Opportunity Mars rover

Opportunity photoshopped by an artist into a picture it took of Mars.

Opportunity (2003-2019), a Mars rover nicknamed Oppy, was a machine the size of a golf cart that travelled 28 miles (45 km) across Meridiani Planum on Mars, from 2004 to 2018.

Yesterday, on February 13th 2019, NASA declared it dead.

Mars rovers: years of operation:

1997: Sojourner, in Ares Vallis
2004-09: Spirit, in Gusev crater
2004-18: Opportunity, in Meridiani Planum
2012- : Curiosity, in Aeolis Palus

Only Curiosity is still going.

In 2021 three new rovers are due to arrive, from the US, Europe, and China. So far only the US has been able to successfully land rovers on Mars. Russia has tried but failed (Mars 2 and Mars 3).

Spirit is Opportunity’s identical twin sister. It landed on the other side of Mars three weeks before Opportunity. In 2009 its wheels got stuck in the sand and could no longer move. It travelled only 4.8 miles (7.73 km).

Lift-off: On July 7th 2003, Opportunity left Earth from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a Delta II rocket. It took six months to reach Mars.

Landing: On January 25th 2004, it landed on Mars at 1.9462°S, 354.4734°E, near the equator in Meridiani Planum. It had a piece of the Twin Towers that fell on 9/11.

Top land speed: 0.1 mph or 180 metres an hour. Slower than a turtle.

Remote control: Like all Mars rovers so far, Opportunity was remote controlled from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California. NASA talked to it in PLEXIL. Mars is so far away that it can take up to 22 minutes for a message to get to Mars or come back. So the rover’s slow speed was a good thing.

Mars in 2018. Opportunity is at the centre of the map, Spirit at the right edge. Sojourner was part of the Pathfinder mission, north-west of Opportunity.

Opportunity’s path (in yellow, upper right) from 2004 to 2010 as it heads towards Endeavour crater.

A close-up map of Opportunity’s path (in yellow) from 2004 to 2018. A blue outline of Washington, DC is shown for comparison.

Meridiani Planum was chosen because it was flat, had few rocks, some interesting craters, and, as NASA put it, seemed to have once been “the shoreline of a salty sea.”

Discoveries: Opportunity and Spirit were sent to find out if there was once water or life on Mars. Opportunity did find just the sort rocks you would expect to see at the bottom of a dried up lake or sea, like hematite and gypsum. But it found no signs of any past life.

The dunes of Endurance crater, 2004 (colourized in false colours)

In 2005 it got stuck in the sand, like Spirit would later, but NASA was able to work it free.

From 2006 to 2008 it explored Victoria crater, discovering that water once flowed there billions of years ago. In 2007 Opportunity survived a dust storm.

In 2011 it reached Endeavour crater, travelling along its edge. It found a vein of gypsum, what chalk and alabaster are made of.

At the edge of Endeavour crater, 2015.

On June 10th 2018, during a huge dust storm, Opportunity lost contact with Earth. NASA tried calling it over 800 times.

On February 12th 2019, with the destructive Martian winter coming, NASA tried to wake it one last time, sending the Billie Holiday song “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944).

There was no answer.

It died at the edge of Endeavour crater in what NASA christened Perseverance Valley.

Jim Bridenstine, the head of NASA:

“It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars.”

August 4th 2010: Opportunity, crossing the sands of Mars on its way to Endeavour crater, looks back towards Victoria crater.

– Abagond, 2019.

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Cory Booker on blackface

Cory Booker, a Black senator from New Jersey who is running for US president in 2020, seems to see himself as some kind of racial healer. The early signs are not good.

On February 9th 2019, in the wake of Governor Northam’s blackface scandal in Virginia, Booker weighed in before a White audience in Marshalltown, Iowa:

“I’ve had conversations with white friends of mine this week who had the safety to come to me and ask me, ‘I don’t understand this blackface thing. Can you explain it to me?’ Imagine in this climate saying that publicly? If you want to have more courageous empathy, put yourself in a white person’s position who might have questions.”

He gave an example:

“I remember this guy – I remember his name. His name was Daniel – and he was the gay and lesbian counselor there, and he sat down with me one night and just gave me a safe space to ask him questions. What grace he extended to me to ask stupid questions and I grew.”

In conclusion:

“We – all of us, black, white, gay, straight – have to start extending grace to one another so that we can start having honest conversations with one another and leave room for growth.”

He is clearly a fan of Anne Frank:

“Wednesday January 13th 1943

“Dearest Kitty,

“I’ve had conversations with Nazi friends of mine this week who had the safety to come to me and ask me, ‘I don’t understand this Final Solution thing. Can you explain it to me?’ Imagine in this climate saying that publicly? If you want to have more courageous empathy, put yourself in a Nazi’s position who might have questions.

“We – all of us, Jews and Nazis – have to start extending grace to one another so that we can start having honest conversations with one another and leave room for growth.”

I made that up to make a point:

Cory Booker is brainwashed. He has lived too long among White people. He believes their own self-serving lies. It is that simple.

Otherwise he would know that most White people who seem like well-meaning, clueless innocents are putting on an act. Not all, to be sure, but most.

For example:

  • April 4th 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr had more eloquence and more courageous empathy than any man could hope for. And yet what came of it? He was shot dead. And White society as a whole agreed: in the years that followed a White backlash rolled back the anti-racist reforms of the 1960s and added new abuses – the New Jim Crow. Not the actions of well-meaning, clueless innocents.
  • November 9th 2016: Donald Trump, after an openly racist campaign for president, was elected president, getting 58% of the White vote. He is still supported by about half of all White people. Think on that. Not the actions of well-meaning, clueless innocents.

White racism is not a simple misunderstanding. Their history, their self-image, and their wealth are built right on it.

– Abagond, 2019.

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Charlamagne tha God and Kamala Harris on “The Breakfast Club”, February 11th 2019.

Since at least January 28th, I have been obsessing over Kamala Harris, who is running for US president. So, while all this stuff is still swimming in my head, here for future reference are some observations about the media coverage I saw in the first weeks of her campaign:

From left to right:

Left: tearing apart her record

  • Greens – Democracy Now! and The Real News Network have said nothing about her that I have seen. To be fair, no one is close to casting a vote for or against her – the state primaries do not start till February 3rd 2020, a year minus nine days from now.
  • ADOS – people like Yvette Carnell, Boyce Watkins, and Professor Black Truth (ProfTruth) on YouTube point out that she is not an American Descendant of Slaves (ADOS) and therefore may not have the best interests of most Black people at heart. They point to her record as a public prosecutor, which was very much in the “tough on crime” vein, protecting the police while locking up Black and Latino people in large numbers. They downplay the good parts of her record.
  • Bernieland – Young Turks, Tim Black, Rational National (Canadian), Secular Talk, Niko House, etc, who are Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard supporters. They also tear her apart on her record as public prosecutor, first of San Francisco, then of all California. Since that covers 13 years, both they and she can be accused of cherry picking, she highlighting the highlights, they highlighting the lowlights, like the Kevin Cooper case.

Centre left: apologetics

  • Vox and Roland Martin are honest enough to present the terrible parts of her record, but are still Harris apologists, making excuses for her. It was the times! Way back in the early 21st century.

Centre right: softball interviews and shills

  • The corporate media, the ones with actual television channels, newspapers and magazines, and not just YouTube channels or websites: CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the New Yorker, etc. That comes at a price: many are dependent on owners or advertisers who in turn give money to corporate Democrats like Harris. These outlets give Harris softball interviews. CNN gave her a town hall (aka a one-hour infomercial). Rachel Maddow (MSNBC), Jake Tapper (CNN), and Charlamagne tha God (“The Breakfast Club”, pictured above) all do that thing where they ask her a seemingly tough question but then let her say whatever she wants, even if it goes flat against reported facts – letting her get away with what seem to be lies. MSNBC did not extend that courtesy to, say, Tulsi Gabbard. Nor did CNN give Gabbard a town hall. Why is that? Another feature of their coverage: Harris shills, like Joy Reid on MSNBC and Angela Rye on CNN.

Right: painting her as a radical

  • Sean Hannity (Fox News) and Ben Shapiro both picked on her position on health care (for universal health care), taking it at face value to paint her as “radical”.

So far Kamala Harris has appeared only on friendly outlets.

– Abagond, 2019.

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From left to right, Democrat and Republican candidates circa April 2016.

The Democratic Party is one of the two main political parties in the US. From 1933 to 2016 it was capitalist but reformist, what passed for the left in Washington. But in 2019, as the Republicans lurched further right under President Donald Trump into White nationalism, the Democrats are lurching further left into socialism.

The two main wings (using left-wing terminology):

  • Corporate Democrats (centre right) – the Clinton wing, what used to be called moderate Republicans back in the 1970s. In fact, in 2018 many moderate Republicans voted for them instead of Trump’s (far-right) Republicans.
    • notable people: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, most White Liberals and Black Liberals.
    • represents: the richest 1%, aka donors, especially Wall Street (the big banks). AIPAC too.
    • media outlets: New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, the White Liberal press generally (their owners and advertisers are often donors themselves).
    • policies: soft on banks and banksters, “tough on crime”, mass incarceration, deportation raids, DACA, drones, imperialist wars, Obamacare (forced private health insurance), gay rights, gun control, FBI consent decrees to reform police departments (but only really since the rise of Black Lives Matter).
    • Black outreach: Rented Negroes, symbolism, pandering, hot sauce, having a Sister Souljah moment, talk of “lifting all boats”. All boats matter.
  • Progressive Democrats (left) – the Warren/Sanders wing. What Europeans would call social democrats. Sees itself as going back to the party’s pro-labour roots. Sanders sees Denmark as a model.
    • notable people: Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Rev. William Barber.
    • represents: the bottom 80%, aka voters, or so they say.
    • media outlets: The Young Turks, Democracy Now!, Secular Talk, etc.
    • policies: Green New Deal, Medicare for All (universal health care), free university education, $15/hour minimum wage, overturning Citizens United (the Supreme Court case that says huge campaign donations are free speech), generally anti-imperialist but not anti-drone.
    • Black outreach: Killer Mike.

Business model: Labour unions used to be the donor base of the Democratic Party. But as they weakened, especially after 1980, Democrats have been kissing up to Wall Street instead. Thus corporate Democrats. Republicans paint them as limousine liberals out of touch with the masses – which is true. Obama, for example, does not know anyone who has trouble paying the rent. The reason why their speeches are so bad, apart from Obama, is because they are talking to the donors – or are too used to talking to donors. Think Hillary Clinton.

Progressives hope to get by on millions of small donations, thus being able to broaden their message to appeal to millions more, and so on. Sanders in 2016 and AOC in 2018 used this model.

Rented Negroes: Corporate Democrats not only have Rented Negroes as media shills (Angela Rye, Joy Reid, Symone Sanders, etc), but even as candidates, like Obama, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker, putting a Black face on White power.

Progressives do not even have that. Their policies, because they are class-based, would do more good for Black people, but would leave racism pretty much untouched.

– Abagond, 2019.

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Teyana Taylor: Gonna Love Me


I love this song. It went to #10 on the US R&B charts in 2018.

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And oh, you’re gonna love me
You’re gonna wanna hug me
And squeeze me

Sometimes we say things that we really don’t mean
We do things in between the lines
We should do more than stand out
I’m sorry if I made you feel less than who you are
A little insecure, oh you’s a shining star

I wanna spend my nights with you
My life with you, oh baby, babe
Please wait up for me till whenever I get home
I know that you’re all alone
Thinking ’bout what you’re gon’ do
I hope that you see it through, ooh, ooh

And oh, you’re gonna love me
You’re gonna wanna hug me
And squeeze me

Sometimes I don’t think we really say enough
Why is it so hard to keep in touch
When we’re laying right next to each other, baby
We shouldn’t read into things so much
Overthinking understanding
Don’t let our feeling, change it up

I wanna spend my nights with you
My life with you, oh baby, babe
Please wait up for me till whenever I get home
I know that I’m all alone
Thinking ’bout what I’m gon’ do
I hope that I see it through, ooh, ooh, yeah

And oh, you’re gonna love me
You’re gonna wanna hug me
And squeeze me
And oh, you’re gonna love me
You’re gonna wanna hug me
And squeeze me

And are you gonna love me? yeah
And are you gonna hold me?
And squeeze me
Are you gonna love?
And squeeze me
And oh, you’re gonna love me
You’re gonna wanna hug me
Are you gonna hold me
And squeeze me
Squeeze me
And oh, you’re gonna love me
You’re gonna wanna hug me
You’re gonna wanna hold me
And squeeze me
And squeeze me

Source: AZ Lyrics.

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson in “Schindler’s List” (1993).

Liam Neeson (1952- ), a White US actor, was Schindler in “Schindler’s List” (1993), Michael Collins in “Michael Collins” (1996), Kinsey in “Kinsey” (2004), and also Zeus, the voice of Aslan, and, now, an aging action hero.

A scene from “Schindler’s List”.

“Schindler’s List”, a film about the Holocaust, is easily one of the best films on the nature of racism. Since it was about racism in an enemy state of the English-speaking world, there was no attempt to gaslight it, to make excuses for it, to tell us we were imagining things. Neeson himself grew up as part of a violently persecuted minority (Catholics) in his native Northern Ireland.

This week Neeson gave one of his most memorable performances, this time as himself.

On February 4th 2019, in talking to the Independent about his latest film, “Cold Pursuit” (2019), he said of a friend’s rape:

“I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.

“I went up and down areas with a cosh [a kind of club], hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ [in air quotes] would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could [pause…] kill him.”

The next day on US television he repeated the story:

“there were some nights when I went out into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence. … And I did for … I’d say maybe four or five times until I caught myself on, and it really shocked me, this primal urge that I had.”

and then added:

“I’m not racist.”

Huh? How is he not racist? At that rate the Klan and all those lynch mobs were not racist either. Nor Hitler. What, only because he failed to kill anyone? Racism now requires a body count?

Liam Neeson kisses Viola Davis in “Widows” (2018).

Actress Michelle Rodriguez explains:

“Dude, have you watched ‘Widows’? His tongue was so far down Viola Davis’s throat. You can’t call him a racist ever. Racists don’t make out with the race that they hate, especially in the way he does with his tongue – so deep down her throat. I don’t care how good of an actor you are. It’s all bullshit. Ignore it. He’s not a racist. He’s a loving man. It’s all lies.”

Huh? At that rate Thomas Jefferson and all those other White slave masters who went way beyond sticking just their tongues into Black women, are not racist either.

Even some Black people have come to his defence.

Whoopi Goldberg was the worst (so far):

“I’ve been around a lot of real bigots. I can say this man is not one … You can’t be surprised that somebody whose loved one is attacked is angry and wants to go out an[d] attack.”

Which misses the whole point of what made it racist: Neeson was not seeking revenge against the rapist himself, but against anyone Black.

– Abagond, 2019.

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Household wealth in Boston. Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 2015.

ADOS (by 2005) is short for “American Descendants of Slaves”, also known as American DOS, DOS or USDOS, etc. It means US Blacks who come from US slaves. About 90% of Black people in the US are ADOS. The term goes back to at least “America’s Little Black Book” (2005) by Norris Shelton. The term is being pushed on the Internet by Antonio Moore and Yvette Carnell.


  • Nigerian Americans because few if any came from slaves.
  • West Indian Americans because they came from non-US slaves.
  • Non-Black people of colour, also not from US slaves. Note that many Native Americans were made into slaves, but their descendants no longer form a separate class in US society.
  • White Americans, many of whom have the blood of Black slaves in them – just ask James Watson – but have since crossed over and now enjoy White privilege.

Examples of non-ADOS: Barack Obama, Kamala Harris, Marcus Garvey, Louis Farrakhan, Harry Belafonte, Stokely Carmichael, Colin Powell, Issa Rae, and:

Joy Reid of MSNBC is also non-ADOS. She would have you believe that the #ADOS pushback against Kamala Harris on Twitter was largely carried out by Russian bots.

Reparations: All of this matters because of reparations. For hundreds of years in the US, Black people have worked for free or almost free (slavery, peonage, prison labour). The wealth they created went to White people. So did almost all the wealth created by the Homestead Act, G.I. Bill, and FHA loans, thanks in part to White Southern senators, racist bankers, etc. These and other US government policies helped to create a wealth gap between Blacks and Whites of at least ten to one.

Affirmative action was supposed to right some of these wrongs, but many of the Black people who have benefited came from an African and Caribbean brain drain. The fear is that reparations will wind up the same way.

Counter-frames: Many ADOS, Native Americans, Chicanos, and some Asian Americans seem to share roughly the same view of the US, one based on a history of dispossession under US rule. Most immigrants, on the other hand, whatever their colour, lack that history and seem far more likely to kiss up to White people and look down on ADOS.

Kamala Harris: Some of the Black pushback against Kamala Harris comes from those who see her as non-ADOS. That is not a Russian plot or even mere nativism: like Obama, her record shows little regard for Black people beyond symbolism and pandering. She might like Cardi B, for example, but as attorney general her office defended mass incarceration on the grounds that California needed the prison labour. Like Obama, she has not come out in favour of reparations.

Black nativism: Unfortunately, all this plays to Black nativism, which is real. “Get back on your banana boat!” At some Black churches West Indians sit on one side and ADOS on the other – and that was long before there were Russian bots on Twitter.

– Abagond, 2019.

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