You are browsing the archive for Senate.

Water Cooler – Good News, The Webb Space Telescope Survives, for Now

5:56 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor


Web Telescope Orbit, Pic Courtesy of NASA


So there is some good news for the Space Cadet corps this week. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been fully funded in the Senate. This is big news because the House had fully defunded the project.

A lot of the press about JWST says that it is the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope, but that really does not tell the whole story. You see, JWST is different in just about every particular from the Hubble.

The JWST is designed to “see” in infrared, as well as visible light. This is important because it will be able to further back into time (by way of distance) and give us new data about the early universe that can not be achieved with the Hubble.

It also features a huge and adjustable main mirror, that will be 21 feet in diameter when it deploys. That that the mirror can launch in a folded state and then deploy to the full size is a major difference between the Hubble and JWST. Hubble’s mirror was designed to sit inside the telescope by the new observatory will have it open to space.

With this design and infrared capability there are unique requirements for this telescope. It must be shielded from the heat radiated by the Sun and Earth and must be in a position that will be dark most of the time. The only one place where these conditions exist are at the L-2 point on the far side of the Moon. That is what the graphic above is of.

L-2 stands for Lagrange point 2. This is named after the mathematician who calculated places of orbital stability between orbiting objects. The most commonly known Lagrange points at L-4 and L-5 which are 60 degrees ahead and behind the orbit of the Earth. L-2 on the other hand is a lot closer, it is on the other side of the Moon.

If this project goes ahead, we will park the JWST about 1.5 million kilometers, or about 932,000 miles away. In this spot it will be able to maintain its position with very little use of its rocket fuel. And it will be protected (mostly) from the light and heat of the Earth and the Sun.

It is a very good thing that this project is going forward. Beyond the science which this telescope will be able to perform the experience of placing and operating an observatory this far from the Earth will be a major step forward in our deep space capability. The knowledge gained will help in many forms of manned exploration.

It remains to be seen if the money will stay in the budget for this project. Like everything this new and complex, it has run over budget by quite a bit. Then again so did the Hubble. Can any of you imagine what the world would be like without the pictures we have been treated to over the life of that telescope.

So tonight we can be happy that the JWST is still in progress for its 2018 launch. If there is even a little foresight in Congress it will make that launch date and we will take another huge step forward to learning about and understanding our Universe.

What is on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.

Sen. Kent Conrad Joins The Republican Hostage Takers

5:35 am in jerks by Bill Egnor

Kent Conrad - Caricature

Kent Conrad - Caricature by DonkeyHotey

What the Hell is Sen. Kent Conrad smoking? And why it is that he won’t share (c’mon, Senator, don’t bogart that doobie!)? In today’s Washington Post Sen. Conrad enables the hostage taking of the Republican Party by saying that he does not think that the two trillion in budget cuts that the Administration is talking about is enough.

Worse, the Senior Dufus from North Dakota is actually tying these cuts to the Republican threat of not raising our debt ceiling. But don’t take my word for, here is a quote:

Conrad said he would agree to raise the debt limit for no longer than six months without a more serious effort to reduce future borrowing. And he told reporters that he is recruiting like-minded senators to “send a very clear message that some of us are not going to vote for a long-term extension of the debt limit unless there is a credible plan” to reduce borrowing.

This is not the first time that that Conserva-Dem has tried to hijack the raising of the debt limit ceiling. He was instrumental when we had a 59 seat majority in the Senate for holding up the last round of debt ceiling increase. At the time he rounded up 12 Senators and insisted on the creation of the Simpson Bowels Cat Food Commission as the price for their votes.

What makes me nuts about this whole thing is that it has no basis in economic reality. Yes our debt is high, we have been in the worst economic downturn (major recession plus an anemic recovery) that the nation has seen in 80 years, pretty much the life time of the majority of the nation, this tends to lead to higher debt.
Read the rest of this entry →

Breaking News: Eric Cantor And Jethro Bodine Separated At Birth!

5:34 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Bodineism started as a way for me to highlight the nitwittery of the Republicans in the 111th Congress. They say and do really gob smacking things and I post about comparing them to that gormless but loveable hillbilly Jethro Bodine. But I have to wonder if I have actually, through some unintended and accidental sorcery called this disease into reality (I’m probably taking too much on myself with that, still)?

It is one thing to misinterpret the Constitution, it is open for interpretation and people can be honestly wrong, but it is quit another for a Member of Congress in a leadership position to propose action that is completely outside the boundaries of the Constitution. Which is exactly what Eric Cantor is doing.

He is proposing and will force the House to bring to a vote a measure he is calling the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act”. What this Act will say is that if the Senate does not pass a budget measure by April 6th, then HR 1, the Republicans draconian and job slaughtering bill (which, by the way the Senate has already voted down) will become the law of the land.

I hear you all going “But, but, but… Doesn’t the Senate have to pass a bill and the President sign it for it to be law?” Why, yes, yes it does. It seems that the raven haired, square jawed Virginia Republican who is the House Majority Leader does not understand how the body he has been part of for a decade now works.

If there were an “All Time Jethro Bodineism Award” it is certain that Rep. Cantor would be earning himself a place in the nominees. It is easy to dismiss this as insane and a stunt, but I see a bigger picture emerging among Republicans nation wide.

The lawless behavior of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin has shown that he and his Republicans have a shocking disregard for the laws of their state. They have broken and bent the rules to pass their union busting bill and have even defied a court order in the implementation of the law.
Read the rest of this entry →

Sen. Kyl Plays Politics With Nuclear Safety, And We Suffer For It

6:06 am in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

What do you do when you get everything you ask for in a negotiation? Do you take the deal or do you continue to push and delay? Well if you are a Republican in the Senate it is obviously the latter. It does not matter if the issue is, oh, say the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. You know it is not like it is important that we ratify this treaty so we can go back to inspecting Russian nuclear weapons and delivery systems or anything like that. It is not like Republican intransigence on this issue is what cost us the ability to do so for the past few months, nah nothing important like the United States credibility with the world on the issue of disarmament is on the line.

All sarcasm aside, this is exactly what the Senate Republicans led by Jon Kyl of Arizona are doing. The importance of the New START treaty is not in the number of strategic arms it reduces (the number is pretty modest) but in setting the stage to talk about tactical nuclear weapons and how to reduce this stock pile.

It is also in the ability of nations like the United States to be credible when they insist that North Korea or Iran or Libya or any other fledgling nuclear state give up it program and disassemble its weapons. If our internal squabbles derail the renewal of a treaty with the other largest holder of nuclear weapons, we lose the ability to even propose credible treaties with others.

Read the rest of this entry →

Justice Scalia Says 17th Amendment Was Mistake For States Rights

5:54 am in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

There is nothing that the conservative bend of mind can not screw up and screw up badly. The quest by the Religious Right to overturn Roe v Wade is central example of this. Even though the nation is equally split (with a general slight edge to allowing women to control their own reproduction) the Religious Right has been pushing to have more and more conservative Justices appointed to the High Court. The goal being to finally get the five votes necessary stick a finger in the eye of more than half the nation and remove a woman’s right to choose when and if she would have a child.

This opened the door to other conservative interests and saddled us with Justices that talk about nonsense like “original intent”. I’ve written about how this is really a veiled attempt at case law nullification, as going to the original intent allows Justices who are so inclined to ignore stare decisis (settled law) and take a weed whacker to our understanding of the Constitution based solely on their impression of what the original intent of the Framers was.

All this leads us the recent escapades of the most conservative members of the Court. It is widely reported that Chief Justice Roberts was a headliner at a fund raiser for the American Standard, an ultra conservative magazine where many of the tropes which infect this nation from the right are born and repeated ad nauseam.

Read the rest of this entry →

Okay Democrats, Let’s Talk About Our Failure And What Next

5:43 am in 2010 election, 2012 election, Elections by Bill Egnor

Okay, we got beaten. We did, there is no getting around it. What is important is why did we get beaten? Is it a repudiation of liberal policies? No. Is it that the nation is center-right and wants government to be that way too? No, else the voters would not have put the Republicans in the driver’s seat. The reason we lost as a party is a political failure on our part. We did not excite our base and the Republicans did excite theirs, it really is that simple.

In the last four election cycles the party with the most excited base won. 2004, 2006, 2008 and this cycle all saw the base of the party who won turn out and that swept along the low-information independents. I am not talking about folks who have left one party or the other but still vote for them, but the real independents. To quote Blazing Saddles, simple farmers, the common clay of the New West, you know, morons.

Originally posted at

This group of folks will flock to the banner of whatever party has the most energy coming from their base. They will be like folks who never pay attention to sports then root for the presumed front runner as soon as the play offs start. They don’t really know which party is doing what; they only know what they see on TV and make their choice accordingly. There is no point getting mad at these folks. They are not going to change and the way to win them is to win your base.

We, as Democrats, failed to fire up our base. Our elected Dems spent too much time trying to woo Republicans and failing to put a headlock on our Blue Dogs. We did not talk about the 300 billion in tax cuts that everyone (okay almost everyone) in the U.S. got from the stimulus. We did not talk up the benefits of the stimulus in real terms, but instead went for the “less jobs lost” meme which is too easy for Republicans to dispute.

Read the rest of this entry →

Senators In Gangland

6:18 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Gangster Poker - 1930s Gangster Shoot (Explored)

(picture from Steve Wampler via Flikr)

Not much of value comes from gangs. Oh sure there are some rap artists who started as gang members and I am not going to minimize the art that they have created, but really they are the exception not the rule. Gangs in history and in contemporary America are generally associated with criminal activity.

Given this basic premise it is hard to understand why a long time United States Senator would want to form a gang, but Sen. Lieberman really has a bit of a chubby for them. It was eons ago in blog time, 2005, but there was a show down between Democrats and Republicans over judicial nominees. The Dems where holding up 11 applet court nominees and the Republicans were talking about the “nuclear option” of ending the filibuster.

Read the rest of this entry →

“Punishing Democrats” A Bad Move All The Way Around

6:34 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

There are a lot of angry people in the American electorate. There are the Tea Party folks who think that there has been some kind of revolution and they are in danger of losing their country (even though the country they imagine they were part of never really existed). They are fired up and they intend to vote for some of the most radically reactionary candidates in decades. They have helped nominate folks like Sharon Angle who believes that unemployment insurance is a bad thing, and thinks that it is not a huge problem if conservatives resort to so-called “Second Amendment remedies”, basically armed insurrection.

Then there are another group of angry folks, this time on the Left. They were the ones who suffered through eight years of Republican lawlessness and were inspired by the promise of change the Obama campaign offered. Many feel betrayed by the fact that change has not been as intense as they imagined. They point, with good reason, to the promises made by the President on issues like Health Care reform and the reality of what the legislative process gave us. No public option, lots of compromise and a bill that while it does good things for some is not the kind of transformational change that the Left (myself included) wanted.

I always thought the change meme was a dangerous one. It suffers from a lack of operational definition. If you say change to ten people you will get ten different expectations of change. If you say “we’re going to have a change from the past but not a radical one” you still get different views of what that is. This led to wide and high expectations from many people (again myself included) and was always going to make the failures and compromises seem more galling than normal.

Read the rest of this entry →

November 2010: Looking Into The Abyss

10:00 am in 2010 election, Democratic Party, Elections, Government, Legislature, Politics, Republican Party by Bill Egnor

Nietzsche said:

“When we look into the abyss, searching for monsters, the abyss looks into us as well.”

Right now we are staring the abyss in the face and there are indeed monsters there. This abyss is the elections this fall. The chance that radical Republicans will take over the House and perhaps the Senate has grown. The affect of constant lies from Fox News and Talk Radio have energized the Republican base. The limp leadership from the White House and from Majority Leader Reid has demoralized the Democratic base.

The passing of many of the Lefts long term wish list items, barely and with tons of ridiculous and galling compromise has created a situation where the Right is fired up and the Left is angry at its own leadership. The conditions are in place for a wave election and the wave is not likely to go the way that we Liberals are going to like in any fashion. . . .

Read the rest of this entry →

Democratic Cowardice – Climate Change

7:00 am in climate change, Politics by Bill Egnor

My Mom is where I learned about public service. For 17 years she was a County Commissioner in the second largest county in Michigan by population. During that time she had opportunities to run for higher office, but stayed where she was because she though it was the highest level of public office where one could see the affect of the work one was doing.

It wasn’t always an easy row to hoe. Being that it was Michigan there was always a problem with finding enough money in the budgets to fill all the priorities. There were times when she did what she thought was right, even though people complained. When she set up two health clinic where teens could get condoms without shame or hassle (in the ‘80’s) there was a lot of out cry. Still Mom knew that with the 17% teen pregnancy rate in her district something had to be done.

"Originally posted at"

Read the rest of this entry →