Saturday, February 8, 2020

Last Call For Sunny Side Up

This weekend is the scheduled launch of the joint NASA/European Space Agency Solar Orbiter project to take a look at the sun and in particular, the sun's magnetic poles.

The mission, which is a joint collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency, is currently expected to launch shortly after 11 p.m. ET Sunday. This is the first mission that will provide images of the sun's north and south poles using a suite of six instruments on board that will capture the spacecraft's view. Having a visual understanding of the sun's poles is important because it can provide more insight about the sun's powerful magnetic field and how it affects Earth. 
It will take Solar Orbiter about two years to reach its highly elliptical orbit around the sun. Gravity assists from Earth and Venus will help swing the spacecraft out of the ecliptic plane, or the space that aligns with the sun's equator, so it can study the sun's poles from above and below. 
This follows the Ulysses spacecraft, another collaboration between ESA and NASA that launched in 1990 and also flew over the sun's poles. Ulysses completed three passes of the sun before its mission ended in 2009, but its view was limited to what it could see from the sun's equator. 
"Up until Solar Orbiter, all solar imaging instruments have been within the ecliptic plane or very close to it," said Russell Howard, space scientist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. and principal investigator for one of Solar Orbiter's ten instruments. "Now, we'll be able to look down on the sun from above."
"It will be terra incognita," said Daniel Müller, ESA project scientist for the mission at the Agency's European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. "This is really exploratory science." 
Solar Orbiter is equipped with ten instruments that can capture observations of the sun's corona (which is its atmosphere), the poles and the solar disk. It can also use its variety of instruments to measure the sun's magnetic fields and solar wind, or the energized stream of particles emitted by the sun that reach across our solar system. 
Understanding the sun's magnetic field and solar wind are key because they contribute to space weather, which impacts Earth by interfering with networked systems like GPS, communications and even astronauts on the International Space Station. The sun's magnetic field is so massive that it stretches beyond Pluto, providing a pathway for solar wind to travel directly across the solar system. 
The mission will work in tandem with NASA's Parker Solar Probe, which is currently orbiting the sun on a seven-year mission and just completed its fourth close approach of the star. It launched in August 2018 and will eventually come within four million miles of the sun -- the closest a spacecraft has ever flown by our star.

Here's hoping the project has a safe launch and a fruitful mission.  Lord knows we need all the additional science knowledge we can get right about now.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Expect much more retribution by Trump against anyone involved in the House impeachment proceedings as his enemies list grows by the day.

Several other officials who testified during the House impeachment inquiry have left the government, including former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; William B. Taylor Jr., her replacement; vice presidential aide Jennifer Williams; State Department official Michael McKinley; special envoy for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker; and NSC official Tim Morrison. 
More firings are possible. 
The president and his advisers have also discussed removing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, though no final decision has been made, officials said. Trump has expressed frustration that Atkinson allowed a whistleblower report documenting Trump’s alleged misconduct toward Ukraine to be transmitted to Congress. 
Some advisers have also counseled the president to remove Victoria Coates, the deputy national security adviser, who has told others in the White House that she fears her job is in jeopardy. 
Trump has regularly asked aides to continue slashing the size of the NSC, and national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien has said he plans to do so, telling NPR in an interview last month that the policy staff, which he put at about 180 people when he took over in September, was bloated. 
By the end of February, O’Brien said, he hoped to have cut it by a third. A senior administration official said there will be widespread departures at the NSC in the next week.

Intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson in particular has multiple bullseyes on him, at least according to Trump State TV.

According to an exclusive report from Fox News, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is threatening to take action against Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson over his handling of the whistleblower’s complaint, giving him until February 14 to comply with congressional requests for documents.

“I will be referring this matter for investigation by the Department of Justice if you once again refuse to comply,” Nunes wrote in a letter. 
“The investigation is particularly focused on the guidelines that appeared on a whistleblower complaint submission form that was changed — after the submission of the whistleblower complaint — to eliminate language excluding hearsay information,” Nunes added. 
According to Fox News, House Intelligence Committee Republicans are investigating Atkinson’s “unusual handling” of the complaint, which was the key component of the Democrats’ impeachment effort against President Trump.

Going after Atkinson with not only possible termination but with threatened prosecution represents a dangerous next step in Trump collecting heads.   It's not just witnesses he's trying to destroy, but the people whose job it is to watchdog the intelligence community to make sure it's held responsible.  If Trump is allowed to hang Atkinson out to dry, he will move on to the next step.

If there are any protections and defenses for civil servants left in our government, they will be tested to the breaking point this month.

That's important because the next step after Atkinson could be going after the people who actually impeached Trump.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

How long before FBI Director Chris Wray is told to drop this white supremacist terrorism assessment or lose his job?

The FBI has elevated its assessment of the threat posed by racially motivated violent extremists in the U.S. to a "national threat priority" for fiscal year 2020, FBI director Christopher Wray said Wednesday. He said the FBI is placing the risk of violence from such groups "on the same footing" as threats posed to the country by foreign terrorist organizations such as ISIS and its sympathizers.
"Not only is the terror threat diverse — it's unrelenting," Wray said at an oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.

Racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, or domestic terrorists motivated by racial or religious hatred, make up a "huge chunk" of the FBI's domestic terrorism investigations, Wray said in statements before the Senate Homeland Security Committee last November. The majority of those attacks are "fueled by some type of white supremacy," he said.

Wednesday, Wray said combating domestic terrorism and its "close cousin," hate crimes, are at the "top of the priority list" for the FBI.

His statements indicate the FBI is just as concerned about racially-motivated violent extremists, including white supremacists, as it is about the threat posed by homegrown violent extremists inspired by foreign terrorist organizations. Wray said both pose a grave threat because the perpetrators are often "lone actors," self-radicalized online, who often look to attack "soft targets" such as public gatherings, retail locations or houses of worship.

In many cases, perpetrators can move quickly from rhetoric to violence, Wray said.

"They choose easily accessible weapons — a car, a knife, a gun, maybe an IED they can build crudely off the internet — and they choose soft targets," Wray said. "That threat is what we assess is the biggest threat to the homeland right now."

Racially-motivated violent extremists were the primary source of ideologically-motivated violence in 2018 and 2019 and have been considered the most lethal of all domestic extremists since 2001, Wray said in a statement Wednesday.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have evolved on the issue of threats posed by domestic extremists over the last year or so, reports CBS News' Jeff Pegues, and federal law enforcement officials have faced criticism that they've been sluggish in their response to the increased risk posed by white supremacists and other racially-motivated violent extremists. The public message from federal law enforcement has changed as the threats have intensified.

In March of 2019, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted Islamist militants such as al-Qaida and ISIS, and those inspired by them in the U.S., remained the country's "primary terrorist threat," but said the department was focused on all kinds of violent extremism.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump mentioned the fight against "radical Islamic terrorism" but not the terror threat fueled by other forms of hate.

I can't imagine Wray will still be FBI Director for too much longer.   House Republicans are already gunning for him, which means Senate Republicans will be too.

The head of the FBI on Wednesday batted back criticism from House Republicans that he hadn't done enough to reform the law enforcement agency after the release of a report that detailed the bureau's failures in the Russia investigation. 
In his first public testimony on Capitol Hill since the release of the Justice Department's inspector general report late last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray was critical of the officials accused of wrongdoing in the report, and outlined a number of steps he was making to change protocol at the agency as a result. 
But his response before the House Judiciary Committee was too tepid for a number of conservative lawmakers, who demanded a "thorough and complete public house cleaning" and a "clear, unambiguous expression of moral outrage." 
President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress have seized on the findings in the inspector general report about a series of errors made by the FBI as it sought a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign aide under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. 
The Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, has said that he did not have enough evidence to conclude the motivation behind those errors, and the attorney general has suggested they could have been made in "bad faith." 
Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican, drew audible protests from lawmakers after declaring he'd lost trust in the agency after the findings of the Horowitz report. 
"I don't trust your agency anymore. And that's a profound thing for me to say, because I was raised to revere the FBI," McClintock said.

The FISA "mismanagement" will be the official reason Wray is fired, but the reality will be that Trump will want an FBI director completely loyal to him not the FBI rank and file or to law enforcement.  He needs somebody as crooked as Bill Barr, and Wray still has slivers of his soul.

No, Trump will dump Wray going forward.  He won't stop at retaliation against impeachment witnesses.  He'll need an FBI Director willing to send people to kick down doors of more powerful people on his enemies list.  Friday night was only the beginning.

Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

As Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart opines, Trump's State of the Union speech was coded gaslighting to his white supremacist base, ignoring the Native, black, Hispanic, and Asian people that already made America great, and what non-white Americans suffered for in the ongoing struggle for equality.

Under any other president, the end of that annual speech before a joint session of Congress is a clarion call to unity, a moment of national reassurance. That’s certainly what Trump was going for during his 78-minute oration. I’m certain that’s the way it came off to his supporters. Yet, despite its visual and rhetorical messaging to African Americans, I heard something more sinister. What I heard was a white supremacist vision of America that alternately erased and whitewashed its history.

“This is the home of Thomas Edison and Teddy Roosevelt, of many great generals including Washington, Pershing, Patton and MacArthur. This is the home of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, the Wright Brothers, Neil Armstrong and so many more,” Trump said, tossing in Douglass and Tubman like a couple of Skittles in a bucket of milk. 
“The American nation was carved out of the vast frontier by the toughest, strongest, fiercest and most determined men and women ever to walk on the face of the Earth,” Trump said, as though such conquest wasn’t financed by slavery and didn’t involve the horrific annihilation of the indigenous people here long before whites fled their own persecution and poverty in Europe.

“Our ancestors braved the unknown; tamed the wilderness; settled the Wild West; lifted millions from poverty, disease and hunger; vanquished tyranny and fascism; ushered the world to new heights of science and medicine; laid down the railroads, dug out the canals, raised up the skyscrapers,” Trump said. “And, ladies and gentlemen, our ancestors built the most exceptional republic ever to exist in all of human history, and we are making it greater than ever before.”

When the words “we” and “our ancestors” tumble out of Trump’s mouth, the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. For his “we” and “our” come off as a clarion call to whiteness. Trump’s “canvas” and “masterpiece,” as he depicted our nation, are devoid of the actual color and complexity that make art and America great. Instead, the president painted a Potemkin paradise where the rest of us deal with the consequences of his lies, white nationalism and vindictiveness. Given Trump and the people around him, I can only believe this was intentional.

After all, Trump put white nationalists on staff. Stephen K. Bannon was his chief White House strategist, and Stephen Miller remains in the West Wing driving the president’s hard-right anti-immigration stance. And need I remind you that Trump said that the neo-Nazis and other assorted white nationalists who unleashed racial and anti-Semitic terror on Charlottesville in 2017 included some “very fine people”? During an Oval Office meeting the following year, he referred to a group of nonwhite nations as “shithole countries.” Last summer, on Twitter, Trump demanded that the four congresswomen of color who make up “the Squad” “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Never mind that all four are U.S. citizens, and three of them were born in this country.

Post contributing columnist Danielle Allen also focused on the last part of Trump’s speech. She, too, noticed how his peroration erased America of its gorgeous mosaic and complicated history. “Can we sing America together so that we are all in the song?” she asked. “We all love a version of this country, but who has a heart big enough to sing the whole thing?” “The whole thing” being a majestic anthem filled with high notes that exalt in our historic accomplishments and low notes that recall the pain and injustice that made many of them possible.

Trump cannot sing that song, nor does he want to be a part of composing it. The song he’s singing is for whites only. He’s incapable of singing anything else.

On top of his corruption, self-dealing, misogyny and racism, Trump is a power-hungry autocrat.  Never forget that he's willing to sacrifice every single one of us for himself.
Related Posts with Thumbnails