Category Archives: Points of Information

The American city-rural political divide

Though the article at the link focuses on how in this year’s election the Democratic Party has lost its traditional support from white blue collar Democrats, I think it illustrates quite forcefully the increasing political polarization between the cities and the rural parts of the country.

“There are 490 counties in Appalachia technically, which is defined by federal law. Hillary Clinton won 21 counties in that region,” he said. And that is it. She did not win a single county in Appalachia that is mostly white, non-college-educated and has a population of under 100,000 people.

Not one county.

Looking at the map, the 21 counties she won were either college campuses like Virginia Tech, Cornell, Penn State and Mississippi State or counties in major metropolitan areas like Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Winston-Salem, N.C., Youngstown, Ohio, and Pittsburgh. And she also won five counties in Mississippi that are nearly majority black. “I went back and looked at the home precinct in Tennessee where I grew up and Bill Clinton wins it, Al Gore gets forty percent, Obama gets 28 percent and she got 18 percent. In short, Donald Trump got 80 percent of that vote,” he said, astounded at the cultural shift among Appalachians.

What does all of this data tell you about America? Todd says it is simple, “There are absolutely no more blue-collar whites in the Democratic Party. They just don’t exist, even the ones who want there to be have recognized there is no room for them,” he said. These voters had stayed with the Democrats forever and now 80 percent of them in Appalachia have voted Republican. “That means they don’t know anyone who voted for her,” he said.

This polarization also explains why it is becoming more common for the choice of the electoral college to not match the popular vote. Democratic voters are increasingly packed into big cities that cover very small amounts of area. The electoral college as well as Congress were specifically designed to prevent such concentrations from dominating elections.

These results also show that the Democrats are not doing a very good job convincing anyone to vote for them outside of their reliable core constituencies. In fact, if anything the policies of the Democratic Party has been repelling everyone away from it, except in those big cities where a large percentage of the voters are their direct welfare clients, dependent on government aid.

Nebraska bans civil forfeiture without a criminal conviction

Good news: A Nebraska law passed and signed in April has banned the police from confiscating any private property prior to a criminal conviction.

Now that the Nebraska bill has been signed into law, innocent property owners will have some rather significant new protections, the most significant of which is the requirement for a criminal conviction. Believe it or not, under civil forfeiture laws, no convictions need to be obtained—nor even any charge filed—to permanently forfeit property. Nebraska’s decision to require a conviction essentially eliminates civil forfeiture in the state.

The state may still forfeit property, but only after obtaining a conviction on drug, child pornography, or illegal gambling charges, and then only after demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the property in question was used or intended to be used in the commission of the crime, or that it represented the illicit “fruits” of the criminal activity.

The law was passed back in April but I missed the story. Hat tip to reader Tim Vogel for letting me know.

Software issues threaten Orion/SLS schedule

Despite having more than a decade to develop the software for SLS and Orion, NASA now faces the possibility that the rocket’s first test flight in 2018 might be delayed because that software is not ready.

Specifically, a NASA advisory board has revealed that Orion’s flight software is behind schedule and might not be ready in time. This, combined with schedule problems for the capsule’s service module, being built by the European Space Agency, threatens the 2018 launch date.

Problems with Russia force private company to deemphasize ISS cameras

UrtheCast has been forced to write off almost $8 million because it has not been able fully use its two cameras installed on the Russian half of ISS.

The Vancouver-based company said its was writing off some of the cameras’ value because of strained relations with their Russian hosts, who recently approached UrtheCast with a request to renegotiate their deal. Russian cosmonauts installed two UrtheCast cameras on the exterior of space station in 2014. The medium-resolution camera, called Theia, captures 50-kilometer swaths of multispectral imagery sharp enough to discern features 5-meters across. The high-resolution camera, called Iris, records ultra-high-def-quality, full-color video of the Earth and still images at a resolution of one meter per pixel. Iris entered service only last year due to technical issues.

Wade Larson, UrtheCast’s co-founder and chief executive, told investors during a Nov. 10 conference call that tensions between Russia and the U.S. and its allies are spilling over into UrtheCast’s agreement with the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and Russia’s lead space station contractor RSC Energia. “There’s been some geopolitical challenges that have influenced this relationship and candidly … that has impacted our ability to task these cameras operationally,” Larson said.

In the long run, this is very bad for the Russians. It shows them to be an unreliable business partner, which will increasingly limit their ability to attract business from outside Russia.

TMT legal case in Hawaii gets messier

The permit process in Hawaii for the Thirty Meter Telescope has gotten far messier, with the telescope’s opponents appealing to the state’s Supreme Court, complaining about witness procedures and the lawyers who are working for the state, while the land board running the procedures has asked the court to dismiss this appeal.

Essentially, the opponents are using every trick in the book to delay the permit process, and it appears that the law in Hawaii, including one just passed in August, is designed to aid them in this tactic.

TMT will not be built in Hawaii.The consortium that is building it needs a decision by early next year at the latest. They ain’t gonna get it. The luddites going to win, and Hawaii will be far poorer because of it.

House passes new tax on concrete companies

The swamp is winning! The Republican House today passed a new law that not only imposes a new tax on concrete industry, it creates a crony Concrete Masonry Products Board to help keep its buddies in that industry in charge.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky. (F, 45%), would create a Concrete Masonry Products Board composed of 15-25 members appointed by the Department of Commerce after a referendum approval by producers of concrete masonry products. This board will have the power to establish, finance, and carry out a “coordinated research and education program,” ostensibly to “promote masonry products in the domestic market,” according to a legislative bulletin email from the Republican Study Committee. This program will be paid for by a “federally administered assessment.”

This is corruption, pure and simple. We don’t need this. All it accomplishes is to force the public to pay for this fake board whose only real purpose, when you strip it down to its essentials, will be to favor the already established U.S. concrete companies.

House Republicans to vote on ending ban on earmarks

The swamp is winning! A group of House Republicans have put forth a proposal, to be voted on tomorrow, to partly lift the ban on earmarks imposed in 2010.

Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Signal. The amendment would bring back legislative earmarks for some government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Reclamation. It also would allow lawmakers to provide earmarks for state and local governments, except for recreational facilities, museums, or parks. If the amendment is adopted by a secret-ballot vote Wednesday, lawmakers would be able to request earmarks once again as long as the sponsoring member is identified, the earmarks initiate in committee, and they don’t increase spending.

A senior House aide told The Daily Signal this was the first step to completely ending the earmark ban by slowly peeling it away.

The earmark explosion that occurred under Republican control during the first six years of the second Bush administration was one of the main reasons they lost Congress in 2006. It showed that their claims that they were fiscal hawks was hogwash. And now it appears that some Republicans are trying to pull the same crap, all over again.

Three things Trump can do to strengthen the 2nd amendment

Link here. The three things are, first appoint Supreme Court judges who support the individual’s right to bear arms; second pass a law forcing states to recognize the gun permits issued by other states, as they do with driver’s licenses; three eliminate the absurd gun-free regulations imposed on the military at military bases.

It is very likely that all three of these things will happen, which at a minimum will make a Trump administration a success, at least in terms of the second amendment.

Pro-Israel artist threatened with prison for posting posters at university

Fascists: A pro-Israel artist and refugee from the Soviet Union, who is also behind the satirical website The People’s Cube, is threatened with five-years in prison for the evil act of putting up posters at George Mason University.

Officer Daniels told us that the content of our posters was violent and disturbing to some students, especially the one with the Hamas terrorist standing in pools of blood over his dead victims. Such interpretation flipped our message on its head entirely, turning it from sympathy for the victims of violence into a threat of violence. Since they couldn’t find any weapons and our message was protected by the First Amendment, the officers decided to charge us with “destruction of property worth of at least $2,500,” which was a “class 6 felony.” They claimed we had “super-glued” our fliers to school signs and it was impossible to peel them off.

Leftwing students and protesters have been posting posters on campuses for decades, since before the 1960s. Thus, for the university to suddenly worry about property damage from posters is pretty absurd, especially since the posters were not permanent and “could be easily removed with water and would be washed off by the first rain.” No, it is pretty obvious here that the goal wasn’t to protect the university’s private property, but to silence a specific point-of-view that happened to disagree with the dominate leftist agenda that now runs most American campuses.

DARPA tests anti-terrorist radiation detection network

In an experiment testing a technology designed to detect the radiation from a terrorist-deployed small nuclear bomb, DARPA in October deployed more than a thousand volunteers in Washington DC to test a detector that can be carried in a backpack.

Recently, a geneticist was mysteriously abducted in Washington DC, leading to the US government deploying a small army of detectives to foil a dirty bomb plot. At least, that was the fictional scenario of a DARPA field test that saw a thousand volunteers equipped with smartphone-sized radiation detectors fan out over the National Mall in a radioactive scavenger hunt to test the progress of the agency’s SIGMA project, which is tasked with developing technology to combat nuclear terrorism.

Nuclear terrorism is one of the top nightmares of security services. Not only is the prospect of a dirty bomb involving radioactive materials dispersed by conventional explosives alarming, but tracking down illegal nuclear materials in an urban setting requires covering far too large an area for fixed sensors. Since 2014, DARPA has been working on how to produce a portable sensor array based on low-cost, high-efficiency, radiation sensors networked by smartphone networks to detect gamma and neutron radiation and evaluate the information in real time

According to DARPA, the SIGMA array was first tested in New York and New Jersey using 100 sensors. For the Washington test, 1,000 sensors were carried in backpacks by hundreds of ROTC cadets from the universities in the National Capital Region, midshipmen from the US Naval Academy, and DARPA personnel coordinated by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Developing technology that can find and catch a terrorist who is trying to deploy a nuclear bomb in an urban area is certainly a good thing. I can’t help worry, however, about some larger philosophical concerns. Putting aside the specific technology being tested, the infrastructure being developed here that will make it easy for the government to deploy thousands of volunteers to hunt down an individual makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Luxembourg establishes its own legal framework for asteroid mining

The competition heats up: Luxembourg on November 11 announced that it is establishing its own legal framework to protect the profits of any private asteroid mining effort.

Because the UN Outer Space Treaty forbids them from claiming any territory in space, this new law essentially says that Luxembourg law will instead be applied specifically to the resources mined. Or to put it in more colloquial terms, “Finders, Keepers,” though it comes with a lot of complex further regulation required to satisfy that treaty.

The draft law also lays down the regulations for the authorization and the supervision of space resources utilization missions, including both the exploration and use of such resources. Whoever intends to undertake a space resources utilization mission will be required to obtain an authorization to do so, for each specific and determined mission. The text sets forth the necessity for a book of obligations for any mission, such as activities to be carried in or out of Luxembourg, to allow government supervision of the activities of operators and regulating their rights and obligations. The legislation is expected to enter into effect in early 2017.

This complexity will cost money unnecessarily, and also require an unnecessary bureaucracy with a great deal of power over the actions of space companies. It illustrates again how really bad the Outer Space Treaty is, and how it will oppress future spacefarers. The sooner the treaty is dumped the better. If we don’t do it here on Earth, I guarantee that the people of space will do it, as soon as they become self-sufficient enough to thumb their noses at the ground-pounders on the mother planet.

First images from Pathfinder-1 test smallsat released

The competition heats up: Spaceflight Industries today released the first images taken from its Pathfinder-1 test smallsat.

As I noted when Pathfinder-1 was successfully launched, the success of this private mission is significant. They are demonstrating that a very tiny and inexpensive satellite can do things that in the past required big and expensive satellites.

Chinese astronauts to return to Earth this week

The competition heats up: After spending a month in orbit in their country’s second orbiting space station module, two Chinese astronauts are expected to return to Earth this week.

The article provides a lot of details about China’s upcoming space station plans. For example, this will likely be the last manned mission to the Tiangong-2 module. It will be used next year to test the docking of an unmanned freighter, but the next manned mission will be to the core unit of their full-sized space station, now set to launch in 2018 on a Long March 5 rocket, which successfully completed its first test launch two weeks ago.

The Fact and Fiction of the NASA EmDrive Paper Leak

A NASA paper outlining work that appears to substantiate the EmDrive concept that involves the production of a thrust in a way that violates the laws of physics was leaked last week, and this story tries to figure out what has been learned.

To me, the key is this paragraph:

In essence, the NASA EmDrive in the paper consists of a closed copper cone, the inside of which is being bombarded with microwaves. To test the EmDrive, the researchers powered it with 40, 60, and 80 watts and found that it generated up to 58, 128, and 119 micronewtons of thrust, respectively. Given that this “anomaly” was still observed by White and his colleagues after accounting for error, this suggests that the results of the experiment show an EmDrive is indeed possible.

Based on these results, the researchers estimated that their contraption would be capable of generating approximately 1.2 millinewtons of thrust per kilowatt were they to scale up the power input. To put this in perspective, the Hall thruster—one of the most powerful in development and powered by ejecting plasma—generates about 60 millinewtons of thrust per kilowatt. [emphasis mine]

Interestingly , the article did not comment on how little thrust this EmDrive test produced. This tiny amount, however, to me suggests strongly that what they are measuring is some outside force acting on the drive that they have missed that would invalidate all the theories listed in the article. And even if the thrust drive does prove a new component of fundamental physics, as suggested in the article, the system simply doesn’t appear to produce enough thrust to make it practical.

IRS denies tea party groups tax-exempt status

Still working for the Democratic Party: After almost seven years of delays and harassment, the IRS today denied several tea party groups their requested tax-exempt status.

The tax agency, under orders from a federal judge, is belatedly tackling the remaining tea party cases that it delayed for years, and so far the tea party isn’t doing well. Only one of the three groups in the case was approved, and the other two, including Albuquerque, got notices of proposed denials last week. The applicants will have a chance to appeal, but the denials aren’t sitting well with the groups, whose attorney said it’s more evidence that the IRS continues to single out the tea party for abuse. “It is clear that we still have an IRS that is corrupt and incapable of self-correction,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented a number of tea party groups in a case against the tax agency.

The one group that was approved was Unite in Action, a Michigan-based organization that first applied for tax-exempt status more than six years ago. The Albuquerque Tea Party and Tri Cities Tea Party from Washington state were notified of proposed denials.

It seems pretty clear that these denials are finally being issued now because the IRS realizes that in only two months a Republican president will take power and they fear what that president might do. I say good. Every single one of the officials who run the IRS should be fired, as quickly as possible. If Trump is the outsider he claims, he will sweep this very corrupt and partisan agency of all its management.

In fact, this one issue will tell us more about Trump’s real goals than practically anything. If he doesn’t fire the entire management at the IRS, we will know that nothing is really going to change in Washington.

Oregon official who destroyed Christian bakery loses election

Good news: The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries commissioner who put a Christian bakery out of business because the owners did not wish to participate in a homosexual wedding by providing the cake has lost his election attempt to become the state’s secretary of state.

In 2013, Oregon Democrat Brad Avakian, as commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, put a Christian bakery out of business because its owners stood up for their religious convictions. Fast forward to 2016 and Avakian, not unlike many of his fellow Democrats, got served a big slice of sweet justice. Sweetcakes by Melissa, owned by Melissa and Aaron Klein, was forced out of business by Avakian and the BOLI in 2013. Klein told Independent Journal Review that they were fined $135,000 and the state garnished their bank accounts to cover it. When all was said and done, Klein said that the state took $144,000 from them.

Avakian put these Christian bakers out of business, but in 2016, the people of Oregon ended his run for Oregon secretary of state in favor of Republican Dennis Richardson, which is the first time in 14 years the solidly blue state elected a Republican for state office.

What is interesting here is that he lost in the same state that right now is seeing some of the most violent protests against Trump’s election victory. This suggests to me that the state’s voting populace does not necessarily agree with those protesters, and in fact the protests might actually be doing the left harm politically.

Oxo Crater on Ceres

Oxo Crater on Ceres

Cool image time! The Dawn image at the right, cropped to show here, was taken on April 19, 2016. It shows the crater Oxo on Ceres and is especially intriguing because it not provides high resolution imagery of the crater’s bright rim, the second brightest feature on Ceres, it also shows how the southeastern part of the crater’s rim has literally slide down into the crater, leaving behind a gaping rombus-shaped pit.

The slumping, combined with the bright material on the rim, is more evidence that at some point in the past Ceres was geologically active.

“Kill the police!”

Fascists: Anti-Trump protesters chant death threats to cops in Indianapolis while protests in Portland go violent.

I seem to remember the press and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) making a big deal prior to the election about how Donald Trump and the Republicans had to accept the election results if they lost to show that they respected the Constitution and our democracy. We now see that such demands only applied to the right. The left however is under no requirement, and in fact only considers an election valid if it wins.

And before anyone whines to me about how mean I am for calling these protesters fascists, I think they first must explain to me how this violent behavior differs from that of the Nazi brownshirts who made it party policy to riot when they lost and to violently attack anyone who opposed them. As far as I can tell, there is no difference. And here are a few more stories to illustrate the point:

Chicago Cubs are being forced to give up their World Series title

Heh. From Reddit.

Cleveland Indians fans have rioted across the country in protest of the 2016 World Series. Despite knowing the rules of the game prior to playing, they were unhappy they lost and demanded the outcome to be changed.

They could be heard chanting #NotOurWorldSeriesChampion all across America. Even though the Cubs won 4 games and the Indians only won 3, since both teams scored 27 total runs throughout all 7 games, they are being declared co-world champions.

There’s more. Make sure you read the comments as well. For example: “The Indians won the popular hits in game 5 so they should win.”

A list of potential Trump staffers

Link here. Once again, providing lists like this with information about the individuals being considered for potential senior White House staff positions is something the press should have been doing prior to the election, not after. They, unfortunately, were too busy campaigning rather than doing their jobs.

The list is interesting, because like the list of cabinet candidates from yesterday it includes people with a range of outlooks. In this case, however, the range has to do with whether they are friends of the Washington establishment or hostile to it. Thus, until Trump makes some decisions we still have no idea what direction his administration will go.

I will add that the general political tone of these people however is conservative, which is a very hopeful sign. So is this story also: Trump plan calls for nationwide concealed carry and an end to gun bans

NASA considers alternatives to Orion

The competition heats up: Faced with long delays and an ungodly budget, NASA is now considering alternatives to replace the Orion capsule.

NASA has initiated a process that raises questions about the future of its Orion spacecraft. So far, this procedural effort has flown largely under the radar, because it came in the form of a subtle Request for Information (RFI) that nominally seeks to extend NASA’s contract to acquire future Orion vehicles after Exploration Mission-2, which likely will fly sometime between 2021 and 2023.

Nevertheless, three sources familiar with the RFI, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, told Ars there is more to the request than a simple extension for Orion’s primary contractor, Lockheed Martin. Perhaps most radically, the RFI may even open the way for a competitor, such as Boeing or SpaceX, to substitute its own upgraded capsule for Orion in the mid-2020s.

The article also has this juicy quote:

The new RFI states that Lockheed will continue with development of Orion through a second uncrewed flight set for late 2018 and Exploration Mission-2, the first crewed mission, as early as 2021. However, once this “base vehicle” configuration is established, the RFI signals NASA’s intent to find a less expensive path forward. “This RFI serves as an examination of the market, which is an initial step in pursuing any of the available acquisition strategies, including the exercising of existing options,” the document states.

The end of SLS and Orion is beginning.

““Die whites die”

The hate is real: An anti-Trump protest turned into a riot in New Orleans yesterday, with broken windows and defaced monuments.

Lee Circle was fully covered in graffiti with phrases like “Black Power” and “Dismantle White Supremacy”. Later, an effigy of Trump was burned while glass windows at a nearby bank were shattered. Other phrases like “No Trump, no KKK” were used to vandalize surrounding areas, as well as the threatening phrase “Die whites die” and “F*ck Trump”.

So tell me please, who is exhibiting the most race hatred here?

A list of potential Trump cabinet picks

Link here.

As is usual, the bankrupt press didn’t do this work before the election, when it might have helped voters make their decisions. I tried to dig out some of this beforehand, and was somewhat successful, but I wish I could have seen lists like this prior to election day.

The list is interesting in that it includes an incredible range of political positions. For example, the three names touted for Secretary of State, John Bolton, Senator Bob Corker, and Newt Gingrich, cover the full political range. Bolton would be a solid conservative hawk, as would Gingrich. Corker however was instrumental in making Obama’s bad Iran nuclear deal possible, and would end up more or less continuing Obama’s foreign policy at State. All three, however, have previously been mentioned as possible choices, so as of this moment we still do not know where Trump will be going in this area.

I see the same political range in other positions as well. Even though the list leans heavily to the right, until Trump announces some appointments, we will not really know the direction his administration will take.

Will Republicans and Trump reduce the budget? Maybe not!

Hypocrites and liars: Less than two days after winning the Presidency and retaining control of both houses of Congress, Republican budget cutters are already signaling that they are now more willing to considering big spending projects, now that they are no longer opposing a Democratic president.

Sen. David Perdue (R-.Ga) stood on the Senate floor a little more than one month ago and declared that “we have a budget crisis. We have a debt crisis.” Two weeks ago, he wrote in an op-ed that “President Obama’s budgets ignored fiscally responsible principles, instead leaving an ever-growing mountain of debt for taxpayers down the road,” and he urged the United States to pass a balanced-budget amendment ensuring that the government can’t spend more than it takes in.

But asked about President-elect Donald Trump’s fiscal plans on Wednesday morning, Perdue sounded much less of an urgent note. “Well, I think there’s a short-term view and a long-term view. What we need is a long-term strategy, and by long-term, I’m talking, you’re going to say, 30 to 40 years to solve this debt crisis eventually,” Perdue said in an interview on CNBC.

,,,Perdue’s comments on CNBC could be one sign of how the politics of debt in Washington may shift when Trump takes office Jan. 20. Under George W. Bush, the nation’s debt exploded with federal spending and tax cuts, often with the consent of Republicans in Congress. But over the past eight years, the Republican establishment has repeatedly excoriated President Obama for plans that don’t immediately balance the budget.

Trump’s liberal roots had him immediately propose a variety of big government spending projects in his acceptance speech, and it appears that the Republican leadership is eager to go along, as they did with Obama, to put those big spending plans in place. Unfortunately, it also appears that that leadership might not get much resistance for bigger spending from its rank and file, who will no longer be fighting a Democratic administration and thus can jump on the bandwagon for more pork in their districts.

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