speaking of new technology and creepy, or rather bad, all our new wifi broadcasting may be hurting trees:

Studies on the impact of wireless radiation on humans are endlessly inconclusive, but a recent study on the effects of Wi-Fi radiation on trees–yes, trees–indicates that our woody friends may be much more vulnerable than we are. And trees can’t even enjoy the benefits of Wi-Fi. It’s all very unjust.

The study, conducted by Wageningen University, investigated findings that trees in areas with high Wi-Fi activity (urban areas, especially) were suffering from symptoms that couldn’t be tied to typical bacterial or viral causes. The symptoms included bleeding (!), fissures in the bark, the death of parts of leaves, and abnormal growth.

Oops. Of course it’s not an issue if forests and in rural areas. But still, it’s something to look into. Perhaps they’re only hurt by certain frequency ranges that we can avoid.

And finally, a nice development in methods to desalinate water also includes the ability to easily extract hydrogen:

Fresh water and reusable energy. Humans are on a constant hunt for a sustainable supply of both. Water purification requires a lot of energy, while utility companies need large amounts of water for energy production. Their goal is to find a low-energy-required treatment technology. Researchers from the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science may have discovered an answer.

Last year, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology incorporated desalination into microbial fuel cells, a new technology that can treat wastewater and produce electricity simultaneously. However, putting it into practical use proved to be challenging due to current fluctuation. Zhiyong (Jason) Ren and his team with the University of Colorado Denver discovered, after six months from the initial hypothesis to completion, that they could produce hydrogen gas, which is collectible and storable, thus making improvements in the technology.

[…]

A recent study by Logan group at Penn State University also demonstrated similar findings in that the energy contained in hydrogen gas not only can offset the energy used for the desalination process but has surplus that can be used for downstream processing.

That would solve our two biggest resource problems, water and energy. Nice bit of work there people. More of that please.

There’s a bit of science news for you. Chime in with more of that or with other news. This is an open thread.

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Fairness, Dignity, Respect: Conducting Subversion in Public

She was us. But we're still out here even if she has moved on.

I have read a lot of Woe is Us comments and posts around the web in response to Anglachel’s excellent post, Hillary is not Going to Save Us.

“We are doomed.  We should just accept Obama’s Reign of Error and unopposed primary run in 2012.  We should get used to our batshit crazy Republican overlords.  All is lost!  The hosts of Mordor have won!”

This is bull $#@%.

You are not reading Anglachel’s post correctly if that is what you think she is saying.

What she is saying, and she can correct me if I’m wrong, is that leaders get power from movements, momentum, a bloc of supporters and a set of principles.  Neither Hillary not anyone else can save you if you don’t have a movement to support her or make any attempts to save yourself.

Here’s where I differ with Anglachel: I think Hillary would jump in if she knew there was a tidal wave of people ready to throw their support behind her or some other FDR style Democrat.  Obama is very weak.  His supporters, as Anglachel says, are numerically small but very vocal.  So what?  It doesn’t matter how noisy the Stevensonians are.  The Democratic party still needs to appeal to all of the other regular working class people out there.  And those people aren’t letting themselves be corralled anymore.  Witness the reports on the AmericaSpeaks forums that Corrente is reporting.  We know what kind of game the handlers are playing.  They are trying to present the policy prescriptions as a choice between bad and slightly less bad.  Nowhere are the “acceptable to the average guy” policies allowed.  And people are letting these agents of the wealthy know that they’re not interested in that.  They want to be masters of their own fates, not sheepish pawns in someone else’s fantasy.

But more than that, had Hillary won in 2008, she would be looking at a second term in 2012.  It’s nonsense for her to state that she’s out of politics because, well, I don’t know why she would say that.  She wouldn’t be too tired to run for her re-election in 2012.  So, there’s got to be another reason why she says she’s *planning* to sit it out.  As we have seen with many politicians, Hillary included, it is usual with candidates to reject the addresses of the voters whom they secretly mean to accept, when they first apply for her favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. We should therefore by no means be discouraged by what she has just said, and shall hope to lead her to the oval office ere long.

But why should she, or any FDR style Democrat, accept the hand of a Mr. Collins when what she/he really desires is a Mr. Darcy?  We’re not in fighting form for  successful courting.  What we need to be is an attractive voting bloc, not just a ragtag, disjointed bunch of discouraged disenfranchised working class schlubs.  And when I say “working class”, masslib, I am talking about all of the people the Democrats left on the table in 2008, whether they are college educated or not.  If you make your income from a paycheck and not investments, YOU ARE WORKING CLASS. Don’t be afraid of the term.  Your strength depends on recognizing what you have in common with the people who you once thought were your intellectual inferiors.  When the top 10% of the county makes 70% of the wealth generated here, you working people of all professions and condition of dirt under the nails are in the same boat. To the top 10%, you all look like a bunch of stupid losers. It’s YOU against that top 10%.

This is why Sarah Palin is so successful.  She has tapped into the anger of the people who have smelled the asphalt.  If you want to beat her, you have to join with the road workers.  Once you have established that you exist and that you share a common cause and a common set of principles based on Fairness, Dignity and Respect, you will start looking pretty hot to the politician who will fight for the right to carry your banner.

Yes, oh best beloveds, there are such people.  The world is ever thus.  There are people who will strive to accumulate power and wealth and who will step on the heads of anyone who gets in their way.  And there are people who will gird their loins for you and step up.  There are good people in the world.  Those people are not perfect.  No human has ever been born upon the planet who did not have flaws.  But there are people who try.  They try and sometimes they fail.  But they do not give up because civilization hangs together by the slimmest of positive efforts that overcome the negative ones.  Without effort to overcome the chaos in favor of establishing a good order for the benefit of all, we as a people would cease to exist.  So, we must all be doing something right every single day to hold ourselves together.

That means showing up at public meetings and not allowing others to shout you down.  That means sticking up for the working people, even if they are public servants who seem to be benefitting from your taxes.  That means rewarding solidarity with your support.  That means giving to others when you don’t have much yourself: feeding the poor, buying a gift for a disadvantaged child at Christmas, donating money to classrooms in need.  That means helping your friends who have become unemployed through no fault of their own.  That means standing up for them when the ignorant and narrow minded call them parasites after all of their years of hard work and taxes for the public good. That means never accepting the fate that others would assign to you.  That means women sticking up for themselves and letting go of Roe that has created a false sense of equality and has been used by your enemies to rally the opposition to tear down your rights.  That means never giving anyone consent to treat you as an inferior.  That means conducting your business in public, transparently, creating your principles and values and inviting others to join you.  That means imposing discipline on yourself and others to stick to the point, not be distracted by identity politics.  That means insisting on equality for all because the country can use all the help it can get from everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, education level or any other criteria that separate us from one another.

Do not let them separate you from your friends.  Hold hands, get together, brainstorm, meet, plan, do, solve and never, never let the bastards grind you down.  Push back forcefully.  You don’t have a choice.  This is your country.  Take it back.  Insist on Fairness, Dignity, Respect.  Demand a New Deal.

If you build it, she may run.  Or someone else will take up the banner.  When she told us at the Convention to “Keep Going!”, I think this is what she meant.

Update: For those of you who asked, here is the proposal I wrote in 2008 for going forward.  It is preliminary and somewhat out of date.  But it’s a starting point for discussion.

ANewOrganizationforDemocratsinExile

 

In re Sarah Palin


Anytime I post ANYTHING having to do with Sarah Palin or one of her progeny I always seem to see two typical responses along with whatever other comments are made.

The first one is some version of “Zomg! Sarah Palin is a conservative Republican and I would never vote for her.” Sometimes the commenter leaves the impression that they thought we were unaware of this fact.

The second one is based on wishful thinking and asserts that Sarah Palin is more moderate than her rhetoric, or would govern that way. While it is true she governed Alaska in a somewhat bi-partisan fashion that is not a basis for thinking she would do the same if she reached the White House.

Some people question why I write so many posts about Sarah Palin. There have even been a few who claimed to be offended by my choice of subject matter and worried that they would become permanently tainted by association with these toxic Palin posts.

Some people need to get a grip.

Sarah Palin is a political celebrity. Everything she says and does is news. Well, not really but the media act as if it’s news. I don’t see any sign that the situation will change anytime soon.

Ignoring her might have worked two years ago but that’s not possible now. She’s got a hit show (by cable standards) and she’s a commentator for FOX News, she does talk radio and gives speeches around the country, and she’s currently on tour promoting her new book, which looks to be another best seller.

Her postings on Facebook and Twitter get more attention than White House press briefings and even her children’s Facebook posts make the evening news occasionally.

A few people have made comments to the effect that if I’m gonna write about Sarah Palin I should focus on issues and write some really boring policy analysis demonstrating that her ideas would be bad for our country.

What would be the point? OF COURSE her ideas are bad for the country.

She’s a CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN.

Blogging is not my occupation, it’s my hobby. Nobody is paying me to do tedious policy analysis. I doubt if anybody would pay me to do that crap anyway. Riverdaughter only keeps me around because I work cheap.

I write about stuff that interests me. Sarah Palin interests me.

First and foremost Sarah and the reactions she causes are entertaining as hell. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s some kind of mass insanity. The people that hate her the most are the ones that are obsessed with her. And she has a whole bunch of people that hate her, including the media, the GOP establishment and the Obamacrats.

That right there is a big plus in my book.

Sarah Palin is something this country hasn’t seen in a long time – a bona fide populist. Unfortunately she’s a right-wing populist.

Ever since the day that John McCain announced that he had selected Sarah Palin as his running mate there has been a lot of effort directed at destroying her personally and politically.

That effort has not only failed but backfired. She has grown stronger politically and manged to get rich too. The harder her enemies try to destroy her, the stronger she gets.

I’m a liberal Democrat but I don’t feel any particular obligation to say bad things about Sarah Palin. I disagree with the notion that if you can’t say something bad about her then don’t say nothing at all. I’m not going to hate her just because I disagree with her.

Her life story is an inspiring American success story. She didn’t come from a wealthy background, she didn’t go to Ivy League schools and she didn’t get where she is by sucking up to the rich and powerful. While Barack Obama was ingratiating himself with the Daley Machine Sarah Palin was taking on the “good old boy” network and making her bones as a reformer.

As far as her resume I find it hilarious that supporters of Barack Obama have the temerity to point out her lack of experience. Hey guys, she gave a great speech and wrote two books! Okay, maybe she didn’t write them herself but Obama didn’t write his either.

She is not stupid nor ignorant, nor is she “anti-intellectual.” She won the governor job by kicking ass in debates (and she pimp-slapped Biden in the VP debate too.) Unfortunately she’s a conservative Republican. She supports conservative Republican candidates and says conservative Republican things. From everything I’ve seen she really believes what she says.

But if Sarah Palin was a pro-choice liberal Democrat the media, the GOP establishment and the Obamacrats would hate her just as much or more than they do now because she would still be just as much a threat to them. If you don’t believe me just ask Hillary Clinton.

I don’t know how this tale will end, but I am certain of a couple things.

The GOP presidential nominee in 2012 will be a conservative Republican. That person will be pro-life, anti-tax and will advocate smaller government. They will be hawkish on foreign policy, xenophobic on the issue of immigration, skeptical about global warming and generally opposed to government regulation.

The GOP nominee will pay his or her respects to all the “right” people and groups, including the religious right, the neocons, the nut-job billionaires and the Tea Party. How sincere those respects are will be debatable.

Regardless of who the GOP nominates the Democrats will attempt to portray them as crazy and stupid. That strategy worked so well in the midterms they will surely use it again, probably with the same results.

Unless the economy improves dramatically in the near future the GOP nominee will probably be our 45th President. He or she will almost certainly have a friendly majority in Congress.

I will not be voting for Sarah Palin or any other Republican. If Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee (and he almost certainly will be) I will not be voting for him either.

I saw most of this coming two years ago. That’s when I was running around with my hair on fire trying to warn people. But they didn’t listen.

Here’s the hard truth: Things are going to have to get worse in this country before they get better. That’s just the way it is.

Things got worse for eight years under George W. Bush and the country was ready for a change. 2008 should have been the biggest political sea change since 1932. All the pieces were in place.

But not everybody wanted change. There is a small but very powerful group of people who like things they way they are. You can call them Corporatists, Robber Barons or Malefactors of Great Wealth.

They went to a lot of trouble and expense to make sure change didn’t happen. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars to put Barack Obama in office. They told their employees in the media to help him. They won, and the American people lost,

The window of opportunity is now past. It will be at least six more years before we get another chance. Even if Hillary were to run and win in 2012 she would be facing a GOP majority in the House and Senate. She would spend her time playing defense, not advancing new policy initiatives.

We won’t get another opportunity to make real change until 2016 or 2020.

As for me I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing since the Big Dawg left office. Hang in there, keep my sense of humor and be a voice crying in the wilderness, hoping it doesn’t get any worse than it has to.

I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I’m not gonna waste my time and energy hating the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

As far as Republicans go Sarah Palin is better than most. She’s a populist (which is good) and she’s not beholden to the establishment (which is better.) She’s not crazy, at least not compared to some of the other contenders. She’s got a fan base that is already angry and semi-organized. If the GOP establishment tries to pull what the Democrats did to Hillary her supporters will go from Tea Party to lynch mob in half a nanosecond. Some of them are almost there already.

Win or lose, her candidacy will be entertaining.

Since I can’t do nothing about it anyway I’m gonna enjoy the show.

So until somebody starts paying me to write something different I’m gonna keep writing about whatever I feel like writing about. If you have a topic you are interested in my fees are reasonable. (No checks, small, unmarked bills only)

I am, or course, speaking solely for myself. Riverdaughter and my co-bloggers are opinionated and outspoken types (it’s a job requirement) and they are stubborn and hard-headed just like me. If you want to know what they think you’ll have to ask them.