The annual July fund-raising campaign – Week One

This week I celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of this website. In late June 2010 I put up my first posts, including two that will sound very familiar to my readers today:

The second took to task the Obama policy that declared “As established in international law, there shall be no national claims of sovereignty over outer space or any celestial bodies. The United States considers the space systems of all nations to have the rights of passage through, and conduct of operations in, space without interference.” My reaction: “In other words, no planetary body, no surface land, can be owned by anyone. Sounds like communism to me. It also sounds amazingly naive and childish.”

To celebrate this anniversary, and to pay my bills, each July I run a month-long fund-raising campaign. I hate begging for money, but if I don’t ask for your financial support I simply won’t be able to do this work any longer.

Please consider donating or subscribing, using the tip jar found either in the right column or at the bottom of the page, depending on whether you are reading this on a smart phone or a desktop/laptop. You can contribute one of four ways:

  • Send me a check. With this method every dime you contribute goes to me.
  • Send me money through Zelle. This method also charges no fees. Every dime you spend goes only to me.
  • Subscribe or donate through Paypal, which takes a cut of about 12%.
  • Subscribe or donate through Patreon, which also takes a cut of about 12%.

I also encourage my regular subscribers on both Paypal and Patreon to consider switching to Zelle. Several subscribers have done so, and have found the process simple and easy. It also makes your subscription far more effective.

This post will remain at the top of the page for the next month. Scroll down for new posts and updates.

In 2022 freedom continues to fuel the launch industry towards new records

With 2022 now half over, we can now get a quick sense of the state of the world’s rocket industry by the number of launches that have so far been accomplished this year.

Last year was the most successful year in rocketry since the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Both nations and private companies managed to launch successfully 134 times, one more than the previous record in 1975. Similarly, with 48 launches in 2021, the U.S. completed the most launches since the height of the 1960s space race, 48 total.

These high numbers last year also suggested that the growth was not a one time thing, but based on a wider sustained growth that would continue.

It now appears that both these records will be smashed in 2022. Below is a graph showing the total number of successful launches year-by-year by the United States since Sputnik, as of June 30, 2022.
» Read more

The utter failure and total evil of government policies during the Wuhan panic

COVID mortality rates among children 10-14 in the UK
COVID mortality rates among children 10-14 in the United Kingdom,
comparing those who got the COVID shots versus those who did not

While stories about the ineffective and harmful consequences of the panic over the Wuhan flu continue to pour in on an almost daily basis, it is often better to step back and see these many stories in aggregate. By looking at the forest from a distance, a clearer picture frequently reveals itself that remains hidden if you only focus on studying the individual trees.

For example, the graph to the right, first published in January 2022, suggests strongly that giving young children the COVID shots only increased their mortality. This is just one story, however. Is it typical, or an outlier? You need to look at the larger picture to know.

Below I list and categorize the many science papers and news stories I have been collecting since my previous detailed two essays in May about the epidemic and its consequences (see: “The evidence keeps pouring in showing the utter failure of all COVID mandates” and “Are the COVID vaccines killing people over time? The data suggests yes.”). The totality of this data does appear shocking, especially because it makes evident the utter failure of almost every policy set by almost every government health official and elected politician since the Wuhan flu arrived in 2020.

First we must take another look at the new research about the mask mandates, policies that decades of research repeatedly showed would do nothing to protect anyone from COVID, and might even be unhealthy.
» Read more

Has work begun on a dedicated helicopter mission to Mars?

Overview map

The easternmost point in the Mars Helicopter traverse
Click for full image.

In my routine searches through the image archive for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, I recently came upon several images labeled “Candidate Mars Science Helicopter Traverse” that I at first thought referred to Ingenuity’s extended mission in Jezero Crater.

A closer look however revealed these photos have nothing to do with Ingenuity or Jezero Crater. Taken in November ’21, January ’22, and March ’22, the images instead cover parts of the south rim of Valles Marineris, the solar system’s largest canyon, and appear to be research for a future dedicated Mars helicopter mission. The overview map above shows the location of these photos by the black dots. Three locations have each been imaged twice to produce a stereoscopic view that can precisely measure the topography.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows the easternmost image, taken November 3, 2021. Not only does it show ample flat areas, the picture captures an impressive avalanche flow coming down from that southern interior canyon slope.

All the images were requested by planetary scientist Edwin Kite of the University of Chicago. Though I tried several times to contact Dr. Kite to get more information, he unfortunately did not respond. It could be this work is still too preliminary and thus he does not wish to comment.

Nonetheless, the extent of the three sets of images give us a fair idea of the kind of missions Kite and others might be considering. From east to west the distance between the images is about four hundred miles, and covers a traverse of the southern interior slopes of Valles Marineris along that entire length. The photos look mostly at the base of the canyon’s slope, each showing clearly that a helicopter flying there would have plenty of landing spots.

Obviously this first dedicated Mars helicopter mission might not cover this entire distance. Right now these images could simply be the first tentative research on choosing potential landing areas. Regardless, it appears that at least one scientist has already concluded that Ingenuity has proven such helicopter missions make sense, and is beginning to target one of Mars’s most spectacular locations, Valles Marineris, for that mission.

Our oppressive federal government really does want to squash SpaceX

Targeted by the government for destruction
Targeted by the government for destruction

In order to understand the full context of the FAA’s environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas and its approval of Starship/Superheavy launches there, it is important to take a closer look at the entire document [pdf] that was released on June 13, 2022. While that approval will now allow SpaceX to proceed, the nature of the document shows us that this government permission has been given very reluctantly, and that there are factions in the federal bureaucracy that are working hard to lay the groundwork to block it at first opportunity.

First, what did the reassessment conclude about the impact of future heavy-lift rocket launches at Boca Chica?

In summary, the FAA concluded that SpaceX’s planned operations “would not result in significant environmental consequences.” [emphasis mine] It then proceeded to provide many pages of analysis for each of the following issues, with almost all coming to the same exact conclusion [emphasis mine]:
» Read more

SLS’s 2nd mobile launcher to cost more than $1.5 billion, 3x what was initially budgeted

SLS's two mobile launchers, costing $1 billion
NASA’s bloated SLS mobile launchers

According to an inspector general report [pdf] released today, the second mobile launcher being built by the company Bechtel to transport its SLS rocket from the assembly building to the launch site is likely going to cost more than $1.5 billion, three times what was initially budgeted, and will not be completed any earlier than the end of 2027, four years behind schedule.

Compounding Bechtel’s projected cost increases and schedule delays, an ML-2 [mobile launcher-2] project analysis provided only a 3.9 percent confidence level that the nearly $1 billion cost [twice the original budget] and October 2025 [2.5 years late] delivery estimates were accurate. NASA requires projects to develop budgets and schedules consistent with a 70 percent joint cost and schedule confidence level (JCL), meaning a 70 percent likelihood the project will finish equal to or less than the planned costs and schedule. In fact, an Independent Review Team analysis determined the project would require an additional $447 million and 27 months, for a total contract value of $1.5 billion and a launcher delivery date of December 2027—a schedule that would enable an Artemis IV launch no earlier than the end of 2028.

The first mobile launcher, shown on the left in the graphic, cost more than $1 billion and will used only three times, at most. The second, on the right, is required for all of the assigned interplanetary tasks being given to the full size version of SLS beyond those first three test flights. Without it that version of SLS cannot launch. And even if the launcher is ready by 2028, as the IG report suggests, that will be more than a decade behind schedule, and six years from now.
» Read more

The Ukraine War: After a third month of fighting the battlelines clarify

The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022
The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022
The Ukraine War as of June 6, 2022. Click for full map.

With more than three months of fighting since Russian began its unprovoked invasion of the Ukraine in late February and a full month since my last update on May 6th, it is time to do another follow-up to get a clear assessment of the war.

The two maps to the right are simplified versions of those produced daily by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). For their full interactive version go here. The top map comes from its May 5th assessment, while the bottom map comes from its assessment on June 6th. The red hatched areas are regions Russia captured in 2014. The red areas are regions the Russians have captured in this invasion and now fully control. The pink areas are regions they have occupied but do not fully control. Blue regions are areas the Ukraine has recaptured. The blue hatched area is where local Ukrainians have had some success resisting Russian occupation.

Though the changes since early May are small, they make clear that the war’s battlelines have now become very clear. While Russia is very slowly but successfully taking ground in the center regions of its invasion, the Ukraine has been just as slowly but successfully retaking territory at the invasion’s outer edges.
» Read more

The oppressive and ignorant blacklisting culture that now dominates politics

Most of all beware this boy.’
As noted by the Spirit of Christmas Present in Dickens’
The Christmas Carol, ‘This boy is ignorance, this girl is want.
Beware them both, but most of all beware this boy.’

While today’s blacklisting essay is mostly about one specific story, what it really does is illustrate starkly the overall ugliness and ignorance that fuels the blackballing, and how that ugliness and ignorance has seeped into every aspect of our political and cultural lives.

In a story that is hardly unique or surprising, the Los Angeles City Council last week passed a new regulation that bans the use of any gas appliances in new construction, both residential and commercial.

The council’s reasons for imposing this ban — as is usual for such bans — was based not on any actual documented problem that presently exists but on a fear that one might someday occur. From the opening paragraph of the actual motion:

As the gravity and urgency of the climate emergency become more apparent with each passing year of rising temperatures, dangerous wildfires, and more severe droughts—all of which disproportionately impact communities of color and the most vulnerable Angelenos—the City of Los Angeles must do all in its power to reduce its carbon emissions and move toward a sustainable, zero-carbon economy. [emphasis mine]

Note the highlighted words. » Read more

A look at World View, one of two balloon companies about to offer high altitude tourist flights

An artist's impression of a Worldview tourist balloon in flight
An artist’s impression of a World View tourist balloon in flight

The future of space tourism is not going to be limited to rockets, no matter how romantic those rockets might be. For a lot of people, getting into space might not be a good option simply because of cost. Moreover, even if one could afford the cheaper suborbital flights presently offered by Blue Origin and are promised someday from Virgin Galactic, the short length of the journey, no more than ten minutes in space, could for many people make these flights not worth doing.

There is an alternative however, one that won’t get you into space, but will fly you high enough that you will be above 90% of the atmosphere, see the curve of the Earth, and get to do it for hours for far less money. This alternative comes from the high altitude balloon companies that are now working hard to begin flying tourists sometime in the next two years.

There are presently two American companies on the verge of flying tourists to up about 20 miles altitude. One is Space Perspective in Florida. If all goes as planned, it will begin flying passengers on its Neptune balloon by ’24, at a ticket price of $125K per head. It is presently accepting reservations with a $1,000 deposit.

The second company is Tucson-based World View. Up until 2019 the company had been planning to fly tourists, but a change in leadership brought on by its failure to meet the terms of a local development deal caused it to put those plans aside. Then in 2021 it restarted those plans.

Tickets will cost $50,000 per person, with World View providing what it calls “flexible financing options.” The company expects the first flight no earlier than early 2024.

At the moment about 1000 people have put down a deposit of $500 for a flight.

Both companies will be offering flights lasting most of one day, with additional pre- and post-flight activities.

On May 18, 2022, I attended an event held by World View at its Tucson headquarters. The event showcased the company’s talent, its facilities, and the value of hi-tech high stratospheric balloons. To begin the event, CEO Ryan Hartman gave a short presentation describing his goals for the company and the strategy he is following to reach them. The two graphics below come from that presentation, and provide I think the clearest outline of those goals and strategy.
» Read more

Sunspot update: In May we had sunspots, sunspots, and more sunspots!

It is time for another sunspot update! On June 1 NOAA released its monthly update of its graph tracking the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere. As I do every month, I have posted it below, having added some addition details to provide a larger context.

In May the sunspot activity on the Sun almost literally exploded, producing some of the strongest solar flares in years as well as the most sunspots since the previous solar maximum in 2014. On several days there were as many as eight sunspot groups on the Sun, with one so large that it was visible to the naked eye on Earth (if viewed properly with a protective filter).
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Long Beach to discriminate against any employee who refuses COVID jab

Genocide is coming to America
If they could, the Democrats would do this to anyone who opposes them.

Blacklists are back and the Democrats have got ’em: The local government of Long Beach, California will on June 6, 2022 begin harsh discrimination and punishment against any city employee who refuses to get the COVID jab.

Anyone granted the personal exemption option must pay for weekly COVID-19 testing (rapid antigen/PCR), which can be done during city work hours, with the cost of the testing deducted from the employee’s paycheck, according to Ambrosini’s memo. Those receiving medical or religious exemptions will still be subject to weekly COVID-19 testing, but at city expense, according to the memo.

All unvaccinated city employees must continue to wear a mask of at least medical or surgical grade while at work under this new policy, according to memo. Employees not doing so are subject to disciplinary measures, up to and including termination, according to the policy.

Employees found not in compliance with the vaccination mandate will be subject to a wide range of disciplinary measures, including up to six months of suspension and then possible separation or even termination should non-compliance continue, according to the city.

The absurdity and injustice of this is even more pronounced considering the vast evidence now available to show the COVID shots don’t provide any real protection while carrying a potential health risk to those that take it. The link above, from May 11, 2022, provides links to a lot of this research. Here are just a few more examples, published in only the past few weeks:
» Read more

The new satellite industry, energized by freedom

Liberty enlightening the world
Liberty enlightening the world, both on it and in space.

Last week SpaceX successfully completed its 22nd launch in 2022, sending 59 smallsats into orbit with its Falcon 9 rocket.

In the past few decades, the launch of a smallsat would generally have not merited much further coverage. These satellites, almost always based on the 10-centimeter (or 4-inch) square cubesat design, had generally been short term objects built almost always by university students not so much to do space research as to simply learn how to build satellites and learn how they operated in orbit.

This has now all changed, fueled both by the immense drop in launch costs generated by the competition between the new rockets built by SpaceX and the new emerging smallsat rocket companies (Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, and Astra) and by the improved capabilities of miniaturized components. Cubesats can now do far more despite being tiny, and they can be launched for much less money.

The result has been wonderfully illustrated by the satellites launched last week on that Falcon 9. Below is a short list of the press releases in the past few days, announcing the successful activation of these satellites:
» Read more

Musk abandons the Democrats, will vote Republican in November

In another example of the leftist Marxist Democratic Party losing long time supporters, Elon Musk revealed in a podcast today that he has switched his voter registration from Democrat to independent, and now plans to vote Republican in the upcoming election.

Elon Musk, admitting he had voted “overwhelmingly” for Democrats in the past, has changed his mind.

Musk is registered as an independent voter; he announced the switch over video link at a tech summit in Miami, Florida, hosted by the All-In podcast.

“I have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, historically,” Musk acknowledged. “Like I’m not sure, I might never have voted for a Republican, just to be clear. Now this election I will,” Newsweek reported.

Musk however is not alone. Donald Trump is actually a much more famous example, having been a typical New York liberal Democrat for decades, only to reject that party in the mid-2010s for its increasingly radical communist agenda. Trump discovered to his surprise (as has Musk) that the conservative Republican Party better reflected his personal philosophy. Both men represent large numbers of ordinary people, who see themselves as moderate liberals and now find disgusting the bigoted, hateful, and anti-American agenda of the Democratic Party.

The meme below that Musk himself posted in a tweet on April 28, 2022 illustrates this process most clearly.
» Read more

The evidence keeps pouring in showing the utter failure of all COVID mandates

Since March 2020 I have repeatedly written that the response to the Wuhan flu was an utter mindless panic that had little to do with the facts. Right off the bat, the facts, not the models, suggested the virus would resemble the flu most of all, a possible mortal threat to the sick and elderly but generally nothing more than a short sickness to the general population, with it being almost utterly harmless to the young.

Nothing that has happened since has really changed these early conclusions. I have compiled below a collection of recent studies and reports that illustrate what we have learned following the epidemic and the panic that accompanied it. Sadly, that panic did little to stop the virus, but it left us with destroyed businesses, a crushed economy, many uneducated and damaged children, and a broken Bill of Rights.

The COVID jab

The failure of the jab in the United Kingdom
Study from November 2021showing the overall uselessness of the jab
in the United Kingdom last year.

The first set of stories show some recent studies analyzing the effectiveness and safety of the COVID shots, which are not vaccines because they simply do not prevent you from getting the virus. At best — though not yet proven — they might reduce the severity of the disease should you get it. The data however now suggests that though the overall risks are not large, the jab carries enough risk that in many cases, it makes no sense to get it. To require it, as many governments and businesses have done, is downright stupid and immoral. To fire nurses and doctors for refusing the shots is beyond stupid or immoral. It is evil.

Worse, these facts were known right from the initial tests, as the last story below shows. In the company’s initial trials they found that 1,223 people died within the first 28 days after taking the Pfizer shot. Such a result in past drug trials would have made impossible the approval of that drug.
» Read more

The future factions in space become clearer

Based on two stories yesterday, it appears that the future alliances between nations in space are now beginning to sort themselves out.

First there was the signing ceremony announcement of Columbia becoming the nineteenth nation to sign the Artemis Accords with the U.S. and the third Latin American country to do so.

The Artemis Accords were created by the Trump administration as an international treaty to bypass the restrictions on private property imposed by the Outer Space Treaty. By signing bilateral agreements with as many nations as possible, the U.S. thus creates a strong alliance able to protect those rights in space.

The full list of signatories so far: Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the Ukraine, and the United States.

In the second story, France and India — both of whom have so far resisted signing the Artemis Accords — announced their own bilateral agreement intended to strengthen their partnership across many fronts, from security to economic development to the Ukraine war. The agreement also included this paragraph on the subject of space:
» Read more

The Ukraine War: Reassessing the situation after another month

The Ukraine War as of April 9, 2022
The Ukraine War as of April 9, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022
The Ukraine War as of May 5, 2022. Click for full map.

Since my last look at the state of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine on April 7, 2022, not much as happened, as indicated by the two maps to the right, both simplified versions of maps created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The red hatched areas are regions Russia captured in 2014. The red areas are regions the Russians have captured in this invasion and now fully control. The pink areas are regions they have occupied but do not fully control. The tan areas the Russians claim to control but the control remains unconfirmed. Blue regions are areas the Ukraine has recaptured. The blue hatched area is where local Ukrainians have had some success resisting Russian occupation.

Russia has now completely shifted its military resources from the north to the eastern parts of the Ukraine. As a result it has had some success firming up its control over the regions it had invaded to the north and east of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions it had grabbed in 2014. Yet, these gains were only in areas Russia had already occupied. In the past month it has almost entirely failed to invade or capture any additional territory.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine has begun to have some success in retaking territory around the city of Kharkiv. It also successfully pushed back an advance Russia attempted to the west of Donetsk. Moreover, despite repeated expectations that the full occupation of the city of Maripol would be completed a month ago, that occupation is still not complete, with resistant forces still fighting heavily in one area and thus tying up Russia forces for far longer than expected.

The May 5th assessment by ISW said this:

Russian forces continued ineffectual offensive operations in southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk Oblasts without securing any significant territorial gains in the past 24 hours. The Pentagon assessed that Russian forces have not been able to make further advances due to their inability to conduct offensive operations far from their ground lines of communication (GLOCs) along highways, as ISW previously assessed, and muddy terrain. … Russian forces are reportedly suffering losses in stalled attacks along the Izyum axis, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting that elements of the 4th Tank Division and the 106th Airborne Division withdrew to Russia after sustaining heavy losses in the past several days.

Russian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks in Lyman, Severodonetsk, and Popasna, and maintained shelling along the line of contact in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Russian forces also used thermobaric munitions against Ukrainian positions in Lyman and are unsuccessfully attempting to leverage massed artillery fire to break through Ukrainian defenses.

The overall trend seems to favor the Russians. Whether it can gain more territory is unclear, but it seems that except for one area near Kharkiv it is firming up its control on the territories grabbed in early March. The question now remains: Can Russia expand its invasion, or can the Ukraine push back and force the Russians back?

Right now it looks like neither can do either, and the situation shall remain bogged down for the near future.

Today’s blacklisted American: The media knives are now out for Elon Musk

Musk: a target of the leftist press
Musk now a target of the leftist press.

They’re coming for you next: Elon Musk’s effort to buy purchase of Twitter to end the ability of its leftist management and employees to censor opinions they don’t like has apparently activated this same blacklisting effort against Musk and his companies across many media fronts, based on two stories yesterday.

First we have this story in a local Florida newspaper, describing a handful of letters of complaint to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) about SpaceX’s proposal to build an industrial wastewater treatment facility on its leased facility on Cape Canaveral.

The draft proposal was first filed back on February 2, 2022. It requests permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to create a facility that would “discharge up to 3,000 gallons per day of non-process potable water to a stormwater management system that, under specific conditions, discharges to a ditch leading to the Indian River Lagoon.”

After notice of the draft proposal was published in Hometown News Brevard, it drew the attention of Titusville residents.

The article then proceeds to give us a detailed description of each complaint letter sent to FDEP, all five. Based on the similar language in all the letters, they appear to be part of a quickly organized campaign by local environmentalists to block any expansion of SpaceX’s Florida operations. Because of these letters, FDEP has been forced to hold a public meeting today to discuss SpaceX’s proposal.

Next, we have this story from Business Insider: » Read more

Planetary scientists propose next NASA boondoggle

The decadal survey's fantasy about future budget allocations
Figure 22.2 from the decadal survey, outlining its fantasy about future
budget allocations.

Let me admit right off the bat that my headline above is a bit too cynical as well as a bit unfair. In releasing yesterday their decadal survey, outlining what they hope planetary missions NASA will do in the next decade, the planetary science community was mostly interested in recommending the planetary missions in the coming decade it thought would provide the best actual science.

The problem is that in recent decades, these decadal surveys, from both the astronomers and the planetary scientists, have evolved into documents designed to encourage a few big expensive missions, rather than a suite of many smaller probes to many different places. For examples, consider this quote from the article in Science describing yesterday’s announcement:
» Read more

A tour at rocket startup Phantom Space

Jim Cantrell at Phantom

Creating a new rocket company is not something anyone can do. Nor is it something that even smart people can do, nonchalantly. The history of rocketry is littered with hundreds of attempts, almost all of which failed.

Jim Cantrell, pictured on the right standing next to one of the first test prototypes for a new rocket being made by his new company, Phantom Space, is one such person. In the mid-2010s Cantrell partnered with a number of others to found the company Vector, hoping to be one of the first smallsat rocket companies to launch a cheap and efficient rocket placing tiny satellites into orbit. At the time, Cantrell and Vector were racing neck and neck with Rocket Lab for the honor of being the first to do so.

While Rocket Lab succeeded in 2018, and has since completed more than twenty launches, Vector ended up on the ash heap of history, going bankrupt in 2019. The company’s failure was mostly due to problems with its rocket engine, which in turn caused one of its major investors to back out.

Cantrell however is apparently someone who does not take defeat quietly. Using what he had learned at Vector, in 2021 he started a new rocket company, Phantom Space, with a target date for its first test launch the summer of 2023.

Today Cantrell gave me a quick tour of Phantom’s operations here in Tucson.
» Read more

The Ukraine War: Russia in retreat in the past week

The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022
The Ukraine War as of April 7, 2022. Click for full map.

In the last week the situation in the Ukraine changed quite radically. Last week there were hints that the Ukrainians were beginning to push back successfully against the Russians, but those gains appeared small and were uncertain.

These small gains in late March are indicated by the green arrows on the first map to the right, a simplified and annotated version of the map provided on March 31, 2022 by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). I strongly advise my readers to read their reports to get a fuller understanding of the overall the war situation. Anecdotal reports from either side do not tell you much.

The second map, published today by ISW and once again cropped and simplified by me to post here, shows starkly the retreat of Russian forces in the past week. The blue areas indicate regions now controlled by the Ukraine, with the arrows indicating the fast exit of Russian forces. The hatch-marked red areas surrounded by a black border are regions of the Ukraine captured by the Russians in 2014. The solid red areas are areas they captured in the past month and appear to still hold. The light red and tan areas are regions the Russians have entered but do not yet control with certainty.

The Russian effort to take the Ukraine entirely has clearly failed. Its gains after a little more than a month of battle are now shrinking. It has fled from Kiev so that the entire north and west of the country are no longer under attack. Though its military now claims Russia has finally taken central Mariupol in the south — after weeks of fighting — that capture is still not complete, with large sections of the city still outside of Russian control.

Meanwhile. the focus of the war shifts to the south and east, as both countries redeploy forces there. According to today’s ISW report:

Russian forces are cohering combat power for an intended major offensive in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the coming days. Ukrainian civil and military officials continued to warn local residents to evacuate prior to a likely Russian offensive. Russian forces will likely attempt to regroup and redeploy units withdrawn from northeastern Ukraine to support an offensive, but these units are unlikely to enable a Russian breakthrough. Russian forces along the Izyum-Slovyansk axis [circled areas just north of Luhansk] did not make any territorial gains in the last 24 hours. Russian forces are unlikely to successfully capture Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts if Russian forces in Izyum are unable to encircle Ukrainian forces on the line of contact in eastern Ukraine.

The next week will tell us whether Russia can successfully shift its effort to this region, or whether the Ukrainian forces can push back and force more Russian retreats, possibly retaking all of Russia’s gains in the past month and even possibly pushing back into territories taken in 2014.

Connecting the dots of the COVID lie

What our leaders want us to be
What our leaders want us to be

There were many reasons the world panicked in 2020 when COVID appeared and spread from China. Some of that panic was motivated by natural fear of an unknown disease. Some of it was motivated by a desire for power, harnessing that fear to nullify the Bill of Rights and the legal restraints on dictatorship. Some of it was inspired by a simple blind hatred of Donald Trump, and saw an opportunity to use the virus as a tool for getting him out of power. And some of the actions of our leaders was motivated by pure and simple greed, willing to let millions die so that they could personally get rich, or richer.

To connect the dots to understand the worst players in this terrible story, we need to look at more than one story or report, each telling us something that the fear-mongers have tried to hide from us so that their dishonest and sometimes quite evil motives might not be recognized.

To begin, there are these two stories, showing that we now have solid evidence that the military committed fraud in order to hide data that showed the COVID shots were causing a terrible number of health injuries and deaths to soldiers being ordered to take them.

From the first story, describing a lawsuit that claims the Defense Department committed fraud:
» Read more

Pioneer 2140CC Kickstarter campaign shuts down

An announcement from Aaron Jenkin, creator and producer the video game proposal, Pioneer 2140CC, based on my science fiction novel Pioneer:
To everyone here on Behind the Black,

We covered a lot of topics in our Kickstarter update, but I wanted to give a special thanks to you all for following us on our journey, for your helpful feedback, and for your support on Kickstarter. This isn’t the outcome we had hoped for, but we’re hopeful it’s not the end of the road in our effort to expand on the world envisioned by Mr. Zimmerman in his fast-paced, 1983 sci-fi novel Pioneer.

In the meantime, please enjoy this wallpaper featuring characters from the game and book. From left to right: Saunders Maxwell, Jane Barlow, Becky Lightman, Michael Addiono, Alex Barlow, Morgan Callahan, and Harry Nickerson.

Pioneer game wallpaper
Click for full resolution.

I’d also like to thank Mr. Zimmerman for taking a chance on us and this project. He’s built up a distinguished career and it would have been easy to brush us off. But instead he welcomed us and did everything he could to help us succeed. We really appreciate that. Hopefully one day soon we can meet face-to-face for a hike or cave trip and talk about the adventure!

One problem we faced that we mentioned before was related to other people’s fear of being blacklisted. I can imagine that’s something a lot of you here would like to hear more about, and it’s something that I’d like to talk about, so we’ll have to get into that one day.

As far as moving forward is concerned… I’m a Creative Director, but I lost my main client at the end of the year due to a merger. That ended up being a good thing at the time because I was able to focus more on Pioneer. But now with the Kickstarter not panning out, I need to pick up new work. My plan is to fall back on one of my strong skills, video editing. I’m thinking that will leave me more time to devote to whatever comes next with Pioneer. If you need a video editor, please get in touch!

Thanks again for your support, and thanks for being such a great community!

From my perspective, this outcome is incredibly sad, especially because of the blackballing of Aaron and the project behind the scenes because of my politics. I have no idea if the project failed because of this blacklisting, but it certainly acted as a dead weight. Some of it was vicious. Some was simply fear, holding no animus to Aaron, the book, or my politics. Such people simply did not wish to help promote the game or participate in making it because they feared the consequences to themselves if it was learned they had worked on a project by someone with conservative values.

That such fear permeates our culture now so deeply bodes ill for the future. Very ill indeed.

Sunspot update: Sunspot activity continues to outpace predictions

It is the first of the month, and NOAA has once again updated its monthly graph showing the long term trends in the Sun’s sunspot activity. As I do every month, I post it below, annotated with additional data to provide some context.

In March the Sun continued its unexpected high activity since the end of the solar minimum in 2020. The number of sunspots once again rose steeply, while also exceeding the predicted count for the month. The actual sunspot count for March was 78.5, not 34.1 as predicted. The last time the count was that high for any month was September 2015, when the Sun was just beginning its ramp down from solar maximum.
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The Ukraine War: Increasing Ukrainian gains in the past week

The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 31, 2022. Click for full map.

Another week has passed in the Ukraine war, and with it we begin to see increasing evidence that not only has the Russian invasion stalled, but that the Ukraine is beginning to push back with more and more effectiveness.

The two maps to the right are from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and have been simplified, annotated, and reduced to post here. The top was from ISW’s March 24, 2022 report, the bottom from its report today. The dark red areas are regions either controlled by Russia or areas of confirmed Russian advance. The light red indicates areas the Russians claim to control without confirmation. The blue areas mark areas retaken by the Ukraine in battle. The circles indicate areas of recent heavy fighting.

The green arrows I have added to both maps indicate areas where there have been changes since the week prior. Like last week, the arrows point almost entirely to areas where Russian control has ebbed, either because the Russians have chosen to retreat, or because Ukrainian forces have pushed them out. The summary from ISW is succinct:
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Pushback: University’s blacklisting of a student quickly ends when confronted by lawyers

Boris Badenov: The school administrators at
Southern Illinois University

Today’s blacklist story came and went so quickly that no one in the press really ever had a chance to cover it. I however want to highlight it today because it tells us a great deal about today’s bankrupt academic culture, and its paper tiger nature if challenged.

On February 10, 2022, Jamie Ball, the director for Equal Opportunity, Access and Title IX Coordination at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, sent notices to Maggie DeJong, a student in the school’s Art Therapy Counseling Program, telling DeJong that she was forthwith forbidden to interact in any way with three other students.

Because DeJong attended classes and also worked at the same facility as these three students, the orders essentially blacklisted her from school through the end of the ’22 semester.

Ball provided no facts or reasons for the “no-contact” orders, other than saying that any contact between DeJong and these three students “would not be welcome or appropriate at this time.” Ball’s order also admitted that no harassment or violation of school policy had occurred. Her order was simply “to prevent interactions that could be perceived by either party as unwelcome, retaliatory, intimidating, or harassing.”

In other words, Ball was punishing DeJong for something that might happen, likely based on secret accusations made by those three students.

On February 23rd, less than two weeks later, lawyers from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent the school’s Chancellor, Randy Penbrook, a letter [pdf] outlining the illegality of this action, and demanding the no-contact orders be immediately rescinded.
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Another update on the lie that was COVID

How governments determined policy against COVID
How our governments continue to determine policy against COVID

One week ago I published a short essay listing a number of news stories that, as I wrote then, “illustrate starkly the foolishness and the over-reaction to COVID.”

It appears I might have to make this a weekly feature. In the last seven days I’ve collected a whole bunch of new articles, all of which provide further evidence of the lie that was COVID. Not only did our political and health leadership in government routinely lie to us, they often exhibited a remarkable ignorance about some basic science. Until there is reckoning that cleans house in these government agencies, Americans should never believe anything they say.

Most of the stories this past week document the overall failure of the COVID shots to do what these government officials promised: to prevent infection. To understand the significance of this fact, one must go back and review the claims made by government health officials when these shots were first developed. From the beginning these officials repeatedly claimed that the shots would prevent transmission of the virus, and protect people from any Wuhan flu infection if they got the jab. Just watch some of the videos here. Over and over again so-called experts claimed back in the spring of 2021 that the shots would “prevent transmission.”

NOT. » Read more

The seeds of today’s madness were planted decades ago

Political journalist Doug Ross yesterday re-posted an essay he had written a decade ago, which had successfully predicted the crime wave we are undergoing today.

In it, he outlined how the growth in 2011 in government anti-poverty and welfare programs — which acted to further tear apart families — was going to lead to what he called “a true Obama Crime Wave” sometime in the early 2020s.

  • Fact: There are a record number of Americans dependent upon government anti-poverty programs thanks to the Obama Democrats
  • Fact: Expanded access to welfare and food stamps greatly increases the number of children born to unwed mothers
  • Fact: Single-parent families correlate to higher crime rates
  • Conclusion: with the unprecedented increase in welfare, food stamps and unemployment, we will also see an unparalleled increase in violent crime within the next dozen or so years.

Obama and his Democrat sycophants in Congress will have created hundreds of thousands of single-parent families. These kids, born out-of-wedlock, will find themselves trapped in lives of criminality at far higher rates than kids from two-parent families.

Fast forward a dozen years, give or take a couple, and we will see a true Obama Crime Wave. I predict that we will see an unprecedented increase in crime. In fact, you could call it historic.

And the question is not whether it will happen. The question is just how bad it will be.

Ross’s prediction in 2011 was of course guaranteed to be right, as good social science research since the early and mid-twentieth century had shown that if you raise children in broken homes, chaos ensues when they reach adulthood.

I think however that Ross and most previous researchers have missed half the equation. Broken homes certainly produce adults who don’t know right from wrong, and thus become hardened and violent criminals.
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The Ukraine War: Another week, little change

The Ukraine War as of March 17, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 17, 2022. Click for full map.

The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022
The Ukraine War as of March 24, 2022. Click for full map.

Since my last post on the state of the Ukraine war one week ago, on March 17, very little has changed, with tiny gains and losses in territory by both sides.

The two maps to the right, the top from last week, the bottom from today, both created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and simplified, annotated, reduced by me to post here, illustrate the somewhat static situation. The three green arrows in the bottom map point to the regions where the most significant changes have occurred. The red areas of regions under Russian control. The light red regions are areas the Russian claim control, but have not been confirmed. The blue dots and areas indicate Ukrainian advances or resistance.

For the Russians, the biggest territorial gains took place in the northeast, solidly linking two different fronts. The Russians also made minor gains near Chernihiv, northwest of Kiev, and near Donetsk.

Meanwhile, the Russians have still not taken the besieged city of Mariupol, though their forces have finally made some inroads into the city’s center.

For the Ukrainians, a Russian push beyond Mykolaiv in the south was completely defeated and forced to retreat. More importantly, Ukrainian forces have pushed the Russians back on the western outskirts of Kiev.

The primary question remains: Is this situation indicating that Russia is bogged down and facing a long protracted quagmire? Or does it more resemble the American situation shortly after D-Day, when Allied forces were stymied somewhat close to the beaches for almost two months before suddenly breaking out and overrunning much of France in the next two months.
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Update on the lie that was COVID

How governments determined policy against COVID
How our governments determined policy against COVID during
the past two years.

Now that the crisis of the day has shifted to the Ukraine War, bringing with it new demands by our so-called rulers to once again panic in order to begin a world war, it pays to look back at the last fake panic, what I like to call the lie that was COVID.

Below are a only few examples of the never-ending new stories daily that illustrate starkly the foolishness and the over-reaction to COVID. Take some time to read them all.

First, was COVID the deadly disease that could kill you, as claimed by our academic and political leaders? In a word, no. The two stories below simply show its harmlessness to children, something that was obvious almost from the beginning of the panic.

In the past two years anyone with any interest in the truth could have easily found and read similar stories. The threat was routinely exaggerated, sometimes to the point of faking data. These two stories are merely the tip of the iceberg. If I wanted I could add twenty, thirty, fifty more and still not list them all.

Both of these stories however illustrate the evil of the next two:

The New York petty tyrant in the first story is not alone. Democratic Party politicians nationwide, from President Joe Biden down to local school boards, have repeatedly shown themselves obsessed with putting masks on little kids, sometimes even by physical and vicious force.

As for the second story, note that it occurred two days ago in Chicago, the first day that Chicago schools had shifted to a “mask-optional” policy. Yet the teacher smacked a mask of the toddler, who ended up coming home crying. His father’s reaction:
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