Monthly Archives: June 2015

The disaster of state-run Obamacare health exchanges

Finding out what’s in it: This article, mostly about the impending Supreme Court decision on whether individuals in states with no state-run health exchanges can receive federal health insurance subsidies, contained this significant little bit of information about the overall failure of Obamacare:

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia established state-based exchanges. But more than half of these exchanges are already inoperable or are facing budget shortfalls. Even after spending $4 billion in federal grants, the track records of state-based exchanges have been nothing short of calamitous. In fact, at least three state-based exchange efforts — Maryland, Oregon and Massachusetts — are now the subjects of federal investigations.

This astonishing track record bears repeating: Only 16 out of 50 states chose to create state health exchanges, even though the law stated that by not doing the citizens of the remaining 34 states would not get federal subsidies (the whole point of the Supreme Court case). Yet, of those 16 that did create exchanges, more than half have failed to work or have gone over budget, after wasting more than $4 billion in federal funds. On top of that, three are now under investigation.

And obviously, according to many mainstream press reports, if the Supreme Court upholds the actual language of the Obamacare law — written and voted for solely by Democrats — and voids federal subsidies in the remaining 34 states, it must be the Republicans fault. They had the nerve to not agree to this law, and refused to vote for it!

But then, this all fits in with the modern logic of our cultural elites, who also think a man can be a women and a white person black, merely because they say so.

Share

Republican-led Senate proposes big budget boost for NIH

This is fiscal restraint? The Senate, under the leadership of the Republican party for the first time since 2006, has proposed a $2 billion increase in the 2016 budget for National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The House Republican leadership hasn’t shown much restraint either, proposing $1 billion boost in the 2016 budget. And this in the context of a flat budget for NIH during the period from 2006 to 2014 when Democrats controlled either both or at least one house of Congress.

Since Congress completed a 5-year doubling of the NIH budget in 2003, the agency’s funding level has fallen more than 20% below the 2003 level after taking into account the rising costs of biomedical research.

This is once again evidence to me that the Republican leadership in Congress really has little interest in reining in the out-of-control federal budget. They talk a conservative game during elections, but when it comes time to write the budgets, the Republicans in charge of committees become spendthrifts to support the pork in the government agencies they are assigned to manage, and are almost always centered in their own districts.

Share

The icy patches on Comet 67P/C-G

Data from Rosetta’s high resolution camera have identified more than a hundred small patches of ice on the surface of Comet 67P/C-G.

Some of these bright features are found in clusters, while others appear isolated, and when observed at high resolution, many of them appear to be boulders displaying bright patches on their surfaces.

The clusters of bright features, comprising a few tens of metre-sized boulders spread over several tens of metres, are typically found in debris fields at the base of cliffs. They are most likely the result of recent erosion or collapse of the cliff wall revealing fresher material from below the dust-covered surface.

By contrast, some of the isolated bright objects are found in regions without any apparent relation to the surrounding terrain. These are thought to be objects lifted up from elsewhere on the comet during a period of cometary activity, but with insufficient velocity to escape the gravitational pull of the comet completely.

Most of the images from Rosetta’s high resolution camera have been held back so that the project scientists could publish their papers from the data. This release is in conjunction with one of those papers [pdf].

Share

New images of Pluto

Latest Pluto images

Cool image time! The two images on the right, taken on June 18 and June 15 respectively, — cropped from a larger collection — show Pluto’s two hemispheres, as best as New Horizons can at the moment resolve them.

While still as fuzzy as pre-space age planetary images, the pictures when compared with earlier images of the same hemispheres now clearly show several consistent features.

Things can only get better. Stay tuned!

Share

Government celebrates ten years of stealing private land

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision permitting the town of New London, Connecticut to take land from one private owner so that they can sell it to another private owner.

And what do we have in New London ten years later? An empty field. The town essentially stole the homes of local residences, supposedly a “blighted” neighborhood, so they could tear the homes down and replace them with an empty abandoned lot.

Government marches on!

Share

Ted Cruz outlines why he now opposes fast track trade

In an op-ed Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has outlined why he will now vote against giving President Obama fast track trade authority.

Why does Republican Leadership always give in to the Democrats? Why does Leadership always disregard the promises made to the conservative grassroots?

Enough is enough. I cannot vote for TPA unless McConnell and Boehner both commit publicly to allow the Ex-Im Bank to expire—and stay expired. And, Congress must also pass the Cruz-Sessions amendments to TPA to ensure that no trade agreement can try to back-door changes to our immigration laws. Otherwise, I will have no choice but to vote no.

Combine this with the increased public dissatisfaction by House conservatives of their leadership suggests to me that unless the leadership changes its political methods, one of two things could soon happen: Either the Republican Party will oust its leaders in the Senate and House and install people more allied with the party’s conservative base, or the Republican Party will split, with its more moderate members moving to the Democratic Party (which God knows needs some moderation) while the rest form a real conservative party.

Meanwhile, the revised fast track trade bill that the House passed last week was approved today by the Senate 60-37 and will now go to Obama for signature.

Share

The orbiter structure for India’s next lunar mission delivered

The competition heats up: Hindustan Aeronautics has completed construction and handed over to ISRO the orbiter structure of India’s next lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2.

The mission will include an orbiter, lander, and rover, and is aiming for launch sometime after 2017.

Share

Russia replaces Brightman with Kazakhstan astronaut

Rather than fly a different tourist on the September ISS flight that Sarah Brightman has backed out of, Russia has instead given the seat to an astronaut from Kazakhstan.

The article suggests that Russia might be doing a barter deal with Kazakhstan, saving money on its lease for Baikonur in exchange for the astronaut flight.

Share

Supreme Court rules government cannot confisicate farmer crops

The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today that a 66 year old program that allowed the federal government to confiscate the crops of farmers in order to manage the supply and demand was unconstitutional.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the government must pay “just compensation” when it takes personal goods just as when it takes land away. He rejected the government’s argument that the Hornes voluntarily chose to participate in the raisin market and have the option of selling different crops if they don’t like it. “‘Let them sell wine’ is probably not much more comforting to the raisin growers than similar retorts have been to others throughout history,” Roberts said. “Property rights cannot be so easily manipulated.”

The Constitution on property rights is very clear. The government has to pay for any property it takes. That it required a Supreme Court decision to enforce this plain language should distress us all.

Share

When to doubt a scientific consensus

Link here.

This is a beautifully written and thoughtful analysis of the state of climate science, and why intelligent and educated citizens should continue to remain skeptical of the claims coming from the global warming activist community (which now includes the Pope).

He gives a dozen different reasons for remaining skeptical of the claims of the global warming community, based both on the science as well as how they sell their position. Number 10 — “When [the claimed consensus] it is being used to justify dramatic political or economic policies” — is probably the most important:

Imagine hundreds of world leaders and nongovernmental organizations, science groups, and United Nations functionaries gathered for a meeting heralded as the most important conference since World War II, in which “the future of the world is being decided.” These officials seem to agree that institutions of “global governance” need to be established to reorder the world economy and massively restrict energy resources. Large numbers of them applaud wildly when socialist dictators denounce capitalism. Strange philosophical and metaphysical activism surrounds the gathering. And we are told by our president that all of this is based, not on fiction, but on science — that is, a scientific consensus that human activities, particularly greenhouse gas emissions, are leading to catastrophic climate change.

We don’t have to imagine that scenario, of course. It happened in Copenhagen, in December 2009. It will happen again in Paris, in December 2015.

Now, none of this disproves the hypothesis of catastrophic, human induced climate change. But it does describe an atmosphere that would be highly conducive to misrepresentation. And at the very least, when policy consequences, which claim to be based on science, are so profound, the evidence ought to be rock solid. “Extraordinary claims,” the late Carl Sagan often said, “require extraordinary evidence.” When the megaphones of consensus insist that there’s no time, that we have to move, MOVE, MOVE!, you have a right to be suspicious.

Share

A closer close-up of Ceres’ double bright spot

Closer look at Ceres' double bright spot

Cool image time! In a new press release, the Dawn science team has unveiled a new close-up of Ceres’ double bright spot, shown on the right.

At least eight spots can be seen next to the largest bright area, which scientists think is approximately 6 miles (9 kilometers) wide. A highly reflective material is responsible for these spots — ice and salt are leading possibilities, but scientists are considering other options, too.

In other words, they still have not confirmed through spectroscopy, that these bright spots are ice.

Note also that they have reduced the image’s brightness so that the bright spots do not over expose as much as in past images. This not only allows more details to come out, but it portrays Ceres’ very dark surface more accurately. Even so, the image still shows that surface as brighter than it actually is.

A mountain on Ceres

The press release also described a second image, showing a single lonely mountain on the planet’s horizon, rising up three miles from the planet’s surface, shown in the cropped image to the left. Overall this image, as well as the others, suggest that the surface of Ceres is generally far less rough than we should expect.

Another science mystery to unravel!

Share

Government forces closure of another Christian business

Fascists: Another Christian business forced to close because the owners refused to host a homosexual wedding.

If the trend continues as it has, expect the homosexual community to soon demand the imprisonment of some Christians for their beliefs, and expect some to go to prison as a result. And expect this to happen even though no one is preventing any homosexuals from having homosexual relations.

And we all know that the gay agenda has everything to do with tolerance, don’t we?

Share

TMT construction to resume on Wednesday

The managers of the Thirty Meter Telescope project have announced that they will resume construction of the telescope on Wednesday.

Since the state of Hawaii has refused to remove the protesters, who have been camping illegally on the road up to the mountaintop, expect some conflict come Wednesday when the first construction vehicle tries to drive past.

Share

Federal Court rules in favor of lawsuit against IRS for harassment

The federal court of appeals today ruled in favor of the pro-Israel organization Z Street in its lawsuit against the IRS for specifically harassing them because their positions disagreed with the Obama administration.

To review:

Z STREET filed its lawsuit against the IRS in August, 2010, on the basis of statements made to its counsel by the IRS agent reviewing Z STREET’s application for 501(c)(3) charitable tax exempt status, filed in 2009. That agent revealed that the IRS has an “Israel Special Policy” which gave differential treatment to tax exemption applications from organizations holding views about Israel inconsistent with those espoused by the Obama administration, scrutinizing such applications differently and at greater length, than those made by organizations which did not hold such views. [emphasis mine]

As I like to say, the IRS, rather than doing tax enforcement, has been instead very specifically working as a lobbying agent for the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. The Z Street case documents it, and is now going to document it far more thoroughly than any Democrat or Obama can imagine.

The organization says it looks forward to the discovery phase of litigation in which it will seek to learn the nature and origin of the “Israel Special Policy” which the IRS applied to Z Street’s tax exemption application. Z Street will seek to learn how such a policy was created, who created it, who approved it, to whom it was applied, as well as all other information regarding this policy.

What Z Street learns will be directly useful to the conservative organizations that the IRS also harassed illegally. It might also do great political harm to a number of prominent Democratic Party elected officials.

Share

Falcon 9 landing barge replaced and upgraded

The competition heats up: SpaceX has replaced one of its automated first stage landing barges with an upgraded version.

With dimensions virtually identical to Marmac 300, she carries some new features, including a steel blast wall erected between the rear containers and the landing deck, in addition to the steel bow wall as previously seen on Marmac 300. Ongoing work visible on deck suggests that a second blast wall may be installed at the forward end of the landing deck as well.

The article also provides us a nice contrast between the government and the private sector. While a private company is now willing to buy a flight with a recovered first stage, even before a successful landing, the government is far more cautious:

According to Mr. Musk, officials have asked for “repeated, successful” demonstrations of a first stage landing on the drone ship before a landing attempt will be allowed at the Cape.

That the company has already demonstrated twice that the first stage can return very precisely to its target should have already satisfied these officials. Moreover, the landing site would be well secured and maintained by SpaceX, and they appear quite willing to bear any repair costs should the stage crash on that landing site.

Share

Philae contacts Rosetta again

Philae today sent another 2 minutes worth of information to Rosetta.

The downlink was stable; the two contacts received by Rosetta lasted two minutes each. Both delivered numerous packets of lander housekeeping and status data, 185 in total, which are still being analysed at the time of this writing. No science data were anticipated or received.

Share

SES wants to launch with a recovered Falcon 9 first stage

The competition heats up: Commercial satellite company SES has requested SpaceX that one of its satellites be the first to be launched with a recovered Falcon 9 first stage.

SES has seven satellites under construction, five of which are contracted for SpaceX launches, starting with SES-9. SES said it has been given a guarantee by SpaceX that the launch will occur no later than September. SES has agreed to allow SES-9 to be the first launch using an upgraded Falcon 9 main-stage Merlin 1D engine, whose performance is being increased to allow SpaceX to attempt first-stage recovery even on launches to geostationary transfer orbit, the destination of most telecommunications satellites.

Just as it secured an attractive SpaceX price for the SES-8 by being one of the first established customers, SES now wants a cut-rate price on a Falcon 9 with a previously used first stage. “Our launch vehicle for SES-9 will be a recoverable vehicle,” Halliwell said. “We believe they will be able to recover it on this mission. We actually asked them: If we do recover it, can we use it again and get a good price discount? We’re still in discussions.”

In other words, if SpaceX is successful in landing the first stage after it puts SES-9 into orbit in September, they want first dibs, at a good price, of using that stage on a future SES launch.

SES’s willingness to do this changes my estimated time frame for the first successful reuse of a first stage. I had assumed that the commercial satellite companies would all be reluctant to put one of their payloads on a rocket using a recovered first stage, until they had seen at least one test flight of such a stage. SES proves this assumption wrong, to my delight.

Share

Supreme Court voids local sign ordiance

Some good news: In a 9-0 ruling the Supreme Court struck down a local Arizona town’s ordiance that restricted a church’s right to post signs about its upcoming events.

What is most encouraging about this ruling is that all nine justices agreed to it. This suggests that there is a strong majority on the court that supports freedom of speech, and will not look kindly at the Obama administration’s effort to impose its will on the speech and activity of religious and conservative organizations.

Share

Some stories of hate

This morning civilized people the world over were greeted with several stories of hate and violence, where the perpetrators attempted to kill large numbers of people, merely because of their race or religion.

The first — and the one that our bankrupt mainstream media will spend all of its time reporting — occurred in Charleston, where a hate-filled racist killed nine black church-goers during a prayer session.

This was an evil act, committed by an evil and sick man. No sane or civilized person on the left or right condones it.

Two other stories, both reported in the Israeli news outlet The Jewish Press, described two attacks in the Middle East, one on a Jewish religious site and the other on a Christian religious site.

Both of these Middle Eastern attacks are as evil as the massacre in Charleston. Both expressed the same mass hatred of a group of people, this time based on religion rather than race. And as in Charleston, no sane or civilized person on the left or right should condone them.

Sadly, I expect America’s modern leftwing intellectual class, represented by our mainstream media, to focus entirely on the first, not only condemning the murderous attack in Charleston but to use that act as an excuse to attack all conservatives, essentially repeating the crime by expressing a mass hatred of an entire group of people, this time because of their political beliefs.

The Middle East violence will meanwhile be ignored. In fact, if you dig hard enough, you will likely be able to find examples in the left wing press where these acts are condoned.

In a sense, the reactions of people to these violent evil events provide us a litmus test for hate. They will reveal who is civilized and who is not. Those who are civilized will condemn them all, and will not spend any time trying to assign the act to their political opponents. Those who are not will try to make political points and will try to assign blame in all the wrong places.

Watch and listen. If you pay close attention over the next few days, and keep a clear mind, you will be able to learn a lot.

Share

Fast track trade authority passes in House

The House today passed a revised fast track authority bill for any trade bills that President Obama might negotiate.

This bill did not include the job training section that was defeated last week and that the Senate included in its version of fast track. Thus, the Senate must now vote again on fast track, this time on the House-passed version. It is unclear whether the Senate will agree, as Democrats have opposed fast track without the jobs aid.

Overall this whole incident illustrates how misguided our elected leaders are. Right now we have much bigger problems than negotiating a new trade agreement, especially considering the secrecy in which Obama wishes to complete that negotiation.

Share

The newest Republican proposal on Obamacare

Trying to avoid what’s in it: Faced with the possibility that the Supreme Court could declare that the Obamacare subsidies are illegal in most states, House Republicans have come up with a new bill to revise the law.

In the tentative responses discussed in separate closed-door meetings Wednesday, House GOP leaders said they would continue the subsidies for a year. Then, states could receive federal block grants for the following two years that they could structure into any kind of health care aid they wish. All of the health law’s regulations would end for those states, including popular ones like assuring coverage of children until age 26. In 2017 — when Republicans hope to control the White House — the entire health law would be eliminated.

The law would also immediately repeal the Obamacare tax on medical devices as well as the Obamacare advisory board designed to ration care to save money.

We know already that Obama will veto this plan, which to my mind is a good thing. The only solution that will work to fix Obamacare is to repeal it in toto. Partial fixes, even ones that last only a few years, can only cause more harm and will increase the chances that legislators will chicken out of full repeal when it is finally time to kick in.

Share

Active lava flows found on Venus

volcanoes on Venus

Cool image time! Using archival data from Venus Express, scientists have identified several spots on Venus where it appears there are active lava flows.

Using a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft’s Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet’s atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists has spotted localised changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart. “We have now seen several events where a spot on the surface suddenly gets much hotter, and then cools down again,” says Eugene Shalygin from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, and lead author of the paper reporting the results in Geophysical Research Letters this month. “These four ‘hotspots’ are located in what are known from radar imagery to be tectonic rift zones, but this is the first time we have detected that they are hot and changing in temperature from day to day. It is the most tantalising evidence yet for active volcanism.”

The hotspots are found along the Ganiki Chasma rift zone close to the volcanoes Ozza Mons and Maat Mons. Rift zones are results of fracturing of the surface, which is often associated with upwelling of magma below the crust. This process can bring hot material to the surface, where it may be released through fractures as a lava flow.

There have been hints of volcanic activity on Venus since Pioneer Venus Orbiter first circled the planet from 1978 to 1992. This appears to be the first solid evidence of it.

Share
1 2 3 4 6