15 February 2019

15 February 2019


 15 February 2019 is Galileo’s Birthday, which may not be an official holiday anywhere, but is an event I personally have observed since at least 1962. It is also Lupercalia and Susan B. Anthony Day (in California, New York, Florida, and Wisconsin). It may also be Liberation Day in Afghanistan, commemorating the withdrawal of Soviet troops from that country in 1989. On this date in 1933 Giuseppe Zangara murdered Franklin D. Roosevelt, US President-elect, thus setting off a chain of events leading to Allied defeat in World War II, according to Philip K. Dick’s alternate history in The Man in the High Castle.
In the news we read that the Mars Rover Opportunity has been officially declared dead, its mission terminated. Its last words are reported as being “It’s getting dark. My batteries are low.” Strictly speaking, of course, it didn’t say anything, any more than it sent pictures to Earth; what it did was transmit data including information about its immediate environment that showed it was getting dark and running out of energy. I saw somewhere somebody quarreling with this rendition of its last transmission, saying that it attributed emotions (fear? sadness?) to an object. I don’t know about that. The flat statements seem pretty emotionless to me. There is fear and sadness no doubt at the end of Opportunity’s mission—but those emotions belong to us, who have enjoyed the information it has sent us over the last fifteen years—not to the inactive mechanism.
In other news the new impotence of the US on the international stage was highlighted cruelly in the debacle that was Trump’s Warsaw summit. It was intended to solidify the forces opposed to Iran’s rôle in the Middle East, but instead only underscored America’s isolation and weakness in the region.
In fake news media outlets are apparently reporting that an attack on Jussie Smollett by racist and/or homophobic assailants is a hoax—this despite an ongoing investigation by the Chicago police. Smollett did note one correction to some media accounts—his assailants were not (he says) wearing maga hats. “I didn’t need to add anything like that,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.” Both the Chicago police and Fox Entertainment dispute aspects of the hoax claims. ABC 7 in Chicago stands by its reporting, claiming (without any substantiation) that the actor was about to be written out of Empire (denied by the network) and staged the attack for publicity (possible, but unsubstantiated).
And finally the sporting-goods store owner who refused to carry Nike products to show his solidarity (I assume) with the racist police who kill unarmed black men has gone out of business. Good riddance, I say.


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