Thursday, October 05, 2023

Remedies are not the problem

I'm really getting tired of nonsense regarding race and/or gender.   There has been historic and systematic discrimination of  all women and men of color.  Pointing that reality out is not the problem -- the sexism and racism is the problem.  Addressing this discrimination is a needed fix to a system that has oppressed and discriminated for years.  This week, Laphonza Butler became my state's new US senator.  I'm happy about it.  Gavin Newsom, the governor, appointed her to fill Dianne Feinstein's seat.  Some people are still having a fit.  Like THE LOS ANGELES TIMES writer Mark Z. Barabak:

But my problem with Newsom goes beyond his serial appointments.

I think he royally mucked up this whole process, starting with his ill-considered promise back in March 2021 to appoint a Black woman to replace Feinstein.

Fine intention, badly executed.

Here's why: Whenever someone promises to appoint a Black woman, or a Latino or pudgy white guy with a bad comb-over to some political position, a not-insignificant number of people will assume the only reason that person was chosen was because they were a Black woman, or a Latino or a white guy with a bad comb-over.

Newsom could have just appointed Butler, or another Black woman, and extol his selection based on her merits.

But if he hadn't made that promise he wouldn't gotten have the credit he wanted or tamp down the anger of Black voters — unhappy with the selection of Padilla — whose support he needed as he faced a threatened recall.

Oh, grow up.  I don't care how you think it looks because you're not the only person in the US.  How do you think it looked for my parents growing up and never seeing someone like them, Black, in the White House?  Or as Attorney General?  Or . . .

Gavin had to say what he said because the White male is the norm.  And, in fact, Gavin appointed a White person to fill Kamala Harris' seat.  Latino, yes, but White.  

That has been the norm.  Over and over.  We need to work harder at bringing varied voices to the table.  That does mean Butler.  And, grasp this, she is currently the only Black woman in the Senate.  So Barabak needs to sit down and calm down.

Gavin set a goal, shared it publicly and met it.  I don't see how that's controversial or upsetting. 

But if you're looking for upsetting, look at what Ron DeSantis and Florida are doing.  Romy Ellenbogen (MIAMI HERALD) reports:

group of transgender plaintiffs says Florida is violating a federal judge’s order by continuing to prohibit Medicaid coverage of treatments for gender dysphoria.
In a motion filed Wednesday in the Northern District of Florida, the plaintiffs say the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration is in “complete defiance” of U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s June ruling, which said the state’s Medicaid ban was “invalid” to the extent that it categorically banned Medicaid payment for treatments of gender dysphoria. They are asking Hinkle to enforce or clarify his ruling.

They point to instances where transgender Medicaid recipients were denied coverage for hormone therapy after the June ruling and comments from the agency’s secretary warning of possible further action against Medicaid providers for violations of the state’s rule.

The state has appealed Hinkle’s ruling. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has not paused the lower court’s judgment, so it remains in effect as the appeal continues.

“Defendants have thus acted as if this Court’s decision is a legal nullity that they can simply ignore on their whim,” the motion says. “That is not how our legal system works, however.”

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Thursday, October 5, 2023.  Barbara Lee may be popular in the offices of JACOBIN but she's not in the state of California (check the numbers), THE VANGUARD finds time to give voice to the neglected White male (that was sarcasm), destroying ROE was just the beginning for the crazies on the right who hate everyone but hate democracy most of all, and much more.

As Stevie Nicks sings in "Wild Heart," "You say don't even know/How to start, how to start."  

Let's start with the new fact-free group.  It's on the left or at least the faux left.  They're called Whiners For Elderly Barbara Lee.  If you missed it, for the JACOBIN fakes, the worst thing in the world was that California Governor Gavin Newsom didn't pick Barbara Lee to fill Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat.  Why would he?  She's useless and California doesn't want her.

Oh, I'm sorry, did liar John Nichols not tell you that in his wordy column yesterday? Time for all those baseless whines but no room for facts?  Marcia called Nichols out in "John Nichols, shut up already."  The only thing I'll add to that is that Barbara Lee is not popular within the state of California.

Is that confusing to anyone?  

Gavin (who I've known for years and consider a friend) did not back Barbara Lee for the Senate spot.  In other words, pay attention here, Gavin didn't back the candidate that most of the left in California refuses to back.  As the start of last month, Sarah Fortenski (THE HILL) noted:

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) lead a new poll measuring voter preferences ahead of the 2024 U.S. Senate race in California, but a plurality of likely primary voters in the state are still undecided. 

In a Berkeley IGS poll released Thursday, Schiff led with 20 percent support among likely voters, Porter followed with 17 percent support, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) had 7 percent support and Democratic tech executive Lexie Reese had 1 percent support. Among Republican candidates, James Bradley received 10 percent support and Eric Early received 7 percent support. 

Do you get that?  It's too damn hard for John Nichols to understand -- or he pretends it is.  Three Democrats are declared -- three are seeking the seat that Dianne Feinstein occupied (no "puddles" jokes, please).  Of the three, Barbara Lee trails badly behind the other two.  Not only do Schiff and Porter have double the support that Barbara does, Adam has almost three times as much support.  She single digit.  No one wants her.  She can't win a statewide race because she is so disliked.

B-B-But, she's our great left hope!

Yes, you deluded idiots who read John Nichols can believe that.  

But those of us in California are fully aware that she is a do-nothing who accomplishes zilch.  Nationally, the 'independent' media has created this fantasy about her and possibly if you don't live in California it's easier to be foolwed about reality.  But, again, when she wants to talk her 'big' 'success' she has to go back to a vote from 22 years ago.  You've all bought her mythology -- which includes a lot of lies including about her birth. 

She's not impressive.  She's a fake ass.  She has no leadership skills and never has.  

Most important, she's elderly.

The US government needs another elderly person serving in it?


As Marcia made clear:

Equally true, she's too damn old.  Let me repeat for the old girl, "YOU'RE TOO DAMN OLD!"  She's 77 right now.  She'd be running in 2024 when she's 78.  Her first year on the job, 2025, she's be 79.  It's a six year term meaning she'd be 85 if she lived that long.  She's too damn old.  And her crusty face is cracking, get that loser out of here.

Barbara, you're a loser.  John Nichols can lie all he wants (like he usually does) but nobody wants you.  

She's a loser.  The Democrats in the state don't want her.  (Redistricting ensures she can remain in the House until she dies. She just can't get elected outside that House district.)  And she's too damn old.  In fact, she needs to apologize to the country for even wasting her time pursuing the seat.  78 when she would be sworn in?  Oh, hell no.  Dianne refused to step down and she was too old.  We don't need a 78 year old filling Dianne's seat.  (The puddles will never dry!!! Okay, one puddles joke.) 

And back to liar and hack John Nichols.  Am I weighing in on who should run for the Senate from Wisconsin?  No, I'm not.  Why are you butting into the politics of my state?  If you idiots and liars hadn't done so back in 2018, Dianne might not have run in which case she wouldn't have died in office and might not have lived such a pathetic and embarrassing life.  She could have used the last five years to try to give her life some real meaning.

Next up, the post of Speaker of the House.

Tuesday, the Speaker of the House was expelled from that position.  Anthony Zurcher and Sam Cabral (BBC NEWS) remind:

Kevin McCarthy has been toppled in a right-wing revolt - the first time ever that a US House of Representatives Speaker has lost a no-confidence vote. 

The final tally was 216-210 to remove the congressman as leader of the Republican majority in the lower chamber of Congress.

Hardliners in his party voted against him after he struck a deal with Senate Democrats to fund government agencies. 

There is no clear successor to oversee the House Republican majority.

On Tuesday, all Democrats and eight Republicans voted to remove Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker in a historic 216-210 vote. This is the first time something like this has ever happened, leaving the House in disarray and confusion.

Though an interim speaker was named, the fact that Republicans joined in with their opposition to take down McCarthy reiterates a strong underlying message:

The right remains downright messy as hell.

No clear successor yet some deluded fools thought they (finally) had an answer.  And did someone say "messy"?   Marjorie Taylor Greene, step on down, and bring those flabby upper arms with you.  Yesterday, Rachel Sharp (INDEPENDENT) noted:

growing number of far-right Republican lawmakers including Marjorie Taylor Greene are calling for Donald Trump to become the next House speaker – following Kevin McCarthy’s ousting after less than nine months in the role.
The Georgia congresswoman and MAGA Republican took to X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday night to claim that the former president is the “only candidate” she will back to take the gavel.

While Trump would be eligible to become speaker since House rules do not require the position to be filled by a member, he has previously indicated that he is not interested in the role.

If the former president were to accept his nomination and managed to become the next speaker, it would represent an extraordinary turn of events as he campaigns to regain the presidency in 2024.

But critics poured cold water on the idea. Sherrilyn Ifill, the former president of the NAACP legal defense fund, warned that electing Trump speaker would "accelerate the 14th amendment Sec 3 showdown" because "Trump returning to the House - the literal scene of the insurrection - to try & serve as Speaker might be an even more grotesque Section 3 violation than trying to be President." Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., pointed to a GOP conference rule requiring leaders to step down if they are indicted for certain felonies.

But even if Trump had full Republican support in the House, Rule 26 of the GOP Conference states, "A member of the Republican Leadership shall step aside if indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed." The conference's rules are voted on by all members in the November before each congressional session.

Trump has been indicted four times in the past six months. He is facing charges in two federal cases—one related to the classified documents held at his Mar-a-Lago estate and the other in connection to his election interference efforts, culminating in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

He has also been indicted in Manhattan in connection with a hush money payment to an adult film star and in Georgia in a case involving efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results there. In total, he's been charged with 91 felony counts, many of which carry sentences greater than two years of imprisonment.


A fan of THE VANGUARD e-mailed that this is the must stream video and "so important."

I don't see anything important about it.  Nice tat they finally realized Bri-Bri is a bit of a con artist and that she's not as smart as they've made her out to be.  If that's what you're talking about, they seem to tip-toe around it.  And if that's what the person who wrongly -- wrongly! -- gave them ten dollars was talking about, he was right.  

The ten dollars?  That's reason enough to sour me.  You're on air begging for money, someone gives you ten dollars and you give a lecture about how they're wrong and about how they should try watching the show more.

You begged for money.  Someone was nice enough to give you ten dollars and all you can do is insult him?  That's pretty much gqrbge behavior and I can't imagine most parents raise their children to take money from others and then to insult the people who hand over money.  

And then David Griscom.

Never heard of him before and why the hell should I care now?

That's their guest.  Friday, they'll have Ryan Grim.  Monday, people will pretend like they don't always bring on White males as their guests.

I don't know how they think they come off.  They love to toss the name of some dead African-American activist out there in conversations.  They just don't seem to like to bring guests of color who might speak for themselves.  

I don't know who David is, never saw him before the segment.  After watching?  He's a White man with a bad speaking voice.  He's not particularly attractive so I kept waiting for him to share some deep insight.  It never came.  At the end of the segment, the only reason to bring him on appeared to be he was another White man in their White Man Circle Jerk.  

Do Zac and Gavin not realize that the two of them are already presenting the White male perspective and that a third man doing so only makes it more superfluous (and vapid)?

Apparently the way White YOUTUBE likes people of color is dead so that they can tell you what they would have said (even when the YOUTUBER gets it wrong) and what they would have done (ibid) if they were alive.  In other words, the only people of color that White YOUTUBE likes are the people of color who can't comment back.  How very Norman Finkelstein of them.

And on that, we get to work our way back to note (again) one of the best segments on YOUTUBE this week.

Also check out the discussion about the above in the episode below of THE REMIX MORNING SHOW (approximately 40 minutes in).  It's a perspective of Norman you don't get when White YOUTUBE fawns over him (see especially the nonsense of Chris Hedges and Katie Halper).

Now let's continue coverage of Banned Book Week.  Michael Hiltzik (LOS ANGELES TIMES) reports:

Over the last year, according to Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, what has been most striking is the pivot of censorship advocates from books in school libraries to books in public libraries.

"Last year, about 16% of demands to remove books involved public libraries," Caldwell-Stone says. "This year, to date, it's 49%."

That's a sea change, she told me, because "public libraries are the places that we've created for freewheeling inquiry, for the marketplace of ideas. Demands to remove books because they don't comport with someone's beliefs or their political or religious agenda are attacks on the very thought of a library as a place that protects 1st amendment rights to access a wide variety of views."

These amount to demands that "the government tell us what to read, what to think, what to believe," she says.

That's how it always starts, with Moms For Bigotry pretending their efforts are about children.  They never are.  We'll come back to that.  In the meantime, Joe Chaisson, Abigail Murillo Villacorta and Andrew Evans  (WGGB) report:

Town by town is taking you to Agawam, Springfield and Chicopee.

It’s day two of banned book week at the Agawam Public Library with displays of challenged and banned books over the past 50-plus years.

“Let Freedom Read” is the official 2023 campaign from the American library association and the Agawam Library is encouraging visitors to learn about banned books and what it means to have the freedom to read.

Let Freedom Read events are taking place around the country. Moms For Bigotr?  They don't believe in freedom so they won't be celebrating Let Freedom Read.  They will be scolding and nagging and doing whatever else the sexually frustrated do in order to give their pathetic lives meaning.  When Ronald DeSantis started his "Don't Say Gay" policy in Florida, he stood beside Kyle Lukoff's book CALL ME MAX.  The book offended Ronald because Max identifies as a boy.

This was upsetting to Ronald DeSantis because he's never been able to identify as male at any point in his life -- to this day.  So he attacks others and wants them to be just as miserable as he is.

 Scottie Andrew (CNN) speaks with author Kyle Lukoff:

Kyle Lukoff, the author of “Call Me Max” and the Newbery Honor book “Too Bright to See,” among others, said the national publicity did little to nothing to improve sales of “Max.” Instead, it introduced his work to people who want to remove it from bookshelves in their local schools and libraries.

“I’ve had this said to me many times — ‘I wish my book would get banned because that’s the best way to get it on the best-seller list,’” Lukoff said in a phone interview. “That certainly never happened for me.”

Lukoff hasn’t yet earned royalties from “Call Me Max” or the other two books in its series, he said. His advances were $2,500 per book, and he won’t earn those royalties until all of them earn the money back.

Lukoff’s experience — and the experiences of hundreds of authors whose books have been banned in the last school year — contradicts a common refrain among some authors and anti-censorship proponents that banning a book results in a sales surge.

“When books get banned, even when authors do see a spike in sales, it is much more devastating for careers in the long run,” Lukoff said. “If your book is kept out of libraries and schools in entire states — that does translate to a long-term consistent drop in sales.”

Phil Bildner, a children’s book author and advocate for fellow writers, said that “having a book banned is not a badge of honor.”

“I still don’t think most people grasp just how financially devastating this book banning era is to queer authors and authors from marginalized communities,” said Bildner, who runs the Author Village, a group that represents authors and illustrators for school visits. “And I know most people don’t grasp the emotional toll it’s having on the authors in the crosshairs.”

Up until recently, a list of banned books was a blend of the usual suspects — “The Catcher in the Rye,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Bluest Eye” — and newer favorites like “The Hate U Give” and “Thirteen Reasons Why.”

But book bans have surged in the last year. PEN America, an organization that supports and protects First Amendment rights for writers, journalists and other communicators, reported that more than 3,300 books were banned in the 2022-2023 school year, a 33% increase from the previous school year. These bans “overwhelmingly” target books about race and racism, as well as books with LGBTQ characters, PEN America said in its September study on school book bans.

There are concentrated efforts from groups like Moms for Liberty and LaVerna in the Library, an offshoot of Utah Parents United, to ban dozens of books at once. These groups compile comprehensive lists of books that contain what these groups point to as objectionable material. Websites like Rated Books and BookLooks grade books based on their content and highlight potentially objectionable paragraphs on their sites, posting entire pages out of context.

Vocal individuals have also had immense power in banning books: The Washington Post reported in May that 60% of book challenges in the 2021-2022 school year came from just 11 people.  

Wadzanai Mhute (OPRAH DAILY) speaks with author Isabel Wilkerson about being banned:

It’s been three years since Casteby Isabel Wilkerson, was published, and in the intervening years, political, cultural, and racial divisions have intensified. According to a report by PEN America, from 2021 to 2022, more than 1,600 books were banned in school districts across the nation. The impact on children, the educational system, and culture will reverberate for years to come.

Oprah Daily spoke to Isabel Wilkerson about book bans, including that of Caste, which has been removed from some libraries. A film version of Caste, titled Origin and directed by Ava DuVernay, premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month.

How did you find out that your book was banned?

My name came up in social media when The Washington Post ran a piece last spring about a library system in Texas that shut down all its libraries, and when the libraries reopened, Caste had “mysteriously vanished.”

How did it make you feel? What did you do? Is there anything you can do?

I was saddened but not surprised. These bans only affirm the forewarnings in the book. We’re in a period of backlash and retrenchment, which the book attests to and foreshadows. The only thing I can do is to keep pressing forward in my work, knowing that we can’t run from history and that the truth will win out in the end.

Putting aside your own work, what do you think of the situation overall?

In writing Caste, I had to do a tremendous amount of research into India and Germany during the Nazi era. The Nazis studied the United States’ Jim Crow laws in creating the Nuremberg laws. We are coming perilously close to the spirit of what they were doing in another century with the banning of books. It’s revisiting a past that we should never want to experience again.

This is coming at the worst possible time for us as a nation. We have an existential crisis in our demographics, politics, policing, and women’s reproductive rights. We’re a country on parallel tracks, and from responses to my books (The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste), I can see that some people are hungry and thirsty to understand the history of how we got here and what we can do. Then you have another segment that’s closing the door as quickly as others are pushing it open. It becomes yet another symbol of how deeply divided we remain and how these enduring divisions have managed to intrude upon us in this century. As we’re looking back at previous centuries to understand this one, we are, at the same time, replicating much of what we thought was in the past.

I was in shock when I read the 2023 list of banned books. I have to be honest in  saying I have not been paying close attention with the news and conversation around band books. I guess, since I am an older person it didn’t really apply to me. But then I thought about  my  young nieces and nephews along with other children who might have challenges reading some of the classics  and best sellers I’ve enjoyed reading.

[. . .]

One of my favorite readers,  LeVar Burton  is the Honorary Chair of Banned Books Week. I listen faithfully to his podcast   where he reads a short story. Some years ago, I had the privilege of hearing him live doing a wonderful reading from a local author. He is a reading advocate, writer, and television and film star

Now, for the main event-the list of banned books. Some of the books I have read and enjoyed. As I said before, I was in shock  and even  saddened because I don’t think these books should be banned. I will list mine here but to get the whole list visit the American Library Association’s website.

For my blind and low vision  readers the Perkins School for the Blind listed them too along with their availability in braille, large print and audio.

My Books on the List

1. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Challenged for depiction of sexual abuse, EDI content, claimed to be sexually explicit

2. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Banned due to themes of death and the fact that the main characters are talking animals.

3. Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

Banned mostly in regard to passages that were considered “sexually offensive,” as well as for the tragic nature of the book, which some felt might be “depressing” for young readers. The passages in question regarded Anne describing her anatomy, sexual feelings, and homosexual descriptions of her friend. 

[. . .]

After you read the list, make a plan. Find a way to get involved. You can sound the alarm. You can read these books to know why they are banned in the first place. You can participate in events like Library Card Sign Up Month. You can start a banned book club. For more suggestions check out the ALA website or talk to your local librarian for help.

The list continues beyond the books above, use the link to read in full. 

That's how it starts, we said we'd come back to it.  THE NEW YORKER published David D. Kirkpatrick's "The Next Targets for the Group That Overturned Roe" earlier this week.  I keep trying to work it into a snapshot but so far no luck.  ROE was destroyed and it was from years of planning.  The same groups have plans for further destruction.  

They've invented jargon that you need to listen for so you will know if it's friend or foe.  They know that they can't continue beating up on lesbians and gays so they're trying to hide it as 'concern for children' and pretending that they're going after pornography.  It's smoke and mirrors.  

You should pair Kirkpatrick's article with Bethany Carlson's for WHOWHATWHY where she documents a specific case of how they twist language to try to destroy a library -- a historic one at that -- how it's about their hatred of LGBTQ+ people and of reproductive rights and how they'll cheat and lie and whore to destroy our liberties.

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

The Moon . . . and the metal asteroid

Another science post.  Michelle Starr (SPACE) reports:

Well, the verdict is in. The Moon is not made of green cheese after all.

A thorough investigation published back in May has found that the inner core of the Moon is, in fact, a solid ball with a density similar to that of iron. This, researchers hope, will help settle a long debate about whether the Moon's inner heart is solid or molten, and lead to a more accurate understanding of the Moon's history – and, by extension, that of the Solar System.

That's the same Moon that some are expecting us to live on in 2040.

So that's 17 years from now planning.  Right now?  NASA notes:

On NASA’s upcoming Artemis II mission, four astronauts will fly inside the Orion spacecraft and venture around the Moon, becoming the first to lay their eyes on our celestial neighbor at a relatively close distance in more than 50 years.

Orion will be home for NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch, and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jeremy Hansen during their 600,000-mile, nearly 10-day journey. They will live and work in Orion’s crew module while its service module provides the essential commodities astronauts need to stay alive, including potable water and nitrogen and oxygen to breathe.

As the first time astronauts will fly aboard Orion, Artemis II will include several objectives to check out many of the spacecraft’s life support systems operating in space for the first time. The crew will provide valuable feedback for future Artemis missions to the Moon.

Artemis II crew members inspect their Orion crew module inside the high bay of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on Aug. 7, 2023.

Spacecraft Life

Orion’s cabin has a habitable volume of 330 cubic feet, giving the crew about as much living space as two minivans. After their ride to space atop NASA’s SLS (Space Launch System) rocket, the crew will stow Koch and Hansen’s seats until the day of return, giving them more room to move around during the flight. The backs of Wiseman and Glover’s seats, as commander and pilot respectively, will remain out but their foot pans will be stowed. Orion has nearly 60 percent more space than the Apollo command module’s 210 cubic feet.

A view of the interior of the Orion spacecraft medium-fidelity mockup used for astronaut training and systems familiarization at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

What’s on the Menu?

Food scientists in the Space Food Systems Laboratory at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are working with the crew to pre-select their meals long before departing Earth. While they won’t have the day-to-day options that a space station crew has during their expeditions, the Artemis II astronauts will have a set menu based on their personal preferences and nutritional needs. Orion is outfitted with a water dispenser and food warmer to rehydrate and heat food, and the crew will have dedicated meal times in their schedule to refuel.

Artemis II crew members undergo food testing in the Space Food Systems Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where they rate and choose foods that they want to bring with them on their journey around the Moon.
NASA/James Blair

Fit for Flight

Each astronaut will dedicate 30 minutes daily to exercise, minimizing the muscle and bone loss that occurs without gravity. Orion is equipped with a flywheel, a small device installed directly below the side hatch used to enter and exit Orion and will conveniently be used as a step when the crew get inside Orion on launch day. The flywheel is a simple cable-based device for aerobic exercises like rowing and resistance workouts like squats and deadlifts. It works like a yo-yo, giving astronauts as much load as they put into it, maxing out at 400 pounds.

On the International Space Station, astronauts have several exercise machines that collectively weigh more than 4,000 pounds and occupy about 850 cubic feet. While effective for space station crew members, Orion’s exercise equipment must accommodate more stringent mass and volume constraints. The flywheel weighs approximately 30 pounds and is slightly smaller than a carry-on suitcase.  

The Artemis II crew will exercise on Orion using a flywheel, a simple cable-based device for aerobic exercises like rowing and resistance workouts like squats and deadlifts. It works like a yo-yo, giving astronauts as much load as they put into it, maxing out at 400 pounds.

Keeping it Clean

The hygiene bay includes doors for privacy, a toilet, and space for the crew to bring in their personal hygiene kits. The kits typically include items like a hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, and shaving supplies. Astronauts can’t shower in space but use liquid soap, water, and rinseless shampoo to remain clean.

When nature inevitably comes calling, crew members will use Orion’s toilet, the Universal Waste Management System, a feature Apollo crews did not have. Nearly identical to a version flying on  NASA’s space station, the system collects urine and feces separately. Urine will be vented overboard while feces are collected in a can and safely stowed for disposal upon return.

Should the toilet malfunction, the crew will be able to use collapsible contingency urinals, a system that collects urine in a bag and interfaces with the venting system to send the urine overboard. With two different styles designed to accommodate both females and males, the bags hold about a liter of urine each. Should the UWMS fail, the crew will still use the toilet for fecal collection, only without the fan that helps with fecal separation.

A team member at Johnson Space Center in Houston demonstrates lifting the urine hose of the Universal Waste Management System out of its cradled position like a crew member would for use. A funnel (not shown) is attached to the open end of this hose and can then be easily replaced or removed for disinfection. 

Medical Care

In case of minor medical needs during the mission, Orion will have a medical kit on board that includes everything from basic first aid items to diagnostic tools, such as a stethoscope and an electrocardiogram, that can be used to provide data to physicians on the ground. The crew will also have regular private medical conferences with flight surgeons in mission control to discuss their health and well-being.

Catching Some Shuteye

With a jam-packed schedule, the Artemis II crew will have a full eight hours of sleep built into their schedule to ensure they’re well rested and can make the most of their mission. For most of the mission, all four crew will sleep at the same time, attaching sleeping bags to Orion’s walls for some shuteye.

Artemis II crew sleeping bag configurations are tested in the Orion spacecraft medium-fidelity mockup at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, used for astronaut training and systems familiarization.

Keeping in Touch

Inside Orion, the astronauts will use a handheld microphone and speaker or wear a headset to communicate with mission controllers, conduct medical checks with flight physicians, and catch up with their families. The crew will also have tablets and laptops they can use to review procedures and load entertainment onto before launch.

Artemis II will confirm all Orion’s systems operate as designed with crew aboard in the actual environment of deep space. The mission will pave the way for future lunar surface missions, including by the first woman and first person of color, establishing long-term lunar science and exploration capabilities, and inspire the next generation of explorers – The Artemis Generation.


Okay, Psyche is the name of a metal asteroid.  It's also the name of a NASA space craft that will study the asteroid.  NASA notes:


Psyche’s main computer, flight software, fault-protection systems, and most of the telecommunications systems come from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California. A Palo Alto, California, division of Colorado-based Maxar Technologies provided the main body of the spacecraft and most of its engineering hardware systems.

The spacecraft also includes a technology demonstration. Attached to Psyche is the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC), a NASA experiment that will test optical, or laser, communications beyond the Moon.

Spacecraft Specs

Workers in white protective clothing, blue hair covers, and face masks watch as the solar arrays for Psyche are retracted.
Technicians begin to retract one of the two solar arrays attached to NASA's Psyche spacecraft. This photo was taken on July 25, 2023, inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA/Kim Shiflett


With its solar panels deployed at 81 feet (25 meters) by 24 feet (7.3 meters), Psyche would just about cover a tennis court. The spacecraft body, or bus, is 16.1 feet (4.9 meters) tall, including the 6.6-foot (2-meter) booms for two instruments, 7.1 feet (2.2 meters) wide, and 7.8 feet (2.4 meters) deep.


At launch, the Psyche spacecraft is expected to have a mass of up to 6,056 pounds (2,747 kilograms), including the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration attached to it. The total mass at launch, including the rocket, is 3.16 million pounds (1.43 million kilograms), more than 99% of which is accounted for by the rocket.


Two five-panel, cross-shaped solar arrays power everything on board, including the science instruments. The solar arrays will produce 21 kilowatts of power when leaving the Earth and between 2.3 and 3.4 kilowatts of power during orbit around the asteroid.

Blue glow around an engine thruster
A photo of an operating electric Hall thruster identical to those that will be used to propel the Psyche spacecraft.


Psyche uses solar electric propulsion. The spacecraft has four Hall-effect thrusters that use electromagnetic fields to expel charged atoms, or ions, of inert xenon gas that in turn create thrust, trailing a blue glow of xenon. Only one thruster is used at a time, providing up to 240 millinewtons of thrust – about the amount of force that you would feel holding the weight of one AA battery. Psyche will carry seven 22-gallon (82-liter) tanks of xenon propellant – up to 2,392 pounds (1,085 kilograms).


Psyche will communicate with Earth with four antennas: one 6.5-foot (2-meter) fixed high-gain antenna provided by Maxar and three small low-gain antennas designed and manufactured by JPL. Like all NASA interplanetary missions, Psyche will send data and receive commands through the Deep Space Network (DSN), which has three ground stations around Earth to talk with and track spacecraft.

Science Instruments

A gray spacecraft imager sitting on a white counter
Psyche's multispectral imager during assembly and testing on Sept. 13, 2021, at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California.

Multispectral Imager

Psyche’s multispectral imager consists of a pair of identical cameras equipped with filters and telescopic lenses to photograph the surface of the asteroid in different wavelengths of light. The cameras can take pictures in the part of the spectrum visible to the human eye, as well as in near-infrared wavelengths of light beyond what humans can see. 

Spacecraft instrument sits on a table
The Psyche gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer uses a highly-purified germanium crystal to capture gamma rays emitted by asteroid Psyche. These gamma rays can reveal what elements the surface is made of.
Johns Hopkins/APL/Ed Whitman

Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer

The orbiter’s gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer will help scientists determine the chemical elements that make up the asteroid’s surface material. As cosmic rays and high energy particles bombard the asteroid Psyche’s surface, the elements there absorb the energy. In response, they emit neutrons and gamma rays of varying energy levels. The spectrometer can detect these emissions, enabling scientists to match them to properties of known elements to determine what Psyche is made of.

Workers attach an instrument to a spacecraft
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California integrate the magnetometer instrument into the Psyche spacecraft on June 28, 2021.


The orbiter’s magnetometer will look for evidence of an ancient magnetic field at asteroid Psyche. Unlike Earth and other rocky planets that generate a magnetic field in their liquid metallic cores, small bodies like asteroids do not generate one because they are frozen. Confirmation of a remanent magnetic field at Psyche would be strong evidence that the asteroid formed from the core of a planetary body. 

Gravity Science

The Psyche science team will rely on the telecommunications system, primarily used to send commands to and receive data from the spacecraft, to conduct gravity science. By analyzing the X-band radio waves the spacecraft communicates with, scientists can measure how asteroid Psyche affects the spacecraft’s orbit. From that information, scientists can determine the asteroid’s rotation, mass, and gravity field, providing additional clues about the composition and structure of Psyche’s interior. 

A worker in protective clothing stands near a science instrument sitting on a table.
The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration's flight laser transceiver is shown at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California in April 2021.

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC)

Bolted to a side of the Psyche spacecraft is a pioneering technology demonstration: NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications experiment, or DSOC. Using a near-infrared laser, DSOC will be the agency’s first test of high-bandwidth optical communications between Earth and distances far exceeding the Moon. 

To meet the demands of future space missions relying on current state-of-the-art radio systems, huge increases in hardware size, mass, and power would be required to transmit and receive high-bandwidth data such as high-definition images and video. Optical communications could potentially provide this essential bandwidth enhancement without requiring such hardware increases. Much like upgrading old telecommunications infrastructure on Earth with fiber optics to meet growing data demands, going from radio communications to laser communications would increase current data rates 10 to 100 times.

DSOC is not intended to relay Psyche mission data since the technology demonstration is planned for the first two years of the spacecraft’s cruise. But if it proves  successful, the  technology will be used by future human and robotic spacecraft to transmit huge volumes of science data, allowing more innovative space mission concepts to take flight. Ultimately, DSOC may pave the way for broadband communications that will help support humanity’s next giant leap: When NASA sends astronauts to Mars.  

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):

Wednesday, October 4, 2023. The House is without a Speaker, Joe Biden is up in the polls, Butler is the new senator from California, Donald Trump's even worse than I could have thought him to be, and much more.

We need to start with a correction on my part.  I don't like Donald Trump and never have.  Even so, when THE ALANTIC published a report on him in 2020 relying upon anonynmice, I didn't believe it.  I didn't believe that even Donald could and/or would say things like he was reported saying.  I was wrong, 100% wrong.  Summer Concepcion (NBC NEWS) reports:

Former Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly is blasting his onetime boss over disparaging remarks he says the then-president repeatedly made about service members and veterans and for what he called Trump's untruthfulness about his positions on various groups as well as on abortion.

In a statement to CNN published Monday, Kelly delivered a scathing criticism of former President Trump while confirming reporting in The Atlantic in 2020 that detailed the comments he made during his presidency.

Kelly called Trump, "A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.' A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family — for all Gold Star families — on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”

The Atlantic reported that Trump privately made damning statements against U.S. service and veterans, such as the late Sen. John McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, and former President George H.W. Bush, a former Navy pilot who was shot down in World War II. During a visit to France in 2018 for the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I, Trump also reportedly called Marines who died at Belleau Wood “suckers” and fallen soldiers at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery “losers.”

Again, I was 100% wrong. 

How appalling that anyone would say things like that.  As low as I thought Donald was, even I couldn't believe that he -- or anyone -- would say stuff like that.  But I was wrong.

Let's stay with the topic of politicians, AP reports, "Former union leader and Democratic insider Laphonza Butler was sworn in as the newest member of the Senate on Tuesday, replacing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein after her death and becoming only the third Black female senator in history. [. . .] On the Senate floor Tuesday, Butler was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, who served as the second Black female senator until she resigned in 2021 to join President Joe Biden in the White House. The first was Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, who served one term in the 1990s."  The Congressional Black Caucus issued the following on Monday:

“Today, the CBC celebrates the appointment of Laphonza Butler to represent the state of California in the U.S. Senate. Her background and years of experience will bring a much-needed perspective to the Senate, which currently does not have any Black women. For many years, Laphonza Butler has been a champion for women and girls, students, and union workers, and we believe she will bring that same fight to the U.S. Senate on behalf of Californians and our entire nation. As the first lesbian Black woman in the U.S. Senate, Laphonza will bring an important perspective to the upper house at a time when the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community are under attack. We look forward to welcoming Laphonza as the 59th member of the CBC and to continuing our work on behalf of the American people.”

Butler has served as president of EMILY’s List, an organization that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women, since 2021.

She previously worked as the director of public policy and campaigns in North America for Airbnb, a strategist and partner at political consulting firm SCRB Strategies, and a senior advisor for Vice President Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign. She also has a long and involved history with the labor movement, having served as the president of home-care workers union SEIU Local 2015 for more than a decade.

Other high-profile California Democrats are currently running for Feinstein’s seat—she was the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history prior to her passing at 90 years old—which will be up for grabs in the 2024 midterms. These include Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee.

Barbara Lee.  "The Fraud Squad"?  Remember that moniker?  It was applied to AOC and others in Congress.  Were they frauds?  That would be a lengthy discussion.  AOC has accomplished in Congress, not a great deal, but she can point to certain things.  She's not Barbara Lee.

The first sign you're dealing with a fake ass is when the person's been in Congress for 25 years and they have to go back 22 years to find something to point to with pride.  Barbara's vote following 9/11?  22 years ago.    

What has the 77-year-old accomplished after 25 years in Congress?

Not seeing it.  And she's too damn old to be going into the Senate.  Fortunately, there are other choices and that does include Laphonza.  The Legal Defense Fund issued the following:

Today, Laphonza Butler was sworn-in to the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who passed away last week at 90. Ms. Butler, who previously served as president of Emily’s List, is also a labor leader, political strategist, and an advocate for women and working people. She is now the sole Black woman serving in Congress as a U.S. senator, the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate, the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress in American history, and the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate following Vice President Kamala Harris.  

LDF President & Director-Counsel Janai Nelson issued the following statement in response:

“We applaud Governor Newsom for his historic appointment of Laphonza Butler to represent California in the U.S. Senate. We also congratulate Senator Butler on this momentous achievement in a career that has been distinguished by leadership, advocacy, and public service. She is one of only three Black women to have served as a senator in the U.S. Congress and the only Black LGBTQ+ woman to do so. These historic distinctions underscore the continued importance of embracing and empowering a diversity of perspectives at key decision-making tables. We are especially encouraged by Senator Butler’s labor credentials and her work on the behalf of women and girls, whose rights to bodily autonomy in the current national landscape continue to require sustained defense. We look forward to the contributions Ms. Butler will make in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the communities she has long served but who have never been fully represented in the halls of Congress.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.

We'll note a few Tweets.

The California Legislative Women's Caucus issued the following:

Oct 02, 2023
Karen Bocaling Lapis,; Sulema Landa,

SACRAMENTO – California Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Vice Chair Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) today applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s selection of Laphonza Butler to be California’s new U.S. senator, replacing the late Dianne Feinstein.

“We commend Gov. Newsom for his choice of Laphonza Butler to be California’s new U.S. Senator, filling out the remaining term of the legendary Sen. Feinstein. Dianne Feinstein was a true trailblazer for women in politics, and so it’s fitting that her successor, Laphonza Butler, will also break barriers as the first out woman of color to serve in either house, Senate or Congress. For now, Butler will also be the only Black woman U.S. Senator and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate. 

“For the past few years, Butler has been a brilliant leader of Emily’s List, the nation’s largest political action committee promoting women into elected office. She was also the first mother and woman of color to be president of the pro-choice organization.

“As a mom and former labor leader, who headed up California’s largest union, SEIU Local 2015, representing hundreds of thousands of long-term care workers, Butler is a steadfast champion of women and girls and working-class families. She’s an excellent choice to represent California in Washington, D.C., and we’re confident that she will not only fiercely protect the rights of women and girls but also help build a better nation for all.”


And the NAACEP noted:

NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson released the following statement congratulating Butler and commending Newsom: 

"The NAACP is proud to congratulate Laphonza Butler on her well deserved appointment to serve as the first Black, openly LGBTQ+ Senator. It is only right that a Black woman who has paved the way for countless others to lead is now given an opportunity to lead herself. The NAACP commends Governor Newsom for taking steps to fill the gaps in representation that currently exist within our Senate. We look forward to supporting the future Senator as she makes strides in the halls of Congress. One thing is clear - Black women are supreme."

Newly sworn-in Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) is free to run for a full term in the U.S. Senate if she chooses to do so, a spokesperson for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) office confirmed in a statement Tuesday.

“There are no conditions related to the Governor’s appointment of Senator-designate Butler. That decision is entirely hers,” the spokesperson said.

Butler is replacing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), a trailblazer for women in politics who died last week, leaving Newsom to pick her replacement.

Yesterday, Tavis Smiley discussed Laphonza with THE LOS ANGELES TIMES' Mark Z. Barabak.

Other news from yesterday?  Well the House of Representatives no longer has a Speaker of the House.

For the first time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives voted to oust its own leader Tuesday after a motion by far-right Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to vacate the appointment of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy's speakership passed with eight GOP votes and the support of every Democrat present.

The 216-210 vote to remove McCarthy (R-Calif.) came after his allies failed to come up with enough votes to table the motion to vacate.

In addition to Gaetz, the Republicans who voted for the motion to vacate were: Reps. Andy Biggs (Az.), Ken Buck (Col.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Az.), Bob Good (La.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Mt.).

Those lawmakers have accused McCarthy of being insufficiently conservative. They were incensed by his deal with the White House to raise the debt limit earlier this year and have demanded the House make even deeper cuts to social safety net programs than the deal contained.

The pro-democracy group Stand Up America said in a statement that "today’s vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker shows how intent ultra-MAGA Republicans are on sowing chaos and dysfunction, rather than actually governing on behalf of the American people."

"It's clear who is really in charge of the GOP Conference: Matt Gaetz and his band of political arsonists," the group added. "MAGA Republicans' sole agenda is to grind the federal government to a halt, use their power to exact political revenge, and attack our democracy and basic freedoms. We can't expect the same election deniers who tried to overthrow the will of voters on January 6th to legislate for the American people now."

While the media has presented the crisis as a conflict of personalities, Tuesday’s vote is reflection of deep divisions within the ruling class itself. Gaetz and roughly a dozen other far-right Republicans opposed the CR because it lacked social spending cuts and further appropriations for the border police.

In an interview on Newsmax following the vote, Gaetz, speaking for a faction of finance capital, rejected accusations that without a speaker the government would be thrown into “chaos” and reiterated that McCarthy was stripped of the speaker’s gavel because of his refusal to enact sufficiently draconian spending cuts.

“Chaos is the dollar losing its status as the global reserve currency. Chaos is the greatest nation in the world sitting on top of $33 trillion debt. Chaos is accepting Biden budgets that will lead to $2 trillion annual deficits...forever,” said Gaetz.

Following his ouster, McCarthy told a closed-door meeting of House Republicans that he would not seek reelection as speaker. At a subsequent Tuesday evening news conference he said, “I will not run for speaker again... I’ll have the conference pick somebody else.”

Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is currently serving as the interim speaker. McHenry said the House would not meet again until next Tuesday, with the aim of holding a vote for the new speaker on Wednesday, October 11. Several names have been floated by Republican representatives as possible candidates to replace McCarthy, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise (Louisiana), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (Minnesota), Kevin Hearn (Oklahoma) and even Donald Trump.

While it is unclear who, if anyone, will be the speaker in the immediate future, what is clear is that Tuesday’s vote marks an inflection point in the ongoing US political crisis, which has not subsided more than two-and-a-half years after Trump’s failed coup. The ousting of McCarthy sets the stage for even more explosive political convulsions and a further shift to the right by the entire political establishment.

As chaos in the House makes Republicans look demented, James Brickerton (NEWSWEEK) notes:

President Biden has recorded his first positive poll rating in five months in a new Rasmussen Reports survey, which found 49 percent of Americans approve of his conduct in office while 48 percent disapprove.

According to polling aggregate site FiveThirtyEight, this is the first time more Americans have approved than disapproved of Biden since a YouGov survey published in May, though it remains an outlier with most surveys giving Biden a negative approval rating.

The White House must be saying thank you to Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and adult performer Lauren Boebert, Joe couldn't have done it without you.

In other news, yesterday afternoon, the US State Dept issued the following:

On behalf of the Government and the people of the United States of America, I extend to Prime Minister Sudani and the Iraqi people our sincere congratulations as you celebrate your independence.

The 360-degree strategic partnership that exists between our two countries continues to advance our shared values as we work together to address global challenges like tackling climate change, promoting economic development, advancing human rights, protecting the environment, and ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS. We continue to strengthen people-to-people ties that form the basis of our partnership.

This is a day to reflect on and be proud of Iraq’s achievements and the perseverance of its people. For over 91 years, Iraq has endeavored through adversity to foster a more inclusive and equitable society for its citizens and for future generations of Iraqis.

Let's wind down with a Tweet from Paul Rudnick.

The following sites updated: