Let's do some more science. We'll start with reports or claims of alien life. CBS NEWS reports:
A Harvard University professor is making the case that we're probably not alone in the universe. Astronomer Avi Loeb's new book "Extraterrestrial" examines the 2017 flyby of a space object that he believes was truly out of this world.
"At first people thought, 'Well it must be a rock, just like the asteroids or comets that we have seen before within the solar system,'" Loeb told CBSN Boston's Paula Ebben. "But as they got more data on it, it looks very weird."
The cigar-shaped object seen by telescopes was dubbed "Oumuamua" – meaning "a messenger that reaches out from the distant past" in Hawaiian.
We covered that earlier this week in "Alien technology?" Now let's move over to Mars. Michael Wehner (BGR) reports it's wobbling:
In a new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, scientists reveal that Mars has a bit of a wobble to it. This means that its poles don’t line up perfectly all the time, shifting on a timeline of roughly 207 days. That makes Mars the second planet with a known wiggle (called a Chandler wobble). The first? Earth.
Earth’s Chandler wobble has been known about for a while now — it’s named for Seth Carlo Chandler, the man that first noticed the wobble back in 1891 — and there is still some mystery related to how and why it wobbles the way it does. Mars, on the other hand, is even more mysterious, due in large part to all the things that the Red Planet doesn’t have that Earth does.
Staying with Mars, what if the planet could be a docking station where ships fueled for further missions? Brad Bergen (INTERESTING ENGINEERING) explains:
Researchers have found a new way to convert methane into rocket fuel on Mars — adding crucial flexibility to future astronaut missions to the Red Planet, according to a recent blog post on the University of California, Irvine''s (UCI's) official website.
Meanwhile Antonia Jaramillo (USA TODAY) wonders why we would ever want to colonize Mars:
Do we want to settle on a planet where we can't even breathe?
According to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, we have the technological capability to go to Mars. The problem is money, or lack thereof.
[. . .]
But again, the problem boils down to spending what's necessary to send astronauts there, Bridenstine said.
"The question isn't whether or not we're technologically capable of doing it, because we are. The question is whether or not we have the political will to do it," he told reporters at Kennedy Space Center in July for NASA's Mars Perseverance rover launch.
The Apollo program, Bridenstine pointed out, was driven by the need to beat the Soviet Union to the moon, which is why Congress appropriated vast sums of money to NASA. Today, that's no longer the case.
With no Cold War to encourage federal spending on the program, NASA instead is looking to international partners to help pay for any trip to Mars.
How do you explore Mars? With rovers, to be sure. But there's a new way as well. Mindy Weisberger (SPACE) reports:
Scientists are equipping four-legged, animal-mimicking robots with artificial intelligence (AI) and an array of sensing equipment to help the bots autonomously navigate treacherous terrain and subsurface caves on the Red Planet.
In a presentation on Dec. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), held online this year, researchers with NASA/JPL-Caltech introduced their "Mars Dogs," which can maneuver in ways the iconic wheeled rovers such as Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and the recently launched Perseverance never could. The new robots' agility and resilience are coupled with sensors that allow them to avoid obstacles, choose between multiple paths and build virtual maps of buried tunnels and caverns for operators at home base, scientists said at AGU.
On rovers, BBC via YAHOO notes, "The US space agency (Nasa) is about to put its latest rover, Perseverance, on Mars. But we shouldn't forget that the existing robot, Curiosity, is still there and working well following its landing in equatorial Gale Crater back in 2012. Curiosity celebrates 3,000 Martian days, or Sols, on the surface of the Red Planet on Tuesday." And this is from NASA:
Sols 2996-2998: Retracing Our Steps
As we were finishing up our measurements at the “Sands of Forvie,” we decided to give the sand one last good kick – er, scuff – on our way out. We received images of the new scuff this morning, and it gives us an even closer look into the ripple’s interior, which will help us understand its structure. After the scuff, we planned to retrace our steps and get in position to study some rocks we’d seen from our previous sol 2977 parking location. This morning, we were happy to see the small rocks we had been targeting were indeed in our workspace. I think it’s really amazing that the rover drivers were able to place Curiosity in front of these centimeter sized objects completely autonomously AFTER scuffing the sand and then driving more than 20 m over Martian sand and rocks.
Today we planned MAHLI and APXS observations on two rocks in our workspace, and we named the spots we observed “Nugarth” and “Kleber.” We’re also going to study the rock with the Kleber target in two additional places using ChemCam, and we named these new spots “St. Andrew’s Square,” and “St. Vigeans.” We’ll finish up our characterization with some multispectral observations that will tell us about the color properties of the rocks, and in addition to more targeted Mastcam mosaics to observe other features in the area in color at high resolution. Finally, we’ll take some long distance RMI mosaics looking higher up Mt. Sharp and perform a variety of environmental science observations, including studying the composition of the atmosphere using SAM. After completing our observation, we’ll pack up and hit the road once more, driving more than 60 meters back to our strategic route and onwards to the sulfate unit!
So that's a science post for the weekend.
"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, January 8, 2021. Where is the perspective?
[Impeachment discussion has been added to the bottom of this snapshot.]
Thomas Newdick (THE DRIVE) reports:
A total of 23 Iraqi Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16IQ Viper fighter jets took part in an impressive flyby to mark the centenary of the country’s army yesterday. This is despite recent reports that Baghdad’s fleet of F-16s, the pride of the country’s air force and arguably its most capable combat assets, is suffering from serious readiness problems.
The flyby was part of a major military parade to commemorate 100 years of the Iraqi Army that was staged in Baghdad in the presence of the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi. As well as fighters and helicopters, troops, and various military vehicles were presented to the country’s officials and the general public. A full video of the event is posted later in this article.
The first round of F16s were sent to Iraq by the US back in July of 2015. Over five years ago. In 2006, US service members were complaining to the press (AP and others) that the Iraqis they were training did not seem motivated to learn. Prior to the 2011 drawdown, control over the US goals in Iraq were transferred from the Defense Dept to the State Dept. And that's when Iraq made it clear that they did not want US training -- after US tax payers footed the bill for construction of a building for US troops to train the Iraqi police (that building would later be turned over to the Iraqi government -- after it was never used for its purpose). Let's drop back to the February 8, 2012 snapshot:
Security and strategic concerns were raised on Tuesday after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi said most US troops would leave the country in the coming days.
“Iraq has turned into an arena for liquidations and the challenges of global and regional wars on its soil,” the prime minister said during a speech on the occasion of the nation’s Army Day.
More than half of American forces will leave Iraq, the fruit of continuous strategic dialogue with the United States, while only hundreds of them will remain, to continue cooperation in the fields of training, rehabilitation and technical support, Kazemi said.
told Rudaw in December that the US would be drawing down its Coalition troops to 2,500 by January 15. The decision to scale-down was first announced by Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller in mid-November."Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) spokesman Wayne Marotto
For over a year, Iraqis have been protesting the corruption in Iraq. Samara Abramson and Sofia Nitti (India's BUSINESS INSIDER) note:
For the past year, young Iraqis have been protesting in the streets.
They are demanding civil rights, a solution to record-high unemployment, and an end to government corruption. The protesters are mostly under the age of 30, and for many of them, the future looks bleak.
"People will not fear," said Ali Riyadh, a 27-year-old protester. "They don't have the [sense of fear]. They can't be scared from anything anymore."
[. . .]
The average Iraqi is only 20 years old - very young, compared with 38 in the United States and 31 in neighboring Turkey. But they don't have much to look forward to in a country where the poverty rate could double this year and reach 40%. About a fourth of Iraqis between the ages of 15 and 24 don't have jobs.
The protests led to the resignation of a prime minister and Mustafa becoming prime minister May 7th of last year with the promise of early elections. The date for those elections has been given as June 6th. Ramadan Al Sherbini (GULF NEWS) reports:
Iraq will open registration starting from Saturday for standing in early parliamentary polls slated for June amid doubts that the vote will take place as scheduled.
Last July, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhim set the polls for June 6 2021, meeting a key demand for street protesters, who forced his predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign.
An independent electoral commission said Friday that it will open registration for political parties and alliances wishing to run in the upcoming elections. The registration will continue for a week ending on January 16.
This registration (for candidates) will start despite the fact that Parliament has still not passed the needed election law for elections to be held June 6th. Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) notes:
The electoral commission said in August it would be ready to hold early
elections in June provided the government and parliament meet certain
demands, including passing a new electoral law and allocating a budget
for the vote.
Iraqi President Barham Salih in November officially signed electoral reforms into law, dividing provinces into smaller voting constituencies for the 2021 election.
The Independent High Electoral Commission announced on Wednesday that election registration for the political parties and alliances for the early elections will take place until January 16. The deadline for parties to submit lists of candidates is January 28.
Now to the US and high drama. Lee Michael Katz (ARIZONA CENTRAL) trembles with heaving bosom:
I've seen state-sponsored rallies in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, reported from inside the Kremlin in Moscow and been followed by secret police in leather jackets in the Assad family's Syria. But I always smugly thought I lived in a functioning American democracy until Wednesday's scene of Donald Trump-inspired violent chaos at the United States Capitol.
Trump and his minions have been screaming for years about the failure to prevent the horrors of the Benghazi mob attacks on American officials in faraway Libya. Now, these same so-called “patriots” seemed bent on recreating a lawless atmosphere, endangering lawmakers and disrupting the peaceful transition of power.
Riled up by Trump, they despoiled a sacred day of peaceful transition, turning a democratic formality into a seething mob cauldron.
Richard Sisk (MILITARY.COM) notes:
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who lost both legs in Iraq, said on Twitter, "I have spent my entire adult life defending our Constitution and people's rights to peacefully demonstrate. I never thought I'd need to defend democracy from an attempted, violent overthrow in our own nation's Capitol."
And you didn't, Tammy, quit pretending otherwise. You didn't defend either the country or the Constitution or democracy on Wednesday from a violent overthrow. You're so ridiculous.
Drama Queens and Nervous Nellies, that's what we've got. Let's cue up the music for them.
It's the end of the world -- our drama queens insist and squeal.
It's not. Democracy lives on and it has continued uninterrupted. Instead of having a little pride in that fact, cry babies and fanatics like Tammy weep in public and gnash their teeth. Oh, the drama of it all.
Let's offer some perspective.
First on the US Congress.
AFP notes this photo from their Olivier Douliery:
Does that photo make you clutch your pearls? Or your ben wa beads?
Doesn't make me feel anything except a resigned "Good."
Because I'm a cruel and evil person? Maybe.
But Congress is filled with adults. What we see above? Is it shocking to you? Well drop your surprise and grasp that students across America live with that reality on a daily basis. And not just in drills. Since the start of 2000, there have been at least 400 school shootings in the United States.
Congress has sat on its collective ass. This despite their need to politicize every school shooting. We've never done that. Not just me here but community wide. We do not politicize those shootings and usually step away when the politicizing starts. Congress is full of words and blame but they never do anything constructive, do they?
So maybe this week, maybe they finally learned what it was like for America's children? Long overdue.
A war making body, it might be added, saw violence. Were you scared? Seth Moulton, Tammy Duckworth, et all, were you scared? Imagine all the people killed in wars across the country? Wars you have the power to stop but have not stopped.
Maybe, if you have a higher power, you should drop to your knees and pray for clarity and understanding.
At least pray to not look like such a preening coward in public.
Democracy survived this week. Stop being drama queens. I also find it interesting how quickly the firings followed. No need for an investigation or anything, just action, action, action! That doesn't happen when the police shoot an innocent, does it? No. It's a long drawn out investigation which is often a white-wash.
I'm sorry for anyone injured or killed. But democracy survived, the country survived. How about taking a moment to grasp that, to promote strength instead of wallowing in weakness? Pride instead of victimhood?
One of the dead? Teri Figueroa (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE) reports:
Ashli Babbitt held passionate political views, sometimes taking to social media and excoriating politicians, posting selfies in a red MAGA hat, retweeting QAnon backers.
Registered to vote as a libertarian, the 35-year-old was a staunch Trump backer — so much so that this week she made the 3,000-mile trip to Washington to join like-minded supporters for what she hoped would be a political triumph giving the president a second term in power.
On Tuesday — the day of her flight to the nation’s capital — she tweeted: “Nothing will stop us....they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours....dark to light!”
Why did people participate? First, the bulk participated peacefully. Second, when you feel shut out of the process, you're going to rise up. And the media needs to look at it's own actions. It has lied and lied for years now. It's not fair.
Let's drop back to pre-Trump for a supposed fact check that NPR did (Alice Fordham was the one doing the 'check'):
Was Obama responsible for the timing of the withdrawal?
It was President George W. Bush who signed the Status of Forces agreement in 2008, which planned for all American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
"The agreement lays out a framework for the withdrawal of American forces in Iraq — a withdrawal that is possible because of the success of the surge," he said in a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki at the time.
Moments later, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at the president. It is important to remember most Iraqis saw the Americans as occupiers and blame them for civilian deaths.
Maliki summed up the sentiment at the time, thus:
"The incomplete sovereignty and the presence of foreign troops are the most dangerous, most complicated and most burdensome legacy we have faced since the time of dictatorship. Iraq should get rid of them to protect its young democratic experiment."
Thousands of American troops had died, and by the time Obama announced the withdrawal, fully three-quarters of Americans supported the withdrawal (though a majority of Republicans did not).
Still, many had real concerns al Qaeda wasn't done for. And there were some, including U.S. senators, saying the troops should stay just in case things went downhill. They say Obama should have sold the idea, hard, to Maliki.
Iraq analyst Kirk Sowell said Obama never really tried.
"This is one of the criticisms of Obama — that he sort of wanted the negotiations to fail," Sowell said, "and, so, he didn't even talk to Maliki until it was basically all over."
The State Department's lawyers said troops couldn't stay in Iraq unless the Iraqi parliament authorized them to do so, including granting them immunity from Iraqi law. The Iraqi parliamentarians would never OK such a decision, with Iraqi popular opinion staunchly against U.S. troops staying.
Sowell saw State's decision as a deliberately insurmountable obstacle.
"It was a barrier that was very high," he said, "and there was no way it was going to be jumped over."
But, does Obama bear responsibility for the timing of the troop withdrawal? On balance, no.
He was following through on an agreement made by Bush and abiding by the will of the Iraqi and American people.
Barack was responsible. First off, the SOFA did not mean US troops left Iraq. The SOFA is an agreement that replaces the UN mandate. Each year, after the invasion, foreign troops were covered by the UN mandate. This was a yearly mandate. At the end 2006, Nouri extended it. There was massive outrage. He promised to refer to the Parliament. In 2007, he again extended it to even greater outrage (he didn't refer it to the Parliament). The SOFA replaces the UN mandate. It was a three year agreement because it was too difficult to get a yearly for Nouri and he and the US government felt it would effect his chances of re-election. The SOFA was a contract.
More to the point, Barack tried to extend it. Leon Panetta testified to Congress that they were still working on this as late as November 2011 and that he thought a deal might be reached in the next year (2012). The sticky point was the number of US troops.
So when the press plays like they did above and they lie, they make people doubt that they can be honest. And when they go all in on destroying Donald Trump -- which they did -- Trump supporters are going to be even less inclined to believe them. These Trump supporters felt their voice was robbed.
ADDED: The public e-mail account apparently has a huge number of e-mails insisting I was avoiding "the big issue" -- impeachment.
Wasn't avoiding it, hadn't thought about it. I live in the real world. On Mondays and Fridays, I try to check in with community members who have COVID or who have gotten over it (check-in by phone). That's a little more important to me than impeachment.
On impeachment, if the Congress wants to try it, then they should. That's democracy. It would certainly be on stronger ground than the ridiculous lies about Russia that so many fools embraced.
Should he be impeached?
Legally? I've yet to hear a coherent argument on legal grounds. You have to selectively quote Donald Trump to even make a case on inciting violence. Did he yell "fire" in a crowded theater?
(A) No, he didn't and saying he did would set a dangerous precedent for future presidents.
(B) There was no case about "fire" being yelled -- the case that contains that opinion is actually about US citizens advocating for people to refuse to be drafted.
There may be a legal argument to be made. The best one would be built around proving that Donald was a clear and present danger to the US. With that, you could bring in his statements and you could also bring in issues of peaceful transfer of power and argue that he hasn't not done that and, therefore, he is a clear and present danger who must be removed immediately before he does something worse.
I'd be interested in seeing that argument constructed and you might be able to make a strong case on it. But the arguments presented thus far do not appear strong -- or strong enough. That said, the House would probably vote to impeach regardless.
But that brings us to the Senate.
And they try impeachment to see if the person should be censured, removed from office, etc.
The argument here could be (a) he is a clear and present danger so we must take up the American people's time with this. That's your only pro-impeachment argument. Unless someone comes up with something else, that's really it. And that approach would justify a real trial -- because we would need to determine whether or not Donald was now a clear and present danger to the country.
If your issue is just what took place on one day in DC, some will respond that the day is already over, what's the point? He is gone in 12 days, what's the point?
To justify using time on impeachment at this point -- the House to quickly vote, the Senate to have a trial -- which would include Donald being able to call all the witnesses he wanted and his attorney arguing on behalf of Donald -- which would probably be a long trial -- you'd need a charge like Donald remaining in office for less than two weeks is a clear and present danger to the United States.
Again, I haven't thought much about it. I live in the real world and that's the world where most of us live -- far beyond the faux 'resistance.' A lot of people are struggling -- with COVID, with financial issues due to the pandemic, you name it (and I think we may need to recognize PTS-like conditions in our healthcare workers and other front line workers. My point?
A lot of people -- even those not fond of Donald Trump -- are going to be asking: "12 days? 12 days left and this is what they're doing? They couldn't provide this or that during the pandemic, they can't provide us with universal healthcare but they're going to waste time impeaching Donald Trump?" I think there will be a backlash if they do it -- one with a political cost for the next round of elections.
That doesn't mean that they shouldn't do it, it doesn't mean that they should.
But people need to be aware of that possibility.
Another possibility? Nancy Pelosi has no real intention of impeaching Donald but is talking about it because she's hoping he'll get scared and resign in order to avoid impeachment a la Tricky Dick Nixon.
The following sites updated: