Unless Congress acts soon, the unelected administrative state will rule unopposed

A dying document
A dying document

While much of the conservative press has been focusing on the illegal abuse of power by security agencies like the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Justice, in the past week a whole slew of stories having nothing to do with election politics or Donald Trump have even more starkly illustrated the growing power of the many alphabet agencies of the federal government’s executive branch, power that is cancelling the real constitutional power of Congress — even as Congress looks on impotently.

Unlike abusive and illegal indictments of Trump, or evidence that the Justice Department and FBI are acting to protect Joe Biden and his son Hunter, however, these others stories have generally gone unnoticed, except by your intrepid reporter here at Behind the Black.

First, on July 26th we had the Space Force proposing new regulations that would allow it to literally take control over all private space assets in any declared international emergency, without any need to compensate the owners.

The Space Force’s draft framework for how commercial satellite services could be called up in times of crisis or conflict to support military missions would allow the Defense Department to deny participating companies the right to sell their wares to any other client in times of “war, major conflict, national or international emergency.” [emphasis mine]

What is the point of owning anything if the U.S. military has the power to simply steal it from you, without paying you for it, anytime any president or Congress on a whim decides to declare an international emergency? Such declarations were once rare, but now they happen routinely, with dire consequences for private citizens, as we all learned during the COVID panic.

On that same day we also learned that the FAA has refused to allow the private company Varda from bringing back to Earth a capsule it had launched to space several months ago, with the express intent to manufacture needed pharmaceuticals in weightlessness that can’t be made on Earth.
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FAA: No Starship/Superheavy launch until we say so!

We’re here to help you! The FAA yesterday stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no additional orbital test launches of SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy until it has decided the launch will be safe.

The FAA, which is overseeing an investigation into the April 20 launch, said Wednesday it was still awaiting the report it needs to identify corrective actions SpaceX must take to get the OK to launch again from Boca Chica.

An FAA spokesperson declined to speculate when the agency’s investigation might be completed, saying that “public safety and actions yet to be taken by SpaceX will dictate the timeline.”

“The FAA will not allow a return to flight operations until it determines that any system, process, or procedure related to the mishap does not affect public safety or any other aspect of the operator’s license,” the spokesperson said. “The mishap investigation is ongoing.”

The implication that the FAA is awaiting completion of SpaceX’s own investigation sounds like an attempt to shift the blame for the delay from the government to SpaceX, even though the company has made it very evident in words and deeds that it is moving quickly and will be ready to launch in August.

This threat of a delay is hardly a surprise. I predicted in late April that the federal bureaucracy is targeting SpaceX, and by late May predicted the the FAA would block this August launch attempt.

It is also important to underline the fact that there is absolutely no one at the FAA capable of or knowledgeable enough to competently assess the safety of the next launch. The only people who can really do that are the engineers at SpaceX. All the FAA can do is reject SpaceX’s investigation — for political reasons — and demand SpaceX take additional actions, based merely on random guesses as to what needs to be done. And it can keep doing this repeatedly.

This launch is likely to be delayed many months. You heard it here first.

Varda blocked from bringing its capsule back to Earth by FAA

Varda has been forced to delay the first return of its capsule from space, loaded with a drug designed to treat HIV/AIDS that can only be manufactured in weightlessness, because the FAA has so far refused to issue “a re-entry license,” a new regulatory power grab the FAA instituted two years ago supposedly to “streamline the launch and reentry licensing process.”

This new language, which I was unaware of and know of no Congressional act approving it, has done exactly the opposite.

A key issue, he said, is that Varda is the first to seek a reentry license under new FAA regulations known as Part 450. Those regulations were enacted by the FAA more than two years ago to streamline the launch and reentry licensing process.

…For the commercial launch industry, the Part 450 regulations have become an area of concern. Only a handful of Part 450 launch licenses have been issued to date as the FAA begins a transition to the new regulations, but those licenses have taken longer to complete than expected, in some cases missing a 180-day statutory deadline. Industry officials raised the issue at a July 13 hearing of the House Science Committee and at a July 11 meeting of an FAA advisory group, the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted language says it all. It also suggests these new regulations, apparently written by the FAA and not Congress, might be contributing to the delays being experienced by SpaceX in its attempt to do test launches of its Starship/Superheavy rocket.

Varda is presently hoping to return the capsule in mid-August. It had begun this re-entry licensing process in early 2021 — more than two years ago — and still does not have that approval. Its business plan is to make money by manufacturing things in weightlessness that can’t be made on Earth — such as this HIV drug — and returning those items to Earth for sale.

Such a plan can’t work if the federal administrative state stands in the way.

Trump administration finally takes over Justice and FBI

Four stories at the end of this week, all apparently timed to hit the press over the weekend and thus be less noticeable, all indicate that the Trump administration, specifically Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray, might finally be taking control respectively of the Justice Department and the FBI from the Democratic partisan hold-overs from the Obama administration, who for all intents and purposes have apparently been running those agencies during Trump’s first year in office.

The first story is significant in that the lawyer reassigned, James Baker, was also the lawyer used by Andrew McCabe for his defense during his eight hours of stone-walling during a closed-door House hearing this week about his part in the Mueller Russian collusion investigation, and is also a good friend to fired FBI director James Comey. The Trump administration has now removed this lawyer from the game.

The middle two stories indicate that the Trump administration is not going to let Obama and Clinton off the hook for their own apparent collusion with both the Russians and terrorists. (An update: It behooves every American to read the full and very detailed Politico report about the Obama administration’s effort to shut down any investigations of Hezbollah’s drug operation in order to get the Iran deal signed. I finally got around to reading it carefully, and found it to be quite damning, both for Obama and for everyone in his administration. And remember, this is coming from a media source that has generally been favorable to Democrats.)

The last story involves what appears increasingly to be a terrible abuse of power by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Justice Department in its prosecution of the Bundy family following their stand-off with federal officials, a prosecution that has now resulted in a mistrial because the Justice Department improperly withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense.

That it took this long for the Trump administration to make these moves strongly illustrates how fragile our hold on democracy presently is. Trump was duly elected. By law, he is in charge, and has the right to fire anyone in the executive branch, as well as set policy there. Yet, he and his appointed cabinet officials have apparently felt they needed to tiptoe carefully during the first year of their administration, as if the people that Obama appointed and the policies he established were still in control.

Even now, I am unsure that these actions will put the Trump administration truly in charge of the administrative state. There is ample evidence in both the Uranium One deal and Iran deal that the Obama administration committed acts that at the least should destroy political careers, and at the most might even send some people to prison. Unless one of those scenarios actually happens, however, Trump will have done little to rein in the administration state. They will continue to act as if they can do whatever they want, defying elected officials, with impunity, because it will be apparent that there are no consequences for such actions.