Ted Cruz ‘s long game

Texas senator Ted Cruz has infuriated his Republican party leadership by boxing them in into a situation where they could not avoid looking as if they were surrendering on the Tea Party push to defund Obamacare. And sure enough, this afternoon, the Senate voted to restore funding for Obamacare in the continuing resolution bill and sent it back to the House of Representatives. [Read more…]

Is this any way to run the world’s largest economy?

What the hell is going on in Congress?

I have been (kind of) following the posturing that has been going on over the efforts to pass a continuing resolution bill by October 1. The normal budgetary process of passing the 12 appropriation bills to fund the government for the next fiscal year has long since broken down. In its place we now have the practice of passing continuing resolutions at the last minute that essentially says that we continue doing what was done the previous year. The idea of the budget being also a planning document that determines the priorities for the coming year has gone out the window and we seem to have entered a Groundhog Day world where each year repeats the previous one, at least in budgetary terms. In fact, we should really consider this the new normal, since the chances of Congress ever getting its act together enough to do its most basic function, pass a budget, seem increasingly remote. [Read more…]

How many habitable planets are out there?

By ‘habitable’ I mean planets that are neither too cold nor too hot but occupy a sweet spot that would be conducive to life as we know it existing. By combining actual data, from the Kepler space observatory launched by NASA in 2009 to look for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, with statistical analysis, scientists have come up with an estimate of 15-30 billion habitable planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone. That seems like a lot, even if that number is tiny compared to the estimated 1011 stars in the galaxy. [Read more…]

The dangers of traveling while Muslim

I have written repeatedly about the fact that it is when you are entering the US that you have the least rights and that the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which operates as part of the Orwellian-sounding Department of Homeland Security, abuses people with impunity by detaining them for long periods of time, harassing them, keeping them under harsh conditions, taking their property, humiliating and degrading them, and renditioning them to other countries to be tortured, all without giving them any reasons. Other countries also abuse their border powers, as what happened to David Miranda at Heathrow airport shows. [Read more…]

What are you?

Of course, the particular pair of dichotomies in the figure below does not capture the full spectrum of beliefs. I, for example, do not believe in any gods because they are a totally unnecessary, evidence-free hypothesis. I am as certain of their non-existence as I am of the non-existence of Santa Claus. But where does that fit? [Read more…]