Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The storm gathers in WA

No, No, its a rainstorm.  there’s something worth blogging about, Ha Ha.  This is a different kind of storm.


On April 15, 2009, the WA state legislature passed SB5688, the  DP expansion bill.  The bill expands the Domestic Partner benefits to be on par with Marriage.    The governor Christine Gregoire (right) is set to sign the bill shortly.

Today, April 22 2009, The Stranger, Seattle’s only newspaper, published “Parasite Pastor”  on the emerging effort to bring the question of repealing the these benefits to the ballot box.  The new effort is being coordinated by the Faith and Faith and Freedom Network

randall fixed The champion of this effort is XXXLINK Gary Randall (closet-case, right), their president.  Gary is a Christian talk show radio host, ordained minister,  and former Youth Pastor, giggle. 

Oh Jeez, isn’t this a familiar story.  Let me just take a shot in the dark here.  I see a man who in previous days was, let’s say, a little too chummy with “the boys”.  Faced with the self-hatred inducing disapproval of the church, even in his own teachings, I’m guessing, he’s a closet case.  Rather than accept what it, he’s expressing his own self-hatred by doing his part to keep the gays down. I’m seeing shades of former Florida State Representative Bob Allen.  Remember him? Closeted self-hating closet case cracks down on gay rights, gets strung up by own petard on a park bathroom. *rolls eyes*, I’ll need to look in to this more.  Perhaps Lane Hudson can find us some juicy IM chat logs.

Coming back to rainy Washington, this initiative is apparently already raising money and will start gathering signatures once the governor signs the new DP bill.  You’ll notice I haven’t yet used words like “Initiative”, “Proposition”, “Amendment”, or “Referendum”.  That’s because as of yet, its not yet clear which one it will be.

In Washington state, we spend most of our time passive aggressively bitching about the rain, smugly looking down our noses at California, arguing over the Monorail year after year and then doing nothing about it, and drinking lots of snooty over-caffeinated coffee, er, Espresso.  We’re very, very uptight.  So, just like everything else here in Seattle, our system for “Power to the People!” i.e., taking things to the ballot box, is over engineered and  ridiculously complex.  There’s actually 3 options here, as explained to me:

  1. A Referendum to repeal the passed-currently-awaiting-governors-signature domestic partner expansion bill.
  2. An Initiative to repeal ALL domestic partner benefits in Washington state law.
  3. A Legislative Initiative to direct the legislature to do so.

Viva La Revolution! Just fill out one of these forms…


This referendum takes the decisions of the executive and legislative branches to the ballot box. The No on Prop 8 people cite wrong-way ballots as a problem due to the “No” vote required to keep gay marriage.  In Washington, it will be the reverse.  This would put the following question to the people:

Do you want to keep the new DP bill that both houses in the legislature passed and the governor signed?  Yes or No.

So, we’ve got a “Yes campaign”.  So, you’ll need to vote Yes on it.  So, even though we’re fighting the resolution, you must vote yes on it.  I suspect we’ll have our own wrong-way problem. 

The plus side is we can say “Yes!  I approve of equality for all!”, “Yes to Gay Marriage”  “Yes, Gay Marriages for everyone, whether you like it or not!!!”

The Referendum would require gathering about 90k signatures within 90 days after the legislative session ends. 

Initiative to kill DP

The first kind of initiative that can be created is to enact a repeal of ALL DP benefits.  This would invalidate DP benefits in all Washington laws.  This would be a huge step backward.

This would require approximately 240 thousand signatures before 90 days after the legislative session ends.

Legislative Initiative

The third option, which frankly I am still researching, is a longer term plan to let the people tell the legislature what to do.  For example, they might pass an initiative to direct the legislature to pass a law to kill gay people.   This option would not be on the ballot until 2010.   I’m still not clear on what happens if the legislature does not have the votes to pass it.  I’ll report more on exactly how this works soon. 

Starting Early

We’re starting to get the wheels rolling on defeating this attempt at bigotry and we’ll need as much support as we can get.  Hopefully we can have a successful Decline to Sign campaign and it will never reach the ballot.  We’re also tracking them to see if this is a war-chest building effort for future tyranny.

One thing we learned from California, is that complacency can kill us.  So, if you have friends or family in Washington state, start now, give them a ring, share your story with them, and tell them that this is important to you. 

This is stake in the ground, lets learn how to win these battles!    Let’s use the lessons learned from Prop 8 and improve our game*.

* Hopefully someone from the No on Prop 8 tech team will put drive and share the results report of a post mortem report like the campaign leadership did.  I’m surprised this hasn’t happened.  *nudge* *nudge*

Stay tuned! Find out what happens next in the next episode…

PS: Don’t forget to check out Equal Rights Washington.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Columbia: what exactly happened?



Just before the new year started, NASA released the Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report.  This is a more detailed report on the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia which expands on their original report shortly after the disaster.  The original report’s conclusions were that a piece of insulating foam fell off the external fuel tank.  This piece of foam, about the size of a briefcase, collided with the leading edge of the left wing, creating a hole.  During reentry, this hole allowed hot gases to enter the wing and led to the eventual breakup of the Orbiter. 

While this overview is now well known, the Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report presents a much more detailed analysis of the step by step failure of Columbia.  It also outlines the likely fate of the crew.  This post is a summary of the 400 page report.

shuttle body parts Figure 1

Before diving in, lets cover some basics about the Orbiter.  Structurally, the Orbiter has 3 main parts. The forebody, the midbody, and the aftbody.  The forebody is made up of an outer fuselage which contains the crew module, which is suspended within it by various braces and connections to the midbody.  The midbody is essentially the payload bay and payload bay doors.  Aft of the midbody is connected to the obviously named aftbody.  The aftbody contains the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME).

Both the forebody and the aft body also contain small thrusters.  These small rocket engines, called Reaction Control Systems, or RCS jets, are used for for in-space maneuvering.  These engines are located in the RCS pods in front of the crew module in the forebody, and in the bulges on both sides of the tail where it connects to the body of the orbiter.

When the orbiter is in the earth’s atmosphere, during launch, reentry and landing, it uses airplane-like aerodynamic controls.  On the trailing edge of the wings are elevons, which perform similar functions as the combination of ailerons and spoilers on a normal airplane.  Similarly, the trailing edge of the tail or vertical stabilizer has a rudder.  These surfaces are controlled via a hydraulics system.


Initial contact with the atmosphere 13:44:06

Entry Interface (EI) is the beginning of the transition between space and the atmosphere, where both aerodynamic surfaces and RCS jets can control the shuttle.  Damage on left wing increases as hot gases grow the hole and decrease structural integrity of the wing.  Drag created by this damage causes the shuttle to twist (yaw) to the left of the direction of travel (velocity vector).   Initially, at least, the shuttle’s hydraulic system was able to compensate for the drag and keep the shuttle within the limits of its reentry path.

shuttle yaw

Figure 2

As time goes on, the drag continues to increase, as the hot gases begin to widen the hole in the left wing.  As a result, the left wing starts shedding debris and the condition gets worse.  The combination of the hydraulic systems and the RCS jets are able to keep the shuttle from veering outside the limits of its flight attitude. 

Loss of Control 13:59:37

The hot gases flowing into the wing eventually destroy the hydraulic systems which power the aerodynamic flight surfaces.  Unfortunately, there is not adequate redundancy in the system and the shuttle loses all hydraulic power.  As a result all of the RCS jets are firing at maximum, but it is not enough.  To make matters worse, when the hydraulic system fails, the control surfaces, now moving freely, gravitate to a nose-up position.  The shuttle pitches up, as well as continues increase its yaw to the left.  The simulated motion of the shuttle is shown in the figure below.

shuttle spin

Upon recovery of the cockpit control panels, the switch positions were set in a way that indicated that the crew was aware of the hydraulic failure and was attempting restart procedures for the system.

The flow of hot gas flow generated by the friction of the atmosphere is still along the direction of travel, but the shuttle is now in a flat spin.    The left wing continues to deteriorate. Inside the shuttle, the spin increases the G forces beyond anything seen in previous shuttle flights. This creates a situation where the gas flow is no longer only impacting the heat protected surfaces of the shuttle.   Instead the gas flow travels along the right side and up over the payload doors, which is now exposed due to the yaw and pitch deviations.  The payload doors are not heat shielded and begin to heat up.

Payload door failure

At 14:00:18, Mission Control receives the last frame of telemetry data.  At this point, the data contains data from the payload door sensors indicating that they were still intact.  During ground recovery of the shuttle debris field, the earliest parts of the shuttle found in significant amounts are from the left wing, and the payload bay doors.  This means that they were the first to fail, as significant debris from other parts of the shuttle were not found until further along in the debris field. 

After this point, with no more telemetry data, the conclusions of the report are determined by analysis of video footage, position of debris along the trail of debris from west to east, calculated paths of descent, and the condition of the parts found.

Shuttle Breakup

Once the payload doors had failed, the inside of the payload bay was exposed to the gas flow.  The most important area of exposure was the connection between the right rear of the forebody and the payload bay sidewall. This connection is made by a large beam called an X-link, because its a link along the X axis.  When this X-link was found in the debris, it was damaged in a way that showed that had failed to connect the forebody and the payload bay.  The figure below shows where the failure happened.

gas flow over X link

Separation of the Forebody

The combination of the G forces of the spin, the lack of structural stability provided by the payload doors, combined with the heating and weakening of the X-Link, cause the link to fail.  The forebody, including the crew module separated from the rest of the shuttle.  At this point, all power and lighting inside the crew module was lost.

Earlier, I mentioned that the crew module is suspended inside the outer fuselage of the forebody by various supports as well as the X-link.  As this separation occurred, without the support of the X-Links, the crew module became free to move within the fuselage.  It slid forward and down inside the fuselage.  At the bottom of the crew module pressure hull, there are storage compartments with access panels accessible within the crew module.  These storage compartments occupy the space between the bottom of the crew module and the outer fuselage. 

shuttle CM depressurization

Crew Module Depressurization

The diagram above, shows storage compartment “Vol E” impacting the crew module supports and fuselage wall.  During debris recovery, the contents of this compartment were found earlier along the trail than any other crew module debris.  The contents of the compartment were NASA and shuttle patches.  This supports the conclusion that the crushing of this compartment caused the depressurization of crew module. 

Crew Unconsciousness

The last video frame from within the shuttle showed that the crew did not have their pressure visors down and some did not have their gloves attached to their pressure suits.  Both of these would be required for the pressure suits to seal and protect them from the depressurization.  When the parts of the suites and helmets were recovered, analysis concluded that the visors had not been lowered and some gloves were not attached.  The depressurization happened so rapidly that the crew did not have time to perform these steps and activate their pressure suits before they became unconscious.

Crew Deathcrew patch

Once the crew was unconscious, they no longer braced themselves and their movement was constrained only by their seat restraint systems. The restraint systems lower body straps keep the legs and waist attached vertically to the seat along the Y axis.  The upper body straps are intended to keep the back restrained to the seatback along the X axis. These upper straps are connected to an inertial reel locking system.  This device operates similarly to the seatbelt locking mechanism in your car.  When the X axis acceleration exceeds a set limit, the reel with lock.  If you slam on the brakes in your car, you’ll experience a similar lock. 

Upon recovery and analysis of the inertial reel lock mechanisms, it was found that they had not locked and remained open during the accident.  This failure to lock as expected cause the crew’s upper bodies to be unrestrained such that they could move left to right and forward and back while their lower bodies remained restrained to the seat.  With the extreme forces produce by the spinning and falling of the crew module, this combination resulted in severe internal blunt force trauma injuries to the crew.  It is estimated that while the crew was incapacitated and unconscious due to the decompression, it is likely that they continued to have circulatory activity until these injuries resulted in death.


Why did the seatbelt locking mechanism fail?

It turns out that this failure is, unfortunately, “by design”.  The locking mechanisms performed as they were designed.  These seats are modified military helicopter seats. The locking mechanism will lock if the X axis force exceeds a limit.  However, due to the nature of the breakup and rolling of the crew module, the fatal forces were in the Y and Z axes.  What’s heartbreaking is that this flaw was identified by the military and recent military craft were fitted with new seats to avoid this.  However, these changes were made after the construction of the shuttles and apparently NASA didn’t get the memo.

Why didn't the crew have their pressure suits activated during reentry, especially once problems arose?

The shuttle was originally designed as a “shirt-sleeve” environment much like an airplane.  The shuttle control panels and switches were designed for the size of naked fingers.  It was only after the Challenger accident that the crews began wearing pressure suits during launch and reentry.  With the gloves on, it was difficult and cumbersome to operate these controls.  As a result, many crews kept their gloves off in order to better operate the controls.

Shuttle crew training focuses their attention on troubleshooting and problem solving.  It appears that the crew underestimated the gravity of the situation and was consumed with troubleshooting what appeared to be non-critical problems.  As a result, they never switched from problem solving mode into survival mode.

I would like to read this report, where can I find it?

The list of recent NASA reports can be found at:

The URL for the Columbia Crew Survival Report is:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Support the CA Supreme Court

While we’re focusing on JTI and the Courage protest, we should also shed some light on legal challenge and the controversy that could lead to.

A friend and I have been watching the discussion that’s ensued since the election and there is an interesting concern emerging regarding what could happen to our allies on the California supreme court if they stand with us.

As California’s court is composed of elected justices, their ability to stand on principle is significantly more constrained than the US Supreme Court.  Given that a decision in our favor would be viewed by our opponents as overriding the will of the people, our allies could very well face re-election problems at the ballot box.   An angry movement of bigotry could not only remove our rights, but replace the justices with less friendly socially conservative ones.

As it happens right now, the YES on 8 bullhorn is preemptively stoking anger at the judiciary in California. 

Note this quote from the 11/12 YES on 8 Mailer:

Although past court decisions seem to favor our case, we cannot trust the same judicial system that overturned Proposition 22 to protect our Election Day decision.

We must remain active and hold our government officials accountable. This battle is far from over. Join us as we continue to push forward in our defense of marriage!

I think the reality is that when they say "we cannot trust the same judicial system..." that's a coded threat to the state supreme court.  If they the court reverses the bigotry of Prop 8, they will suffer.

This is not the first time this has happened.  Take Rose Bird, for example.  She was the first female justice on the CA supreme court, also the Chief Justice.  In 1986, after 10 years on the bench as a progressive ally, she was removed by a revenge effort by conservatives.

From her Wikipedia Page:

Rose Elizabeth Bird (November 2, 1936–December 4, 1999) served for 10 years as the 25th Chief Justice (and first female Justice & only female Chief Justice) of the California Supreme Court until removed from that office by the voters. Bird was targeted by well-funded conservative and pro death penalty groups whose withering attacks painted her as a soft-on-crime liberal. After being outspent two to one, she lost her reconfirmation bid and left office in 1987.

So, we must stand up for our progressive allies on the California court.  They stood up for us earlier this year when they ruled, despite the state voters having approved prop 22, that same sex marriage is a right that we have.  Now, they will likely face a pitched battle to either bow to our enemies or face removal.

For bloggers, we need to get this message out in the short term.  This dovetails well with the protests this weekend.   There have been calls to ensure that these protests are Americans expressing their right to equality, a founding principle.  People are suggesting bringing American flags as well as rainbow flags. 

If you can, please repeat this message and encourage protesters to show their support for the California supreme court.  They’ve shown their support for us, now we need to support them!

If you’re protesting yourself, and can carry a sign, consider one supporting the court.

A quick brainstorm in my head came up with:

  • “Defend our Rights, Defend the Court”
  • "I (heart) the judicial system"
  • “activist judges eliminate rights. support a supreme court that preserves them!”

Anyone have any other clever ideas?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I was protecting marriage before I got out of my last one

From the Capitol Morning Report listings..

Today in Washington, DC, 30,000 couples are gathering to reaffirm their vows.  The group, often known as "The Moonies",  led by Sun Myung Moon, follow the "Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity".


Most are just reaffirming, but 2,000 are embarking on arranged marriages.  So much for Love being part of a marriage. 


Its one thing to talk the talk about "protecting" marriage, but I guess it's another thing to actually walk the walk.  As usual, you don't actually have to follow the rules you set for others and you can still wear the badge of righteousness, especially if you are a leader.  The rules don't apply to you.

Take Mr. Moon, for example.  He's on his 4th wife!   What about commitment?  What about Love?  How about some integrity with your message?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Prop 8: Don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

If we don't get out the vote, we will lose!

Since the beginning of this race, its been an up and down battle.  While we were ahead in the polls during the summer until the YES on Proposition 8 effort began their advertising campaign.  With the arrival of their ads, especially the Gavin Newsom "Whether you like it or not!", the polls for us went down significantly.  Since then, the campaign has pulled out all the stops to respond to these. 

A whole lot of money, time and effort has been spent with the hope defeating Proposition 8.  Between TV ads, viral videos, innovative use of social networks like facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, no stone was left unturned.   As a result of this work, we've made huge strides in our poll numbers.  Right now, we're in a dead heat. 

At this point, what it will come down to is how many people we get out to vote.  Things are not equal, the opposition has the advantage here.  They have done a great job getting their side out to vote and the early voting numbers show it.  If the votes were counted right now, we'd lose by a large margin. 

On election day, if  its looking like Obama (Yah!) has it in the bag, by mid-day here in California, people may assume that they don't need to vote.  If this happens, the early votes will have extra significance and we will lose.

As the symbolic capital of the gay community, the battle for same sex marriage in California is really the battle for the nation.  If, after all thats been expended on this battle to bring us to an advantage that we lose because the GOTV effort sputtered, that will be a huge disaster.  California will have a constitutional amendment that holds us back for many years to come.

There are many important races in this election, and I don't mean to diminish their importance.  However, while you can reelect a new candidate in 2 or 4 years for an elected office position, you can't expect to quickly overturn a constitutional amendment.

The campaign has done everything it can to win this.  Will you?

Please come out and help with our GOTV effort:

Friday, October 31, 2008

What happens if Prop 8 Passes

There's a lot of consternation going on about Proposition 8 in California these days with the election coming up.  Many people argue that it is not such a big deal if it passes, that Domestic Partner and Marriage Equality are basically the same thing.  On the surface, it might seem so.  However, but there are clear differences between the two.  

First off, even if they were made the same by giving the same rights to both types, there is still the matter of separate but equal which, as segregation has taught us, is separate but unequal.  As long as there are separate classes, people, governments, and institutions will continue to discriminate.  As new policies and new elected governments come about, each class will have to be separately written in to be accounted for.  Similarly, existing policies, lets say at your employer who has "Spouse" hard coded into internal applications, payroll processing systems, benefits administration will automatically support same sex marriages, but would need significant re-working to accommodate a new or separate class such as "Domestic Partner".

Aside from these indirect differences, below you will find a table of concrete differences as outlined by Let California Ring:


Area Marriage Domestic Partnership

Legal Status, Recognition, Portability
of Rights

Universally recognized in all 50 states. Includes more than 1000 federal rights and benefits. Legal structure in place to dissolve marriages and divide property equitably. Not valid outside of the state that grants it. No federal protections. Legal structure to dissolve partnership not guaranteed outside of state. May be dissolved without court ruling under some circumstances.


Universal societal understanding, honor and respect for the nature of a couple's relationship and commitment. Not universally understood because benefits vary widely by jurisdiction. Without common understanding of their meaning, domestic partnerships don't provide the same kind of honor and respect that marriages do.

Decisions, Emergencies

Spouses and family members allowed to make decisions for incompetent or disabled person absent written instructions.

Partner's right to visitation and medical decision making may not be recognized out of state.

right to visitation and medical decision making may not be recognized
out of state.

The myriad of laws in place provide security about basic family protections that are socially recognized and won't disappear. Partners may feel unsure of legal protection, and at the mercy of political whims of elected officials.
Tax Benefits Guaranteed unlimited transfers and gifts and automatic right to inherit without tax penalties. Able to file federal income taxes jointly. Large gift transfers and inheritance transactions subject to federal taxes. Federal tax returns filed separately.

Retirement, Leave,
and other Family Benefits

Eligible for Social Security, veteran's benefits and pension plan survivor benefits upon death of spouse. Entitled family leave to care for ill spouse. Do not receive Social Security, veteran's benefits and pension plan survivor benefits upon death of partner. Not guaranteed equal benefits from employers. Excluded from long-term care benefits. Not guaranteed family leave to care for ill partner.

and Child Support

Criminal penalties imposed if a spouse abandons a child or spouse. Outside of state, partners have no legal obligation to support their partner.
Immigration U.S. citizens can sponsor spouse, family members for immigration. No benefits for couples in bi-national relationships.
Common Residence Not required. Must share common residence.
Name Changes Allowed upon marriage. Not allowed without court order.


Recorded only at county level with no address on the form. Maintained by the state with a central, public and easily-searchable database.