Tag Archives: bankruptcy

Social Security paid $1.7 million to dead federal workers

Government in action! An audit of Social Security has discovered that the agency paid $1.7 million to dead federal workers.

An audit released by the agency’s inspector general Monday revealed that the Social Security Administration had not crosschecked beneficiaries’ deaths with the Office of Personnel Management, which manages federal employees. Missing just 35 deaths cost taxpayers $1.7 million.

“OPM’s annuitant file contained deaths that were not recorded in SSA’s systems,” the inspector general said. “SSA paid $1.7 million in [Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance] OASDI benefits to 35 deceased beneficiaries. The average payment after death was $49,156 for an average of 84 months. …Additionally, we estimate SSA would have continued paying these beneficiaries approximately $258,000 over the next year had the deaths not been identified,” the inspector general said. Another six deceased individuals received $56,695 after their benefits were terminated by the agency.

The response by Social Security? The agency called the $1.7 million payments to dead government workers an “extremely small number.”

Russian hackers attack US election systems

What, me worry? Russian hackers attempted and were partly successful in June in accessing the election databases of Arizona and Illinois.

Hackers targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona, and the FBI alerted Arizona officials in June that Russians were behind the assault on the election system in that state. The bureau described the threat as “credible” and significant, “an eight on a scale of one to 10,” Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan (R), said Monday. As a result, Reagan shut down the state’s voter registration system for nearly a week.

It turned out that the hackers had not compromised the state system or even any county system. They had, however, stolen the username and password of a single election official in Gila County.

The article describes in detail the overall bad situation, including a number of additional attacks as well as the poor security surrounding the online voting option that more than 30 states use.

As usual, we are being told not to worry by the responsible government officials:

Tom Hicks, chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission, an agency set up by Congress after the 2000 Florida recount to maintain election integrity, said he is confident that states have sufficient safeguards in place to ward off attempts to ma­nipu­la­te data. For example, if a voter’s name were deleted and did not show up on the precinct list, the individual could still cast a provisional ballot, Hicks said. Once the voter’s status was confirmed, the ballot would be counted. Hicks also said the actual systems used to cast votes “are not hooked up to the Internet” and so “there’s not going to be any ma­nipu­la­tion of data.” However, more than 30 states have some provisions for online voting, primarily for voters living overseas or serving in the military.

Hicks has made me feel so much better!

Federal debt to rise to $28 trillion

What, me worry? A new Congressional Budget Office report today predicts the federal debt will grow to $28 trillion in the next decade.

Government spending is projected to increase by 5 percent, or $178 billion, while government revenue is projected to increase by less than 1 percent, or $26 billion. The rise in government spending is attributed to a 6 percent increase in outlays for Social Security and Medicare, a 1 percent increase in discretionary spending, and an 11 percent increase in net interest.

With the American people apparently favoring candidates who want to increase that debt, I suspect this prediction is seriously understated.

3rd largest insurer begins retreat from Obamacare

Finding out what’s in it: Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurer and faced with $300 million in loses, has decided against expanding its participation in the Obamacare exchanges.

They also announced that they are re-evaluating their entire participation in the remaining exchanges.

In related news, Obamacare rates are likely to go up from 23% to 45% in Illinois, and 17.3% in Michigan.

But don’t worry, we’ve got the situation covered. We’re going to vote for Hillary Clinton and Democrats, the people that gave us this failed law. They’ll surely fix it!

The Lie that is Orion

Several weeks ago NASA put out one of its periodic press releases touting the wonders of the engineering the agency is doing to prepare for its future missions to Mars. In this case the press release described a new exercise device, dubbed ROCKY (for Resistive Overload Combined with Kinetic Yo-Yo), for use in the Orion capsule.

“ROCKY is an ultra-compact, lightweight exercise device that meets the exercise and medical requirements that we have for Orion missions,” said Gail Perusek, deputy project manager for NASA’s Human Research Program’s Exploration Exercise Equipment project. “The International Space Station’s exercise devices are effective but are too big for Orion, so we had to find a way to make exercising in Orion feasible.

As is their habit these days in their effort to drum up support for funding for SLS and Orion, the press release was filled with phrases and statements that implied or claimed that Orion was going to be the spacecraft that Americans will use to explore the solar system.

…engineers across NASA and industry are working to build the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket that will venture to deep space for the first time together…

…Over the next several years, NASA’s Human Research Program will be refining the device to optimize it not only for near-term Orion missions with crew, but for potential uses on future long-duration missions in Orion…

These are only two examples. I have clipped them because both were very carefully phrased to allow NASA deniablity should anyone question these claims. For example, in the first quote they qualify “deep space” as specifically the 2018 unmanned lunar test flight. And the second quote is qualified as referring to missions to lunar space. Nonetheless, the implied intent of this wording is to sell Orion as America’s interplanetary spaceship, destined to take us to the stars!

Don’t believe me? Then take a look at NASA’s own Orion webpages, starting with the very first words on their Orion Overivew page.
» Read more

More speculations about Trump’s cabinet

This article gives a nice overview of the people who it appears are being considered for positions in a Trump presidency, should he win.

Unfortunately, it does not give a lot of background about the people mentioned. Many, like Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich, are well known. Others, like businessman Donald McGahn, are unknown. Some, like Senator Bob Corker, suggested as potential Secretary of State, would be a disaster, based on his past history of getting the Iran deal approved.
Some. like Harold Hamm and Steve Mnuchin, have been described here at BtB at the links behind their names, Hamm positively and Mnuchin negatively..

There is more at the link. Read it all. This list is a start. It will require vetting to get a sense of what we can expect from a Trump administration.

Note that there is a reason I am so focused on Trump and not Clinton. Trump remains an unknown, who might be worth voting for if it appears his plans as President are reasonable, something that might still be possible, despite all the negative reports I’ve given him. Moreover, there is a chance that Trump can be positively influenced. Learning as much about him as possible increases that possibility.

Clinton however is not an unknown. She is corrupt, a liar, and an avowed socialist who believes strongly in increasing the size and power of the federal government, as does the entire political party that supports her. To deny any of this is to live with your head in the sand. She thus needs no vetting.

Half of TSA employees cited for misconduct

Does this make you feel safer? Almost half of all TSA employees have been cited for misconduct, and the citations have increased by almost 30 percent since 2013.

Of the total allegations filed, 90.8 percent were against TSA officers, while 4.8 percent were filed against managers or administrators. Of the areas of misconduct, “Attendance & Leave” sees the highest number of offenders, while “Failure to Follow Instructions,” “Screening & Security,” “Neglect of Duty,” and “Disruptive Behavior” round out the top five.

It also appears that the TSA has been reducing the sanctions it has been giving out for this bad behavior.

EPA’s gasoline efficiency tests are garbage

Our government in action: The tests the EPA uses to establish the fuel efficiency of cars are unreliable, and likely provide no valid information at all about the fuel efficiency of the cars tested.

The law requiring cars to meet these fuel efficiency tests was written in the 1970s, and specifically sets standards based on the technology then. Worse,

[T]he EPA doesn’t know exactly how its CAFE testing correlates with actual results, because it has never done a comprehensive study of real-world fuel economy. Nor does anyone else. The best available data comes from consumers who report it to the DOT—hardly a scientific sampling.

Other than that, everything is fine. Companies are forced to spend billions on this regulation, the costs of which they immediately pass on to consumers, all based on fantasy and a badly-written law. Gee, I’m sure glad we never tried this with healthcare!

A blunt honest appraisal of America today

The coming dark age: This op-ed encapsulates perfectly my despairing sense of today’s American culture, and what it will bring to the future.

After noting the effort by Obama and the Democrats these past eight years to divide Americans by race, party, gender, religion, and creed, he then adds:

Into this, Republicans are responding not with a candidate who will rise above the fray and try to unite us all back into common culture, but a man with no temperament to do anything other than divide. His loudest supporters embrace a “convert or die” mentality. We are either with him or against him.

Republicans have embraced a man who takes tribalism to new levels and, in the process, have put on blinders and willfully ignored how much he excites white nationalists and the race baiters of the right. For every New Black Panther in love with Barack Obama there are two white nationalists willing to march through hell for Donald Trump.

In his conclusion he adds

I’m afraid 2016 is the beginning of a chaotic time and not a one off occasion. We may look back on 2016 as the calm before the storm. What is most galling to me is that my party, the party I once served as an elected official, has turned to a man who has no intention of uniting the nation, who brings out the worst in absolutely everybody, and with so much on the line has so little a chance of even winning. But to point this out is to be accused of being a traitor and helping a woman I find equally offensive.

All of this is to say we get the government and national character that reflects us and right now it is all a damning indictment of our American character. How many more will die? How many more Americans will turn against each other? How many will seek blame instead of reconciliation?

Meanwhile, I am reminded of how, during the primary campaign, Ted Cruz was always willing to graciously reach out to protesters and debate the issues with them politely, face-to-face. That behavior, in modern America, has now been called “creepy” and the act of a liar.

We get the government we deserve. Be prepared for bad things in the future.

Most of America’s elite universities do not require history majors to study U.S. history

The coming dark age: More than fifty American universities do not require history majors to take a course in United States history.

This bears repeating: The universities allow history majors to get a degree in history without having to study American history. The article also includes lots of interviews from lots of academic types, all making excuses for this dismal policy.

No wonder no one seems to know what the Bill of Rights is. Our universities, run almost exclusively by leftwing hacks, have sent it down the memory hole to be forgotten and ignored.

Obama illegally funding Obamacare, stonewalling Congress

The law is such an inconvenient thing: According to a new report, the Obama administration has been illegally funding Obamacare, and stonewalling Congress when it tries to exercise its constitutional required fiscal responsibility.

Among the report’s seemingly endless list of bad behavior by the Obama administration, it noted that multiple federal agencies withheld or redacted documents from Congress, “without any valid legal basis to do so.”

Hey, who cares about the law? That’s just some silly piece of paper that some old white guys wrote some 240 years ago. We are liberal, we are Democrats, and we know best. Now shut up and do as you are told!

Republicans and Democrats fight to restrict freedoms

Ugh: House Republicans move to introduce new gun control law, House Democrats vow to fight it because it will allow for due process.

From the second link:

A Democratic source said the more controversial gun-purchase provision may be similar to a bill sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that’s backed by the National Rifle Association. Democrats say the Cornyn bill doesn’t go far enough since it includes a “probable cause” standard that would require law enforcement officials to prove that a gun buyer is an actual terrorist rather than a suspected terrorist. Instead, Democrats want a vote on legislation that would bar firearm sales to anyone on a terrorism watch list or no-fly list.

Without a vote on their own legislation, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and other Democrats have threatened to take control of the House floor once again after they return from the Fourth of July recess. On Wednesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and dozens of other Democrats held events around the country demanding action to stop gun violence.

It is disgusting how Democrats no longer support the idea of due process, that they are cool with the idea of secret lists that can deny any American his or her constitutional rights. Boy will they squeal when those lists are used to deny them their rights!

However, it is just as disgusting that the Republicans are playing into the Democrats hands here by introducing any gun control legislation. This is not how you fight Islamic terrorism, by denying Americans access to guns. You fight Islamic terrorism by standing up for our rights while aggressively going after the terrorists who commit those acts of violence.

Congress pushes for Europa missions

A new House budget bill stipulates that NASA fly two unmanned missions to Europa, including a lander, and do it soon.

The bill also includes several hundred million per year for the missions, at least at the beginning. Even though planetary scientists have recommended that NASA do at least one mission to Eurpoa relatively soon, it appears that these missions are the particular pet projects of the committee chairman in Congress.

Airbus begins assembly Orion service module

My heart be still! Airbus has announced that it is beginning assembly of the first Orion capsule service module.

Considering the cost to build about three Orion flight capsules, about $25 billion, one would think that would be enough to also build the capsule’s service module, especially since this is not cutting edge technology, having already been done with Apollo.

Not however when you are dealing with pork-laden government operations, where the customer, the taxpayer, is a good mark that you can suck for as much money as possible without any bad consequences. Make it sound cool and they will buy it, hook, line, and sinker!

Congress demands Air Force spend less and more at the same time

A House budget report has cut the Air Force launch budget while simultaneously requiring the Air Force to favor more expensive launch companies.

In addition to cutting the funding available for new launch contracts, House appropriators also want the Air Force to consider “the best value to the government” in evaluating bids.

ULA has been pushing for the best-value approach since it sat out last fall’s GPS-3 launch competition saying it couldn’t win a price shootout against SpaceX, which will launch the satellite which was awarded an $82.7 million contract last month for a May 2018 launch of a GPS-3 satellite. That contract was awarded as part of a best value source selection. “We do not yet feel we are in a position to win price-only competitions with our competitor,” Tory Bruno, ULA president and chief executive, said in a March interview with SpaceNews. “We believe we have better performance, reliability and schedule certainty.” Those traits would carry greater weight in a best-value competition.

Only our precious Congress. On one hand they cut the budget for launches because they think the Air Force is wasting money On the other they demand that the Air Force spend extra millions on launch contracts so that the company they favor, ULA, gets the work. One would almost think they do not have the nation’s interests in mind..

Republican-led Senate passes spending bill larger than requested by Obama

Feeding the anger: A bill passed today by the Republican-led Senate included more funding that originally requested by the Obama administration.

Moving legislation and avoiding fights has been a top election year priority for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican wants the GOP Senate to prove that Republicans can govern by avoiding a one-and-done omnibus spending package at the end of the year. But the energy and water bill received little fanfare from Senate conservatives. They complain that the measure, which funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior, spends $261 million more than even Obama requested.

Sen. Mike Lee described the legislation as “simply unacceptable in a time of rising debt and slower economic growth.” The Utah Republican told The Daily Signal that “we’re never going to get our nation’s rising deficits under control until we can stick to our previous agreements on spending levels,” referring to the limits set in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Though Congress has not passed a budget resolution, the Senate started advancing spending bills at levels established in the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, which increased government discretionary spending by $30 billion above the 2011 caps.

Still Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told The Daily Signal he’s glad the appropriations process has gotten off the ground finally. “This is the first time this appropriation bill has passed the Senate since 2009,” Lankford, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, explained. “To avoid last-minute continuing resolutions, backroom deals and omnibus bills, we must move bills through a regular order appropriations process.”

These guys just don’t get it. There is a reason that Trump and Cruz dominated their party’s presidential campaign, and it wasn’t because they were calling for Congress to advance big spending bills in Congress quickly.

Posted from El Paso, Texas.

ULA’s CEO explains why they are retiring Delta

Tory Bruno, the CEO of ULA, explained in an op-ed today why his company is discontinuing its use of Boeing’s Delta family of rockets and focusing exclusively on Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 and its eventual replacement, the Vulcan Centaur.

Delta is an amazing rocket, but it’s costly to produce. Its burnt-orange foam insulation has to be applied by hand. Its production line is bigger and more complex than Atlas’s. And its components are pricier.

Bruno’s purpose with this op-ed is to convince Congress to leave his company alone while they develop the new Vulcan rocket. Congress keeps proposing outlawing use of the Atlas 5 with its Russian engines, and Bruno does not want that, at least not until the Vulcan is flying. He is also trying to reduce his costs by discontinuing Delta, which in turn would allow him to lower prices for his Atlas 5 and compete more effectively with SpaceX.

Though I understand Congress’s concerns, I do find it sad that in modern America a private businessman has to lobby Congress for the right to run his company as he sees fit.

How tiny cowardice is destroying us

Link here.

This is how culture wars are lost: through the slow accumulation of individually defensible but collectively unjustifiable decisions not to resist. It’s the decision that objecting during diversity training simply isn’t worth the hassle. It’s the decision not to say anything when you see a colleague or fellow student facing persecution because of their beliefs. It’s a life habit of always taking the path of least resistance, keeping your head down, and doing your best to preserve your own family and career. The small fights don’t matter anyway, right? I recently spoke to a mid-level executive at a major corporation who had been forced to sit through mandatory “inclusivity” training. The topic was transgender rights, and the trainer proceeded to spout far-left ideology as fact, going so far as to label all who disagreed with the notion that a man can become a woman “transphobic.” I asked if anyone objected to any part of the training, and the response was immediate. “Are you crazy? No one wants to deal with HR.”

Read it all. We are faced with bullies, who run away and hide the instant someone challenges them. The problem is that too many people are unwilling to challenge them, so they win time after time after time.

April 25, 2016 Zimmerman Space Show appearance

My appearance on the Space Show yesterday is now available as a podcast. I strongly recommend people listen to it, especially the first hour. During that section I compared at length the cost and practicality of the Falcon Heavy with SLS/Orion, and noted how badly Congress and Presidents from both parties have served the American people these past twenty years in mismanaging our aerospace industry.

David Livingston called it a rant, and criticized me for it during the show, but I think the time has come for more Americans to rage in horror at the foolishness and possible corruption of our elected leaders in Washington.

Congress micro-manages rocket engineering again

In an effort to funnel money to Aerojet Rocketdyne at the cost of every other rocket company in the nation, the House Armed Services Committee has written a bill that tells the Air Force exactly how it will build its future rockets.

“The Committee shares the concern of many members that reliance on Russian-designed rocket engines is no longer acceptable,” the committee said April 25. “The Chairman’s Proposal, as recommended by Chairman Rogers of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, denies the Air Force’s request to pursue the development, at taxpayer expense, of new commercial launch systems. It instead focuses on the development of a new American engine to replace the Russian RD-180 by 2019 to protect assured access to space and to end reliance on Russian engines. The Mark also holds the Air Force accountable for its awards of rocket propulsion contracts that violated the FY15 and FY16 NDAAs.”

…“The funds would not be authorized to be obligated or expended to develop or procure a launch vehicle, an upper stage, a strap-on motor, or related infrastructure,” says a draft of the 2017 defense authorization bill.

As presently written, the bill would leave the Air Force only one option: use engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

If anything demonstrates the corruption or foolishness of our elected officials, it is this proposal. Not only are they telling the Air Force how to design rockets, they are limiting the options so much that they are guaranteeing that it will either cost us more than we can afford, or it won’t be doable at all. As I say, either they are corrupt (working to benefit Aerojet Rocketdyne in exchange for money), or they are foolish, (preventing the Air Force from exploring as many inexpensive future options as possible).

Soyuz rocket launch scrubbed due to faulty IMU

Uh-oh: A Soyuz rocket launch from French Guiana was scrubbed an hour before launch on Sunday because of detected problems with the inertial measurement unit (IMU) in its navigational system.

Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel tweeted Sunday that the faulty inertial measurement unit, or IMU, will be replaced overnight in time for a launch attempt Monday. The IMU is located on the Soyuz rocket’s third stage and is used to determine the heading and orientation of the vehicle in the first nine minutes of its mission, feeding critical attitude data to the launcher’s guidance computers, which transmit steering commands to the engines.

The venerable Soyuz booster flies more often than any other launcher in the world, and delays due to technical causes are rare. [emphasis mine]

This is not good news for Russia’s aerospace industry, as it suggests that the quality control problems Russia has experienced with the company that manufactures its Proton rocket are now beginning to appear with the different company that manufactures the Soyuz rocket.

If true, this is also very bad news for American astronauts, who must use this rocket to get to and from space.

San Francisco requires new buildings have solar panels

Another reason to leave California: San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has unanimously passed a local law that will require all new buildings, both commercial and residential, that are lower than 10 stories tall to install solar panels on their roofs.

San Francisco’s new regulations add to already existing Californian laws which require 15 percent of rooftops on buildings of 10 stories or less to be unshaded and solar ready. Under the new law, buildings must have either solar photovoltaic or solar water panels installed, or a mix of the two.

As part of a concerted effort to one day run the city entirely on renewables, the mayor set up a taskforce in 2011 to develop policies and programs that steer it in this direction. It hopes to achieve this goal by 2025.

1. This will add a significant cost to the construction of new buildings, guaranteeing that there will be a decline in construction of such buildings in San Francisco.

2. I am certain that the task force that the mayor set up in 2011 was dominated by individuals in the solar power industry, all of whom are going to benefit greatly by this new law. I would also not be surprised if I learned that they donated money to the mayor’s campaign fund.

3. This law, as well as the city’s plan to run itself entirely on renewables by 2025, are pure fantasies based on ideology that no law can dictate. They must evolve, based on the realities of economics and technological discovery. That San Francisco’s political leadership can’t understand this fundamental fact of life indicates that this city is going to bankrupt itself in the near future, especially since its population overwhelming agrees with the fantasies of their political leaders. Expect more stupid laws like this, and except the situation there to become increasingly oppressive as these ideologues increasingly impose their unworkable fantasies on everyone.

Russian government rescues Proton manufacturer

The Russian government has moved to cover more than $300 million in debts incurred by the Khrunichev Space Center, the company that builds the Proton rocket.

The company’s problems center around its loss of market share, partly because of repeated launch failures of the Proton rocket in the last five years, and partly because of SpaceX’s lower launch prices.

Senate committee throws money at NASA

The Senate appropriations subcommittee has announced its proposed 2017 budget for NASA, including significant budget increases for SLS and Orion.

SLS is the big winner in the bill, according to a summary of its contents provided by the committee. The heavy-lift launch vehicle would get $2.15 billion, $150 million more than it received in 2016 and $840 million above the administration’s request. The SLS funding includes $300 million directed for work on the Exploration Upper Stage with the goal of having it ready as soon as 2021, the earliest planned date for the first crewed SLS/Orion mission.

The bill also provides $1.3 billion for Orion, $30 million above 2016 and $180 million above the administration’s request. It also directs Orion to be ready for its first crewed mission in 2021.

The bill provides $5.4 billion for science programs overall, $200 million below the request. The summary does not break out spending among the various science mission directorates. Commercial crew would get $1.18 billion, the amount requested by NASA, and space technology would get $687 million, the same as 2016 but $140 million less than requested.

Meanwhile, in order to keep NASA’s overall budget about the same as last year the subcommittee, led by porkmeister Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), apparently trimmed the agency’s science budget.

The full plan will be revealed tomorrow. Moreover, the House still has to make its budget proposal, and then the House and Senate have to agree. Regardless, this Senate budget proposal is more indication that this Republican Congress is going to throw endless gobs of money at SLS and Orion, so the boondoggle can fly once, maybe twice, and then get mothballed. What a waste.

It also tells us how insincere many Republican elected officials are when they claim they are for fiscal responsibility.

The Orion fantasy

There is a commercial space conference going on in Colorado this week, which explains the plethora of breaking stories from the new commercial space companies both yesterday and today.

Two stories today from Aviation Week, however, are more about the old big space industry and the old way of doing things, and both reveal the hollow nature of that entire effort.

Both stories are about work Lockheed Martin is doing in connection with its Orion capsule, and both try to convince us that this capsule is going to be the central vehicle for the first missions to Mars.

Function starts in the bones of the spacecraft,” [Mike Hawes, Lockheed Martin vice president and Orion program manager,] said in an April 12 interview at the 32nd annual Space Symposium here. “To be a deep space spacecraft, you have to build differently than you would if your requirements were to stay in low Earth orbit and be quiescent at the International Space Station for a few months. That’s driven Orion from the beginning. Any architecture you look at needs a crew capability, a long-term design requirement. So, you can debate a lot of different missions, but you need that fundamental capacity we have invested in Orion.”

I say balderdash. Orion is an over-priced and over-engineered ascent/descent capsule for getting humans in and out of Earth orbit. Spending billions so it can also go to Mars makes no sense, because its heat shield and other capsule technologies for getting through the Earth’s atmosphere are completely useless in interplanetary travel. Moreover, such a small capsule is completely insufficient for a long Mars mission, even if you test it for a “1,000 day” missions, as Hawes also says in the first article. To send a crew to Mars, you need a big vessel, similar to Skylab, Mir, ISS, or Bigelow’s B330 modules. A mere capsule like Orion just can’t do it.

Eventually, it is my hope that Congress will recognize this reality, and stop funding big space projects like SLS and Orion, and instead put its money behind the competitive private efforts to make money in space. Rather than trying to build its own capsules, space stations, rockets, and interplanetary vessels (something that NASA has repeatedly tried to do without any success), NASA should merely be a customer, buying the capsules, space stations, and interplanetary vessels that private companies have built, on their own, to make money, on their own.

Consider for example Bigelow’s B330. Each module is about as big as Skylab or Mir, and costs mere pennies to build and launch, compared to those government-designed stations. Moreover, Bigelow can build it fast, and repeatedly. Similarly, Orion has cost billions (about $16 billion when it makes its first manned mission in 2021 at the earliest) and will have taken 15 years to build. SpaceX built Dragon in seven years, Orbital ATK built Cygnus in five years, and Boeing is going to build Starliner in about four years, all for about $10 billion, total.

The contrast is striking, and though ordinary people with the ability to add 2 plus 2 can see it, it takes Congressman a little longer (as they need to use their fingers to count). Sooner or later they will get it, and Orion and SLS will disappear. Bet on it.

Delusional banking

Time to consider holding more of your money in cash: The International Monetary Fund said on Sunday that it now supports the idea of imposing negative interest rates on depositor money at some central banks.

In other words, steal the money, placed originally in the banks for safety from theft.

The following quote from the article, however, reveals how truly hopeless the situation really is:

Critics argue that the move to negative rates, especially in Japan where the central bank has failed to ignite growth or shift inflation upwards, are a sign of desperation. What is needed they say is additional government spending instead of more loose monetary policy. In addition, they charge that the move may damage the economy by inflating financial market asset bubbles and squeezing bank profit margins. [emphasis mine]

The idea that more government spending will solve the problem of too much government spending, which is why these central banks are in debt and need to steal the money of the depositors in order to become solvent again, is absurd. That the world’s economic experts can see no other solution, like maybe getting government spending under control so that reasonable taxes can pay the bills, tells us that no reasonable solution will be tried, and that eventually everything is going to crash badly.

NASA picks Aerojet Rocketdyne engine for SLS upper stage

Government in slow motion: Only six years after program start, NASA has finally chosen Aerojet Rocketdyne’s legacy RL10 rocket engine for the upper stage of the SLS rocket.

The RL10 is an expander cycle liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen rocket engine typically used on upper stage applications. It was first developed by Pratt & Whitney in the late 1950s and first flown in 1963. It has flown on hundreds of launches, logged approximately 15,000 hot fires, and accumulated more than 2.3 million seconds of hot fire operation time with a demonstrated reliability ratio greater than 0.999 throughout its history. The RL10 – which is used in various forms with Atlas’ Centaur Upper Stage (RL10A-4-2) and Delta IV’s Upper Stage (RL10B-2) – has a history back to the Saturn I’s S-IV Stage.

No other engine exists that can be built in time. Even so, the engine will not be ready for the first SLS launch tentatively scheduled in 2018, but will instead be used on the next two flights. The article also indicates that NASA is planning to delay SLS’s second flight two years to 2023, creating a five year gap which they will use to integrate the RL10 into SLS, while also rebuilding the mobile platform used to move SLS to the launchpad. (For some reason, the reconfiguration installed for the first SLS flight won’t work for later flights.)

The delay to 2023 has not been announced officially, but I have seen too much evidence recently, including statements in this GAO report, that tells me the delay is certain. Furthermore, it seems increasingly likely that the second flight will also be unmanned, and it won’t be until the third flight (as yet unfunded by Coingress) that humans will finally fly on SLS.

The cost? I am doing an analysis of this subject right now for a policy paper I am writing for a Washington think tank, and my preliminary estimate exceeds $41 billion for NASA to fly just one manned flight of SLS. That’s a bit more expensive than the $10 billion NASA is paying SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and Boeing to launch more than a dozen cargo freighters and as many as a dozen manned flights to ISS.

For those elected officials out there who have trouble with math, let’s compare again:

  • SLS: $41 billion for one flight, 15 years development to first flight.
  • Commercial space: $10 billion for two dozen flights, 5 years development to first flight.

Which costs less and gives more bang for the buck? Can you figure that out, Congressmen and Senators? If you need help I can provide you a few more fingers so you can count above ten.

TSA wastes $1.4 million

Government marches on! The TSA spent $1.4 million to develop software that does the exact same thing as flipping a coin.

The “randomizer” app itself cost $336,000, the rest of the funds most likely went towards iPads themselves, Rare reports. There were four bids total for the project and IBM won the project. The app’s purpose is to eliminate potential bias when a TSA agent tells passengers which line to go to. Currently on the iTunes app store, there are multiple free coin flip apps which perform the same process as the TSA’s “randomizer.”

The corruption here reeks. Shut the whole thing down, and not only would we be safer, we would each have more wealth to make our lives better.

In a related story, the Department of Homeland Security has paid almost $20 million in salaries to corrupt employees who they can’t fire, so they pay them to do nothing.

Ordered to reduce red tape, federal bureaucrats increased it

Government in action: In response to two executive orders by President Obama ordering federal agencies to review their regulations to eliminate red tape and streamline government operations, federal bureaucrats added 6.5 million paperwork hours to their workload and increased regulatory costs by $16 billion even as they wrote these reviews.

The American Action Forum has found the reviews consist mostly of recycled regulations by federal agencies that have actually increased regulatory costs. “The recent ‘retrospective reports’ from the administration reveal that executive agencies have added more than $16 billion in regulatory costs, up from $14.7 billion in the previous update, and 6.5 million paperwork hours,” the report said.

The agency reviews are a result of President Barack Obama’s initiative for a “government-wide review of rules on the books,” which the White House claims to have led to $28 billion in net five-year savings since 2011. However, the American Action Forum has found retrospective reviews often add additional costs to the economy. A review in 2014 added $23 billion in costs and 8.9 million paperwork burden hours.

No one should be surprised by this. Asking agencies to review their regulations will instead be seen by them as a glorious opportunity to justify their existence with more work. The way to eliminate these regulations is for the elected officials in charge to, surprise!, eliminate these regulations. Don’t ask the bureaucrats to do it. Tell them to do it.

And when these bureaucrats go to the press to complain and say how the elimination of this or that regulation will cause the sky to fall, the politicians have to have the courage to not back down, even when the press teams up with the bureaucrats to slander them for trying to bring the federal government under control.

Another subsidized solar power company going bust?

Your tax dollars at work! The U.S.’s largest solar power company, heavily subsidized by the federal government, now faces bankruptcy.

An SEC filing from TerraForm Global, a unit of SunEdison, claims “due to SunEdison’s liquidity difficulties, there is a substantial risk that SunEdison will soon seek bankruptcy protection.” Both SunEdison and TerraForm are delaying the filing of their annual financial report to the SEC.

News of SunEdison’s impending bankruptcy filing comes after the company’s shares fell 95 percent in the past 12 months, with shares now trading for less than $1 for the first time since the green energy company went public in 1995. SunEdison’s market value fell from $10 billion in July 2015 to around $400 million today.

The news also comes after the SEC announced it was launching an investigation into SunEdison’s disclosures to shareholders regarding the company’s liquidity. SEC enforcement officials “are looking into whether SunEdison overstated its liquidity last fall when it told investors it had more than $1 billion in cash,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

…The pro-labor union group Good Jobs First reported last year that SunEdison and its subsidiaries got nearly $650 million in subsidies and tax credits from the federal government since 2000. It was the 13th most heavily-subsidized company in America. This includes nearly $4.6 million in subsidies from the Department of Energy and Department of Treasury. Watchdog.org reported in October 2015 that SunEdison had gotten nearly $4.6 million from the Obama administration, including funding to build semi-conductors. A SunEdison bankruptcy could leave taxpayers on the hook for more than $2 billion.

But hey, what’s a few billion here or there, if the cause is worthwhile?

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