Monthly Archives: April 2017

New bipartisan budget deal cuts nothing from bloated federal government

The swamp wins! A bipartisan budget deal worked out by Republicans and Democrats in Congress will cut nothing from the bloated federal government.

While losing on the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump won a $15 billion down payment on his request to strengthen the military.

GOP leaders demurred from trying to use the must-do spending bill to “defund” Planned Parenthood. The White House also backed away from language to take away grants from “sanctuary cities” that do not share information about people’s immigration status with federal authorities.

The measure funds the remainder of the 2017 budget year, rejecting cuts to popular domestic programs targeted by Trump, such as medical research and infrastructure grants.

In other words, these corrupt bastards are doing nothing to reduce the budget, even though that is exactly what they were elected to do. Instead, they are growing it.

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The coming fascism

This post will be a very pessimistic one. In the last twenty-four hours I watched two different videos, both of which illustrated the growing close-mindedness in American society. On one hand we watch while a high school assistant principal does everything he can to not talk reasonably to two students holding signs opposed to abortion. First he tries to get them to leave, claiming they don’t have the right to stand there (they do, as it is a public street and there is something called the first amendment protecting their right to speak). Then he accuses them of harassing people, which it is very clear from the video they are doing no such thing. Finally, he stands there trying to prevent others from seeing their signs, while yelling “La-la-la-la-la-la-la!” loudly to keep others (and himself) from hearing what they say. He really does this.

On the other we have a detailed video report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) about the alarming hostility to free speech at Tufts University. This quote from the video struck me as downright terrifying for our future:

The climate at Tufts embodies several trends FIRE has seen growing in recent years. There is a shift away from the heavy-handed administrators posing the biggest threat to free speech on campus. Now the loudest calls for censorship are coming from the students themselves. … And in some cases like we saw first hand at Tufts, students are equating offensive or uncomfortable speech with violence. [emphasis mine]

Both videos are embedded below the fold. Please spend the time to watch both. I think you will be equally terrified. The left not only can no longer tolerate listening to any dissenting opinions, they have created a culture and mindset among the younger generation that makes dissent and freedom of speech downright impossible. And both the adults and the students of this intolerant culture are moving with increasing aggressiveness to try to shut down any opposing speech, sometimes with outright violence.
» Read more

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Trump administration plans 9% staffing cuts at State Department

It’s a start: The Trump administration is looking to eliminate about 9% of the workforce in the State Department.

The majority of the job cuts, about 1,700, will come through attrition, while the remaining 600 will be done via buyouts, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the decision hasn’t been publicly announced. William Inglee, a former Lockheed Martin Corp. official and policy adviser in Congress, is overseeing the budget cuts and briefed senior managers on the plan Wednesday, the people said.

The personnel cuts, which may be phased in over two years, represent the most concrete step taken by Tillerson as he seeks to reverse the expansion the department saw under former President Barack Obama’s administration and meet President Donald Trump’s demand — outlined in an executive order signed last month — to cut spending across federal agencies. A draft budget outline released in March for the year that begins Oct. 1 seeks a 28.5 percent reduction in State Department spending from fiscal 2016.

I am not fully cognizant of the history of State Department staffing, but I am willing to bet that these cuts will not reduce the staffing to levels seen prior to the Obama administration. Still, we can’t gain control of the federal government if we don’t start somewhere, and at least the Trump administration is making an effort, something neither Bush administration did.

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Fascist California abandons the Constitution

Link here. Key quote:

In short, California public officials at every level of state and local government have taken it upon themselves to replace core constitutional protections with their own radical vision of social justice. This isn’t federalism; it’s lawlessness. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and every state law, ordinance, regulation, or practice that conflicts its guarantees of individual liberty must be struck down.

Read it all. The fascist culture that is taking over California is not limited to its academic campuses. State and local elected officials there are increasingly using the power of the government to oppress anyone opposed to them, including harsh prosecutions.

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North Korea ballistic missile test ends in failure

North Korea on Saturday local time once again attempted and failed to launch a ballistic missile.

Some details here. The missile flew 25 miles, and was a short range missile.

While previously I attributed the consistent failures of every single North Korean missile test to the inherent incompetence of that society’s totalitarian regime, I am now beginning to wonder if espionage from either the U.S. or China might be a contributing factor. It seems unlikely, and the simplest explanation remains engineering failures with North Korea’s aerospace industry. Yet…

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Trump administration eases technology restrictions to Saudi Arabia

The Trump has eased satellite technology restrictions that had been placed on Saudi Arabia and the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

It is believed that the Washington, DC, discussions between the U.S. and the Saudis saw agreements on U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and also on common approaches towards containing Iran. Of particular significance, however, is the agreement by the U.S. to lift export restrictions on strategic technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and reconnaissance satellites to Saudi Arabia, and potentially to other GCC countries.

It is believed that Saudi Arabia is in the market for two to eight high-resolution reconnaissance satellites over the coming years, and it is known that French companies Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space have partnered together to offer electro-optical reconnaissance satellites similar to the Falcon Eye satellites being built for the United Arab Emirates.

This change will also benefit U.S. satellite makers, giving them a better chance at winning Saudi contracts. At the same time, it makes available to these Middle East Islamic nations some high level technology that could be used against us.

Update: While his administration has quietly widened cooperation with Saudi Arabia, President Trump is publicly complaining that the Arab country takes advantage of the U.S.

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Pietro Mascagni – Preludio Cavalleria Rusticana

An evening pause: Hat tip Jim Mallamace, who wrote, “Pietro Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ is often translated as ‘Country Ways.’ His opera departed from those of his day in that his characters were not of the nobility. He portrayed the lives and struggles of ordinary people. The performance is by the Gaetano Donizetti Symphonic Orchestra of Gessate and conducted by Pierangelo Pelucchi.”

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NASA officially delays SLS first flight to 2019

Government in action! Despite spending almost $19 billion and more than thirteen years of development, NASA today admitted that it will have to delay the first test flight of the SLS rocket from late 2018 to sometime in 2019.

“We agree with the GAO that maintaining a November 2018 launch readiness date is not in the best interest of the program, and we are in the process of establishing a new target in 2019,” wrote William Gerstenmaier, chief of NASA’s human spaceflight program. “Caution should be used in referencing the report on the specific technical issues, but the overall conclusions are valid.”

Anyone who is a regular reader of Behind the Black will not be surprised by this. Beginning as far back as March 2015 I began noting the various issues that made a 2018 launch unlikely. All that has happened here is that NASA has gone public with what has been obvious within the agency now for two years.

The competition between the big government SLS/Orion program and private commercial space is downright embarrassing to the government. While SLS continues to be delayed, even after more than a decade of work and billions of wasted dollars, SpaceX is gearing up for the first flight of Falcon Heavy this year. And they will be doing it despite the fact that Congress took money from the commercial private space effort, delaying its progress, in order to throw more money at SLS/Orion.

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Hibernation research for long space flights

Scientists are doing new research at using some form of hibernation for humans traveling on interplanetary missions lasting months or years.

Bradford’s engineering and medical team used the first of those NIAC grants, issued in 2013, to design a compact zero-gravity, rigid-structure habitat based on the International Space Station crew module designs. The habitat featured closed-loop oxygen and water production systems, direct access to the Mars ascent and descent vehicles, and support for a crew of six, all of whom would be kept in torpor for the entire six- to nine-month Mars journey.

The proposed medical treatment relies on using techniques similar to the ones surgeons perfected to induce hypothermia. For example, cooling nitrogen gas could be fed to astronauts via nasal cannula, lowering brain and body temperatures to between 89 and 96 degrees—close enough to normal to maintain torpor without overcooling the heart or increasing the risk of other complications. Cooling tends to decrease the body’s ability to clot, Tisherman says. He has also noted that patients who are cooled to mild levels of hypothermia—93 degrees—for 48 hours or more have more infections than uncooled people.

As is usual in these modern fascist times, bureaucracy and the fear of radical protesters are preventing this research from moving forward. NASA is forbidden to fund any research that uses live animal subjects, such as pigs, even though they are ideal subjects and, as noted in the article, “The number of pigs involved in this kind of study wouldn’t amount to one’s week’s breakfast for the average American.” Private funds have also not raised because no one wants to deal with the public relations nightmare of PETA protests.

The article is long and detailed, and gives an excellent overview of the state of the field as well as the research questions it faces. Above all, it does indicate that the idea of using hibernation in space, born in science fiction, is not so much of a fantasy after all.

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Portland parade cancelled because of threats by leftist fascists

The fascists win: A family parade in Portland Oregon has been cancelled because of threats of violence from leftist protesters because the Republican Party was participating.

The participation by local political parties in these kinds of events has been a normal part of American life since the nation’s founding, all based on the first amendment and freedom of speech. To these left wing brown-shirted thugs, however, freedom of speech by their opponents is unacceptable, and requires the threat of violence to shut it down.

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Space, regulation, the Outer Space Treaty, and yesterday’s Senate hearing

Yesterday the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce committee held a hearing, organized by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), entitled “Reopening the American Frontier: Reducing Regulatory Barriers and Expanding American Free Enterprise in Space.”

You can watch the hearing here. There have also been a number of stories last night and today that summarized the testimony during this hearing.

Having watched the full hearing, I think that most of these stories did not capture well the full political context and significance of yesterday’s event. They focused on Cruz’s advocacy for private space and the call for less and more streamlined regulation by the witnesses. They missed a great deal else.
» Read more

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UAE and Algeria sign space accord

The space agencies of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Algeria have signed an agreement to enhance their collaboration in space.

The MoU defines a framework for collaboration in the peaceful use of space, in line with the UAE Space Agency’s strategic plans to enhance collaboration with international stakeholders in the sector. The MoU covers various aspects of the peaceful use of outer space, as well as collaboration in the fields of policy-making, regulations, space science, technology, and human capital development in the space sector.

I didn’t even know Algeria had a space agency.

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Cassini successfully completes first dive between Saturn and its rings

The Cassini spacecraft has successfully survived its close flyby of Saturn, diving between the rings and the top of the planet’s cloud tops.

As it dove through the gap, Cassini came within about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) of Saturn’s cloud tops (where the air pressure is 1 bar — comparable to the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level) and within about 200 miles (300 kilometers) of the innermost visible edge of the rings.

Cassini is beaming down its images and data now, with the images to be available later today.

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Third reaction wheel on Dawn fails

The third of four reaction wheels on Dawn failed on April 23, forcing the spacecraft to use its conventional thrusters to orient itself.

The team discovered the situation during a scheduled communications session on April 24, diagnosed the problem, and returned the spacecraft to its standard flight configuration, still with hydrazine control, on April 25. The failure occurred after Dawn completed its five-hour segment of ion thrusting on April 22 to adjust its orbit, but before the shorter maneuver scheduled for April 23-24. The orbit will still allow Dawn to perform its opposition measurements. The reaction wheel’s malfunctioning will not significantly impact the rest of the extended mission at Ceres.

This might shorten Dawn’s remaining mission, but since it is in its final days anyway, the loss will not be severe.

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Report finds NASA spacesuit development over budget, behind schedule, and inadequate

Government in action! A NASA inspector general report has found that NASA’s program for developing new spacesuit is behind schedule, over budget, and unable to provide the necessary spacesuits needed for the agency’s future projects.

NASA’s spacewalking suits are in short supply, and a replacement is still years away despite the nearly $200 million spent on new technology, the space agency’s inspector general reported Wednesday. A next-generation suit for spacewalking astronauts is needed for future space travel, including trips to Mars. But a lack of a formal plan and destinations has complicated suit development, according to the report . At the same time, NASA has reduced funding for suit development, putting more priority instead on space habitats.

According to the report, NASA is dealing with a variety of design and health risks associated with the spacewalking suits used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The suits were developed more than 40 years ago and intended for 15 years.

More here. Essentially, the suits NASA presently uses on ISS don’t work well, there aren’t enough of them left, and they are difficult to maintain because they were designed for transport up and down on the space shuttle. At the same time NASA’s entire program to replace these suits has been mismanaged so badly that no replacement suits are anywhere on the horizon,even after spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

I predict that the next new spacesuit Americans use will be built in less than five years for a tenth the cost, by private companies.

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Ann Coulter has cancelled her speech at UC-Berkeley

The fascists win: Ann Coulter has cancelled her speech at UC-Berkeley, scheduled for April 27.

She cites as her reason for cancelling as the fact that the two groups that had sponsored her lecture had both cancelled that sponsorship out of fear of violence and the refusal of the university and the local government to provide protection. Their lawsuits against the university however will go on.

Regardless, this is now what urban California has become, a fascist state where expressing conservative views leaves you vulnerable to violence, with the local authorities working with the violent brown-shirted thugs to help them squelch freedom.

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Bigoted professor to accept students in course based on race

Bigot: A professor at Pomona College in California has announced that she will give preferential treatment to “students of color” in deciding who can attend her class on geology.

“I encourage students who PERM this course to indicate how their background, experience, and/or interests could contribute to diversifying perspectives in the course,” she states in the flyer. “In resolving PERMs I will strive to identify students for whom the small-section setting has the potential to be of particular benefit,” she adds, stressing that “I am especially interested in seeing PERM requests from students of color, first generation or low-income students, international, and students early in their college career (first two years); such students are especially encouraged to apply” [emphasis in original].

Increasingly in the modern leftist-controlled academic community, it is becoming popular to treat whites in the manner that bigots treated blacks before the civil rights movement, oppressively and with contempt.

I must add that not only is this professor’s policy bigoted, it is almost certainly illegal. I wonder if Pomona College will take action against it. I suspect not, because after all, this is California, a place that considers the oppression and the squelching of free thought to be a good thing.

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European push for more space regulations under international law

In the European space community and governmental circles, there appears to be a new push to revise the Outer Space Treaty, focused specifically on increasing the treaty’s regulatory power in the area of large satellite constellations and space junk.

This week [the city of] Darmstadt hosts a closed-door, governmental meeting of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC). Whether it was planned or not, the IADC is set to discuss a much-needed renewal of international space law, which is, experts admit, rather vague. But how far they will go is anyone’s guess.

…There is a palpable sense that the space community needs enforceable international laws and regulations, rather than – or merely to bolster – its current inter-agency agreements. They’ve served us so far, but few countries have actually signed up to them. That leaves a lot of wriggle-room, especially as space becomes increasingly commercialized.

Most of our space activities are governed by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. It’s a short document that primarily seeks to ensure space operations are “peaceful” and for the good of all humanity. It is complemented by other agreements, including a set of documents on mitigating space debris. “We have a good, coherent set of justified rules and we don’t intend to alter them drastically,” said Christophe Bonnal of the French Space Agency, CNES, and the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) in closing remarks last week. “But we will improve them at the IADC meeting to include mega-constellations.”

It appears to me that this is a push-back against Luxembourg’s recent announcement that it is going to request a renegotiation of the Outer Space Treaty to allow for property rights in space. What this article is advocating instead is that the treaty increase its control and regulatory power over private satellite constellations, which at present are not covered by the treaty.

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Liberated Mosul districts reconnect with satellite television

This story from SpaceWatch Middle East outlines the effort by the Islamic State to block access to information in Mosul, and how the recent liberation by Iraqi forces has allowed citizens to regain access to satellite television and the internet.

This website by the way is an interesting one. It is based in Switzerland, and appears focused on covering the business of space from a European/Middle East perspective.

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Cassini about to make first dive into Saturn’s rings

Cassini will make its first dive through a gap in Saturn’s ring today, and this link provides details.

Because that gap is a region no spacecraft has ever explored, Cassini will use its dish-shaped high-gain antenna (13 feet or 4 meters across) as a protective shield while passing through the ring plane. No particles larger than smoke particles are expected, but the precautionary measure is being taken on the first dive. The Cassini team will use data collected by one of the spacecraft’s science instruments (the Radio and Plasma Wave Subsystem, or RPWS) to ascertain the size and density of ring particles in the gap in advance of future dives. As a result of its antenna-forward orientation, the spacecraft will be out of contact with Earth during the dive.

The first images are not expected until mid-day tomorrow.

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Latch blamed for Webb vibration test issue

A latch that hadn’t closed properly has been identified as the cause of the anomaly that halted vibration testing of the James Webb Space Telescope in December.

At the committee meeting, Smith said the problem was tracked down to a latch designed to hold in place one of the wings of JWST’s primary mirror, which consists of 18 hexagonal segments. Those wings are folded into place to fit within the payload fairing of the Ariane 5 that will launch JWST, then deployed into place once in space. The latch, he said, consists of two plates with serrated teeth a few millimeters in size. “The thought is that the teeth, when they closed it, they didn’t quite seat,” he said. “So during the vibe [test], the teeth clapped together on the order of a millimeter or two, and that was what made the noise.”

Engineers were able to replicate the noise by placing the plates slightly out of alignment in the lab and subjecting them to similar vibrations, giving them confidence that was the cause of the anomaly.

I love how the Webb program manager also says that Webb is “on budget and on schedule.” That claim could only be true if you make believe that the budget was always $9 billion and the launch date was always supposed to be 2018 instead of the original $1 billion and 2011 launch date.

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