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Trump will ask Congress to ease the firing of government workers

Good if true: According to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is in charge of Donald Trump’s transition team, should he win the presidency he will ask Congress to pass laws making it easier from him to fire government workers.

Trump’s transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said. “It’s called burrowing,” Christie said. “You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up … roadblocks for your successor, kind of like when all the Clinton people took all the Ws off the keyboard when George Bush was coming into the White House.”

Originally these laws were passed to reduce the spoils system, whereby new presidents got to hand out lots of jobs to friends once elected. Now, these laws merely act to prevent elected officials from having any supervisory oversight over the employees they manage.

The article also noted that the Trump campaign is beginning to assemble a list of government workers they want to fire should they win. This is also encouraging, considering the overall incompetence we’ve seen in the federal government these past few years. (I would especially like to see the entire management of the National Park Service fired for the part they played in helping Obama during the government shutdown.) It is time for a purge. If Trump follows through with this, it will be a very positive thing.

Expect a lot of squealing however from the usual suspects in Washington. The key will be whether Trump will have the courage to follow through despite those squeals.

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Franky Zapata demonstrating his Flyboard Air

An evening pause: Hat tip t-dub, who wrote that the Flyboard Air “is a real product developed by Franky Zapata. It’s a jet powered board that reminds me of what the Green Goblin used in Spiderman. This video was done in Monaco during the Formula 1 race this year. His company is called Zapata Racing and he has developed a jet pack, water hover board, and those fire hose things people use over water which is a hydraulic Flyboard I believe. If they only had this stuff back in the 70’s when I was growing up.” T-dub also added, “The Flyboard can go up to 10,000 feet, fly at 98 MPH, and has a duration of almost ten minutes depending on use. They have also set a Guinness record with the device.”

My thought: Once again, life imitates art.

Health insurance rates in California to rise

Finding out what’s in it: Health insurance rates on the Obamacare exchange in California will rise 13% next year.

Large increases on Obamacare exchanges have been par for the course throughout the country this year, which is not really a surprise for anyone who was willing to read more than one sentence of a plethora of predictions made by conservatives in 2010 before Obamacare was passed. They predicted then, as this article notes is now happening, that

Fewer people are signing up through the exchanges than anticipated, and they’re using more health care services than anticipated. That’s left insurers with fewer customers to share the overall cost.

Obviously, according to Obama and Clinton and the entire Democratic Party, the solution to this failed government health program is an even bigger government health program! Won’t that just be peachy-keen!

Japanese military satellite damaged during shipping

Japan’s troubled space effort suffered a bad setback when a Japanese military communications satellite was damaged in shipment to its launch site in French Guiana.

The launch of Japan’s first dedicated military communications satellite will be delayed by two years after a mishap with a blue tarpaulin damaged sensitive antennas during transportation to Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, two government sources told Reuters. The mishap has set back plans by Japan’s military to unify its fractured and overburdened communications network, and could hinder efforts to reinforce defenses in the East China Sea as Chinese military activity in the region escalates.

North Korea fires three more missiles

Does this make you feel safer? North Korea fired three ballistic missiles early Tuesday,

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles early on Tuesday which flew between 500 and 600 kms (300 and 360 miles) into the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s military said, the latest in a series of provocative moves by the isolated country.

The U.S. military said it detected launches of what it believed were two Scud missiles and one Rodong, a home-grown missile based on Soviet-era Scud technology. North Korea has fired both types numerous times in recent years, an indication that unlike recent launches that were seen as efforts by the North to improve its missile capability, Tuesday’s were meant as a show of force.

I am sure the Obama administration is monitoring this closely!

BLM demands removal of police float from gay parade

Bigots: Black Lives Matter is demanding the removal of a police float during a homosexual pride march in Vancouver.

BLM are making this demand for one reason: They are bigots, and to their bigoted view of life, all cops must be racists, even those who, with good will, want to get together to build a float and want to march in a gay pride parade.

I should add that in general, I find gay pride parades bigoted in their own way, as they also celebrate group rights rather than individual rights. All you have to do to understand what I mean is to imagine this being a White Pride or a Heterosexual Pride march, and you will immediately see what I mean. Such marches would be considered quite offensive. Yet, they really are no different than a gay pride march.

New rocket company raising investment capital

The competition heats up: Two former employees of SpaceX and Blue Origin have teamed up to start their own rocket company, aimed at using 3D printing technology to build rockets “with zero human labor.”

The funding rounds are described in two documents filed in May and this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The first filing reports that $1.1 million in equity was sold to investors. The second filing serves as a new notice of $8.4 million in equity sold, out of a $9.6 million offering.

The filings indicate that Relativity Space is based in Seattle, but in response to an email inquiry, the company declined to say anything further about its location, its business plan or its investors. “We are entirely in stealth mode and will comment more when we are ready,” the company said.

New companies come and go, but the fact that the guys in charge of this come from these two companies, and have already raised significant investment capital, suggests attention should be paid.

Reused Dragon cargo capsule to ISS within a year

The competition heats up: SpaceX hopes to launch a previously flown Dragon capsule to ISS sometime with the next year.

This fall, SpaceX plans to refly one of its landed Falcon 9 rockets for the first time — and a Dragon capsule should make history by launching on a repeat ISS resupply mission shortly thereafter, a NASA official and a SpaceX representative said during a postlaunch news conference Monday. “I think we’re looking at SpaceX-11,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s deputy manager of ISS utilization, referring to the 11th resupply mission the company will fly with Dragon and the Falcon 9. (Monday’s launch kicked off SpaceX-9.)

I had been wondering when SpaceX would try to reuse a Dragon, and had assumed the reason it hadn’t happened yet was partly because of NASA reluctance combined with the delays connected with the launch failure last year. Either way, it appears that NASA is now on board and that the company is beginning to gear up for that first reflight.

SpaceX seeks two more pads for returning 1st stages

The competition heats up: SpaceX is asking for permission to establish two more landing pads so that it will have the capability of landing three first stages all within minutes of each other.

“SpaceX expects to fly Falcon Heavy for the first time later this year,” the company said in a statement responding to questions. “We are also seeking regulatory approval to build two additional landing pads at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. We hope to recover all three Falcon Heavy rockets, though initially we may attempt drone ship landings” at sea.

This news suggests two things: 1. The first Falcon Heavy launch is definitely coming soon. 2. They are going to try to return all three 1st stages during that first launch.

100 Kepler exoplanet candidates confirmed

Worlds without end: Astronomers have confirmed another 100 of Kepler’s more than 3,000 candidate exoplanets.

One of the most interesting set of planets discovered in this study is a system of four potentially rocky planets, between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth, orbiting a star less than half the size and with less light output than the Sun. Their orbital periods range from five-and-a-half to 24 days, and two of them may experience radiation levels from their star comparable to those on Earth.

Despite their tight orbits—closer than Mercury’s orbit around the sun—the possibility that life could arise on a planet around such a star cannot be ruled out, according to Crossfield.

Because the host star of this as well as many of these other confirmed exoplanets are red dwarf stars, the possibility of life is reduced because the star and its system is likely to have a less rich mix of elements compared to our yellow G-type Sun.

New climate model works better, but doesn’t!

New climate model
Image from Junk Science. I indicated the pause

The uncertainty of science: Scientists have developed a new computer climate model that does a better job of predicting the actual climate, until you get to the pause in warming during the past 18 years. The graph on the right, from the paper, shows the model’s prediction compared to the raw data. The two line up perfectly, until around 1998, when the pause or hiatus in global warming began. From that point, the model fails.

I especially like this quote from the press release, made by one of the paper’s two authors:

“Most of the difference between the raw data and new estimates is found during the recent 18 years since 1998,” said Xie. “Because of the hiatus, the raw data underestimate the greenhouse warming.” [emphasis mine]

Note how he reverses things. For him, the raw data is wrong, as it underestimates their perfect model of human-caused greenhouse warming. In reality, it is their model that has failed, as it fails to predict the pause in warming, showing that it must be missing important factors that are influencing the climate. Or as physicist Richard Feynmann so cogently put it,

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

Note also that this research paper, released today, recognizes the pause, which shows again that the claims by some scientists that the pause did not exist have not been convincing to other climate scientists. This in turn once again illustrates the overall uncertainty of this field of science.

The rings of Saturn

The rings of Saturn

Cool image time! The picture on right, cropped by me to show here, was taken by Cassini on April 2, 2016. You can see the moons Dione (on left) and Epimetheus (on right) above the rings. The full image can be seen here.

I am sure there is a lot of important science contained within this image. I post it here however not because of any scientific reason but entirely because it is simply damn spectacular. More than a decade after Cassini arrived at Saturn, every new picture of the planet’s giant ring system still seems incredibly unbelievable.

The universe is an amazing place, isn’t it?

Another successful Falcon 9 launch

The competition heats up: SpaceX has successfully launched a Dragon freighter to ISS.

As importantly, they have also landed the first stage successfully in Florida. At this point, they are demonstrating that they have the basics of this task down pat, and can now reliably return that first stage on practically every mission.

Next step: Reuse a first stage, coming later this year.

SpaceX chooses recovered first stage to reuse

The competition heats up: SpaceX has chosen as the first Falcon 9 first stage to reuse the one that was the first to land successfully on a barge on April 8.

Though they have not announced the mission it will fly, I strongly suspect it will be one of the two SES communications satellites scheduled to launch in the fall. SES has already said they want to buy a launch using a re-used first stage, and the two SES satellites scheduled for the fall have some redundancy between them.

Getting and Installing Linux – Part 4

The Software Manager

by James Stephens

A computer is nothing more than a toy unless it has the tools you need to get your work done, and Linux has a great set of tools. Most distributions come loaded with the tools most people use every day, a full office suite, graphics and media packages and so on. If you want more, a world of software awaits at your fingertips via the Software Manager. Think of it as the app store for your distribution, with tens of thousands of official titles vetted and available for download, most free of charge. No longer are you left to the wilds of the Internet to find what you need.

Most Linux Software is functionally equivalent to that of Apple or Windows. Most open source titles are ported to all platforms including Linux. So if you use an open source title such as Audacity or VLC media player, just type its name into the Linux Software Manager search bar and you will find it. For propitiatory titles such as Photoshop just define what it does, image manipulation for example, and the Software Manager will suggest Linux equivalents like GIMP or KRITA. In addition Photoshop and some other Windows software run great on Linux using WINE – the Windows compatibility layer. More about that later.
» Read more

A brief history of the nuclear defence triad

Link here.

The essay is a fascinating look at the origins in the 1950s of the U.S.’s defense triad of ground-launched ICBMs, submarine-launched ICBMS, and bombers. The section on the history of ICBMs describes nicely the roots of the Atlas 5 rocket as well as many of the federal government’s contracting policies for its big government projects like SLS.

You can’t just call up a new weapons system from nothing by sheer will alone. As [Thomas Hughes, in his history of Project Atlas] explains, there were severe doubts about how one might organize such a work. The first instinct of the military was to just order it up the way they would order up a new plane model. But the amount of revolutionary work was too great, and the scientists and advisors running the effort really feared that if you went to a big airplane company like Convair and said, “make me a rocket,” the odds that they’d actually be able to make it work were low. They also didn’t want to assign it to some new laboratory run by the government, which they felt would be unlikely to be able to handle the large-scale production issues. Instead, they sought a different approach: contract out individual “systems” of the missile (guidance, fuel, etc.), and have an overall contractor manage all of the systems. This took some serious effort to get the DOD and Air Force to accept, but in the end they went with it. [emphasis mine]

Sounds remarkable like the way the SLS rocket program is organized, with different contractors building different engines and stages and one contractor (Boeing) acting as top manager. More interestingly, the way the military used to do things — put out a request and let the private sector build it — is similar to the way NASA is doing things in today’s commercial cargo/manned program. What forced the transition from having the private sector design things to having the government entirely in charge? I have highlighted the key phrase, “the scientists and advisors running the effort.” They might have been sincere and they might even have been right, at the time, but nonetheless their approach was still a power grab, taking control of design and construction from the private sector and shifting it to them and the government entities building the rockets.

When construction actually started, the government ended up with six different rocket programs, Redstone, Atlas, Thor, Titan, Polaris, and Minuteman.

The redundancy was a hedge: the goal was to pick the top two of the programs and cancel the rest. Instead, Sputnik happened. In the resulting political environment, Eisenhower felt he had to put into production and deployment all six of them — even though some were demonstrably not as technically sound as others (Thor and Polaris, in their first incarnations, were fraught with major technical problems). This feeling that he was pushed by the times (and by Congress, and the services, and so on) towards an increasingly foolish level of weapons production is part of what is reflected in Eisenhower’s famous 1961 warning about the powerful force of the “military-industrial complex.”

Once again, this history illustrates the power grab that took place in Washington in the 1950s, something that Eisenhower did not like. Sixty years later, the rocket industry is struggling to transition back to the old way of doing things, because it actually works better. Before the 1950s, our innovative, competitive, and fast moving technological private sector made the United States an unbeatable powerhouse. Afterward, we increasingly lost the ability to innovate and compete, because the system created by these scientists and advisors did not encourage competition. Instead, they instituted a top-down centralized command approach, ironically quite similar to the Soviet model, the very philosophy the United States was opposing during the Cold War.

The failures of that top-down approach — illustrated starkly by SLS’s gigantic budget, interminable delays, and little produced — might finally be coming home to roost, allowing a new power grab by a competitive private sector. The change I think will be generally beneficial, not only to the needs of the federal government but to the needs of the general population, as it will generate a lot more wealth, a lot more innovation, and a lot more excitement, as it once again makes the U.S. a powerhouse, this time out among the planets.

Want to get a close look at the Russian spaceport during a launch? You can!

The space tourism company that has partnered with the Russians to fly tourists to ISS is now offering a nine-day tour of Russia’s launch facilities, including watching a Soyuz manned launch for the bargain price of $14,495.

Guests will get to see the launch of the Soyuz spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station and experience the live Soyuz-International Space Station docking at Mission Control Center. “We will observe the early morning roll-out of the Soyuz Rocket and follow it to the launch pad site together with the press, military personnel, cosmonauts, and their relatives,” said MIR Corporation President Douglas Grimes. “The following day we will gather in a VIP seating gallery at Mission Control Center for the live satellite feed of the Soyuz docking.”

Guests also have the option to participate in cosmonaut training themselves: They can experience up to 4 Gs on the world’s largest centrifuge, take a parabolic zero-G simulation flight, don a spacesuit, and learn how to handle “typical space tasks.”

SLS engine shuts down prematurely during test

A static firing test of one SLS’s rocket engines, repurposed from the shuttle, ended prematurely on Thursday.

It appears there was “a minor issue with the test stand” that caused the early shutdown. Some history about the engine itself:

The test involved development Engine 0528, back in the test stand at Stennis for its first test firing in seven years. E0528 was last fired from the nearby A-2 stand on July 1, 2009, in the second-to-last Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) ground test for the Shuttle program. Now out of storage and ready to fire again, the Aerojet Rocketdyne engine is being used in a second series of tests of the RS-25 configuration that will fly on SLS.

This is a test program, so having things go wrong is not necessarily a problem, as the failure teaches you things you need to know. However, they aren’t supposed to be testing the test stand, they are supposed to be testing the engine.

New Horizons looks back at Pluto

One year after New Horizons’ breath-taking fly-by of Pluto, the science team has written a review of what they have learned.

They list what they consider the mission’s top ten discoveries, which I think can be summed up in one phrase: the uncertainty of science. Pluto was more active geologically and atmospherically than predicted by all models. It was also more complex. Other surprises: Both Pluto and Charon show evidence of sub-surface liquid oceans of water. Charon’s dark red polar baffles them. They unexpectedly found no additional moons, and also discovered that as far as they can tell by the available data, the moons were all formed when Pluto formed, something they also did not expect.

The one thing that I expected that did happen? We got close, and discovered things we had not expected. Be prepared for further surprises when New Horizons flies past Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.

Mother, Father, Sister, Brother – The Sound of Philadelphia

An evening pause: This instrumental music, used as the theme music for the 1970s television show, Soul Train, has only one significant vocal line: “People all over the world!” I think the visuals used here, of Earth taken from the International Space Station, make that line seem especially appropriate.

Hat tip James Stephens.

Trump rally attendees sue San Jose

Fourteen attendees of a San Jose Trump rally on June 2 have filed a class-action suit against the city, the mayor, and the police chief for their failure to protect them from rioters.

“Law-abiding citizens leaving the Trump rally were victimized by being forced by armed police to walk into a riot in full swing where many were assaulted while police looked on,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Harmeet K. Dhillon, who is also the vice chair of the California Republican Party.

Dhillon says her clients range from a 14-year-old who was assaulted by two different individuals and denied assistance by the San Jose Fire Department to a 71-year-old woman whose glasses were ripped off and destroyed by three rioters. She said it was made clear that the “inaction” of 250 San Jose police officers “was colored by political viewpoint considerations.”

As documented at the time, the San Jose police actually arranged things so that the Trump supporters were forced to take a detour that would put them directly in the path of the violent protesters, and then stood down and watched them get attacked.

I hope they win big, and bankrupt the mayor and the police chief.

Route to Balanced Rock

Route to Balanced Rock on Mars

The image above is a panorama I have created from the raw images taken by Curiosity’s left navigation camera today, using this image for the left half and this image for the right half. They show the terrain in front of the rover, including the balanced rock on the horizon, indicated by the arrow.

I have no idea what route the science team plans, but looking at all of the images, as well as their desire to get a closer look at the rock, I suspect they will head up to the left on the smoother ground, aiming almost directly at the balanced rock. I also suspect that they will eventually veer right before getting to the rock, since the rover can’t go over the rough terrain in that area. Stay tuned to find out.

Freedom caucus demands impeachment vote on IRS head

Good news: Despite the opposition of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House is demanding a vote on the House floor on the impeachment of IRS head John Koskinen.

Two points: First, the vote is not guaranteed, as the motion put forth now will expire during the summer recess. The caucus will have to re-introduce it when Congress reconvenes in September, something they say they will do.

Second, Ryan’s resistance to having this vote does not speak well for him, considering the outrageous stonewalling by Koskinen in connection with IRS scandal, including lying to Congress and participating in the destruction of evidence that had been specifically requested by Congress. It also helps confirm the accusations of Ryan’s opponent in the August 9 Republican primary, Paul Nehlen, that Ryan is not the conservative he claims to be.

Trump picks Pence

It appears that Donald Trump has chosen Indiana governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate.

This article provides a detailed look at Pence’s background, which is decidedly conservative and tightly linked with tea party philosophy.

Trump’s choice here is definitely encouraging. It suggests that his claimed conversion to conservative values might actually be sincere (though clearly shallow), because it suggests he is looking for conservatives to help him figure out how to be a conservative. As I’ve said repeatedly, the best way to make sure Trump governs as a constitutional conservative is to surround him with constitutional conservatives. This choice indicates that he is not going to resist that possibility.

Let me add that picking Pence could help Trump significantly in garnering support from the status quo Republicans that have been resisting him, since these same people respect Pence highly.

Let me also add one cautionary note. I have a memory of Pence at one point waffling on conservative principles for political gain, but I cannot at all remember the context or situation. Thus, it is important to remind ourselves repeatedly that these are all politicians, and that their interest is not necessarily that of the nation’s but of their own self-interest, which means getting elected. At any time they could toss the Constitution in the trash heap if that is what they think will get them votes. UPDATE: This article outlines Pence’s waffling as governor in Indiana, confirming my reservations about him.

It is therefore very important to not only surround Trump with conservatives, all politicians must be surrounded by voters who demand they defend our rights and our freedoms, as defined by the Constitution. Only then can we be reasonably assured that those rights will be defended.

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