Friday, April 11, 2014

Flight 370 Again

It's now been two weeks since the Australian PM announced that, based upon analysis of the satellite handshakes, that they were confident that Flight 370 went down in the Indian Ocean some 1500 miles off the western coast of Australia.

Since then a number of debris sighting turned out to be just discarded flotsam.

The latest leads are based upon a series of RF signals at 37.5 khz that may be from the planes data recorders. Or, they may not.

The radio pings have allowed the searchers to reduce the size of the search area but whether they're closing in on Flight 370 or something else is hard to say.

The fact of the matter is that with no debris there is no hard physical evidence that the plane is in fact anywhere near where they're searching.

Since I don't know the analysis they performed on the SATCOM communications, I don't know if this is an example of desperate people convincing each other that what they're doing is correct.

I don't know what the RF signals are although we do know with absolute certainty that 37.5 khz is the frequency that the block boxes on that particular Boeing 777 would use.

I'm tempted to predict the plane will never be found as that would probably guarantee they find it in the next day or two.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jesus's Wife Manuscript may be Authentic

The chemical analysis of a scrap of papyrus known as "The Gospel of Jesus's Wife" appears to be authentic in terms of its age.

In the scrap Jesus refers to his "wife."

Of course simply concluding that the scrap isn't a medieval forgery like so many documents doesn't say anything about the accuracy of the text. So, I wouldn't start talking about a Mrs. Jesus just yet. Scholars aren't even 100% certain the word translated as "wife" means the same thing as it means today.

Afghan Security Forces Surprise Everyone

To the amazement of just about everyone, the Afghan Security Forces managed to protect voters and voting during the elections in Afghanistan.

Make no mistake about it this is pretty amazing stuff. The Taliban, who had threatened to disrupt the elections, were pretty much kept in check by security forces which earned themselves wide admiration for a job well done.

I wouldn't start celebrating the birth of democracy in Afghanistan just yet but this is a pretty good start.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Same Sex Marriage Cases Move to Appeals Courts

The first Appeals Court hearing on the constitutionality of same sex marriage bans will occur in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Thursday. The court will hear oral arguments on the Utah ban overturned by a federal judge.

Federal judges in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia have also struck down similar bans. The Tenth Circuit will hear the case from Oklahoma a week after the Utah case.

Utah's legal brief argues that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples "helps prevent further erosion of the traditional concept of marriage as being principally a child-centered institution, one focused first and foremost on the welfare of children rather than the emotional interests of adults."

The state argues that children do better when raised by "a mother and father in intact families" and that changing what constitutes marriage "would likely reduce over time the proportion of children being raised in one of those arrangements."

Lawyers for the three couples challenging the ban counter that marriage is not "a zero-sum game that pits the needs of children against the desires of adults. To the contrary, marriage benefits the health and well-being of both adults and children."

I agree with that and there is also the position by most professional psychological organizations that there is little difference in children raised by homosexual or heterosexual couples.

Even if we concede that children are better off raised by a mother and father, being raised in a loving family with two mothers or two fathers is a hell of a lot better than being raised with no mother and no father.

Then there is the point that not all marriages are aimed at having children. Some couples decide against it; some couples find they simply cannot and some get married late in life beyond childbearing age.

In other words, Utah's argument is total crap and I suspect that Oklahoma's will be as well. I find it hard to believe that the Appeals Court will buy into the nonsense being spewed by the state of Utah.

It's all going to end up in the lap of the Supreme Court no matter what the Appeals Courts say but a string of victories in the Appeals Courts would make it harder for the Supremes to do something really stupid.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Supreme Court won't hear NM Photographer Case

The case of the New Mexico couple with the photography business that refused to take pictures of a lesbian commitment ceremony will not be reviewed by the US Supreme Court.

The couple had appealed to the Supreme Court based upon what they claimed was a violation of their 1st Amendment rights. A New Mexico Court had ruled that the couple had violated the anti-discrimination provisions of the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

The couple appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court which ruled against them saying that the business could be regulated because it is a public accommodation.  Now the US Supreme Court has refused to consider the case leaving the NM Supreme Court ruling in place.

One has to wonder what this means, if anything, for the Hobby Lobby case.

One-year Old Toddler Rescued at Sea

A one-year old girl who fell ill at sea on her family's sail boat has been rescued by the US Coast Guard, US Navy and California Air National Guard.

The Kaufmans had set sail on their 36-foot sail boat for an anticipated trip across the Pacific with the one-year old and her three-year old sister.

The girl became ill and the boat lost its steering and communications about 900 mile southwest of Cabo San Lucas Mexico. The couple sent a satellite call to the Coast Guard for help.

The Coast Guard responded by sending four California Air National Guard members to parachute near the boat while the Navy frigate USS Vandegrift sailed toward the crippled boat.

The guard members stabilized the child and then took the family to the warship on an inflatable raft. The Kaufmans sail boat, named the Rebel Heart, was sunk by authorities because it was taking on water and represented a maritime hazard.

The Vandegrift is expected to land in San Diego on Wednesday.

I'm happy the girl is safe but I sincerely hope the Kaufmans get presented with a whopping bill because, in my humble opinion, they are certifiable idiots.

First of all, who the hell sets sail across the Pacific Ocean with a one-year old and a three-year old on board? I don't care how experienced a sailor you are, I guarantee you the one-year old isn't very experienced.

Second of all, they lost both steering and communications at the same time? Nice way to maintain your boat Kaufman.

You can't keep people from doing stupid stuff and, at least this time, the Coast Guard, Navy and Air National Guard saved the one-year old from paying for the folly of her parents. Unfortunately, not all stupid moves have a happy ending.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Health Care Law

What I find amusing are all these people criticizing Obamacare who (1) have clearly not been on the exchanges and (2) most likely already have health care insurance.

 First let's acknowledge that the role out was screwed up and the technical issues were a total fiasco even given the complexity of the web sites.

Second, I'll talk about my personal experience.

I have health care but one of my daughters doesn't. We've been covering her via COBRA from my wife's health care plan. The cost was $524 a month. The plan was administered by Blue Cross-Blue Shield and was a PPO.

Getting on the New Jersey exchange was a challenge but once we managed that we found that the health plans were organized in several tiers. The lowest tier was a "catastrophic policy" which basically covered nothing but extended hospitalization and the basics that all plans must cover. Then there were Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans with ascending costs, varying deductable and ascending coverage.

Ultimately we chose a Silver Plan from Blue Cross-Blue Shield with reasonable co-pay, deductable and prescription support. The plan was an EPO but, since we're talking Blue Cross-Blue Shield, just about every doctor we knew was a part of the network anyway.

It took a while to compare the various benefits because there were significant differences and it wasn't always obvious why one plan had higher premiums than another. The plan we ultimately chose was $335 a month. By far the longest part of the process was comparing the plans. After hitting the "yes I want that one" button they gave you a phone number at Blue Cross-Blue Shield to call but everything pretty much moved forward from there auto-magically.

After going through the exercise I also understood why they probably had such problems getting the exchanges off the ground. The site links directly not only to health care provider sites but also to the IRS for checking tax returns. The complexity is no excuse but it is more complicated a system than I originally thought.

Could the plans be better? Absolutely. Will their costs go up? Very probably. Is 35 million people without health insurance a financial catastrophe? You bet it is. By law a hospital cannot refuse someone care regardless of whether they have insurance or can pay. When you have 35 million without health insurance (1) they don't get medical attention until it's a crisis and (2) they go via the emergency room which is the most inefficient and expensive option.

Universal health insurance is a financially sound approach. Personally I think we should have Medicare for everyone with varying levels of coverage and premiums because a single payer system would be far and away the most efficient. The current health care law is far from perfect but it's a step in the right direction.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Johnny Manziel and the NFL Draft

Johnny Manziel, also known as Johnny Football, from Texas A&M will be in this years NFL draft and the Houston Texans have the #1 overall pick.

I could be wrong but I have to believe that Houston will take Manziel #1. Here is my reasoning (*cough, cough*):

1. They desperately need a QB especially now that they traded Matt Schaub to Oakland.
2. If they take Manziel and he's a star, hello Texans as the new Texas pro darlings and good-bye that other team up near Dallas (what are they called again?).
3. The fans in Texas will forgive them if they take Manziel and he's a bust.
4. The fans in Texas will forgive them if they don't take Manziel and he's a bust (unless he ends up with Cleveland. No forgiveness if Johnny gets exiled to Cleveland because no one can succeed in Cleveland).
5. The fans in Texas will NEVER forgive them if they don't take Manziel and he becomes an NFL star. 

OK, in all seriousness. Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M playing for the Houston Texans is a media blitz made in heaven. The only thing that could be better is if he ended up playing for that other Texas team up near Dallas (what are they called again?).

That would mean that Jadeveon Clowney would fall into the lap of St. Louis who I would assume would be quite happy. The Rams are set at QB.

If the Texans take Clowney instead and, like I said, the Rams are set at QB with Sam Bradford, the next three teams to draft will be Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland. All of them need a QB. Even Oakland who just acquired Matt Schaub.

The three top QB prospects are Manziel, Blake Bortles from Central Florida and Teddy Bridgewater from Louisville. I'm betting at least two of these three will be gone by the time the Atlanta Falcons are on the clock and if Houston picks Manziel, then all three could be gone.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Flight 370 Again

The Prime Minister of Malaysian announced this morning that they are now confident that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went down in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia.

The conclusion is apparently driven by additional analysis of the satellite data received from Inmarsat.

No offense guys but analysis is still analysis and, without a lot more information on the analysis that was performed, described as something that hadn't been done before by the PM, I'll remain a tad skeptical.

This isn't good enough. It leaves way too many questions such as, if the plane did go down there, what the hell was it doing there?