What’s Happening In Sunspot?

The National Solar Observatory is located, appropriately, in Sunspot, New Mexico, on Sacramento Peak. It was closed by the FBI on September 6 and the employees told to stay home until further notice. Even the Otero County Sheriff doesn’t know what’s going on.

James McAteer, a New Mexico State University professor who is also the director of the Sunspot Solar Observatory said the “telescope did not see aliens. All data will be made public in its unaltered form. Nothing is hidden or kept secret.” (Source)

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which runs the observatory, issued a statement saying

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is addressing a security issue at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) facility at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico and has decided to temporarily vacate the facility as a precautionary measure until further notice. All other NSO facilities are open and operating normally. AURA, which manages Sacramento Peak with funding from the National Science Foundation, is working with the proper authorities on this issue.

The FBI is not commenting.

My guess is that someone has made a threat against the observatory or its personnel. That person may be inside or outside the observatory community. But not aliens or a sunspot that will destroy the Earth.

Photo from Space.com.

And Open Thread!

Nobody Expected Such A Great Negotiation

There’s been a certain je ne sais quoi quality to the White House’s discussion of the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Today we learned what it is.

President Donald Trump told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their Singapore summit in June that he’d sign a declaration to end the Korean War soon after their meeting, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations.

This was number one on Kim’s wish list. And Trump gave it to him, free for nothing.

You probably could have selected any one of the people I follow on Twitter, and they would have done a better job. That includes the artists and people who tweet mostly cats.

It’s hard to know how to approach this analytically. It is about the stupidest thing that Trump could have done, except for sending the missiles. Read more

STUPID Venality Open Thread: ‘Monkey It Up’, Repubs!

So… where do we chip in for a Gillum ad using his opponent’s Kinsley gaffe?

Per the Miami Herald:

… “He is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said of Gillum. “I watched those Democratic debates. None of that is my cup of tea but, he performed better than the other people there so we’ve got to work hard to make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction. Let’s build off the success we’ve had with Gov. [Rick] Scott. The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”…

Articulate… charismatic… he performed better… Y’ever wonder if the Repubs miss President Obama almost as much as us sane people? Cuz their current Dear Leader, nobody is gonna be able to throw such accusations at him.


EATA (via commentor R-Jud):

Stoking the Conspiracy Fantasists: Like A Spark to Tinder

I haven’t wanted to post about the California wildfires because, from this distance, it feels like indulging in disaster porn. “We” have seriously fvcked up another gorgeous chunk of the only planet currently available, and the locals are paying for that in some of the most dramatic footage possible, thoughts & prayers.

But there’s no “natural” tragedy that can’t be made worse… Per the Washington Post:

The arrest was made as more than 18 fires across the state continue to endanger the lives of thousands, including hundreds of firefighters and first responders working around the clock. One, the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, is the largest wildfire in California history. Yosemite National Park has been closed “indefinitely” because of smoke from another fire…

The Holy Fire, which started in the Holy Jim Canyon area, has been burning in Southern California since Monday, with more than 600 firefighters assigned to fight it. Two firefighters have been treated for heat-related injuries. The fire remains only 5 percent contained.

Mike Milligan, 71, who calls himself a volunteer fire firefighter and chief, said in an interview with The Washington Post that he has been flagging problems with suspect Forrest Gordon Clark for more than three years. He said he alerted the U.S. Forest Service that “you have to do something or he’s going to kill someone or burn this place down.”

Milligan said he received several texts from Clark last week threatening to start a fire.

“In a text, he said this place ‘is going to burn just like we planned,’ ” Milligan said, adding that he reported it to the sheriff’s office and again to the U.S. Forest Service. “Why the hell didn’t they respond? I reported this over and over again.”
Read more

That Plutonium In San Antonio And Live Stream Putin-Trump Press Conference

A couple of reporters who take their job to be spreading maximum fear about nuclear radiation have found a story in San Antonio, Texas.

Staff from Idaho National Laboratory were picking up cesium and plutonium sources from a laboratory and left them in their rental car overnight. The car was broken into and the sources and other equipment stolen.

That was carelessness and should be looked at in the light of other careless incidents in the DOE system. When I’m traveling, I always bring in anything from the car that looks like it might be worth stealing. Even the stuff that is worth stealing but doesn’t look that way.

But the sources probably contain a few milligrams of cesium and plutonium. I haven’t done the calculations, but it probably would take a couple hundred years to accumulate enough plutonium for a fission bomb and cesium for a “dirty bomb” at that rate.

But the article goes on at length about bombs and such, as these reporters often do. It’s a strategy of fear for clicks, or perhaps these two really are terrified of anything to do with radiation. They also hyperventilate at the thought of terrorists taking the long view and waiting a couple of hundred years to get that TERROR BOMB.



There’s not enough happening today, so here is the live stream of the two-president press conference.

Soccer referee instead of a baseball umpire

A fellow jackel, Matthew Reid Krell has a recent law review article that looks at judges through the lens of a soccer referee instead of as an umpire.

The rules of soccer, as well, like the rules of baseball, allow for significant leeway on the part of the referee. To take just one example that turns up in nearly every game, the rule for declaring a player offsides states
that a player commits an offside offense by

a) being in an offsides position, and b) “if, at the moment the ball is touched or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by: 1)interfering with play; 2) interfering with an opponent; or 3) gaining an advantage by being in that position.”

While this is a relatively straight-forward call when the player in offsides position receives a pass, it becomes much less clear when an offsides player is away from the active play around the ball. For example, if the offsides player has “crashed the box,” or moved close to the goal, are they interfering with the keeper? If the offsides player is available as a pass recipient from the player in possession, and the keeper has been drawn off the attacker’s angle, in order to position themselves to deal with a pass to the offsides player, has the offsides player gained an advantage, even if the play never actually runs through them? ….
When considering whether to send off a player (a “red card”) for denying an obvious goal-scoring
opportunity, FIFA directs referees to consider a five-part test. While this is not as complicated as baseball’s “triskaedeka-partite test” for determining whether a pitcher has committed a balk, referees evaluating this
must do so at a sprint, in a split second, and may be forty to fifty yards away if play has moved down the field quickly. In the same manner, judges must sometimes make decisions they do not feel prepared to

I think the umpire analogy has stronger roles at the non-Supreme Court level. There is discretion but a fairly well defined rule book. At the Supreme Court level, the judges have far more discretion within the confines of their field. Precedent is informative to some degree but not absolute and consistency between decisions is a quasi-random variable that can be distinguished away.

So when we see the deployment of the umpire just calling balls and strikes quotes, think about the referee working towards facilitating a fair and safe game.

No One Is Going to Save You, There is No God, and Your Parents Were the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus

Over the last 24 hours since Justice Kennedy announced his retirement, a popular form of political fan fiction has sprung up and is racing across the intertubes. Here’s an example:

Narrator Voice: “It doesn’t.”

Murkowski, Collins, Capito- they might all say they support Roe, but none of them are going to need an abortion any time soon and that’s just shit they say to give them a thin veneer of moderation. I mean, it works enough to fool Chris Cilizza and other idiots in the media, but if they gave a flying fuck about abortion rights they’d have voted against Gorsuch. They didn’t. They’d have voted against Alito. They didn’t.

But what about Jeff Flake, who has already been stalling judicial nominees over tariffs? Maybe this is his time, people speculated. Maybe he and McCain will finally have the courage of their convictions?

How about no?

“My goal here is not to block judges. My goal is to get a vote on tariffs, and I have all the leverage I need with circuit court nominees,” he said. The Supreme Court “is unaffected. I have all the leverage I need. I certainly wasn’t anticipating a Supreme Court vacancy, but it’s unaffected.”

Has there ever been a US Senator with a more apt name?

But, but, the Democrats can fight. And stand together. And not give in. And really stick together and not give in and fight.

A.) They won’t. Heitkamp or Manchin or one of the blue dogs will vote with Trump, nullifying any Republican holdouts (of which there won’t be any, anyway).

B.) Even if they did stick together, they are in the minority, AND THERE IS NOTHING THEY CAN DO.

The simple fact of the matter is we are WELL AND TRULY FUCKED and THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN BE DONE. The damage to the country caused by the Supreme Court appointees will not be even addressed most likely until long after you and I are dead. This is going to take generations to undo. As will all the rest of the crap being done under Trump. The gutting of the EPA and State and virtually every other agency is not something that can just be fixed overnight if a Democrat wins in December. Expertise and experience don’t grow on trees.

So basically, all the good shit you like about this country? You might as well pretend it does not exist anymore. IN at least half the states in the country, abortion is going to be illegal. LGBTQ rights will be removed. As we saw in NIFLA v. Becarra, some religious groups (WHITE CHRISTOFACISTS) will have extra free speech privileges and protections. And on an on.

It’s fucking gone and there ain’t nothing you can do about it in the short term. With the greenlight from SCOTUS this week, we should expect a full on assault on voting rights, expect unions to be killed off in short order, and christ it’s so depressing I’m done listing shit BUT IT IS ALL FUCKING GONE.

The only solution is long term. And that means we need to act accordingly, and expect setbacks and failures, and not expect things to be fixed overnight. Hell yes, you should still be in the streets protesting. Yes, you should be calling, writing, emailing your congressman. But most of all, what you need to do is vote. In every election. This shit needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. And it is going to take a long, long, time. States won’t purge their voter rolls or gerrymander their districts if the legislature and the Governor are in the right hands.

There is no quick fix. There is no fucking savior. There is no fucking Santa Claus. All you have is each other, a righteous anger, and for now, the vote. Use it. Deal with the current reality, but don’t give up. Never give up. Make the motherfuckers kill you. But don’t give them an inch.