Tag Archives: Trump

Homeland Security to track bloggers and journalists

You gotta have your KGB: Homeland Security has revealed that it is putting together a program to track bloggers, journalists, and what it calls “Social Media Influencers.”

[T]he Department of Homeland Security has just announced that it intends to compile a comprehensive list of hundreds of thousands of “journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.”, and collect any “information that could be relevant” about them.

So if you have a website, an important blog or you are just very active on social media, the Department of Homeland Security is going to put you on a list and will start collecting information about you. The DHS has already announced that it will hire a contractor to aid in monitoring media coverage, and they will definitely need plenty of help because it is going to be a very big job…

The article above then quotes from another news story describing this Orwellian plan:

As part of its “media monitoring,” the DHS seeks to track more than 290,000 global news sources as well as social media in over 100 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian, for instant translation into English. The successful contracting company will have “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” in order to “identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”

This is quite vile, but no surprise. From its very inception after 9/11 Homeland Security was designed to violate numerous rights listed in the Bill of Rights. We are now seeing those violations play out. Worse should certainly be expected as well.

I hope they track Behind the Black. If they try to squelch me the publicity might do the site good.

Meanwhile, where is Trump in this? That this program is going forward under his watch illustrates once again that Trump really is not that much different than the swamp in Washington he claims a desire to drain. He has undeniably forced a lot of positive change in DC, but his lack of understanding of the philosophical battle allows him to permit this kind of abuse. This program centers power in the executive branch, something that Trump doesn’t really mind.

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Proposed new FCC regulations would shut out student cubesats

We’re here to help you! Proposed new FCC regulations on the licensing of smallsats would raise the licensing cost for student-built cubesats so much that universities would likely have to shut down the programs.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies. [emphasis mine]

If these new and very high licensing fees are correct I find them shocking. As noted in the quote, building a cubesat costs practically nothing, only about $5,000. The new fees thus add gigantic costs to the satellite’s development, and could literally wipe the market out entirely. They certainly will end most university programs that have students build cubesats as a first step towards learning how to build satellites.

These new regulations appear to be part of the Trump administration’s effort to streamline and update the regulatory process for commercial space. It also appears that the FCC has fumbled badly here in its part of this process.

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Why you got Trump, part 2,398,105

Link here. The author focuses on the “Never Trump” wing of the Republican Party, individuals who have completely abandoned any pretense that they stand for conservative values in their no-holds-barred opposition to Trump, even when he does things they should like.

This quote illustrates however why Trump won, and continues to be popular with the general public:

[T]he main point these [Never Trumpers] whom we have no choice but to refer to as former conservatives miss is that in our political system the choice is still binary. Other conservatives may not like Trump but they understand that the voters preferred him in no small measure because they were sick of the clubby elitism that characterizes the anti-Trump alliance.

Moreover, they understand that, thanks to Trump’s unlikely victory, the choice isn’t between a conservatism tainted by association with Trump and one that isn’t. Rather the choice is between a Trump-led Republican Party that is championing the same issues that the pre-Trump GOP supported and liberals who want a return to the Obama era of high taxes and appeasement of Iran to mention just two key issues on which many Never Trumpers have abandoned their principles. [emphasis mine]

It is that clubby elitism of Washington — and the bankrupt incompetent government it has given us — that most offends the voters who went for Trump. Trump’s actions since his elections, though imperfect for sure, have confirmed the wisdom of this choice. It has also revealed the fake conservatives in the Republican Party who clearly prefer that clubby elitism above any effort that might try to fix the problem.

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White House issues new policy statement to reduce space regulation

Don’t get too excited: President Trump yesterday signed a new policy statement that basically follows the recommendations of his National Space Council aimed at reducing regulation of space commerce.

One section of the policy addresses launch licensing, requiring the Secretary of Transportation, who oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, to “release a new regulatory system for managing launch and re-entry activity, targeting an industry that is undergoing incredible transformation with regulations that have failed to keep up,” according to a White House fact sheet.

A second section deals with commercial remote sensing regulatory reform. “The current regulatory system is woefully out of date and needs significant reform to ensure the United States remains the chosen jurisdiction for these high tech companies,” the fact sheet states.

A related section calls on the Secretary of Commerce to provide a plan to create a “one-stop shop” within his department “for administering and regulating commercial space flight activities.” The Commerce Department had previously announced plans to combine the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office with the Office of Space Commerce, giving the latter office that regulatory role for issues other than launch and communications.

The policy directs several agencies, including Commerce, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Federal Communications Commission, to develop a plan for “improving global competitiveness” of policies, regulation and other activities dealing with the use of radiofrequency spectrum for space activities.

A final section of the policy directs the National Space Council to review export control regulations regarding commercial spaceflight activities and provide recommendations within 180 days.

The policy closely follows the recommendations from the February meeting of the National Space Council. However, White House officials, speaking on background, said they don’t expect immediate changes as a result of the policy since many of the changes, like changes to regulations, will take months to implement through standard rulemaking processes. Some changes, the officials acknowledge, will require legislation to enact, such as authority to license “non-traditional” commercial space activities. [emphasi mine]

The highlighted text illustrates this is really just public relations and lobbying to get new legislation through Congress. Without that, little will change.

This directive however does carry one certain action we should all celebrate. The changes at Commerce eliminate the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office, where bureaucrats earlier this year claimed they had the power to license all photography of any kind from space, a power that allowed them to block SpaceX from using cameras on their rocket when those cameras showed the Earth in the background.

At the time I said that “If Trump is serious about cutting back regulation, he should step it now to shut this down.” Apparently, he has done so.

As for the other proposed regulatory changes, there are bills weaving their way through the labyrinth of Congress to address these changes. The House bill repeats most of the recommended changes of this policy directive. We have not yet seen a Senate version.

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Can we trust any deal with North Korea?

Link here. The article, from the science journal Nature, is an interview with a South Korean nuclear expert who is very skeptical of any claims by North Korea that it has dismantled its nuclear program.

This skepticism seems reasonable to me. Consider the history. The Clinton administration signed a deal with North Korea (very similar in many ways with Obama’s Iran nuclear deal) that was supposed to prevent North Korea from getting the bomb. Instead, all it did was allow us to make believe it wasn’t happening, even as North Korea developed the technology and eventually completed several underground tests of nuclear bombs.

We shall see if Trump allows himself to get fooled, like Clinton. Right now, the indications are no. At the same time, it pays to be as skeptical of any politician as this South Korean nuclear expert is of North Korea. None of these power-hungry politicians can be trusted, even Trump. When the general public makes the mistake of trusting them it always gets screwed.

Update: Trump has canceled the summit with North Korea.

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New NOAA weather satellite has serious problem

Can’t anybody here play this game? The cooling unit required to take infrared images in the new NOAA weather satellite GOES-17, launched in March, is not functioning properly.

“This is a serious problem,” Volz said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “This is the premier Earth-pointing instrument on the GOES platform, and 16 channels, of which 13 are infrared or near-infrared, are important elements of our observing requirements, and if they are not functioning fully, it is a loss. It is a performance issue we have to address.”

Detectors for the infrared channels must be cooled to around 60 Kelvin (minus 351 degrees Fahrenheit) to make them fully sensitive to infrared light coming from Earth’s atmosphere. For about 12 hours each day, the cooler inside the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, is unable to chill the detectors to such cold temperatures, officials said.

Infrared images from weather satellites are used to monitor storms at night, when darkness renders visible imagery unavailable. The three visible channels from the ABI are not affected by the cooling problem.

“The other wavelengths, the near-infrared and infrared wavelengths — the other 13 — need to be cooled to some extent beyond the capability of the system at present,” said Tim Walsh, NOAA’s program manager for the GOES-R weather satellite series. “There’s a portion of the day centered around satellite local midnight where the data is not usable, and that’s what we’re addressing.”

GOES-17 is the second of a four satellite constellation being built by NOAA costing $11 billion.

It appears that an identical cooling system was installed on the first of this satellite constellation, GOES-16, and has been working perfectly in orbit since November 2016. Why the new unit isn’t working remains a puzzle.

The real issue here is the cost and complexity of these satellites. Because they are so complex and take so long to build, replacing them is difficult if not impossible. Wouldn’t it be better to launch many cheaper satellites to provide redundancy at a lower cost?

This is a pattern we see throughout the government aerospace industry. NASA’s Webb and WFIRST telescopes are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. SLS and Orion are big and take decades to build. God forbid they fail at launch. The Air Force’s numerous military satellites are big and take decades to build. God forbid an enemy takes one out.

In all these cases, failure means we get nothing after spending a lot of time and money. And replacing the loss will take years and billions of dollars.

Common sense says it is time to rethink this entire operation. Unfortunately, this is the federal government. The concept of rethinking anything, or even thinking at all, is too often a completely alien concept. I do not expect anything to change, unless we elect new people in Congress and the Presidency who are willing to take a hammer to this whole insane system and smash it bluntly. Trump is kind of this type of new person, but even he isn’t willing to change that much, only some things, such as the EPA, that irk him in particular. Otherwise, he has left much of the federal bureaucracy alone — as can be seen by his administration and NASA both gearing up to fund both LOP-G and WFIRST— thus continuing this pattern of big and expensive projects that take forever to build.

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A detailed timeline of entire Clinton-Trump-collusion-story

Link here. You want to get a good idea about this whole scandal, you have to spend a little bit of your time reading through this timeline.

The following take-aways to me seemed the most important:

  • Though the whole Mueller investigation and scandal is supposedly centered on collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians to rig the election, the timeline once again shows no such collusion. Some members of Trump’s campaign do have ties to Russian sources, but it is not clear if this has any significance. Regardless, as soon as Paul Manafort’s ties are made public he was immediately forced out of the Trump campaign.
  • The timeline does document a great deal of collusion between the Democratic Party and Ukrainian sources, some from within its government and some not. This collusion is all aimed influencing the election by swinging voter support away from Trump.
  • The timeline also shows a lot of internal conflicts of interest in the FBI aimed at helping Democrats and hurting Republicans. Some of these conflicts are downright blatant, designed to foil any investigations into Clinton’s illegal activities, while expanding investigations (without evidence) against Trump and Republicans.
  • Beginning in 2011 and throughout the Obama administration, the timeline documents an exponential increase in spying on Americans, much of it unconstitutional, and suggestive of having political motives. Two quotes:

    From 2011: U.S. intel community vastly expands its surveillance authority, giving itself permission to spy on Americans who do nothing more than “mention a foreign target in a single, discrete communication.”

    From 2016: Obama officials vastly expand their searches through NSA database for Americans and the content of their communications. In 2013, there were 9,600 searches involving 195 Americans. But in 2016, there are 30,355 searches of 5,288 Americans.

    The timeline also reveals that once Trump took office this spying was immediately cut back.

  • Obama is clearly caught in a number of outright lies designed to hide his participation in many aspects of this scandal. Similarly, Comey, Lynch, McCabe, Rice, Clapper and many other Obama officials are also caught in outright and well documented lies.

Finally, and most important, the timeline shows that shortly after Trump’s election the spying of Republicans and Trump’s transition team by Obama administration officials accelerated, and was aimed at sabotaging the newly elected administration as well as hiding certain things from that administration. This quote especially stands out:

Fifteen minutes after Trump becomes president, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice emails memo to herself purporting to summarize the Jan. 5 Oval Office meeting with President Obama and other top officials. She states that Obama instructed the group to investigate “by the book” and asked them to be mindful whether there were certain things that “could not be fully shared with the incoming administration.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, hired employees of the executive branch were now conspiring to work against the newly elected Republican president, and were going to do so under orders from the outgoing Democratic president.

There is a lot more. In general, the timeline reflects very badly on Obama and everyone in the executive branch, especially those in charge at the FBI. Rather than doing their jobs as an investigative federal police force, the top management of the FBI had become Democratic Party operatives.

Read it all. If you want to understand the corruption that has taken over Washington and now wishes to wield great power over your life, you need to read this.

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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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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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The Middle East following Trump’s rejection of Iran deal

Many pundits had predicted that Donald Trump as president would lead to war with North Korea.

They were wrong. Completely, utterly, and foolishly. Instead, Trump’s hardline approach finally forced North Korea’s allies to force that nation to come to the negotiating table. For the first time in decades it appears we are going to see some substantive and positive changes in North Korea’s relations with the world.

This same pundit class, all operatives of the Democratic Party, have for the last few days been screaming that Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal would also lead to war. Will these predictions be right this time? At this moment it is hard to say. Almost immediately after Trump’s announcement Iran and Israel exchanged missile fire. Overall, however, that exchange has turned out badly for Iran, the world’s biggest financier of terrorism and the instigator of most of the problems that presently exist in the Middle East.

First, it appears that militarily Iran did badly in the missile exchange, with Israel doing their capabilities in Syria serious harm. Second, Iran apparently did not tell anyone in Syria it was going to do use that country as a military launch site, and this is already causing them problems with their allies. For example, Russia announced today that it will not deliver new missiles to Syria, despite an earlier promise to do so.

Finally, a host of Arab Middle East countries have not only celebrated Trump’s actions, it has prompted some to reveal support for Israel, something that would have seemed impossible only two years ago.

It remains unclear if Trump’s actions will have the same positive effect on Iran as his actions did on North Korea. The two situations are not identical. Iran’s leaders have more flexibility and options that North Korea’s. Still, what Trump has accomplished is to get some important Arab nations to move to our side against Iran, and in doing so to increasingly ally themselves with Israel as well. This cannot be a bad thing.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic leader of Hamas announced yesterday that the protests next week in Gaza will be “decisive” and that many will die. Whether this really happens, it is apparent that such protests are not garnering Hamas the same worldwide support they once did. The same Middle East countries that have celebrated Trump’s actions have also made it clear they no longer support the terrorist tactics of the leaders in both the West Bank and Gaza. These Arab nations have quietly made it clear that they actually back Israel now.

Trump’s actions in the Middle East appear to have shifted the balance of power, and that shift has been in favor of Israel, the only democratically-elected nation in the area. This cannot be a bad thing.

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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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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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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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“God damn you to hell.”

The quote above were the concluding words of Michael Caputo, a Republican consultant and former Trump campaign aide, in testimony yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He was being questioned by the Democrats on whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians and decided to tell them exactly what he thought of them, all because of the hell that the committee and the Democrats have put both him and his family through as part of this witchhunt.

Caputo called for an “investigation of the investigators” and said he wanted to know who was “coordinating this attack on President Donald Trump.”

“Forget about all the death threats against my family. I want to know who cost us so much money, who crushed our kids, who forced us out of our home, all because you lost an election,” Caputo said. “I want to know because God damn you to hell.”

Read it all. Caputo outlines in great detail the effort being made to persecute him and his family. Worse, after more than two years of this harassment, there remains no evidence of any collusion between Trump and the Russians. For example,

Caputo said that he was asked about approximately 20 people affiliated with the Trump campaign and whether he was aware if they had been in touch with Russian officials.

“My answer for each of them was the same,” Caputo said. “There was none.”

Lacking evidence of any wrong-doing by Trump and his campaign, what we do have instead is an effort by Washington insiders, mostly Democrats with the help of more than a few Republicans, to destroy the lives of anyone connected with Trump.

Meanwhile, there is ample evidence that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State gave the Russians control of one quarter of the U.S.’s uranium resources in exchange for significant pay-offs. Meanwhile, there is ample evidence that Democrats in the House handed over to Pakistani agents control of their entire computer system, waiving all background checks. Meanwhile, there is ample evidence that the Democratic Party rigged its primary elections to guarantee a victory for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, there is outright and very obvious evidence, in plain sight, that Hillary Clinton broke numerous security laws when she set up her own private server to handle her State Department communications, in direct violation of the law.

None of these things, however, have been investigated by Robert Mueller, the FBI, or the Department of Justice, even though the evidence for each is blatant and has been well documented, in public sources.

The 2018 election will determine with we will live in a free society run by the rule of law. Based on recent events, I am not hopeful. It appears to me that too many Americans have decided that witchhunts against people they disagree with is a good thing, and they want more of them.

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Summit between leaders of North and South Korea began today

The first summit in more than a decade between the leaders of North and South Korea began today.

The two leaders are meeting at Peace House, south of the demarcation line in the border truce village of Panmunjom.

Kim is the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, and the two leaders are expected to discuss issues relating to peace and denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

The two leaders smiled and shook hands after which Kim gestured to Moon to cross over to North Korea briefly, which they did for a few steps, then returned to the South, holding hands.

Though no one should trust much of what Kim says or does, this summit is certainly a testament to the foreign policy of Donald Trump. During the Obama administration, all we had from North Korea were nuclear tests and threats of war, with the U.S. weakly responding with typically empty diplomatic statements of “serious concern.”

Now Kim is signing the guest register in South Korea like so: “New history starts now; age of peace, from the starting point of history.” Trump forced his allies, most specifically China, to put pressure on him, and it has apparently had a positive effect.

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North Korea suspends nuclear and rocket programs

Can we believe it? In anticipation of the upcoming summits with both South Korea and President Trump, North Korea today announced that it has suspended both its nuclear and missile programs.

The new policy, which sets the table for further negotiations when the summits begin, was announced by leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the North Korean ruling party’s Central Committee on Friday and reported by the North’s state-run media early Saturday.

Kim justified the suspension to his party by saying that the situation around North Korea has been rapidly changing “in favor of the Korean revolution” since he announced last year his country had completed its nuclear forces. He said North Korea has reached the level where it no longer needs to conduct underground testing or test-launching of ICBMs.

I think the real reason he announced this is that he knows that if he continues the program, he shall be increasingly isolated. Trump’s pressure on China forced that nation to put the screws on Kim, and as a result he really has no choice but announce the suspension of these programs.

What we really don’t know is if this announcement can be taken seriously. Its public framing, justified under the lie that the programs were completed, makes me very suspicious that he is lying about everything. We shall see how Trump takes it in the coming months..

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Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross puts his foot down

In a speech at a space conference this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross outlined the Trump administration’s plans to streamline the commercial space regulatory bureaucracy, noting that the absurd interference with normal operations by bureaucrats must stop.

He made specific reference to NOAA’s demand that it have the right to license all photography in space.

“This is silly and it will stop,” Ross told an audience of space industry executives, policymakers and military officers at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, backing the view of SpaceX and other rocket companies that the cameras on its rockets aren’t the equivalent of satellites dedicated to Earth views.

He then noted that the regulatory framework is going to be consolidated into an “Office of Space Commerce” under his direct supervision, though the FCC (licensing radio spectrum) and the FAA (licensing rocket launches) will retain their responsibilities.

Will this streamline anything or save the taxpayer any money? Doesn’t look that way to me, as it seems to be adding a new layer of bureaucrats to the process without eliminating any existing departments. And then there is this additional quote from the article:

The question for space executives, who have clamored for more responsive government when it comes to licenses for launches and satellite operation, is whether increased funding will accompany the shifting responsibilities.

Speeding up bureaucracy means hiring more people, and projects like space traffic management demand investment in the technology to detect and track objects in orbit. While the Trump administration had adopted lofty rhetoric around its support for space business, it’s not yet clear that the White House has the needed clout to win congressional support—and federal dollars—for its proposals.

While it is a good thing that the Trump administration has apparently told the NOAA bureaucrats to take a flying leap, it appears they have also decided that building a new layer of bureaucracy to regulate space is a good thing. This is most unfortunate.

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FCC upset FCC not included in National Space Council

Turf war! The FCC commissioner today questioned the omission of an FCC representative on Trump’s reborn National Space Council.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said April 17 that the Federal Communications Commission “needs to coordinate more closely with other federal authorities” as it navigates through new space activities. “Right now the National Space Council is considering policy changes to help promote the growth of the commercial space industry,” she said. “Their efforts encompass everything from streamlining licenses to reforming export controls, protecting airwaves, to facilitating space activities … the FCC should have a seat at the table. It’s a glaring omission that this agency does not, because through our oversight of the airwaves and licensing of satellite services, we have an important role ensuring the viability of space for future generations.”

Rosenworcel noted that the National Space Council as revived by the Trump administration last year has a distinguished list of leaders, including the head of NASA, the secretaries of defense, transportation and homeland security, and others, calling it “an impressive list.” But “cutting the FCC out of this discussion is an unseemly mistake, and one that deserves a fix,” she said.

To translate: The FCC wants to keep its regulatory power over space operations, and by excluding them from the council Trump is threatening that power. This is unacceptable!

If the Trump administration is truly serious about streamlining the space regulatory bureaucracy, we should hear more complaints like this in the coming months, from the FAA, NASA, the State Department, and other agencies. Normally such government streamlining efforts only make things worse, because all the threatened government agencies chime in with complaints like this. The result is that nothing gets streamlined. Instead, the effort merely adds another layer of bureaucracy, as illustrated by my previous post.

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Trump administration to begin shift of space bureaucracy to Commerce

In an announcement yesterday at a space conference, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration will give the Commerce Department the task of creating a new system for monitoring and managing satellites and space junk in order to avoid traffic conflicts.

The policy calls on the Commerce Department to provide “a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use,” based on tracking data compiled by the Defense Department. Commercial space ventures would also be encouraged to partner with the government on the development of data-sharing systems and guidelines for minimizing orbital debris and avoiding satellite collisions, Pence said.

In truth, I suspect that this is the first political maneuver in a long term plan to shift the entire space regulatory bureaucracy to the Commerce Department. Right now it is split between agencies in a number of different agencies, including State, NOAA, the FAA, the FCC, and even NASA. It is this complex and Byzantine arrangement the private sector most complains about. I am not sure why Commerce is getting favored, but it has appeared that many powerful members in Congress have wanted things shifted to Commerce for awhile, and so the Trump administration appears willing to go along in order to get the system streamlined.

We shall see if this streamlining really takes place. Often in government the creation of a new single agency to handle everything merely adds an additional layer of bureaucracy, because no one wants to cut the older layers.

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Homeland Security to track journalists and bloggers in the media

We get our own KGB! Homeland Security has requested bids on providing a database that will continually track of activities of “journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.”

The DHS’s “Media Monitoring” plan, which was first reported by FedBizOpps.gov, would give the contracting company “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” in order to “identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”

The database would be designed to monitor the public activities of media members and influencers by “location, beat and influencers,” the document says.

The chosen contractor should be able to “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the influencer.”

A Homeland Security official claimed this was “standard practice” but he was either ignorant or lying. This is a new tool for spying on journalists while also obtaining information that can be used against them for political purposes. Any government agency that had proposed such a thing to past American generations would have found itself very quickly shut down. The idea of the government tracking individuals reporting the news would have been considered disgusting and a violation of numerous amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Today however, not so much. We need our KGB, and we are going to get it, come hell or high water!

An added note: Most of the outrage about censorship and spying that we see today in the press is focused on Google, Facebook, and the unsavory stuff these big software companies are doing. These are private efforts, however, and there is a simple solution to stopping their bad behavior: Their customers have to find a competitor who doesn’t do it and switch services.

Unfortunately, we instead have increasing calls for the government to regulate and even break up these companies. This is exactly not what we should do, as it will only place more power in that government. If anything, it will provide justification for the government to spy on journalists and regulate them, as illustrated by this newly proposed law in fascist California.

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NOAA claims it is streamlining its remote sensing licensing operations

We’re here to help you! The NOAA office that recently demanded that it has the legal power to regulate all camera images from space announced this week that it has vastly streamlined its licensing process.

Really? Let’s take a look at their own numbers:

Samira Patel, an analyst with the Aerospace Corporation supporting CRSRA [Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs at NOAA], said that in 2015 the average review time for a license application was 210 days, with only 1 of 15 applications completed within the 120-day time limit established in federal law. In 2016, that decreased to an average of 140 days, with 5 of 12 applications reviewed within 120 days.

Last year, Patel said the office completed reviews of license applications on an average of 91 days. Only 2 of 16 applications took more than 120 days, she said, “and that was only by a few days.” [emphasis mine]

My heart be still. It now takes them only three months on average to get a permit approved. Imagine how fast they’ll do it when they have to approve every tourist image taken of Earth from the many proposed private space stations.

The article does note that the Trump administration is reviewing the entire permitting process for commercial space, and that this responsibility, as well as the FAA’s licensing responsibility, could soon be merged and moved to the Department of Commerce. I hope that, in the process of this rearrangement, they throw out this new power-grab. The government has no business licensing any image-taking by any private entity.

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Trump Justice Dept decides to defend IRS harassment of conservatives

Still working for the Democratic Party: In a new twist, the Trump Justice Department has decided to backtrack from a settlement with one conservative group, True the Vote, that had been harassed aggressively not only by the IRS but by the FBI, Justice, OSHA, ATF, and numerous other agencies that during the Obama administration suddenly instituted 23 audits against them.

By the beginning of 2018, the DOJ appeared ready to strike a deal. The IRS agreed to a laundry list of wrongdoing, legal protection from further abuse, and they would allow True the Vote to petition for attorney fees for the years this mess was tied up in courts. Engelbrecht and True the Vote agreed and signed the decree. Now, though, the happy headlines have faded and the DOJ has reversed the course and filed a response to the court opposing the True the Vote petition. DOJ denies admitting to anything, stated the consent decree shows that conservative groups had, in fact, lost in court and that in their view the IRS had won. The settlements meant nothing, and not one dime of attorney fees would be awarded.

DOJ now claims that the IRS was right to fight True the Vote. Engelbrecht notes, “The Trump administration is defending the IRS targeting American citizens.” It’s like the Obama DOJ is back in the saddle. True the Vote’s battle continues.

The short embedded video from True the Vote below the fold summarizes the situation, and illustrates that the Trump administration appears no different than the Obama administration. No house cleaning has taken place, and it appears that no house cleaning is planned. The abuse of citizens by these agencies continues.
» Read more

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Justice Dept inspector general to review FISA abuses

Progress? Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz announced today that he has initiated a full review of the suspected FISA abuses that took place at both the FBI and the Justice Department that allowed the Obama administration to spy on the Trump campaign during the election, and were subsequently used to initiate the Mueller special counsel investigation.

The Office of the Inspector General released a statement Wednesday outlining the start of the review. “The OIG will initiate a review that will examine the Justice Department’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person,” the statement obtained by Fox News read. “As part of this examination, the OIG also will review information that was known to the DOJ and the FBI at the time the applications were filed from or about an alleged FBI confidential source.”

The OIG statement added that Horowitz also would “review the DOJ’s and FBI’s relationship and communications with the alleged source as they relate to the FISC applications.” The statement continued, “If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider including other issues that may arise during the course of the review.”

It must be noted that Horowitz was appointed by Obama. It must also be noted that this review leaves many of the highest officials of both the FBI and Justice very exposed, considered what we know now about how they misused the FISA courts.

The bottom line remains: until someone from the Democratic Party, the Obama administration, or their allies in the administrative state actually get charged with a crime, they will be getting off scot-free, and will continue to pose a threat to the American democratic process and future elections.

One positive sign today: Justice Dept. charges Minnesota FBI agent for leaking secret document to news outlet This story suggests that Sessions might be serious about tracking down those in his department that are leaking classified information to the press.

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NASA chief argues against purchasing Falcon Heavy over SLS

When asked at a meeting of a NASA advisory council meeting why NASA doesn’t buy a lot of Falcon Heavies instead of building a few SLS rockets, NASA chief of human spaceflight Bill Gerstenmaier argued that only the SLS could launch the large payloads NASA requires to establish its Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway (LOP-G).

Gerstenmaier then said NASA’s exploration program will require the unique capabilities of the SLS rocket. “I think it’s still going to be large-volume, monolithic pieces that are going to require an SLS kind of capability to get them out into space,” he said. “Then for routine servicing and bringing cargo, maybe bringing smaller crew vehicles other than Orion, then Falcon Heavy can play a role. What’s been talked about by [Jeff] Bezos can play a role. What United Launch Alliance has talked about can play a role.”

The problem with this argument is that the “large-volume, monolithic pieces” Gerstenmaier proposes don’t exist yet, either in design or in budget. NASA could very easily design LOP-G’s pieces to fit on Falcon Heavy, and then use it. Instead, they are purposely creating a situation where SLS is required, rather than going with the most cost effective solution.

Unless someone in power, such as a president, puts his foot down and demands NASA do this intelligently, I expect NASA to accomplish nothing significant in manned space in the next decade. That does not mean Americans will be trapped on Earth, only that NASA will not be the way they will get off the planet. And unfortunately, based on the most recent budget passed by Congress and signed by Trump, I do not expect this president to do anything to change things. Right now, NASA is being run by the big contractors (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) that need SLS and Orion, and thus NASA is going to give them a lot of money to build things that we can’t afford and can do nothing to put Americans in space.

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Congress pumps pork money to NASA in omnibus budget

The omnibus budget that Congress plans to pass this week for 2018 gives NASA $20.7 billion, significantly more than requested and funding almost every pork project Congress could conceive of, including a second mobile launcher for SLS.

The budget gives SLS and Orion more than $3 billion, funds all the Earth science and education projects the Trump administration wished to cut, as well as WFIRST, which the Trump administration wants to cancel because of cost overruns. In general, the NASA budget is a microcosm of the entire spending bill, which does nothing to cut any program anywhere, including Obamacare and a number of liberal programs that the Republicans have repeatedly promised to shut down, until they are in a position to do so. Then they act like leftist Democrats and fund everything.

This is posted between Tucson and Phoenix. I am heading up to the Grand Canyon for a four day cave expedition, which is why I can’t do a more thorough analysis. This really isn’t necessary however, as it is very clear that the Republican leadership in Congress are continuing their corrupt passion for spending money that does not exist. And they wonder why they may lose seats in 2018.

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McCabe’s defiant response to his firing incriminates Comey

Working for the Democratic Party: The defiant response yesterday by former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe to his firing included information that appears to incriminate fired FBI director James Comey.

McCabe is accused of misleading investigators about allegedly giving information to a former Wall Street Journal reporter about the investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family’s charitable foundation. McCabe asserts in his post-firing statement that he not only had authority to “share” that information to the media but did so with the knowledge of “the director.” The FBI director at the time was Comey. “I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor,” McCabe stated. “As deputy director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter.”

If the “interaction” means leaking the information, then McCabe’s statement would seem to directly contradict statements Comey made in a May 2017 congressional hearing. Asked if he had “ever been an anonymous source in news reports about matters relating to the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation” or whether he had “ever authorized someone else at the FBI to be an anonymous source in news reports about the Trump investigation or the Clinton investigation,” Comey replied “never” and “no.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general clearly saw this “interaction” as problematic in seeking answers from McCabe. If the inspector general considered this to be a leak to the media, any approval by Comey would be highly significant. Comey already faces serious questions over his use of a Columbia University Law School professor to leak information to the media following his own termination as director.

It must be emphasized that McCabe’s firing was recommended by FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, which is an independent division in the FBI made up of FBI officials. Moreover, his response clearly reveals McCabe’s own Democratic partisan leanings. It also links those leanings to Mueller’s investigation, which further taints it. So does this analysis: Mueller’s Investigation Flouts Justice Department Standards.

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Anti-Trump FBI officials colluded with recused judge

Working for the Democratic Party: The two anti-Trump FBI officials who were having an adulterous affair while exchanging emails on how they needed to stop Trump, also appear to have colluded with the judge involved in the Michael Flynn case, Rudolph Contreras, who was suddenly recused with no explanation only days after Flynn’s guilty plea.

The text messages about Contreras between controversial Department of Justice lawyer Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, the top Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence official who was kicked off Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, were deliberately hidden from Congress, multiple congressional investigators told The Federalist. In the messages, Page and Strzok, who are rumored to have been engaged in an illicit romantic affair, discussed Strzok’s personal friendship with Contreras and how to leverage that relationship in ongoing counterintelligence matters.

“Rudy is on the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]!” Page excitedly texted Strzok on July 25, 2016. “Did you know that? Just appointed two months ago.”

“I did,” Strzok responded. “I need to get together with him.”

“[He] said he’d gotten on a month or two ago at a graduation party we were both at.” [emphasis mine]

I would not be surprised if Flynn’s guilty plea will soon be vacated. This story also acts to further discredit Robert Mueller’s witchhunt investigation, and increases the leverage to either end it, or start a separate investigation into the FBI, the Justice Department, and Mueller’s investigation itself.

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Trump mentions interest in creating military “Space Force”

Blather and pork: In comments to soldiers in San Diego President Trump yesterday expressed interest in creating a military “Space Force” similar to the Air Force

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said during a Tuesday speech at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “We may even have a Space Force, develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the Space Force. We have the Army, the Navy.”

The administration’s National Security Strategy, released in December, repeatedly identifies space as a contested domain, a somewhat more dire take than its Obama-era predecessors, which recognized “threats posed by those who may wish to deny the peaceful use of outer space.”

“You know, I was saying it the other day — because we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said maybe we need a new force. We’ll call it the Space Force,” Trump said. “And I was not really serious, but I said, ‘What a great idea.’ Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen.”

Trump as usual is talking off the cuff, but might very well have a negotiating purpose. There are members of Congress who want it. Trump could possibly be considering a trade, I give you that, you let me cut this.

Or not. It is dangerous to over analyze many of Trump’s off-the-cuff statements. Many times he just does them to get some publicity and to annoy his opponents. Note also that top Air Force officials dodged this issue when asked at hearings to comment on Trump’s statement.

Bottom line however remains the same: Spending money on a Space Force dedicated to fighting in space would be, at this time, a complete waste of money. It would be pork, pure and simple.

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