New airport security checks causing protests

And people wonder why I now drive from Maryland to Chicago: It appears that no one is happy with new TSA airport security checks, requiring either a full body scan or a full body pat down. Protests are coming from pilots, flight attendants, passengers, and the airlines. Key quote from the “passenger” link above:

The aggressively enhanced TSA pat down involves over-the-clothes searches of passengers’ breast and genital areas. You can opt not to go through the backscatter body scanners, and thereby keep your genitalia private from pictures, but then a TSA screener will use a front-of-the-hand, slide-down body screening that Ars Technica called “nut-busting pat-downs.”

And there’s National Opt-Out Day, November 24, 2010. (I wish I could participate, but as I said, I will be driving to Chicago for Thanksgiving, mostly to avoid the police-state of the TSA.)

The space program is dead, long live the space industry!

The news following the midterm election results have not sounded good for NASA. Two stories on Monday alone signaled the bad news:

Earlier stories last week were no more encouraging:

While Republicans have, since the 1970s, generally been more enthusiastic than Democrats about NASA and manned space exploration, the new Republican Congress has a tone that seems decidedly different from past years. Above all, it appears the public is finally becoming aware of the recent explosion in the federal debt, as illustrated by the graph below. (hat tip to Gateway Pundit and The Captain’s Comments.)

Federal deficit

The public’s growing concern about these numbers was clearly reflected in the election results. First, there was the success of many tea party candidates advocating fiscal responsibility and a radical shrinking of government. Even in cases where conservatives lost, the closeness of the election in districts or states where liberals have rarely in the past been challenged suggests the mood of the electorate is decidedly shifting in a direction against federal spending.

Second, the electorate seemed surprisingly hostile to pork, expressing little interest in being brought off with baubles for their home districts. Thus, candidates who ran against pork seemed to get far more enthusiastic attention and positive publicity than those elected officials famous for “bringing home the bacon.”

In such an atmosphere, the priorities of Congress will be forced to change. The outlook therefore does not look good for the type of pork funding represented by the NASA authorization bill passed on September 29, with its billions of subsidies for the aerospace industry.

We can see an indication of this new tone by some of the initial plans announced by the Republican leadership. As a first step, the Republicans have proposed cutting the federal budget back 2008 levels. This change alone would reduce NASA’s annual budget by about $2 billion, or 10%.

This solution, however, will not close the budget gap, only shrink it slightly. The Republicans will still be faced with massive amounts of red ink and a public demanding that they deal with it. To prove they mean what they say, the new House leadership will be forced to propose some additional draconian cuts.

Unfortunately, the circumstances at this moment has made NASA a prime budget-cutting target. » Read more

Space and the election results

Yesterday’s elections will clearly force changes again to NASA’s future. Below are a few links from some other space experts expressing their thoughts on the matter. I will follow with my own essay sometime next week, after the election results have some time to shake out.

From SpacePolicyOnline, an overview of the results in relation to space policy.

From Rand Simberg: Great election news for space.

From Space Politics: Brooks wins, Giffords with a narrow lead.

See also this Space.com article: Election Brings New Leadership to NASA Oversight Committees.

Overall, the defeat of Congressmen like Oberstar and Grayson, both of whom loved to regulate, can only be good for the future of private space.

UN conference passes broad ban on “geoengineering”

A UN conference in Japan today approved the extremely broad language that I had noted earlier this week, banning all “climate-related geoengineering activities that may affect biodiversity . . . until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities.” You can read some reactions here. Key quote from the ETC group, a Canadian non-profit organization which supports the language:

The agreement, reached during the ministerial portion of the two-week meeting which included 110 environment ministers, asks governments to ensure that no geoengineering activities take place until risks to the environment and biodiversity and associated social, cultural and economic impacts have been appropriately considered. The CBD secretariat was also instructed to report back on various geoengineering proposals and potential intergovernmental regulatory measures.

If the broad language of this policy is accepted by the United States government, it will effectively shut down almost all new construction and development, as practically anything people do “may affect biodiversity.”

Squeal like a pig

Let’s take a trip into the future, looking past Tuesday’s midterm election.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that, come Tuesday, the Republicans take both houses, in a stunning landslide not seen in more than a century. Let’s also assume that the changes in Congress are going to point decidedly away from the recent liberal policies of large government (by both parties). Instead, every indication suggests that the new Congress will lean heavily towards a return to the principles of small government, low taxes, and less regulation.

These assumptions are not unreasonable. Not only do the polls indicate that one or both of the houses of Congress will switch from Democratic to Republican control, the numerous and unexpected primary upsets of established incumbents from both parties — as well the many protests over the past year by large numbers of ordinary citizens — make it clear that the public is not interested in half measures. Come January, the tone and direction of Congress is going to undergo a shocking change.

Anyway, based on these assumptions, we should then expect next year’s Congress to propose unprecedented cuts to the federal budget, including the elimination of many hallowed programs. The recent calls to defund NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcastings are only one example.

When Congress attempts this, however, the vested interests that have depended on this funding for decades are not going to take the cuts lightly. Or to put it more bluntly, they are going to squeal like pigs, throwing temper tantrums so loud and insane that they will make the complaints of a typical three-year-old seem truly statesman-like. And they will do so in the hope that they will garner sympathy and support from the general voting public, thereby making the cuts difficult to carry out.

The real question then is not whether the new Congress will propose the cuts required to bring the federal government under control, but whether they, as well as the public, will have the courage to follow through, to defy the howls from these spoiled brats, and do what must be done. » Read more

First ticket issued for deadly butter

Our government doing the really important work! Health officials in Baltimore have handed out their first ticket to a restaurant for not using the proper cooking recipe, as determined by the government. Key quote:

“They originally had a margarine that was above 3 grams, actually, which is very high compared to the .5 that is allowed. Then when we came back and they had replaced it, they replaced it with one that was 2 grams, so it still was too high,” [Health Department agent Juan] Gutierrez said.

And then there’s this: Fake health inspectors at restaurants on the rise.

Why this election is important

Mark Steyn explains why next week’s midterm election and what the next Congress does has very special significance. Key quote:

In a two-party system, you have to work with what’s available. In America, one party is openly committed to driving the nation off the cliff, and the other party is full of guys content to go along for the ride as long as we shift down to third gear. That’s no longer enough of a choice. If your candidate isn’t committed to fewer government agencies with fewer employees on lower rates of pay, he’s part of the problem. This is the last chance for the GOP to restore its credentials. If it blows it, all bets are off for 2012.

Last shuttle mission could be delayed until fall of 2011

If Congress does end up appropriating money for that last extra shuttle mission, NASA managers are considering delaying it as long as possible, until the fall of 2011. Key quote:

[Shuttle Program Manager John] Shannon said if the shuttle is retired prematurely, the ISS will not be properly supplied.

In other words, Congress and the President should never have retired the shuttle in the first place, at least not until a replacement was ready to go.

Republicans weaseling out already?

Republican senator Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) suggested Monday that it would be better to restructure the healthcare bill than repeal or defund it.

Idiot. I think he and the rest of the Republican Party are being as clueless as the Democrats if they think this strategy will work. They should instead pay very close attention to what Sarah Palin said on the same day about a third party threat:

“Some in the GOP, it’s their last shot,” Palin said Monday evening on Fox News. “It’s their last chance, and we will lose faith and we will be disappointed and disenchanted from them if they start straying from the bedrock principles that can grow our economy.”

I am also reminded of this prescience Iowahawk post. As he says so eloquently, “Retards.”

Have global warming scientists admitted that carbon dioxide is not the main greenhouse gas?

In a paper published on Saturday in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres of the American Geophysical Union, scientists from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (where scientists have generally been strong advocates of human-caused global warming) outlined the key atmospheric molecules that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Key quote from the abstract:

We find that water vapor is the dominant contributor (∼50% of the effect), followed by clouds (∼25%) and then CO2 with ∼20%. All other absorbers play only minor roles.

The scientists also noted that even if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were to double, these percentages would not change significantly.

Does this mean that carbon dioxide is a minor player in creating global warming? This remains unclear. First, the above research is essentially only modeling, not actual data. Second, the scientists themselves note that the interplay of any two of these molecules (such as water and carbon dioxide or water and cloudiness) can have a greater effect than just one molecule alone, which makes these percentages by themselves incomplete.

Nonetheless, these results are important politically. These global warming scientists have placed themselves on record as admitting that cloudiness appears more significant that carbon dioxide in creating the greenhouse effect. And since the combination of water and clouds can have an even greater influence on the climate than either alone, the scientists are also admitting that water is by far the most important greenhouse molecule. Any future climate models as well as political action must take this fact into consideration.

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