Sunspot update: Sunspots in January went through the roof!

NOAA this week updated its monthly graph that tracks the number of sunspots on the Sun’s Earth-facing hemisphere. Below is that updated graph, with January’s numbers added to the timeline. As I have done monthly for the past dozen years here on Behind the Black, I have added some additional details to that graph to provide context.

Just as in December, the number of sunspots in January 2023 shot up to the highest amount since September 2014, which was during the previous solar maximum. Unlike December, however, January’s numbers came only a hairs-breath from topping that 2014 number. In fact, except for that one 2014 month, January 2023 saw the most sunspots on the Sun since November 2002, twenty years ago. In 2002 the Sun was ramping down from what had been a relatively strong double-peaked solar maximum, and was about to begin an extremely long period of little or no activity, followed by a very weak double-peaked solar maximum in 2013.

That period of little activity also corresponded with a long twenty-year period in which the Earth’s climate appeared to stop warming.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Comic book writer slandered and then canceled because of the slanders

Mike Baron's Private American, banned

They’re coming for you next: Long established comic book writer Mike Baron and his projects have now been blacklisted from a variety of sites, including having his most recent Kickstarter starter campaign shutdown, because of slanderous social media comments as well as a defamatory article on Daily Kos.

After a scathing article from a Daily Kos mouthpiece, Baron’s colleagues and fans realized they could not find his campaign on Kickstarter. The post smeared “Thin Blue Line” – a story about two police officers riding out a long night of rioting – along with “Private American.” The author, a person named Starr Mignon, called the comic a “diatribe of racist propaganda” and “stochastic terrorism disguised as a funny book.”

Prior to Kickstarter shutting his campaign down, it had also been banned from Twitter, as well as shadow-banned on Indiegogo.

A detailed blow-by-blow description of the slanderous attacks, based on no knowledge of these works, as well as the cowardly blackballing by others in response to those attacks, can be found here. This writer, who was helping Baron’s campaign, notes the following:
» Read more

China to build space ground stations in Antarctica

According to a report on China’s state-run press that has now been deleted, China plans to build satellite ground stations in Antarctica for use by its ocean-observation satellites.

Official space industry newspaper China Space News reported Feb. 2 that a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), a giant state-owned defense and space contractor, won a bid to construct a ocean observation satellite ground system. The project is being overseen by the National Satellite Ocean Application Service (NSOAS) and is stated to be part of a long-term marine economic development plan.

Renders of the 43.95 million yuan ($6.52 million) project show four radome-covered antennas at Zhongshan in East Antarctica. It is unknown if these are new and additional to antennas already established at the base. The antennas will assist data acquisition from Chinese satellites that orbit in polar and near-polar orbits. Satellites in these orbits are visible near the poles multiple times a day, allowing more frequent opportunities for downlink than with stations at lower latitudes.

Such ground stations could of course do many other things, including aiding military satellite surveillance.

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Catholic students kicked out of Air & Space museum for wearing pro-life hats

The evil hat that Air & Space banned
The evil hat that Air & Space officials banned

They’re coming for you next: A dozen Catholic students, having just attended the March for Life event on January 20, 2023 in Washington, found themselves being chased from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum because they were all wearing hats with a pro-life message.

According to their lawyer,

Once in the museum, they were accosted several times and told they would be forced to leave unless they removed their pro-life hats. The group all wore the same blue hat that simply said, “Rosary PRO-LIFE.” Other individuals in the museum were wearing hats of all kinds without issue.

The museum staff mocked the students, called them expletives, and made comments that the museum was a “neutral zone” where they could not express such statements. The employee who ultimately forced the students to leave the museum was rubbing his hands together in glee as they exited the building.

According to the students and their parents, the kids were all wearing the same hats in order to find each other in the crowds.

When asked by the press about this incident, the museum responded as follows:
» Read more

Diesel fuel spill at Air Force surveillance facility on Hawaiian mountaintop

The Air Force reported today that about 700 gallons of diesel fuel spilled out on January 29, 2023 at Air Force’s surveillance telescope facility on top of Haleakala on the island of Maui.

The spill occurred at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex, which tracks satellites and space debris using several telescopes atop Haleakala, a dormant volcano. “Due to a mechanical issue, a diesel fuel pump for an on-site backup generator failed to shut off” Sunday night, the Air Force said in a news release.

At about 8 a.m. Monday, maintenance personnel discovered the failure and shut off the transfer pump, the Air Force said.

Since 2021 the military has had two other accidents at different Hawaiian facilities. Considering the hostile political atmosphere there for any facility not run by “native Hawaiians”, this new fuel spill could not have come at a worse time. Expect pressure to mount to remove this facility.

Pushback: Student appeals conviction for distributing Constitution on public campus

Tizon's evil table at ASU
Tim Tizon (r) discussing free speech with another student on
March 3, 2022 at that banned YAL table on the ASU campus.

They’re coming for you next: Tim Tizon, a former Arizona State University (ASU) student, has now appealed his conviction for trespass, filed against him by the university because he had had the nerve to distribute copies of the Constitution to others, without obtaining the school’s permission.

He is being represented by the Liberty Justice Center (LJC). You can read his appeal here [pdf].

The facts of the case however are simple, and mirror numerous other similar incidents on many American campuses in the past decade, all designed to silence conservatives. On March 3, 2022, when he was still a student of ASU, he had set up a table on campus as a member of the ASU chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) to help educate others on the Constitution. As noted in his appeal:
» Read more

The next chapter in my own personal blacklisting story

The ARA: An organization run by bullies
The ARA: An organization run by bullies

This past Saturday, January 28, 2023, another chapter in my own personal blacklisting saga took place. On that day the Arizona Regional Association (ARA), a division of the National Speleological Society, the country’s national organization for cavers, held its annual winter technical meeting at Kartchner Caverns in Arizona.

It is this same organization had blacklisted me and two other individuals in November 2021 because they did not like our opinions about COVID. Its leadership therefore assumed that it also the right to eject us from the public event on Saturday. It was our intention to show them they were wrong.

The goal of the winter technical, which has been occurring annually for about a half century, is to allow southwest cavers to present papers highlighting their research and projects during the past year. While intended mostly for Arizona cavers, it has not been unusual for others from other parts of the country to present, especially if their work has some connection with Arizona. Consider it a very informal kind of scientific conference.

Thus, this event has always been open to the public, and in fact has always been designed as a form of outreach.

The Wuhan panic had unfortunately caused the winter technical to be canceled in 2021 and 2022. Thus, the January 2023 event was to be the first in-person winter technical since 2020.

It was also going to be the first in-person winter technical since this organization had blacklisted myself and two others. » Read more

Today’s blacklisted American found innocent of federal trumped up charges

The Houck Family: Targets of FBI harassment and arrest
The Houck Family: Targets of FBI harassment and arrest.

Back in September 2022 I wrote an essay entitled “The rising federal Gestapo” in which I described the numerous recent stories of the Biden administration using the FBI and the Department of Justice as weapons to harass its political opponents, either by conducting armed raids on their homes and persons, or by trumping up false charges against them.

Mark Houck, the father in the picture the right, was one of those under attack. Not only was his home raided by an FBI SWAT team, terrifying his children, but Houck was arrested on a trumped up charge of physically attacking a worker at an abortion clinic, a charge that had other courts had already dismissed as spurious.

The good news yesterday is that Houck has been found innocent of that trumped up charge.

At first it appeared the jury was deadlocked, but that changed instantly when one juror was replaced with an alternate. Within an hour the not-guilty verdict was in, strongly suggesting that juror had had a political ax to grind and was refusing to follow the facts of the case or the judge’s instructions.

As I wrote in that September essay,

In the past two years the effort by Democrats to portray Republicans criminals and traitors, merely because they disagree with Democratic Party policy, has become normalized. To Democrats today, if you are a Republican you are a fascist, an insurrectionist, a traitor, a criminal, and evil. Your rights are voided and they have the right to arrest you, at any time.

The Biden administration tried to void Mark Houck’s rights. It failed in court. Was this vicious effort however a failure? I say no, because 1) the Biden administration remains free to continue this abuse of power and 2) conservatives have now been put on notice that, at any moment, their lives could be torn apart by these thugs.

In fact, this short post is only posted to give an update on a previous column. It is not today’s daily blacklist column, which will follow shortly and will give perfect example of how the abusive power-hungry in our culture now routinely abuse their power against any who oppose them.

Today’s blacklisted American: Professor quits because of the leftist takeover of his college

Matthew Wielicki
Matthew Wielicki

Matthew Wielicki, a professor at the University of Alabama, has quit his job because of what he calls the “rise of illiberalism” as well as the takeover of the college by the leftist diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) crowd.

While Matthew Wielicki said his main reason for leaving Tuscaloosa was to be closer to family in Colorado, the “rise of illiberalism” made his decision easier. “The rise of illiberalism in the name of DEI is the antithesis of the principles that universities were founded on,” Wielicki tweeted Monday. “These are no longer places that embrace the freedom of exchanging ideas and will punish those that go against the narrative.”

You can read his full statement in this thread on Twitter.
» Read more

Pushback: Two reporters sue ESPN for terminating them for not getting jabbed

ESPN-opposed to religious freedom

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Two former ESPN employees, sports reporter Allison Williams and producer Beth Faber, have now sued the network and its owner Disney for religious discrimination when it refused to recognize their religious reasons for refusing the COVID shots and thus terminated them.

You can read their complaint here [pdf]. The thuggish, unreasonable, and irrational attitude of the company to both employees — typical of all pro-jab organizations during the Wuhan panic — is well illustrated by this quote:

Despite offering to test regularly and wear a mask, work remotely or in-studio, and claiming she had already had COVID-19 and “had natural immunity,” ESPN denied her exemption request and terminated her contract a week later, according to the suit.

Nor is this lawsuit the only one against ESPN by a sports reporter. » Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Thin blue line banned on flags in Los Angeles and suburban Philadelphia

They’re coming for you next: Today’s blacklist story illustrates most starkly the intolerant and insane culture that is now taking over many Democratic Party-controlled regions of the United States. Government officials in both Los Angeles and the town of Springfield, a suburb of Philadelphia, have banned use of the American flag with a thin blue line that for years has been used to symbolized support of the police and those who have fallen in duty.

In both cases, the banning occurred because some leftists made unsubstantiated accusations that the line really represented “white supremacy” and thus is racist. No evidence of course was ever presented to prove those allegations, but who cares about evidence in this day and age? All that matters is that the accusation is made, and all must immediately kow-tow to it, even if it destroys the first amendment and the lives of many innocent people.

LA police chief Michael Moore
LA police chief Michael Moore

Now for the specifics. In Los Angeles the chief of the LA police department on January 13, 2023 banned the use of the flag after receiving one complaint.

The “Thin Blue Line” flag has been banned from Los Angeles Police Department lobbies along with all other public areas on police property following a complaint from one person who thought it signified support for “extremist” ideologies such as “those espoused by the Proud Boys,” according to the chief.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore sent an email to department personnel on Friday making the announcement to remove the flags, blaming “extremist groups” who have “hijacked the use” of the Thin Blue Line.

Moore was desperate to protect the sensitive feelings of that one person, even though no evidence at all was presented to prove the allegations, and the police union and its nearly 10,000 members were utterly opposed to his decision.
» Read more

Arianespace’s chief condemns the idea of independent private European rocket companies

Stéphane Israël, the head of Arianespace, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) commercial rocket division, yesterday strongly condemned the idea of allowing independent private European rocket companies to develop and compete with his government operation.

“It is not possible to copy-paste the US model,” he said. “It is not possible. The level of space spending in the United States is five times higher than in Europe, and the private capital is not the same. So if the answer is to say let’s do what the US has done, I think we will not manage to do it.”

Moreover, Israël said the European Space Agency must resist supporting microlaunchers to the point where these companies might compete with the existing capabilities.

“A huge mistake would be that this focus on microlaunchers destabilizes Ariane 6 and Vega C—it would be a historic mistake,” he said. “Microlaunchers can be of support to boost innovation. But we should not make any confusion. This launcher will never give autonomous access to space to Europe. They’re on a niche market representing maybe 10 percent of the market, and less than that when it comes to European needs.”

He said this in Brussels at the 15th European Space Conference, where it appears he was trying to convince the ESA to block any competition with Arianespace.

Israël might say this, but not only has his track record in predicting the success of commercial space in the U.S. been bad, other European governments are not taking his advice. Both Germany and the United Kingdom have several rocket startups gearing up for their first launches this year, with others in Spain and France not far behind. Moreover, Israël doesn’t have much to offer in competition. Arianespace’s Vega rocket, intended to be a low cost option, has failed on three of its last eight launches. The Ariane 6 rocket is years behind schedule, and has not yet launched. And both are overpriced and cannot compete, not only with the American rocket startups but with India’s government rockets.

Moreover, those European governments have in recent years been taking control and power away from Israël and Arianespace. Unlike earlier rockets, the Ariane 6 rocket is not controlled or owned by Arianespace. Instead, it belongs to ArianeGroup, the partnership of Airbus and Safran that is building it. Arianespace’s role in operating it will be greatly limited, once it begins flying.

Stacked Starship and Superheavy complete first full wet dress rehearsal countdown

SpaceX yesterday successfully completed a full wet dress rehearsal countdown of its stacked Starship prototype #24 and Superheavy prototype #7, fueling both completely and taking the countdown down to T-0.

On this rehearsal however the Superheavy engines were not fired. From two SpaceX tweets:

Starship completed its first full flight-like wet dress rehearsal at Starbase today. This was the first time an integrated Ship and Booster were fully loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant

Today’s test will help verify a full launch countdown sequence, as well as the performance of Starship and the orbital pad for flight-like operations

Next step: Another full wet dress rehearsal countdown that includes a short static fire test of all 33 Superheavy Raptor-2 engines. Once that is done successfully, the company will be ready for that first orbital launch.

Meanwhile, SpaceX awaits its launch license from the FAA. I remain pessimistic that it will be issued on a timely manner, as there are clear signs the Biden administration wants to use its power against Musk, whom it now sees as an enemy.

Today’s blacklisted American: Pro-parent event silenced by threats of violence from leftist queers

They’re coming for you next: An event organized by three different groups working to get the queer agenda out of elementary schools was canceled by the theater operator after he received numerous threats of violence from queer leftists.

“I was really proud to be able to provide an opportunity for a forum for some positive, hopefully positive, or what I thought would be possible discussions,” said operator Ron Onesti.

But instead it brought cascading concerns, and he said he canceled the event after receiving threats. “It’s not my role to have a stance with these issues. I’m merely the venue,” he said. “They said they were going to bring guns and show you what it’s really about. It just got really, really bad involving all kinds of things, bullets and dog feces.” [emphasis mine]

This is the left. Dare to express any opinion they disagree with, and they will work to blacklist and censor you, and if you show even the slightest resistance, they will then threaten you with violence.

Des Plaines Alderman Carla Brookman
Des Plaines Alderman Carla Brookman

The event itself had been scheduled to occur on February 8, 2023 in Des Plaines, Illinois. The organizers were a coalition of several organizations, Awake Illinois, Moms for Liberty, and Gays Against Groomers, all of whom oppose strongly the effort by queers to sexualize young children, often against the will of their parents. Though the theater is owned by the city, it was the theater operator who canceled the event.

I first found out about this story from this Pajamas Media story, which instead of focusing on the actual blacklisting and violence decided to center its story on the public statement of a Des Plaines council alderwoman, Carla Brookman, who called the effort to shut down the event wrong, a violation of free speech, and a demonstration of intolerance by the protesters.

You can watch her statement here.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Game publisher fires employee for expressing conservative opinions

Limited Run Games: opposed to free speech

They’re coming for you next: The game publisher Limited Run Games recently fired its community manager Kara Lynne (also known by her married name, Kara Gooch) because one anonymous person complained to the company that she had expressed some conservative opinions on her personal account on Twitter.

Twitter user Purple Tinker (who has since deleted their account) described Lynne as “a transphobe” with several known right-wing and transphobic accounts on the list of accounts she follows on Twitter, including Ben Shapiro, Libs of TikTok, and others.

Purple Tinker pointed to several tweets made by Lynne in the past, including one in which she says “if you think the # of trans crying about using a bathroom is higher than the perves [sic] using the excuse, you are what is wrong with this world”. Lynne has since made her Twitter account private, so it’s not possible to see any of the tweets she made.

Apparently, Lynne had expressed enthusiasm in an earlier tweet about the game Hogwarts Legacy, based on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and since Rowling is now being blacklisted by the left and its allies in the queer movement because she thinks rationally that you can’t become a woman merely because you say so, Purple Tinker decided Lynne had to also be investigated and destroyed for defying that blacklist.

You can read Lynne’s detailed full response to her firing here. Her account of her firing tells us a lot about the weak character of the management of her former employer.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Minnesota to blacklist all Christians, Jews, or Muslims from teaching

The new Marxist rules for teaching in Minnesota

They’re coming for you next: Minnesota’s unelected education bureaucracy is about to impose new licensing requirements for teachers that will essentially blacklist all Christians, Jews, or Muslims by requiring teachers to teach the queer agenda as well as the critical race theory to young children.

Minnesota’s Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB), a division of the state Department of Education, has been working to change teacher certification requirements since 2019. Its latest public draft, which is finalized save for a few tweaks that don’t affect the content, includes multiple requirements that licensure candidates publicly support critical race theory and transgender ideology and include both in their teaching. Teachers must receive state licensure to be employed in Minnesota public and many private schools. [emphasis mine]

You can read the new licensing rules here [pdf]. The screen capture above shows the language requiring teachers to agree to the queer agenda. It also hints at full approval of the Marxism program of critical race theory, whereby all western civilization and America in particular is seeped in bigotry and hate, and must be condemned at all times.

Only a few paragraphs later the hints go away, and the licensing requirements make it clear that all teachers must from now on condemn the heritage of the United States.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Court clerk fired despite having valid health and religious reasons to refuse jab

Judge Claire Bradley, petty tyrant

They’re coming for you next: Today’s blacklist story is only one of tens of thousands, but it illustrates starkly the cruel and vindictive intolerance of the petty dictators who now run American society. It doesn’t matter if the jab doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter if you have valid health reasons for avoiding it. It doesn’t matter that you have religious beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you offer to be tested frequently to prove you aren’t sick. It doesn’t even matter that no mandate has been imposed by the local government.

The boss demands you to get jabbed, and if you dare to refuse, the boss will fire you.

Less than three years from retirement, Kitsap County court clerk Tammy Duryea was terminated in 2021 from her job because she did not wish to get the COVID shots for both health and religious reasons.

She has now sued, but her chances of victory are quite slim, especially since it was the court judges, led by Judge Claire Bradley, the presiding judge of the District Court, who imposed the shot mandate.
» Read more

The COVID jab: An emerging health disaster whose name cannot be spoken

Sudden collapse
One of many sudden collapses. Click for full video.

While from the beginning it appeared that the various COVID shots from different pharmaceutical companies were relatively safe to take, time is proving this assumption to be very false, with the data increasingly suggesting that the jab not only poses a significant, dangerous, and immediate health risk to young people, its long term effects on everyone who either chose to get it or was forced to by government mandate could very well be disastrous.

First the immediate risks. The numbers of individuals who have died suddenly and abruptly after getting the jab has been horrifying and shocking. Never in my life have I seen so many young and healthy people suddenly keeling over in public situations and dying. This story underlines the horror of the situation:

Such occurrences were unheard of prior to 2021. As noted at the link, “In fact, 500% more soccer players in the EU are dropping dead from heart attacks than just one year ago.” To capture the real horror of these events you need only watch the short video at this link. The thread that follows provides further documentation of this epidemic of “sudden death” and its apparent connection to the COVID shots.

Still, the actual medical link of these sudden heart failures to the COVID shots remains somewhat tentative, though more and more research is tying the two together.

From the last link:
» Read more

SpaceX to build five Starship/Superheavy prototypes in 2023

According to Elon Musk, SpaceX intends to build five Starship/Superheavy prototypes in 2023 for flight testing.

Assuming they can get launch permits, these five rockets should provide the company ample launch testing capability for at least the next two years, especially if it succeeds in landing these units and can consider reusing them in test flights.

At this moment, the launch permits from the federal government appears the main obstacle to getting this heavy lift reusable rocket tested and operational.

Pushback: Southwest flight attendant demands Southwest be sanctioned for violating the terms of her court victory

Southwest: Enemy to free speech

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Charlene Carter, a flight attendant who had worked at Southwest Airlines for 20 years, was fired in 2017 because she had publicly opposed for religious reasons the use of her union dues to fund pro-abortion protests, and was then reinstated after winning her lawsuit against the airline, is now demanding the court sanction Southwest for violating the terms of her court victory.

In her victory, Southwest was required to reinstate Carter with full benefits, and also issue a statement to its employees that it “may not” engage in religious discrimination. Instead, the airline sent out two notices. The first simply stated “that the Court ordered the company to notify them that it ‘does not’ discriminate on the basis of religion.” The second notice however was worse, as it once again slandered Carter for her religious beliefs.
» Read more

Russia delays three planned lunar probes because of sanctions

The research division that is building Russia’s Luna 26, Luna 27, and Luna 28 probes to the Moon announced today that these missions will likely be delayed up to two years because many needed components are no longer obtainable due to the international sanctions imposed on Russia because of its invasion of the Ukraine.

“Previously, we designed equipment using foreign components that we could buy from our foreign colleagues. Now that the sanctions have been imposed, we will [be switching to] Russian-made components,” Mitrofanov explained. According to him, researchers have to change design solutions amid the Western restrictions.

Some of these components cannot be so easily replaced by Russian versions. Assuming the Ukraine war does not end soon, expect even longer delays for these unmanned lunar missions.

Chinese company based in Hong Kong signs deal to build spaceport in Djibouti, Africa

Djibouti's location in Africa
Djibouti’s location is indicated in black.

The government of Djibouti, one of the smallest nations in Africa and located at the southern end of the Red Sea, has signed an agreement with a pseudo Chinese company, the Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group, to build a major spaceport there.

According to the translated press release, the five year project will cost one billion dollars, include a lease for 30 years, and involve the construction of a port, highway, and electrical power distribution system.

As much as Hong Kong for more than two centuries has been a haven for private enterprise, it is now under the control of the communist Chinese, and they would not allow anyone from Hong Kong to make such a deal unless they were in full control.

Based on the map, there is almost no launch path out of Djibouti that will not cross another nation’s territory. Unless the Chinese plan to make all the first stages launched from this site reusable, they are going to dropping stages on a lot of people’s heads, without their permission. And they will be doing it to some places where war is often and continues to be the most frequently used negotiating tactic.

Hat tip to stringer Jay.

Pushback: Blacklisted Virginia Tech soccer player wins $100K settlement

Kiersten Hening, blacklisted by Virginia Tech
Kiersten Hening

Bring a gun to a knife fight: Kiersten Hening, a former Virginia Tech student and soccer player, has won a $100k settlement from the university and her former coach, Charles Adair, for blacklisting her from the team because she refused to kneel in support of Black Lives Matter during the National Anthem before a game.

In December Adair had lost in his attempt to obtain qualified immunity, and thus he became personally liable for his improper and discriminatory actions against Hening that violated her first amendment rights. Rather than allow the case to go before a jury, it appears Adair and the university negotiated a settlement. And while the settlement terms have not been made public, and Adair’s comments to the press try to imply that he got off scot free, this comment by one of Hening’s lawyer gives us a hint:

Attorney Adam Mortara tweeted in reply to Adair’s statement: “If by clarity you mean you are paying my client six figures in a settlement then you’re right that’s pretty clear. Honestly, Coach, read the Court’s opinion. You are paying. Defendants don’t pay in cases that have no standing.”

Mortara went on to thank Adair and his “bosses at Tech for paying the equivalent of several years of tuition.”

Whether this is a victory for free speech remains very unclear, however. Even if Adair did pay up, he remains the soccer coach at Virginia Tech, and clearly has the support not only of the administration but the women’s soccer community there:
» Read more

FCC votes to create its own space bureaucracy, despite lacking statutory authority

On January 9, 2023 the commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission FCC voted [pdf] to create its own space bureaucracy designed to regulate the lifespan of new satellites, despite lacking legal authority to do so.

As noted almost as an aside by this news article,

In order for the planned changes to go into effect, the FCC will first have to obtain congressional approval for the reorganization and place a notice in the Federal Register.

This vote pushed forward the plan announced in November that attempts to expand the regulatory power of the FCC beyond its legal authority. Expect Congress to push back somewhat, but right now most power in Washington is held by unelected bureaucracies like the FCC, not the elected legislators as defined by the Constitution. The FCC will continue to push hard, and mostly win in this power game. Congress right now is too divided and weak to fight back.

The result will be new regulations on satellite construction made by non-engineers and paper-pushers in the FCC, not engineers and managers in the companies actually building the satellites.

Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii remains in limbo

Despite the successful power grab by protesters that stopped construction and took management of the telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii away from the University of Hawaii and gave it to a newly created board made up of “observatory representatives, Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, local business and education officials, and experts in land management,” construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii remains in limbo.

But there is another actor in this drama: the National Science Foundation (NSF). TMT has accrued substantial financial backing from its university backers and the governments of China, Japan, India, and Canada, but it is still far from fully funded and has asked NSF to fill the gap. TMT’s request has come in partnership with the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), another U.S.-led effort to build a massive new telescope. GMT’s site is already being prepared in Chile but it is also in financial straits.

Together, the two projects are seeking $3 billion from NSF in exchange for the wider U.S. astronomical community gaining access to a large slice of both scopes’ observing time. That proposal was judged by U.S. astronomers as their top priority for ground-based astronomy in the community’s decadal survey published in November 2021. NSF is now assessing whether this is a good investment for U.S. taxpayers.

Considering that Congress now believes that money grows on trees, and there is no reason not to fund anything anyone wants no matter how much debt it produces, I expect that the NSF will eventually fund both telescopes. There is however the slim possibility that the NSF will look at the new and very complex managerial make-up now running things in Hawaii and decide it is impractical and guaranteed to produce problems. The goals of the different members of this board are so contradictory that any construction on Mauna Kea will likely have to be renegotiated over and over again, causing further delays.

Of course, endless funding and delays could be considered a feature, not a bug, by our present corrupt federal government. In that case the NSF will celebrate these delays.

The modern American blacklist culture is wide and deep, and will require a lot of dredging to clear

What some conservatives are going to have to face to bring liberty back to America
What some conservatives are going to have to face
to bring liberty back to America

A wise man once said that to beat your enemy you need to know him better than he knows himself. It is to this purpose I write this essay.

Even now, with blacklisting, censorship, and intolerance against dissent the normal standard held by our leftist elitist intellectual class, conservatives still assume naturally that anyone they meet anywhere, whether on the street, at their job, or among their family, are old-fashioned freedom-loving Americans who — whether they are Republicans or Democrats — will stand together for liberty wherever tyrants strike.

This assumption is 100% wrong, and it is why conservatives have been so steadily losing ground in the battle for freedom for decades. Blacklisting is now acceptable to a large percentage of Americans on the left. Censorship and violence against their opponents is okay, and is actually considered the right thing to do for many ordinary Democrats.

Just yesterday the Democrats themselves in Congress proved this point. When faced with a bill that simply condemned the more than hundred violent attacks against “pro-life facilities, groups, and churches” since the May 2, 2022 leak of the Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v Wade, 208 out of 211 Democrats voted against it.

The bill did not support the banning of abortion. All it demanded that Congress:
» Read more

Saudi Arabia withdraws from Moon Treaty

On January 5, 2023, Saudi Arabia submitted its official withdrawal [pdf] from Moon Treaty, to be effective one year later.

The 1979 Moon Treaty is not the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which almost all space-faring nations have signed. The Moon Treaty has been signed by almost no one because its language literally forbids private ownership.

In a sense, the Artemis Accords, which Saudi Arabia recently signed, is in direct conflict with the Moon Treaty, and no nation can really honor both. The Artemis Accords were designed by the Trump administration to get around the less stringent restrictions on private enterprise imposed by the Outer Space Treaty. That it has encouraged the Saudis to leave the Moon Treaty, however, suggests that the Artemis Accords might eventually cause a major abandonment of the Outer Space Treaty as well. To withdraw from such treaties up until now has been considered taboo. Saudi Arabia might have broken that spell.

If so, this action by the Saudis could be the best news for the future exploration and settlement of the solar system that has occurred in years, even more significant than that first vertical landing of a Falcon 9 rocket. It might finally force a major revision in the Outer Space Treaty so that each nation’s laws can be applied to its own colonies.

Steady decline for decades in the publication of “disruptive science”

The steady decline in the publication of disruptive science

Though their definition of what makes a science paper disruptive is open to debate, a review of millions of peer-reviewed papers published since the end of World War II has shown a steady decline in such papers, as if scientists are increasingly unwilling or unable to think outside the box.

The graph to the right comes from this research.

The authors reasoned that if a study was highly disruptive, subsequent research would be less likely to cite the study’s references, and instead cite the study itself. Using the citation data from 45 million manuscripts and 3.9 million patents, the researchers calculated a measure of disruptiveness, called the ‘CD index’, in which values ranged from –1 for the least disruptive work to 1 for the most disruptive.

The average CD index declined by more than 90% between 1945 and 2010 for research manuscripts, and by more than 78% from 1980 to 2010 for patents. Disruptiveness declined in all of the analysed research fields and patent types, even when factoring in potential differences in factors such as citation practices.

The authors also analysed the most common verbs used in manuscripts and found that whereas research in the 1950s was more likely to use words evoking creation or discovery such as ‘produce’ or ‘determine’, that done in the 2010s was more likely to refer to incremental progress, using terms such as ‘improve’ or ‘enhance’.

The article that I link to above is from Nature, so of course it can’t see the elephant in the room, citing as a possible explanation “changes in the scientific enterprise” where most scientists today work as teams rather than alone.

I say, when you increasingly have big government money involved in research, following World War II, it becomes more and more difficult to buck the popular trends. Tie that to the growing blacklist culture that now destroys the career of any scientist who dares to say something even slightly different, and no one should be surprised originality is declining in scientific research. The culture will no longer tolerate it. You will tow the line, or you will be gone. Scientists are thus towing the line.

To my readers: I had intended to include this paper as part of a larger essay about the general blacklist culture that now dominates American society, but my continuing health issues make it difficult to sit at my desk for long periods. I hope to have things under control in the next few days, but until then my posting is going to continue to be limited.

Virgin Orbit’s launch from Cornwall finally scheduled for January 9th

The first orbital launch from the United Kingdom has finally been scheduled, with Virgin Orbit’s 747 taking off from an airport in Cornwall on January 9, 2023 and carrying its LauncherOne rocket with 9 satellites.

Monday’s mission opportunity has been purchased by the US National Reconnaissance Office and is being used to advance a number of satellite technologies of security and defence interest to both the American and British governments. But there are also civil applications being taken up on the flight – and a number of firsts, such as the first satellite built in Wales and the first satellite for the Sultanate of Oman.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority [CAA], which regulates commercial spaceflight in the UK, said on Thursday that all nine spacecraft on the manifest had now been licensed. Virgin and Spaceport Cornwall received their launch licences before Christmas.

The launch was originally planned for sometime in the summer, but delays in obtaining the launch permits from the CAA pushed it back a half year. That unexpected and unnecessary delay now threatens the very existence of Virgin Orbit, as the company could do no other launches as it waited and thus earned nothing.

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