The Police State

…of Illinois:

Over the last few years, surveillance video has also exposed a number of police abuses in Chicago, including one episode in which an off-duty cop savagely beat a female bartender who had refused to continue serving him. He was sentenced to probation.

In 2008, the city made national headlines with another major scandal in which officers in the department’s Special Operations Unit — alleged to be made up of the most elite and trusted cops in Chicago — were convicted of a variety of crimes, including physical abuse and intimidation, home robberies, theft and planning a murder.

In a study published the same year, University of Chicago Law Professor Craig B. Futterman found 10,000 complaints filed against Chicago police officers between 2002 and 2004, more than any city in the country. When adjusted for population, that’s still about 40 percent above the national average. Even more troubling, of those 10,000 complaints, just 19 resulted in any significant disciplinary action. In 85 percent of complaints, the police department cleared the accused officer without even bothering to interview him.

Yet Alvarez feels it necessary to devote time and resources to prosecuting Chicagoans who, given the figures and anecdotes above, feel compelled to hit the record button when confronted by a city cop.

This is outrageous.

We Need More Bureaucrats

…like Orson Swindle:

Mr. Swindle is keen to point out that he did not “eventually come around to the view” that the EDA is a mess and a waste — he went in knowing that. A true-believing Reaganite, his desire was to kill the EDA, or, failing that, to get it on a very short leash.

“It was a controversial agency at that point in time,” he says. “We knew what we were doing: We had to cut off the flow of money. And EDA was one of the worst examples I’d seen in my life, just one massive divvying out of money with nothing to show for it.”

Unable to simply shut the agency down, Mr. Swindle began engaging in some Reaganite hijinx: He began by submitting budget requests of $0.00. When Congress appropriated the money, anyway, Mr. Swindle made it harder to spend, capping grants at around $600,000 instead of the previous multi-million-dollar awards. The bureaucrats did not appreciate that: Ten $600,000 grants instead of one $6 million grant meant ten times the work.

And when all else failed, he turned to shaming the grant recipients. It is customary for government grant-making agencies to write boilerplate congratulatory letters to their clients, along with those oversized checks designed for photo ops. When a particularly egregious grant was proposed, Mr. Swindle would fight it. If eventually forced by Congress to make it, anyway, he’d have some fun with that letter. “Instead of writing, ‘Dear Mr. Mayor, it is my pleasure to award you a $400,000 grant for . . . whatever,’ I’d write, ‘As you know, you have been awarded $400,000 for a project that does not meet the standards or guidelines of EDA. Since you’re getting it, some other, more deserving city isn’t.’”

Maybe the next president can get him back.

About That Coronal Mass Ejection

I was curious as to the effect that yesterday’s event will have on the space weather, so I asked my space weathergirl buddy, solar physicist Dr. Barbara J. Thompson at Goddard. She wrote:

There are three major effects from solar “events” – light from flares, magnetic field & mass from eruptions, and energetic particles (ions and electrons) that can be caused by both flares and eruptions (also called coronal mass ejections or CMEs). These three broad classes are monitored because of the effects they have – see the table at the bottom of this page.

The above image shows the alerts that resulted from the eruption/flare – taken from this page at NOAA’s web site.

In general, flares cause radio interference, CMEs cause geomagnetic storms, and energetic particles cause radiation hazards. However, it’s a complicated system and there are always exceptions to any generalization!

The three different types of phenomena have different ways that they reach Earth. There’s a great explanation here and they have the following diagram:

In the diagram above, the flare is occurring on the Sun at a location where it can be seen from Earth, and the light from the flare takes 8 minutes to reach Earth. The flare yesterday was an M-class flare, which is large but not as large as an X-flare (which is ten times larger), but it had enough strength to have some impact.

The CME (eruption of magnetic field & mass) takes 1-5 days to reach Earth’s orbit, depending on how fast it’s going (1 day is *extremely* unusual). In the figure, the CME isn’t heading towards Earth. However, the forecasts are difficult if the CME isn’t going straight towards Earth. It you look at the diagram above, the CME isn’t hitting Earth. However, what if the CME expanded just a couple of degrees wider than the forecast? The Earth could get a glancing blow from the CME – it could either be hit by the CME itself or by the compressed or shocked fields lines near the CME (shown at the large pink region). Glancing blows are really hard to forecast. Yesterday’s event was opposite of the diagram – the CME was to the right of the Earth instead of the left, but it still was far enough away that anything more than a glancing blow is unlikely. Yesterday’s forecast model is here.

So, the flare’s already finished, and the CME is unlikely to hit us. That leaves energetic particles, which can reach Earth in as little as half an hour after a flare, but can happen for days an eruption. The diagram shows the two sources of the energetic particles — flares and the shock from a CME (note: CMEs don’t always have shocks, it depends on their interaction with the solar wind). The energetic particles move (primarily) along magnetic field lines, and the solar wind makes a spiral shape. Where the Earth crosses the spiral determines whether particles will reach Earth. In the diagram, none of the field lines from the CME’s shock are connected to Earth, but the flare’s SEP might (the red line with the two blue lines around it show the estimated location of the solar wind magnetic field lines. Since yesterday’s CME happened to the right of Earth’s orbit (instead of to the left, as in the diagram), the solar wind field lines were very closely connected to Earth.

The alerts timeline shown above does indicate that there’s an elevated chance of energetic particles continuing through tomorrow.

So, bottom line, probably no biggie for us, though someone in transit to another planet might have to hit the storm shelter. There’s more info over at Space Weather, where they’re predicting a greater-than-25% chance of geomagnetic storms tomorrow.

[Update a little while later]

Barbara has a lot more here, including a cleaned-up version of this explanation (which was an email), though I don’t see much of anything wrong with it.

Teaching Space Policy History

to some Apollo astronauts:

A question for Apollo veterans Armstrong, Cernan, and Lovell: Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say, without reservation, that the Apollo program, as it unfolded in history, held the key to our future on Earth? To our generation for the most part Apollo was a technical success but a policy failure – if that policy was, as Kennedy stated, that Apollo would be the key to our “future on Earth”.

I stood before many of you as a young student over 20 years ago questioning why we had not made any progress in making space the key to our future on the Earth. Today, after being a part of the unfolding of the failures to make progress since then, the answer is clear. We have not made progress because we have failed to embrace the awful truth that Kennedy saw through a glass darkly, which is that economic development of space is the key to our future on the Earth.

In 1969, the United States was at the height of its economic and political power and we turned away from space; today we are broke and the challenges that face our nation are daunting in the extreme. Without a powerful economic incentive, space is simply not worth the expenditure. It is within our financial and technical power to do this as a nation, but not through the brute force method of an “Apollo on steroids” architecture (as cited by Mike Griffin) and certainly not with further flags and footprints.

The day that Werner von Braun, sitting at his desk in Huntsville, caved to the inevitability of the Lunar Orbit Rendezvous method of getting to the Moon. he warned his Huntsville staff that his greatest fear was that Apollo would lead to a “Kilroy Was Here” mentality that would allow our political leaders to kill the program after the first success was had. The ESAS/Constellation architecture of an “Apollo on steroids” program, even if somehow successful, is molded in the same vein, and with our economic difficulties today, would be similarly shut down after the initial goal reached.

There are architectures out there – many of them – that will enable the economic development of the solar system and the harvesting of the resources that are out there, wealth that will transform our world for the better, for the good of all humankind, in keeping with the Kennedy vision and legacy. NASA is making moves in that direction today with a focus on the use of commercial space solutions for cargo and human spaceflight, contracts for fuel depots, and other innovative systems. However, the rump ESAS/Constellation program in the form of the SLS vehicle is not one of them.

Fortunately, it’s not likely to survive more than another year or two at most.

Climate Change–The Republican Position

Some lengthy thoughts and suggestions from Steve Hayward. I particularly liked this:

The climate campaign’s monomania for near-term suppression of greenhouse gas emissions through cap and trade or carbon taxes or similar means is the single largest environmental policy mistake of the last generation. The way to reduce carbon emissions is not to make carbon-based energy more expensive, but rather make low- and non-carbon energy cheaper at a large scale, so the whole world can adopt it, not just rich nations. This is a massive innovation problem, but you can’t promote energy innovation by economically ruinous taxes and regulation. We didn’t get the railroad by making horse-drawn wagons more expensive; we didn’t get the automobile by taxing the railroads; we didn’t get the desktop computer revolution by taxing typewriters, slide-rules, and file cabinets. It is time to stop ending the charade that we can enact shell game policies like cap and trade that will do nothing to actually solve the problem, but only increase the price of energy and slow down our already strangled economy. I support sensible efforts for government to promote energy technology breakthroughs, but am against subsidizing uncompetitive technologies.

Bjorn Lombog’s Cool It is a good source of common sense on this as well.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!