Tag Archives: bankruptcy

Lawsuit against DEA for stealing 79-year-old man’s life savings

Theft by government: According to a lawsuit filed yesterday in federal court against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and officials from both agencies, government officials confiscated the life savings of a 79-year-old man, totaling $82,373, merely because his daughter was transporting the money in cash on an airplane flight.

At 79, he was aging and worried about keeping so much cash on hand, his daughter said, so during one of her visits he asked her to open a joint bank account. Rebecca Brown was catching a flight home from the Pittsburgh airport early the next day and said she didn’t have time to stop at a bank. She confirmed on a government website that it’s legal to carry any amount of cash on a domestic flight and tucked the money in her carry-on.

But just minutes before departure in late August, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent met her at the busy gate and questioned her about the cash, which showed up on a security scan. He insisted Brown put Rolin on the phone to confirm her story. Brown said Rolin, who is suffering mental decline, was unable to verify some details. “He just handed me the phone and said, ‘Your stories don’t match,’ ” Brown recalled the agent saying. ” ‘We’re seizing the cash.’ “

Brown said she was never told she or her father were under suspicion of committing any crime and neither has been charged with anything. A search of her bag turned up no drugs or other contraband. Neither she or her father appear to have criminal records that might raise suspicions.

Brown and Rolin filed a federal, class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the DEA, Transportation Security Administration and agency officials, claiming the agencies violate the Constitution’s ban on unlawful search and seizures by taking cash from travelers without probable cause. The lawsuit claims the only criteria the DEA has for seizing cash is if it finds amounts greater than $5,000.

This is out-and-out theft by these government officials. Not only should the money be returned, every government official involved in this theft should be fired, and possibly face sanctions themselves.

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Bernie Sanders campaign organizer: “I’m all aboard for gulags!”

In part two of Project Veritas’s new undercover video series focused on the workers in the Bernie Sanders’ campaign, we discover that Kyle Jurak, field organizer, is enthusiastic about the Soviet Union’s gulags, stating unequivocally that he loves the idea of imprisoning millions of Americans who disagree with him.

I’m all aboard for gulags, like, I feel there needs to be re-education for a significant portion of our society.

He also once again shows an incredible ignorance of what happened in the Soviet Union, claiming that those gulags, which in most ways were the Soviet version of Nazi concentration camps, were nothing more than the equivalent of a low security prison where non-communists were merely housed.

The most important statements however by him in this video, embedded below, is his claim that he knows at least four to six others in the Sanders campaign organization that are of like mind. As I noted yesterday, it appears that Jurek might sadly represent a typical worker in the campaign to make Bernie Sanders our next president. I will not be surprised if Project Veritas follows up with more videos to prove this.

I once again beg my Democratic Party readers to watch this video. Most Democrats are decent people. You need to know that the party you support has been badly infiltrated by some very bad people, and that in fact those people quite possibly dominate that party.

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A typical worker in the campaign of socialist Bernie Sanders

Another Project Veritas undercover video series has begun, this time focused on the violent, hateful, and murderous beliefs of the workers in the Bernie Sanders campaign.

The first video in the series is embedded below. Lots of bad language, but I think it important that every decent American, from both parties, watch it. Kyle Jurek unfortunately is very typical for many in the inner circles of the Democratic Party. He hates anyone who disagrees with him, considers them evil incarnate, and is quite willing to put them all up against a wall and kill them. And he isn’t alone, for if he was, there would no way anyone with his goals would be a “field organizer” for the Sanders campaign.

If you are long time Democrat, it is time for you to face facts. The party you belong to has nothing to do with the party you joined. It is now a hate-rant, aimed at power achieved by any means necessary. Woe to us all if this crowd wins in November.

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Senate considers rules change permitting dismissal of House impeachment lacking submission

The Republican Senate leadership is considering a rules change that would allow them to dismiss the House impeachment of Donald Trump if the articles of impeachment are not delivered in a timely manner.

The resolution would give the House 25 days to send articles of impeachment over to the Senate. After that, a senator could offer a motion to dismiss “with prejudice for failure by the House of Representatives to prosecute such articles” with a simple majority vote, according to Hawley’s proposal.

I should note that the Senate is entirely within its rights to do this. The Constitution does not require the delivery of those articles in any specific manner, as has become customary. All it says, literally, is that the House “shall have the sole power of impeachment,” and that “the Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments.” That’s it. If the Senate wishes to dismiss an impeachment that the House passed but didn’t deliver officially, it can do so.

This Democratic clown show and attempt to overturn an legal election they lost is about to end quite embarrassingly for these Democrats. Hopefully however the embarrassment will be multiplied many fold come November, with a wipe-out landslide for Trump and the Republicans. It is long past time to clean house in the Democratic Party.

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SpaceX crew Dragon launch abort test delayed another week

NASA and SpaceX have delayed the launch abort test flight of the company’s crew Dragon capsule one week, to January 18, in order to allow “additional time for spacecraft processing.”

SpaceX has made it clear for the past month that their hardware is ready to go and that they could have launched by the end of December. That makes me suspect that the processing delay relates to NASA’s bureaucracy and paperwork requirements.

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Investigation forces retraction of 800+ Russian science papers

An investigation by Russia’s Academy of Sciences has forced the retraction of more than 800 Russian science papers, many for plagiarism.

The RAS commission’s preliminary report documenting the problems and journals’ responses to them is “a bombshell,” says Gerson Sher, a former staffer at the U.S. National Science Foundation and the author of a recent book on U.S.-Russia science cooperation. The report, released yesterday, “will reinforce the suspicions and fears of many—that their country is not going down the right path in science and that it’s damaging its own reputation,” says Sher, who applauds RAS for commissioning the investigation.

Russia’s roughly 6000 academic journals, the vast majority published in Russian, are popular among the country’s academics. A 2019 study found that Russian authors publish far more in domestic journals than, for instance, their counterparts in Poland, Germany, or Indonesia. But standards are often low. In March 2018, for instance, Dissernet, a network aimed at cleaning up the Russian literature, identified more than 4000 cases of plagiarism and questionable authorship among 150,000 papers in about 1500 journals.

And Russian authors frequently republish their own work, says Yury Chekhovich, CEO of Antiplagiat, a plagiarism detection company. In September 2019, after sifting through 4.3 million Russian-language studies, Antiplagiat found that more than 70,000 were published at least twice; a few were published as many as 17 times. Chekhovich believes most instances are due to self-plagiarism. Meanwhile, the website 123mi.u claims to have brokered authorships for more than 10,000 researchers by selling slots on manuscripts written by others that were already accepted by journals.

In many ways this report reflects the overall corruption that appears to permeate the upper echelons of Russian culture. Rather than do real science and report it to the world, Russian scientists publish in Russian in ways that get them in-house promotions but do little to advance science.

That this investigation was conducted by the Russian Academy of Sciences however is a positive sign. It indicates a desire to clean things up.

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CNN settles with Nick Sandmann

No details yet, but CNN has apparently negotiated a settlement with the lawyers for Covington high schooler Nick Sandmann for its slander of him during its reporting.

The amount of the settlement was not made public during a hearing at the federal courthouse in Covington, Kentucky.

Sandmann’s lawsuit sought $800 million from CNN, the Washington Post and NBC Universal. Trial dates are still not set for Sandmann’s lawsuit against NBC Universal and the Washington Post. The Washington Post suit sought $250 million. A federal judge let a portion of the suit go forward after The Post filed a motion to dismiss it.

Sandmann’s attorney, Lin Wood, said, “This case will be tried not one minute earlier or later than when it is ready.”

The money quote from the article however is this: “Attorneys say the money they’re seeking is not designed to compensate Nick, but to ‘deter the defendants’ from doing the same thing (that they’re accused of) in the future.”

I truly hope the settlement is made public, and it bites hard into CNN’s bottom line. They richly deserve it for their very bad reporting on many things during these past three years. Ditto for the Washtington Post and NBC.

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Russia’s population to shrink?

The coming dark age: According to a report from Russia’s national statistics office, the country’s population could drop by as much as 12 million by 2035.

The report outlined three scenarios, based on present trends, with only the most optimistic predicting any population increase, though even that saw population growing by only about four million by 2035. Meanwhile, the numbers the last two years were stark:

Russia’s overall population dropped for the first time in a decade last year, totaling 146.8 million as migration inflows hit record lows. It totaled 146.7 million so far in 2019, the State Statistics Service Rosstat said this month, as Russia experienced its highest natural population decline in 11 years.

These numbers are very disturbing, for they carry terrible consequences for both Russia and the rest of the world.

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Protesters continue to shut down TMT

Mob rule: Though an agreement has been reached between the anti-telescope protesters and the mayor of the Big Island to move a tent blocking the access road to Mauna Kea, the deal also provided that no construction will proceed, even though the consortium that is building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has gotten legal permission to do so.

They agreed to move the so-called “kupuna tent,” referring to the Hawaiian word for elder, as part of a deal announced by Big Island Mayor Harry Kim.

In exchange, Kim promised protesters there will be no attempts to deliver construction equipment to the telescope site “anytime soon,” according to Kim’s offer letter to Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, one of the protest leaders who is considered a kupuna. “I, Mayor Kim give you my personal assurances that no attempt will be made to move TMT construction equipment up the mountain for a minimum of two months,” his letter said.

Legally Kim doesn’t really have the right to do this, unless Hawaii has decided to completely abandon the rule of law. Then again, Hawaii has decided to abandon the rule of law, as it now lets mobs, not the law, determine who can build where and when.

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Trump signs defense bill which includes Space Force

It’s official: Trump today signed the annual NDAA defense authorization bill which also includes the creation of a new military branch dubbed the Space Force.

Whether this new branch will function to make the U.S.’s space military more effective, or merely act as a foundation for a bureaucracy in Washington requiring lots of useless jobs and lots of wasteful spending remains at this moment an unknown.

My instincts favor the latter, based on a lifetime of watching how Washington operates. Every time in the past half century Congress has created a new agency that was supposed to make the federal government more efficient it has instead accomplished the exact opposite. I see no reason at this moment to expect otherwise.

Note that for the immediate future not much is going to change, as this new branch will be operating initially from within the Air Force, where space operations have been based for decades anyway.

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FISA court condemns FBI

The FISA court has issued a rare public rebuke of the FBI over its apparent misconduct and illegal tampering of evidence, as documented by the inspector general report released last week, misconduct aimed at misleading the court into issuing uncalled FISA warrants.

[T]he chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FISC] strongly criticized the FBI over its surveillance-application process, giving the bureau until Jan. 10 to come up with solutions, in the wake of findings from Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

The order, from the court’s presiding judge Rosemary M. Collyer, came just a week after the release of Horowitz’s withering report about the wiretapping of Carter Page, a former campaign adviser to President Trump. “The FBI’s handling of the Carter Page applications, as portrayed in the [Office of Inspector General] report, was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor described above,” Collyer wrote in her four-page order. “The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable.” [emphasis mine]

This is another independent confirmation that the behavior of the upper echelons of the FBI during the Obama administration was corrupt, apparently acting to take sides during the 2016 election against Donald Trump.

The highlighted words however are to me very distressing. The FISA court is asking the bad apples to come up with new procedures to prevent them from behaving as bad apples again. If this is all that happens then they will have gotten away with it, and will proceed to do worse in 2020 and beyond.

What needs to happen is firm contempt citations against specific individuals, people like James Comey, followed by prosecution. Until that happens the bad guys will still be in charge, and the American justice system will still be corrupted.

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Spygate from a scientific perspective

Back in February 2018, Republican-controlled committees in both the House and the Senate released detailed memos, dubbed the Nunes and Grassley memos respectively, accusing the FBI and the Obama Justice Department of using unverified and false information that was nothing more than opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign to illegally obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), warrants that allowed them to spy on the campaign of Donald Trump as well as his administration following his election victory in 2016.

Put more bluntly, the Republicans accused the Clinton campaign, with the help of the Obama administration, of weaponizing the surveillance powers of the FBI and the Justice Department in order to defeat their political opponents.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats and former Obama officials denied these allegations, calling both memos partisan and false. In the House the Democrats issued their own memo, claiming the Republican memos left out key information that made their arguments invalid.

Who was right? What was true? How was an ordinary citizen going to determine which of these competing political positions properly described what had actually happened?

At the time I admit my instincts and own personal biases led me to believe the Republicans. Even so, the allegations were so horrifying — suggesting a clear abuse of power and a willingness of people in Washington to subvert an American election — that some skepticism of the Republican accusations was certainly reasonable.

In fact, the best thing one could do in this situation is to take a scientific approach to the problem. The Republicans had put forth a theory, citing some data that suggested the Obama administration, the Justice Department, and the FBI had abused their power in the worst possible manner. To prove that theory the Republicans would require both corroborating evidence as well as independent reviews that confirmed their conclusions.
» Read more

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Vector files for bankruptcy

Capitalism in space: On December 13 the smallsat rocket company Vector officially filed for bankruptcy, a precursor to having its assets sold off.

The company filed a voluntary petition for bankruptcy with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, the state where the company was incorporated.

…Vector had been one of the leading companies in the small launch vehicle market until August, when the company said that a “significant change in financing” led it to pause operations and lay off nearly all of its more than 150 employees. Jim Cantrell, Vector’s chief executive, also left the company at the time. That announcement came just two days after the company won an Air Force launch contract.

According to industry sources familiar with the company, the August layoffs were triggered when one of the company’s major investors, venture fund Sequoia, withdrew its support for the company because of concerns about how the company was managed. That came as Vector was working on a new funding round, and Sequoia’s decision had a domino effect, causing other investors to back out. Sequoia didn’t respond to a request for comment in August about any role it played in Vector’s problems.

The company is currently being funded through “debtor in possession” financing from Lockheed Martin, according to a resolution by Vector’s board of directors included in the filing. Under a Nov. 20 agreement, Lockheed provided Vector with a $500,000 secured loan and proposed purchasing Vector’s assets associated with a satellite program called GalacticSky for no more than $2.5 million.

While companies sometimes recover from this situation, in this case Vector looks quite dead, for good. A real tragedy, but part of the reality of capitalism. The competition fuels innovation and success, but carries great risk and the real possibility of failure.

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Major victory for Boris Johnson, Tories, and Brexit

A victory for democracy: In the elections today in the United Kingdom it appears at this moment that the conservative Tories under Boris Johnson, running under a platform to quickly enforce the public’s vote three years ago to leave the European Union, have won the biggest majority since the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher.

As is typical in the modern journalist field, these results are also much more favorable to the conservatives than all the polls, which had called for a much closer result. The result is also a major rejection of Great Britain’s leftist and increasingly anti-Semitic Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

Most important, the victory for Johnson is also a vindication of his strong position that he and Great Britain’s politicians had a responsibility to respect the voters’ choice three years ago to exit the European Union, and the effort by politicians to nullify that vote was a direct attack on democracy. The voters have clearly shown their contempt for that nullification effort, and have said so forcefully at the polls.

My immediate thought, from an American perspective: If only the American voters were as willing to make such a forceful statement. Our Democratic Party has been acting as bad and as anti-democratic as the politicians in the UK these past three years. It is long past time for a major political house-cleaning in Washington.

So far, the American voters have shown no inclination to do this, however, and in fact in the 2018 election did the exact opposite, rewarding the corrupt Democratic Party with more power by giving them control of the House. The result has been this ludicrous impeachment effort by the Democrats that is blatantly an effort to nullify the 2016 presidential election. They have no grounds for impeachment and the removal of Donald Trump, other than the fact that they don’t like him and that he beat them in a fair election.

They should be punished in the same way. Will the American voters do it? So far I remain pessimistic. I also pray every day that my pessimism turns out to be wrong.

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Congress approves establishment of Space Force

In a deal where the Trump administration agreed to a Democratic Party demand that all military personnel be given twelve weeks of paid parental leave, Congress has approved the formation of a new branch of the military dubbed the U.S. Space Force.

In a Dec. 6 deal, the White House agreed to grant 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all federal workers in exchange for the Space Force authorization. The parental leave provision was a top priority for Democrats while the White House has been insistent that any deal should include language to authorize the Space Force.

The House is expected to vote on the compromise bill on Dec. 11. The Senate will take it up at a later date.

The NDAA provides the Secretary of the Air Force with the authority to transfer Air Force personnel to the newly established Space Force. But it does not approve the hiring of new people. The Air Force Space Command is redesignated as the U.S. Space Force. “To minimize cost and bureaucracy, the Space Force will require no additional billets and remains with the President’s budget request,” says the report. The request includes $72.4 million to stand up the headquarters. [emphasis mine]

It appears that initially the Space Force will operate under the auspices of the Air Force, but only during a transitional period.

The highlighted words suggest that Congress has managed, at least so far, in making this new agency mostly a rearrangement of personnel, something that makes sense. Military space operations need to be consolidated into one command structure.

We shall see however if Congress (and future presidents) can resist allowing this new bureaucracy to grow. I have my doubts, which if proven true will defeat the entire purpose for doing this. For example, while generally avoiding the hiring of many new people, the legislation also creates three new administrative posts, all of which I guarantee will eventually demand their own bureaucracies.

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Bridenstine: SLS costs less than $2 billion per launch

During an agency meeting where the new manager of NASA’s manned program officially took charge, administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed disagreement with a Trump administration estimate of $2 billion for each SLS launch.

The OMB letter used “over $2 billion” as the estimated cost of an SLS launch, arguing that is $1.5 billion more than a commercial launch. The $2 billion figure has been widely cited since then as an official cost estimate.

Bridenstine was asked about it today, and disagreed. “I do not agree with the $2 billion number. It is far less than that. I would also say the number comes way down when you buy more than one or two. I think in the end we’re going to be in the $800-900 million range.” NASA has bought only two SLS launches so far and negotiations are just starting on the third and fourth, he added. [emphasis mine]

Well that solves everything! SLS will only cost a little less than a billion per launch, not two billion. Any fool can see this is clearly competitive with the $100 million that SpaceX charges for each Falcon Heavy launch. And you’d have to do two Falcon Heavy launches to match what SLS can do in one launch. Obviously we want to buy SLS! It’s what any Washington lawmaker or bureaucrat would clearly conclude.

The article notes that NASA has only “bought two SLS launches” but fails to explain why. This is all that Congress has appropriated. NASA is negotiating with Boeing to build as many as ten more, but as far as I know, the authorization from lawmakers has not yet been given to do so.

But then, why not? We are no longer ruled by our elected officials, but by the unelected bureaucrats who live high on the hog in their plush Washington digs.

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A society run by mob rule

In the past week several ugly events have illustrated forcefully how mob rule now dictates who can or cannot speak freely in America. Worse, these events show that we are no longer a civilized social order run by reason. Instead, we have become a culture where whoever can throw the loudest tantrum dictates policy.

First we have the horrible events last week at the State University of New York-Binghamton.

To understand how disgusting and despicable the first story above is, it is necessary for you to watch the video below. Pay special attention to the taller girl in the fur-lined parka who at about four minutes keeps looking at the camera-person (whom I think is also a girl) and aggressively and repeatedly asking, “Why are you shaking so? Why are you shaking so?” The reason is obvious. The girl filming is one the conservative students, and she is justifiably frightened. The taller girl, hostile and irrationally angry because a conservative dared to advocate opinions she doesn’t like, is clearly being physically threatening. As are all of her leftist compatriots.

The response of the administration to this atrocious behavior was even more vile, essentially endorsing the actions of the mob:
» Read more

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ULA backing off from reuseablity and Vulcan upgrades?

Capitalism in space: According to this Space News story today, it appears that ULA is shifting away from building a major upgrade to the upper stage of its Vulcan rocket, even as it also appears to be backing off from pushing plans to recover and reuse its first stage engines.

ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye told SpaceNews by email that the company still plans to introduce an “advanced upper stage,” but only after Vulcan flies. Rye also declined to provide a specific timeline.

Similarly, ULA officials also refused to give a timeline for when they will begin recovering Vulcan’s first stage engines and reusing them.

Right now the company expects to launch the first iteration of Vulcan, using as Atlas 5 Centaur upper stage, sometime in 2021. It also appears that those first launches will not recover the first stage Blue Origin BE-4 engines.

In the long run, I do not see how ULA can compete. They certainly appear hesitant about introducing any new innovations or upgrades to Vulcan, which will result in an expendable rocket that costs far too much.

In fact, the arrival of this apparent timidity seems to have occurred almost to the day the company accepted a development contract for Vulcan from the Air Force. Thus, it increasingly appears that it is our federal government that is squelching the company’s creativity.

Why am I not surprised?

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Inspector general slams NASA’s management for bonus payments to Boeing

In a report [pdf] issued yesterday, NASA’s inspector general blasted the agency’s manned commercial space management for issuing a $287 million bonus payment to Boeing to help it avoid delays in developing its Starliner capsule — which would have caused gaps in future American flights to ISS — even though the cost to use Russian Soyuz capsules would have been far less.

Worse, the agency never even allowed SpaceX to make its own competitive offer.

NASA agreed to pay Boeing Co (BA.N) a $287 million premium for “additional flexibilities” to accelerate production of the company’s Starliner crew vehicle and avoid an 18-month gap in flights to the International Space Station. NASA’s inspector general called it an “unreasonable” boost to Boeing’s fixed-priced $4.2 billion dollar contract.

Instead, the inspector general said the space agency could have saved $144 million by making “simple changes” to Starliner’s planned launch schedule, including buying additional seats from Russia’s space agency, which the United States has been reliant on since the 2011 retirement of its space shuttle program.

…NASA justified the additional funds to avoid a gap in space station operations. But SpaceX, the other provider, “was not provided an opportunity to propose a solution, even though the company previously offered shorter production lead times than Boeing,” the report said. [emphasis mine]

I’ve read the report, and from it the impression is clear that when NASA management discovered that Boeing was facing delays in Starliner and needed extra cash, it decided to funnel that cash to it, irrespective of cost. While it is likely that the agency did so because it did not wish to buy more Russian Soyuz seats, it makes no sense that it didn’t ask SpaceX for its own competitive bid. By not doing so the management’s foolish bias towards Boeing is starkly illustrated

Eric Berger at Ars Technica also notes that the report makes clear how Boeing’s prices for Starliner are 60% higher than SpaceX’s Crew Dragon prices, further illustrating how the agency favors Boeing over SpaceX.

Boeing’s per-seat price already seemed like it would cost more than SpaceX. The company has received a total of $4.82 billion from NASA over the lifetime of the commercial crew program, compared to $3.14 billion for SpaceX. However, for the first time the government has published a per-seat price: $90 million for Starliner and $55 million for Dragon. Each capsule is expected to carry four astronauts to the space station during a nominal mission.

What is notable about Boeing’s price is that it is also higher than what NASA has paid the Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, for Soyuz spacecraft seats to fly US and partner-nation astronauts to the space station. Overall, NASA paid Russia an average cost per seat of $55.4 million for the 70 completed and planned missions from 2006 through 2020. Since 2017, NASA has paid an average of $79.7 million.

I don’t have a problem with NASA favoring Boeing over Russia, considering the national priorities. I can also understand the agency’s willingness to keep buying some Starliner seats in order to guarantee an American launch redundancy. However, giving Boeing even more money to keep its schedule going, when SpaceX is available to fill the gaps, demonstrates the corruption in the agency’s management. They haven’t the slightest understanding of how private enterprise and competition works.

The report is also filled with the same tiresome complaints about the on-going delays to the manned commercial program, focusing greatly on past technical issues (now mostly solved) while hiding in obscure language how it is NASA’s paperwork that is likely to cause all further delays.

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White House: Cost for each SLS launch is $2 billion

According to the Office of Management and Budget (OPM), the cost for each SLS launch is now estimated to equal $2 billion.

This is the first time anyone in the executive branch has put a number to the SLS per launch cost. NASA has always refused to give a number, for good reason, since this price compares so horribly with even the most expensive private rocket (generally more than $200 million for the biggest members of the Delta rocket family). The Falcon Heavy costs about $100 million, so that to get the same mass into orbit would require two launches, but that would still be only $200 million, one tenth the cost.

The article then notes how this cost is affecting the Europa Clipper mission, which has three launch options, with SLS mandated by Congress.

The powerful SLS booster offers the quickest ride for the six-ton spacecraft to Jupiter, less than three years. But for mission planners, there are multiple concerns about this rocket beyond just its extraordinary cost. There is the looming threat that the program may eventually be canceled (due to its cost and the emergence of significantly lower cost, privately built rockets). NASA’s human exploration program also has priority on using the SLS rocket, so if there are manufacturing issues, a science mission might be pushed aside. Finally, there is the possibility of further developmental delays—significant ground testing of SLS has yet to begin.

Another option is United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket, which has an excellent safety record and has launched several high-profile missions for NASA. However, this rocket requires multiple gravity assists to push the Clipper into a Jupiter orbit, including a Venus flyby. This heating would add additional thermal constraints to the mission, and scientists would prefer to avoid this if at all possible.

A final possibility is SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, with a kick stage. This booster would take a little more than twice as long as the SLS rocket to get the Clipper payload to Jupiter, but it does not require a Venus flyby and therefore avoids those thermal issues. With a track record of three successful flights, the Falcon Heavy also avoids some of the development and manufacturing concerns raised by SLS vehicle. Finally, it offers the lowest cost of the three options.

The fact that Congress is requiring the use of SLS for a cost of $2 billion, a rocket that might not even be ready in time, when Europa Clipper could be launched on two other already operational rockets at about a tenth of the cost illustrates well the overall corruption and incompetence that permeates Congress. They really aren’t interested in the interests of the nation. They’d rather distribute money to big contractors and local interests, even if it costs the taxpayer billions and risks the mission’s success.

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Shelby delivers big bucks to SLS, Gateway

The boondoggle that never ends! The Senate has passed a 2020 budget that includes an increase of $1.2 billion for NASA’s Artemis program and Trump’s 2024 manned lunar landing proposal, almost all of which will go to Alabama, the home state of Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama).

In the Exploration section of the budget that does include the Moon mission, the big new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) would get nearly $2.6 billion in 2020, a $1.2 billion jump from this year. SLS is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The Orion crew capsule program would get $1.4 billion for continued development, the planned Lunar Gateway would get $500 million and lunar landers would get $744 million.

If the Democratically-controlled House ever decides to do anything but pursue sham impeachment charges against President Trump (such as approve a budget or deal with the Senate’s proposed commercial space legislation), it remains doubtful it will approve similar increases. During recent hearings on the budget, when the House was actually doing its real job, the Democrats were very hostile to funding Trump’s 2024 Moon proposal.

And even if the House should eventually go along, unlikely as that is, the money will not really get us closer to the Moon. The bulk of this cash is targeted to pay the salaries of NASA bureaucrats at Marshall, not actually build anything.

Meanwhile the second link above, “Cruz criticizes House for lack of action on commercial space legislation,” highlights the irresponsibility of the House under Democratic control.

Cruz and several other senators from both parties reintroduced the Space Frontier Act in March. The bill, favorably reported by the Senate Commerce Committee in April, calls for reforms of commercial launch and remote sensing regulations, which are already in progress, extends the authorization of the International Space Station through 2030 and elevates the Office of Space Commerce within the Commerce Department to the Bureau of Space Commerce, led by an assistant secretary.

The House, though, has not introduced a companion bill or related legislation, a lack of action that Cruz criticized. “It’s now been nearly a year since the Space Frontier Act has been on the House floor, and airlines, airline pilots and commercial space companies are no closer to getting greater certainty or having more of a voice on how our national airspace is managed than they were a year ago,” he said.

The Democrats might not agree with the language in this Senate bill, but they have an obligation to offer some alternative. Instead, they spend their time trying to overturn a legal election that they lost.

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House Democrats vote to move forward on impeachment effort

House Democrats yesterday voted to move forward on their very partisan impeachment effort to throw Donald Trump out of office, without any evidence that he had committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors,” as required by the Constitution.

Only two Democrats voted with all the Republicans against this resolution, which establishes some very fishy rules for running this already fishy impeachment inquiry.

The resolution directs the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Financial Services, Judiciary, and Ways and Means Committees to “continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump.”

The Democrats’ resolution specifies that Republicans in the minority on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees will have the authority, with the concurrence of committee chairs in the majority, to subpoena witnesses and compel their testimony. If the chair does not consent, the minority can appeal to the full committee. It is common in other proceedings for committee chairs to essentially have veto authority over subpoenas sought by ranking minority members.

The measure also sets the stage for proceedings to move into a public setting soon. The resolution authorizes the Intelligence Committee to conduct an “open hearing or hearings” in which minority Republicans have equal time to question witnesses.

And, after that hearing is concluded, “to allow for a full evaluation of minority witness requests, the ranking minority member may submit to the chair, in writing, any requests for witness testimony relevant to the investigation described in the first section of this resolution within 72 hours after notice is given.” [emphasis mine]

Meanwhile, the only accusation the Democrats have against Trump are statements by two very partisan government bureaucrats that they had policy differences with some of Trump’s statements during his phone conversation with the new president of the Ukraine. No one however has identified anything Trump said that was in any way criminal and would justify impeachment, and you can read the transcript of the conversation yourself to see how relatively harmless it was.

This is the Russian collusion hoax all over again. Some partisan Democrats in the bureaucracy make some partisan accusations against Trump, based on nothing, and then the Democrats (and their willing accomplices in the media) run with these accusations. With the Russian hoax, the Democrats relied on a hack prosecutor, Robert Mueller, to play their partisan games, and discovered that this strategy didn’t work because Mueller was legally exposed. If he had proceeded with fake prosecutions based on no evidence he could have been very liable, personally.

The solution? The Democrats have foregone legal investigations, and are now doing a partisan and sham political investigation in Congress, based on nothing. And according to the rules above as well as their consistent behavior since 2016, I fully expect the Democrats to consistently block any testimony from any witnesses suggested by the Republicans. They will run this kangaroo court in a manner that will guarantee conviction, merely because they still refuse to accept the results of a legal election where they lost.

In a sane and more rational world, these Democrats would be out of office in the next election. We do not live in such a world. Their behavior was as partisan and as slanderous leading up to the 2018 election, and the voters rewarded them with control of the House.

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Orion capsule has no room for Moon rocks

Good enough for government work! It appears that the Orion capsule that NASA and Lockheed Martin have been building since 2004 — for a total cost of a mere $18 billion — with the express purpose of sending American astronauts on missions to the Moon and beyond, has been designed without any capability for bringing lunar samples back to Earth.

The article at the link is mostly a dive into NASA’s make-believe plans about what will happen on the proposed 2024 lunar landing being pushed by Trump, a mission as yet unfunded by Congress and dependent on a NASA rocket, SLS, that has yet to launch and is years behind schedule. Buried however at the very end of article however was this bombshell:

One of the limitations on returning samples is the Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts back from lunar orbit to Earth. Chavers said the Orion spacecraft does not have any designated space for a box of sample rocks taken from the lunar surface. “We just don’t know what the capability will be,” Chavers said of bringing rocks back to Earth inside Orion.

I hadn’t read this article in detail because of its nature, essentially a NASA puff piece pushing the agency’s fantasies. Hat tip to reader Scott M. for pointing it out.

If this absurd design failure doesn’t illustrate the incompetence of our modern NASA and its big contractors, I don’t know what does. I cannot imagine how it is possible for anyone involved in this project to leave out this tiny detail. What point is there to built a spaceship for returning astronauts from planetary missions if you don’t include the capacity to return samples? None.

In fact, this omission is further proof that the goal of Artemis (SLS, Orion, Gateway) is merely to suck money from the taxpayer, without really accomplishing anything. It is also further evidence of my previous conclusion, that NASA’S entire Orion concept is a lie.

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Webb telescope faces more schedule risks, engineering issues

Even as NASA touts the final assembly of the James Webb Space Telescope, its program director noted in a presentation that the telescope is still facing several engineering issues that could cause further launch delays.

They presently are targeting a March 2021 launch on an Ariane 5 rocket (ten years behind schedule). Their schedule cushion (the extra time built into their schedule in case they have problems) however has shrunk from nine months to only two. Worse, there remain several lingering unsolved engineering problems.

One such problem is with an electronics unit called a command telemetry processor that malfunctioned during environmental testing. Robinson said engineers had problems duplicating the problem to determine the root cause and plan to replace the unit, along with a traveling wave tube amplifier used in the spacecraft’s communications system that also failed during testing.

NASA has also been working with launch provider Arianespace about concerns that residual pressure within the payload fairing at the time of fairing separation could “over-stress” the sunshield membranes. Tests on recent Ariane 5 launches confirmed that there was a higher residual pressure than the sunshield was designed for. Vents in the fairing are being redesigned to address this, Robinson said, and will be tested on Ariane 5 launches in early 2020.

However, those smaller problems, along with bigger issues like fastener problems with the sunshield found during environmental testing last year, have eroded the margin built into the revised schedule for the mission.

Unmentioned in the article is the fact that Arianespace is planning to retire the Ariane 5 when its Ariane 6 starts launching next year. Right now they have agreed to maintain their Ariane 5 launch facilities through March 2021 to allow Webb’s launch, but further delays could cause significant problems, including fixing the fairing issue mentioned above. At a certain point Arianespace will no longer be willing to hold onto Ariane 5 for just this one launch.

Also unmentioned in the article is the status of Webb’s budget, which has grown from a proposed $500 million cost to almost $10 billion. I suspect that if they can meet their March 2021 launch date that total will not grow much. Any further delays however will once again cause it to balloon.

(I originally listed the proposed cost of Webb above as $1 billion, but that number is wrong. See the comments below).

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Covington lawsuit against Washington Post reopened

A federal judge has reinstated the $250 million lawsuit by Covington teenager Nicolas Sandmann against the Washington Post for slandering him during its news coverage.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman agreed to permit discovery on three of 33 allegedly libelous statements in The Post’s coverage of the Jan. 18 incident pertaining to teenager Nicholas Sandmann. The Post has insisted that its reporting was fair and accurate.

All three flagged statements from the newspaper’s coverage refer to Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips being blocked or impeded by Nicholas, a student at Covington Catholic High School, during their viral encounter at the Lincoln Memorial stairs.

Since the video of the event quite clearly shows that Sandmann never blocked anyone, that if anything Nathan Phillips pursued Sandmann, the Post is now very vulnerable to losing the suit. This decision also suggests that Sandmann’s lawsuits against CNN and NBC will also go forward.

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Bankrupt Chicago negotiating big payout to school union

Another Democratic stronghold collapsing: Despite an $800 million dollar budget deficit, Chicago’s Democratic mayor is likely going to negotiate a big money increase to its striking school union.

I like the article’s title: “Chicago Mayor Learning that Eventually, You Run Out of Other People’s Money.”

The union is demanding an additional $38 million from the city, over and above what its members presently get. And based on the track record of every big-city Democratic mayor for the past half century, I guarantee they are going to get it, even though the city simply doesn’t have the money.

This quote also illustrates another consistent pattern since World War II:

In their eagerness to sate the appetite for tax dollars, public unions’ ever-escalating demands have made Chicago the only major city of the top five to lose population over the previous decade.

People always flee leftist strongholds, whether they be the Soviet Union, East Germany, North Korea, California, New York, or Chicago. And the only way any of these socialist/communist hellholes found they could stop the exodus was to make their territories the equivalent of prisons, surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

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PG&E to cut power to almost a million people in California again

Welcome to Venezuela: PG&E will impose its second planned blackout today for almost a million customers in northern California, all in a vain attempt to prevent wildfires.

Leftist politicians like to blame climate change for these fires, but there is no scientific evidence for such a claim. Instead, the evidence points to the policies of those very leftist politicians, who have been micromanaging PG&E for almost a decade, preventing it from doing proper maintenance, while also forbidding the clearing of brush from state lands.

If you live in California be warned. This is only a taste of what your dismal future is going to be, especially as I see no sign that the voters have any intention of firing these politicians. If anything, election trends have been to give them more power.

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Is Justice investigation really getting serious about anti-Trump coup attempt in FBI/CIA?

Two stories that have been trending like crazy through the conservative news media in the past 24 hours suggest that the investigation by the Justice Department into the anti-Trump spying and coup attempt by the FBI and the CIA might finally be heating up.

I remain somewhat skeptical. The first story is based on two anonymous sources, which makes me very suspicious. I purposely waited before reporting on it because I have found such stories too often turn out to be either fake or unreliable.

I also don’t take the second story very seriously because Horowitz has been promising his FISA report now for months. His promises, and non-delivery, have increasingly reminded me of Richard Branson’s endless promises that “SpaceShipTwo will be flying in space in mere months!”

At the same time, it is important to note both stories. Horowitz’s FISA probe will be released. And Durham’s investigation, under Attorney General William Barr’s direction, has appeared to be so far aggressive and pointed. If both deliver what these stories suggest, then we might finally get some real prosecutions of some real villains, people in the FBI and CIA who conspired for the past three years to try to overturn a legal U.S. election.

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Congressman questions Northrop Grumman-Air Force ICBM deal

The head of the House Armed Services committee yesterday questioned the appropriateness of the Air Force awarding Northrop Grumman an ICBM contract without any competition.

[House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Washington.)] said he is troubled that only one company, Northrop Grumman, will be bidding for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, a program to replace the Minuteman 3 ICBMs that make up the ground-based portion of the nation’s nuclear forces.

Northrop Grumman and Boeing were expected to compete head to head to be GBSD prime contractors but Boeing decided in July it would not submit a proposal because of Northrop’s overwhelming advantage as the nation’s largest manufacturer of solid rocket motors.

Northrop Grumman’s advantage here comes from its purchase of Orbital ATK last year, which provided the company this solid rocket launch capability that apparently no one else has.

Smith’s complaints here also extend to the Air Force’s plans to pick only two companies in the next year to launch all of its satellites for the next half decade, rather than leave the bidding open to all. As Smith noted,

“I have worked with them [the Air Force] on launch and other things and it strikes me that they are way too close to the contractors that they’re working with,” he said. “They seem to show bias,” Smith added. “It could be incompetence. But I think it is more likely that they like their historical partners. This is really, really bad because competition is a good thing.”

Smith appears generally correct. The Air Force made a sweet non-competitive launch deal with ULA back in the early 2000s that cost the taxpayer billions. Now it seems it is doing the same with its ICBM replacement contractor, and also wants to do the same with its satellite launch contracts. I hope Smith is successful in changing the Air Force approach.

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Mars2020 budget overruns threatening other missions

The significant budget overruns for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, now expected to exceed a billion dollars, could now pose a threat to other planetary projects.

The cost of Mars 2020 has been growing for a while. The initial proposed cost for the rover, when the mission was announced in 2012, was $1.5 billion. Six years on, a 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report showed that the cost had soared to $2.46 billion. And in NASA’s latest budget, the overrun looks set to grow by as much as 15% (or about another $360 million) beyond that last 2018 estimate, although the latest numbers are yet to be confirmed.

The irony is that Mars 2020 was established by the Obama administration as part of its effort to significantly cut back on NASA’s entire planetary program. The idea was to save money by simply rebuilding Curiosity.

As is typical for these projects, the scientists pushed for cutting edge instruments, and it is these instruments that have caused the overages. Meanwhile, many of those 2012 cuts pushed by Obama never happened, or were simply funneled into different planetary projects that were approved later.

No one who is involved in any way with the U.S. government today knows anything about keeping their effort on budget and on time. No one. And the result is increasing debt and what will certainly be bankruptcy for everyone, at some point, thus causing everything to shut down.

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