Automakers suing EPA over higher ethanol mix gas

Good intentions strikes again! Automakers are suing the EPA over its decision to allow a higher ethanol mixture in gasoline. Key quote:

Automakers say they are worried the EPA decision would eventually lead to motorists unknowingly filling up their older cars and trucks with E15 and hurting their engines. The problem could be exacerbated if E15 fuels are cheaper than more conventional blends, prompting owners of older vehicles to use the fuel despite the potential engine problems.

A Few Words In Praise of Fear

A few words in praise of fear. Key quote:

In Washington and in statehouses around the country, the reality of the pending Fiscal Armageddon is starting to seep into the thick skulls of the elected class. Jerry Brown pronounced himself “shocked” once he got a good peek at California’s balance sheet. Off the record, politicians of both parties are starting to concede that a lot of the old ideological disputes at now moot, because there simply isn’t any money. It’s not a question of whether there are going to be deep cuts and fundamental restructuring, but when and how much. [emphasis mine]

The lack of money affects NASA’s future as much as anything. The future of space does not lie in government funding, no matter what people tell you.

Federal examiners Force Oklahoma Bank To Remove Crosses and Bible Verse

Freedom of speech alert: Federal bank examiners have forced an Oklahoma bank to remove all Christian symbols. Key quote:

The examiners . . . deemed a Bible verse of the day, crosses on the teller’s counter and buttons that say “Merry Christmas, God With Us.” [as] inappropriate. The Bible verse of the day on the bank’s Internet site also had to be taken down.

What these things have to do with auditing the financial practices of a bank I really don’t know.

‘Human-rating’ document hits the Web with new name

O joy! NASA, in releasing its preliminary regulations for “human-rating” a manned spacecraft., has also given the regulations a new name. They should not be called “human-rated.” This should solve everything! Also:

The five 1100-series documents outline mandatory crew transportation certification requirements, technical, safety and crew health specifications, the roles of NASA and industry and how to achieve government certification, design reference missions and goals for a space station human transportation system, and ground and flight operations processes. While the broad certification document released Dec. 10 only runs 39 pages, the 1100-series specifications reportedly run hundreds of pages each.

DeMint wants to have the omnibus read

Maybe this might stop the spending: Republican Senator Jim DeMint wants the Senate to read the entire 1900-plus omnibus budget bill before anyone votes on it. Key quote

The reading could take 40 hours, some news outlets estimate. Last year, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., forced the reading of an 800-page amendment on the Senate floor. The reading ended when Sanders, who had proposed the amendment, came to the floor to withdraw it.

Boeing Submits Proposal for 2nd Round of NASA Commercial Crew Development Program

In competition with the Orbital/Virgin Galactic proposal I mentioned yesterday, Boeing has submitted its own proposal to provide crew and cargo ferrying service to ISS.

Considering the federal budget debt and the political winds for reducing that debt, I have great doubts the subsidies for these proposals will ever arrive. Nonetheless, with the end of the shuttle program and nothing to replace it, the United States has a serious need for a system to get crew and cargo into space. And in a free society, fulfilling that need means profits, which is why these proposals are beginning to appear, and will get built, regardless of whether Congress funds them up front or later buys the services.

NASA Picks New Chief Scientist

Today’s announcement by the Obama administration of their choice for NASA’s new chief scientist, Waleed Abdalati, reveals once again how much climate research guides their thinking, not space exploration. Key quote:

His research has focused on the study of polar ice cover using satellite and airborne instruments. He has led or participated in nine field and airborne campaigns in the Arctic and the Antarctic.

This is not a criticism of Dr. Abdalati. His research interests, however, make very clear where the Obama administration really wants NASA to look: down at the Earth instead of up beyond Earth orbit.

The next to go — astronauts!

White House initiates a study on whether astronaut corps should be trimmed.

This story is more evidence that I was right when I said Obama was lying when he claimed he loved manned spaceflight. If he was serious about sending humans to asteroids and beyond, he wouldn’t be so eager to find ways to shrink the astronaut corp.

Update: I should emphasize that I am not criticizing the idea of trimming the astronaut corp. I just want it clear that Barack Obama is clearly not a supporter of manned space, and that I believe his proposals (the commercial space subsidies) are merely window-dressing to placate his opponents while he dismantles the program.

Congress, Obama, and NASA fiddle while manned space burns

The space war continues to heat up again. In a hearing today in the Senate, several senators complained loudly that NASA isn’t implementing the details of the September authorization act.

What clowns. These same senators haven’t provided NASA (or anyone) with a budget. They have also given NASA an authorization bill that does not provide the agency with enough money while simultaneously demanding that things be done faster. And they’ve done this at a time the federal government is almost bankrupt. Moreover, the bill requires that NASA build things that the Obama administration doesn’t want to build (though in truth, the Obama administration itself is so confused that no one, including them, knows what they are going to do).

All in all, the whole thing is a mess.

As I’ve said earlier, it’s all pork. Even if NASA gets the money laid out in the authorization bill, it will accomplish nothing except spread some cash around to several congressional districts. Nothing will get built. And in the process of sending that money to new aerospace companies NASA will do much to squelch their creativity and innovation.

Better to cut it all, and let the aerospace industry sink or swim on its own. It will almost certainly do better that the government at this point. In fact, how could it do worse?

NASA’s human spaceflight program is ‘adrift’

The space war over NASA continues. NASA’s human spaceflight program is “adrift,” according to John Karas, the general manager of Lockheed Martin’s human space flight division. Key quote:

“Everybody’s arguing, debating. We are in this giant storm with no direction, and more than likely we’re gonna get hit with more waves of money cuts. So we have to have some future plan here; some future direction — or we’re just going to get capsized,” he said.

The use of the word “adrift” is ironic, as this was the very word that President Obama used to describe NASA’s state shortly after taking office. It seems to me, however, that under Obama things are far more confused and chaotic then they ever were under Bush.

A hint that the Republicans might be wimping out again

It’s stories like this that fill me with dispair: House Majority Leader-designate Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) says that Republicans will keep some provisions of Obama’s healthcare law intact. Key quote:

Provisions that Republicans will seek to retain include the barring of insurance companies from refusing coverage to patients with a pre-existing condition and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26.

You would think the numerous demonstrations, the loud townhall protests, and finally, the election results themselves would have given Cantor a hint of what the public really wants: total and complete repeal of this stinker of a bill.

Cantor’s desire to keep the pre-existing condition clause will only make the entire insurance business unprofitable. When I lived in New York and the state legislative passed a similar bill, more than half of all insurance companies immediately abandoned the state, as they understood that no one had any reason to buy health insurance, until they actually got sick. And without the premiums from healthy people, the companies knew they would have no resources left to pay the expenses of those who were sick. (See my 1994 article on this subject for the magazine The Freeman.)

As for the clause allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plan until 26, all this will do is force insurance companies to drop all coverage for children, as this union did in New York.

Either way, what gives Eric Cantor and the Republicans (or the Democrats before them) the lordly wisdom to determine how this particular business (or any) should be run? Freedom demands that these business transactions should be left to the market, the insurance companies, and their customers, not to the whims of politicians.

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