Category Archives: Behind The Black

11-year-old threatened with expulsion for virtual gun

Madness: An 11-year-old has been threatened with expulsion for bringing a virtual gun to a virtual school.

In listening to the audio of the talk radio report, the school demanded the boy change his avatar because it included an image of a pistol, and is now rushing to craft a policy that would outlaw gun images in the future. Not only is this insane, it would be a violation of the first amendment.

Immigration has lost track of thousands of foreigners here on student visas.

Does this make you feel safer? U.S. Immigrations no longer knows where more than 6,000 foreigners are who came to the U.S. on student visas and are considered a threat.

The issue here is not to keep foreigners from entering the U.S. but the complete inability of the federal government government to do its job. The government is very good at abusing legal American citizens in airports, but is a total failure at controlling access to the country by non-citizens,

Musk vs Bezos

The competition heats up: SpaceX is challenging a patent issued to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for landing the first stage of a rocket vertically on a floating platform.

“The ‘rocket science’ claimed in the ‘321 patent was, at best, ‘old hat’ by 2009,” says SpaceX in one of two challenges, filed last week with the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board following the approval of the Blue Origin patent in March. SpaceX cites prior work by researchers and scientists who proposed techniques similar to those in Blue Origin’s patent.

If the patent holds it might force SpaceX to pay Blue Origin for the right to bring its Falcon 9 first stage back safely,

Lerner ignored questionable union political activities

Working for the Democratic Party: Newly released emails show that Lois Lerner once dismissed complaints that labor unions were not reporting to the IRS millions of dollars in political activities — almost all of which helped Democrats — that they did report to the Labor Department.

In 2006, the year leading up to Lerner’s email, the national headquarters for the AFL-CIO reported no direct or indirect political expenditures with the IRS on their 990 form, leaving the line 81a blank. That same year, the AFL-CIO reported $29,585,661 in political activities with the Department of Labor. Also in 2006 the Teamsters Union reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $7,081,965 with the Labor Department. Again in 2006, Unite-Here reported no political activity with the IRS and $1,451,002 with the Labor Department. In 2005, the National Education Association also reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $24,985,250 with the Labor Department.

The lack of reporting to the IRS was essentially illegal. Yet, when complaints were made to Lerner about this, she poo-pooed the issue and apparently squelched further investigations.

ISIS in retreat?

This story is one of several published the last few days that have described the retreat of ISIS from several Kurdish and Iraqi villages.

I hadn’t posted any of the previous stories because I was unsure of their reliability. The number, however, keeps increasing and the sources are becoming more trustworthy. If true, it is mostly good news, though one should always be hesitant about the leadership of any faction in the Islamic Middle East. They might start out sounding good, but too often they end up being either incompetent or as evil as can be imagined.

Police arrest a man for picking up his kids.

A Minnesota black man is tased and arrested by police because he was going to pick up his kids from school.

Don’t believe me? Watch the video below the fold. It is heart-breaking and infuriating. The man does nothing wrong, and the police could have easily calmed the situation down. Instead, they escalated it for no reason. The man quite reasonably concludes “The problem is I’m black.”

I think the problem here is less racism and more a police force that is in love with its power. As I and many others have documented extensively, modern American police are increasingly willing to abuse their position of trust in ways that are appalling. In this case, as in many similar cases, the police officers in this case got off free, without punishment. What should have happened is that the male officer should have been fired, and the female officer disciplined.
» Read more

The deadly Israeli house strikes again

There are few weapons as deadly as the Israeli house. When its brick and mortar are combined together, the house, whether it is one of those modest one story hilltop affairs or a five floor apartment building complete with hot and cold running water, becomes far more dangerous than anything green and glowing that comes out of the Iranian centrifuges.

Forget the cluster bomb and the mine, the poison gas shell and even tailored viruses. Iran can keep its nuclear bombs. They don’t impress anyone in Europe or in Washington. Genocide is a minor matter when in the presence of the fearsome weapon of terror that is an Israeli family of four moving into a new apartment.

Read it all. It will make you shiver in fear at the terror produced by Israeli contractors.

Israel’s land grab – not!

Check out this very detailed review of the legal and political background behind Israel’s most recent decision to take full legal control over about 1,000 acres in the West Bank.

To put it simply, Israel is acting as per the Oslo Accords and its own legal system, which includes giving Palestinians the right to challenge the decision.

Current Congress sets record for fewest laws passed

Now this is a trend I like: The current Congress has passed the fewest laws in history.

The divided House and Senate have managed to pass just 163 laws that garnered President Obama’s signature since the two-year term began in January 2013. At this rate, Congress will have no problem beating the previous record set during the 2011-2013 session in which 284 laws were passed. That was down from 385 laws passed in the 2009-2011 session.

The less the better. And the legal areas that desperately need addressing are those areas, like Obamacare, that are best handled by repeal, not new laws.

Hayabusa ready for launch

In a press photo op the Japanese have unveiled the completed Hayabusa 2, ready for its journey to an asteroid.

Hayabusa 2 will deploy one of five target markers that it will use to guide itself into landing and collecting a sample. It will deploy a European-built lander named MASCOT and three (count them, three) “rovers” called MINERVA-II. I put “rovers” in quotes because I think these are not wheeled rovers but rather bouncy hoppers like Hayabusa 1′s MINERVA (which was deployed but sadly missed Itokawa). Then it will do an experiment like Deep Impact’s, releasing an impactor to make a crater on the asteroid’s surface. But because Hayabusa 2′s impactor won’t have much kinetic energy, they made it explosive. The mothership will have to hide in the shadow of the asteorid as the explosion happens, so they have also added the deployable DCAM3 to try to get a view of the crater’s formation.

Rendezvous is set for around 2018 with the spacecraft’s sample return to Earth sometime in 2020.

Nothing for New Horizons after Pluto

As New Horizons begins its final shake-down in advance of its July 2015 flyby of Pluto, scientists have so far failed to find any Kuiper Belt objects in the right place for it to fly past after Pluto.

They haven’t given up hope, however. The search continues. As for the Pluto flyby,

The hibernating spacecraft will send weekly status beacons back to Earth, with wakeup scheduled for Dec. 7 to begin the final phase of its approach to Pluto. New Horizons will stay awake for two years to prepare for the encounter, fly by Pluto, and downlink science data. The craft’s appointment with Pluto is set for July 14, 2015, when it will zoom about 6,200 miles from the icy world’s unmapped surface for a one-shot chance to explore Pluto’s geology and atmosphere.

All geckos lost from Foton-M4

Upon the return to Earth today of Russian biology satellite Foton-M4 biologists discovered that all the geckos on board had died sometime during the mission.

The cause of death has not yet been announced. The mission itself had some problems, and returned to Earth about two weeks early. Nonetheless, the Russians also announced that flies on board were still alive upon landing.

Woman scares off attackers with gun

The right kind of gun control: An Ohio woman with a concealed carry license scared off two bat-wielding attackers when she pointed her gun on them.

This is not that unusual a story but I wanted to highlight it because of this quote:

The men took off and so far have eluded police. Dinah posted about the incident on Facebook to alert friends and neighbors, to criticism by some. “Most of the males’ opinion was, ‘Why didn’t you shoot them?’” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted quote above, nonchalantly advocating that she should have fired the gun, is incredibly stupid. Life is not a modern Hollywood movie, where idiots shoot their weapons indiscriminately without thought. This woman made exactly the right decision. She used her weapon to stop the attack, and then proceeded on her way. Had she fired she would made things very messy for herself, for no reason.

Guns in the hands of good people are without question the best defense against bad people. However, if you use that gun unwisely or without cause you make yourself a bad person. Stay good and stay safe. Arm yourself, but don’t use your weapon unless you really really really have to.

Professor with leftwing ties to build hate speech database.

The Indiana professor who is going to build a database for the federal government to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution” turns out to have numerous links to and is a strong supporter of left wing causes.

“‘Truthy’ claims to be non-partisan. However, the project’s lead investigator Filippo Menczer proclaims his support for numerous progressive advocacy groups, including President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, Moveon.org, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, and True Majority. Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, links to each of the organizations on his personal page from his bio at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research.”

Menczer of course has denied his database will have any partisan tinge. He is as pure as the wind-driven snow!

Battle of the heavy lift rockets

Check out this very detailed and informative look at unstated competiton between NASA’s SLS rocket and SpaceX’s heavy lift rocket plans that are even more powerful than the Falcon Heavy.

Key quote: “It is clear SpaceX envisions a rocket far more powerful than even the fully evolved Block 2 SLS – a NASA rocket that isn’t set to be launched until the 2030s.”

The SpaceX rocket hinges on whether the company can successfully build its new Raptor engine. If they do, they will have their heavy lift rocket in the air and functioning far sooner than NASA, and for far far far less money.

Opportunity to get a reboot

Because of an increasing number of computer resets on the Mars rover Opportunity, engineers plan to reformat the rover’s computer.

The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses. Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while identifying bad cells and flagging them to be avoided.

Obviously there is a risk, though small, that this action will not work and the mission will end here. Stay tuned.

The decision on manned spaceflight

The rumors are swirling. Today alone the news included three different articles about NASA’s upcoming decision to down-select to either one or two in its manned commercial crew program.

The third article above speculates that the decision will be made shortly after this weekend, maybe as soon as next week. It also outlines in nice detail the companies who are competing for the contract.

I strongly expect NASA to pick two companies, not one, as the agency has repeatedly said it wants to have redundancy and competition in manned space flight. To this I agree whole-heartedly. Right now, if I was a betting man (which I am not), I would pick SpaceX and Sierra Nevada as the two companies to get the nod.

If NASA only picks one company that I don’t think there is much doubt that it will be SpaceX.

And then again, government agencies, because of politics, have sometimes made some incredibly stupid decisions. For example, back in the 1970s the company that proposed the space shuttle was rejected for another big space company that had more political clout, which then turned around and essentially stole the first company’s designs to build the space shuttle from them. It just took longer and cost more.

The X-37B just keeps going.

The Energizer bunny of space: The X-37B has now completed more than 600 days in orbit, with no indication when it will return to Earth.

The Air Force is believed to have only two X-37B space planes. These space planes have flown at otal of three missions, which are known as OTV-1, OTV-2 and OTV-3. (“OTV” is short for Orbital Test Vehicle.) The first mission blasted off in April 2010, and the craft circled Earth for 225 days. The second X-37B vehicle launched in March 2011, performing the OTV-2 mission. This spaceflight lasted 469 days, ultimately landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in June 2012. That was the same landing site OTV-1 used after completing its mission.

The current OTV-3 mission is reusing the first X-37B space plane from the OTV-1 flight, showcasing the reusability aspect of the program.

Fewer people to have health insurance under Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: A new analysis of Obamacare predicts that in the next ten years the number of uninsured Americans will increase by 10 percent while premiums will continue to rise.

We estimate that average annual costs for the cheapest individual plans—the “bronze” plans—may increase by 96 percent, from roughly $2,100 to nearly $4,200. Bronze family plans prices, meanwhile, may increase by nearly 50 percent. The average plan in this category could come close to $13,000 a year in total premiums. Almost every plan will see a price increase of some kind.

Consumers will learn these unpleasant truths in the fall of 2016 when they attempt to extend their policies.

No matter where you live, the effects will ripple across the entire industry. The dramatically higher prices will almost surely drive some consumers out of the exchanges. But they won’t have many places to turn. Many—perhaps most—won’t be eligible for Medicaid, while others won’t have jobs that offer replacement health insurance. People in this position will thus choose between health insurance they can’t afford and becoming uninsured. Not even the IRS penalty will convince everyone to bite the bullet.

Prior to 2016 the law allows insurance companies to use tax dollars, subsidizes from the federal government, to artificially depress premiums. After 2016 that option disappears, and the real cost of Obamacare gets passed to the consumer, most of whom will not be able to afford it.

British government raises terror threat

Update: Sources in the federal government say that an Islamic terror attack coming from Mexico is imminent.

Original post:
While Obama has admitted he has no strategy to deal with ISIS, the British government today raised its terror threat level to “severe.”

[Home Secretary Theresa] May said the threat level was raised because of the risk from the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria, where extremist militants from the group calling itself the Islamic State (also ISIS or ISIL). May said, however, that there was no specific threat to Britain that caused the raise in the terror level. This is the first time Britain’s terror threat level has been at “severe” since 2011. “The increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West. Some of these plots are likely to involve foreign fighters who have traveled there from the UK and Europe to take part in those conflicts,” May said in a statement.

Add to this the fact that U.S. intelligence has noted a “significant increase” in chatter among terrorist organizations as September 11 approaches.

Islamic terrorists have celebrated September 11 several times previously with terrorist attacks. We shouldn’t be surprised if they do it again, especially as they now have a resurgent base of operations with many resources in the territory now controlled by ISIS.

Barack Obama meanwhile will probably find out about the next terrorist attack from a newspaper he reads, after he finishes his next very important round of golf.

Single sensor caused Falcon 9R failure

SpaceX has identified the cause of the failure of last week’s Falcon 9R test flight failure as a single sensor.

On the Falcon 9R, there was no backup for this sensor, so the rocket was required to self-destruct when the sensor failed. On a Falcon 9, other sensors would have picked up the slack and the rocket would have continued in flight.

That the sensor is used by the Falcon 9, however, explains why they have delayed the next commercial flight. They probably want to make sure they understand why the sensor failed so they can reduce the chance of failure on the Falcon 9.

A new SpaceShipTwo glide test flight

SpaceShipTwo successfully completed an unpowered glide test yesterday, testing the dynamics and plumbing of the ship’s new engines.

They pumped inert liquid through the plumbing to make sure it functioned in flight. The flight itself tested the balance and position of the new engine.

Assuming the results from these tests are good, expect powered flights quite soon.

1 2 3 361