Tag Archives: regulation

Announcement: Capitalism in Space:
Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry

This post will remain at the top of the page for the next week. Scroll down for updates.

After much delay and discussion, my policy paper for the Center for a New American Security, Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry, has finally been published.

You can download the pdf here or at the Center here. Please feel free to distribute this widely. If you visit other websites please pass it on to them. This should be read by as many people as possible, especially since the space policy of the Trump administration remains at present undecided. This policy paper will help them work out a wise policy, with the paper’s key data point contained in this table:

SLS vs Commercial space

I document my numbers very carefully. The result illustrates clearly how much a failure the government model has been and continues to be. We have spent a lot of money since the 1970s on NASA and space, and have generally gotten very little for that investment, as demonstrated by the comparison between the accomplishments of private and government space in the past two decades. Going forward it is going to be very difficult for SLS/Orion to compete with the heavy lift rockets coming from SpaceX and Blue Origin.

My concluding words:

A close look at these recommendations will reveal one common thread. Each is focused on shifting power and regulatory authority away from the federal government and increasing the freedom of American companies to act as they see fit to meet the demands of the market. The key word that defines this common thread is freedom, a fundamental principle that has been aspired to since the nation’s founding.

Political leaders from both parties have made the concept a central core tenet of American policy. Democrat John Kennedy stated that his commitment to go to the Moon was a “stand for freedom” in the Cold War. Republican Ronald Reagan proposed “Freedom” as the name for the new space station, and viewed it as a platform for promoting private enterprise in space.

Freedom is actually a very simple idea. Give people and companies the freedom to act, in a competitive environment that encourages intelligent and wise action, and they will respond intelligently and wisely.

The United States’ history proves that freedom can work. It is time to prove it again, in space.

Anyway, read the whole paper. I make a number of recommendations that I hope both Congress and the Trump administration will consider seriously. If they do, the United States will lead the world in the exploration and colonization of the solar system, and we will do it quickly and for a reasonable amount of money.

More importantly, we will be doing it under the banner of freedom.

Rand Paul introduces his Obamacare replacement

Competing crap: Senator Rand Paul, who opposes the Obamacare replacement introduced by the Republican leadership, introduced his own bill today to replace Obamacare.

I’ve looked at the summary [pdf] of his bill, and it contains most of the same problems contained in the Republican leadership’s proposal. Neither repeals Obamacare really, since both keep the ability of everyone to wait until they are sick before they buy health insurance, thereby guaranteeing that every health insurance company will go bankrupt.

We need Congress to repeal Obamacare, clean and simple. The tinkering by Congress in this business has only caused problems. The more tinkering they do, the more problems they will cause. They need to get out, now.

A Ted Cruz telecon

Last night I did a long radio appearance with Robert Pratt in Texas. While I was on the air with him he received a notice from Senator Ted Cruz’s office, announcing a press telecon today on the just-passed NASA authorization bill. Pratt asked me if I would be willing to attend that telecon as his press correspondence. I agreed.

The telecon has just ended. Cruz’s statements about that NASA authorization were very uncommitted and vague, though he clearly wants to encourage private space. He also was careful not to say bad things about SLS/Orion, since it sends a lot of money to Texas.

I asked him about the lack of any mention of Earth science research in the authorization bill. He noted that during the Obama administration NASA’S climate research had become politicized, and it is his hope that this will now end, that NASA will continue to do this research but that “it will no longer be used for political purposes.” Like his comments about SLS/Orion, this was a careful answer that avoided setting off a firestorm of controversy.

Cruz did say two things of note however during the press teleconference.

  • Cruz and family is having dinner with Trump tonight
  • Cruz has reservations about the Republican proposal on Obamacare

It appears that Cruz is putting aside the ugly events of the campaign in order to try to exert influence on Trump now. It also appears that he intends to discuss the bad Obamacare replacement bill with Trump, pushing for changes to it.

House approves NASA authorization

The NASA authorization act that the Senate passed on February 21 was approved by the House today.

As I discussed in reviewing the act on February 21, the bill’s overall focus is to shift NASA from running “a space program” to facilitating the success of competing private enterprise. It also eliminates all of NASA’s climate budget so that the money can be spent instead on space exploration.

Trump is expected to sign it. Then will come the hard work, actually writing the budget for NASA.

Republican leadership endorses Obamacare

Yesterday the Republican leadership in Congress unveiled their proposed replacement for Obamacare.

This is not a repeal. It proudly keeps many of the Obamacare provisions that have made health insurance unprofitable, which is why Obamacare and the entire health insurance industry is going bankrupt. First, the Republican proposal keeps the Obamacare requirement that forces insurance companies to accept applicants with pre-existing conditions at no extra charge. Insurance cannot work under this condition. Second, the plan forces insurance companies to cover the children of customers until they are 26.

Several articles today outline the stupidity of this new plan:

From the first article above:

The first thing to understand about the GOP healthcare bill is that it is not merely Obamacare-lite or a bad “replacement” bill. It doesn’t repeal the core of Obamacare in the first place. In fact, the few parts that it repeals or tweaks within a few years will actually intensify the death spiral of Obamacare when mixed with the core regulatory structure, exacerbated by the subsidies that they do keep. And this time, the GOP will own it politically. All of it.

As I say, this is downright stupid. By trying to “fix” this horrible law, all the Republican leadership accomplishes is to poison themselves with it, something Republicans have so far been able to avoid.

The Republicans shouldn’t be passing a different version of Obamacare, they should be trying to repeal it entirely. If the Democrats continue to obstruct, they will then have to face the voters in 2018 in an election that does not favor them to begin with.

Japan passes its own commercial space law

The competition heats up: Just as the U.S., Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and others have recently passed laws of clarify and encourage the private commercial development of space, Japan now done so as well, enacting its own commercial space law.

Now that Japan has adopted its Space Activities Act, start-ups are not left wondering what agency they should contact but can go in advance to discuss their plans with officials at a specially designated counter in the Cabinet Office. The new Japanese law also provides government support in the provision of financial guarantees required by commercial space launch operators, such as by arranging third-party liability insurance coverage. The required coverage is calculated on the basis of the maximum probable loss estimated in line with the rocket type and the payload content; in the case of damages in excess of this coverage, the law provides that the government is to pay for the residual damages up to a certain limit. This is similar to arrangements that have been adopted in the United States and France, although the French government sets no limit on payments.

In addition, Japan’s Space Activities Act provides that the launch operator bears liability for accident damages even if they are due to problems in the payload. This channeling of liability would seem to be disadvantageous to launch operators, but it can be expected to enhance the competitive position of the Japanese companies providing this service, because it reassures customers around the world who are seeking to have their satellites put into orbit. France is the only other country that has adopted a similar provision.

The article is worth reading in that it provides a good overview of the history of space law since the 1960s, as well as the political background that helps explain why Japan has lagged behind in the commercialization of its space industry.

Cuts to NOAA, EPA, and the environmental bureaucracy

Two articles today outline some of the proposed cuts the Trump administration is considering for the EPA and NOAA and their generally bloated and politicized administrative bureaucracies.

The first article focuses on the proposed cuts to the EPA, which would reduce the overall budget to that agency by about 25%.

The Trump administration wants to cut spending by EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) by more than 40% from roughly $510 million to $290 million, according to sources that have seen preliminary directives from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The cuts target scientific work in fields including climate change, air and water quality, and chemical safety. EPA’s $50 million external grant program for environmental scientists at universities would disappear altogether. Such erasures represent just part of a larger plan to shrink EPA’s budget by 25% to $6.1 billion, and cut its workforce by 20% to 12,400 employees, in the 2018 fiscal year that begins 1 October.

The second article focuses on proposed cuts aimed at NOAA and within the Commerce Department, with cuts in specific departments ranging from 5% to 26%, with an overall cut to NOAA of 17%.
» Read more

The tampering of climate data at NOAA and NASA

data tampering at NASA

Last week there was the another Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. One presentation there by several important climate skeptics outlined in detail the data tampering that has been going on at an increasingly outrageous manner at both NOAA and NASA in recent years. The slides presented by Tony Heller (available here [pdf]), many of which I have highlighted previously here at Behind the Black, are especially educational and damning.

To the right is just one of Heller’s slides, the one that I find the most damning of all. It shows how the surface data issued by NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), the two green lines, does not match the satellite data at all. While the satellite data shows no warming this entire century, the GISS data shows steady rising in the surface data. Other slides by Heller show that this rise comes solely from data adjustments and the extrapolation of imagined temperature data in places where no data exists, neither of which has been explained in any manner by the scientists at GISS.

What is most damning however is the change Heller documents between GISS’s November 2016 and December 2016 data sets. For reasons that are simply unjustified by any scientific measure, GISS somehow found it necessary to adjust its entire data set upward in one month about 0.03 of a degree. The only reason I can find for such a change in such a short period of time is a desire by the scientists at GISS to create the illusion that the climate is warming, and warming fast. They don’t have any real data to show this, so they make it up.

Make sure you look at all of Heller’s slides [pdf]. It is also definitely worthwhile to spend the time to watch the entire CPAC presentation, available at the first link above.

India’s government a barrier to private space

Even as India and its space agency show themselves to increasingly be a major player in the worldwide aerospace market, it appears that India’s governmental policy on private satellite communications is acting as a barrier that blocks the growth of a commercial space industry.

India’s current satcom policy, first rolled out in 1997 and then updated in 2000, is clearly outdated. A senior ISRO official who attended the ORF event (but declined to be identified) pointed out that all the existing satcom policy says is Indian satellite companies will be given preference over foreign multinational companies. “How does this preference play out? If the department of space is worried about national security concerns, they should lay down clear guidelines for security compliance by foreign satellites. The existing policy doesn’t talk about this, which inevitably leaves it to ISRO, DoS and Antrix’s discretion,” the official told The Wire.

And this discretion has held up multiple applications for satellite manufacturing and foreign direct investment over the last decade. Hughes’ Krishna is particularly frustrated over this. “If a company submits an application for satellite broadband services in India, irrespective of where the satellites will be made, it needs a specific timeline on when it will hear back from ISRO or the DoS. Will it be two years, three years or five years? It is difficult to line up future investments if speedy clearance is not given,” Krishna said.

Essentially, India’s Department of Space (DoS) and its space agency ISRO control all licensing, and have been using that power to delay or deny the issuing of any private satellite licenses, since such efforts are in competition with these government agencies.

The situation here is very similar to what existed in the U.S. with NASA for most of the last half of the 20th century. The agency did not want private launch companies competing with its own manned programs, and diligently worked to block their efforts. If you wanted to be part of manned space, you did what NASA told you to do and you built what they told you to build. It wasn’t until the rise of the commercial space programs to launch cargo to ISS that NASA’s grip on manned space was finally broken.

India now faces the same problem. ISRO has done an excellent job, as NASA did in its early years, in getting India’s space industry started. It now needs to back off, stop running things and simply be a customer of these competing private companies, letting freedom do the job instead of government dictate. The question now is whether the Indian government will allow this to happen. There are many vested interests there that will resist.

“This is how socialism always ends.”

The people of Venezuala are literally starving to death under socialist rule.

The South American country of Venezuela, infamously known for its wide reaching socialist policies that have left the country devastated, has reached a point where its citizens are losing almost 20 pounds due to their lack of food.

A 2016 study from La Encuesta Condiciones de Vida (Encovi) – in English, The 2016 Living Conditions Survey — conducted a survey of 6,500 families found that a little over 32 percent of Venezuelan households eat only once or twice everyday. 93.3 percent said their income does not support their costs for food, and thus they have resorted to cheaper foods such as vegetables. Namely potatoes.

Due to this, almost 75 percent of the Venezuelan population has lost an average of 19 pounds.

As the author at the link very correctly notes, this is how things always end with socialist, communist, and collective policies. Always. Without fail.

High School band to exclude whites in its music selection

Bigots: The band directors of a Minnesota high school band have decided to only buy music from “composers of color” this year, purposely excluding anyone who happened to be white.

The band directors at Spring Lake, outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, have pledged to include at least one piece by a female composer and one by a composer of color in each concert, for each of the school’s bands. “We made a commitment this year to only buy music from composers of color,” says Brian Lukkasson, one of the directors.

Because we all know that one can’t write good music if your skin color is the wrong shade.

I should add that this NPR report sees nothing wrong with this policy, even though it probably violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (pushed through by Republicans and opposed by southern Democrats) as well as numerous other civil rights laws and regulations passed since. In other words, bigotry is fine as long as the people being oppressed are people you think should be.

ULA lets the press see part of SLS

Link here. The upper stage of SLS is undergoing its final testing in Michoud prior to shipment to Florida, and ULA had a press event to show it off.

“This is the first piece of integrated flight hardware for the SLS system to be shipped down to the Cape in preparation for our very first launch,” said Jerry Cook, Deputy SLS Program Manager for NASA. Cook noted that the ICPS test article is currently undergoing stress and load tests at Marshall.

The completion of the ICPS is yet another landmark in SLS’ development, though some contend it’s still a drawing-board vehicle. John Shannon, Boeing’s Vice President and General Manager of the SLS Program, disagrees. “The SLS has, in various forms, been called a paper rocket […] and, if I think you look to your right, you’ll see that absolutely is not true,” stated Shannon. “If you had the opportunity to go to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where we’re putting the bigger core stage together, you would also see that it is not true because we are putting hardware together as we speak.”

This upper stage engine is a brand new design and has never flown before, and the rocket it is part of has yet to be assembled. Yet NASA is considering flying humans on it during its first test flight, even as it harasses SpaceX and Boeing about using the Falcon 9 and Atlas 5 rockets, both proven repeatedly in operational flights, for their manned ISS missions.

The article also gives an update on the situation at Michoud since it was hit by a tornado on February 8. It appears that the facility is operating again, but not fully.

Republican leaders propose Obamacare revisions

Cowards: The House Republican leadership today put forth a series of proposals for revisingnot repealing — Obamacare.

A packet distributed to lawmakers at the meeting and obtained by The Hill says the GOP bill will include tax credits, an expansion of health savings accounts, money for high risk pools to care for the sick and a major restructuring of Medicaid to cap federal payments.

No dollar figures for any of the Republican proposals have been presented yet. Lawmakers said that is because the Congressional Budget Office is still analyzing the plan.

Nowhere do these proposals deal with repealing Obamacare’s ban on low-cost catastrophic health insurance plans. In fact, these proposal do little to repeal any of Obamacare’s worst regulations, which make the entire concept of health insurance unsustainable. Instead, these proposals nibble at the edges of the law, and will only serve to make things worse. For example, the proposals will repeal all the taxes that pay for Obamacare’s costs, will eliminate the mandates that force people to buy insurance, but will do nothing to relieve insurance companies from the law’s requirements, such as forcing them to accept every applicant, no matter how sick. Such a crazy arrangement will guarantee that no one will buy health insurance until they need it, making it entirely unprofitable.

The whole mess is simply too complicated. The time has come to do what Alexander the Great did: rather than try to untie the Gordian knot, he simply took a sword and cut it. Congress should do the same to Obamacare. Only then will the health insurance industry have a chance of recovery.

India preparing rover for 2018 Moon landing

The competition heats up: India preparing rover for 2018 Moon landing.

Isro’s Satellite Applications Centre Director, M. Annadurai, revealed the tentative launch schedule while speaking to the press at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Shar, Sriharikota on Wednesday. He said a Lander and a six-wheeled Rover were being prepped to go with the Chandrayaan-II mission. The chief scientist added that a launch is likely to take place in the first quarter of 2018. According to Dr P.V. Venkita Krishnan, the director of the Isro Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri, engineers were currently testing soft-landing engines.

India’s launch of a record 104 satellites on a single rocket has pumped up the Indian press, as there were almost 20 stories on space and that launch in their press today, almost all favorable.

This article however is from the U.S., and takes a look at the ineffective American space policy that supposedly forbids American companies from launching on Indian rockets.

The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Agreement of 2005 prohibits the launch of commercial satellites on the Indian vehicle. The reasoning is that struggling U.S. commercial launch providers needed time to establish themselves in the market and would be wiped out by India’s PSLV, which is developed by the Indian Space Organization.

Since 2015, commercial satellite owners have successfully obtained waivers to the policy.

The article notes India’s competitive prices, as well as the overall state of the smallsat industry and its dependence on bigger rockets as secondary payloads to get into space. India’s rockets, funded and subsidized by the government but also built to be inexpensive so as to attract customers, is clearly positioned to effectively compete with SpaceX, who until now charged the least.

What will our Congress do? My preference would be for them to repeal this part of the 2005 law so that American satellite companies can fly on whoever they wish. That would increase competition but it would also likely invigorate the overall launch industry because it would increase the satellite customer base for those rockets and thus create more business for everyone.

Sadly, I suspect that Congress will instead demand that the waivers to the law cease, and will thus block the use if Indian satellites by American companies. The short-sightedness of our politicians never ceases to surprise me.

Freedom Caucus to push for swift Obamacare repeal

In a direct clash with the Republican leadership that increasingly wants to slow down a repeal of Obamacare, the conservative House tea party group dubbed the Freedom Caucus announced today that they will push for an immediate repeal of the law.

The House Republican leadership is made up of a bunch of cowards. They fear the polls. They fear the press. They fear the astroturf demonstrations paid for by the left. They fear everything. And they believe in nothing, because if they did believe in freedom and restricting the power of government they would move quickly to repeal Obamacare and let the chips of freedom fall where they may.

The international government effort to come up with a cis-lunar ISS

The competition heats up: In the past five years the various international partners and their space agencies have been conducting studies for developing a new international space station, this time based not in Earth orbit but located near the Moon.

Following initial approval in the fall of 2014, the five space agencies formed the ISS Exploration Capabilities Study Team, IECST, which was tasked with reviewing how the ISS experience could be used to build the cis-lunar infrastructure, with determining its possible architecture and with drafting its flight plan and possible mission. Specialists also had the task of looking at all the necessary technologies, logistics and maintenance which would be required for building and operating a small habitat near the Moon. This man-tended outpost could serve as a way station to the lunar surface and as a springboard for the exploration of the Solar System, including asteroids, Mars and its moons. In fact, the outpost itself could eventually embark on a journey toward a deep-space destination. Representatives of the various space agencies also tried to see what contributions each country could make, based on their technical capabilities and realistic budgets.

All the work was conducted within the ISS program and covered by its budget.

Initially, the IECST group included representatives from space agencies only, for the exception of Russia, with Roskosmos officials needed help from the nation’s prime contractor in human space flight — RKK Energia. For the final few meetings in 2016, ESA also brought representatives from the European space industry. However NASA did not directly involve its key human space flight contractors into the IECST activities. (Instead, the US aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin continued parallel studies in cooperation with RKK Energia in Russia, EADS Astrium in Europe and Mitsubishi in Japan.) [emphasis mine]

Read the whole article. Lots of interesting details.

In a sense, this international effort is a political lobbying effort by these space agencies to come up with a single project to follow ISS that will continue the funneling of government money to them all. It is also an effort by them to structure future space exploration so all efforts will be contained within this single program, rather than allowing for many different competing efforts, both private and public. In addition, it is an attempt by NASA to come up with some long-term mission for SLS/Orion, which at present has no operational purpose and no funding beyond its first manned flight in 2021.

Finally, note the highlighted sentence above. This effort — which will benefit not just NASA but the space agencies of Russia, Europe, and Japan as well as the old big space companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Mitsubishi — is been paid entirely by American tax dollars. Something about this to me seems wrong. Shouldn’t the cost here be shared? And doesn’t it seem inappropriate for NASA to be picking the companies it wants to work with, without open bidding?

Heart risks from secondhand smoke completely bogus

The uncertainty of science: New more carefully done research now proves that secondhand smoke from smoking does almost nothing to increase the risk of heart disease.

In the early 2000s, as jurisdictions across the country fought over expanding smoking bans to bars and restaurants, anti-smoking advocates seized on the Helena study and related research showing that secondhand smoke exposure can affect coronary functions to promote fear of secondhand smoke. Groups across the country stated that “even half an hour of secondhand smoke exposure causes heart damage similar to that of habitual smokers.” Not to be outdone, the Association for Nonsmokers in Minnesota wrote in a press release that just 30 seconds of exposure could “make coronary artery function of non-smokers indistinguishable from smokers.” The message to nonsmokers was clear: The briefest exposure to secondhand smoke can kill you.

A decade later, comprehensive smoking bans have proliferated globally. And now that the evidence has had time to accumulate, it’s also become clear that the extravagant promises made by anti-smoking groups—that implementing bans would bring about extraordinary improvements in cardiac health—never materialized. Newer, better studies with much larger sample sizes have found little to no correlation between smoking bans and short-term incidence of heart attacks, and certainly nothing remotely close to the 60 percent reduction that was claimed in Helena. The updated science debunks the alarmist fantasies that were used to sell smoking bans to the public, allowing for a more sober analysis suggesting that current restrictions on smoking are extreme from a risk-reduction standpoint.

As almost always happens, the people pushing for the ban really weren’t that interested in protecting people’s health. They might have thought so, but in reality what they were really interested in was exerting their power over others, banning smoking and telling everyone else how to live their lives.

Read the whole article. It is very damning, and illustrates again why it is very important to not pass laws quickly based on some preliminary scientific results. Care must be taken, and patience is required. The science is never clear right from the beginning, especially on complex issues like climate and the health effects involving large numbers of people.

American citizen detained and forced by Customs to unlock his JPL secure phone

Unacceptable: An American citizen, with a legal passport and already part of the TSA security program designed to expedite his passage through customs, was detained at the border and forced to unlock his secure JPL phone so that Customs could access its contents.

Bikkannavar says he arrived into Houston early Tuesday morning, and was detained by CBP after his passport was scanned. A CBP officer escorted Bikkannavar to a back room, and told him to wait for additional instructions. About five other travelers who had seemingly been affected by the ban were already in the room, asleep on cots that were provided for them.

About 40 minutes went by before an officer appeared and called Bikkannavar’s name. “He takes me into an interview room and sort of explains that I’m entering the country and they need to search my possessions to make sure I’m not bringing in anything dangerous,” he says. The CBP officer started asking questions about where Bikkannavar was coming from, where he lives, and his title at work. It’s all information the officer should have had since Bikkannavar is enrolled in Global Entry. “I asked a question, ‘Why was I chosen?’ And he wouldn’t tell me,” he says.

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. “I was cautiously telling him I wasn’t allowed to give it out, because I didn’t want to seem like I was not cooperating,” says Bikkannavar. “I told him I’m not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it.”

Even more puzzling: The Customs agents had no interest in Bikkannavar’s carry-ons. It was almost as if they simply wished to humiliate and harass an American citizen, while also accessing his private data (which in this case actually didn’t belong to him).

Trump’s effort to regain control of the borders is perfectly legitimate, especially from countries that are hotbeds of Islamic terrorism. That policy however must not include the abuse of power by border agents. This event, if true, is unacceptable. I can think of no justifiable reason for Customs agents to need to access the private phone of this citizen, especially because he clearly was a legal American and had already obtained government security clearance in several different ways. The agents who did this should be fired.

Obamacare numbers continue to tank

We are still finding out what’s in it: Enrollment numbers in Obamacare for 2017 turn out to be far worse than any prediction, resulting in more insurance companies considering an exit.

[T]he nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted last year that 15 million Americans would enroll in Obamacare plans through the various marketplaces in 2017 (down from an initial expectation of approximately 21 million when the law first passed. The Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services lowered their 2017 expectations to 13.8 million. But the federal exchange totals are hundreds of thousands of consumers off-pace from last year, which was already sufficiently lackluster as to trigger an exodus of several major insurers. …Charles Gaba, a pro-Obamacare tracker of ACA signups, …estimated that to stay on track with the HHS projections, the federal exchange would need to tally roughly 10.6 million enrollees. The actual number was just 9.2 million.

The whole shebang is collapsing, regardless of what the Republicans in Congress do. Read the article, however, because it also provides some interesting analysis of what Congress is considering.

Congress moves to overturn numerous Obama regulations

Using a 1990s law that allows Congress to overturn regulations with simple majorities, Congress has this week passed a slew of bills doing exactly that.

The article provides a detailed list. What is significant here is that this is only the first week. With a Republican Congress and a Republican President, there is little to prevent the passage of numerous such bills in the coming months. As much as conservatives have fretted in recent years about the cowardice of the Republican leadership, now that they have some control over the situation it appears they are moving to do something concrete and conservative with that control.

Hang on. It is going to be an interesting next few years.

How government wrecked the gas can

Link here. This story should not surprise you. More important however are the article’s concluding words:

Ask yourself this: If they can wreck such a normal and traditional item like this, and do it largely under the radar screen, what else have they mandatorily malfunctioned? How many other things in our daily lives have been distorted, deformed and destroyed by government regulations?

If some product annoys you in surprising ways, there’s a good chance that it is not the invisible hand at work, but rather the regulatory grip that is squeezing the life out of civilization itself.

Almost all of the petty technological annoyances we struggle with today are the result of foolish federal regulation.

Hat tip John Harman.

Trump “clamp down” no different than past transitions

It seems that the so-called clamp down on press releases and announcement by the Trump administration is not that unusual and is actually comparable to what was done when Obama took power.

The memo at the USDA was especially routine, despite the reports.

Similar news came out about a “gag order” for a small branch of the Department of Agriculture, which led to Buzzfeed to report “USDA Scientists Have Been Put On Lockdown Under Trump.” “Starting immediately and until further notice” the Agricultural Research Service “will not release any public-facing documents,” reads the memo obtained by Buzzfeed. The memo was rescinded Tuesday after a media firestorm.

But Trump never ordered the “lockdown.” In fact, the memo to USDA researches was sent by Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, President Obama’s appointee. “This memo is not some sort of creative writing exercise,” Michael Young, acting deputy secretary of the Agriculture Department, told NYT. “This is almost exactly what was issued eight years ago. I just updated it a bit.”

As much as I want such a clamp down, especially for those agencies that have become badly politicized, it does appear that the only thing happening here is a bit of panic by the left, by the media (I repeat myself), and by some federal workers. Essentially, they are squealing like pigs out of fear that they will no longer have their way, and the press is picking up the oinks and running with it.

Senate passes Obamacare partial repeal

In a party line vote last night, the Senate passed an Obamacare repeal bill that ends the law’s tax and financial components.

It must be emphasized that the failure to repeal the law’s regulations is entirely due to the unwillingness of any Democrats to cross party lines, end the filibuster, and allow a vote. The result: we are still stuck with some of the most egregious components of the law. In 2018 many of those same Democrats will be faced with difficult re-elections. It will be time to remove them.

I should add that, just like Obamacare itself, the manner in which this repeal is being written and approved actually appears to be unconstitutional. It is tax policy and it is originating in the Senate. The Constitution however clearly states “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” (Article 1, Section 7) The same section also states that the Senate can propose, so I suppose this is how they get around this issue.

FAA okays SpaceX launch on Monday

As I expected, after several days of hemming and hawing, the FAA has granted SpaceX a launch license for its planned Monday launch.

The FAA license approved Friday covers all seven Falcon 9 launches planned for the Iridium Next constellation, along with landings of the Falcon 9 first stage on a barge positioned downrange in the Pacific Ocean. The $3 billion Iridium Next program aims to replace all of the company’s existing satellites, which were launched in the late 1990s and early 2000s and are now operating well beyond their design lives.

What SpaceX clearly did here was to move ahead, daring the FAA to challenge their desire to launch quickly. Government bureaucrats don’t like that, but to call SpaceX’s bluff and block the launch would have caused these bureaucrats even more problems. SpaceX knew this, and gambled that the FAA would back down. It did, and thus the launch license was issued.

A feudal and isolated California

Link here. It is very clear that politically California is increasingly isolating itself from the rest of the country. From the article:

Today California is returning to its outlier roots, defying many of the political trends that define most of the country. Rather than adjust to changing conditions, the state seems determined to go it alone as a bastion of progressivism. Some Californians, going farther out on a limb, have proposed separating from the rest of the country entirely; a ballot measure on that proposition has been proposed for 2018.

This shift to outpost of modern-day progressivism has been developing for years but was markedly evident in November. As the rest of America trended to the right, electing Republicans at the congressional and local levels in impressive numbers, California has moved farther left, accounting for virtually all of the net popular vote margin for Hillary Clinton. Today the GOP is all but non-existent in the most populated parts of the state, and the legislature has a supermajority of Democrats in both houses. In many cases, including last year’s Senate race, no Republicans even got on the November ballot.

The article goes on to note the number of ways California also differs from the rest of the country in matters of policy. Sadly for California, those policy differences are not to its long term advantage. As I read I was reminded of New York and how, during the 1960s and 1970s when the politics there were completely controlled by leftwing Democrats, the state’s dominate position in the nation’s economy collapsed and New York became looked at as a poor neighbor, unable to pay its bills even as industry and private sector fled the state. I expect the same to happen in California in the coming years.

Obamacare: The Republican strategy of partial repeal vs full repeal

This National Review editorial today describes very succinctly the strategy being used by the Republican leadership in its effort to repeal Obamacare.

Senate Republicans want to pass a bill that repeals the taxes and spending in Obamacare, but not its regulations. That’s because they think that they can use a legislative process to avoid Democratic filibusters only if they leave the regulations alone. They think that this partial repeal of Obamacare will set the stage for later legislation that repeals the rest of the law and creates a replacement.

The heart of the problem for a full Obamacare repeal is that in the Senate you can pass budgetary items with only 51 votes while regulatory changes require 60. The Democrats plan to filibuster any regulatory changes, thus preventing their repeal.

The editorial opposes this strategy and instead calls for removing the federal government completely from health insurance regulation, the situation that existed prior to the passage of Obamacare. While I totally agree with this stance, I also recognize that the intransigence of the Democrats in the Senate makes it difficult. The only way it could work is if the Republicans could convince 8 Democratic senators to break away from their party and support full repeal. While a large number of Democratic senators are faced with difficult elections in 2018, I don’t think the Republicans could get 8 to agree.

We are thus faced with the unfortunate and bad situation that the Republicans will repeal only part of the law, which will further damage the health care industry. While they hope this damage will strengthen their effort to get the law entirely repealed, I fear that it will instead be used by the Democrats to attack the Republicans and the idea of the repeal itself.

It seems to me that it would be better to offer a full repeal, forcing a Democratic filibuster, and then use that filibuster as a campaign weapon to defeat more Democrats in 2018.

House passes bill requiring Congressional approval for major regulations

The House today passed a bill requiring Congressional approval for regulations having an economic impact of more than $100 million.

The legislation, dubbed the REINS Act, requires a regulation with an economic impact of more than $100 million annually to be approved by both chambers of Congress before it can take effect. Republicans also attached an amendment that requires agencies, when promulgating new rules, to repeal or amend existing rules to fully offset the economic costs. The House also passed comparable legislation in the last congressional session, but it faltered in the Senate. GOP leaders are taking a renewed crack after President-elect Donald Trump offered his support during the campaign.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats opposed the bill. It is unclear whether the Senate will follow suit, but with Trump in the White House and very much in favor of reducing regulation and the power of the bureaucracy, it is going to be increasingly difficult for the Democrats to block all these legislative bills.

House passes bill to cancel all regulations created during Obama’s lame duck rule

I like this: The House today passed a bill that would allow Congress to repeal all regulations created during the last sixty days of the Obama administration.

Legislation to allow Congress to repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of the Obama administration sailed through the House Wednesday, the second time in less than two months. The GOP-backed Midnight Rule Relief Act, which passed the previous Congress in November, was approved largely along party lines by a vote of 238-184 on the second day of the new Congress, despite Democratic opposition. If passed by the Senate and signed by President-elect Donald Trump, the legislation would amend the Congressional Review Act to allow lawmakers to bundle together multiple rules and overturn them en masse with a joint resolution of disapproval.

What is disturbing is how few regulations Congress has cancelled over the decades. This is supposed to be an republic, whereby the rules are set by our elected officials. Instead, they have passed that responsibility off to bureaucrats, and when they hint, as they do here, that they might take back some of that power, the howls of outrage are deafening.

Republicans introduce first measure for repealing Obamacare

A measure introduced in both houses of Congress today begins the process of repealing Obamacare.

Senate Republicans Tuesday took the first step toward repealing Obamacare, with Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi introducing a measure that would lay the groundwork for specific legislation to be proposed later that would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic program. Enzi’s bill seeks to pave the way for the later bill to pass Congress without fear of a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

The measure, called a budget resolution, directs top congressional committees to cast votes to assemble the repeal legislation by Jan. 27. House Republicans also introduced Enzi’s resolution in the lower chamber.

At this moment we still do not know exactly what the Republicans plan to repeal, and what they intend to keep. What we do know is that in order to pass this repeal in a manner that prevents a filibuster they will not be able to repeal the law entirely. We also do not yet know how quickly they intend the repeal to take effect. There has been much talk of a delay, but that is not yet confirmed.

94% of all new jobs under Obama part time

Finding out what’s in it: Since the imposition of Obamacare a new study now shows that 94% of all new jobs have been part time work.

In their study [Harvard and Princeton economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger] show that from 2005 to 2015, the proportion of Americans workers engaged in what they refer to as “alternative work” soared during the Obama era, from 10.7% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2015. Alternative, or “gig” work is defined as “temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract company workers, independent contractors or freelancers”, and is generally unsteady, without a fixed paycheck and with virtually no benefits. The two economists also found that each of the common types of alternative work increased from 2005 to 2015—with the largest changes in the number of independent contractors and workers provided by contract firms, such as janitors that work full-time at a particular office, but are paid by a janitorial services firm.

Krueger, who until 2013 was also the top White House economist serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama, was “surprised” by the finding. Quoted by quartz, he said “We find that 94% of net job growth in the past decade was in the alternative work category,” said Krueger. “And over 60% was due to the [the rise] of independent contractors, freelancers and contract company workers.” In other words, nearly all of the 10 million jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were not traditional nine-to-five employment.

While the finding is good news for some, such as graphic designers and lawyers who hate going to an office, for whom new technology and Obamacare has made it more appealing to become an independent contractor. But for those seeking a steady administrative assistant office job, the market is grim. It also explains why despite an apparent recovery in the labor market, wage growth has been non-existent, due to the lack of career advancement and salary increase options for this vast cohort which was hired over the past decade. [emphasis in original]

The lack of long term steady full time work with full benefits has especially hit the young badly. They are increasingly being forced to work multiple jobs to pay the bills, all of which lack any kind of benefits.

Obviously, they must keep voting for those Democrats who brought this paradise to them. Obviously!

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