U.S. Makes Huge Fusion Breakthrough - The Monday AM Quickie 12/12/22

Hope Corey got some writing done, I definitely did the hibernation thing. In sports news, the 49ers are... really good this year? As a very fairweather/ occasional NFL fan, I love to see it. Brock Purdy! Who woulda thought! I will not be discussing the England game this weekend as I am simply too sad. Let's go Morocco. - Jack

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Scientists Make Massive Fusion Energy Breakthrough

Holy crap. It's rare that a science story makes the top of this newsletter, as we tend to hew closer to politics and things of that nature, but man. This could be huge. The Financial Times has the scoop, but by this morning it'll be all over every paper in the country I expect.

US government scientists have made a breakthrough in the pursuit of limitless, zero-carbon power by achieving a net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the first time, according to three people with knowledge of preliminary results from a recent experiment. Physicists have since the 1950s sought to harness the fusion reaction that powers the sun, but no group had been able to produce more energy from the reaction than it consumes — a milestone known as net energy gain or target gain, which would help prove the process could provide a reliable, abundant alternative to fossil fuels and conventional nuclear energy.

I'm just going to go with FT's description of what the science behind it is in layman's terms as well, as it's more succinct than I can do here:

Physicists have since the 1950s sought to harness the fusion reaction that powers the sun, but no group had been able to produce more energy from the reaction than it consumes — a milestone known as net energy gain or target gain, which would help prove the process could provide a reliable, abundant alternative to fossil fuels and conventional nuclear energy.

Incredible.  The scientists working on this are at the government's Lawrence Livermore National Laboartory in California, one of the big incubators for this kind of groundbreaking stuff. Here's why this particular discovery could be so important:

Although many scientists believe fusion power stations are still decades away, the technology’s potential is hard to ignore. Fusion reactions emit no carbon, produce no long-lived radioactive waste and a small cup of the hydrogen fuel could theoretically power a house for hundreds of years.

Ok, I promise I'm not going to block quote the whole article. You can read it here, but I keep coming back to that last paragraph. Little cups of hydrogen, powering everything and everyone and every country. It would completely break fossil fuels. It would completely revolutionize how we power cities and countries that already struggle with power infrastructure access. Yes, it will be hugely expensive. But if it works it is the future, no question.

Now, what we need to watch for is the inevitable smear campaign. This technology is so revolutionary that without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I'm almost certain that the powers that are still invested in fossil feuls will come after it. They can't deny the science, but what I'm sure we'll see is endless claims that it's not safe or it's not ready for practical use yet. The latter is absolutely true, but some day it won't be, and it's up to us to make sure the oil companies don't kick that can down the road any further than they already have. Fusion power! This is sci fi stuff! I'm so stoked!

Sinemexit Or: Ding Dong, the Witch is Gone (From the Democratic Party)

She's gone! But wait. Still here? As I'm sure you know by now, DINO (Democrat in Name Only, it works just as well as RINO) Kyrsten Sinema hasn't been anything resembling a Democrat in... basically ever, but at least the last 5 years or so, and is now making it official: she'll register as an independent. The biggest issue is that she's keeping her committee assignments, which is annoying: her being as isolated from the actual workings of the Senate is what every sane person (and, honestly, probably Sinema as well) should want. But that's not our situation yet. We can hope, however, that this is a sign that Sinema sees the writing on the wall, as the progressive wing of the Democratic party has basically declared open season for her seat when she's up for re-election in 2024.

The U.S. Is Forcing Teens Into ROTC to Boost Military Numbers

Correlation isn't causation, but sometimes in U.S. politics, it's easy to tie events together in a simple line. One thing leads to another. The Biden Administration's student debt relief plan led to the U.S. military missing recruitment targets by thousands. In response, the Times reports, the military has started an even more insidious pressure campaign on America's youth: forcing students into ROTC classes that are supposed to be electives (and probably shouldn't exist in the first place). The Times reports that some schools have made the classes – which are taught by military-style instructors shouting at kids in uniform – mandatory for all students. Here's the crux of it:

A review of J.R.O.T.C. enrollment data collected from more than 200 public records requests showed that dozens of schools have made the program mandatory or steered more than 75 percent of students in a single grade into the classes, including schools in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Mobile, Ala. A vast majority of the schools with those high enrollment numbers were attended by a large proportion of nonwhite students and those from low-income households, The Times found.

In other words, these programs are targeting the military's favorite prey – kids with fewer options than the rest.


  • U.S. Aiming to Boost Ukraine's Air Defence It's clear the main threat this winter is missile attacks on civilian infrastructure. via Reuters.
  • Japan Undertakes Massive Military Buildup A mostly pacifist nation since WWII, Japan is now beefing up its military to match global tensions. via WaPo.
  • U.S. Arrests Suspect in Lockerbie Bombing Case Authorities say that a suspect in the creation of the bombs that took down Pan Am Flight 103 is a former Libyan intelligence agent. via WaPo.



Amount that a pair of jeans recovered from an 1847 shipwreck sold for at auction. I know this isn't strictly politics or current events related but man. Talk about salvaged denim! (Get it. Like selvedge? Sorry. It's Monday. I'm sorry.)


12/12-Emma hosts Timothy Shenk, Co-Editor of Dissent and Assistant Professor of Modern U.S. History at George Washington University, to discuss his recent book Realigners: Partisan Hacks, Political Visionaries, and the Struggle to Rule American Democracy.


Elon's Twitter Files Fail Somehow Gets WORSE

I hope you appreciate that I really haven't touched on this Twitter files stuff in the newsletter, instead letting Emma and the gang tackle it on the show, mostly because I cannot bring myself to get into that. It's just so dumb and only barely relevant, and they do a better job of it anyway.

Centrist Blogger Joins Transphobic ‘Just Asking Questions About Trans Health' Train

Ahhh Matt Yglesias. His head, so smooth. His brain, even smoother.


“I got to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed.”

– Marjorie Taylor Greene, speaking to the New York Young Republican Club, about the events of January 6.

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