Cosmic Websites; Recent Headlines

Let’s begin with an item from December, on a website called Topia: A World of Good, promoted on Facebook today by David Brin since it reproduces a list Brin compiled on his own blog some time ago.

21 COSMIC WEBSITES YOU NEED TO KNOW: How big is space? Sci-fi legend David Brin investigates

These sites display the scientific urge to understand a universe that humans cannot correctly perceive intuitively.

These include the classic Powers of Ten film from 1977, which I’ve linked before (and have the book based on it). And many more recent sites. Magnifying the Universe; If the Moon Were Only One PIxel; The Interactive Universe; Chronozoom (which I’ve seen before); Human Evolution Timeline; Historic Spacecraft; a “Size Comparison of Science Fictional Spaceships”; and a “To Scale” solar system laid out on a dry lake bed in Nevada.

I haven’t explored most of these, yet.


Political Articles and Headlines

From flavors of indoctrination, to smoking and toxic masculinity.


Joe.My.God, 11 Jan 2023 (from Arkansas Times): Aunt Lydia Bans “Indoctrinating Children” In Arkansas

This is about new Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (The reference is to the stern taskmaster in The Handmaid’s Tale, which seems to Joe’s moniker for her.)

So is she closing the churches? Hah! No, she’s banning TikTok, the word “Latinx,” and the “left-wing political agenda.”

“Today I will also sign an executive order preventing the political indoctrination of Arkansas’s schoolchildren. As long as I am governor, our schools will focus on the skills our children need to get ahead in the modern world – not brainwashing our children with a left-wing political agenda,” Sanders said from the Capitol steps as state dignitaries and a overwhelmingly white, conservative crowd of Sanders supporters looked on.


AlterNet, Alex Henderson, 11 Jan 2023: Inside the conservative mom group hell-bent on injecting right-wing politics into school libraries


Washington Post, Catherine Rampell, 12 Jan 2023: Opinion | Whoops! The GOP accidentally admits tax cuts don’t pay for themselves.

NY Times, Paul Krugman, 12 Jan 2023: Why Republican Politicians Still Hate Medicare. (Even while many of their constituents do not.)

Slate, Alexander Sammon, 13 Jan 2023: I Ate at the Restaurant Where George Santos Is Often, for Some Reason, Spending Exactly $199.99

Slate, Mary Ziegler, 12 Jan 2023: House Republicans’ “Born Alive” Abortion Bill Isn’t Just Political Messaging. It’s a Cry for Help., subtitled “The GOP is beholden to the anti-abortion movement—but terrified of actually passing anti-abortion laws.”

Salon, Brett Wilkins, 13 Jan 2023: “Incredibly racist”: Wisconsin GOP official boasts about suppressing Black, Hispanic voters, subtitled “‘While this is incredibly disturbing, we are not surprised,’ advocacy group says”

Salon, Ashlie D. Stevens, 13 Jan 2023: Tucker Carlson is once again enraged by “woke M&M’s” lack of sex appeal, subtitled “The Fox News host previously said he no longer wanted to ‘have a drink’ with the candy cartoon characters”

AlterNet, Meaghan Ellis, 13 Jan 2023: NYT slammed for using picture of Republicans in story heralding lower 2022 deficit — when Dems ran Congress. (Indeed, it’s in today’s paper, here.)

Salon, Samaa Khullar, 11 Jan 2023: Trump seethes on Truth Social after Fox News analyst debunks his lies about Biden classified docs, subtitled “Fox News analyst Karl Rove explained that Trump’s documents scandal is far worse than Biden’s”


And finally,

Joe.My.God, 12 Jan 2023 (from Mediaite): Republicans Lift Ban On Smoking In Capitol Offices

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 13 Jan 2023: Getting lung cancer to own the libs: House Republicans want to make smoking great again, subtitled “Masculinity gets toxic — literally! — with the GOP majority’s plans to stink up the halls of Congress with tobacco” (Salon’s homepage title: “GOP: Making smoking great again”)

Comment: I grew up in a chainsmoking household, and began work when people still smoked at work, and first flew on passenger jets when passengers could smoke during flights. These things are apparently now what MAGA want to restore. This passage struck me:

Bans on indoor smoking were controversial at first, but when they finally arrived, it was something like seeing in color for the first time. The world, it turned out, is a lot more pleasant when you can smell things other than the reek of cigarette smoke.

Marcotte acknowledges that Republicans do things like this for specific reasons (to troll the libs), and that maybe she’s taking their bait (as I would be, by posting this).

I wrote an entire book about Republican trolling, so I’m ashamed to admit that I underestimated how pathetic it can get. With the GOP now in control of the House of Representatives, people are smoking indoors again in the Capitol, or at least the half of it governed by the oh-so-powerful Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Gross! I suppose Republicans can congratulate themselves, since they have successfully triggered me with this news. Of course, if they’d like to, they can trigger me even more — maybe by refusing to take regular showers or to wipe their butts after using the bathroom.

But in fairness, this isn’t just about trolling. It’s also about a close cousin to trolling, in the constellation of motivations that make right-wingers such baffling and exhausting people: Toxic masculinity. For about as long as supporters basic public health have argued for restrictions on tobacco use, conservatives have acted as if any regulations whatsoever on their foul-smelling phallic symbols literally amounts to prying the penises off their bodies. Before Rush Limbaugh died of lung cancer, the right-wing radio host who coined the term “feminazi” often portrayed smoking as a wholesome, manly activity that liberals wanted to take away from men purely to emasculate them.


Almost nothing is funnier than someone with a massive gulf between the way they perceive themselves and the way they look to other people. I’ve witnessed decades of Republicans declaring themselves to be John Wayne heroes while acting like petulant kindergartners making faces because Mom told them to eat their broccoli. It never stops being hilarious. But there are real costs when conservatives seek relief from their yawning insecurities by sacrificing public health to partisan loyalty.

And so on. Amanda at her best.

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