Tag Archives: bankruptcy

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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Judge rules civil forfeiture is unconstitutional

A South Carolina judge has ruled that the use of civil forfeiture against individuals is unconstitutional and must cease.

Circuit Judge Steven H. John has ruled that the South Carolina’s civil asset forfeiture regulations violate the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the citizens.

…Judge John notes all of these problems in a decisive ruling that smacks down the practice of civil asset forfeiture. In his 15-page opinion, he writes that South Carolina’s forfeiture practice violate both the U.S. Constitution and the state’s because the statutes “(1) place the burden on the property owner to prove their innocence, (2) unconstitutionally institutionally incentivizes forfeiture officials to prosecute forfeiture actions, and (3) do not mandate judicial review or judicial authorization prior to or subsequent to the seizure.” He also notes that the statutes violate citizens’ Eighth Amendment protections against excessive fines.

This is plain common sense, and an easy conclusion if one simply reads the unmistakable words in the Constitution. Unfortunately, decisions like this have so far been relatively rare. Hopefully this decision will start a trend.

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Liberals in Canada retain control

In tonight’s national election in Canada the leftist Liberal party under Justin Trudeau managed to maintain its control of the government, but without a clear majority, requiring it to form a coalition with one of the smaller parties.

Trudeau appeared to overcome a challenge in Monday’s national elections from the rival Conservatives four years after he channeled his father’s star power to become prime minister. CBC projects Trudeau’s Liberals won’t win the majority of seats in Parliament and will have to rely on another party to pass legislation.

The final numbers are not in, but it doesn’t look like much will change.

I always consider election results the real and true indicator of society’s trends. This result says that the left continues to maintain its hold on western civilization, despite the utter bankruptcy of its ideas and its increasingly totalitarian policies. Apparently a very large percentage of Canada’s population likes what the left is offering.

This also suggests that we will get a similar result in the 2020 U.S. election. We, just like in Canada, have a large population that likes what the Democrats are offering: Free stuff combined with a willingness to impose its will by force if necessary, including the silencing and literal destruction of its opponents.

Not good. Not good at all.

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NASA to give Boeing cost-plus contract for 10 more SLS rockets

The boondoggle never ends! NASA is now planning to purchase ten more SLS rockets from Boeing, but it appears it plans to do so under a cost-plus contract, where the prices will never be fixed and the agency, not Boeing, will pay for any cost increases, plus 10 percent.

On Wednesday, NASA announced that it is negotiating a contract with Boeing to purchase up to 10 SLS core stages. The news release does not mention costs—NASA and Boeing have never been transparent about costs, but certainly production and operations cost for a single SLS launch will be well north of $1 billion. It also does not mention the mechanism of the contract.

A spokesperson for the agency, Kathryn Hambleton, told Ars that terms of the contract were not finalized yet. “NASA anticipates the contract will be a hybrid of cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-plus-award-fee, potentially transitioning to firm-fixed-price,” she said. “The cost incentives are designed to reduce costs during early production to enable the lowest possible unit prices for the later fixed-price missions.” [emphasis mine]

If anything provides us a perfect example of the utter corruption and waste inherent in the present leadership within NASA and Congress, it is this deal. Cost-plus contracts were created in the 1960s to allow companies to build new and revolutionary things for the government, such as the missiles and capsules it needed then for the cold war and the space race. Today, rockets like SLS are hardly revolutionary or new, and to give Boeing a cost-plus contract to buy ten more rockets, essentially a blank check for the company, is unconscionable.

While I personally think all cost-plus contracts are corrupt, I can understand the arguemnet for them for the first development contract. This contract however is for the purchase of ten more rockets that Boeing has supposedly already figured out how to build. In essence NASA is just buying some rockets off the shelf. Cost-plus is entirely inappropriate for this purchase.

Worse, this announcement also illustrates the dishonest partnership between NASA, Boeing, and Congress. It is a maneuver by NASA and Boeing to force Congress to fund these extra rockets. At this moment Congress has not yet appropriated this money for more SLS rockets. The contract is basically NASA and Boeing’s fantasy of what they want to happen. This announcement thus signals to Congress where they want the pork spent, and our corrupt lawmakers, from both parties, are going to read that signal and are going to quickly follow through with the cash.

Sadly, I now fully expect Congress to go along. Welcome to the lumbering wasteful modern American empire, corrupt to the core.

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500 climate scientists challenge the UN on global warming

On September 23, 2019 letter, five hundred established scientists from across the globe told the United Nations that there is no climate emergency and that it as yet far from certain that human activity is warming the climate.

I should have reported this when it happened, but missed it until today. The letter made six main points:

  • Nature as well as anthropogenic factors cause warming
  • Warming is far slower than predicted
  • Climate policy relies on inadequate models
  • Carbon dioxide is “plant food, the basis of all life on Earth”
  • Global warming has not increased natural disasters
  • Climate policy must respect scientific and economic realities

None of these points is radical or unreasonable. Regular readers of this website will recognize all six, as I have been repeating them all incessantly for almost a decade. They fit into standard scientific practice, which requires solid, reliable, and confirmed data before any theory can be accepted wholesale. None of the models, based on the theory that the rise in carbon dioxide is causing the climate to warm, have worked. As far as we know now, CO2 might have nothing or little to do with climate change. We. just. don’t. know.

Not surprisingly, the letter was immediately attacked by global warming activist Michael Mann (who still tries to pose as a climate scientist though very few buy it). Rather than rationally question these points with data, he simply made an ad hominem attack, calling the letter “craven and stupid” while implying that anyone who signed it was beyond evil.

Worse, the UN itself decided to ignore the letter, instead pushing forward with its global warming agenda designed to destroy capitalism and make us all as poor as the citizens of Venezuela, all in the name of a scientific theory that no one has been able to prove, in any way at all.

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House committee rejects extra funding for 2024 moon landing

Not surprisingly, the Democratically-controlled House committee overseeing NASA’s budget requests has rejected the Trump administration’s request for an additional $1.6 billion to fund a manned Moon landing by 2024.

“I remain extremely concerned by the proposed advancement by four years of this mission,” said Jose Serrano, a Democrat from New York who chairs the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. “The eyes of the world are upon us. We cannot afford to fail. Therefore, I believe that it is better to use the original NASA schedule of 2028 in order to have a successful, safe, and cost-effective mission for the benefit of the American people and the world.”

…Serrano and other committee members also raised questions about cost. NASA has asked for an additional $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2020 but has not specified the total cost of the Artemis Program between now and 2024. “Unless we know what this is going to cost at the end, it would be irresponsible for us to take the first step,” Serrano said. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are a lie. NASA’s original mandate for returning to the Moon, first set by President Bush Jr. in 2004, was to land eleven years later by 2015. The agency has repeatedly rewritten that schedule in the fifteen years since, always pushing it into the future so that it never gets closer than nine to eleven years.

The concerns about cost by the Democratic House members is also a lie. They have no interest in saving money, in the slightest. Their interest is solely to oppose anything Trump. When a Democratic president is in charge they will jump over themselves to fund this program, even though they know it will likely go over-budget and be delayed again endlessly.

Everything related to SLS and Artemis reeks of Washington corruption. In the past fifteen years the project has done nothing but funnel money to big contractors (mostly Boeing and Lockheed Martin) or favored congressional districts, with an actual Moon program forever receding into the future even as the costs rise.

If these Democrats were really concerned about cost and budget and getting to the Moon, they would demand that Artemis be killed, immediately, to be replaced with a more effective program that buys cheap rockets and capsules from the private sector. If they did that we could land on the Moon easily by 2024 (probably earlier), and do it for a tenth the cost.

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California’s first cubesat to be named after Jerry Brown

O boy! This week California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom announced that not only will he go forward with building a climate cubesat but he want to name it after the previous Democratic governor, Jerry Brown.

Newsom said Tuesday that he intended to honor his predecessor by attaching his name to a satellite that would gather information on climate change, one of Brown’s overriding interests during his second stint as governor from 2011-19.

While Newsom didn’t set a date for the launch, he said it is just a start for the state’s venture into outer space. “This is one of many we’ll launch,” Newsom said during a speech Tuesday at a San Francisco conference on technology and climate change, sponsored by Planet, a local company that provides satellite imaging. “We’ll collect real-time data” on things like fires, land use, carbon concentrations and other information connected to environmental health, the governor said.

I’m so glad California has the money for this, rather than schools or roads or brush-clearing to prevent wildfires or any number of silly things that are the fundamental responsibility of state governments. It shows their priorities are focused, that they know that only thing that matters is climate change (and honoring Democratic politicians), rather than providing basic services to their citizens.

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California moves to shut down ham radio

They’re coming for you next: In a move of astonishing stupidity, the fascist government of California has decided to charge new and exorbitant fees to ham radio operators, ranging in the thousands of dollars, for their relay towers on state lands, previous leased for free.

This decision will essentially shut down this voluntary activity that has routinely helped government agencies in times of real emergencies. As noted at the link,

Ham operators have been assisting fire and emergency services for free for years. Their contributions are well-documented. The equipment costs the state nothing, as it is operated by the owners. There is no benefit to removing it and, in fact, removing the only source of communication available when the power is out and the cell towers are down is downright criminal. Ham radio is a time-tested, low-cost, reliable means of communication when emergencies strike. OffGrid Survival reports, “What is infuriating here is people are going to die because of this decision. It costs the State of California nothing to allow these repeaters on public land; in fact, Ham Radio Operators pay for the equipment and maintain the equipment at their own cost. Ham Radio operators also make nothing from running these radio repeaters; they do so as a service to the public to help ensure the public’s safety during natural disasters and emergencies.”

It appears the reason for this action is that the California government has attempted to create its own cell phone emergency system, has failed miserably after spending billions, and doesn’t like the fact that ham radio operators continue to do the same thing successfully for nothing. To once again quote OffGrid Survival:

We make them look stupid! They spend billions on infrastructure that breaks down, while we can literally take a hundred bucks in equipment, some random wires, and in minutes set up a radio system that can communicate with anyone in the world.

This is just another typical example of what a socialist power-hungry centralized government does, on its journey to the Soviet Union or Venezuela: Destroy what works for petty reasons, then blame others for that failure.

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The bad consequences from California’s imposed blackouts

Link here. The blackout was imposed to avoid electric lines from causing wildfires. However, the reason there is a risk of wildfires is not because of electricity but because the Democratically-controlled government in California would rather inconvenience its citizens than simply clear the brush from the forests and thus to lower the risk of wildfires.

The consequences? Supermarkets might go out of business because of food spoilage. Cancer research was destroyed. And at least one man died because his oxygen supply was cut off when the power shut down.

And in a remarkable example of irony, home owners with solar power discovered that solar power doesn’t work if there is a blackout, as their power is not fed to their homes but into the electric grid. With the grid shut down, the electricity from their panels vanished into the ether. Similarly, the owners of electric cars have suddenly discovered their cars won’t work without a power supply.

But don’t worry Californians! You clearly want Venezuela and the Democrats who run California sincerely and passionately want to give it to you. These blackouts are only the beginning. Socialism and centralized rule by government always leads to bankruptcy, starvation, failure, and the deaths of millions. And it has done it so many times in the past century that it makes me despair for a human race that cannot seem to learn anything from these horrific lessons.

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First SLS launch will likely be delayed again

Surprise! Surprise! NASA officials hinted at a conference October 10th that the first SLS launch will likely be delayed again, from late in 2020 to the first half of 2021.

This actually isn’t news. When NASA committed in July to doing a full static fire test of SLS’s first stage it almost guaranteed that the first launch could not happen before 2021.

What this means is that Trump’s desire to have a lunar landing, with SLS, by 2024, is practically impossible, even if Congress should agree to provide full funding, which it has not. SLS as designed simply cannot meet the launch pace required to get a lunar landing by 2024. It is too cumbersome, designed badly in terms of management and efficiency.

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Two fans removed from NBA game for holding “Free Hong Kong” signs

They’re coming for you next: Two fans were removed from an NBA exhibition game in Philadelphia (home to the Liberty Bell) yesterday for holding up “Free Hong Kong” signs.

This is a continuation of the recent story which started when the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, had tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters. Because the NBA has many financial ties with China (including a training camp in a region in China where they also have their death camps), the NBA demanded and got an apology from that general manager, and has since been taking whatever action it can to squelch any criticism of China within or linked to the league. The removal of these two fans is part of that oppressive campaign, all aligned with this demand by China:

“We are strongly dissatisfied and we oppose [any] claim to support Morey’s right of free expression. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its statement in Chinese, which was translated by CNBC.

What disturbs me most about this story is that it could not have happened if only the NBA had demanded it. It required the willing cooperation of the Philadelphia 76ers management, the security detail at the stadium, and the crowd surrounding these fans.

In the past all Americans would have told the Chinese to go jump in a lake. We would have laughed at these demands, even those businesses whose financial dealings with China that might be lost by taking such a stand.

If anything, Americans in the past would have suddenly started showing up at every NBA game, carrying hundreds of “Free Hong Kong” signs. At this moment I see no evidence of this happening. Americans apparently are now the sheep that dictatorships like China can nonchalantly rule, at their whim.

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California utility cuts power to more than a million customers

Venezuela comes to California: California’s biggest electric utility today cut off power to more than one million people in order to prevent wildfires.

The utility said it cut power to more than 500,000 customers in Northern California and that it plans to gradually turn off electricity to nearly 800,000 customers to prevent its equipment from starting wildfires during hot, windy weather. A second group of about 234,000 customers will lose power starting at noon, the utility said. The power outages are expected to affect about 2.5 million people.

PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late January after facing liabilities stemming from wildfires in Northern California that occurred over the past two years.

The utility plans to shut off power in parts of 34 northern, central and coastal California counties to reduce the chance of fierce winds knocking down or toppling trees into power lines during a siege of hot, dry, gusty weather.

This approach doesn’t really make any sense. It is like shutting down all car traffic for miles around schools at the start and end of each day, in the hope it will prevent kids getting hit by cars. It won’t, but it will prevent normal business from proceeding.

PG&E however is taking this nonsensical action because of the legal atmosphere in California. They have been made liable for any future wildfires. They eventually intend to upgrade equipment to prevent it from contributing to future fires, but that costs money the bankrupt power company doesn’t have. And even if they did it they would probably still be blamed by the anti-capitalist forces that now run California’s increasingly radical government.

Unless Californians change their government, expect worse in the coming years. As I say, we need only look at Venezuela to see their future.

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UN faces financial shortfall

My heart bleeds: The head of the UN today announced that it faces a financial shortfall in October that might force it to cut its bloated budget and reduce the number of posh conferences it holds.

The United Nations (UN) is running a deficit of $230 million, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Monday, and may run out of money by the end of October.

In a letter intended for the 37,000 employees at the UN secretariat and obtained by AFP, Guterres said unspecified “additional stop-gap measures” would have to be taken to ensure salaries and entitlements are paid. “Member States have paid only 70 per cent of the total amount needed for our regular budget operations in 2019. This translates into a cash shortage of $230 million at the end of September. We run the risk of depleting our backup liquidity reserves by the end of the month,” he wrote.

To cut costs, Guterres mentioned postponing conferences and meetings and reducing services, while also restricting official travel to only essential activities and taking measures to save energy.

For a short but detailed explanation of the present status of the U.S. policy and politics towards funding the U.N., see this Congressional Research document [pdf]. It appears that the effort by the Trump administration to stop funding certain UN operations, including Palestinian terrorist organizations, might be a major contributing factor to this shortfall.

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Australia signs on to NASA’s Artemis project

Australia has committed $150 million to help its private sector contribute to NASA’s Artemis project and Trump’s goal to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2024, signing a joint agreement with NASA on September 21.

The government is investing $150 million over five years for Australian businesses and researchers to join NASA’s endeavour, and deliver key capabilities for the mission. “We’re backing Australian businesses to the moon, and even Mars, and back,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “We’re getting behind Australian businesses so they can take advantage of the pipeline of work NASA has committed to.”

The specifics, as quoted from the agreement, are somewhat vague.

This agreement is part of NASA’s effort to accumulate allies for both Artemis and its lunar space station Gateway. Australia has now joined Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. All of these nations and their space agencies desperately want the U.S. project to take place, most especially Gateway, as it will firm up funding for them all for decades.

NASA already has the big space contractors behind Artemis, though Boeing has expressed some opposition to Gateway. It has also awarded a lot of small contracts to a number of companies in the new commercial space industry to support Artemis. On top of this, it has distributed the project’s management within NASA so as to solidify support in Congress.

By accumulating these allies whose interests are in line with NASA’s goals, the agency hopes to convince Congress to fund the project. Unfortunately, the House, controlled by the Democrats whose only policy goal these days is to oppose Trump, have so far refused to fund the Trump 2024 manned mission.

Whether Artemis and Gateway will happen remains an open question. Congress wants the pork both projects will bring them. I predict that if both houses of Congress return to Republican control in 2020 they will fund this boondoggle.

Unfortunately, this won’t get us anywhere near the Moon, as the project as designed actually makes lunar landings more difficult and expensive. Getting from Gateway to the lunar surface requires more equipment and fuel than going directly there. If built as NASA has proposed, our astronauts will watch from Gateway as China and India land and begin settling the Moon.

But it will justify the spending of a lot of taxpayer money in congressional districts for decades to come. Hooray!

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Boeing pushing to kill Gateway for more SLS funds?

Turf war! According to Eric Berger at Ars Technica today, the House hearings yesterday about Gateway and the Trump effort to complete a manned mission to the Moon by 2024 suggest that Boeing is lobbying to kill both Gateway as well as NASA’s effort to use multiple commercial rockets, in order to get its SLS rocket more funding.

Essentially, Boeing is getting almost no contracts in connection to Gateway. Furthermore, the much cheaper commercial rockets are a serious competitive threat to its SLS rocket. However, if Gateway was dropped and the money instead committed to building a more powerful upper stage for SLS, which is Boeing’s baby, the money would go to them. Moreover, doing this would make it unnecessary for NASA to use other commercial rockets, since SLS could do it all.

Berger’s analysis seems right on target. While Gateway is a bad idea, what Boeing proposes instead would be no better. As Berger notes,

What was surprising is that [lawmakers] at the hearing also appeared to be swayed by [Boeing’s] view that bypassing commercial rockets and the Gateway would lead to a simpler and faster lunar mission. “I believe there is value in developing commercial capabilities,” [one lawmaker] said toward the end of the hearing. However, she added, “I am concerned that the decisions are not being driven by what is most efficient or effective and what is most cost efficient.”

This is an interesting viewpoint given that commercial rockets cost $100 to $200 million, at most, versus the $1 billion to $2 billion cost of a single SLS rocket—not including the hundreds of millions of dollars, at a minimum, the agency would have to invest in Exploration Upper Stage development contracts with Boeing. Moreover, one of the commercial rockets—the Falcon Heavy—already exists and has flown three successful missions. Other boosters, including Blue Origin’s powerful New Glenn rocket, should be ready to fly in two or three years. An SLS rocket with the better upper stage almost certainly wouldn’t be ready by 2024, and NASA knows this.

“At this point, there is no path by which the Exploration Upper Stage will be ready for Artemis 3 in 2024,” the NASA administration source told Ars. “Hence, it is not in the critical path (for the Moon landing).”

This lobbying effort provides us a perfect illustration of the overall incompetence and corruption that permeates our government in Washington. No one there appears the slightest bit interested in serving the national interest. Instead, the focus is on how they can get politicians to give them money.

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Fifty years of failed climate predictions

Link here. From the abstract:

Modern doomsayers have been predicting climate and environmental disaster since the 1960s. They continue to do so today.

None of the apocalyptic predictions with due dates as of today have come true.

What follows is a collection of notably wild predictions from notable people in government and science. More than merely spotlighting the failed predictions, this collection shows that the makers of failed apocalyptic predictions often are individuals holding respected positions in government and science.

While such predictions have been and continue to be enthusiastically reported by a media eager for sensational headlines, the failures are typically not revisited.

Many of these doomsday predictions have been previously documented by Tony Heller at his Real Climate Science website.

Much of the fault of these failed predictions falls to the media, which blindly hawks these predictions as if they were solid science, when most were merely political activism falsely dressed up as science. Predictions like this should almost never make the news. What should count are actual results, and data, showing something that is actually happening.

Unfortunately, our mostly liberal press has since the 1980s instead decided to team up with climate activists to push their agendas. Worse, though the examples at the link end in 2014, this journalistic malpractice still goes on today. Only three weeks ago Heller posted this story, Greenland Propaganda Meltdown, noting the errors and false claims in an August 20, 2019 Los Angeles Times that claimed “Greenland’s glaciers are melting.”

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