Junk journalism

In a piece today at the Huffington Post, science journalist Seth Borenstein declares the wonders of NASA’s next mission: to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, as declared by President Obama.

If you believe this is going to happen, then I have a bridge I want to sell you. To do it we need a spaceship in which people can live for at least a year, and a rocket to get that ship into orbit. Not only do we not yet know how to build such a spaceship, we no longer have the capability of putting it into orbit. In case you’re unaware (Borenstein acts like he is), the space shuttle no longer exists. And under this administration and Congress, any replacement we get isn’t going to be able to launch such an interplanetary spaceship anywhere in the near future, especially faced as we are with the present federal debt.

The disgraceful thing about this article, however, is the lack of skepticism shown by Borenstein.
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The emptiness of the Democratic debt ceiling “plans”

The emptiness of the Democratic debt ceiling “plans”.

On Wednesday evening, I noted the absurdity of Associated Press coverage characterizing the 5-page document with 3-1/2 whole pages of text issued by the “Gang of Six” as a “plan” — 12 times, plus in the item’s headline. Though I didn’t bring it up then, an obvious point to make about any of these items floating around Washington is that if the Congressional Budget Office can’t score it, it can’t be a plan. A month ago, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf told a congressional committee, in response to a question about President Obama’s April proposal, that “we can’t score speeches.”

And then there’s this:

Obama … claimed to have a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The court eunuchs of the press corps were impressed, and went off to file pieces hailing the president as “the grown-up in the room.” There is, in fact, no plan. No plan at all. No plan whatsoever, either for a deficit reduction of $4 trillion or $4.73. As is the way in Washington, merely announcing that he had a plan absolved him of the need to have one. So the president’s staff got out the extra-wide teleprompter and wrote a really large number on it, and simply by reading out the really large number the president was deemed to have produced a serious blueprint for trillions of dollars in savings. For his next trick, he’ll walk out on to the stage of Carnegie Hall, announce that he’s going to play Haydn’s Cello Concerto No 2, and, even though there’s no cello in sight, and Obama immediately climbs back in his golf cart to head for the links, music critics will hail it as one of the most moving performances they’ve ever heard.

The only “plan” Barack Obama has put on paper is his February budget. Were there trillions and trillions of savings in that? Er, no. It increased spending and doubled the federal debt.

An Obamacare provision appears to force middle-class families to either buy unaffordable healthcare or pay a penalty

Repeal it! An Obamacare provision appears to force middle-class families to either buy unaffordable healthcare or pay the penalty for going without.

I wrote “appears to force” above because the issue at hand is so complex I don’t think anyone either in or out of the Obama administration truly understands it, another indication that the healthcare law is a disaster that needs to be ceremoniously dumped, and as quickly as possible.

Public test of privately built moon lander delayed by gyro

A public test of privately built moon lander has been delayed by gyro problem. Key quote:

One customer has already bought a ticket with Moon Express, asking them to deposit a small telescope on the dark side of the Moon. Jain says the company will also offer low cost ways for anyone to use the moon as a kind of time capsule. “If something goes to the moon it stays there forever, people will pay to sends things like photos, or maybe your hair or DNA.”

NASA changes its contract arranged for commercial space

Turf war: At conference yesterday at the Johnson Space Center, NASA proposed changing how it issues its commercial space contracts so as to give it more control over their design and construction. The commercial companies are not happy.

Brett Alexander, a space industry consultant who counts among his clients the secretive aerospace startup Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., said at the July 20 briefing that industry needs to know NASA’s legal reasoning for dismissing SAAs as an option for the next CCDev round. “From an industry standpoint … we’re kind of flying blind because [NASA] has not divulged what its legal reasoning is, and I think they need to do that in writing. Not a couple charts, not things that you brief, but a legal brief that says ‘here’s why’” a traditional procurement is necessary.

My own sources say this change in contractual approach will significantly slow development of the new commercial manned space rockets and ships, possibly beyond 2017.

The only reason I can see for NASA to do this is to maintain control over manned space, even if they are not building anything. I think NASA is instead going to find out that doing anything to slow this development will be politically very dangerous for them.

Boehner ends negotiations with Obama

Not good: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has broken off negotiations with President Obama over the debt ceiling.

“A deal was never reached and was never really close,” Boehner wrote. “I have decided to end discussions with the White House and begin conversations with the leaders of the Senate in an effort to find a path forward.” Boehner blamed Obama’s demand for higher taxes and opposition to “fundamental changes” to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The important thing to note here is that so far only the Republicans have put forth any specific plan. It might not have been perfect but at least it was something. And the Democrats have rejected it, without offering any detailed counteroffer.

The fourth video showing Medicare fraud released

We’re here to help you: A fourth video was released today, showing the incredible willingness of Medicare employees to support drug smuggling, prostitution, and a host of other illegal activities in their effort to get applicants approved.

The first video was for me the most damaging — and sadly hilarious — with the government employee telling the so-called Russian drug smuggler and pimp for under-age prostitutes to put “baby-sitting” on his application instead.

In color from Mercury

The Messenger spacecraft has now been in orbit around Mercury since the end of March, almost four months. During that time the probe has sent back many fascinating images, showcasing a hot, alien planet whose surface was formed by impacts, volcanic activity, and some processes that no one as yet understands.

Most of the released images, however, have been in black and white, which at first glance makes one think that Mercury is not unlike the Moon. This week the Messenger team released a color image, demonstrated clearly how false this assumption is. The image below shows two very different craters, a dark-haloed crater named Basho at the bottom left of the image, and a very bright crater, Kalidasa crater, near the top left. On the right of the image is a dark haloed Tolstoj basin. For an uncropped full resolution version go here.

color image from Mercury
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The Democrats in the Senate reject the House Republican debt ceiling plan

So what’s their plan? The Democrats in the Senate today rejected the House Republican debt ceiling plan.

Meanwhile, poll data says that the public is afraid that any deal will raise taxes too much and not cut enough.

Voters are worried more that Congress and President Obama will raise taxes too much rather than too little in any deal to end the debt ceiling debate. Just 26% fear they’ll raise taxes too little. Twelve percent (12%) aren’t sure. Similarly, 56% worry that Congress and the president will cut spending too little in the final debt ceiling deal, while only 25% are concerned that they will cut spending too much. Nineteen percent (19%) are undecided.

This quote is even more telling:

There’s a wide difference of opinion, however, between the Political Class and Mainstream voters. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Political Class is worried the deal will cut spending too much, while 63% of Mainstream voters fear it won’t cut spending enough. Those in the Mainstream worry more than Political Class voters by a near two-to-one margin – 70% to 37% – that the debt deal also will raise taxes too much.

The next Mars rover will land at Gale Crater

The next Mars rover will land at Gale Crater.

The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, is scheduled to launch late this year and land in August 2012. The target crater spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a mountain rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle. Gale is about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Layering in the mound suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits. The crater is named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale. . . . The portion of the crater where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. The layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfates, both known to form in water.

More here, including images of landing site.

The journal Science finally admits things have not gotten warmer in the past decade

The journal Science finally admits things have not gotten warmer in the past decade.

The explanation provided, that recent volcanic eruptions cooled a warming earth, might be true, though the conclusions are based not so much on data but on climate computer models, a fact that leaves me somewhat skeptical. Nonetheless, what is significant to me about this article is that Science — which has been decidedly in the global warming political camp for years and has frequently lambasted scientists who suggested the climate’s warming has slowed or even stopped in the past decade — has now been forced to admit that the warming has stopped. That they feel compelled to push the global warming threat in the same sentence only reveals their continuing scientific bias.

Perry and other lawmakers blast Obama over shuttle retirement

Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as other lawmakers from Congress, blasted Obama today over the shuttle retirement.

Bah. Perry claims to be a so-called small government conservative, yet he wants the government to spend a fortune to build and run the space program. Meanwhile, Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Kate Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) were around in Congress when President George Bush announced the shuttle’s retirement seven years ago. Their effort since then to fund pork through NASA and thus have NASA build a giant new rocket system, either Constellation or its new Congressionally-designed replacement, has been a disaster. Right now it would be better, and far cheaper, if they stopped fighting the new commercial space companies and instead get behind them, especially since the Obama administration itself has done a very poor job of selling this new industry.

A little support from Congress could go a long way to not only reinvigorating the aerospace industry, it could speed our country’s return to manned space, with multiple competing companies.

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