Monthly Archives: June 2013

Third Anniversary

This past weekend Behind the Black celebrated its third anniversary. I did it by posting very little, as the news in space, to my mind, has been very quiet, while the news in politics and culture has been very depressing, something I am growing tired of reading. It seems to me that freedom is dying, both in the United States and worldwide, being chipped away bit by bit until no one alive knows what the word means anymore.

Moreover, on July 4 Diane and I will head north to the Grand Canyon (our third trip together to the bottom) for ten days vacation, so expect posting for that time period to be very light or nonexistent.

I do intend to post until then and once I get back. If you have liked what I have written and posted these past three years, then please consider the idea of contributing to the website. The tip jar is in the right column, near the bottom.

And if you really want to find out the moment I believe American society began to die, you might want to consider reading the new ebook edition of my first book, Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8. The book tells the story of one of our country’s grandest achievements, and how that triumph ironically ended up teaching an entire generation all the wrong lessons.

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Better not buy bottled water in Virginia: It will put you in jail.

Better not buy bottled water in Virginia: It will put you in jail.

When a half-dozen men and a woman in street clothes closed in on University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly, 20, she and two roommates panicked.

That led to Daly spending a night and an afternoon in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Her initial offense? Walking to her car with bottled water, cookie dough and ice cream just purchased from the Harris Teeter in the Barracks Road Shopping Center for a sorority benefit fundraiser.

A group of state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents clad in plainclothes approached her, suspecting the blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water to be a 12-pack of beer. Police say one of the agents jumped on the hood of her car. She says one drew a gun. Unsure of who they were, Daly tried to flee the darkened parking lot.

Thugs. What a bunch of thugs.

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A science poster released at an American Geophysical Union conference this week finds again that the global warming climate models used by policy makers have all failed to predict what has actually happened.

The uncertainty of science: A science poster released at an American Geophysical Union conference this week finds again that the global warming climate models used by policy makers have all failed to predict what has actually happened.

Some devastating quotes from the poster:
» Read more

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“This is the reason the U.S. has the right to bear arms.”

The words of a Canadian yesterday: “This is the reason the U.S. has the right to bear arms.”

The reason? The Mounties had been breaking into the homes of a town (evacuated due to flooding) and seizing firearms. When the residents found out about this they were not pleased.

Officers laid down a spike belt to stop anyone from attempting to drive past the blockade. That action sent the crowd of residents into a rage.

“What’s next? Tear gas?” shouted one resident. “It’s just like Nazi Germany, just taking orders,” shouted another. “This is the reason the U.S. has the right to bear arms,” said Charles Timpano, pointing to the group of Mounties.

Officers were ordered to fall back about an hour into the standoff in order to diffuse the situation and listen to residents’ concerns. [emphasis mine]

Obviously, the rage of the citizens had some positive effect, as it forced the police to fall back.

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After ten years of operation, NASA has turned off its Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) space telescope.

After ten years of operation, NASA has turned off its Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) space telescope.

In a first-of-a-kind move for NASA, the agency in May 2012 loaned GALEX to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, which used private funds to continue operating the satellite while NASA retained ownership. Since then, investigators from around the world have used GALEX to study everything from stars in our own Milky Way galaxy to hundreds of thousands of galaxies 5 billion light-years away.

It appears this loan arrangement has now ended because of a lack of funds. Either way, it always baffles me when NASA shuts down a working science telescope merely because it has been operating for a long time. Eventually the space agency will call for a replacement, the building of which will be far more expensive than it would have been to keep the original in operation.

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The Obama administration issued finalized rules Friday allowing religious-affiliated organizations opposing the use of contraception to opt out of the Obamacare mandate

The Obama administration issued finalized rules Friday allowing religious-affiliated organizations opposing the use of contraception to opt out of the Obamacare mandate.

While this might suggest the Obama administration has backed down, the rules appear very complex and will probably not work for many religious organizations. Moreover, what about individuals or private companies (such as Hobby Lobby) that also object for religious reasons?

As always, if you nonchalantly rely on the government to dictate the rules for everyone, you guarantee those rules will oppress someone along the way.

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The House committee has ruled that Lois Lerner waived her fifth amendment rights when she claimed she did “nothing wrong” before invoking the fifth in testimony last month.

The House committee investigating the IRS scandal has ruled that Lois Lerner waived her fifth amendment rights when she claimed she did “nothing wrong” before invoking the fifth in testimony last month.

“That is the not the way the Fifth Amendment works. You don’t get to tell your side of the story,” and then avoid cross examination, said Republican Trey Gowdy. “She sat there and could have said nothing.”

The vote could clear the way for Republicans to haul Lerner back before the committee, where she would likely again invoke her Fifth Amendment rights. That would likely lead to a vote to hold her in contempt of Congress, Republican aides said.

What I don’t understand is why the focus here is holding her in contempt. I would think the Republicans on this committee are negotiating to give her immunity so she can tell all. Then again, the track record of the left when comes to testimony is not good. Even with immunity I would expect Lerner to lie to protect Obama. Consider for example the absurd claims Holly Paz has made about the IRS harassment of conservatives.

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Voyager 1 has found the edge of the solar system to be far more complex than predicted by scientists.

The uncertainty of science: Voyager 1 has found the edge of the solar system to be far more complex than predicted by scientists.

Scientists had assumed that Voyager 1, launched in 1977, would have exited the solar system by now. That would mean crossing the heliopause and leaving behind the vast bubble known as the heliosphere, which is characterized by particles flung by the sun and by a powerful magnetic field.

The scientists’ assumption turned out to be half-right. On Aug. 25, Voyager 1 saw a sharp drop-off in the solar particles, also known as the solar wind. At the same time, there was a spike in galactic particles coming from all points of the compass. But the sun’s magnetic field still registers, somewhat diminished, on the spacecraft’s magnetometer. So it’s still in the sun’s magnetic embrace, in a sense.

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It is now reported that the charges against the high school who refused to remove his NRA t-shirt have been dismissed.

It is now reported that the charges against the high school who refused to remove his NRA t-shirt have been dismissed.

No details yet, however, so it might be too soon to celebrate the return of sanity to this small spot in West Virginia.

Update: The dismissal of charges is confirmed. I think the prosecutor saw the political winds and decided he’d be a fool to pursue this case.

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The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that it has filed charges against former Democratic Governor/Senator Jon Corzine for his part in the embezzlement of customer funds at MF Global.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today announced that it has filed charges against former Democratic Governor/Senator Jon Corzine for his part in the embezzlement of customer funds at MF Global.

The article says that most of the embezzled funds have been recovered, but that’s not only news to me, I don’t see how it’s possible. We are talking about the misuse and loss of one billion dollars.

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Treasury’s inspector general has revealed that while only six progressive groups were targeted for investigation by the IRS, 292 conservative groups, 100% who applied, were investigated.

Treasury’s inspector general has revealed that while only six progressive groups were targeted for investigation by the IRS, 292 conservative groups, 100% who applied, were investigated.

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Kepler’s planet-hunting predecessor, COROT, has been shut down.

Kepler’s planet-hunting predecessor, CoRoT, has been shut down.

CoRoT suffered a computer failure on November, 2, 2012 and although the spacecraft is capable of receiving navigational commands, the French Space Agency CNES reports it can no longer retrieve data from its 30-centimeter telescope. After a valiant effort to try and restore the computer, CNES announced this week that the spacecraft has been retired. CoRoT’s journey will come to a fiery end as it will be deorbited and it will burn up on re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere.

CoRoT found 32 exoplanets with at least a hundred more candidates still to be confirmed.

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Two researchers have concluded that sterilizing spacecraft heading to Mars is largely a waste of money.

Two researchers have concluded that sterilizing spacecraft heading to Mars is largely a waste of money.

As far as Mars is concerned, say Fairén and Schulze-Makuch, such efforts are probably in vain since “Earth life has most likely already been transferred to Mars.” Meteorite impacts have had 3.8 billion years to spread Earth life forms to Mars. Several Earth spacecraft have visited Mars without undergoing the sterilization procedures now in place. If organisms transferred to Mars over the eons failed to survive, modern organisms would likely face the same fate. If they did survive, say Fairén and Schulze-Makuch, “it is too late to protect Mars from terrestrial life, and we can safely relax the planetary protection policies.”

They also note that NASA’s “Office of Planetary Protection is like an interplanetary Environmental Protection Agency” and that its “‘detailed and expensive’ efforts to keep Earth microorganisms off Mars are making missions to search for life on the red planet ‘unviable.’”

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The remarkable remains of a most recent supernova.

The remarkable remains of a most recent supernova.

Astronomers estimate that a star explodes as a supernova in our Galaxy, on average, about twice per century. In 2008, a team of scientists announced they discovered the remains of a supernova that is the most recent, in Earth’s time frame, known to have occurred in the Milky Way. The explosion would have been visible from Earth a little more than a hundred years ago if it had not been heavily obscured by dust and gas. Its likely location is about 28,000 light years from Earth near the center of the Milky Way.

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Arianespace will not be able to set its launch manifest for the remainder of this year until late July.

The competition heats up: Arianespace will not be able to set its launch manifest for the remainder of this year until late July.

The year’s third Ariane 5 mission is scheduled for launch in late July carrying the large Alphasat satellite for mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat of London and the European Space Agency (ESA); and India’s Insat-3D telecommunications satellite.

Beyond that, Israel said, it is unclear which commercial payloads will be placed on which of the two remaining Ariane 5 flights, scheduled for this fall, or what the Ariane 5 manifest looks like for 2014. A big question is whether Arianespace has any slots open in the Ariane 5 manifest in 2014 to accommodate new customers who want to switch to Ariane 5 because their selected vehicle is late.

This article not only suggests that Arianespace has more business than it can handle, it is also provides evidence that the company is scrambling to cut costs in order to compete.

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The prosecutors trying to put a high school teenager in jail for a year because he refused to take off his NRA t-shirt have tried to put a gag order on the teenager and his parents.

The new America: The prosecutors trying to put a high school teenager in jail for a year because he refused to take off his NRA t-shirt have tried to put a gag order on the teenager and his parents.

Prosecutors said they wanted to stop White, Marcum, and Marcum’s fathern Allen Lardieri, from sharing their story with the press, claiming the gag order would serve Marcum’s better interest. “These are the same individuals that are trying to prosecute him, so as far as them knowing what is in his better interest, I have a lot of questions about that,” Lardieri said.

A petition to intervene in the gag order hearing on behalf of WOWK-TV and the free press was prepared. Before WOWK reporter Charlo Greene could deliver the petition to the court clerk, she was asked twice to leave the courthouse by a bailiff who told her Judge Eric O’Briant, who presided over Marcum’s case, had requested she be removed from the courthouse. Greene then was told she would be arrested and charged with obstructing an officer if she did not comply with the bailiff’s orders.

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One of the lawsuits against the IRS has added 16 more conservative organizations for a total of 41.

One of the lawsuits against the IRS has added 16 more conservative organizations for a total of 41 which claim they were harassed for the political point of view.

Man, those two rogue agents in Cincinnati were damn busy. If only the government workers with real work were as dedicated!

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The toxic combination of Obamacare and the proposed Senate immigration bill would create a big financial incentive for employers to hire non-citizens.

Congress passes a law: The toxic combination of Obamacare and the proposed Senate immigration bill would create a big financial incentive for employers to hire non-citizens.

Under Obamacare, businesses with over 50 workers that employ American citizens without offering them qualifying health insurance could be subject to fines of up to $3,000 per worker. But because newly legalized immigrants wouldn’t be eligible for subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges until after they become citizens – at least 13 years under the Senate bill – businesses could avoid such fines by hiring the new immigrants instead.

Not surprisingly, the idiots who voted for this immigration bill haven’t read it and have no idea this problem exists.

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A Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched four commercial broadband satellites today for French Guiana.

The competition heats up: A Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched four commercial broadband satellites today for French Guiana.

The constellation’s orbit is designed to provide high-bandwidth Internet links to land masses located between 45 degrees north and 45 degrees south of the equator, which means mainly the developing world.

An interesting historical note of this story is that

O3b and SES officials have said that the company has regulatory rights to sufficient spectrum to put as many as 120 satellites in the same unusual orbit. O3b is making use of radio spectrum originally won, following a long battle, by a U.S. company called Teledesic, which had envisioned more than 800 satellites to provide broadband links worldwide. Teledesic ceased operations before launching its satellites.

Teledesic was a $9 billion satellite constellation proposed by Bill Gates back in 1998. They only launched one satellite, Teledesic 1, which was a failure. That this project has essentially come back to life fifteen years later is most intriguing.

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Liberal groups were not targeted by the IRS.

Despite some recent reports, liberal groups were not targeted by the IRS.

It appears these recent reports, that “progressives” were also targeted, are merely spin, an effort to defuse the scandal. A closer look reveals two facts about this so-called leftwing targeting: One, the liberal organizations were not “targeted,” merely “flagged.” Nothing was done to them at all, which is why none has come forward to complain. Second, the liberal organizations were 501c3 non-profits, not 501c4. The former get a greater tax exemption in exchange for not engaging in any political activity. Thus, such non-profits are normally subjected to greater scrutiny by the IRS.

It didn’t take much research to note these two details. That several major news organizations, including the Chicago Tribuine above and CNN, didn’t bother to check and simply regurgitated the spin, tells us a great deal about them.

Update: in related news, it appears that twelve different units at the IRS were involved in the targeting of conservatives.

That’s a far cry from one or two rogue agents in a single IRS office, as Lois Lerner claimed.

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The Chinese astronauts have undocked from the Tiengong-1 space station and will return to Earth tomorrow.

The Chinese astronauts have undocked from the Tiengong-1 space station and will return to Earth tomorrow.

Following a separation from the Tiangong-1 at 7:05 a.m. Beijing Time, the manned Shenzhou-10 moved back to a point from where the spacecraft changed its orbit and flew around the target module. Under the command of ground-based professionals, Shenzhou-10 adjusted its flight gesture at a point behind Tiangong-1, and approached and rendezvoused with the target module.

The fly-around and rendezvous was apparently controlled by ground controllers, not the astronauts on board.

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Astronomers have found a solar system with six exoplanets, three in the habitable zone.

Worlds without end: Astronomers have found a solar system with six exoplanets, three in the habitable zone.

These planets orbit the third fainter star of a triple star system. Viewed from one of these newly found planets the two other suns would look like a pair of very bright stars visible in the daytime and at night they would provide as much illumination as the full Moon. The new planets completely fill up the habitable zone of Gliese 667C, as there are no more stable orbits in which a planet could exist at the right distance to it.

The planets in the habitable zone are all super-Earths.

Update: you can download and read the science paper here.

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A NASA ion engine has successfully completed more than five and a half years of continuous operation.

A NASA ion engine has successfully completed more than five and a half years of continuous operation.

During the endurance test performed in a high vacuum test chamber at Glenn, the engine consumed about 1,918 pounds (870 kilograms) of xenon propellant, providing an amount of total impulse that would take more than 22,000 (10,000 kilograms) of conventional rocket propellant for comparable applications.

So, now what? Will this engineering achievement be filed away, like so many other past NASA engineering projects, or will it be used for something?

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Orbital Sciences, in its scramble to obtain engines for its Antares rocket, has sued the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for blocking their purchase of the Russian-made RD-180 engine.

Orbital Sciences, in its scramble to obtain engines for its Antares rocket, has sued the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for blocking their purchase of the Russian-made RD-180 engine.

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