Democrats have worst fundraising April since 2009

The Democrats this year took in the lowest amount of donations for the month of April since 2009.

The Democratic National Committee reported its worst April of fundraising since 2009, according to Federal Election Commission records released Monday. The DNC reported taking in $4.7 million last month. While this is an off-year for fundraising, the DNC hauled $8.5 million last year, and nearly $5 million in 2015. Between 2010 and 2014, the Democrats received anywhere from $6.3 million to $14.4 million per year.

However, the drop in donations coincides with an effort by DNC Chair Tom Perez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to rally support for the party. The two traveled the country on a “unity tour.”

Could it have something to do with the violent behavior of their supporters? Or maybe the outright childish and obscene behavior of California elected officials?

The anti-Trump fervor at California’s Democratic Party convention this weekend can be summarized in choice words from outgoing chair of the California Democratic Party, John Burton: “#*%! Donald Trump.”

The always foul-mouthed Burton, 84, stood before thousands of Democratic delegates at Saturday’s general assembly and as a rallying cry asked the crowd to join in. He then shoved two fists in the air, flipping the bird. Across the room at the Sacramento Convention Center, others onstage and in the audience followed suit.

Onstage were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Rep, Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, state Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and others.

Such behavior by elected officials is not just childish, it is barbaric, uncivilized, and uneducated, and should disqualify everyone who condones it from getting anyone’s votes, forever. Sadly, the Democrats now have a sizable population of voters who are as barbaric, uncivilized, and uneducated, and will vote for Democrats because they are barbaric, uncivilized, and uneducated, and will use that barbarism to further their uncivilized aims. Remember, even though the Democrats had a bad fund-raising month in April, they still garnered $4.7 million in donations. That indicates the existence of a lot of supporters of this behavior.

I am once again reminded of this:
» Read more

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The face of Ceres

The face of Ceres

Cool image time! The image on the right, reduced in resolution to show here, was taken by Dawn on April 29, 2017, when the spacecraft had been positioned between the Sun and the dwarf planet at a moment when its entire surface was lit. They have enhanced the colors to bring out the contrasts.

Images combining these different color filter perspectives reveal fine details of Ceres’ surface. For example, they emphasize the distinct compositions and textures of the material ejected from craters. The brightest region on Ceres, called Cerealia Facula, is highlighted in Occator Crater in the center of this image. Vinalia Faculae, the set of secondary bright spots in the same crater, are located to the right of Cerealia Facula.

One of the darkest regions on Ceres is next to Occator, and represents ejected material from the impact that formed the crater. The ejected material forms a large arc that extends over several hundred kilometers, below the center of Ceres in this image. That material’s distribution is partly determined by Ceres’ rotation.

Be sure to take a close look at the full image. It isn’t super high resolution, but it reveals a lot of interesting details

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Emergency spacewalk on ISS to replace electronics relay box

Astronauts will perform an emergency spacewalk on May 23 to replace the failed MDM electronics relay box that failed on Saturday.

So, they have a spare on board, which is good. The article does note, however, that the unit that failed had only been installed less than two months ago, on March 30. This is not good. These units should last longer than two months, especially considering how critical they appear to be.

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Rocket Lab launch delayed

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has delayed its first test launch of its Electron rocket because of predicted high winds.

The company has not yet said if they have rescheduled for Tuesday.

This article gives a very detailed overview of the rocket, its engines, and the history of its launch site. It also notes that if successful, the launch will be first orbital flight ever from a commercial company from its own commercial launch site.

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Primary data relay electronics unit on ISS truss fails

ISS managers are meeting to make a plan to deal with the failure on Saturday of the #1 data relay electronics box on the S0 truss of the station.

The unit, called an MDM, has an identical backup in place so no station operations have so far been effected. However, that backup had failed back in 2014 and required a spacewalk to replace it, so it is not clear to me as yet whether the station has any additional spares available to replace the newly failed unit. If so, it will still require a spacewalk to make the switch.

If there is no spare, they will likely have to ship one up on the next cargo flight, as the MDM is essential for operating the solar panels and radiators as well as the robot arms.

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Academic journal publishes another hoax paper

The coming dark age: The academic journal Cogent Social Science has published a hoax paper that claims the penis is a social construct that is causing global warming.

The authors begin, “Anatomical penises may exist,” but the “conceptual penis is better understood not as an anatomical organ but as a social construct.” It goes downhill from there. “There are many women who have penises,” they boldly claim. Then, they gratuitously listed some crude synonyms for the penis, such as: “beaver basher,” “custard launcher,” “pork sword,” and “mayo shooting hotdog gun.” They explained that “manspreading” — when a man sits with his legs open — is “akin to raping the empty space around him.”

At this point, it is worth stopping to ponder that this didn’t raise any red flags with the editors of the journal. Not only did they think this was perfectly intellectual, publishable material, they praised the authors for their work.

Yet, the absurdity didn’t end there. The authors tied everything in to climate change.

Even more astonishing was this statement by the authors:

In their tell-all article in Skeptic, the authors admit they jammed the paper full of jargon and made it purposefully incoherent. They said, “After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.” Finally, they made this particularly damning observation: “We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal.”

Make sure you read the tell all article, which step by step reveals the utter bankruptcy of the entire social science field that would allow this fraud to get published, getting passed by two reviewers and a partner journal that recommended the paper to Cogent Social Science.

As I said earlier this week, the time has come to cut off all funding to any university that supports anyone who teaches this crap. Donations from alumni should cease. Parents should refuse to send their children there. And the students there now should rise up in outright revolt, demanding their money back.

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Court of Appeals rules FAA drone registry illegal

The law is such an inconvenient thing: The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that a recently imposed FAA requirement that amateur drone operators register their drone with the FAA is illegal.

Introduced in 2015, the mandatory drone registry required owners of unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 lb (250 g and 25 kg) to register their machines with the FAA. If not, they faced fines of up to $250,000.

This drew the ire of some in the drone industry, and the many hobbyists who had been flying small aircraft recreationally for years. One such hobbyist, John Taylor, went to the lengths of challenging the FAA’s new rule in the US Court of Appeals. Today, that court ruled in his favor.

“Taylor is right,” the decision reads. “In 2012, Congress passed and President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act. Section 336(a) of that Act states that the FAA ‘may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft’ … The FAA’s 2015 Registration Rule, which applies to model aircraft, directly violates that clear statutory prohibition. We therefore grant Taylor’s petition and vacate the Registration Rule to the extent it applies to model aircraft.”

It is not surprising that a bureaucrat or government agency would try to impose more regulations on the public than is required or allowed. It is all about power, and these regulations give power to the regulators. What is different today is that the federal bureaucracy is now so large and so involved with regulating so many private activities, while the law has simultaneously become so complex and difficult to track, that these abuses happen routinely, unless someone with enough personal resources and determination decides to fight. And even here there is no guarantee that the courts will apply the proper law.

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Tabby’s Star is dimming again and astronomers are rushing to watch

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers today have noticed that Tabby’s Star has begun to dim precipitously again, and have put out a call for people to observe it.

No one still has a good theory to explain the star’s light changes, so having the chance to gather data throughout an entire dimming cycle will be invaluable.

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White House decision on embassy move only after Trump’s Middle East trip

The White House has denied reports that they have decided not to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and have instead said that the decision on whether to move the embassy will only be made after Trump’s Middle East trip.

Since neither story identified the White House official making the claims, either for or against the move, I suppose we should file this whole thing under fake news. These are unsubstantiated leaks, and should not be taken seriously.

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The first 3 of a 200 nanosat constellation delivered for launch

Capitalism in space: Sky and Space Global (SAS) has delivered the first three nanosats — of a planned 200 nanosat constellation — to India for launch.

The first three nanosats are to be launched by India on its PSLV rocket, but SAS has contracted Virgin Orbit to use its LauncherOne to put the next 197 up. They had made this first announcement last summer, saying the first three would launch in the second quarter of 2017. It appears that they are holding to that schedule.

They also said that LauncherOne would begin launching the other 197 satellites in 2018. For this I remain far more skeptical, since the track record at Virgin in getting its spacecraft off the ground on schedule has not been good.

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FAA issues launch license to Rocket Lab

Capitalism in space: The FAA has issued a launch license to Rocket Lab for three launches from New Zealand.

This is no surprise. As I noted on May 15, I suspect the reason Rocket Lab announced its launch date for May 22 before getting the launch license was to force the FAA to finally issue it.

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Why are these 32 symbols found in caves all over Europe?

An evening pause: The speaker is paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger, who has focused on compiling a database of the various symbols used by prehistoric cave artists, and suspects, because there are surprisingly so few symbols over a very long time period, that they represent the first glimmers of abstract writing, in a very primitive form.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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Republican Trumpcare bill might require another vote

Failure theater: The House Republican leadership has not yet officially sent their Obamacare revision bill to the Senate because they have discovered they may have to vote on it again.

According to several aides and other procedural experts, if Republicans send the bill to the Senate now and the CBO later concludes it doesn’t save at least $2 billion, it would doom the bill and Republicans would have to start their repeal effort all over with a new budget resolution. Congressional rules would likely prevent Republicans from fixing the bill after it’s in the Senate, the aides said…

If Republican leaders hold onto the bill until the CBO report is released, then Ryan and his team could still redo it if necessary. That would require at least one more House vote of some sort…

The Republican leadership is a joke. If required to toss a rock into the ocean while standing at the end of a 500 foot long pier they’d still miss, and hit themselves in the face in the process.

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The bigotry that dominates today’s colleges

I have been collecting stories over the past two weeks that highlight the horrible spread of bigotry and prejudice, based merely on race, on many of today’s college campuses. Here are a few of those stories.

This list includes colleges in numerous states, from ivy league institutions to public colleges and private universities. Worse, in every case it appears that the school administrations either actively support the bigotry, condone it, or passively do nothing to oppose it.

This list of course is hardly complete. However, I compiled it to illustrate that the daily stories coming from today’s college campuses illustrate a frightening trend that can be seen across the entire country. What is horrifying is that I compiled it in just a little over a week. I have no doubt that should I continue compiling the list I will find that the list of colleges supporting this bigoted behavior, almost all of which is illegal under the Civil Rights Act (not to mention morally repugnant), will grow significantly. I expect that every college in the United States that takes federal dollars is dominated by this race-based hate. Worse, that hate is growing and becoming more violent and fearless in its blatant desire to oppress those it hates.

The time has come to cut off all tax dollars to these places. Donations from alumni should cease. Parents should refuse to send their children there.

If we do not stand up against this evil, it will soon consume us. The warning signs are there. And it has happened before. We will have no one to blame but ourselves if we do nothing.

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Moon discovered around Kuiper belt dwarf planet

Astronomers have discovered a moon orbiting 2007 OR10, one of the Kuiper Belt’s larger objects.

With this discovery, most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 600 miles across have companions. These bodies provide insight into how moons formed in the young solar system. “The discovery of satellites around all of the known large dwarf planets — except for Sedna — means that at the time these bodies formed billions of years ago, collisions must have been more frequent, and that’s a constraint on the formation models,” said Csaba Kiss of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest, Hungary. He is the lead author of the science paper announcing the moon’s discovery. “If there were frequent collisions, then it was quite easy to form these satellites.”

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In 2016 federal government improperly paid out $144 billion

Our government in action! In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, the controller general revealed that the federal government improperly paid out $144 billion in 2016.

The problem is growing, he said, from $125 billion in 2014; to $137 billion in 2015; to the most recent estimate of $144 billion in 2016. “This includes estimates for 112 programs at 22 federal agencies, so it is a pervasive problem,” he added.

Since 2003 – when Congress required many executive departments and agencies to estimate the amount of improper payments annually – the cumulative total is estimated to be “in excess of $1.2 trillion,” Dodaro said. “So it’s a significant amount of money.” Dodaro said three big federal programs – Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit — account for most (75 percent) of the improper payments. “But there are a number of programs across government where this problem is an issue,” he said.

And the problem is worse than the numbers indicate, because 18 “risk-susceptible” programs – including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — do not report estimates at all. SNAP (food stamps) stopped reporting in 2015. And the $144 billion in 2016 does not include estimates from the Defense Department, which could be a sizeable number, Dodaro said.

Obviously, the solution is to hire more auditors and increase the budgets at these agencies so they can better track the improper payments. Simply cutting these budgets, well now, that’s a terrible idea.

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Rocket Lab gets another contract

Capitalism in space: With its first test launch set for Monday, Rocket Lab today earned a new launch contract, this time from Spaceflight, a company that acts as a charter company putting together launches for smallsat companies.

Spaceflight buys a launch from a rocket company, and then sells slots to smallsat companies that cannot afford to buy the whole launch. This way Spaceflight can tailor each launch to the needs of the different smallsats. Though they have previously purchased launches from India’s PSLV, Russia’s Dnepr, and SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Rocket Lab’s Electron fits this model more perfectly, because — as a small rocket designed for smallsats, it doesn’t require a lot of smallsats to fill its payload. Thus, they can offer the smallsats on board access to orbits not normally available. This will make it relatively easy to find customers for the launch.

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Cruz to hold hearing on updating Outer Space Treaty

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) revealed today that he plans to hold a hearing next week on reviewing the Outer Space Treaty.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in an on-stage interview during The Atlantic magazine’s “On the Launchpad” event here that the hearing, scheduled for May 23, would explore modifications to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to better enable commercial space activities. “We’ll be hearing testimony both from lawyers who have studied the issues and also from business leaders that want to expand commercial investment in space,” he said, “considering how do we update and modernize the treaty to reflect the realities of the modern world.”

He said he was concerned that the treaty, crafted at the height of the superpower space race of the 1960s, does not reflect the needs and interests of emerging commercial space companies. “The central focus of that treaty was preventing nuclear weapons in space. That’s a very good thing,” he said. “But, 50 years later, we’re in a very different environment.”

Cruz said he didn’t have specific changes to the treaty in mind. “I don’t want to start by making decisions before we hear testimony and before we think through it,” he said. He added he hoped that, like recent space-related legislation that has passed Congress, including the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, to win bipartisan agreement to pursue efforts to “modernize it to create the incentives for continued investment.”

I had sensed this might be Cruz’s next move, based on the last hearing, and it is gratifying that he is going to go forward with it.

Update: The list of witnesses can be found here. The committee webpage also says they will be focusing on Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty, which does not discuss the issue of sovereignty (Article II). Instead, Article VI says this:

States Parties to the Treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities, and for assuring that national activities are carried out in conformity with the provisions set forth in the present Treaty. The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty. When activities are carried on in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, by an international organization, responsibility for compliance with this Treaty shall be borne both by the international organization and by the States Parties to the Treaty participating in such organization.

I begin to sense the direction this negotiation will head. Rather than claim sovereignty, they will rework this clause to allow each nation’s laws to apply to the activities of their citizens. In a sense, this is an end-around Article II.

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Trump rules out moving embassy to Jerusalem

Breaking promises: Despite firm and loud promises during the campaign to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Trump administration officials today said that no move is planned, for the near future.

And the Republicans wonder why they can’t get the Jewish vote. I have talked to numerous Jewish relatives, and though many are conservative, all of them have great reservations about the Republican Party, which they perceive as two-faced towards Israel and the Jewish people. Repeatedly they have seen Republican presidential candidates (from Reagan to Bush to Bush to Trump) promise to move the embassy, and then betray that promise once they were in office.

Granted the Democrats are very hostile to Israel these days, but they already have the blind loyalty of many Jews. You want to change their minds? Don’t backstab people, as the Republicans and Trump are now doing.

But then, this behavior has become typical for the Republican party. Across the board they show little loyalty to the people who voted for them. Instead, once in power they routinely ally themselves with the Washington power elites, often in direct betrayal of their campaign promises.

A side note: The link explains nicely how moving the embassy would probably aid the peace talks. Based on the failure of everything that has previously been tried, I see no reason not to do it.

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NASA Inspector General blasts agency construction of SLS test stands

The hits keep coming! A report [pdf] issued today by NASA’s Inspector General strongly criticizes the construction by NASA of two SLS test stands at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

This is going to sound familiar, but the report found that the construction of both test stands took much longer than scheduled and went significantly over budget, almost doubling. Worse, this was caused by some basic managerial decisions that should not have happened. From the report’s conclusion:

To meet its ambitious schedule of an initial SLS launch in December 2017, NASA designed and initiated construction on Test Stands 4693 and 4697 based on preliminary testing specifications and before test stand requirements and capabilities were fully understood. As a result, the cost of the stands increased by $35.5 million from an original estimated cost of $40.5 million. …Finally, NASA failed to establish adequate funding reserves to cover anticipated contract and requirement changes or adequately document consideration of alternative sites for the testing. In short, rushing the decision regarding the test stands to support a December 2017 first flight raised the cost of constructing the stands by tens of millions of dollars.[emphasis mine]

Marshall vs Stennis

The report strongly criticized the agency for deciding to build the stands at the Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA could have chosen to build them at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, but did not consider that location in its decision.

Similarly, of three possible construction sites – one at Stennis and two at Marshall – NASA officially considered only the two Marshall locations for testing the structural integrity of the SLS’s liquid hydrogen tank. Although teams from both Marshall and Stennis proposed designs for possible test stands, only the Marshall designs were reviewed and listed as possible alternatives at the final decision review. [emphasis mine]

The map on the right is figure 6 on page 16 of the IG report, and shows the absurdity of choosing Marshall over Stennis. As the report continued,

As a result, we question whether such costs as transporting the tanks to Marshall from Michoud were adequately considered as part of the Agency’s analysis. This approximately 1,240-mile trip will entail shipment by barge along the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and finally the Tennessee River; take about 2 weeks; and cost approximately $500,000 per tank (see Figure 6 below). Because each tank will need to be transported separately and the barge will need to return to Michoud between loads, the total transportation time for both tanks is 6 weeks. In contrast, transporting a tank from Michoud to Stennis would take less than one week and cost approximately $200,000.

You can wonder whether the influence of porkmaster Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) had anything to do with NASA’s decision to favor Marshall but I personally have no doubt.

Overall, this IG report, as well as yesterday’s GAO audit, show us a government agency that has no idea how do to things in an efficient and expedient manner.

The timing of the release of these reports is interesting. They describe bad managerial decisions made during the Obama administration. Yet, during that administration it had been my impression that audits by GAO and NASA’s IG tended to pussy-foot around NASA’s problems. Their reports noted delays and cost issues, but always couched their criticisms with care. Now that Obama has left office, however, it appears they feel free to state their conclusions more bluntly, which is that none of the upper management in the Obama administration, either at NASA or at the White House, was ever willing to take a hard look at how NASA was doing things.

However, this isn’t just the Obama administration. These kinds of bad managerial decisions in the federal government have been going on now for decades. This has been a clearly bi-partisan failure, by presidents from both parties in Washington. Based on these reports, a lot of heads should roll, throughout the executive branch. The question remains whether there is anyone in Washington, including the present president, willing to do this.

Moreover, the problems are not just in the executive branch. Elected officials, such as Shelby, have been micromanaging NASA’s effort foolishly now for decades. Worse, their micromanagement has done little to serve the needs of the nation, and in fact, has done us great harm. For example, for the past decade Congress has squeezed commercial space in order to throw more money to SLS, and as a result the country’s inability to launch its own astronauts into space has stretched out far longer than necessary, the longest ever since the dawn of the space age.

The last few elections have suggested that the public recognizes this, and wants Congress to change. Unfortunately, I see little indication so far that Congress recognizes this.

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Dubai of the UAE and its push for science, space, and technology

Link here. The article provides some context for the various stories I have posted recently about the UAE’s ambitions in both space and other hi-tech projects.

They are without doubt thinking big, and the article gives their effort a strong positive spin. However, this quote seemed significant to me:

If Dubai’s future is as a knowledge hub, it will have to fulfill the dreams of more than just the Emiratis. With rare exceptions, only they are allowed to be citizens, and since visas are based on employment, deportation isn’t so much an extreme consequence as an everyday worry. That may have mattered less to the Emiratis when labor was expendable. But to compete for global talent, Dubai needs to transform from a transitory polyglot society to a permanently cosmopolitan one—an ambition that has become a talking point of Sheikh Mohammed. “The uniqueness of Dubai is the fact that it is a melting pot of the world’s cultures, ethnicities, and minds in one city,” he said in a statement.

Al Gergawi acknowledges the challenge of that transition in his own vague way. “I’m saying we’re not perfect,” he says. “We are young kids on the block, if you look at the block as the world. Every day we say: ‘How can we improve? How can we move to the next step in every single aspect?’”

Maybe it is necessary to grade Dubai on a curve. By the standards of a liberal democracy, Dubai remains retrograde. There is no democratic representation, poor freedom of the press, and homosexuality remains illegal. But compared with the rest of the Arab world, Dubai is a beacon of openness and modernity. Thirty percent of the cabinet members are female (compared with 0 percent in Saudi Arabia and 6 percent in Jordan), as is 66 percent of the government workforce.

Then there was this quote, by Sarah Amiri, the 30-year-old science lead for the UAE’s Mars mission, dubbed Hope.

“We get told by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed that the most important part is the scientists and engineers who are going to come out of this,” she explains. Accordingly, the mission staff skews young. Everyone is under 35, the average age is 27, and 30 percent are female. Amiri speaks passionately about inspiring the youth of the Arab world. “We need to give them monumental challenges to solve.” [emphasis mine]

“Get told.” This is still a top-down society. Sheikh Mohammad might have wonderful dreams, but such dreams cannot easily be imposed on a society by one man. I remain skeptical, though I readily admit that they have done remarkably well in a very short period of time.

At the same time, I cannot help wondering if they would welcome any Israeli scientists or engineers. Somehow I doubt it, no matter how much they claim that they are a melting pot.

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Beethoven – Turkish March

An evening pause: Arranged for 8 (!) pianos. From the youtube webpage:

2 successive performances of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Turkish March from “Die Ruinen von Athen”, arranged by Richard Blackford for 8 pianos. Played by Gina Bachauer, Jorge Bolet, Jeanne-Marie Darré, Alicia De Larrocha, John Lill, Radu Lupu, Garrick Ohlsson and Bálint Vázsonyi at a Gargantuan Pianistic Extravaganza in London, 1974.

Please note that the 2nd performance is NOT a shredding video – these great pianists were actually playing what you hear!

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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A former leftist sees the light

Link here.

I have been wondering why more people on the left are not speaking up against violence, in favor of free exchange of ideas and dialogue, in favor of compassion. But I know why. I was in the cult. Part of it is that you are a true believer, and part of it is that you are fearful of being called an apostate — in being trashed as a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, fascist, white supremacist nazi. A friend recently wrote to me privately to say they find my latest posts “refreshing,” and that they believe in free speech, but as someone who works in entertainment, they can’t say anything that might cause them to lose their job. As someone who has gone through and is still going through a change in my underlying systems of belief, I can say this: when you finally get past fear, it is so liberating. After a lot of self-reflection, I eventually came to the opinion that if I lose friends or jobs over trying to speak and find the truth in situations, and to do so in a way that reflects my belief in compassion, then perhaps those were not friends or jobs that were healthy for my growth.

There is a lot more. Read it all. The key is that the violence, thuggery, and outright viciousness of the modern left is actually doing nothing to persuade anyone. If anything, it is offending people, turning them off, and making people like the writer above rethink their assumptions. Suddenly, she finds herself listening to conservatives, and discovering that they are actually not fascists, but believe in freedom, tolerance, justice, and treating people with respect, ideas that have increasingly disappeared from the leftist community.

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GAO: Cost and scheduling problems with many big NASA projects

A new Government Accountability Office audit [pdf] that reviewed 22 major NASA projects, including Orion and SLS, has found that many of them have significant scheduling and cost problems.

Let’s just go through them all:

  • SLS: “The SLS program’s schedule is deteriorating and it is at increased risk of exceeding its cost baseline and missing its November 2018 launch readiness date.”
  • Orion: “The Orion program is increasingly at risk of missing the November 2018 launch date for its first uncrewed exploration mission.”
  • Mars 2020: “The Mars 2020 project has not met key best practices for reducing product development risk.”
  • Asteroid Redirect Robot Mission (ARRM): “In August 2016, the ARRM project entered the preliminary design and technology completion phase with a higher cost and longer schedule than previously estimated.”
  • Europa Clipper: “At the project’s most recent decision review, its independent review board stated that it was at risk of exceeding its preliminary cost and schedule ranges unless its scope or complexity was reduced.”
  • Ground Systems (EGS) upgrade: “The EGS program’s schedule is deteriorating and it is at increased risk of exceeding its cost baseline and missing its November 2018 launch readiness date.”
  • ICESat-2: “The ICESat-2 project has encountered problems with the flight lasers in its sole instrument—the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS)—that will likely cause it to miss its committed launch date and could cause it to exceed its current cost baseline.”
  • InSight: “The InSight project missed its committed launch date of March 2016 and exceeded its cost baseline due to technical issues with its primary science payload—the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument—which is contributed by the French space agency (CNES).”
  • Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICE): “The ICON project has experienced technical issues and delays in system integration and testing, but it still on track to launch in July 2017—3 months earlier than its committed launch date.”
  • James Webb Space Telescope: “In December 2016, we found that the primary threat to the JWST project continues to be the ability of the observatory development and integration contractor, Northrop Grumman, to control its costs.”
  • Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI): “NASA’s joint cost and schedule confidence level analysis indicated that the likelihood of the project meeting the date is low and the project’s independent review board described the schedule as optimistic when compared to similar instruments. … The RBI project’s prime contractor Harris continues to experience cost overruns.”
  • Space Network Ground Segment Sustainment (SGSS): “The SGSS project has exceeded the new cost and schedule baseline NASA set for it in June 2015 and further cost and schedule growth is likely.”

Not all the projects audited were a disaster. GRACE-FO, Landsat-9, NISA, Solar Probe Plus, SWOT, TESS, and WFIRST have few significant problems, though even with these there have been delays with each project still facing significant cost and scheduling risks.

As for Commercial Crew, the audit notes delays and problems, but these appear to be mostly linked to the bureaucratic and somewhat unjustified demands by NASA for increased safety, such as the agency’s refusal to accept the use of the Atlas 5 with a Russian first stage engine and its concerns about SpaceX’s plans to fuel the rocket with astronauts on-board (even though astronauts have been aboard fueled rockets with every other manned launch for the entire history of space exploration).

Overall, this audit does not speak well of either NASA’s management or the contractors with whom the agency has routinely worked. Space engineering is hard, but many of these problems seem more related to either incompetence or a willingness of NASA to forgive bad work too often. The number of contractors or government agencies listed here who have failed entirely at their jobs is appalling.

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