Shooting in Chattanooga

Yesterday, a man opened fire on a National Guard office and a Naval Reserve Centre, killing four marines before being killed by police. Right now, we don’t know what motivated him. He might have terrorist ties, he might be a lone wolf, he might have just gone crazy.

Of course … if he were not a Muslim … we’d be speculating to hell that he was motivated by the Tea Party, Rush Limbaugh and Ted Cruz. Hell, we might get some shitwit Professor trying to blame Amy Schumer.

I like being circumspect about someone’s motives. I just wish that circumspection were applied to everyone.

New Horizons is Alive and Well

The last time we did a flyby of a planet, I was in high school. It was 1989 — Bush the Elder was President — and we had a TV on in my physics class showing us a live feed from NASA of the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune. I was enthralled … everyone was. Here was a world we had only glimpsed through a telescope and now it was so close you could touch it.

(I could say something about that inspired me to enter astronomy but that would be a lie. I liked astronomy but it never occurred to me to do it for a living until my junior year of college.)

I felt some of that excitement last night as we awaited the signal from New Horizons that would indicate a successful flyby. And today we have some stunning images coming down. Here is Charon, Pluto’s moon, that was a dot even for the Hubble Space Telescope:

newhorizons-charon_1stlook.jpg.CROP.original-original

You can read some of the details of the picture over at Bad Astronomy.

It’s impossible for me to express how much I love this … all of it. I love the fiddly engineering and amazing work that go into planning a mission. I love the facilities down at Goddard where they do every test imaginable on the hardware of upcoming missions. I love watching the rockets leap from the pad on a pillar of fire. I love the seemingly impossible task of sending a probe over a nine-year three-billion-mile mission and having it still work. I love the technical jargon as the Mission Operations Center monitors the spacecraft (a lot of which I now understand, having worked for a NASA mission). I love the excitement space aficionados and even hardened astronomers feel as the images come down and reveal a distant and mysterious world. It is all exciting and wonderful and thrilling and inspiring.

Here’a closeup of that heart-shaped region of Pluto.

newhorizons_pluto_1stlook.jpg.CROP.original-original

Pluto has vast mountains of ice, canyons miles deep, a surface that was repaved within the last hundred million years by some process we can only guess at right now. In a few hours, New Horizons gathered data that will keep scientists busy for years and may change our understanding of the Kuiper Belt.

I’ve said this before about our space program: this is the way to waste taxpayer money. You want to talk to me about American exceptionalism? This is American exceptionalism. America is defined by many things but our exploration of space has to be our country’s greatest achievement. We’ve sent probes to every planet; we’ve put men on the moon; we’ve glimpsed the fires of creation through space telescopes. No other nation can match us. Russia sorta could for a while (and right now, they’re embarrassingly the only means of getting astronauts into space). Europe sorta can in their European way. India and China are trying to get things going. But when you really break it down, we are the country of space. We are the explorers. We are the pioneers. And this a commitment we should be devoting more resources to, not less.

Last year, the Houston Chronicle ran a great series about the foundering of our space policy. The big problem I see is that no President has been really committed to it. They come up with their pet projects — a mission to Mars, an asteroid capture, a return to the Moon — and that gets vaguely funded only to have another pet project to take its place when the presidency changes hands. What we need is a more realistic long-term strategy, something NASA can commit to for the next twenty years or more. NASA’s focus should be astrophysics, identifying potentially dangerous asteroids, continuing to explore the Solar System with unmanned probes and, most importantly, trying to devise cheaper ways of getting people and cargo into space. The last part is the only way human exploration of space will ever be feasible.

This should go hand-in-hand with supporting private space programs and commercial exploitation of space. What I’d really like to see is a bunch of billionaires get together, pool their funds, and set a course for the next few decades of private space flight, with NASA committed to supporting them.

But that’s tomorrow. Today, enjoy the amazing pictures of a distant world coming down from New Horizons. And thank your stars that you’re part of a species smart enough to think of this and a country rich enough and daring enough to pull it off.

(Post Scriptum: I said this on Twitter, but will mention it here. I sometimes get asked what I think about Pluto no longer being a planet. My opinion is this: call it what you want.

I understand why the change was made. If Pluto is a planet, that means Eris, Haumea, Ceres and Makemake have to be planets, to be consistent. And it means that, in a few decades, we might have identified hundreds of planets. Pluto is very different from the other planets and much more like the vast sea of Kuiper Belt objects that probably lurks out there. This doesn’t take away from Clyde Tombaugh’s achievement. On the contrary, he discovered something even more amazing than Planet X.

But … I really don’t think it would have killed us to just call Pluto a planet for historical reasons. Consistency is, after all, the hobgoblin of small minds. And Pluto doesn’t care what you call it.)

Iran Deal

Hmmm:

World powers have reached a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.

US President Barack Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.

And President Hassan Rouhani said the “historic” deal opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.

Mr Obama, who is trying to persuade a sceptical US Congress of the benefits, said it would oblige Iran to:

remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision

get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium

accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated

permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary when necessary”

Sanctions relief would be gradual, Mr Obama said, with an arms embargo remaining in place for five years and an embargo on missiles for eight years.

The major drawback is the end of the sanctions. Jonah Goldberg explains:

The lifting of crippling sanctions, which will come about as part of the nuclear deal struck in Vienna, means that at least $150 billion, a sum Barack Obama first invoked in May, will soon enough flow to Tehran. With this very large pot of money, the regime will be able to fund both domestic works and foreign adventures in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere.

It is hard to imagine a scenario—at least in the short term—in which Hezbollah and other terror organizations on the Iranian payroll don’t see a windfall from the agreement. This is a bad development in particular for the people of Syria. Iran, as the Assad regime’s funder, protector, and supplier of weapons, foot soldiers, and strategists, is playing a crucial role in the destruction of Syria. Now Syrians will see their oppressor become wealthier and gain international legitimacy (legitimacy not just for Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which this deal will leave in place.)

Goldberg, however, points out that, despite these problems, the deal achieves our main objective of delaying Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon, possibly for decades. I would also add that it prevents us from not reaching a deal and seeing the sanctions regime collapse, particularly from the Russian side, where Moscow is trying to form a stronger alliance with Iran.

A key point for me is that the sanctions are set to snap back automatically if Iran is found to have violated the deal, which is a key point. It would take a new UN resolution to remove them again.

Liberals are praising the deal; conservatives are denouncing it. I expect to see Chamberlain cited about a million times in the next sixty days (it is, after all, the only history the neocons are familiar with). But I don’t see that there was much of a choice here. Bombing Iran sounds good, but it would spark a massive international crisis and might not even work. Maintaining the sanctions would be fine, but that coalition is already crumbling and would collapse completely if we walked away from a deal.

In short, I think this is probably the least bad option given the cards we have.

Greece Folds

Well, that didn’t take long.

It turns out that math is not subject to a referendum.

Greece and its European creditors announced an agreement here on Monday that aims to resolve the country’s debt crisis and keep it in the eurozone, but that will require further budgetary belt-tightening that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could have trouble selling back in Athens.

The agreement does not guarantee that Greece will receive its third bailout in five years. But it does allow the start of detailed negotiations on a new assistance package for Greece.

The total commitment of money has not been disclosed. But a document by the eurozone leaders noted that experts had estimated that Greece might need from 82 billion to 86 billion euros more — $91 billion to $96 billion — to shore up its economy, rebuild its banks and meet its debt obligations over the next three years. The document said Greece and its creditors should seek to “reduce that financing envelope,” if possible.

As part of Greece’s commitments, Ms. Merkel said, a fund will be created to use the proceeds from selling off assets owned by the Greek government to help pay down the country’s debt. That fund would be “to the tune of” €50 billion, she said.

Greece will also be required to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund and to agree to let the organization continue to monitor the country’s adherence to its bailout commitments. The Greek government had resisted a continued role for the I.M.F., seeing the fund’s involvement as unwanted meddling.

The agreement will call for Greece to raise taxes in some cases, pare pension benefits and take various other measures meant to reduce what critics see as too much bureaucracy and too many market protections that keep the Greek economy from operating efficiently.

In other words, Greece has to do what they’ve always had to do: fix their broken tax system, fix their broken pension system, stop spending money they don’t have, sell off bloated Greek government assets and clean up the corruption.

It’s not clear that this will happen: the Greek parliament still needs to approve it. But it is clear that Greece’s left-wing government has accomplished very little other than making the pain worse for their citizens, all to the cheers and plaudits of comfy Western liberals who see this as some kind of experiment in economics and an opportunity to show those damned austerians what’s what.

The alternative for Greece in exiting the Euro. Virtually the entire American Left, who are apparently fine with the idea of a government weaseling out of its debt, thinks this is a better option. The BBC has a great summary of what a Grexit would mean:

The previous Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, warned that living standards could fall by 80% within a few weeks of exit.

Unable to borrow from anyone (not even other European governments), the Greek government would simply run out of euros.

It would have to pay social benefits and civil servants’ wages in IOUs (if it pays them at all) until a new non-euro currency can be introduced.

The government would not be able to repay its debts, which now amount to a total of about €320bn (£237bn), most of it owed to European governments and agencies and the International Monetary Fund.

The government would have to impose a freeze on withdrawals and on people taking money out of the country. This could lead to queues of ordinary Greeks trying to empty their bank accounts before they get converted into a new currency worth substantially less than the previous one.

In the longer run, Greece’s economy should benefit from having a much more competitive exchange rate.

But the devaluation would not solve underlying problems in the economy, including poor tax collection and a struggle to control government spending.

There is also a real possibility of a surge in inflation.
Tax receipts would probably fall as the economy contracted, so the government might finance spending by printing money.

The likely currency depreciation would also be inflationary. It would make imported goods – which in Greece includes a lot of its food and medicine – more expensive.

That’s just the effect on Greece. It might also encourage other countries like Spain to leave. And worldwide, the effects would be very unpredictable.

That’s what the people glibly talking about a Grexit are contemplating. Seems a steep price to pay so that you can side with the deadbeats against the Germans.

Artsey Fartsey

There is a bold courageous trans formative new artist in Chicago, I hear Monet got his start the same way, pass the Chardonnay and brie;

And you thought it took talent to be an artist.

Have you ever seen a more punchable face than that mope Ti-Rock Moore? Funny but in looking at that exhibit, no where is that stolen box of cigars.

If the curator was half serious about his new art exhibit, he would station a 300lb black man close by to slug each patron in the face, you know, so they could get a feel for what Officer Wilson went through, a little authenticity thrown in.

And see, he didn’t have his hands up at all, I knew it.

As if we needed more proof..

The world is experiencing a destructive collapse of the “Print, borrow & tax so we can spend more than we have to buy votes” mentality. This progressive idea that you government can control and drive economies has been destroying economies ranging from Greece – which again gets an extension to a certain doom that can simply not be avoided because eventually even Germany will be out of money – to that of China where the games to make a centrally planned economy look like something that can work, to examples here at home in the US itself. States like Illinois and California, bastions of liberalism and wholly owned democrat entities, are not just collapsing under the weight of their idiotic beliefs that they can simply continue to fleece the productive to buy votes from what amounts to a large portion of people – many of them illegal citizens – that now just vote for a living.

Nowhere is the destructive nation of the progressive way of doing things more evident than at municipal level. Cities like Detroit, Washington D.C, Chicago, Baltimore, and so on, are basically imploding under the weight of stupid ideas and government. The sad thing is that one city that was almost spared that fate, because the voters wizened up and got rid of the democrat cabal that was raping the productive and basically making the place a shithole, is now back on track to implode under the weight of the progressive nature’s stupidity. Yeah, this article deals with minutia, but that’s actually the problem. Its a whole bunch of small things that look like they are not really important that all come together to make a big picture.

And while the democrat controlled city’s representatives are wasting time arguing about if you should be allowed to piss on the streets or not, they are busy wrecking everything else by basically destroying the goose that laid the golden egg. Heinlein had it right when he pointed out that in general assholes will never appreciate the fact that it is a few people that do all the things that make life good and easy for the rest of us. He was also dead on that instead of showing gratitude the masses would actually despise these people that brought them economic progress. As he posited, they will turn on the productive – out of nothing more than envy, jealousy, and greed – and run them out of town. Then as things indubitably collapse, the dickheads that did this will call it bad luck.

We have the most inept and craven political class in my entire lifetime. These credentialed shitbags grew up in a system, imposed on us by the progressive movement that rewarded the behavior they excelled at: talking out of both sides of their mouths while never accomplishing anything of value. It’s the “everyone gets a trophy” generation showing us what we have wrought. That is why these people, once they left the cocoon of the corrupting school system that indoctrinates and rewards these idiotic and destructive beliefs, chose to go into government. It is the only place where massive ineptitude, delusions of one’s own abilities and achievements, and a complete lack of understanding of how economics or human nature make the real world work, constantly rewards failure. It’s where people that wouldn’t amount to anything but store clerks, despite all their supposed education, can steal from the productive and indulge their complexes.

NYC, like too many places in this country, are being run by people that have profited from a system that rewards cronyism and ineptitude, punishing the productive in the process, and growing the number of government tit suckers. It is no surprise that all it took was a couple of progressive mayors to set the place back on a fast track to implosion. Obama promised he would fundamentally change the country, and he is doing the same thing DeBlasio is doing to NYC. And many progressives think this is all a good thing because they despise the very country that has played the role of the producer in Heinlein’s quote for doing so. The wreckers are in charge, and they are doing what they are good at.

Janie Got A Gun

Matt Vespa, over at Hot Air, flags a recent and encouraging trend in gun ownership: women.

Women are the next frontier in the firearms industry. Over the past few years, women have become the fastest growing demographic of gun owners. They’re responsible for the surge in gun ownership in states like Colorado, and women are lining up across the country for their concealed carry permits. This isn’t a new phenomenon. While the liberal urban-based elite–and their allies in the media–view gun owners as a group comprised mostly of white, conservative men, Louisa Fitzgerald wrote on the feminist site Jezebel that women gun owners often “defy stereotypes.”

The article details several women who have decided to carry and quotes one woman saying she hopes she never has to pull it.

That’s the mindset of every law-abiding gun owner, concealed carry permit holder, and police officer; a firearm that remains holstered for an entire day is a very good one.

This is one of the things that “research” into the defensive use of weapons often misses: you don’t have to kill someone to defend yourself with a weapon. Hell, there’s some research showing that just knowing guns are out there intimidates criminals.

Matt details some of the shoddy research and laughable arguments used by hacks like Everytown. But there was something that was new information to me: the number of children who are accidentally killed by guns has been falling — down 58% over the last 20 years. Such deaths are rare to begin with (0.2 per 100,000 kids) but any such death is horrifying. But even as the number of weapons has grown, the number of kids being accidentally killed is falling. I don’t know why that is: we haven’t mandated trigger locks or done any of the other hundred things the gun grabbers have insisted on. The data is from the National Safety Council and it’s possible that there’s something methodological going on. But if there has been a huge drop in accidental firearms deaths, that’s a great thing. And hopefully a trend that can continue.

My electricity bill is again going to go up due to stupidity

On the last day of June, the SCOTUS struck down the ludicrous mercury regulations the EPA put together and did so because the whole think stunk and provided no information about the cost. Obama, to show them he is the emperor, issued more ridiculously stupid and horribly costly renewable energy fantasy promises. This fucking guy lives in his own stupid reality. At a time where technical people like
Bill Gates explain why everything points to current renewable energy not being viable, Obama doubles down on the stupid. And Gates is not alone to make that argument: Google, a lefty company if ever anything, agreed with him that current renewable energy technology doesn’t cut it. I have made this point myself. Solar, which was too costly and simply too unreliable and inefficient when Jimmy Carter promised to make us use only that in the late 70s has not come much further in the 4 decades since. Wind is an even bigger joke. The cost vs. return for these technologies not only make them prohibitive, but they are ludicrous and stand in the way of viable technologies (like nuclear).

My electrical bill has all but doubled since Obama took office. My consumption has almost been halved. I am almost paying four times as much as I used to per kWh since Obama put his idiotic ideas into motion, and the only people to make like bandits are those connected to the Obama administration that not only receive massive tax payer subsidized funding and breaks, but benefit from stupid shit like this promise by Obama that forces people being squeezed dry but without the knowledge to know they are being hoodwinked, into giving them even more of their money.

Heck, I now even have some new tax that cock gobbler Maloy socked on those of us not sucking at the government’s teat that takes more of my money to help those unable to pay their bill do so. I bet you none of these people I am now “helping” are trying to either reduce their consumption or dependency on this abusive industry that has so enriched collectivists that pretend they are fighting a noble fight against world destroying evil brown energy. Worse yet, unless I do what one of the government approved scams that line the pocket of supporters of these ludicrous and inefficient technologies peddle, I must not only remain on their grid, but accept the ass fucking they send my way every month, and thank them for it too. At this point I am sure I can come up with alternatives that don’t enrich these evil fucks and cost me less. But they will throw my ass in jail for daring to fight their monopoly.

Why are we letting these people run the show, huh? Greece is showing us where this always ends. And China is going to one up them and really fuck up things. There is not enough “Other people’s money” to let the leftists do what they want. No, not make things better, but fleece the productive while throwing scraps to the unproductive for their envious support. The left loves to pretend that the robber barons are in the party they oppose, but reality doesn’t bear that out. I can’t wait for Iran to get the bomb and start WWIII already. Nothing will end the stupidity of liberalism short of a global cataclysm that finally forces mankind to abandon socialism and the other beliefs the left holds dear. We need a mega dose of harsh reality to cure humanity of this mental disorder.