Monthly Archives: May 2017

Frost on the Moon?

A new analysis of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data suggests that the coldest spots at the Moon’s south pole are also its brightest, even though they are generally in shadow, suggesting that the surface there might have a thin layer of water frost.

These are also the areas where hydrogen has been detected, which strengthens the theory that this is water.

However, the result is not a positive one for future colonists as it suggests that the amount of water on the Moon is far less than hoped. First, there is this:

The icy deposits appear to be patchy and thin, and it’s possible that they are mixed in with the surface layer of soil, dust and small rocks called the regolith. The researchers say they are not seeing expanses of ice similar to a frozen pond or skating rink. Instead, they are seeing signs of surface frost.

Second, they have not detected this same pattern at the north pole, which strongly suggests that the permanently shadowed areas there do not even have frost.

Overall, this result suggests that the Moon might have water on its surface, but not in great quantities.

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NASA names next solar mission after pioneer solar scientist Eugene Parker

NASA has named its next solar mission, which will fly closer to the Sun than any previous mission, after pioneer solar scientist Eugene Parker, who in the 1950s predicted the existence of the solar wind.

The new moniker honors pioneering University of Chicago astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who predicted the existence of the solar wind — the stream of charged particles flowing constantly from the sun — back in 1958. [Solar Quiz: How Well Do You Know Our Sun?]

NASA has named about 20 space missions after people; the Hubble Space Telescope is perhaps the most famous example. But the 89-year-old Parker is the first researcher to be celebrated in this manner while still alive, agency officials said.

Parker deserves it, for sure, and it is really nice to honor him while he is still alive to appreciate it.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch at the end of July.

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Stratolaunch unveils its giant mother ship

Capitalism in space: Stratolaunch today finally revealed the giant airplane, the largest ever built, that it wants to use as a first stage for launching satellites cheaply into space.

From their webpage:

Over the past few weeks, we have removed the fabrication infrastructure, including the three-story scaffolding surrounding the aircraft, and rested the aircraft’s full weight on its 28 wheels for the first time. This was a crucial step in preparing the aircraft for ground testing, engine runs, taxi tests, and ultimately first flight.

Once we achieved weight-on-wheels, it enabled us to weigh the Stratolaunch aircraft for the first time, coming in at approximately 500,000 lbs. That may sound heavy, but remember that the Stratolaunch aircraft is the world’s largest plane by wingspan, measuring 385 ft. – by comparison, a National Football League field spans only 360 ft. The aircraft is 238 ft. from nose to tail and stands 50 ft. tall from the ground to the top of the vertical tail.

The Stratolaunch aircraft is designed for a max takeoff weight of 1,300,000 lbs., meaning it’s capable of carrying payloads up to approximately 550,000 lbs. As we announced last fall , we will initially launch a single Orbital ATK Pegasus XL vehicle with the capability to launch up to three Pegasus vehicles in a single sortie mission. We have already started preparations for launch vehicle delivery to our Mojave facilities. We’re actively exploring a broad spectrum of launch vehicles that will enable us to provide more flexibility to customers.

They plan to do ground tests throughout this year, aiming for a first flight test in 2019.

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Santo & Johnny – Sleep Walk

An evening pause: The song should immediately be familiar, though I doubt most people today will know of the performers who wrote it.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace, who writes, “This performance is from 1959, an era when performers wore ties to show respect to their audience. One must wonder how performers show respect to their audience, these days–or even if it’s an issue.”

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If TMT moves from Hawaii Canada might exit partnership

The possibility that the Thirty Meter Telescope might be forced to move from Hawaii to the Canary Islands because of political opposition in Hawaii has Canadian scientists considering leaving the partnership.

The mega-telescope is “a critical component of the Canadian astronomical landscape,” says Michael Balogh, an astronomer at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The country — one of six major international partners — has committed CAN$243 million (US$180 million) to the project. “If we have to move, it’s effectively a de-scope in the project,” says Balogh.

The back-up site, Roque de los Muchachos in La Palma, the Canary Islands, is lower in elevation than Mauna Kea, and its skies are more turbulent than those above the Hawaii mountain. That means that observing conditions are not quite as good; in particular, the extra atmosphere above La Palma interferes with much of the observing in mid-infrared wavelengths of light, the sweet spot for looking at exoplanet atmospheres.

If Canada leaves, there is a chance that the entire TMT partnership might fall apart.

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Washington State legislators move to defund Evergreen State College

Couldn’t happen soon enough! Republican elected officials plan to introduce legislation this week that would strip funding from Evergreen State College, where mobs of leftist demonstrators have taken over the campus and threatened anyone who disagrees with them with violence, all with the tacit approval of the college’s administration.

The bill, spearheaded by Republican State Representative Matt Manweller, will be introduced alongside a letter to the state Human Rights Commission requesting an investigation into potential civil rights violations on campus surrounding the incident. Manweller and his colleagues are also discussing the possibility of revoking $24,000,000 in annual funding to Evergreen State College, but pledge that all students on campus will remain eligible for full financial aid from the state, should the bill become law. …

Manweller made clear that he places the blame for Evergreen’s current situation squarely on the shoulders of administrators, arguing that they created the conditions for controversy through their unquestioning embrace of social justice and failure to condemn the excesses of student protesters. “It is incredibly frightening that the administration at Evergreen would tacitly support Brown-shirt tactics we have not seen since 1930s Germany. That they would allow students to threaten professors and other students based on their race is simply horrifying,” Manweller continued. “The administration bears direct responsibility for this situation. They hired the professors who have elevated the pseudo-science of ‘social justice’ to a religious movement. Now all dissent is crushed by threats of violence or actual violence.”

Considering that the state legislature in Washington is split, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans the Senate, I suspect that it will be difficult to get the funding stripped. However, if they do it will be a sign that we might have finally begun to turn a corner.

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Near the Martian south pole

Near the Martian south pole

Cool image time! The image above, reduced and cropped to show here, shows an area at 87 degrees south latitude, not far from the south pole of Mars and in the region at the edge of its icecap of dry ice.

It is late summer in the Southern hemisphere, so the Sun is low in the sky and subtle topography is accentuated in orbital images.

We see many shallow pits in the bright residual cap of carbon dioxide ice (also called “Swiss cheese terrain”). There is also a deeper, circular formation that penetrates through the ice and dust. This might be an impact crater or it could be a collapse pit.

Because of the low Sun angle the bottom of the deep pit is poorly lit, making it hard to determine the pit’s nature. What can be seen at its bottom however are some patches of carbon dioxide ice, melting in the same manner as the dry ice in the surrounding terrain. Also, the dust pattern surrounding the pit indicates the prevailing winds at this location, consistently blowing to the northeast.

I am certain there will be additional photos taken of this pit, when the Sun is higher in the sky and its floor is thus better illuminated.

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Road construction at SpaceX’s planned Texas spaceport

Capitalism in space: A $3 million road project at SpaceX’s planned spaceport at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville, Texas, is moving forward.

The key tidbit from the article however is this:

Besides the property tax breaks and incentives that Cameron County and other entities around the RGV have already offered SpaceX to come to the Valley, Garcia said they’ll continue to do what it takes to stay on target for a 2018 launch. “Every month we’re going to be on the map,” he said.

It appears that the reason work on the spacepad itself has seemingly stalled is because SpaceX has been waiting for this road work by the state to be completed. Either way, they are aiming for a first launch next year. At that time SpaceX should have four launchpads, 2 in Florida, one in California, and one in Texas.

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Astronomers find star with giant ringed planet

Astronomers now think that a sunlike star about 1,000 light years away dips in brightness every 2.5 years because an orbiting ringed planet or ringed dwarf star blocks the star’s light.

They discovered that every two and a half years, the light from this distant star – PDS 110 in the Orion constellation, which is same temperature and slightly larger than our sun – is reduced to thirty percent for about two to three weeks. Two notable eclipses observed were in November 2008 and January 2011. “What’s exciting is that during both eclipses we see the light from the star change rapidly, and that suggests that there are rings in the eclipsing object, but these rings are many times larger than the rings around Saturn,” says Leiden astronomer Matthew Kenworthy.

Assuming the dips in starlight are coming from an orbiting planet, the next eclipse is predicted to take place in September this year – and the star is bright enough that amateur astronomers all over the world will be able to witness it and gather new data. Only then will we be certain what is causing the mysterious eclipses.

If confirmed in September, PDS 110 will be the first giant ring system that has a known orbital period. [emphasis in original]

Just so no one is confused, this is not Tabby’s Star. There, the dips in light are seemingly random and follow no pattern, other than an overall dimming for the past century.

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Pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus shifted 55 degrees in the past

Data from Cassini now suggests that the moon Enceladus shifted its pole as much as 55 degrees sometime in the past, possibly due to an impact.

Whether it was caused by an impact or some other process, Tajeddine and colleagues think the disruption and creation of the tiger-stripe terrain [at south pole] caused some of Enceladus’ mass to be redistributed, making the moon’s rotation unsteady and wobbly. The rotation would have eventually stabilized, likely taking more than a million years. By the time the rotation settled down, the north-south axis would have reoriented to pass through different points on the surface — a mechanism researchers call “true polar wander.”

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Air Force successfully tests ICBM interceptor

The Air Force today successfully shot down a dummy ICBM missile it had launched from the western Pacific.

As described prior to the test:

The U.S. will launch an ICBM-class target from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. If successful, the “kill vehicle,” or intercept, will collide with the ICBM test target mid-course over the Pacific Ocean… This will be the 18th test of the ground-based interceptor. The last one, in June 2014, was the first success since 2008. The system is nine for 17 since 1999 with other types of target missiles. An ICBM target has never been tested before.

I should note that this successful test is final proof that Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or “Star Wars” as the leftist press contemptuously called it in their unwavering belief that it could not work, is feasible and can work.

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Academic invents new non-oppressive physics to protect minorities

This paper is not a prank: A feminist gender studies academic from the University of Arizona has invented a theory of “intersectional quantum physics” to fight the oppression of Newtonian physics.

Whitney Stark argues in support of “combining intersectionality and quantum physics” to better understand “marginalized people” and to create “safer spaces” for them, in the latest issue of The Minnesota Review. Because traditional quantum physics theory has influenced humanity’s understanding of the world, it has also helped lend credence to the ongoing regime of racism, sexism and classism that hurts minorities, Stark writes in “Assembled Bodies: Reconfiguring Quantum Identities.”

What is also important is that this college researcher, who also has an appointment in the culture and gender studies department at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, got her paper published in a journal published by Duke University Press. Below is her full abstract. I dare you to tell me what it means.

In this semimanifesto, I approach how understandings of quantum physics and cyborgian bodies can (or always already do) ally with feminist anti-oppression practices long in use. The idea of the body (whether biological, social, or of work) is not stagnant, and new materialist feminisms help to recognize how multiple phenomena work together to behave in what can become legible at any given moment as a body. By utilizing the materiality of conceptions about connectivity often thought to be merely theoretical, by taking a critical look at the noncentralized and multiple movements of quantum physics, and by dehierarchizing the necessity of linear bodies through time, it becomes possible to reconfigure structures of value, longevity, and subjectivity in ways explicitly aligned with anti-oppression practices and identity politics. Combining intersectionality and quantum physics can provide for differing perspectives on organizing practices long used by marginalized people, for enabling apparatuses that allow for new possibilities of safer spaces, and for practices of accountability.

I also dare you to build a rocket using this new physics. I also wonder if anyone can tell the difference between this legitimate paper and this fake one.

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Curiosity data increases time water existed Gale Crater

New research using data from Curiosity has found evidence suggesting that significant water was present in Gale Crater for a very long time.

Lighter-toned bedrock that surrounds fractures and comprises high concentrations of silica — called “halos”— has been found in Gale crater on Mars, indicating that the planet had liquid water much longer than previously believed. The new finding is reported in a new paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

“The concentration of silica is very high at the centerlines of these halos,” said Jens Frydenvang, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the new study. “What we’re seeing is that silica appears to have migrated between very old sedimentary bedrock and into younger overlying rocks. The goal of NASA’s Curiosity rover mission has been to find out if Mars was ever habitable, and it has been very successful in showing that Gale crater once held a lake with water that we would even have been able to drink, but we still don’t know how long this habitable environment endured. What this finding tells us is that, even when the lake eventually evaporated, substantial amounts of groundwater were present for much longer than we previously thought—thus further expanding the window for when life might have existed on Mars.”

The actual paper provides no time frame. What it does state is that for the halos to have formed requires a lot of time, and that during that time a lot of groundwater was required.

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Results after one year on ISS for Bigelow’s inflatable module

Capitalism in space: NASA has released some of its findings learned from Bigelow’s inflatable BEAM module, attached now to ISS for one year.

During the first year, NASA and its astronauts on board the station have sought primarily to test the module’s ability to withstand space debris—as a rapidly depressurized habitat would be a bad thing in space. And indeed, sensors inside the module have recorded “a few probable” impacts from micrometeoroid debris strikes, according to NASA’s Langley Research Center. Fortunately, the module’s multiple layers of kevlar-like weave have prevented any penetration by the debris.

They have also found that the cosmic ray dosage in the module seems comparable to the rest of the station. They are now using the module to test the radiation shielding capability of several different kinds of materials.

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North Korea fires another ballistic missile

North Korea today conducted its ninth ballistic missile test this year, all of which have been in violation of UN sanctions.

The missile, presumed to be a Scud type, was launched eastward from the vicinity of Wonsan, Gangwon Province, at around 5:39 a.m., according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). “The flight distance is around 450 kilometers,” it said.

As a Scud, the missile would likely not have the capability of carrying a heavy payload, like a nuclear bomb. Nonetheless, with each test North Korea gains knowledge on how to do exactly that.

For a detailed look at the people building North Korea’s missile program see this article from yesterday: Kim’s rocket stars – The trio behind North Korea’s missile program

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Dog sits on editorial board of seven medical journals

An Australian professor wondered if he could get his dog Ollie picked to be on the editorial board of a number of medical journals, and was astonished to discover seven who agreed without reservations.

Ollie’s owner is Mike Daube, Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University in Perth. Ollie likes to watch Mike working on his computer, and Mike gets a lot of emails from predatory journals. Wondering just how low these journals would go, he put together a curriculum vitae for his dog – detailing research interests such as “the benefits of abdominal massage for medium-sized canines” – and sent it off to a number of these journals, asking for a spot on their editorial boards.

Remarkably, the vast majority accepted Ollie without demur, and her name now adorns several journal websites. Ollie is a trailblazer, Professor Daube says, being the first dog ever to get on the editorial board of a journal.

“What makes it even more bizarre is that one of these journals has actually asked Ollie to review an article. It’s entitled “Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours and their management.” Some poor soul has actually written an article on this theme in good faith, and the journal has sent it to a dog to review.”

The article provides a nice look at the problems facing the modern peer review journal field.

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Son of Democrat VP candidate charged for attacking pro-Trump demonstrators

The civility of Democrats: The son of Democrat vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine has been arrested and criminally charged for his participation in violent attacks against pro-Trump demonstrators at the Minnesota state capital on March 4.

To get a flavor of this civility, read this from the police reports:

During the rally, protesters arrived at the Capitol. Most were peaceful but some (more than 10) were wearing face and head coverings, and wearing goggles. Rally participants tried to physically block the stairs leading to the rotunda where the rally was taking place. Protesters pushed and shoved trying to get down the stairs, then began employing smoke bombs, tear gas (aka mace), and fireworks. Several people, identified in police reports, had to be treated by paramedics due to the effects of tear gas.”

A Minnesota State Trooper observing the crowd from the west staircase saw Bueckert spray several people with tear gas. Bueckert then ran up the stairs to the second floor. About 30 seconds later, the trooper saw Bueckert “run back down the stairs, pushing through the crowd and punching people at the bottom of the stairs.” The trooper grabbed Bueckert and placed him under arrest. Bueckert resisted the arrest and the trooper later discovered he suffered a broken thumb from the struggle.

It appears that Kaine’s son was one of the 10 wearing masks, and tried to flee when police moved in.

Note that though I have not posted anything about the Republican candidate in Montana who attacked a reporter, I do not condone that candidate’s behavior either. The reporter might have been rude and trespassing, but violence as a response is inappropriate. That such violence is beginning to be acceptable to both sides is another sign that civilization is dying and that we are heading for a new dark age.

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Construction begins on the European Extremely Large Telescope

On Friday the European Southern Observatory broke ground in Chile on the construction of the European Extemely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which when finished in 2024 will be the largest ground-based telescope in the world.

The mirror will be 39 meters across.

Meanwhile, construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope remains stalled. It was originally supposed to be operating before E-ELT, but that is becoming increasingly doubtful. Its builders can’t get Hawaii to approve a building permit, and they haven’t yet been willing to admit that they will never get permission to build there.

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Brewing beer on the Moon

Capitalism in space: A student experiment to attempt to brew beer on the Moon, rejected by one Google Lunar X-Prize contestant, has been accepted by another.

The experiment involves a small canister that, once on the moon, will mix yeast with wort, the mixture of barley and other ingredients that give beer its flavor, to cause fermentation and carbonation. Besides proving that beer can be brewed remotely and in low gravity, the experiment demonstrates the potential for making other things involving yeast in low gravity, such as bread and certain medicines, which could be important if a lunar colony is ever established.

The canister, designed by the students at the Qualcomm Institute Prototyping Facility, will be aboard a spacecraft being built by Synergy Moon, one of the teams competing for the Google Lunar XPrize, a contest meant to inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration..

They have also been accepted to fly the experiment on several Synergy Moon orbital flights.

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Kim Jong-Un Consults With Planned Parenthood To Learn How To Cover Up Atrocities

News you can use! In an effort to improve his brand, Kim Jong-Un came to New York on Friday to learn Planned Parenthood’s techniques for manipulating the media and covering up its human rights atrocities.

The North Korean delegate reportedly met with leaders at Planned Parenthood, where a panel of public relations professionals demonstrated the organization’s advanced methods of squashing any clear evidence of its brutal, callous slaughtering of human babies the moment it arises. “So you just get a judge to pull all the damning videos right away, and charge those trying to expose you with felonies? Amazing. We don’t even have that kind of power over the media back in Pyongyang.”

In other news, from the same source: ISIS lays down arms after Katy Perry’s impassioned plea to ‘Like, just co-exist.’

It is now obvious I have been getting my news information from the wrong sources. Things are much better than I might have supposed.

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LRO hit by meteoriod in 2014

LRO as it was hit by a meteor

While taking an image in October 2014, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter had apparently been hit by some small object, causing it to vibrate and create the zig-zag distortions seen on the image, a cropped section of which is shown on the right.

Clearly there was a brief violent movement of the left NAC [Narrow Angle Camera]. The only logical explanation is that the NAC was hit by a meteoroid! How big was the meteoroid, and where did it hit? The physical properties and vibration modes of the NAC are very well known – during development a detailed computer model was made to ensure the NAC would not fail during the vibrations caused by the launch, which are severe. The computer model was tested before launch by attaching the NAC to a vibration table that simulates launch. The model was solid, both NACs survived the test, and launch.

Most of each NAC is sequestered inside the spacecraft structure, so only the leading edge of the baffle and the radiator are exposed to space, and thus are potential targets for impactors. From the detailed computer model, the LROC team ran simulations to see if we could reproduce the distortions seen the image. Assuming an impact velocity of 7 kilometers per second and a density 2.7 g/cm3, an impacting particle would have been 0.8 mm in diameter (~half the size of a pinhead). If the velocity was faster, then the particle would have been smaller, and if slower then larger.

For comparison, the muzzle velocity of a bullet fired from a rifle is typically 0.5 to 1.0 kilometers per second. So the meteoroid was traveling much faster than a speeding bullet. In this case LROC did not dodge a speeding bullet, but rather survived a speeding bullet!

The image is fascinating because you can see the vibrations slowly disappear as the zig-zags shrink and fade.

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NASA delays launch of space-junk removal test satellite

In order to do additional safety reviews NASA has ordered a six-month delay, at the minimum, in the launch of test space junk removal satellite.

“Nothing of this size has ever been launched from the ISS before,” said Jason Forshaw, RemoveDebris project manager at the University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre, which leads the consortium [that built the satellite]. “Most of the things they are launching from there are cubesats, much smaller objects, 10 [kilograms] or so,” Forshaw said. “As you can imagine, we are progressing through the safety reviews and we are just going through those at the moment.”

The article also includes some discussion of the legal limitations of salvage in space, once again due to the limits in the Outer Space Treaty.

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Connecticut: sinking in debt with a fleeing population

Running out of other people’s money: Connecticut, run for years by Democrats, is sinking in debt with a population that is shrinking as people flee.

The administration of Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat who has been in office since 2011, projects a budget deficit of more than $5 billion over the next two years, thanks to generous pension benefits and the burden of servicing its big debt, plus falling tax revenue due to the exodus of large employers and residents reaching retirement age.

Its budget woes, as well as concerns that they will be repeated year after year, helped lead General Electric in 2015 to consider moving its headquarters out of the state. Last year, it did exactly that.

The state’s population is falling: Its net domestic out-migration was nearly 30,000 from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, it lost slightly more than 8,000 people, leaving its population at 3.6 million. Indeed, recent national moving company surveys underscore the trend, showing more people leaving Connecticut than moving in. In 2016, the state also saw a population decline for the third consecutive year, according to Census Bureau estimates.

One of the companies, United Van Lines, reported that of all their Connecticut customers, 60 percent were leaving compared to 40 percent who were moving there. Only three other states had higher rates of people moving out – New York, New Jersey and Illinois. One out of five of those leaving said they were retiring. [emphasis mine]

Isn’t it interesting that the four states with the most people leaving are four states that have been largely run by Democrats for decades. And in those cases where Republicans have been in charge, they have taken the moderate go-along-to-get-along approach, essentially rubber-stamping the high spending and high tax agenda of the Democrats that dominate the political region.

Unfortunately, it is this agenda that dominates Washington and the federal government, and the Republican leadership there seems quite willing to do the same as the moderate Republicans in this states. Worse, we don’t have another country we can escape to.

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