American Gulag and Stasi, Inc

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the protest at the Capitol, in Washington, DC. A good many of those who attended felt they had a perfect right to walk into the Capitol Building, which is after all, the structure that we pay for and support our so-called political representatives with our votes. So why didn’t we have the right to walk into it, especially when allowed by the Capitol Police gatekeepers? There certainly were enough loud progressive protesters at the Kavanaugh hearings, setting the example for conservatives to follow an established principle. Or so they thought … mistakenly, as it has turned out. A number of questions about that event still remain. 

(Historically, well-wishers thronged the White House, upon the election of Andrew Jackson, and pretty much destroyed carpets and upholsteries, with the passage of their dirty boots and subsequent rowdy and presumably drunken celebration of a man of the people, a genuine frontiersman, to the highest office in the land. Again – the halls of government are rightfully, our halls – not the exclusive property of temporary lords and ladies. Or so we had assumed. But Jackson was a Democrat, of course, so all was forgiven.)

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Not Humanity’s Last View …

This is being described as “humanity’s last view of the JWST.”

6:50 AM CST, Christmas Morning

I expect imaging, and even direct viewing, of the James Webb Space Telescope from terrestrial telescopes to become a popular amateur astronomical activity in the summer of 2022. Here is why:

A full Moon has apparent magnitude -12.7. This is the result of its distance of ≈380,000 kilometers, its effective area (a circle of radius ≈1,700 kilometers) of ≈9.1 million km², and its albedo of ≈0.12.

The JWST will be at ~4 LD, the effective area of its sunshield will be ≈830 m², and its albedo will be very close to 1.

Its distance makes it 16 times as faint, its effective area makes it 11 billion times as faint, and its albedo makes it 8.3 times as bright. Multiplying all these together yields a factor of 21 billion.

The magnitude scale is measured in increments of ⁵√100 ≈ 2.5, such that each 5 steps downward is 100 times brighter. Venus, which can reach an apparent magnitude of -4.7, is nearly 100 times brighter than Arcturus (α Boötis), at -0.05. The stars in the Big Dipper and in Orion’s Belt are around magnitude +2.

The limits of my experience are the Sun, apparent magnitude -26.7, and some of the fainter Pleiades, magnitude +6.5 or even fainter—note that this takes not only very clear, dark, moonless skies, but also an hour and a half or more of no artificial light whatsoever for excellent dark adaptation, and probably eyes younger than mine are now (I am recalling an incident from my 30s). That’s a factor of almost 20 trillion.

Anyway, doing the math, something 21 billion times fainter than a full Moon has an apparent magnitude of +13.1.

Every amateur astronomer reading this just went huh. Easy.

Taking the usual limiting magnitude of the unaided eye to be exactly +6 and the effective aperture of the human pupil to be 7mm, less than 200mm of primary lens or mirror diameter would be enough. In the real world, it’s going to be harder than that … but I found Pluto in my 333mm f/4.5 Newtonian at magnitude +13.8 or thereabouts during a Texas Star Party in the 1990s.

The challenge will be figuring out which thirteenth-magnitude speck in the field of view is actually the JWST, but one thing’s going to make it a lot easier: it won’t be moving with the starry background. Its motion will essentially be at the solar rate, ~1°/day. That’s 2½ arc-minutes per hour, or 2½ arc-seconds per minute. A pair of images taken even a few minutes apart will pop it out, much like the discovery images of Pluto in 1930.


UPDATE (12/31): en route

Around the Next Corner

What lurks in hiding for us there? Nothing good, and that is the general feeling one gets from the ripples and small currents in the wide ocean of the blogosphere. I’ve been paddling in that ocean since … 2002, when I gave up on Slate as an original aggregator news site shortly after 9-11, because the communities which gathered in the various comments sections just got too angry and irrational for words. Something let me to Instapundit, and through his links to the original incarnation of Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Brief. I became a contributor when the original Stryker appealed for other contributors and have been paddling away at the margins of the digital information ocean ever since. Back in the pre-internet day, I had subscriptions to all kinds of magazines. As a military public relations professional, I reasoned that I should know when and from which direction the next political-military-social sh*t-storm would arrive. Tracking blogs and digital media serves the same purpose for me that print media once did.

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Dilèm Aksyon Kolektif nan Matisan

Generatim discite cultus

(Learn the culture proper to each after its kind)

— Virgil, Georgics II

Stephen Biddle, Nonstate Warfare: the Military Methods of Guerrillas, Warlords, and Militias (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021)

one-to-many entity-relationship symbol superposed over map of Martissant, Haiti

By way of making this more than a merely armchair review, I will be discussing the developing situation of state failure in Haiti, which is providing a personally harrowing example of the phenomena theorized and studied in this book. NB: additional situation reports like the one I quote from below will appear at this OCHA webpage.

I. Increasingly Scale-Free Military Activity in the 21st Century

In this follow-up to 2004’s Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (also from Princeton), Stephen Biddle continues to elucidate the many ramifications of the one-to-many relationship which came to dominate the battlefield between the Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Over that century and in the decades that followed, individual-service weapons increased in rate of fire from a (very) few rounds per minute to ~10 rounds per second, in effective range from ~100 to >300 meters, and in accuracy from (optimistically) 10 to 1.5 milliradians. Say 2½ orders of magnitude improvement in RoF, half an order of magnitude in range, and one order of magnitude in accuracy; multiplying these together to create a sort of index of effectiveness, I get an overall change of 4 orders of magnitude, with stark implications for battlefield environments.

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The Zombie of Reparations

Oh, for the Love of Life Orchestra, the rotting spectral zombie of reparations for slavery of African-Americans is staggering out of the graveyard of bad political ideas once more, and onto the stage of public discussion. It’s a Biden-approved notion (or a notion of whichever puppet-master has their hand up Biden’s fundament) and I note that the thrust of the matter is only to discuss the possibility.

Which makes me suspect that this new and respectably presidential consideration is a token gesture, a sop to the militant BLM activists and the old racial shakedown coterie, and the constituents they proport to represent; mostly the semi-literate, barely skilled lifetime welfare-receiving urban thug element, who have an insatiable appetite for monetary graft, free stuff and slivers of unearned privilege. The racial shakedown coterie does very well out of catering to those clients in any case, and it is their best interests that the shakedown continues even unto the umpteenth generation. If we are very fortunate, the stupidest, most controversial and divisive bad idea since Prohibition will never get any farther than the discussion phase, but if it does – and I wouldn’t put it past the current batch of Woke-ists to their best to make it work – it won’t. It will likely fail, catastrophically.

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