Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Time For Colonels, Part Two: Working with - not fighting - human nature

In Part One of this series, I laid out how the Trumpite collapse of the Republican Brand might lead to GOP losses in 2018… and yet, that "victory" - narrowly winning back the House and Senate - would leave the Democrats and the nation catastrophically impotent and gridlocked. And gridlock - not governing - has been the central GOP aim for 24 years.

Only a far, far bigger “wave” can possibly help America break out of debilitating culture war that is now teetering on civil war.

I wholly applaud the fervor of Bernites and other liberal activists to non-violently contest every swing district where Trumpist shenanigans are turning moderate-wavering voters away from the alt-right madness!  But can we agree that’s nowhere near enough? 

There are 220 “safe” Republican congressional districts — and several thousand red-safe state Assembly and state Senate seats. Moreover, even if we smash the dastardly and purely-evil treason of gerrymandering, those numbers won’t decline by more than a fifth.  

If you want to end this insanity — helping the people of suffering Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and so on shake off the monsters in their statehouses — then we’ve got to offer them alternatives that average voters in 'personality-conservative' regions will find palatable.

Yes, that means men and women who are conservative by style and temperament — and yes, some opinions — but who are also sane, intelligent, science-loving, rights-respecting, fact-using and eager to solve problems for a better America.

There are many places to seek such candidates, and I send money to orgs who are recruiting women and scientists etc. to run for office! But last time I told you the best and richest ore to mine…

… so let’s get back to why.

==  Use human nature, instead of denouncing it ==

George Lakoff, one of the smartest social psychologists around, tried to warn the Clinton campaign that they were doing it all wrong. They thought that Trump’s endless series of outrageous statements and behaviors would undermine support when, in fact, his success at infuriating blue smartypants types was a feature to Red Americans, not a bug.  

Even many Latinos voted for Trump. Why? Because “strict father” morality is big in Latino culture.  As opposed to the “nurturing parent” mode of leadership that Lakoff ascribes to liberals.

Lakoff correctly pointed out that this needn’t be either-or! Sure Republican politicians trick voters into conflating “strength” with “mean-minded and nasty.” But why cede them that ground? If the voting majority in a particular district or constituency thinks and feels in Lakoff’s Strong Father mode, then why not provide a candidate who offers a mien of quiet strength, combined with intellect, moderation, compassion and rectitude? Such people exist. Our country overflows with them! They don’t have to be colonels… but it’s a good place to start.

Last time, I described how Rob Quist recently came closer to to ousting the GOP from Montana’s single congressional district than any time in 30 years. He wasn’t a retired officer, but his combination of political moderation-intelligence with good-old-boy styles brought him close, despite being outspent five to one. Likewise, I spoke of how, in my own district, retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate was similarly outspent by the richest man in Congress, and gave infamous Darrell Issa the scare of his political career.

Consider that running such candidates makes sense even in districts that seem truly and utterly hopeless! Just forcing Republicans to spend at these levels… five to one… in their supposedly safe seats is a spectacularly effective thing to do! Besides, we don’t know yet how badly damaged the GOP brand will be, by November 2018. So how about being ready to pounce, with candidates even in Deep Crimson territory?

Two asides: 

*  Recruiting candidates demands a lengthy vetting process and it’s already getting late for 2018! Residency must be established and all that. One advantage of retired officers is that their lives were already spent under scrutiny, with very clear paper trails. Vetting can happen quickly, with some high likelihood there are no hidden skeletons.

Another advantage — they spent their service years moving around, and hence cannot easily be called “carpetbagging outsiders.”

* And sure, also recruit from other sources! Last time I referred to the many groups recruiting women and minorities, plus the amazing 314.org campaign to get active scientists running for office. Here’s another great idea: when Donald Trump fired all 48 Obama-appointed US Attorneys, he inadvertently supplied another clade of potential candidates with “strength” in their resumes.

== Refusing a free gift ==

Remember fundamentals. If Trump-exhaustion gives the Democrats an edge in 2018, should they aim to slice off maybe thirty House seats and five in the Senate, and thus win a razor thin Congressional control? Let me reiterate: that happened in 1992 and in 2008, and each victory was ephemeral, even futile, as gridlock soon set in. And gridlock serves the GOP masters just fine.

Or should the aim be crushing victory? A demolition of the Murdochian treason, so overwhelming that this phase of civil war ends and rational politics can resume in America?

To achieve the second result, you’ll need more than “swing voters.” As I said, you must peel away ten million or so remnant-sapient conservatives, overcoming their obstinate loyalty to a party that long-ago left them — (use that Reagan line!) — and that left behind all decency, in slavish devotion to oligarchy. Fox hollers “Democrats are worse!” But we’ve seen that there are fact-centered men and women of moderation, logic and compassion who can pierce that delusion. 

Put a Democratic colonel or captain before a red voter. That voter will listen to a Democrat. Perhaps for the first time, ever.

Oh, but will liberals embrace such allies, knowing there will be some irritating clashes down the road, over this or that cultural meme, symbol, or specific doctrine? Will the reaction be: “Okay, we’ll have some minor differences. But you are sane and decent and fact-loving and will help end the madness. So welcome!”
Or will these recruits be reflexively snubbed, driven back into the arms of the Murdochians? 

Fox and pals are absolutely counting on the latter reaction. Already we’ve seen internecine fights over whether to support  candidates who — while vastly better than a gopper incumbent — failed to pass some liberal or leftist litmus test. Norman Goldman derisively calls the "Progressive Purity Police” those who would repeat every tactic of the so-called Tea Party, that helped turn the Republican Party into the most-disciplined partisan force in U.S. history, and one of the craziest. Oh, by all means, imitate that. 

Sophia McClellon on Salon points out the many problems of the Democratic Party, whose brand rates as not much of a draw for those repelled by GOP madness.

Asking “Why won’t Democrats let anti-abortion progressives under their tent?” Washington Post commentator Christine Emba  complains: “This is a mistake — and not only because it limits Democrats’ ability to keep or expand their voter base. It also reduces the core values of the progressive movement to a single symbol and constrains the debate on how to best achieve broader goals of social and economic equality. The associated contempt for antiabortion activists often relies on outdated assumptions about their aims and origins and fails to take into account the complexity of most Americans’ views on abortion.”  

Is there a win-win compromise? The sensible thing for Bernites and other left-liberals to demand would be: “Leave the most vulnerable swing districts to us. But go ahead and send your blue-dog candidates invading red territory. If all those ex-colonels and such win — kicking out Tea Party maniacs — we expect to argue with our new, blue-dog colleagues, now and then, in the halls of Congress, while agreeing 75% of the time on matters the country desperately needs. If they have some “sane conservative” traits, we can live with that, if it helps to kick out the insane ones.”

The good news: there are signs that this approach — attacking the madness across a broad front — is taking hold. See some of the new candidates who are stepping up, already.  A Bronze Star paratrooper platoon leader. A woman engineer and Air Force captain. Another bonze star major who is a medical doctor. A former Navy Seal and entrepreneur.  

And — crucially — other moves are taking place at the state level. As in Virginia, where Democrats plan to challenge 45 GOP incumbents — as opposed to just 21 candidates, last round — in the deep-red House of Delegates this November, including 17 lawmakers whose districts voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.  

An improvement - but also pathetic! Since there are 100 seats in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Every one of them should be contested.  

Especially districts that have a strong military presence! An analysis of Gallup polling data during the first 100 days of Trump's presidency shows that Trump's job approval plummeted especially in military counties — from an average 51 percent approval and 41 percent disapproval in the first 100 days to 43 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval for May -- and that was a month ago. Here and there, Democratic and moderate political groups have been targeting veterans as candidates for midterm races and there may be some reason to think military voters could be good targets for the party. 

== It’s never simple ==

Okay, before I get screams… yes, there are elements in the military who embrace the dark side. Michael Flynn guzzled koolaid and joined almost every member of the Trump administration beating a drum for war (of some kind) with Tehran, a lunacy supported, fortunately, by almost none of his peers in the senior officer corps. 

Elsewhere, I compare the different ways that democratic and republican presidents wage war and why this distinction matters to serving warriors.

Yes, there have long been struggles within the military over religious fundamentalism, for example. I’ll talk a bit more about this in Part III. 
On the other hand, nothing better displays the good sense of this plan better than the panicky fury it elicits, in mad corners of the alt-right. Screechers like Kurt Schlichter proclaim:

“The Democrats are out there recruiting military vets – there’s one jerky liberal everyone finds annoying in every big unit, and that’s who they pick. They’ll preen and pose and get elected and then salute General Pelosi….”

(If you doubt the venomous fury of this Fox-propelled movement, here is the fellow’s alarum to any Republican politician who even thinks about breaking the “never-ever-negotiate” Hastert Rule: "

You see, you're there to represent Republicans. Some goofs and wusscons have the idea that you're there to represent all voters, but that's nonsense…. You are there to represent the people who voted for you, not the liberal whiners and welfare cheats who didn't and who hate you and us..... We're going to hurt Democrats."

Let's put the shoe on the other foot, and watch how quickly these fellow whimper "be fair!"  Of course... we will.

== History validates: The officer corps is on our side ==

In Part Three of this series, I’ll appraise many other reasons why democrats should find plenty of volunteers, from among recently retired officers, including their revulsion toward a “Deep State” meme, that the mad right now uses to justify attacking those who serve.  

But for now, let’s just remember what finally brought down the equivalent of Steve Bannon, back in during the Greatest Generation of the 1950s. What event finally toppled the horrific firebrand Joe McCarthy? What was “Tailgunner Joe’s” fatal error? 

It was attacking the U.S. Military Officer Corps. 

Alas, weaned on stereotypes, movie clichés and pop-paranoid philosophers, I doubt that most of the Murdochians have a clue who they are leveling their lance against. The best-educated, most-pragmatically grownup and loyal clade of men and women in American life.

They spent their careers willing to lay down their lives for us. In retirement, they can be called up to step up, once again, and rescue the Union from a recurring, potentially-lethal madness.

Let’s not wait for the Democratic Party leadership to wise up. Heck, I don’t mind if retired, sane colonels run in Republican primaries!  Go ahead, begin the process of resurrecting a decent American conservatism, that way.

But no. It’s up to us. If you know a retired officer — a colonel or major or Navy captain or any other background worthy of respect — talk to him or her about this. 

Plant a germ of the idea. Send them to talk to Doug Applegate. Offer to help them, even if it means finding and moving to an amenable red district! Get them discussing it with their ex-comrades. Link them here.

This can start with you.

Friday, June 16, 2017

2018: Will the fact-users strike back? Why we need... colonels.

Out of this year’s sickening political news-maelstrom — with one party seeming inept and the other insane — what keeps hope beating in my chest? The thought that mere ineptitude can sometimes change. Indeed, there are early signs! I’ll get to that. But first, a basic question:

What strategy should reasonable, fact-using Americans take up — politically — across the next two years?  Democrats, the fact-focused professions, people of calm goodwill and their moderate allies must choose. They can do either sumo or judo*

Indicators suggest that Democrats, at least, intend to continue going chest-to-chest, grunting and shoving with Republicans across the same-old polemical divides. Angry activists on the Democratic Party’s left demand that the same notions be proclaimed, just a whole lot more forcefully. If so, and assuming that swing voters do grow sick of the Trumpites — (as suggested in trends measured by 538) — then Democrats might “win” the 2018 mid-term elections, retaking the House and even the Senate by thin margins. A small improvement that will nevertheless leave us in perpetual gridlock.

That condition of stalemate has endured since at least 1995, destroying all memory of ancient virtues like “deliberation” or “adult negotiation.” And make no mistake: gridlock has always been the principal aim of Rupert Murdoch and the GOP lords. A narrow Democratic 2018 win will mean crushing defeat for the republic.

If our aim is to leap past gridlock — to end this latest phase of the American Civil War — then far more vigorous methods are called for, resembling judo, not sumo. Use your opponent's momentum against him. Swerve around his expectations.  

While pessimists bemoan that Democrats are mercurial, today's Republican Party is the most tightly disciplined political force in U.S. history — with its “never negotiate” Hastert Rule fiercely enforced by both Fox News and Tea Party activists. Alas, liberals are like cats, impossible to organize. That is, unless you are a miracle-worker, like California’s Jerry Brown.

Indeed, pundits write of a looming civil war within the Democratic Party, between radical (“Bernite”) activists and their old, moderate bĂȘtes noirs, sometimes called Clintonian 'blue dogs.' Others laud the ferocity of Sanders supporters

But the real issue is this: can Democrats avoid internal fights and make a broad, united front, taking this campaign deep into Donald Trump’s America?

Vigorous initiatives are underway that aim for a more judo-like approach. She Should Run is one of several national organizations encouraging women and girls of all backgrounds to aspire to public leadership and contend for office.  

And 314 Action is a campaign to recruit scientists - yes, actual scientists, over 400 so far - to run against the most toxic, anti-science legislators. (Here’s how to donate - as little at $3.14 - to electing more folks who actually know stuff.) 

Again, as Donald Trump continues to sully the GOP brand, hopes rise. Democrats need to win 24 seats to retake the House, a challenge that appeared insurmountable months ago but seems less so with each passing day. “Even Senior House Republicans Are at Risk in 2018,” read a headline in the Cook Political Report, a sign of how serious Republican woes are becoming.

But let me reply, yet again, that such a narrow win will only be a slightly-different colored calamity for the Republic, and for civilization.  Instead of 24 seats, the aim should be 124! Plus toppling Breitbart-parroting fanatics from at least half of the state assemblies and governorships where they now govern so execrably.

== How to win such a broad-front campaign? ==

Consider that:

1- The right's coalition depends on many forms of cheating, from gerrymandering and voter suppression all the way to highly suspect voting machines that are deliberately made impossible to audit. (And recent tales of Russian meddling in such machines only raise more suspicion.) But it is worth noting that these methods, though effective, are brittle. One Supreme Court decision could send the edifice crashing. 

Even better, if just ten million sane-sincere American conservatives can be drawn out of the Republican tent, then GOP demographics - already fragile - will collapse. Those sane, decent, intelligent conservative neighbors already know their traditional "side" has gone mad. Desperate to justify continued loyalty, they stay glued to Fox News, gulping down anecdotes about screaming Berkeley protesters while murmuring the mantra spread by Sean Hannity and George F. Will: 

"Liberals are even worse! Liberals are even worse! Yeah, that’s the ticket. Liberals are even worse!”

Sorry, Bernie-bros, those ten million desperately-needed sane conservatives won’t be wooed out of that carnival show by shouting progressive nostrums at them.

They might be swayed by meeting democrats who share some of their values -- the healthier ones -- while coaxing them to put aside toxic memes. 

Hold that thought.

2- Only fools seek the death of American Conservatism -- rather than salvation from its current bedlam. It can happen! Before they passed away, both Barry Goldwater and Billy Graham recanted the excuses they had made for earlier bigotry. Adaptability, in the face of evidence, used to be an American hallmark — and yes, a feature of grownup conservatives. 

We must make clear that folks like Adam Smith, Dwight Eisenhower and indeed Ronald Reagan would be welcome at the negotiating table, so long as they argue with facts, not lies. 

Some conservative intellectuals are finally making the hard choice between love of nation+civilization, on the one hand, versus a party that’s gone insane. David Brooks and Jennifer Rubin are among the former, while the Worst American — George Will — continues moaning that Trumpism betrays, rather than reifies, the trends that Will himself helped propel. The former should be welcomed. As for the latter —

— sharp polemical stakes must stab the undead-elephant that hijacked U.S. conservatism. For example: why did the recent Republican National Convention mention only one prominent GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan? No governor, president or senator — so ashamed are they of their record at governance.

And democrats, absurdly, never once mentioned that.

3- Confront a bald fact: of the 238 House seats now held by Republicans, and several thousand in state assemblies, only a few dozen are "swing", or conceivably accessible by a liberal politician. In those thirty or so teetering districts, activists are welcome to put forward their beloved Bernie or Elizabeth or Maxine-types, go for it! 

But the rest of those districts are represented by conservatives because that is the temperament of the district’s voting majority. 

Sure, let’s fight for impartial districting and to demolish other cheats. Still, if a district is inherently conservative, then send in sane, logical, fact-loving and grownup conservatives to challenge the (mostly) loony, illogical, science-hating and flaming-immature incumbents!  Why should that be objectionable? Moreover, let’s stop waiting for local conservatives to generate their own primary challengers to alt-right maniacs. Take this fight to the general.

Try a thought experiment: Suppose the democratic candidate in a reddish district supports a woman's access to full health care and wants background checks on gun sales; in that case, does it really matter if he also likes country music and goes target shooting? 

If she's compassionate and not paranoid about "dreamers" who came to this country as children, and wants to ease us out of the insane War on Drugs, can you put up with her support for a strong military that is stuck in fewer overseas quagmires? 

If the candidate we put up for a GOP 'safe' seat respects science and journalism and teaching and medicine and thinks we should save the planet for our kids, will you forgive his crewcut and erect posture?

Note: in the recent Montana congressional by-election, democratic candidate Rob Quist combined good-old-boy styles with science-support and appreciation for civil rights. He was outspent 5 to 1 by Republican Greg Gianforte, and still came closer to winning than any Democrat in decades. And this despite both candidates sporting some questionable baggage. Observers are calling this GOP win a screaming danger sign for the Republican Party.

Which brings up our concluding point:

4- Colonels. What we need is lots and lots of retired U.S. Army and Marine colonels and U.S. Navy captains. There are thousands of them out there. A great many are offended and fed up with the Republican Party's current insanity, its open warfare against every single fact-centered profession, its deceit, betrayals and utterly perfect record of bad governance.  

The thing to remember about senior military officers is that they notice facts and outcomes! They have to. Like the way Russia is building 12 new naval and marine bases ringing the fast-melting Arctic Sea, with blatant intent to make it theirs. Climate denialism is a clear and present danger to the United States of America.  

And so is the Republican Party - in its current (mad) incarnation. More and more military folk can see this.

== We’ve seen this can work ==

In my own congressional district, California's 49th, the infamous right winger Darrell Issa just had the scare of his political life, when retired U.S. Marine Colonel Doug Applegate took him on, in a contest that ran so close we didn't know the results for a month. And this happened despite Issa (the richest man in Congress, it is said) waging a scurrilous media tsunami of misleading advertising. 

How did Doug do it? By bringing his mix of liberal and moderate positions before this largely conservative constituency with both calm logic and the stern mien of a senior officer. A marine with a ramrod spine, he got attention from Republican voters who had never before, in their lives, actually listened to a Democrat.

Can this near miracle be enhanced and amplified, across the nation? Will Democrats be able to recruit great numbers of retired officers, many of whom spent large swathes of lifespan as Republicans?

Here we have allies, not just in Donald Trump, who seems bent on offending the U.S. military officer corps, but the entire confederate madness that has hijacked the American right. For example, he U.S. military led the way in American desegregation and it sees no benefit, only great harm, coming from a spuming rise of bigotry. 

Senior officers know that our power derives in large part from scientific advancement, in which America has been the leader. And hence, the mad right’s all-out assault on science is an existential threat. Moreover they know that the right’s latest, paranoid rhetorical salvo — attacking a so-called “Deep State” of conniving officers and civil servants — is aimed directly at them.  

Next time, in Part Two, I’ll discuss the basic, psychological, social and political reasons why this approach is the best way to take the fight far beyond normal “swing” districts, boldly invading the very heart of a madness that has hijacked both American conservatism and the country that we love.

Recruitment of retired officers should start right away, if not yesterday, if not last year! These men and women swore to defend our country against foreign enemies. 

It’s time to call them back into service against the domestic variety — those who would blind and bind our mighty, brilliant, scientific nation and use hot needles of radical dogma to lobotomize the last, best hope of humankind.


 Stephen Colbert's riff of mature solidarity - after the DC shootings - was moving and apropos. It was also an ultimate geek-out,  when he said: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent"  ...   a line penned by Isaac Asimov, in the novel Foundation. (It's an aphorism spoken by the first mayor of Terminus, Salvor Hardin.) 

Stephen must have known that it will puzzle a majority of his viewers. Yet, he stuck to applying the wisdom of his true tribe. This nod to science fictional wisdom proves, yet again, he is 'one of us.' An American above all. But also a citizen of wonder.



See  an earlier judo proposal I made, for short straw Democrats to exploit - rather than exacerbate - Donald Trump's character flaws.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

More marvels from space!

This weekend I will start a three part series on what must be a central tactic of the moderate-liberal-American alliance leading up to the 2018 elections.  But first, let's look up to space!

In August I will speak at both Science Foo (at the Googleplex in Palo Alto) and the Starship Congress in Monterrey. And in late September -- the annual NASA NIAC Symposium, this time in Denver and open to the public. Wowzer stuff! Stay tuned for details.

The Incentive Trap: When to Launch: An interesting article from Centauri Dreams talks about  the way that humanity has been – in jerks and starts – increasing the speed of our vehicles and machines, starting with the first railroad engine in 1804. There’s been a plateau since the 1970s, stalled “Voyager 1’s 17 kilometers per second as it leaves the Solar System. The Helios solar probes launched in 1974 and 1976 set the current record at 70.22 km/s. And looking forward, the Solar Probe Plus mission is to perform a close flyby of the Sun, reaching a top heliocentric speed of 195 kilometers per second, which works out to 6.5 × 10 −4 c

If Breakthrough Starshot realizes its goal, an interstellar lightsail may one day head for Proxima Centauri at fully 20 percent of the speed of light.” Note that I explore dozens of implications of Starshot-style missions, sending pellets or small capsules between stars -- in Existence.

The essay by Paul Gilster contemplates the Incentive Trap, in which launching an interstellar mission might be delayed by worries that another probe, dispatched a decade later, would pass it by!  See this whimsically treated in my story "The Avalon Probes," in my third collection Insistence of Vision.

== More gorgeous reasons to be proud! ==

These images from Jupiter were taken by the Juno spacecraft with a camera made by Malin Space Systems in La Jolla.  Unbelievable beauty. As if painted by Van God. (If you look closely at frame 5 and frames 10 and 11, you can see lots of these little white blobs sticking up above the cloud deck.  The immediate reaction from the atmospheric guys on the science team is that they are thunderstorms (there is evidence from one of the other instruments of lightning when we flew over these areas).

  Given their heights, they are probably a combination of water ice and ammonia ice.) And yes, someone else noticed the Van Gogh similarities.

And this image from Juno of Jupiter's south pole.The circular features are immense swirling cyclones, up to 600 miles in diameter. Wow. 

Juno will make a couple dozen more passes over Jupiter's poles... so more data and images await! 

And the Cassini mission has completed its sixth dive through the rings of Saturn -- as part of its Grand Finale mission before plummeting into the depths of Saturn's atmosphere. See 52 of Cassini's most beautiful postcards from the edge..

A free floating brown dwarf? Only 21 light-years from the Sun in Pisces, is SIMP0136  a well-studied brown dwarf star… or so folks thought. But UCSD’s Adam Burgasser has helped nail down that it’s more of a free-drifting planet, with mass of about 13 times that of Jupiter, right at the boundary between brown dwarfs and giant planets. Free-floating planets are easier to study because their dim light isn’t overwhelmed by the brightness of their host stars, which blinds the instruments that astronomers use to characterize an exoplanet’s atmosphere. That meant astronomers had already detected fast-evolving weather patterns on the surface.

 == Space technologies ==

SpaceX changes everything. This is so way cool.  They've never shown images like these, actually zooming in on the rocket as it falls, as the nitrogen puffs keep it oriented, as the stage re-ignites and as it lands.

Watch the whole thing while multi tasking!

When SpaceX launches the Falcon 9 Heavy - with three Falcon 9 cores (the Falcon 27?) - it will attempt to land and re-use all three first stages., Elon says. Hey ULA, you better get cracking.

Okay then... DARPA has granted approval to Boeing to build and test its reusable hypersonic military spaceplane XS-1 - the Phantom Express - which will launch vertically and land horizontally.

Sundiver? NASA to announce a mission to dive into the sun's atmosphere. 

Well, well, it seems that NASA has published a peer reviewed paper on their tests of the electromagnetic “EM Drive.” And – very tentatively – they seem to have found a very small effect.  I am hoping they had a few professional magicians on the evaluation team. And such things almost never scale up. Still, the effect is larger than a solar sail. So bring on the next stage of upgrades and tests!

Is weightlessness good for growing stem cells?

After circling Earth for an unprecedented 718 days, the U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B spaceplane touched down May 7 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Cape Canaveral. And Elon won the next contract to launch it.

And construction begins on the 39 meter ELT -- Extremely Large Telescope in Chile's Atacama Desert, which will be the world's largest optical/infrared telescope in the world. 

== Can we move outward, while not looking down? ==

NASA was spared - overall - deep cuts in the Trump proposed budget. Sighs of relief? Only look at what was meddled-out. All three of the satellite programs that would have helped to nail down the facts regarding climate change, all wiped out by those who shout (in effect) "If we don't look, then it doesn't exist!" (Object permanence is something most humans learn by the time they are three.)

Also gone, the Asteroid Redirect Mission, nailing in place the weirdest aspect of America's current Civil War... the fact that Republicans are obsessed with putting more dusty footprints on the Moon while Democrats (and nearly all scientists and space entrepreneurs) want to at least take a closer look at a likely bonanza of wealth available for the taking, from asteroids.

Why would our insipid political struggles extend into space? Because that asteroid bonanza could undermine prices for materials we currently tear out of the Earth, threatening the sunk costs of resource exploiters. One reason why that cult also undermines sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. (Too late on that one, fellahs. Too late, thank God.)

In 1973, the celebrated Nigerian poet Odia Ofeimun contemplated the moon landing with a poem that said, “We are annexing the kingdom of the gods.” Read about how Nigeria is passionate about their space program.

== Missions and marvels ==

Here is a chart  (by Olaf Frohn) of all deployed and future space observatories showing their orbits, spectral bands and a graph showing spectral coverage vs. angular resolution for many of them, plus some ground based telescopes for comparison. 

Evidence for a giant tsunami after a rock struck Mars billions of years ago, when it (hypothetically) had oceans. 

Witness the moment when two young stars in the Orion Nebula collided, creating a fireworks display of prodigious color.

Fascinating results from Earth-based observations of an eclipse… when Europa passed in front of Io, revealing how Io’s lava lakes roil, churn and change. 

A new theory proposes that Earth may have arisen from a synestia -- a donut-shaped disk of vaporized rock at some point in time

Does space radiation harm animals? Freeze-dried space sperm -- stored on the International Space Station for 9 months -- results in healthy baby mice. 

Way-cool artist depictions of many other-planetary scenes, based on best-recent news from space. 

Okay are you convinced yet that we have a dazzling civilization? A spectacular and worthy one, we should defend?  

Next time I will dive into how.