Friday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The CIA used hundreds of websites for covert communications that were severely flawed and could have been identified by even an “amateur sleuth”, according to security researchers.

    The flaws reportedly led to the death of more than two dozen US sources in China in 2011 and 2012 and also reportedly led Iran to execute or imprison other CIA assets.

    The new research was conducted by security experts at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which started investigating the matter after it received a tip from reporter Joel Schectmann at Reuters.

    The group said it was not publishing a full detailed technical report of its findings to avoid putting CIA assets or employees at risk. But its limited findings raise serious doubts about the intelligence agency’s handling of safety measures.

    Using just a single website and publicly available material, Citizen Lab said it identified a network of 885 websites that it attributed “with high confidence” as having been used by the CIA. It found that the websites purported to be concerned with news, weather, healthcare and other legitimate websites.

    “Knowing only one website, it is likely that while the websites were online, a motivated amateur sleuth could have mapped out the CIA network and attributed it to the US government,” Citizen Lab said in a statement.

    Reuters published its full report, America’s Throwaway Spies: How the CIA failed Iranian informants in its secret war with Tehran, on Thursday.

    ETA: reading the reuters piece it’s even worse.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It seems even the Geico gecko wants a union.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    my mother has been a nurse almost 30 years- her job told her if they didn’t come to work they would be fired. she was stranded in these waters for over 3 hours. she called the job for help and they haven’t even reached back out to see if she was ok.

    She needs a union.

  4. Lost in Quebec says:

    Doctor, Army spouse accused of trying to provide service member medical records to Russia

    Federal prosecutors on Thursday unsealed a new indictment charging a Johns Hopkins doctor and her spouse, a U.S. Army Major stationed at Fort Bragg, with attempting to provide military service members’ medical information to the Russian government.

    Anna Gabrielian, an anesthesiologist, and Jamie Lee Henry, an Army Major who held a Secret level security clearance, are alleged to have met with a person they believed was associated with the Russian government but who was actually an undercover agent with the FBI — and told the person they wanted to assist Russia by providing them secret medical information on members of the U.S. military, their family members and other patients of Johns Hopkins.

    According to the indictment, both discussed with the undercover agent their desire to maintain “plausible deniability” about their actions and suggested a cover story for their negotiations with the person they believed was an agent for Russia as well as a plan for their children to be able to flee the U.S. quickly if the government became aware of their actions.

    Gabrielan is alleged at one point to have accessed medical records for patients at Johns Hopkins that included the spouse of a person employed by the Office of Naval Intelligence and an unnamed veteran of the Air Force, and transferred it to the undercover agent — believing it would be handed over to Russia.

    She allegedly highlighted a medical issue in the records of the military member’s spouse that “Russia could exploit.” Henry is also alleged to have obtained secret medical records from five members of the military, one retired Army officer and family members of deceased Army veterans that were handed over to the undercover agent.

    In a meeting in mid-August, Gabrielan allegedly met with the undercover agent in a hotel in Baltimore and told them she was “motivated by patriotism toward Russia” and that Henry was an “even more important source for Russia” due to her status in the military, and that she could potentially provide info on “how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions, and about previous training the U.S. military provided to Ukrainian military personnel.”

    Henry later joined for another meeting that evening where she allegedly said, “the way I am viewing what is going on in Ukraine now, is that the United States is using Ukrainians as a proxy for their own hatred toward Russia.”

    “My point of view is until the United States actually declares war against Russia, I’m able to help as much as I want,” Henry allegedly told the undercover agent. “At that point, I’ll have some ethical issues I’ll have to work through.”

    Henry was previously the subject of a 2015 Buzzfeed profile as the first transgender active-duty U.S. Army Officer.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources

    Our derelict vessel crews are begging you to understand that anything that “serves briefly as a boat” should not be used as a boat

    Elon Musk
    Cybertruck will be waterproof enough to serve briefly as a boat, so it can cross rivers, lakes & even seas that aren’t too choppy

    Elon Musk trying to kill even more people with his silly overpriced vehicles.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Liz Truss to hold emergency talks with OBR after failing to calm markets

    Just 37% of 2019 Tory voters said they would now vote for the Conservatives. Veteran Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said if the poll lead was repeated at an election, the Conservatives will “cease to exist as a political party”.

    But Liz is gonna stay the course:

    In her first public statements since warnings from the International Monetary Fund and the Bank’s intervention to prevent a run on pension funds, Truss said she was “prepared to take difficult decisions” and would not change her approach despite pressure.

    After hearing about the financial concerns of multiple listeners, she insisted that people would feel the benefits in the longer term. “This is the right plan that we have set out,” Truss told BBC Radio Norfolk. “Of course, there will always be people who will oppose a particular measures. And it’s not necessarily easy. But we have to do it.”

    Pressed repeatedly by the presenters about why she had cut taxes primarily for richer people, she rejected any idea of error. “Some of these decisions are difficult,” she told BBC Radio Lancashire. “Some people don’t like them. But what I couldn’t do is allow the situation to drift. So that is why my government has taken urgent action.”

    In a particularly awkward exchange on BBC Radio Stoke, there were long silences when she was asked about hikes in mortgage payments, which will increase as interest rates go up, dwarfing any savings that her measures may have helped people make.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: More from John Crace: Half-witted, reckless Librium Liz may be even worse than May and Johnson

    It was like this, she said. It all went wrong because we were trying to help people out with their energy bills. “Are you stupid?” everyone screamed. Of course it didn’t. You had announced the energy bailout early in September and no one had batted an eyelid. The markets had taken it in their stride. It was only when you and Kamikwasi Kwarteng announced your unfunded tax cuts that benefited the most well-off that the pound nosedived. It was an entirely self-inflicted crisis that only the ever delusional John Redwood and the batshit-crazy Institute of Economic Affairs welcomed.

    On and on Librium Liz went. Through Norfolk, Kent, Lancashire, Nottingham, Tees, Bristol and Stoke. Each time sounding less and less convincing. Detached, emotionally dead, intellectually wanting. Careless with other people’s lives. Not even curious to find out how people were experiencing her calamity economics. The dead-air silences became so long I presumed she was trying to communicate by telepathy.

    Kamikwasi Kwarteng, I love it.

  8. Kathy says:

    Next day replies.


    In his Worldwar* alternate history books, Turtledove kind of tackles the logistics of the invading aliens. they brought all their supplies with them, and are running out. They try to manufacture some on parts of Earth they’ve conquered, with very limited success.


    The one thing we know about alien intelligences is that we know none yet. For all we know there’s a very powerful one converting all sentient beings to the One True Religion, and exterminating those who won’t comply.

    Also, I’ve been thinking more about potential life in other planets. the problem there is like the one above: we know of no other planets with life. Further, we know little of other solar systems. So combine the two:

    How likely is life to arise and thrive in a planet without a magnetic field to shield it from some types of solar radiation, and how many planets otherwise suitable for life have magnetic fields?

    The problem is most rocky planets and satellites in our Solar system don’t have one. Earth does. Mercury and Ganymede have one, but they’re very weak compared to Earth’s.

    The gas giants do have magnetic fields, but we’ve detected no life in them as yet.

    *Brief synopsis: alien invaders rudely interrupt humanity during WWII.

  9. JohnSF says:


    …the Conservatives will “cease to exist as a political party”.

    Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?

    Personally I think the UK needs a conservative party, possibly even this Conservative Party.
    But this iteration of it needs radical reconstruction: the UKIP influx marginalised, and the One Nation/Realist groups back in.

  10. Scott says:

    Many of you probably already follow the Ukraine conflict on a daily basis this but, if not, I recommend a daily look at this site: Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine Conflict Updates.

    Each of the bullet statements below have a more detailed narrative available if you wish a more in-depth analysis.

    This is put out daily around 1930 ET.

    The Kremlin continues to violate its stated “partial mobilization” procedures and contradict its own messaging even while recognizing the systematic failures within the Russian bureaucracy just eight days after the declaration of mobilization.

    Belarus may be preparing to accommodate newly-mobilized Russian servicemen but remains unlikely to enter the war in Ukraine on Russia’s behalf.

    Ukrainian troops have likely nearly completed the encirclement of the Russian grouping in Lyman and cut critical ground lines of communication (GLOCS) that support Russian troops in the Drobysheve-Lyman area.

    Ukrainian military officials maintained operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground maneuvers in Kherson Oblast but stated that Russian forces are deploying newly-mobilized troops to reinforce the Kherson Oblast frontline.

    Ukrainian troops continued to target Russian logistics, transportation, and military assets in Kherson Oblast.

    Russian troops continued ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast.

    Russian forces have likely increased the use of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in southern Ukraine.

    An independent Russian polling organization, the Levada Center, found that almost half of polled Russians are anxious about mobilization, but that support for Russian military actions declined only slightly to 44%.

    Ukrainian officials reiterated their concerns that the Kremlin will mobilize Ukrainian citizens in occupied oblasts following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation announcement.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The NAACP’s complaint to the EPA, which has 25 days to decide whether to investigate it, notes that Jackson’s leaders have “repeatedly requested” aid from officials in the Republican-controlled state to “provide funding solutions”. Instead, “Jackson’s majority-Black population has been repeatedly ignored, spurned, or ridiculed,” the complaint states.

    In the last 25 years, the city has received federal funds toward addressing safe drinking water just three times. At the same time, since 2016, the city has imposed more than 750 notices for residents to boil their water, roughly 40% of which came in the last two years.
    The complaint notes that state officials have exacerbated the funding gap by repeatedly denying Jackson the ability to fund improvements to its drinking water system. In March 2021, when, after a previous water shutdown, Jackson’s mayor, Chokwe Lumumba, requested $47m in emergency aid, and the state legislature approved just $3m .

    Uh huh.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnSF: Personally I think the UK needs a conservative party

    So does the US. Unfortunately, neither one does just now.

  13. JohnSF says:

    Problem of a lot of “Earth invasion” fiction is that it just doesn’t allow for the scale of differential technical capability between an culture capable of insterstellar travel and contemporary humanity.
    And the odds (seriously, massive probability) that such a culture would be millions of years older than humans.

    Classic example being Independence Day:
    If said aliens wanted the resources of the Earth, why not just snaffle the asteroid belt, which is already nicely broken up?
    If they were dead set on destroying Earth, for some odd reason, just grab one cometary body, accelerate it to interstellar velocity and SMACK!

    Ah, but people say: what if they want to occupy Earth?
    But why should a spacefaring culture want to occupy inhabited planets at all?
    And if a mega-years advanced culture wants Earth, they could pretty certainly make it a cakewalk.

    One of the few fiction works to address this is actually Footfall, by Niven and Pournelle.

    They solve the problem of “non-advanced aliens” by having them be inheritors of a dead culture’s technology, so they have interstellar capability but are otherwise little beyond human level capabilities.
    They have not evolved science and technology themselves, just copied a sequence of “how to rebuild a civilisation” manuals with minimal understanding of the underlying principles.
    Plus, they are, in some ways rather stupid, inflexible and extremely instinct-bound, with a herd based society and psychology
    And lack physical dexterity.
    IIRC the Fithp were supposed to be descended from genetically modified pets of the extinct Predecessors

    IMO opinion one of the few alien antagonists that actually made sense in terms of both attacking in the first place, and being beatable.

  14. Beth says:


    I’m a big fan of those Turtledove books. They were internally consistent fun literary candy. The thing I didn’t like about his writing was the constantly repeating stuff. Oh, so and so has X quality? You mean its different than the 500 times you’ve told us this in the last 6 books in this series. We get it.

  15. Kathy says:

    I wan to say Mad Vlad just dug himself in deeper, but he actually has a good chance of walking away, eventually, from the war with some new territories.

    The world, and most of Europe in particular, will tolerate a repressive state that is a source of valuable resources. But not a repressive state that is intent on expanding by force, no matter what valuable resources it holds.

  16. Kathy says:


    Classic example being Independence Day:

    One of the worst SciFi movies I’ve paid to see…

    I did read Footfall, but I don’t recall the origin of the Fithp. I do remember they were rather dim-witted and inflexible.

    Overall, yes, the reasons for aliens invading Earth are very unsatisfactory. Once you can travel across the stars, resources of all kinds are plentiful and cheap outside of habitable planets.

    But, suppose habitable planets with a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere and a magnetic field, ones where you can just live on without sealed off habitats or domes, like Earth, are very very rare. Say there are maybe under a million of them in the galaxy, and only a handful within reach of even advanced aliens.

    That might be reason enough to take them over, then exterminate the native population so your people can move in and enjoy it. A mass comet/asteroid strike would damage the ecosystem, which would take decades or centuries to recover. Mass nuclear bombardment would be even worse.

    Then there’s ideology. Germany did not need to conquer most of Europe in order to be a prosperous nation. But see what nazi ideology did to it. Ditto communist ideology in Russia. America kind of stopped after gobbling up Mexico’s lands, of which they could have taken more had they wanted to. The UK had to trade its empire for the survival of the core in WWII and its aftermath.

    You could have something similar with religion, too. We don’t lack examples of powerful states making war and imposing religion on conquered peoples.

  17. Kathy says:


    The repetition, and the later penchant for recreating historical events with different settings and characters, is what turned me off Turtledove for good.

    At that, Worldwar remains pretty good. The sequel, Colonization, not so much.

  18. Scott says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Mississippi is corrupt to the core.

    Mississippi welfare fraud: Former MDHS director John Davis faces new charges

    A former Mississippi Department of Human Services director has been indicted on 20 additional felony charges tied to allegations that he participated in misusing money that was supposed to help some of the poorest people in the nation, including some spent to send a former pro wrestler to a luxury drug rehab facility.

    John Davis of Brookhaven has pleaded not guilty to the new charges of bribery, conspiracy and making false statements to the government. The indictments were unsealed this week, days after he entered the plea.

    In early 2020, Davis and five others were charged in what the state auditor called the largest public corruption case in Mississippi in the past two decades.

    Bennie Thompson asks DOJ to investigate former Mississippi governor over missing TANF funds

    State Representative Bennie Thompson released a letter Friday to the Department of Justice regarding a recent court filing on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program Embezzlement Scheme in Mississippi.

    “It has come to my attention that the state of Mississippi has consistently misspent TANF funds. Specifically, Governor Phil Bryant is alleged to have steered money toward individuals who did not meet the criteria for eligibility,” said Thompson in a statement.

    In 2018, The Mississippi Department of Human Resources (MDHS) received $135 million in TANF funds, however $77 million were misdirected.

    The Mississippi welfare fraud involving Brett Favre, explained

    If you’ve heard about this scandal, it’s likely because of the involvement of former Green Bay Packer Brett Favre, specifically the $1 million in federal welfare money he received for talks he apparently did not give and the $5 million he was involved in directing toward construction of a volleyball stadium at the college his daughter attended. Favre’s name is what pushed this from dry newspaper stories in 2020 announcing arrests of local bureaucrats to Stephen A. Smith yelling on ESPN about poverty in Mississippi.

  19. JohnSF says:


    But, suppose habitable planets with a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere and a magnetic field, ones where you can just live on without sealed off habitats or domes, like Earth, are very very rare.

    True for a near-par civilisation.
    But starfarers are unlikely that bothered about habs or domes rather than planets.
    In fact, they might be preferable, due to environment/biology reason, maybe.

    And a mega-year old one: want a planet? Just make one.
    Take a while, but that sort of civ. will have got used to thinking long-term, or it wouldn’t have GOT to the long-term.

    No magnetic field?
    Put up a orbital shell of charged grids, or somesuch.
    A mega-year culture is going to be one way outside our contexts, even if you rule out handwavium tech.

  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: @OzarkHillbilly: I’m not so sure. I think that both countries need to have a party that concerns itself with how government action affects those in the bottom half of the society, but as to whether that party needs to be conservative, I’m not sold.

  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott: “In 2018, The Mississippi Department of Human Resources (MDHS) received $135 million in TANF funds, however $77 million were misdirected.”

    See? The conservatives are right again. Governments shouldn’t be given money because they’ll just embezzle most of it. The fact that conservative governments are the ones doing it only makes matters worse. If you can’t trust conservatives, who love the country and want to do what’s best for the citizens, to channel the money well, how can you possibly trust lefties who hate the country and want to destroy the society (not to mention being willing to trade morally pure failure for morally corrupt success–like embezzling over half of the TANF funds)?

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: why? Why, really, do we need a “conservative” party? Serious question. What have Tories or Republicans contributed? Keep in mind that I’m the guy with the obsession about dictionary “conservative” =\= political “conservative.

  23. Kathy says:


    Again, we know nothing about alien intelligences, much less ones with millions of years of civilization. For all we know (spoiler alert), they’ll get us to fight for them to prove them right.

    About the one assumption we can make is aliens who can build a civilization need to cooperate effectively with each other. This does not make them peaceful or benign. Exhibit A: humans do cooperate effectively with each other and do build civilizations. We can be peaceful and benign, but all too often we’re not.

  24. Kathy says:

    Has anyone ever used peanut butter to cook in place of butter or vegetable oil?

    I got the notion of adding peanut butter to rice as it cooks, but then I thought I can also/instead use it to lightly fry the rice before cooking it (I do that with oil most times). the end dish is rice with stir fried snow peas, soybean sprouts, celery, bell pepper, and mushrooms.

  25. Kathy says:

    Well, here’s a new form of representative government to ponder: single-seat district with collective candidacies.

    The idea is a group of people run for one seat, and will divide the duties of fundraising, campaigning, and eventually governing.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Cue up the latest Profiles in Courage eventShutdown averted: House passes spending bill to fund federal government through Dec. 16

    We’re never having deliberately-funded government again except when whackos elect the GQP to misrun things. Good time to be old. Fewer “shutdown crisis averted” events to go through.

  27. dazedandconfused says:


    Given the cosmic speed limit of ridiculously slow light, I believe that if space travel is at all feasible it’s along the lines of quantum linking which we seem to have recently proved is real. The nut of it is that at the quantum level space-time does not exist. Our brains are not structured to grasp this, but it appears that at the quantum level the farthest galaxy is no further away than the tip of one’s nose.

    This follows the theory of space travel in Dune, actually. “Folding space” as in moving across space “without moving at all”. This also fits a common feature of UFO sightings, acceleration beyond our understood physics followed by instant disappearance could be how ships transitioning into another dimension could appear to an outside observer.

    Conquest would be a rather silly thing to bother with for those to whom the entire universe is their oyster, and judging by the history of life on our planet the chances of happening upon a nitrogen/water planet at the point in time where it harbors something like us as we are today would seem to be exceedingly small, so why would they equip themselves for war? The odds they are driven by curiosity are much, much larger.

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Haven’t done it (peanut allergy) but imagine that one would need to saute at low temperature to avoid burning the solids. Maybe even lower than butter, which has a much higher oil to solids ratio (I would assume).

  29. Slugger says:

    @Kathy: Back when I was still reading science fiction there was a series by Fred Saberhagen, Berserkers, that postulated a interstellar threat by machines determined to wipe out all (other) living things. Of course, this goal does not require landing on a planet. An alien force might be motivated to conquer others without a rational reason; humans seem to act irrationally a lot; why shouldn’t aliens?

  30. EddieInCA says:

    Random musings…

    1. Loving “Andor”. It’s a very different take on Star Wars IP. Disney+

    2. John Ridley’s “Five Days at Memorial” is f*cking amazing, and I’m only on episode 5. Don’t watch it if you don’t want to get frustrated, angry, and sad at the lack of humanity from some mixed in with the heroic efforts of others. AppleTV+

    3. “Welcome to Wrexham” is a must watch if you’re any sort of football (soccer) fan. FX and Hulu

    4. “The Patient” is gonna win some awards. Hulu

    Happy Friday, all.

  31. Mu Yixiao says:


    Why, really, do we need a “conservative” party? Serious question.

    I’ll chime in on this before I head out for the weekend.

    1) To accurately represent the will of the people. Not everybody is liberal or progressive. Whether you agree with them or not, they deserve to have a (proportional) voice in government.

    2) To have a party that looks towards fiscally conservative policies (e.g., Golden Fleece Awards), and asks “Do we really need this? Or are we just rushing ahead blindly?”

    3) To balance the rights and needs of individuals against the “best intentions” of a “nanny state”*, and promote a free market (within reasonable protections and restrictions).

    4) To present counter arguments to progressive policies, even if just to make the progressives think about the reasons, responsibilities, and repercussions.

    I would note that the current Republican party is failing at all of these.

    * Yes, outlawing large sodas is the workings of a nanny state.

  32. Grumpy realist says:

    @JohnSF: There’s a guy over on YouTube that runs a series: “Sci-Fi civilisations too stupid to actually exist”. Wonderful British snark. I ran into one of his presentations when I was Dalek-searching. It was a hoot.

    Anyway, he’s got one on the “Harvesters” (the aliens from Independence Day I and II). Again, hilarious. Definitely too dumb to exist in reality.

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: Checks and balances. We have a liberal party. A conservative party can apply the brakes to our excesses. And we do have them. I like to read sane conservative arguments, it makes me think about what we are trying to do and whether it can actually succeed.

    Unfortunately, the GOP is completely whacked out looney tunes. Anything they say is imbecilic, and everything they do is just plain crazy. They are an active danger to society.

  34. Gustopher says:

    @Grumpy realist: Does he do an episode on humans? I can see lots of ways that we could wipe ourselves out, and am a little surprised we haven’t yet.

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao: 2) To have a party that looks towards fiscally conservative policies (e.g., Golden Fleece Awards), and asks “Do we really need this? Or are we just rushing ahead blindly?”

    Gotta point out that the Golden Fleece awards were a con. A lot of the things Proxmire singled out were really quite valuable and only proved what an ignoramus he was. The one that sticks in my mind was a scientific study done by a PHD candidate which centered around the anal temperatures of Alaskan sled dogs in winter. I don’t recall specifically what was his thesis but his work was used by NASA in building space suits.

  36. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I think I’ll experiment a bit in the morning while making breakfast.

  37. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    With the caveat that a lot depends on the actual definition of “conservative” being used, I would add a 5th reason to Mu’s list: to argue the virtues of incremental and cautious change in a country of 300+ million, and to remind people that unintentional consequences are a big deal. Or perhaps that is the more generic purpose of the 4 points he brings up.

    Note today’s Republican party (and apparently Tories as well) are not “conservative” in any way by the definitions Mu and I seem to be using. They are completely reactionary-resistant to ANY change that doesn’t immediately and obviously benefit them (and not always then), ideologically blinded so badly that they can’t imagine and/or don’t care about unforeseen consequences even when reality keeps slapping them in the face (see, the British pound this week), and placing far more priority on socially conservative beliefs than any rational theory of conservative government would.

  38. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I should add that, yes, I agree the reactionary elements I complain about in today’s Republican and Tory parties above have always been present to one degree or another. That does not mean, however, that conservatism as a whole has no purpose. I would argue that like most things the amount to which the reactionary factions are in control is a pendulum, and that today virtually none of the useful elements of a conservative party are present. At least I can HOPE we are at or near peak-reactionary. So when I say or agree with comments along the lines of “the US needs a Conservative party” I am basically wishing for the conservative pendulum to swing the other way.

  39. Matt says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: That’s pretty typical for conservatives in my experience. They love getting upset over stuff they don’t understand because they can’t be bothered to take a deeper look. Sometimes once you explain to them the long form reasoning they have an “ah ha” moment. Most of the time they seem to have an “ah ha” moment only to rant about the same thing months later…

    It really does feel like the only motivation they have here (my area at least) anymore is grievance/anger related.

  40. Kathy says:


    I’ve heard of the notion that spacetime is an emergent property of quantum systems, but that the distance between stuff, even quantum-level stuff like particles, is not real.

    I do know it’s so far impossible to transmit information from a distance through entangled particles.

    As to folding space, the idea there is to actually fold space, the way general relativity says gravity deforms the fabric of space. It’s and old staple in science fiction, and even how the Enterprise zooms around the galaxy.


    That’s what I thought too 🙂

  41. gVOR08 says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    1: You’re accepting Republican framing of “will of the people” as some basic racism plus abortion, gays, CRT, grooming, etc. which are mostly issues Republicans created, or immigration which Republicans refuse to deal with in any realistic way so they can exploit it. And do we really need a party to represent racists?
    2: Republicans (and Tories) standing for fiscal conservatism? Really? OK, as a partisan tool against Ds in power, sure. But when they have power, as the Tories do at the moment?
    3. “Free markets were a liberal creation. You can find edge cases like giant sodas (which really are bad), but how many nations like Ds pushed it?
    4: Republicans have largely banned expertise, for which they should be banned from serious policy discussion.

    You concede that Republicans are failing at all these. If you want to argue for the virtues of some ideal conservative party, OK. In the real world what use are Republicans? Yes, there needs to be a loyal opposition to prevent the dominant party from becoming corrupt, but a far left part opposed to center left Dems would do nicely.

    @OzarkHillbilly: You’re also arguing we need a valid second party, not necessarily a rightist party. A nice solid center right party would also do.

  42. Kathy says:


    There’s a lot of stuff in math that seems exceedingly arcane and plain weird, which has practical applications. Things like topology, for example. I vaguely recall reading a piece on Discover magazine about the math of sphere packing in various spatial dimensions. I forget how or why, but the problem of how many spheres touche when bunched together has something to do with transmitting data.

    And you often find other such weird, unexpected stuff in science, particularly in biology.

  43. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “1. Loving “Andor”. It’s a very different take on Star Wars IP. Disney+”

    I’ve watched the first episode and know I have to go back because it’s Tony Gilroy. But I think I’m realizing there’s just nothing in the Star Wars universe I care about.

    On the other hand, I think She-Hulk Attorney At Law continues to be one of the most delightful things I’ve seen in ages. It dares to be silly, and has the chops to pull it off.

    Still waiting on the two dragon shows. Going to let all the episodes pile up before I feel compelled to check them out. And by that time the world will have stopped yapping about them, and I can just focus on the series themselves, if they turn out to be worth the time…

  44. JohnSF says:

    Of course alian psychologies and societies are unknowable.
    But i suspect capacity for endurance over a megayears will place a premium on rationality, curiosity and a degree of, for want of a better word, empathy.

    And that a multi-million year old culture will “speciate”: diverge to an extent you get multiple alien cultures and biologies even if you started with just one origin point.

    And whether mono-specific or multi-specific in origin, a diversified mega culture is liable to not be a benign environment for an irrational agressive/expansionist group to survive in.
    Someone older is liable to sit on the head a a juvenile irritant.
    (Which is a good reason for us to learn to mind our manners).

  45. Kathy says:


    And that a multi-million year old culture will “speciate”: diverge to an extent you get multiple alien cultures and biologies even if you started with just one origin point.

    Sounds like you’ve been reading Larry Niven, and in particular the second Ringworld novel.

    But he may be right. If people settle different environments, they may evolve into a different species as they adapt. Our descendants might find out through experience, should we last so long.

  46. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Perhaps both class interest as social-psychology.
    When it come to class, I’m Brit-European enough that my default is the “conservative” party tends to the interest of the wealthier, more established types.
    “Lower class conservatism” is still more an American thing (though less so than it used to be).
    American Republicans are a VERY odd variety of “conservative” in world terms.

    I’ve often argued Republicans are in many respects a strange variant of populist liberalism crossed with “business interest”.
    Compare an average Republican with a German Christian Democrat or French Gaullist, let alone a British High Church Monarchist Tory.

    IMO the problem of the British Conservative Party is that the traditionalist/realist/sceptic/pragmatic elements have in recent years been drowned out by the “transatlantic” new-right and the populist/nationalist Brexiteers, plus pensioner-pandering.
    A period in opposition would do them a lot of good.

    In terms of social-psychology, you need a representation for people and groups who prefer tradition to change.
    This does not necessarily mean they can impose their will on society as a whole, but also that elements of continuity are contained within an open, evolving whole.
    And that there is an approriate scepticism to projects of social “directed reconstruction” and the benignity of governments, officials, and politicians

    Again, in many ways, many European societies are more “communitarian”, traditionalist and cohesion-oriented than the US, at the same time as being more mutualistic.
    For instance in the UK, you can quite easily come across socialists who are also monarchist Christians.
    Not a likely combination in America!

  47. Gustopher says:


    The odds they are driven by curiosity are much, much larger.

    Like children pulling the wings off flies.

    Can it survive without a head too?

  48. JohnSF says:

    Actually, not so much.
    IIRC the later Ringworld books (years since I read them) were about a “post-collapse” environment.

    I’m thinking more an active, dynamic, super-technological congeries of cultures.
    Sort of like elements of Banks’s Culture, Brin’s Five Galaxies, and similar others.
    Or the online “Orions Arm project” universe.

    But probably not so “active” as those SF models: millions of years old cultures aware that others similar exist, swapping knowledge on fairly amiable terms, and inclined to chastise (for Nicoll-Dyson Laser values of “chastise”) cultures that get obnoxiously agressive.

  49. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: Topology is great when it comes to phase transitions in certain materials as well.

    The main problem I found in doing research in this field was learning how to visualise in dimensions higher than 4….

  50. JohnSF says:

    When it comes to quantum weirdness, I’m inclined to the view of a scientist I read many years back (forgotten who: Polkinghorne? Weinberg?) who said something along the lines of :

    “At the macro scale, all the uncertainties smear out and sum to zero, statistically.
    In atomic and sub-atomic terms, the wall next to you is empty space beset by quantum uncertainty as to the existence of its planck-scale components.
    Much good that will do you if you try to walk through it.”

  51. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    You got one up on me. I never could visualize four.

  52. JohnSF says:

    Meanwhile, in this world a certain juvenile irritant continues to be obnoxiously aggressive:
    Putin declares Russian annexation of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Donetsk.
    And indulges in some nuclear willy-waving.

    Ukraine finally applies for accelerated admission to NATO.


    The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically.


    “Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Crimea are Ukraine”

    President Macron:

    “(we will) stand by Ukraine in order to deal with Russian aggression and to enable Ukraine to recover its full sovereignty across its entire territory”.

    EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen:

    “The illegal annexation proclaimed by Putin won’t change anything. All territories illegally occupied by Russian invaders are Ukrainian land and will always be part of this sovereign nation.”

    And on the field of battle, it looks like Ukraine may have encircled several thousand Russian troops in a pincer attack around Lyman

  53. dazedandconfused says:


    The Enterprise still measures speed in relation to the speed of light, which is entirely different from folding space. “Moving across the universe by not moving at all.”

    There is no reason to assume our solar system is particularly unusual.

  54. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    American Republicans are a VERY odd variety of “conservative” in world terms.

    I’m inclined to think that American politics all around is peculiar in world terms. I still find myself boggled by the fact that the Saenuri Party (that nominated Park Geun-he) seemed more liberal than Democrats here are on more than a few issues. What Americans get exercised about it truly strange.

  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @JohnSF: “The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically.”*

    *(Limited-time offer. Some restrictions may apply.) 🙁

  56. Beth says:


    1. Loving “Andor”. It’s a very different take on Star Wars IP. Disney+

    I’m loving too and not just because I have a HUUUUUUUGE crush on Diego Luna. I just want him to scowl at me and whisper “I’ve done terrible things for the Rebellion in my ear.”

    What I like about Andor is how it has all of the Star Wars BS plus, like actual cool other stuff. I also hate how much I like the aesthetics of the space SS. Like they are soo evil, but soo cool. I also like how Rogue 1/Andor handle the barely contained aspirations of the space nazis (Krennic/Deedra)

  57. JohnSF says:


    There is no reason to assume our solar system is particularly unusual.

    Actually, there may be a few.
    Plus for life that Sun is a relatively “quiet” star; not very unusually so, but IIRC it’s on the low end of the spread for the type.

    Negative for life, but this may be way out of date now: recall modelling of stellar formation indicating Solar System may be a bit low in terms of optimum mass/orbit distribution.
    That is, Venus is a bit too massive, Mars a bit to light. Average outcomes were for two, three or even four with mass/orbit combinations making for nitrogen/water vapour/carbon dioxide atmospheres.

    And above all: Earth-Moon is unique in Solar System, and very rare in modelling, being close on a “dual planet”.
    And that has a lot of potential implications re. geochemistry, plate tectonics, tidal effects on core hence magnetosphere, axial stability etc etc.

    Possible (by no means certain) that Moon is key to Earth sustainable bio-hospitality.
    If so, Earth could be quite a rare type.

    Also, lots of systems detected recently seem to indicate closer-to-star Jovians or Super-Jovians, which could seriously bugger the mechanics of the old formation models.

  58. Jay L Gischer says:

    William Proxmire is the guy I credit with canning the Boeing SST project and thus putting half the people in Seattle out of work in the late 60’s.

    It may have been a good call. Concorde, which was similar, didn’t exactly have a raging success.

    And yet, it was clear to me that his method was that of a bully pulpit, cherry picking scientific research with weird titles, and the scientists doing the work and funding it weren’t getting any chance at all to say why it was important.

  59. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Matt: It really does feel like the only motivation they have here (my area at least) anymore is grievance/anger related.

    These days, yes. It used to be different. It was Dwight Eisenhower who pushed for the US Interstate highway system. Nixon established the EPA. I don’t know. Maybe I am guilty of having a selective memory but I seem to recall a time when GOPers actually recognized that there were problems here and solutions were needed to fix them.

  60. JohnSF says:

    Christopher Miller on Putin’s speech:

    If you had “satanism,” “Goebbels,” “biological weapons,” “crude gender reassignment surgery quip,” and “nuke threats” on your Putin bingo card you may have just won.

    It’s remarkable how much Putinist rhetoric overlaps with social-media MAGA/Qanon/neo-nationalist tropes.

    And an interesting divergence: while it seems many US ultra-MAGA’s are aligning with Putin, the European “new right” is more divided.
    Most BrexiCons, Brothers of Italy, and FN are pro-Ukraine.
    AfD, Fidesz, and Farage more inclined to putinversteher

  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: You’re also arguing we need a valid second party, not necessarily a rightist party. A nice solid center right party would also do.

    I have to note, “not necessarily a rightist party. A nice solid center right party would also do” is a wee bit of a contradiction. As far as I am concerned “A nice solid center right party” is just one that accepts reality. You know, climate change, women’s rights, racism, gender dysphoria… They might propose conservative solutions (that I no doubt would reject) but at least they would be acknowledging reality and that would be a starting point.

    We don’t have that now. We have a party that says these things do not exist.

  62. JohnSF says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    Still a sore point in British and French aerospace circles.
    It’s an open secret that Boeing lobbied like hell to prevent even subsonic Concorde flights wherever they could.
    Though, to be fair, it was so high cost it needed guaranteed “seats full” routing; and short ranged.
    So could, in the end, only operate the Paris and London to New York runs.

    Still, IMUHO, one of the most wonderful aerospace creations of the 20th Century, in terms of pure technological force plus elegance engineering.
    And one of the most beautiful aircraft ever.

  63. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jay L Gischer: and the scientists doing the work and funding it weren’t getting any chance at all to say why it was important.

    One can’t say why basic science is important. One looks at what is known, what is not known, and wonders about what is in between. And then tries to find out. Why? because inquiring minds want to know. What does it apply to? Who the F knows??? But someday, it will be the answer to a question, dawg only knows what the question might be.

  64. dazedandconfused says:


    There are a lot of stars in the universe, which for all we know may not be the only one. If space is infinite and only .0000000001% of stars have a life bearing planet, there are an infinite number of life bearing planets.

  65. JohnSF says:

    Here’s one difference: UK Conservatives, as yet, remain committed to Net Zero.
    Though it’s no secret some elements in the dominant ERG/Tufton St groups would like to dump it.
    It’ll be interesting to see what happens at Conservative party Conference next week.
    (Popcorn time!)

    Women’s rights: probably still net onboard.

    Racism: ambiguous but this is not exactly the same issue in the same ways as it is in the US.
    Racism is a thing, to be sure, and some parts of the Right have tried to “culture war” it.
    But legally sanctioned “Jim Crow” and the “States Rights of the South” are not the same thing anywhere in Europe that they are in the US, for obvious historical reasons.
    For that reason, UK Cons not as attracted to the whiff as US ones are.

    Gender dysphoria: ambiguous again. Truss has tried to use this as an issue.
    But the primary public concern has NOT been with trans persons themselves, but with some unpleasant cases of het male sex criminals claiming to be trans women and then doing what you might expect.
    But it is not a hot topic as in the US.
    Why? Because, once again UK (and Europe generally) lack the insane evangelical/anti-abortion/white nationalist/sex-panic politics that the US seems to have.
    Ask an average French or British conservative what they think re gender, answer is “meh”

    And on race, go talk to Kwasi Kwarteng or Rishi Sunak.
    Brit Cons care more about the colour of your shoes than the colour of your skin, by and large.

  66. JohnSF says:

    True enough.
    But as said, I very seriously doubt that quantum effects will prove to have technical applications (as opposed to effects like in eg cathode tubes) at the macro scale.

    I’d actually like to be wrong, but suspect the sceptical physicists are correct: at greater-than-molecular scale, the uncertainty effects get drowned in the noise.

    If there is interstellar travel I suspect it will only be in three possible modes:
    – generation “ships” (actually moving habitats);
    – uploaded mind data transfer (see eg. some of Greg Egan’s SF for this);
    – supermodified biologies/mechanisms and “fast” sublight modes (see eg Alastair Reynolds House of Suns; Charles Stross Neptunes Brood)

    If so, extra-galactic travel is so time-consuming as to be irrelevant to cultural development.
    And probably even longer range interstellar is marginal to any given cultural network.

  67. Kathy says:


    Most stars are binary or in larger gravitationally bound groups. The Sun is a single star. Right there we seem to be unusual, but it may not be that simple.

    the famous hot Jupiters are kind of an artefact of the methods used to find extrasolar planets. One relies on observing the wobble of a star. A massive planet closer to its star will produce a far more noticeable wobble, and do so more often. Another method, the one used by the Keppler probe, is to look for a periodic dimming of a star when a planet transits between it and us (yes, it’s dependent on line of sight and can miss lots of planets not properly aligned). Again, a larger world closer to its star produces a more noticeable dimming more often.

    So these were the easier planets to fins, and naturally we found lots of them when we began looking. As tools improved, we found other types.

    Binary stars seem not to have as many planets as single stars, but that may be because they are harder to discern by the methods we use. Although planets have been found around binary stars, including in the Centauri triple system closest to us.

    But until we can make a census of solar systems at least in our corner of the galaxy, categorizing all planets, stars, etc., we can’t know how typical or atypical our Solar system is.

    BTW, the Earth and Moon are a binary planet as far as I’m concerned.

    Consider natural satellites. Mercury and Venus have none. Mars has two tiny ones, which are most likely captured asteroids. The gas giants have lots of moons (and rings of debris), some small, some very large, but all of them tiny compared to the planet.

    The Moon, in contrast, is about 1/4 the size of Earth. IMO that makes us a double planet.

  68. JohnSF says:

    Yes, the “detectability effect” versus the “bias in the models” effects.
    Place your bets; and seconds out, round one at the conference.

    As ever:
    Need more data.

    Big Moon is indeed Big Issue.
    Also, orbital stability of binary system planets (and of close vs distant binaries, I suspect, but I’m getting way out of my depth at this point)

  69. JohnSF says:

    Did I mention recently I like Angela Rayner?

    Labour Party Deputy Leader.

  70. JohnSF says:

    We should be grateful that people have such grace, such courage.
    If others can live up to anything near what some Iranians or Ukrainians achieve, then this world will be blessed.

  71. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    putting half the people in Seattle out of work in the late 60’s.

    Well, it wasn’t quite half, but I remember the billboards asking the last person leaving Seattle to please turn off the lights. Good times. Kept me from majoring in engineering, which I had no interest in anyway. But even before the SST scrapping, Boeing was already famous for hiring bunches of engineers and laying them off a few months later.

  72. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: True, but Republicans chose racism and yelling KKKLANG, KKKLANG, KKKLANG instead early on. You can’t do both and there was an easy to pick up constituency in Plan B.

  73. Mu Yixiao says:


    And this is exactly why I have repeatedly said that I won’t debate with you: You ignore the meaning of what’s been said, pick a few phrases and twist them around so they say what you want, and then insist that something which hasn’t been said is wrong.

    1: You’re accepting Republican framing


    I said “conservative”–and then, at the end, specified that the Republican party does not fit my definition.

    I specifically stated that the current Republican party does not fit my definition of conservative.

    You ignore my argument, insist I’m saying something I’m not, and prattle on about something that has nothing to do with my original statement.

    2: Republicans (and Tories) standing for fiscal conservatism? Really?


    Please cite where I made any mention of Republicans or Tories.

    Go ahead. I’ll wait.

    3. “Free markets were a liberal creation. You can find edge cases like giant sodas (which really are bad), but how many nations like Ds pushed it?

    Would you really like me to make a list of how “liberal” governments are ignoring the 9th Amendment and restricting the rights of individuals “to protect us from ourselves”? It’ll be a very long list, and I’ll have to ask the moderators to let the flood of links be posted.

    4: Republicans have largely banned expertise, for which they should be banned from serious policy discussion.

    Umm… What?

    If you want to argue for the virtues of some ideal conservative party, OK.

    Which I did.

    The question was “why do we need a conservative party”. It was NOT “why do we need the current Republican party”.

    You’re railing against a fictional stance that you made up. Absolutely every point you’re arguing against was made up by you out of thin air.