Tag Archives: policy

29 Republicans and all Democrats vote to kill Senate balanced budget proposal

Apropos of my post earlier today: In the Senate yesterday twenty-nine Republicans and every Democrat voted to kill a balanced budget proposal offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).

Paul’s plan would have reduced spending by $404.8 billion in the fiscal year that starts October 1. After the budget balanced in five years, spending would be held to 1 percent increases per year, resulting in a budget that was 14.6 percent bigger in 10 years that it is now.

This very mild proposal to trim the equivalent of a penny from every dollar spent was too much for these spend-thrifts. The article at the link lists all 29 Republicans who voted against it, all of whom were liars when they said during their campaigns that they support a balanced budget, fiscal responsibility, and smaller government.

Let me repeat it so no one has any doubts about what I mean: These Senators are liars. They didn’t misconstrue the facts. Their statements weren’t misguided. They simply lied during their campaigns, and they have so done repeatedly.

The only saving grace about this story is that the trend has been to replace these crooks. Since 2010 the voters have been favoring candidates who mean what they say, on both sides of the aisle. And the result has been an increase in the numbers of real conservatives in Congress. Their influence is growing.

We also might be getting outright socialists and communists elected on the Democratic side, but at least they are being honest about who they are, unlike the lying Democrats who in the past were also outright socialists or communists, but tried to hide their beliefs behind equally offensive lies.

This honesty will maybe finally allow us to deal with the issue of the out-of-control federal budget. Or it will bankrupt us with more legislators willing to spend money like it is water. In the latter case, however, the result will be because this is what the American people choose to do, rather than being deceived by their leaders. And if that is what we choose, then at least we will deserve the hell we bring down upon ourselves.

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The federal government’s blank check

Three articles this morning about actions taken by Congress in connection with the budgets for NASA and NOAA illustrate the bankrupt nature of our federal government.

The first story describes how several legislators from the House Appropriations Committee have inserted amendments into their budget bill that will restore a $10 million NASA climate monitoring program that the Trump administration had shut down.

The second story describes how that same budget bill generously funds both NASA and NOAA at levels far above their own requests.
» Read more

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Contamination found in shuttle engines to be used by SLS

Now we know why the first launch is likely delayed: It appears that contamination has been found in the used and refurbished shuttle engines that the Space Launch System is using.

A “routine quality assurance inspection” of the core stage, he said, discovered contamination in tubing in the engine section of the core stage, which hosts the vehicle’s four RS-25 main engines and associated systems. That contamination turned out to be paraffin wax, which is used to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured but is supposed to be cleaned out before shipment.

“The prime contractor determined the vendor was not fully cleaning the tubes and it was leaving residue in the tubes,” McErlean said. “This was retained as a requirement in the prime contractor’s spec, but it was not properly carried out.” Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, but he did not disclose the vendor who provided the contaminated tubing.

The contamination was initially found in a single tube, he said, but later checks found similar residue in other tubes. All the tubing in the core stage is now being inspected and cleaned, a process he said is not straightforward because of the “mass of tubing” in the engine section and also because cleaning is a “non-trivial process.”

Some obvious questions immediately arise:

1. These engines were previously flown on the space shuttles, numerous times. How did the paraffin wax, used “to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured,” remain in the tubes during all those shuttle flights?

2. Assuming the tubes were a new addition or replacement during the refurbishing process, it still seems astonishing that a subcontractor could be so lax. Did they really believe the wax did not need to be thoroughly cleaned?

3. While they have admitted that they will likely have to delay the launch because of issues with the core stage, why do they deny this contamination problem is the cause? More important, how much is it costing to fix? And how much time are they actually losing to fix it?

4. Finally, this is only one of many similar problems that we have seen with this entire project. Boeing and NASA have gotten so far about $40 billion to build this rocket, and have been working on it since 2006, more than a dozen years ago. Furthermore, they supposedly are building it using shuttle equipment in a Saturn rocket-type design in order to save money and time. Instead, they have wasted billions and taken more than three times longer than it took us to win World War II to get to a point where the program still has not flown.

Does anyone really believe this project is anything but a huge boondoggle? And if so, can they please tell me how it will be possible for the United States to really explore the heavens with a project run this incompetently?

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UAE astronaut to fly to ISS on Soyuz?

According to a story in the Russian press a tourist on a flight planned for 2019 could be replaced by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Russians and the UAE have signed a cooperative agreement, so this is possible. It could also be that the UAE has offered more money and thus moved up the queue. It could also be that this is premature. There have been many such stories in the past decade, but the Russians have not flown a tourist to ISS since 2009.

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Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign

Confirmed: The Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign, using a variety of illicit methods, from monitoring phonecalls to inserting spies within the campaign.

The article outlines the entire range of abuse of power by the Obama FBI and Justice Department, but two actions stand out to me as most egregious, both outlined in this quote:

The F.B.I. investigated four unidentified Trump campaign aides in those early months, congressional investigators revealed in February. The four men were Michael T. Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said…

The F.B.I. obtained phone records and other documents using national security letters — a secret type of subpoena — officials said. And at least one government informant met several times with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos, current and former officials said.

First, the Obama administration went after the campaign of their opponent, based not on any reasonable suspicion of a crime but merely because they were participating in an opposition campaign.

Second, much of this spying was instigated using these national security letters, which do not require a judge’s warrant and on their face are completely unconstitutional.

Read it all. This behavior was a direct attack on our American democracy. If no one gets punished expect far worse from future administrations, from both the left and the right, all intent on maintaining their power regardless of the wishes of the American electorate.

I must add one more detail. This information comes from a badly written New York Times propaganda piece designed to support the actions of the Obama FBI. Yet, buried in that report was this quote:

A year and a half later, no public evidence has surfaced connecting Mr. Trump’s advisers to the hacking or linking Mr. Trump himself to the Russian government’s disruptive efforts.

Let that sink in. After two years of open-ended investigation using unlimited resources, these petty tyrants have yet to find any evidence of Russian collusion. The time has come to shut this kangaroo court down.

Update: This article does an excellent job of outlining the outright abuse of power by the Obama administration. As the author notes succinctly,

The scandal is that the FBI, lacking the incriminating evidence needed to justify opening a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign, decided to open a counterintelligence investigation. With the blessing of the Obama White House, they took the powers that enable our government to spy on foreign adversaries and used them to spy on Americans — Americans who just happened to be their political adversaries. [emphasis in original]

This is Watergate times infinity, and if there is anything left of our Constitutional government, it should put a lot of people from the Obama administration in jail.

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Boulder bans assault weapons, gun owners sue

Fascists: The city council in Boulder, Colorado, this week passed a local law banning “assault weapons” and other gun accessories.

Its city council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday to ban the sale and possession of assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines — becoming one of a handful of cities nationwide that has taken action to change its gun laws in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting massacre.

…The new law requires people who own bump stock devices and magazines that hold 10 or more rounds of ammunition to dispose of or sell the firearm accessories by July 15, according to Colorado Public Radio.

A lawsuit against the law was immediately filed.

I think however that this quote by the city councilwoman who proposed the law illustrates best its stupidity.

“It felt like a no-brainer to propose this.”

That’s right, it is very clear that the council and this councilwoman used no brains at all in writing and approving the law. It not only is vague, unenforceable, and oppressive, it puts the blame for past murders on innocent law-abiding citizens.

The problem however is that this might very well be constitutional. As long as this local ordinance does not violate Colorado state law, it would be permissible under the Constitution, as the second amendment was designed to limit federal authority, not state or local authorities. As such, it illustrates the growing rise of fascism in some communities within the U.S., places where the majority sees nothing wrong with oppressing a minority, merely because they disagree about public policy. Expect more of this in the coming years. Expect also that these fascist localities to become havens of poverty, crime, oppression, and economic collapse.

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All charges dropped against ARCA CEO

After a grand jury refused to issue an indictment, all charges have been dropped against Dumitru Popescu, the CEO of the smallsat rocket company ARCA.

I am reminded of the Emily Latila character from the early days of Saturday night life.

Even though he has been entirely cleared, the prosecution served to seriously delay the company’s plans.

At the time the charges were filed last fall, ARCA had been about two weeks from launching a test rocket from Spaceport America, according to Popescu. The criminal case stalled progress. Now, the company plans to carry out the rocket test in Europe. After that, it’s likely the company will launch a test of a second rocket system from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

It is also possible the company will now exit either New Mexico or the U.S., since it appears the state government here is hostile to it.

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Evergreen State College: 20% enrollment drop and $6 million budget cut

Evergreen State College, where bigoted riots occurred last year, has been forced to institute $6 million in budget cuts due to a 20% enrollment drop.

The cuts were outlined by President George Bridges in a May 8 memo to the Board of Trustees, and are accompanied by plans to raise various student fees by hundreds of dollars, The Olympian reported last week. “The most likely explanation, indeed, the only viable explanation to my mind, is that the impact of last year’s events are playing out in the enrollment numbers.”

Has the college learned anything from this experience? It appears not. Though the administration has officially ended its annual “Days of Absence” event, where students were divided by race with some events excluding whites, the students have decided to organize the event themselves. Their self-segregated “People of Color” event (POC) will include gatherings where either whites are excluded, or “antiracist workshops” where only whites can attend so that they may be properly chastised for the evils of their race.

The university is meanwhile running something it calls “an equity symposium.” I guarantee there has been some covert coordination between the two.

The problem here continues to be the leftist-dominated culture that controls most academic institutions. For example, a professor at the University of Akron thought it perfectly reasonable to give higher grades to his female students, merely because they were female. He claimed this was part of a “national movement to encourage female students to go [in]to information sciences” and added that this national movement

…was a “conglomerate of discussions, initiatives, and cals for action to address gender imbalance issue in the IT field.” He referred to Facebook’s “Annual Leadership Day for female employees around the world” and to Google’s training program for “women to establish links with men in coding.” Liu said he was also following a plan of action by Microsoft to close the gap between men and women in STEM and IT fields.

I have no doubt, from his leftist perspective, surrounded by leftist professors and leftist administrators and reading only the leftist news outlets and journals, that he truly believes there is a “national movement” to favor women over men in his IT field. The problem is that he is trapped in a bubble of leftism that has no connection with the real world.

While there is evidence that some universities are attempting to change, be prepared for much worse behavior from this academic community. They really don’t wish to change, and the leftist bubble is very well entrenched there. To really institute change in many of these places will literally require them to go bankrupt and go out of business.

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Socialists win four Democratic primaries in Pennsylvania

At least they’re honest about who they are: Four socialist candidates won the Democratic Party primaries in Pennsylvania yesterday.

Two were in Philadelphia, and two were in Pittsburgh. Three of the four face no Republican opposition in the general election, which means there will be in increased polarization in the Pennsylvania state government. This also likely means that the governments of both cities will shift leftward. We can therefore reliably predict, as has happened in every place where socialists take power, that the quality of life in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will go down, even as both experience ballooning budgets and deficits.

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Russian government audit finds $20 billion in “spending violations”

An audit by the Russian equivalent of the GAO has found more than $20 billion in “spending violations” within the government, most of which occurred in the defense and space sectors.

Other words for describing these “spending violations” might be “theft,” “embezzlement,” “misuse of funds,” or any number of more honest direct terms. The Russian government is simply very corrupt, and its culture includes the assumption by administrators and everyone else that it is their right to skim off as much as they can, for themselves.

Sadly, I do not see any reform occurring in the near future. This corruption is deeply ingrained, and the Putin government, also deeply entrenched, apparently likes it, as long as the thefts don’t become so obvious that nothing gets done, as happened at the new Vostochny spaceport during its construction.

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Redactions in Strzok/Page texts reveal FBI/Justice is hiding something

Link here. Essentially, the author did a very careful review of the texts between anti-Trump FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page during the week in July 2016 when the FBI investigation into Trump-Russian collusion began. What he found was that the many redactions in the texts serve only to hide what was really happening, as well as the extent of involvement in the Obama White House.

It would be interesting to know what is in the emails that apparently clarify how the Obama administration divided responsibility for running the Trump-Russia investigation. Just like it would be interesting to know what is behind all the many redactions in these texts about how and why the Trump-Russia investigation got started.

On what basis has the Justice Department concealed passages and references to government officials from these significant conversations? Are Justice and the Bureau claiming that the redactions are necessary because the information is classified — even though we’re talking about communications between highly trained intelligence officials?

And if that is the claim, are they telling us that Hillary Clinton was investigated — and given a pass — for the unauthorized transmission of classified information by FBI officials who were themselves actively engaged in the unauthorized transmission of classified information?

Based on past revelations, when we finally see what was redacted I expect we shall discover that the redactions had nothing to do with national security and everything to do with hiding malfeasance and the abuse of power by the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Obama administration.

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Rogozin to take over Roscosmos?

I wonder if he used a trampoline: Less than a week after Putin dumped Dmitry Rogozin from his cabinet, a story in the Russian press suggests he has been offered the job as head of Roscosmos.

Under the government-run centralized Russian system, it would not surprise me if Rogozin gets this job. With the government, no one ever gets fired, they merely get shuffled about from one job to another. Results are irrelevant.

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Another delay for SLS

This really isn’t news: Work on the core stage for the first SLS rocket launch appears to face another three month delay, threatening the scheduled June 2020 launch date.

The article outlines in great detail the work being done on the SLS core stage, and where the delays might be coming from, while also being vague about what exactly is causing the delay.

It is unknown if the additional time for completion of final assembly of the whole rocket stage is based on the engine section, the other four elements, or continuing refinement of forward work. Most of the hardware and systems that will fly on EM-1 are being built for the first time and the procedures to connect the five pieces of the Core Stage together will also be attempted for the first time.

Of the five elements, the most recent news had the Forward Skirt near completion of its individual work by the end of the month. Work to cover the liquid oxygen tank with its Thermal Protection System (TPS) foam was in final phases, with the liquid hydrogen tank to follow behind it. The engine section and intertank elements continue to be outfitted with propellant lines, pressure tanks, avionics boxes, wiring, and other equipment.

Once complete, the elements will be assembled vertically in two stacks before a horizontal join of the halves of the rocket kicks off final assembly.

In fact, reading the article’s detailed description of the testing and assembly of SLS’s core stage struck me as incredibly slow-paced, so slow paced that it actually filled me with a sense of ennui. In the time they seem to need to only do an equipment review, SpaceX appears to have upgraded and flown a new version of its Falcon 9 first stage, while also redesigning a new core stage for its Falcon Heavy.

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1984 at the University of Michigan

Fascist academia: The University of Michigan has been sued by a free speech organization for its 1984-like rules that threaten students with punishment, even re-education camps, if they dare express any opinion that might offend its organized thought police.

As the lawsuit says, the university has created an “elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to suppress and punish speech other students deem ‘demeaning,’ ‘bothersome,’ or ‘hurtful’.” Yes, really: The student disciplinary code defines “harassment” as any “unwanted negative attention perceived as intimidating, demeaning, or bothersome to an individual”

…The university has its version of the Stasi and Orwell’s Thought Police — a “Bias Response Team” that investigates supposed “bias” complaints from offended students — students who can file their complaints anonymously. So if you are accused of wrongdoing, you don’t even have a right to confront your accuser — just like the former citizens of East Germany where the Stasi had literally hundreds of thousands of informers who could be your next-door neighbor or even a member of your own family. Or in this case, a student down the hall or from one of your classes.

If you think this Star Chamber process is limited to verbal speech, think again. Just like the electronic surveillance in Oceania, the “Bias Incident Report Log” posted by Michigan on its website shows that the Bias Response Team may come after you for what you do and say in “On-line/Social Media” communications including texts, emails, and Twitter.

The log also shows that the campus secret police — sorry, the Bias Response Team — also goes after “Off Campus” speech. So students aren’t safe anywhere. Their First Amendment rights are severely restricted, no matter what they are doing or where they are.

So a student may literally receive a knock on his door “from a team of University officials threatening to refer the student to formal disciplinary authorities” for something some unknown, anonymous informant alleges that he said, something the informant doesn’t like, or doesn’t agree with, or is uncomfortable with. Unless, of course, as the complaint says, the student agrees to submit “to ‘restorative justice,’ ‘individual education,’ or ‘unconscious bias training’.”

In other words, the only way a student may be able to avoid formal charges against meritless claims is by agreeing to submit to the academic equivalent of a communist-style “re-education” camp or brainwashing about the latest liberal fad like “unconscious bias.”

Read it all. It is pretty horrible, and makes me wonder why the state government is providing any funds to this fascist-run university. Time to shut it down.

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Dozens killed, including armed terrorists, in Gaza border violence

They also call this cutting off your nose to spite your face: Dozens have been killed today in riots along the Gaza-Israreli border as thousands of Gazan protesters attempted to invade Israel.

More than 35,000 protesters amassed at a dozen locations along the security fence, with many engaging in skirmishes that pushed the death toll Monday to the highest in Gaza since a 2014 cross-border standoff between the militant group Hamas and the Jewish state, according to the Associated Press.

Gaza health officials told the news agency that 41 people so far have been killed in Monday’s violence, and at least 772 have been wounded.

The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv, a key campaign promise of President Trump, has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital.

“Moments ago, an IDF patrol foiled a bomb-laying attack by a cell of three armed terrorists near Rafah, close to the border,” the Israeli military said Monday. “This is a particularly violent protest point. The troops responded with fire at the terrorists. The terrorists were killed.”

You want to live in peace? You show others that you mean it. You want others to see you as violent and a killer? You do things that prove it.

These demonstrations prove the latter. In the seventy years since Israel’s founding, that nation has shown, time after time, that it is more than willing to work with the Arabs, the Palestinians, the international community, anyone, in order to establish peaceful relations with its neighbors. Israel even unilaterally walked out of Gaza in order to show the world and the Palestinians that they are willing to allow an independent Palestinian state to exist side-by-side with Israel.

The Gazans here once again prove that they are unready to do so. They only hate, and want to kill, emotions that are hardly a good foundation for a reliable peace treaty.

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Riots prompted by Hamas have left Gaza with fuel crisis

This is called shooting oneself in the foot: The riots that the Hamas leadership of Gaza have been pushing this week have left the territory without cooking gas or diesel fuel, and no way to obtain more.

In Friday night’s attack, a large crowd broke into the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and Israel, badly damaging a fuel and gas terminal and a conveyor belt for aggregate and animal feed.

Israel closed Kerem Shalom, saying it would take weeks or months to repair several million dollars in damages. It was not clear when the delivery of consumer goods by trucks would resume, said an army spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, adding that six trucks with medical supplies entered Gaza on Sunday.

There has been widespread speculation about the motives for the vandalism, with Israel holding Gaza’s rulers from the Islamic militant Hamas group responsible. Friday’s attack was the second on Kerem Shalom in a week, raising questions about why Hamas did not try to protect a key installation.

They estimate that Gaza only has about 7 to 10 days of fuel remaining.

It is unclear if Hamas leaders prompted the riot that destroyed the depot, or if the rioters themselves went out of control. No matter. It illustrates a madness in Gaza that has existed since Israel unilaterally left, giving them control of their own territory so they could rule themselves.

Rather than demonstrate that they were ready for their own state, the residents of Gaza have since chosen a terrorist organization as their leaders, destroyed the profitable infrastructure and businesses that the Israelis left them, and instead devoted their efforts to building missiles and bombs to fling at Israel.

This new destruction is merely par for the course. The riots that I expect tomorrow, when many Gaza residents will try to breach the border, under pressure from or in support of the Hamas leadership, is only going to cause more harm to those residents, and accomplish nothing good.

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The cave dwellers of China

Even as China tries to make them move out, the ethnic Miao villagers that have built homes and lived inside a cave for the past century or so refuse to leave.

Why? This explains it:

A cottage industry has popped up in which the cave dwellers earn extra money by renting out rooms in their homes, which over time have clustered within Zhong cave, a limestone cavern big enough to hold four American football fields. The hangar-like cave is so large that their wooden or bamboo-made residences form a small, subterranean village built along its undulating walls.

…Officials say that residents have not taken care of the cave, leaving it unsuitable for inhabitation, and that the government should oversee the village as it is listed as a protected community by the Getu River Tourism Administration, a local agency. They have offered each resident 60,000 renminbi, or approximately $9,500, to leave.

Only five families have agreed to move. The remaining 18 families have held on stubbornly to their homes inside the cave. They say that the new homes are too small, that they fear losing access to their land, and that they alone, because of their historical connection to the cave, should have the right to independently control its small tourism economy.

The Chinese government is simply not offering them enough to leave. And should they leave, I would expect the villagers to come out on the raw end of the deal, while the cave itself, no longer protected by their presence and financial self-interest to preserve it, will also suffer.

Hat tip Willi Kusche.

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ULA picks Aerojet Rocketdyne engine for Vulcan upper stage

Capitalism in space: ULA has chosen an Aerojet Rocketdyne engine to power the upper stage of its next generation rocket Vulcan.

The company has not yet made a decision on the engine for the first stage, where Blue Origin’s BE-4 still appears favored over Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine. This decision on the upper stage could partly be a political move, giving Aerojet the upper stage in order to make it easier to give the lower stage to Blue Origin.

ULA is forced to play politics here because politicians are involved. A number of power members of Congress want Aerojet Rocketdyne to get the business, and ULA risks offending these legislators should it abandon that company entirely.

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Did the Obama administration use the FBI to put a spy in the Trump campaign?

New evidence forced by Congress from the FBI now suggests that during the campaign the Obama administration used the FBI to insert a spy into the Trump campaign.

The details can be found here, including this quote:

The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a “top secret intelligence source” of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe. When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.

This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting. It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough. Obama political appointees rampantly “unmasked” Trump campaign officials to monitor their conversations, while the FBI played dirty with its surveillance warrant against Carter Page, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its supporting information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now we find it may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

If this is true, this abuse of power here by the Obama administration, during a campaign, is far worse that anything anyone has accused Trump of doing. More important, we have zero evidence against Trump, but now ample evidence against Obama and the Democrats. Just as Obama weaponized the IRS illegally to attack conservatives, it now appears he used the FBI and the Justice Department to illegally spy on the Republican campaign for President.

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Trump administration shuts down $10 million carbon measuring program at NASA

The Trump administration has shut down a $10 million ground-based carbon measuring program that was being run by NASA.

The program, dubbed Carbon Measuring System (CMS), was a collection of 65 ground-based research projects.

Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts [proposed by the Trump administration], a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.

The Science article takes the typical journalistic approach of the past century, innocently assuming that this research is vital and must be funded and that it is a tragedy that it is being cut. Mainstream reporters today seem incapable of exercising any skepticism when it comes to government spending.

Look, this research might be worthwhile. Then again, maybe not. More importantly, why is NASA funding this ground-based climate research? The agency’s task is the exploration of space. This work has nothing to do with that task. If environmental scientists need this work done, they need to go to the appropriate funding sources, which in the federal government would be NOAA, EPA, or the Department of Energy, not NASA.

Meanwhile, it appears that much of this work is going to be made somewhat redundant anyway, with the launch of several carbon monitoring satellites by both NASA and Europe, one of which is already in orbit, according to the article.

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Kenya’s first satellite to be deployed tomorrow from ISS

The new colonial movement: Kenya’s first satellite, a cubesat built by students at the engineering school at the University of Nairobi, will be deployed tomorrow from ISS.

The cubesat was launched by SpaceX in its Dragon cargo freighter in early April, and was built using funding from the UN with technical help from Japan.

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Air Force forces delay in next Falcon Heavy launch

Because the Air Force wishes to do more testing and review of both its payload and the rocket, the second launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy has been delayed several months.

The Falcon Heavy mission for the Air Force will be its first for a paying customer. STP-2 has a number of objectives, including demonstrating the new rocket’s capabilities and launching several satellites.

The launch had been set for June.

That the Air Force is on board Falcon Heavy now indicates that it wants to get this rocket certified for military launches as quickly as possible, thus giving it another heavy lift launch option besides the much more expensive Delta Heavy of ULA. This strategy is good for the Air Force, good for the taxpayer, and good for the launch industry. It will lower launch costs while encouraging competition.

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Customs steals $41K from nurse

Theft by government: When a nurse decided to bring $41K in cash savings to Nigeria to open a medical clinic there, U.S. Customs decided it wanted the money instead and simply stole it.

The questioning threw her off guard. She explained she had legally earned the money and she was alone. Nwaorie, who lives in Katy, Tex., became a U.S. citizen since 1994. She showed her passport, thinking perhaps they were questioning her legal status. The agents took her to a room to search her and her luggage anyway.

Then they seized all $41,377 dollars. “It was like I was a criminal,” she said. “I felt so humiliated, so petrified, too. They were talking among themselves, saying how ‘this is how people smuggle money out of the country. This is how they do it.’”

More than six months later, Customs and Border Protection still has not given back her money.

This, despite the fact that the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of Texas did not bring a civil asset forfeiture case against her or charge her with any crime. The infraction she committed was failing to declare the money to Customs before traveling. According to the agency’s website, “there is no limit on the amount of money that can be taken out” of the country, but if a traveler is carrying more than $10,000 in currency they must fill out a declaration, a rule she said she did not know existed.

Read the article. It illustrates once again the power-hungry and corrupt nature of the federal government. For example, Nwaorie’s suit to get her money back states,

According to documents provided to The Post, prosecutors declined to pursue a case against Nwaorie. The lawsuit states that under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, the government should have been required to “promptly release” Nwaorie’s $41,000 to her, no questions asked. Alban contends that forcing a person to agree not to sue the government — and to pay the government’s legal fees if CBP has to enforce the agreement in court — is an “unconstitutional condition.”

Apparently, despite a law that requires them to return the money immediately if no charges are brought, Customs is still refusing to give it back. This is more evidence that government agencies are increasingly willing to nonchalantly ignore the law, when they wish to.

I think some of these government officials should face prison.

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House committee boosts NASA budget while micromanaging its projects

A NASA budget proposal released earlier this week by the House Appropriations Committee boosts NASA’s budget to $21.5 billion, while also micro-managing some of NASA’s planetary projects.

The bill, though, does specify funding for some programs. It calls for spending $545 million on the Europa Clipper mission and $195 million for a follow-on lander. NASA requested only $264.7 million for Europa Clipper and nothing for the lander.

NASA said in the budget proposal it was seeking to launch Europa Clipper in 2025 on a commercial vehicle, while the bill calls for the use of the Space Launch System and a launch by 2022. In its budget proposal, NASA estimated needing $565 million in 2019 to keep Europa Clipper on track for a 2022 launch but warned of “potential impacts to the rest of the Science portfolio” if funded at that level.

The bill also included $3.5 billion for SLS/Orion, continuing that boondoggle as it continues to fall behind schedule and go over budget. Also in the bill was a half billion dollars for LOP-G, confirming Congress’s desire to get this new boondoggle running, even though the rocket and capsule necessary to fly it, SLS/Orion, hasn’t even come close to completion after almost two decades of work and almost $40 billion so far in spending.

Overall, this NASA budget proposal illustrates once again why we have Trump. Congress is corrupt, is only interested in distributing money to its corporate buddies, and doesn’t care if that cash ever produces anything. In fact, it appears they prefer that nothing ever get built, as a real space effort would carry risk, and we can’t have that!

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Putin dumps Rogozin

In a reshuffle of cabinet positions, Putin has replaced Dmitri Rogozin, putting a new man in charge of the Russian defense and space industry.

The new guy, Yuri Borisov, appears to have the title of Vice Prime Minister. I suspect Putin had grown tired of the continuing corruption and loss of market share under Rogozin’s watch during the past decade. I also suspect that Borisov will have little ability to change things. The problem isn’t the person in charge. The problem is Russia’s centralized top-down method of operations. It discourages competition and cost control, while providing no incentives for innovation and quality control.

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Trump pulls U.S. from Iran nuclear deal

As he promised during the campaign as well as several times since he became President, Trump today announced that the U.S. is leaving the Iran nuclear treaty that had been negotiated by the Obama administration.

Laying out his case, Trump contended, “If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

The administration said it would re-impose sanctions on Iran immediately but allow grace periods for businesses to wind down activity. Companies and banks doing business with Iran will have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the U.S. government.

…Trump, who repeatedly criticized the accord during his presidential campaign, said Tuesday that documents recently released by Netanyahu showed Iran had attempted to develop a nuclear bomb in the previous decade, especially before 2003. Although Trump gave no explicit evidence that Iran violated the deal, he said Iran had clearly lied in the past and could not be trusted.

The AP article at the link is a decidedly anti-Trump partisan hit job, less interested in reporting this news story than telling us how terrible Trump’s actions are. Nor should we be surprised, as two of the AP writers who contributed to the story are based in Tehran.

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Pluto is a planet

In an op-ed today, the principal investigator for the New Horizons’ mission as well as his co-author for the history of that mission explained in detail why the definition for planet as imposed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is flawed and unworkable.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced an attempted redefinition of the word “planet” that excluded many objects, including Pluto. We think that decision was flawed, and that a logical and useful definition of planet will include many more worlds.

We find ourselves using the word planet to describe the largest “moons” in the solar system. Moon refers to the fact that they orbit around other worlds which themselves orbit our star, but when we discuss a world like Saturn’s Titan, which is larger than the planet Mercury, and has mountains, dunes and canyons, rivers, lakes and clouds, you will find us — in the literature and at our conferences — calling it a planet. This usage is not a mistake or a throwback. It is increasingly common in our profession and it is accurate.

Most essentially, planetary worlds (including planetary moons) are those large enough to have pulled themselves into a ball by the strength of their own gravity. Below a certain size, the strength of ice and rock is enough to resist rounding by gravity, and so the smallest worlds are lumpy. This is how, even before New Horizons arrives, we know that Ultima Thule is not a planet. Among the few facts we’ve been able to ascertain about this body is that it is tiny (just 17 miles across) and distinctly nonspherical. This gives us a natural, physical criterion to separate planets from all the small bodies orbiting in space — boulders, icy comets or rocky and metallic asteroids, all of which are small and lumpy because their gravity is too weak for self-rounding.

They go on to explain the flawed history of the IAU definition, and how it has simply not been accepted by astronomers and planetary scientists alike. The definition makes no sense, and excludes the thousands of exoplanets discovered orbiting other stars. They also point to a proposed new definition that is simple and admits to reality.

A planet is a sub-stellar mass body that has never undergone nuclear fusion and that has sufficient self-gravitation to assume a spheroidal shape adequately described by a triaxial ellipsoid regardless of its orbital parameters.

Whether or not the stuffed shirts at IAU ever officially endorse this definition, it is the one that human beings are using now, and it will be the one they use into the never-ending future.

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FBI/DOJ redactions hid their misbehavior, not protect national security

The recent release of mostly unredacted FBI documents has revealed that the earlier redactions had nothing to do with protecting national security, but were done to hide misbehavior and corrupt actions by FBI and Department of Justice officials.

Now that we can see what they wanted to conceal, it is clear, yet again, that the Justice Department and the FBI cannot be trusted to decide what the public gets to learn about their decision-making.

They tell us that their lack of transparency is necessary for the protection of national security, vital intelligence, and investigative operations. But what we find out is that they were concealing their own questionable judgments and conflicting explanations for their actions; their use of foreign-intelligence and criminal-investigative authorities to investigate Michael Flynn, Trump’s top campaign supporter and former national-security adviser; and their explicitly stated belief that Flynn did not lie in the FBI interview for which Special Counsel Robert Mueller has since prosecuted him on false-statements charges. [emphasis mine]

The article is detailed and well researched. It compares the redacted documents with what we now know those documents actually said. Repeatedly, the redactions either concealed bad behavior by the FBI, or were done to conceal information that discredited their prosecution of Michael Flynn.

The author, while condemning the FBI and the Justice Department, is even more condemning of Donald Trump.

It is simply ridiculous for President Trump to continue bloviating about this situation on Twitter and in friendly media interviews, and for congressional Republicans to continue pretending that the problem is Justice Department and FBI leadership — as if Trump were not responsible for his own administration’s actions. The president has not only the authority but the duty to ensure that his subordinates honor lawful disclosure requests from Congress.

What happened with these redactions is inexcusable.

While the author is right, politically it might have been a very wise decision for Trump to have done nothing. Mueller and the FBI have no case. Their effort to pin Russian collusion on Trump has always been laughable on its face. Letting them blow in the wind with this fake investigation allows the public to slowly recognize this fact, and thus discredit them in the public’s eye. If Trump were to shut the investigation down, however, he would lay himself open to accusations of obstructing justice.

This way, he lets them hang themselves, as the story above illustrates.

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Judge challenges the scope of the Mueller investigation

In a blunt and brutal rebuke, a federal judge today challenged the direction of the Mueller investigation, suggesting that it had gone beyond its legal reach.

A federal judge on Friday harshly rebuked Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team during a hearing for ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort – suggesting they lied about the scope of the investigation, are seeking “unfettered power” and are more interested in bringing down the president.

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told Mueller’s team. “You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”

Further, Ellis demanded to see the unredacted “scope memo,” a document outlining the scope of the special counsel’s Russia probe that congressional Republicans have also sought.

Ellis wants to see the scope memo to see if Mueller’s investigation has gone beyond its authority. When Mueller’s team tried to justify its indictment of Paul Manafort, an indictment that had nothing to do with Russian collusion and involved events that had occurred as far back as 2005, the judge’s summary of their argument was equally blunt and contemptuous.

Ellis seemed amused and not persuaded. He summed up the argument of the Special Counsel’s Office as, “We said this was what [the] investigation was about, but we are not bound by it and we were lying.” [emphasis mine]

This is very bad news for Mueller. It appears that the legal profession is becoming increasingly disturbed by its star chamber witchhunt nature, allowing them to do anything and investigate everything in an effort to find some crime they can pin on Trump and his allies.

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Russian to fly on Orion?

In negotiations between NASA and Roscosmos on their hoped-for partnership to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), it has been proposed that when SLS carries Orion and the platform’s Russian airlock to lunar orbit a Russian will go as well.

“Within the framework of talks, draft plans of future manned missions to the lunar stations have been made. Among other issues, the possibility to send one Russian cosmonaut as part of the crew of the Orion spacecraft that will drag the Russian airlock module to the moon is on the agenda. The Russian cosmonaut will have to ensure the integration of the module with the station,” the source said.

A source in Russia’s Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) that would produce the module confirmed this information to Sputnik, saying that four manned missions were expected to be sent to the station and the Russian cosmonaut should accompany the Russian-made module during its transportation to the Earth satellite.

This all sounds so wonderful. Too bad it is so unconnected with reality. Congress has yet to provide any funds for LOP-G. At the moment, SLS/Orion is only funded through its first manned mission.

At the same time, I am getting the feeling that both NASA and Congress expect SLS/Orion’s $4 billion-plus annual budget that it has gotten since the program started in the late 2000s will simply continue, giving them the money to build this Potemkin Village in orbit around the Moon while funding the Russian contributions.

That’s what happened with ISS. The U.S. footed most of the bills for the Russian portion of ISS, and the Russians are now hoping we will do the same for LOP-G. Sadly, I also expect our corrupt Congress will go along, focused as they are in only distributing pork to local districts while encouraging a global international village having nothing to do with American interests. They see LOP-G not as exploring space, but as a jobs program, both here in the U.S. and in Russia.

And a jobs program is exactly what it is. Just like it will take SLS/Orion almost two decades to complete its first manned launch, LOP-G will likely not get anything built in orbit around the Moon for more than a decade. Don’t expect anything substantial assembled in lunar orbit before the mid-2030s, at the earliest.

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