What the Middle East conflict looks like from inside Israel

As I am in Israel this week visiting family, I have had an opportunity to get a feel for the political and cultural atmosphere of the Middle East. Granted, this “feel” is very superficial and subjective, but it is nonetheless instructive, as I am viewing the situation not as a resident but as an outsider who always favors freedom and justice in any political conflict.

Anyway, my sense of the situation here comes from two immediate sources, one cultural and the second personal. First the cultural.
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Even if you liked your plan, Obamacare will pick a plan for you

Finding out what’s in it: In order to prevent Obamacare enrolless from experiencing the rate hikes expected when they automatically renew their 2014 plans for 2015, the Obama administration is proposing that it instead choose cheaper plans for those that automatically renew, even if that new plan will change the available doctors and hospitals in their network.

So, you decide that the plan you had in 2014 was worth keeping in 2015 and thus allow that plan to automatically renew rather than spend another week trying to struggle through the badly designed and hack-prone Obamacare website. When you visit your doctor however you then discover that you actually didn’t renew that plan, the Obama administration picked a different plan for you, and your doctor is no longer a participant in your plan. You have to change doctors!

Isn’t wonderful how much the Obama administration cares?

IRS finds lost Lerner emails

Surprise! IRS has found 30,000 Lois Lerner emails they had previously said were lost forever.

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) informed congressional staffers from several committees on Friday that the emails were found among hundreds of “disaster recovery tapes” that were used to back up the IRS email system. “They just said it took them several weeks and some forensic effort to get these emails off these tapes,” a congressional aide told the Washington Examiner.

The IRS, in a statement provided to the Examiner, said the agency and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is fully cooperating with the investigation. “As Commissioner Koskinen has stated, the IRS welcomes TIGTA’s independent review and expert forensic analysis.” The IRS statement said. “Commissioner Koskinen has said for some time he would be pleased if additional Lois Lerner emails from this time frame could be found.”

What happened here is that lower level officials have decided they are not going to take the rap for Lerner or Obama. They realized that if they did not cooperate with Congress they would be legally at risk and could be charged with aiding the cover-up. They decided Obama is certainly not worth it. I also think recent news about Obama lying abut Obamacae and the election results helped them make this decision.

All in all, the public is beginning to realize that the emperor has no clothes. Obama might not realize it, but his power to accomplish anything is fading rapidly.

Another business forced to close by gays

Facists: Swamped by hate mail and threats from the gay community for refusing to photograph a same-sex marriage, a San Francisco couple has closed their business.

According to the SF Gate, husband and wife team Nang and Chris Mai of “Urloved”  were “flooded with hate calls, e-mails and accusations that inaccurately depict our business,” after the couple referred a gay couple to a photographer who would “share their personal beliefs” and “would provide them with the best service for their special day.” For that, “one of the men, who asked to not be named,” (real profile in courage, he) took to Facebook to bash the company and encourage others to harass the Mais. The post read: “Great shots but this company denied me and my fiance, a same-sex couple, from their services. Stand up and say something about it,” according to a Nov. 4 post. 

What is important to recognize here is that the couple tried to recommend someone else whom they thought could do a better job then them. They honestly explained that becaue they did not believe in same-sex marriages, they would not produce the best photos, and rather than do a bad job, they offered an alternative for the couple that would be better for them.

The response? Destroy them!

Accidental freon release inside ISS

While doing maintenance to the air-conditioning system on the Russian portion of ISS two Russian astronauts accidently vented freon into the station’s atmosphere.

“Cosmonauts Samokutyaev and Serova performed steps to release pressure in the Russian segment’s air conditioner system by venting khladon gas (Freon 218) overboard. However, several of the quick disconnects that were actuated during the procedure exhibited leaks. As a result, the Khladon was vented into the cabin instead. The quantity released was approximately 100 g, which results in a density of 117 mg/m3 over the volume of ISS, which was below the stated ISS zero risk flight rule limit of 150 mg/m3. As part of nominal air scrubbing process, the Russian Air Purification System and the USOS Trace Contaminant Control System (TCCS) will remove residual Khladon from the atmosphere,” the NASA blog said.

Obama’s attempt to impose amnesty: a bluff?

This article suggests that Obama’ attempt to impose immigration amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is much less of a threat to the Constitution than implied by his own words and by the passionate response of many partisan conservatives.

[W]hile Barack Obama will no doubt argue about the fierce urgency of now, the plan has a rather large gap between his speech tonight and the actual action Obama promises to take. Section 2 is titled in bold font, You Cannot Apply For Several Months. The start of the program is nebulously given as “early 2015,” which could mean anything from January 2 to, say, June 29th. Why not start now if Obama is so tired of waiting? One has to wonder whether this is a bluff of sorts, intended to scare House Republicans into passing the Senate bill in the waning days of the lame-duck session. If Obama’s willing to wait “several months” to take action, why not just wait and at least attempt negotiation with incoming Republican leadership? [Emphasis in original]

The article, as well as this one, also note the problems faced by any illegals who try to apply under this Obama effort. They will expose themselves using a program of doubtful legality likely to be terminated by the next president or by the Republican Congress coming to power in January.

What Obama is attempting to do is certainly damaging to the rule of law, but I think it will turn out to be far more damaging to him and to the Democrats who try to defend him for doing it. As I noted earlier, Obama is now known by all to be a liar and a fraud. Supporting him in doing lawless acts as well can not be poilitically helpful for Democrats.

MAVEN in safe mode

A timing conflict between two computers on board MAVEN has put the Mars probe into safe mode.

The issue seems relatively minor and something that engineers should resolve without difficulty. Even so, I refuse to use the bureaucratic term “glitch” to describe it, as the article does, as this term is often employed by government employees to disguise much more serious problems. Journalists shouldn’t help them do this.

Comments down

On arrival in Israel I have discovered that the comments feature on Behind the Black is not working. No one can post comments. This failure began when I update the ReCaptcha anti-spam feature earlier this week.

Shane of amixa is working on it and, if I know Shane, should have it fixed momentarily.

Kickstarter campaign to fund lunar probe

The competition heats up: A private consortium of scientists and entrepreneurs is planning to fund its unmanned lunar lander with a Kickstarter campaign followed by private sales..

The mission is raising initial development funding through Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform. Following the initial public phase the remaining funding requirements will be met through sales of ‘digital memory boxes’ in which donors can have their biographies recorded and taken to the Moon. These will also include a strand of hair so that their DNA can exist in space. The team has claimed that around one per cent of the global population who can afford a memory box will buy one. Also included in the time capsule will be record of life on Earth. The archive will include a record of human history and civilisation to date alongside a species database showing the biodiversity of animals and plants.

This is essentially a UK project, backed by the government but with little funding. They hope to launch in 2024, with two missions planned, the first to drill into the lunar soil and the second to bring back samples.

Heading to Israel

This morning I will be boarding a plane to begin the long tedious airplane flight from Tucson to Jerusalem, Israel, arriving there Thursday afternoon. I might post along the way, but there are no guarantees.

For the next week I will once again be staying with my brother and sister-in-law in their apartment in the west bank settlement of Alon Shvut. It was here at the bus stop just outside the settlement, where Palestinians and Israelis routinely gather to either catch the bus or hitchhike a ride to Jerusalem, that three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by Hamas operatives, sparking the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. Then, just a few weeks ago an Arab terrorist when on a killing spree at this bus stop, killing one young woman before the guard at the settlement gate ran down the hill to shoot him.

I might post my impressions of the situation while I am there, or it might have to wait until I return. It depends on my schedule and my desire to work while visiting family. Yesterday’s attack in a Jewish synagogue, once again by Hamas operatives, killing five people whose only crime was that they were praying peacefully, might also touch my family directly, as I think that one of the rabbis killed was a friend of my brother, his wife, and their children. I will find out more when I get there.

Meanwhile, there were Arab celebrations in various locations in Gaza, the West Bank, and even in Jerusalem, congratulating these killers for their barbarous acts.

The Revolutionary Non Sequitar Turbo Encabulator Transmission

An evening pause: This video below was done during the narrator’s warm-up prior to actually recording a Rockwell International industrial touting that company’s first effort in building heavy duty automatic transmissions. As the website notes, “Now remember this is strictly off the cuff, nothing is written down. Nothing he says is true, it’s all meaningless drivel made up as he goes along.” It is also hilarious to watch.

Sadly, this is drivel we now hear every day from government officials. Unfortunately, not enough people seem capable of recognizing drivel when they hear it. If they could, we might be able to laugh about it more.

SpaceX vs Arianespace, according to the TV industry

The heat of competition: A television industry trade journal looks at Arianespace’s future plans and finds them wanting, when compared to SpaceX.

Compare that [SpaceX’s] success with the money that’s been poured into Arianespace, and the lack of progress (perhaps wholly understandable when being managed by a Euro-committee!). Ariane’s mid-way ME version (for Midlife Extension) has been on the drawing board since 1995. And at a considerable investment, and for an initial scheduled flight of only 2017-2018.

The Ariane-62/64 concept calls for as much of the “ME” design to be incorporated into the 62/64 versions. But the planned launch of the first A-62 is not for some time; some observers suggest at best 2021-22. That’s more than 20 years of planning, development and immense costs.

Read the whole thing. It illustrates the almost impossible challenge faced by Arianespace — a company designed by a committee of nations and run to distribute funding as widely as possible to those nations. For that company to successfully reshape its approach quickly so that it can successfully compete with SpaceX seems quite unlikely, and will likely result in Arianespace evolving into Europe’s government launch service, with the commercial market shifting back to the U.S.

Update on Russia’s proposed new space station project

Another article has been published in Russia describing the possibility of that country pulling out of ISS and building its own space station, as soon as 2017.

My impression of these stories is that the Russian government is considering taking the modules it has been slowly building for ISS and instead using them to assembly an independent station orbiting the Earth at an almost polar orbit, thereby giving them a much more complete view of their own country as well as the rest of the world.

Philae’s landing site dust-covered ice

Based on the data that Philae beamed down prior to going into hibernation, scientists believe the landing site on Comet 67P/C-G is made of a layer of dust 4 to 8 inches thick covering solid ice.

At Philae’s final landing spot, the MUPUS probe recorded a temperature of –153°C close to the floor of the lander’s balcony before it was deployed. Then, after deployment, the sensors near the tip cooled by about 10°C over a period of roughly half an hour. “We think this is either due to radiative transfer of heat to the cold nearby wall seen in the CIVA images or because the probe had been pushed into a cold dust pile,” says Jörg Knollenberg, instrument scientist for MUPUS at DLR.

The probe then started to hammer itself into the subsurface, but was unable to make more than a few millimetres of progress even at the highest power level of the hammer motor. “If we compare the data with laboratory measurements, we think that the probe encountered a hard surface with strength comparable to that of solid ice,” says Tilman Spohn, principal investigator for MUPUS.

Looking at the results of the thermal mapper and the probe together, the team have made the preliminary assessment that the upper layers of the comet’s surface consist of dust of 10–20 cm thickness, overlaying mechanically strong ice or ice and dust mixtures.

In many ways, this result is a testament to the magnificence of science and the industrial revolution. The methods and technology that made it possible for scientists to predict the make up of comets (dirty snowballs) were developed in the period from the 16th to the 19th centuries, hundreds of years before it was even possible to see Comet 67P, no less land on it and sample its surface. And what do we find when we do land there? The data gathered beforehand from far away is confirmed, as precisely as one can imagine.

Update: Another of Philae’s instruments also detected organics on the surface, though the reports so far are very vague.

The long working relationship between Obama and Gruber

Just in case you happen to see a press conference or speech in the next few weeks where you see Barack Obama denying knowing or ever working with Jon Gruber — the man who has been called the architect of Obamacare and of whom numerous videos have now been discovered where he contemptuously describes Americans as “stupid” while explaining how the Obama administration deliberately lied to get the law passed — watch this video below from a 2006 event.

Obama is simply a bald-faced liar in almost everything he does. Don’t be fooled by him anymore. He is dangerous, untrustworthy, and should no longer be supported by anyone, from the left or the right or by Republicans or Democrats.

Falcon Heavy launchpad work begun

The competition heats up: SpaceX has begun the construction work necessary to convert the launchpad it will use at the Kennedy Space Center for its first test flight of the Falcon Heavy rocket, now scheduled for summer 2015.

Most of the current work appears to be taking place on the perimeter area of the pad, with the construction of a hanger building – known as the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) – that will house the Falcon Heavy rocket and associated hardware and payloads during processing. During rollout, the Falcon Heavy will be transported atop the Transporter Erector (TE), which will ride on rails, up the famous 39A ramp that once saw Space Shuttle and Apollo stacks arrive via the Crawler Transporters.

The July launch date is considered preliminary and a target date only and is of course subject to change.

Russias pulling out of ISS in 2020

Another news story from Russia has confirmed that the Russian government intends to break off its partnership at ISS in 2020, and that it will instead start assembling its owns space station in 2017 and will use some modules now docked with ISS to do it.

This event was always possible, and one of the many reasons I always opposed Bill Clinton’s decision to form the ISS partnership. The partnership acted as a crutch for NASA and the U.S, allowing us to avoid spending the money to build a self-sufficient space station. When the Russians leave in 2020 ISS will lack some crucial facilities that it now depends on, and will require some fast scrambling and additions to the station by NASA to keep it going at that point.

Philae spotted before and after first bounce

A close review of a series of Rosetta images has identified Philae’s first landing site, as well as the spacecraft itself as it approached and bounced away.

The second link is especially amazing, as it includes a gif animation of the landing site, showing the before situation, the puff of dust just after impact, and then Philae drifting away with its shadow hitting the surface of the comet.

Philae has gone to sleep

Despite several attempts to reposition the lander to get more sunlight to its solar panels, Philae went into hibernation on Saturday.

There is still a chance the lander will come back awake, but right now the Rosetta science team considers its mission complete. Meanwhile, Rosetta will continue its flight with Comet 67P/C-G, tracking it closely for the next year as it makes its next close approach to the sun.

Been underground

I just got back from a cave project weekend in the mountains of southeastern Arizona, which is why I have not posted this past weekend. The project involves surveying and mapping one of the more significant caves in Arizona, and has been on-going now for almost three years. We hope to finish sometime next year. I am the cartographer and project leader.

Posting to resume shortly. Stay tuned.

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