Late Night After Dark Open Thread: Revenge of the Moon Tardigrades

As some reporters pointed out when that Guardian article appeared, the Moon had already been biologically compromised when the Apollo XI astronauts left behind bags of their… wastes. (Some exobiologist spoilsports claim there were probably tardigrades on the Moon already.) No doubt the would-be schlockmeisters are hard at work scripting already!

Here’s a potential opening scene…


Big Horror climax:

Happy Birthday, Samwise!

This big galoot turned five today.

I had a terribly long day and just got back to the apartment. At least I’m working from home tomorrow, so I can spend some time playing Psychonauts, which I bought on sale for $2. I love Tim Schafer games but haven’t played this one before. Yay!

Let’s call this a respite thread; nothing that would upset the birthday boy too much, please.

What Did I Miss?

I went to Albuquerque for shopping today and lunch with a friend. Just before I left, the news of an explosion at Nenoksa, in northeast Russia near the city of Severodvinsk, was hitting Twitter. I come home this afternoon to the news that Sue Gordon, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, has tendered her resignation and will be leaving the DNI’s office along with Dan Coats on August 15.

The Nenoksa explosion – There’s not much news, and it’s early news, the kind that often turns out to be wrong. The official announcement is that two are dead and several injured.

Here’s a thread from Jeffrey Lewis that is probably the best summary around. I’ll just give you the top two tweets. He’s been tweeting additional material through the day.

The Severodvinsk city government reported that their radiation detector had a sudden pulse. I haven’t seen a number in the news, but a friend had some numbers, and they were very small. The fact that it was a pulse and not continuing means it was even smaller than that. Note that the Tass article that Lewis quotes says that radiation levels in Severodvinsk are normal. My best guess is that it was a blip in the detector. Other guesses from knowledgeable people were a broken “EXIT” sign’s tritium or a smoke detector. Nonetheless, the New York Times saw fit to lead with radiation.

Reporting on radiation, and public ignorance of radiation, is getting worse and worse. Radiation is the ultimate terror, and it’s coming to get YOU!

A bunch of us are speculating about what it is that blew up. It may have something to do with Russia’s planned nuclear-powered cruise missile, although I think that is mainly vaporware.

Sue Gordon Resigns – This was pretty much expected, although reasonable people hoped it wouldn’t happen. The usual noises were emitted from the upper reaches of the Trump administration indicating displeasure with having to appoint her Acting Director of National Intelligence, which is the usual prelude to moving a person out of a job. Yes, the law said that she should become Acting, but that was why she had to be made to resign. Gordon’s career has been in intelligence, and knowledgeable people think well of her. Daily Beast article here.

Joseph Maguire, the current director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will be the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Presumably he has done the proper obeisance to Trump and will give interviews on Fox News to seal his position from acting. Although for some positions, an Acting Director can’t become Director. Tune in for next week’s drama.

Trump is removing competent people and replacing them with toadies. This is one reason that I think that Nancy Pelosi’s long game is a mistake. Every one of these jobs that gains a toady or goes unfilled adds to Trump’s power. The intelligence community has not supported his Foxified view of the world. We can look back to the report, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US,” George W. Bush’s daily briefing for August 6, 2001, to see the kind of damage missing or ignored intelligence can do.

Open thread!

“Respite” Open Thread: Tucker Carlson on Unplanned Vacation

IIRC, Bill O’Reilly went from ‘sudden vacation’ to ‘suspended’ to ‘Bill who?’ when he pushed the boundaries a little too far. One can hope that Carlson will also be forced into doing podcasts from his basement… assuming Tucker’s penthous *has* a basement…


Insane in the Membrane

A new study shows that the midbrain is the “canary in the coal mine” for brain injury, and 2/3 of the players get injured:

Data collected from 38 University of Rochester football players before and after three consecutive football seasons were analyzed for the study. The players’ brains were scanned in an MRI machine before and after a season of play, and the football helmets they wore throughout the season were equipped with impact sensors that captured all hits above 10g force sustained during practices and games. Race car drivers feel the effects of 6 gs, and car crashes can produce brief forces of more than 100 gs.

The analysis showed a significant decrease in the integrity of the midbrain white matter following just one season of football as compared to the preseason. While only two players suffered clinically diagnosed concussions during the time they were followed in the study, the comparison of the post- and pre-season MRIs showed more than two-thirds of the players experienced a decrease in the structural integrity of their brain.

The research team also found that the amount of white matter damage was correlated with the number of hits to the head players sustained, and that rotational acceleration (when the head twists from side to side or front to back) was linked more strongly and more consistently to changes in white matter integrity than linear acceleration (head-on impact).

“Public perception is that the big hits are the only ones that matter,” said senior study author Brad Mahon, an associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and Scientific Director of the Program for Translational Brain Mapping at the University of Rochester. “The big hits are definitely bad, but the public is likely missing what’s causing the long-term damage in players’ brains. It’s not just the concussions. It’s everyday hits, too. And the place to look for the effect of such hits, our study suggests, is the midbrain.”

Our tolerance for amusement that injures seems pretty high (guns are a great example), but why would any parent who has a choice want their kid to play football?

Thursday Afternoon Open Thread

So, my daughter went to a Walmart earlier today (she wasn’t raised that way, but what can you do — it’s cheap), and there were cop cars all over the place. A man had been arrested for phoning in a mass shooting threat at that same Walmart right after the shootings in Texas and Ohio, so the kid wondered if another lunatic had phoned in a threat or worse. But nope, it turns out someone just stole a golf cart from a nearby trailer park and drove it into the store.

Welcome to Florida.

Here’s Badger sitting at the kitchen counter on a bar stool like a regular person.

Boston terrier sitting at a counter.

He’s a good boy at the counter — never attempts to put his paws on the surface or lick anything — so it’s okay with me if he sits there. Poor Daisy is too old and fat to access bar seating. It doesn’t seem to occur to her, really. As long as treats are divided fairly (and they always are), she seems happy to lie on a rug instead.

Naming & Shaming Open Thread: Even Trump’s Supporters Find the Association Embarrassing

[Fanfare: Flugelhorns & Euphoniums]

Rep. Joaquin Castro — he’s the twin brother of Julian Castro — tweeted out a campaign add that featured a list including the names and occupations of people in his San Antonio congressional district who had given the legal maximum to the Trump re-election campaign in 2019 (This is of course public information, which anybody can look up, and I encourage you to do so).

Naturally this elicited shrieks of outrage from the Republican party establishment that simply publicizing the fact that people are in 2019 donating money to a white supremacist who inspires his followers to murder Hispanics like Castro himself was also a form of “inciting violence against private citizens” because [step in argument missing]….

If you are giving Trump money at this point you are a garbage person, who should be named, shamed, and shunned. I think it’s an excellent idea to publicize the names of people who are donating to Trump, in order to boycott their businesses, while exercising the core First Amendment right to let everyone know that Trump supporters are, individually and collectively, garbage people who should be ostracized by any and every decent human being…


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What a Day It Was

I really hate to concentrate on Trump, but let’s just tally up his day yesterday.

In Dayton, no press were allowed in the hospital, but that didn’t stop the Trumpers from creating a campaign ad style video that the stablest genius tweeted out today. He also lied about Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley’s comments on his visit to the hospital (he said they criticized him, when they actually said it was nice that he had comforted victims).

When Trump went to El Paso yesterday, none of the victims who were still hospitalized met with him, and when he met the staff, this happened:

This guy just keeps getting worse.

Reprise: Attention constraints and policy objectives

I’m reprising this post from January on the importance of prioritization and policy formation:

Prioritization will be a key differntiatior of Democratic Presidential and Senate primary candidates. I believe that most Democrats will share significant elements of what is on their top-10 list of areas that need federal government attention in a government that could theoretically have a narrow Democratic trifecta. But the key will be prioritization.

In 2009-2010, the US Senate was able to do the following big things:

  • Confirm two Supreme Court Justices
  • Pass the ACA
  • Pass Dodd-Frank
  • Pass the stimulus (ARRA)

In 2017-2018, the US Senate was able to do the following big things:

  • Pass a huge ass tax cut
  • Confirm two Supreme Court Justices
  • Not pass Repeal and Replace while burning several months of attention on it

Senate floor time is a key constraint.  A very productive Senate might have slots for two big bills, three or four medium actions (such as SCOTUS nominees) and a lot of housekeeping.  A productive Senate is most likely positively correlated with the size of the effective majority.

Right now, there are numerous agenda items that could qualify as a “big” thing from the Democratic/liberal perspective.  The following will be an incomplete list:

  • Healthcare reform
    • Medicare for All?
    • ACA 3.0?
  • Global Warming Policy
  • Voting Rights Act revision
  • Civil Rights Act revision
  • 2 or more SCOTUS confirmations
  • Truth and Reconciliation
  • Constitutional Amendments to make electing a compromised buffoon harder (mandatory disclosure of 14 years of paperwork related to anything authorized by the 16th amendment etc )
  • Immigration and naturalization

Any of these things could easily eat up three months or more of floor time in the Senate.  I’ve listed well over twenty four months of potential floor time activities from an incomplete list if all of these items were considered to be “big” items for the Senate.  That is infeasible as it neglects the basic day to day functioning of the Senate as well.  The Senate still has to approve nominees, it still has to pass appropriations, it still has to make tweaks and changes to the law as circumstances dictate.

So the question will be prioritization.

Candidates are likely to share the same items on a top-10 list but the rank ordering and asset allocation will matter a lot. One candidate might want to spend six months on healthcare again at the cost of doing not much if anything on immigration and naturalization. Another candidate could want to spend a little time on a minimal “fix-it” healthcare bill while spending more time on global warming policy.  Those are all defensible choices.  But the prioritization is very valuable information.

Thursday Morning Open Thread: State Fair Time!

The lines at the food stands are always terrible, and it’s worse when some schmuck running for office is standing in front of the counter posing for a scrum of aides and reporters…


‘The leopards were never supposed to eat *my* face!’:

Gary Wertish, president of the Minnesota Farmers Union, drew applause as he leveled criticism of the administration’s trade policy at a forum with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in front of thousands of farmers gathered in a metal barn for a panel discussion.

American farmers took a fresh financial hit from Trump’s trade war over the weekend as China announced a halt to all U.S. agricultural imports after the president threatened Beijing with another tariff increase.

Wertish criticized Trump’s “go-it-alone approach” and the trade dispute’s “devastating damage not only to rural communities.” He expressed fears Trump’s $28 billion in trade aid will undermine public support for federal farm subsidies, saying the assistance is already being pilloried “as a welfare program, as bailouts.”

Others joined in. Brian Thalmann, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, complained about Trump statements that farmers are doing “great” again. “We are not starting to do great again,” he said. “We are starting to go down very quickly.”

Joel Schreurs of the American Soybean Association warned American producers are in danger of long-term losses in market share in China, the world’s largest importer of soybeans.

Perdue sought to soothe the crowd as he defended the president’s policies. “Obviously this is a popular opinion. A lot of applause,” he joked after the audience reacted to Democratic Representative Angie Craig saying aid is not substitute for a strategy on trade. “There is a lot of stress out there.”…

Trump’s overwhelming support in rural America was crucial to his narrow 2016 election victory and maintaining farmer’s backing is critical to his re-election bid.

In June, 54% of rural voters approved of Trump’s job performance compared with a national approval rating of 42%, according to a Gallup survey of 701 self-identified rural voters.

The way we live now:

On The Road


I’m on vacation this week without computer and too busy/no downtime.

Success – huzzah! Found at about 11,200 feet in Southern Colorado.

This was the first and largest I found today, about 2 pounds of delicious Boletus Edulis, the king bolete, once harvested and cleaned. I’ll share info on all that soon. Also known as bolete, cepe, porcini, and many others.

When I’m back home, I’ll make a few posts with text. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll share another pic if I find more, or something else of interest.

Also, I’ll be slicing  and frying that beauty with garlic and shallots, salt and pepper. Food doesn’t get much better, tbh.

Have a great day!

Excellent Read: “Elizabeth Warren’s Classroom Strategy: Talking Teaching with the Most Professorial Candidate Ever”

Rebecca Traister, in NYMag:

Warren’s work as a teacher — the profession she dreamed of from the time she was in second grade — remains a crucial part of her identity, self-presentation, and communicative style. Her 2014 book, A Fighting Chance, opens with these sentences: “I’m Elizabeth Warren. I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. For nearly all my life, I would have said I’m a teacher, but I guess I really can’t say that anymore.”

But just because she’s not in the classroom these days doesn’t mean that those she’s talking to can’t smell it on her from a mile away. Leading up to the first round of debates, the Onion ran a headline reading, “Elizabeth Warren Spends Evenings Tutoring Underperforming Candidates.” And during a June episode of Desus & Mero, the two Bronx hosts did a riff on how Warren “definitely gives you teacher swag, but the teacher-that-cares-a-lot swag,” imagining her being the kind of teacher who comes to your house to tell your mom you have potential. “You came all the way to the Bronx for this? Wow … that blanquita cares.”

Warren has won multiple teaching awards, and when I first profiled her in 2011, early in her Senate run and during what would be her last semester of teaching at Harvard, I spoke to students who were so over the moon about her that my editors decided I could not use many of their quotes because they were simply too laudatory. Many former students I interviewed for this story spoke in similarly soaring terms. One, Jonas Blank, described her as “patient and plainspoken, like an elementary-school teacher is expected to be, but also intense and sharp the way a law professor is supposed to be.” Several former students who are now (and were then) Republicans declined to talk to me on the record precisely because they liked her so much and did not want to contribute to furthering her political prospects by speaking warmly of her.

Yet it remains an open question whether the work Warren does so very well — the profession about which she is passionate and that informs her approach to politics — will work for her on the presidential-campaign trail.

Plenty of our former presidents have been teachers. Some of them, including William Howard Taft and Barack Obama, taught law; some, including Millard Fillmore, primary school. Warren has been both law professor and primary-school teacher, and as a person who ran for office for the first time in her 60s, her four decades as a teacher define her in a way Obama’s stint as an instructor in constitutional law never did. Here, as in all else, it matters that she’s a woman. Teaching is a profession that, in post-agrarian America, was explicitly meant to be filled by women. That means teachers historically were some of the only women to wield certain kinds of public power: They could evaluate and punish, and so it was easy to resent them…
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The Fear Is the Point. The Cruelty Is the Way To Make That Point.

In October 2018, Adam Serwer wrote an excellent essay in The Atlantic entitled “The Cruelty Is the Point”. As good as the essay is, Serwer’s conclusion was just a little bit off. The cruelty is the means, the fear is the point.

There are a lot more in Adrian Carrasquillo’s thread if you want to click across.

As I wrote here a few weeks ago, this year is the 100 year anniversary of the Red Summer of 1919, which, if it is remembered at all, is usually referred to as widespread race riots across the US. The Red Summer was not, in fact, a series of race riots across the US. Rather, white Americans, using almost anything as a justification, began localized campaigns of white supremacist terrorism targeting the African American communities in their cities and towns. African Americans, especially newly returned home African American veterans of WW I, quickly organized themselves and their communities f0r self defense. These acts of self defense, of course, further enraged and infuriated the white supremacists attacking the African American communities. As a result, because African Americans defended themselves, the Red Summer of 1919 is often referred to as race riots, when it was really no such thing.

The Red Summer is important. The African American communities in 1919 were terrorized by white supremacists. The point was fear, the means to achieve it the cruelty of the violence directed at them. The African American communities, or some within them, quickly moved past fear to resolve and a determination to defend themselves. Right now the President’s immigration policies, his rhetoric, the rhetoric of his supporters and surrogates, and that of almost all of the Republican Party and the conservative movement that sustains are all intended to generate fear. The actions and rhetoric are cruel, but cruelty is the means to the end. And that end is terrorizing Hispanic and Latinx Americans. The question, calling out to all of us Americans across 100 years from the Red Summer of 1919, when will the fear give way to resolve? And what action will result from that resolve?

Open thread!

Balloon Juice Testers – please send email

To: Balloon Juice Testers and anyone else who is interested:

We are getting closer to “Go” time for testing the new site – which I think will surely begin by sometime next week – and we still have a bit more to do before we will be ready to go when the developers say that the site is all set.

I am so grateful to all of you for volunteering to help test the new site!  If you have volunteered, I am asking you to do a few things:

First, please send an email as soon as you can to my nym at

If you are one of the 10 or so people who volunteered in the threads but never sent a confirming email, I have had no way to contact you. If you still wish to participate in testing, it’s not too late to jump in.

Second, please put your BJ nym in the subject line of your message.  That’s how I will know you are receiving my communications and how I will match up nyms with email addresses.  If you are one of the lurkers who were awesome enough to volunteer to test the new site, you’ll need a nym anyway to access BJ to create comments as part of the testing process.

Third, if you have not returned a filled out testing form, please do so and send it to me so we can confirm the form is working for you.  If you need another sample form, please let me know that in your email.

Fourth, if you haven’t identified the testing groups you want to be in, please include that information in your email message.  If you have already supplied that info, there is no need to do so again.

Within 3 days of receiving your email, I will reply and will include the actual forms that will be used for testing. (There will be no math!)  If you volunteered for multiple test groups, you will receive a form for each group.

Then, as soon as the developers say “Go”, I will send you all the URL by email, and we will be off to the races!

Shameless & Stupid Open Thread: Hadn’t Dayton Suffered Enough?

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