Tag Archives: bankruptcy

Marshall wins Artemis manned Moon lander pork

As expected and despite opposition from some Texas lawmakers, NASA yesterday announced that it has given the bulk of the management of its Artemis manned lunar lander project to the Marshall Space Flight Center.

Marshall will be in charge of two of the contractors who will build what NASA conceives as three components for the lander: the transfer vehicle, the descent module, and the upper ascent stage:

The lunar lander, consisting of three components, also will be launched atop commercial rockets and docked at the Gateway before any astronauts arrive. One component, a sort of carrier craft known as a transfer vehicle, would take the lander from Gateway down to a lower orbit. From there, the lander’s descent module will make a rocket-powered landing on the moon, initially carrying two astronauts.

The astronauts would ride down to the surface in the pressurized cabin of an upper ascent stage. That stage will use the descent module as a launching pad, much like the Apollo astronauts did 50 years ago, to climb back up to the transfer vehicle and then on to Gateway.

Marshall will supervise construction of the transfer vehicle and the descent module, while the Johnson Space Center in Texas will manage construction of the upper ascent stage.

Does no one in NASA or the Trump administration see the stupidity of this? It is as if Ford decided that the interior and exterior sections of its cars will be assembled in two different factories, and only combined after they are assembled. The logistics of making sure they will fit and work together during final assembly could only increase costs, delay assembly, and almost guarantee engineering issues. No intelligently run business would do such a thing.

Government however is not an intelligently run business. It is run by politicians, whom we the public have not held to any kind of quality standard for the past half century. Thus, NASA is forced to spread this pork around because politicians in Alabama (Senator Richard Shelby) and Texas (Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) demand it do so.

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When told Clinton’s missing classified emails were sent to gmail, FBI was uninterested

But Russia! A new Senate report has revealed that the computer specialist hired by Hillary Clinton to wipe her private server had copied and sent all her missing classified emails to an ordinary gmail account, and when this illegal fact was revealed to fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, in charge of the investigation, Strzok had no interest in following up.

Virtually every single one of Hillary Clinton’s emails were sent, potentially secretly, to a cryptically named Gmail address, according to a new Senate report.

The finding, which has not been previously reported, means that Clinton’s emails, including classified ones and ones which were later deleted, likely existed on Google’s U.S.-based servers. The FBI said in the report that it knew this — and of the suspicious explanation for it — but did not alert other intelligence agencies or the public, according to the report.

The FBI says that the suspicious Gmail address was set up by an IT aide, Paul Combetta, who worked for a company that managed Clinton’s server. Combetta is the same IT aide who used BleachBit to permanently erase copies of Clinton’s emails after they were subpoenaed by the House, misled the FBI about it, and was given immunity from prosecution, all while asking for basic computing advice on Reddit.

This story confirms several blatantly obvious facts, as well as reveals some new ones about the partisan agenda of the FBI.

First, we must underline again the very obvious fact that Hillary Clinton had broken the law by using a private email server. There is no question about this. If she was brought to trial on this charge the evidence would have her found guilty in a nanosecond.

Second, Peter Strzok’s disinterest in the facts against her, and the support he got at the time from his superiors, provides more proof of the FBI’s pro-Democrat partisanship and its willingness to provide cover for Clinton, for political reasons. The FBI at the end of the Obama administration was entirely corrupt, and willing to be weaponized to help Democrats (and Clinton) win elections. After Trump won it then became weaponized to try to overturn that election.

Third, this story strongly implies that those missing emails, more than thirty thousand, might very well be recoverable. They were sent to Google, and Google is notorious for keeping material it isn’t supposed to keep. Moreover, the report appears to confirm earlier news reports that Clinton’s unsecured emails had been captured by outside hackers tied to China, which means that China probably has them also.

In other words, Trump’s joke asking the Russians to provide them to us was wrong. He should have been asking the Chinese.

Jokes aside, this evidence proves that many people from the Obama administration should be prosecuted for a variety of crimes, the worst of which was an effort to interfere with a legal and constitutional election. Whether that happens remains very doubtful in my mind, considering how much illegality Democratic politicians have gotten away with in recent years.

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Texas and Alabama fight over space pork

Turf war: Several powerful Texas lawmakers announced yesterday their opposition to NASA’s decision to give the lead management for the next lunar lander to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

The question is which Center will manage development of the landers, a plum assignment. NASA plans to procure them through public-private partnerships rather than traditional contracts. The actual design will be determined by whatever companies win the contracts, but NASA’s concept is for a trilogy of vehicles: a transfer vehicle to take the crew from the Gateway to a lower lunar orbit, then a descent vehicle to take them to the surface and an ascent vehicle to return them to Gateway.

…According to Ars Technica, … NASA is assigning overall responsibility for the lunar lander program to Marshall, which will also oversee acquisition of the transfer and descent vehicles. JSC will oversee the ascent vehicle.

In a letter to Bridenstine today, Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and Rep. Brian Babin, all Republicans, expressed surprise and asked Bridenstine to reconsider. They argue that JSC should be in charge of the entire program, not just one of the three vehicles. Marshall’s expertise is in rocketry while JSC is “ground zero for human space exploration.”

They also disagree with splitting the work between two Centers, “an unnecessary and counterproductive departure from the unquestionable success” of the lander for the Apollo program.

This fight is not over who will actually build anything, but how to distribute the pork. In truth, the NASA agency that does this “management” does almost nothing. It is the contractor that builds the spacecraft. You could condense the management into a team of less two dozen (and that’s probably high). Instead, NASA and these politicians use the contractors to justify the existence of whole departments and hundreds of employees and large facilities, all of which are mostly irrelevant, especially if the Trump administration is serious about letting private industry do the job.

Worse, this fight — and NASA’s need to make these politicians happy — is forcing the agency to turn the work once again into a Frankenstein monster, distributing responsibility in absurd ways. I guarantee that in the end the management will not all go to Texas, meaning that the management of the different contractors will be split to different agencies, making for a very inefficient and badly managed program.

The result is going to be, as always, delays, cost overruns, bad designs, a lot of wasted money, and little accomplished.

I want to make special note of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in this affair. He ran for president as a new conservative, out to drain the swamp of Washington. Now, as senator, he is increasingly becoming captured by that swamp, participating in all the same corruption he railed against during his presidential run.

If he was really serious about draining the swamp, he would be pushing to trim NASA’s management, both in Alabama and in Texas. Instead he is fighting to build it up.

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Protesters allow research to resume, within limits, at other Mauna Kea telescopes

How special of them! The protesters blocking construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) have now agreed to allow limited access to Mauna Kea for the researchers and technicians for the other telescopes there.

The Maunakea Access Road remains blockaded. However, activists agreed, after the Emergency Proclamation was withdrawn, to allow all existing observatory employees, including astronomers, to access Maunakea using the Old Saddle Road and a section of unpaved lava. This route is unimproved and lined with tents, cars and people. However, pursuant to this agreement, on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 the state laid cinder and cones in an attempt to address safety concerns. The people blocking the road also agreed to allow larger vehicles to access Maunakea by going around the tent blockade. This means the vehicles will travel on the road’s shoulder.

The current process of gaining access to Maunakea requires the observatories to provide pre-arranged notification of all vehicles seeking access. To accomplish this, the people blocking the road will be provided a list of which vehicles are going up and when. This requires the observatories to contact the Office of Maunakea Management, which then contacts law enforcement, who then provides the list to the activists. The observatories are also aware that activists have been keeping a log of who goes up and down. [emphasis mine]

Essentially the protesters now run Mauna Kea, and have the right to ban anyone they don’t like from going there. This is essentially mob rule, since the law does not give them that right, and in fact has always given access rights to everyone.

The highlighted words indicate the possibility of increased risk by this mob rule. I’ve been on that road. It is gravel but well-graded. Its shoulders are not gigantic, however, and often border steep slopes and cliffs.

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Forbes censors climate article questioning human-caused global warming

An August 9th article at the magazine Forbes — discussing the skepticism that many scientists have about human-caused global warming — was removed today by the magazine “for failing to meet our editorial standards.”

Or to put it more accurately, they censored it for failing to follow the knee-jerk blind demands of the global-warming political movement.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has now published the article in full, so that “interested readers [can] make up their own minds about the research by Nir Shaviv and Henrik Svensmark.”

Read the article. The only things unreasonable in it is the suggestion that there is a 97% consensus among climate scientists. That claim is false, as noted by the authors of the paper [pdf] where the claim comes from, in their own abstract.

We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW [human-caused global warming], 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming.

What these statistics actually prove is that 66.4% of all climate scientists understand that it is inappropriate to endorse or even reject a theory, when the data is insufficient. The remaining third, whether they endorse or reject human-caused global warming, do not understand the scientific method, in the slightest.

As for the censored Forbes article, it first outlines some of the most reasonable uncertainties of science surrounding the climate, focusing most specifically on the influence of the Sun, as shown by research by Shaviv and others. Then it notes how the climate community is working to squelch such research, dishonestly, as noted by Shaviv:

Any scientist who rejects the UN’s IPCC report, as he does, will have trouble finding work, receiving research grants or publishing, he said.

I must add that I have interviewed Nir Shaviv myself in connection with several astronomy articles, and found him to be a rigorous and intelligent scientist interested only in pursuing knowledge and the truth.

The bottom line now however is that the pursuit of knowledge and truth is no longer allowed in the climate field. Step out of line and the modern global warming inquisition will move in quickly to silence you, to smash its jack-booted foot into your face.

Hat tip to one of my readers, who when he sent this article to me opened by quoting me and Scott Adams: “They’re coming for you next.” Fortunately, I have tried very hard to anticipate such attacks, which is why I created Behind the Black. This website has made me free and independent of such oppressive tyranny. The only thing that would stop me from expressing my thoughts freely would be a lack of support from my readers. Fortunately, my readers have been increasingly generous, suggesting that they like the idea of freedom and open debate.

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Nurse gets death threats for posing with Trump

They’re coming for you next: A hospital nurse who worked to save lives after the Dayton massacre this past weekend was doxxed on Twitter and has since gotten death threats for posing in a photograph with Trump

I’d like you all to meet Rita. She’s an ICU Nurse at Miami Valley Hospital. She was one of the many heroes that helped save lives in Dayton following the mass shooting.

While President Trump was visiting the hospital, he was told about her hard work. He personally approached her, thanked her and asked for a photo. She was so happy and ecstatic to meet the President.

She posted the photo online and has since received numerous death threats, harassing messages and pure bullying. As a result, she deleted her Facebook and now has to be escorted in and out of work.

The link quotes the tweet that doxxed her, which in a sense is only worsening the situation.

Much of this problem comes from twitter, where you can post anything you want completely anonymously, and if you are attacking conservatives or Republicans, face no punishment. Truly an evil company.

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TMT consortium applies for Canary Islands building permit

The coming dark age: The consortium that wants to build the Thirty Meter Telescope has applied for a building permit to build the telescope in the Canary Islands, Spain, thus preparing to abandon their years-long effort to put the telescope in Hawaii.

Thirty Meter Telescope Executive Director Ed Stone said in a statement Monday that the group still wants to break ground on Mauna Kea, but they need to have a backup plan. “We continue to follow the process to allow for TMT to be constructed at the ‘plan B’ site in (Spain) should it not be possible to build in Hawaii,” Stone said. “Mauna Kea remains the preferred site.”

But Native Hawaiian activists say they will not budge until the project moves elsewhere. Protest leaders, who say they are not against science or astronomy, told The Associated Press that the Spain permit is a positive development, but it’s not enough for them to end their blockade of Mauna Kea’s access road, where more than 2,000 people have gathered at times. “There’s lots of good science to be done from the Canary Islands,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, who has helped organize the protest on Mauna Kea. It would “be a win for everyone.” [emphasis mine]

Do not expect the protests to end when TMT officially abandons Mauna Kea. I fully expect the protesters to increase their demands, calling for the closing of more telescopes on the mountain.

It appears that the United States is no longer ruled by law. The TMT consortium spent years following the law, negotiating deals with everyone, including local native Hawaiian religious groups, and finally obtained their permits, twice. This wasn’t good enough for the protesters and their leaders, who wish to rule by fiat and mob power. Those protesters have likely won, mostly because the Democratic Party that runs Hawaii is on their side.

It also appears that the United States is becoming a nation that no longer gives priority to obtaining new knowledge about the universe. If TMT moves to Spain, its loss will be somewhat equivalent to the Catholic Church’s attack on Galileo in Italy. That action in the 1600s essentially killed the Italian Renaissance, with the growth of the scientific method and new knowledge shifting to Great Britain and France, the wealth and prosperity that new knowledge brought going with that shift.

Posted from the airport on the way to Denver.

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Why drastic education cuts in Alaska tell us everything about the coming dark age

Faced with a gigantic $1.6 billion budget deficit, last month Alaska’s Republican governor, Mike Dunleavy, used his line item power to veto about $444 million from the state’s total budget of $8.3 billion. Among those cuts included an unprecedented almost 41% cut in the state’s university system.

Understanding the background for these cuts is not something easy to pin down in today’s partisan press. I first came across the story today in this Nature article, clearly written to lament the cuts and the harm they will do to education and science. This quote will give you the flavor:

Researchers are waitivng anxiously to see how university administrators will apply the cuts, which could fundamentally reshape science in the state — including UA’s world-class Arctic and climate research programmes. The first hint came on 30 July, when the university’s governing board voted to consolidate the system’s three main branches — in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.

“It’s awful,” says Milligan-Myhre. “I had to turn away a student planning on starting in the fall because I just don’t know what the department or his degree would look like in a year or two.” She’s also encouraging her current students to graduate as soon as possible.

The problem with the article is that it gave literally no background into the cuts, and Dunleavy’s reasoning for doing them, a example of today’s typically bad journalism. We might justly oppose these education cuts, but before we as sane citizens can do that we must at least understand why they are being made. Nature failed to give us that information, and instead spent its time propagandizing for the blind spending of money for education.

I started doing searches on the internet to find out some background information. (More on that experience later.) Most of the articles were very superficial, though this article at least outlined the difficult budget situation faced by Dunleavy.

After a lot of searches on two different search engines requiring me to dig down several pages on both, I finally found this article at U.S. News & World Report that outlined in a very non-partisan way the issues.
» Read more

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Senate passes budget-breaking bill

A coalition of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate today passed the Trump budget deal that will end sequestration and other budget limits.

Congress sent a two-year budget and debt ceiling deal to President Trump over the objection of 22 Senate Republicans. Many Republicans failed to heed a last-minute tweet from President Trump urging them to back the accord. It passed by a vote of 65-28. Five Democrats voted against the deal.

Once signed by Trump, the deal will permit unfettered federal borrowing through July 31, 2021 and busts federal spending caps by $320 billion over the next two fiscal years. It leaves out an extension of the Budget Control Act, which expires in two years. The act imposed spending restraints meant to force lawmakers to impose fiscal reforms.

“This may well be the most fiscally irresponsible thing we have done in the history of the United States,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, declared ahead of the vote.

Republicans bolted away from the deal much the same way they rejected it in the House when it passed the measure last week over the objections of 132 GOP lawmakers. [emphasis mine]

These votes reveal the real political battle going on right now in the U.S. This spending bill passed because about half the Republicans in both houses of Congress teamed up with the majority of Democrats. Those that voted against are the remains of the tea party movement, and are also the remains of the original American dream. They are also now a minority with little power, so little that they do not even have Trump on their side.

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Mueller’s testimony today proves witch hunt failed

There have been numerous stories today in all the press, both left and right, about Robert Mueller’s testimony today in Congress, mostly concluding that Mueller came off very badly, thereby bursting the balloon of the continuing empty and largely disproved accusations by the Democrats that Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. If anything Mueller proved by his stumbling answers plus his refusal to answer more than 150 questions that his effort was at best incompetent, and at worst a partisan witch hunt.

This conclusion is not a surprise however to anyone who has paid even the slightest close attention Mueller’s work, both now and in the past.

However, the short clip below the fold, taken from Mueller’s testimony today, best represents how corrupt and incompetent Mueller really is. It took place during questioning by a friendly Democratic congressman as he was attempting to demonstrate how honorable and fair-minded Mueller is. Instead, it proved why almost everything attempted by our so-called elites in Washington fails. They don’t have to be corrupt because they are also incompetent.

The clip comes from a story at PJ Media. For Mueller and the Democrats, it is embarrassing. For Trump and the Republicans it is laughable. For the American people it is distressing, because we all know that Mueller is very stereotypical of most of those running Washington.
» Read more

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Agreement on bankrupt budget deal today?

Update: It does appear a deal has been reached, and it appears at first glance to be as bad as I suspected.

Initial post: It appears that the White House and House Democrats are about to finalize a budget deal that will guarantee the national debt will continue to balloon for years to come, thus growing the power of Washington.

These sources tell FOX Business that the deal includes spending caps and debt ceiling increases for two years each, respectively. The deal reportedly includes spending increases for defense and non-defense spending.

A source close to the negotiations tells FOX Business that, for now, the deal would put no restrictions on reprogramming money for spending items – like a border wall.

Sources tell FOX News’ Chad Pergram that the deal would permanently end the sequester and also suspend the debt limit until July 31, 2021. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words will also continue the decades-long shift of power from Congress to the President. Congress might allocate money to specific projects, but this deal, if agreed to as described, will now allow the President to rearrange the budget however he sees fit.

While Republicans might celebrate this change so that Trump can build his wall, in the end we will all suffer, because this arrangement ends up putting almost unlimited power in the hands of a single individual.

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Protesters continue to block construction of TMT

For the second day in a row protesters have blocked construction vehicles from accessing Mauna Kea to begin construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

As I expected, the Hawaiian government (entirely Democratically controlled) is reluctant to enforce the law against these protesters. David Ige, the governor, is trying to have it both ways. He mouths support for the law and the telescope, which has the support of the public, but then lets the protesters control the situation and block construction.

Unless something changes, which I doubt, do not expect TMT to ever be built in Hawaii.

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Major management shake-up at NASA’s manned program

NASA today did a major shake-up in its manned program, most specifically relating to the management of its SLS/Orion program.

In a major shakeup at NASA Headquarters, agency Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday that Bill Gerstenmaier, the widely respected director of human spaceflight, has been replaced in the midst of an ambitious push to meet the Trump administration’s directive to send astronauts back to the moon within five years.

Effective immediately, Bridenstine wrote in a letter to agency employees, Ken Bowersox, a five-flight shuttle veteran, space station astronaut and Gerstenmaier’s deputy, will take over on an acting basis while Gerstenmaier serves as “special advisor” to NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.

…Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development within HEO also has been replaced. A long-time NASA veteran, Hill helped manage development of the agency’s new heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, or SLS, needed to carry astronauts back to the moon.

While the long delays and cost overruns at both SLS and Orion can partly be blamed on micromanagement by Congress and a lack of interest by the previous Obama administration, the internal management by Gersternmaier and Hill during this time is also at fault. They have allowed these programs to drag on, and were in charge when numerous major screw ups occurred, from badly built test stands that went overbudget to dishonest budget manipulations to cracks in the first Orion capsule to contamination in SLS’s rocket engines to the dropping of an SLS oxygen tank to brittle and weak welds in those tanks to establishing an overall slow motion pace for construction of the entire project.

I suspect that this shake-up is linked to the story earlier this week where NASA hinted it was going to have to delay the first SLS launch for another year.

I wrote then that the Trump administration would not take kindly to such a new delay, even if it was justified so the agency could do a required full stack static fire test of SLS’s core stage. I am willing to bet that this shake-up occurred because Gertenmaier and Hill had finally revealed the need for this delay, and the shake-up was the Trump administration’s response.

This doesn’t mean that SLS won’t be delayed. It just means the Trump administration has decided it was time to put new people in charge.

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Trump drops plan to establish independent climate review panel

The Trump administration has abandoned a plan to create a more balanced climate science review panel to review the climate change claims within government research.

It appears that while the idea to put government-paid research under a wider range of scientific review was laudable, the White House could not figure out how to do it, even as factions within the administration fought the proposal.

The idea to create the panel has caused strife within the White House. Among its critics are deputy chief of staff Chris Liddell; Kevin Hassett, the outgoing chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council; and Kelvin Droegemeier, the president’s science adviser. Those supporting the plan include Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and Brooke Rollins, assistant to Trump in the Office of American Innovation.

An official at NSC disputed the characterization that the panel was dead, even while confirming that it had been indefinitely delayed. The plan has suffered several downgrades over the months. It was initially proposed as a rapid response team of climate science critics who would challenge government publications on human-caused warming. Recent discussions have centered on the idea of forcing government climate scientists to participate in a debate with critics of their work who deny that humans are causing widespread changes on Earth (Climatewire, June 6). Most recently, the plan was diminished to creating dueling white papers that would elevate climate denialism to the level of consensus science.

The bottom line remains that a lot of climate research being done on the government dime today is, at a minimum, very suspect, and at the worst, demonstrably corrupt. A house-cleaning is necessary, even though it will likely be accompanied by a lot of squealing from those who get cleaned out.

It seems that the Trump administration is not prepared to deal with that squealing, especially because it appears that Trump himself is not passionate about this subject. He went after EPA aggressively, cutting the size of the agency and changing how it did business, but these actions were because he saw EPA as an out-of-control government agency imposing inappropriate regulations on American citizens. Corruption and data tampering and the politicization of the climate research field does not concern him so much. It appears he does not see this as directly affecting the American citizen.

For now.

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White House objects to House language on military space

The White House today released a detailed statement listing its objections to the House language on the upcoming military space authorization bill and threatening a veto if the Senate version is not passed.

Their objection seem to center on two issues. First, while the administration has accepted the idea of a space corp within the Air Force rather than a separate new military branch, they appear prefer the Senate language for this change. This disagreement appears relatively minor in the entire scheme of things.

Second, and more significantly, the White House has objections to the planned launch contract set up the Air Force has been pushing that would have them pick two launch providers now for all their launches through 2024, rather than allow all comers to bid on those launches as they came up.

On the National Security Space Launch program, the administration “strongly objects” to HASC [House Armed Services Committee] Chairman Adam Smith’s Section 1601 language “as it would increase mission risk for the nation’s national security satellites.”

Section 1601 would mandate that the Air Force compete contracts for any launches beyond 29 launches during the period from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2024. This section would also mandate that the Air Force provide up to $500 million to launch companies that either win a Phase 2 contract after fiscal year 2022 or win a Phase 2 contract but are not part of a Launch Service Agreement, in order to meet national security-unique infrastructure and certification requirements for a Phase 2 contract. This section also require a notification of the selection in fiscal year 2020 of the two providers for Phase 2 launches.

The administration opposes these provisions. “After careful and considered study, DoD determined that a contract for national security space launch requirements over the course of five years would optimize warfighter flexibility, minimizes mission risk, and provides exceptional value to the taxpayer,” says the White House statement. “Confining Phase 2 to fewer missions would increase per-launch cost while simultaneously introducing risk and costs for some intelligence payloads. Finally, notifying Congress prior to a contract would be a departure from long-standing tradition and might put DoD at a greater risk of a protest.”

To put this in simple terms, the House language was an attempt to open up the bidding, while also offering $500 million development money to any company who missed out initially. The White House, and the Air Force, wish to restrict the bidding process, and don’t want to pay that extra $500 million.

All of this I think will become irrelevant the first time the Air Force issues a bid offer for a launch contract but restricts bidding to only two launch companies, even if a third or fourth is available and capable of fulfilling the contract. The excluded launch companies will sue for the right to bid, and they will win.

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NASA begins the slow leak process prior to announcing new SLS delays

As it has been doing for the past half decade, NASA has now begun the process of issuing hints about a future announcement of more SLS launch delays, in order to prepare the public and neuter any possible negative news coverage.

The linked article above outlines in great detail the present status of SLS and the assembly of its core stage. The main decision the agency now faces is whether it will do what it calls an “SLS Green Run,” where they assemble that core stage on a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and fire it for a full duration static test. Such a test is necessary to validate the engineering models that were used to build the rocket. Without it no one will know if they have modeled the design correctly, meaning that during the first real launch they might find the rocket does not perform as predicted and could even fail.

Doing this test however will guarantee that the first SLS launch, Artemis 1, will not occur in June 2020 as presently scheduled, and will likely be delayed for another year.

The Trump administration has already made it clear it will not take kindly to more SLS delays. It has also made it clear that it will consider already available commercial options, such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, if NASA cannot deliver SLS as promised.

This puts NASA in a quandary.
» Read more

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Leftist backed by socialist Ocasio-Cortez wins in Queens

They’re coming for you next: A leftist candidate, Tiffany Cabán, backed by socialists Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), has won an election for Queens District Attorney in New York.

Cabán, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s preferred pick for the office, garnered 39.5% of the vote compared to Democratic rival Melinda Katz’s 38.3% with 98% of precincts reporting.

…Cabán is a 31-year-old public defender who wants to decriminalize sex work, close Rikers Island and end cash bail. The young lawyer was joined on stage with city Comptroller Scott Stringer and state Sen. Jessica Ramos.

The election was close enough that they will do a recount, but I don’t think that will change the result, which clearly shows that New Yorkers have not been put off in the slightest by Ocasio-Cortez’s extreme leftist positions, as many conservative pundits have assumed. If anything, her upfront willingness to push her beliefs, no matter our senseless or impractical or ignorant, have garnered her side more support.

I am reminded again of this quote from Walter Miller’s great end-of-the-world science fiction novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz:

Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome, the Empires of Charlemagne and the Turk. Ground to dust and plowed with salt. Spain, France, Britain, America–burned into the oblivion of the centuries. And again and again and again.

Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing?

It doesn’t seem to matter that communism, socialism, fascism, Nazism, all top-down authoritarian systems no matter what their name or design, have consistently failed, and failed horribly, causing the deaths of millions and millions. Worse, these failures have not been in the distant past, but within the lifetimes of almost everyone living today. Several (Venezuela and North Korea) are occurring right this minute.

Yet, Americans want to try it for themselves. Sadly, they (and we) will reap the whirlwind, for it will fail again, as horribly as it has every other time.

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GAO: More delays and cost overruns for SLS/Orion

Surprise, surprise! A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that NASA’s SLS and Orion programs are even more behind schedule and over budget than NASA has been revealing.

Instead of launching in 2020, the Artemis-1 mission that will see a Space Launch System rocket boost an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the Moon will instead launch as late as June 2021, the GAO report finds. NASA also appears to have been obscuring the true cost of its development programs, particularly with the large SLS rocket, which has Boeing as its prime contractor.

“While NASA acknowledges about $1 billion in cost growth for the SLS program, it is understated,” the report found. “This is because NASA shifted some planned SLS scope to future missions but did not reduce the program’s cost baseline accordingly. When GAO reduced the baseline to account for the reduced scope, the cost growth is about $1.8 billion.”

You can read the full report here [pdf].

The GAO June 2021 launch date will mean that the first manned mission using Orion/SLS cannot happen before 2024. This also means that NASA will take 20 years to get off one manned mission with this project.

There’s more. NASA awarded both Boeing and Lockheed Martin significant award fees totaling almost a quarter of a billion dollars, despite their inability to meet any cost and scheduling targets.

The conclusion of the report is quite damning:

NASA…has been unable to achieve agreed-to cost and schedule performance. NASA acknowledges that future delays to the June 2020 launch date are likely, but the agency’s approach in estimating cost growth for the SLS and Orion programs is misleading. And it does not provide decision makers, including the Administrator, complete cost data with which to assess whether Congress needs to be notified of a cost increase, pursuant to law. By not using a similar set of assumptions regarding what costs are included in the SLS baseline and updated SLS cost estimates, NASA is underreporting the magnitude of the program’s cost growth. Similarly, NASA is underreporting the Orion program’s cost performance by measuring cost growth to an earlier-than-agreed-to schedule date. As a result, Congress and the public continue to accept further delays to the launch of the first mission without a clear understanding of the costs associated with those delays. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted text is to emphasize NASA’s dishonesty here. This program has been badly managed and out of control for the better part of the last decade, and NASA, rather than fix it, has been aggressively hiding this fact in every way it can,

If the GAO is right, SLS/Orion is finally in very serious political trouble. The Trump administration has made it clear that it wants it to meet that June 2020 launch date, and if it fails the administration will then look to private launch providers to get the job done.

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Dutch university to only hire women

Academic bigotry: A Dutch engineering university has decided that it will only hire women, banning men from applying for job vacancies.

Starting on 1 July, the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands will not allow men to apply for permanent academic jobs for the first 6 months of the recruitment process under a new fellowship program. If no suitable applicant has been found within that time, men can then apply, but the selection committee will still have to nominate at least one candidate of each gender.

“We have been talking about [gender balance] for ages,” says TU/e President Robert-Jan Smits. “All kinds of soft measures are taken and lip service is paid to it. But the stats still look awful.” Currently, 29% of TU/e’s assistant professors are women; at the associate and full professor level, about 15% are women. With this program, TU/e wants to reach 50% of women for assistant and associate professors, and 35% for full professors.

The plan was announced today and is already attracting controversy. “People say it’s illegal; they say we will lower standards. That’s a load of baloney,” Smits says. Some critics say the program discriminates against men. “Yes, absolutely,” Smits says. “For years, men have been discriminating against women, and women haven’t been paid the same as men for the same jobs.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, because women were once discriminated against it is now okay to discriminate against men. Or to put it another way, two wrongs will make a right!

This is the corrupt attitude that now permeates all of western academia. Bigotry is perfectly okay, as long as it attacks whites and men. In fact, throughout our bankrupt intellectual culture there is now a pecking order of racial and ethnic and gender groups. If you are sexually perverse, you go to the head of the line. Then comes women, then men. If you are a minority you get treated better than whites, but if you can demonstrate you have Hispanic roots, no matter how white you are, you go ahead of any American whose root go back to the first founders.

Also, if you are Jewish and white expect to be kicked around a lot, since you are clearly oppressing Arabs in Palestine.

This all stinks. The result with this university is going to be a decline in the quality of engineers in produces. This won’t be because women can’t do the job, but because they won’t be picking candidates because of their engineering qualifications, but because of their racial/gender status.

Hitler would be proud.

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The culture of theft at Oberlin College

The coming dark age: It appears that the initial shoplifting incident that triggered the Oberlin College lawsuit by Gibson’s Bakery was only part of an overall culture of theft by students at the college, ignored or possibly even condoned by the college administration.

[T]his theft culture influenced the decision making at the college with regard to Gibson’s, as related in the trial. College officials were concerned that backing Gibson’s over shoplifting could “trigger” a negative reaction from students, since the college was “trying to get students to realize that shoplifting was harmful.”

It’s truly astounding that a college would be afraid to support a local store that was the victim of shoplifting. It is deeply depressing that students did not already know that “shoplifting was harmful.”

Remember, the students at Oberlin were paying almost $28,000 in tuition per semester, with additional costs raising this figure to almost $40,000. They might have had to take loans out to pay these costs, but they certainly weren’t poor or starving. In fact, they were required to buy a meal plan by the college.

Thus, this thievery was entirely by choice, and voluntary. It speaks to a complete collapse of morality by the student body, supported by a similar complete moral collapse by the college administration. Worse, Oberlin really is not unique. This same kind of collapse can be seen at most American colleges. If we wish to revive our culture, it seems to me we need to shut these cesspools of immorality down, entirely, and start over.

Above all, parents and children should be thinking very hard about the schools they wish to attend. All past assumptions about which schools are best must be thrown out the window.

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Museum decides T-Rex skeleton has no gender

The coming dark age: Officials at the Field Museum in Chicago have decided that since scientists were never able to determine the sex of their most famous T-Rex skeleton, they will now refer to it as if was gender neutral.

According to Arc Digital, “Sue,” Field Museum’s Tyrannosaurus Rex — one of the most complete and largest T-Rex skeletons ever discovered — is working on becoming a “gender neutral” icon by adopting gender-neutral pronouns in her new private exhibit on the museum’s second floor.

Sue is not, in fact, gender neutral or gender fluid. The T-Rex skeleton, discovered in South Dakota in the 1990s, was either male or female. The scientists who discovered Sue believed the skeleton belonged to a female because female T-Rexes are larger than male T-Rexes, and Sue was one of the largest dinosaur skeletons ever found; she’s named “Sue” after Susan Hendrickson, who led the team that unearthed her.

But back in March 2017, Arc Digital reports, the museum decided to have a little fun, and in response to a question lobbed during a Twitter Q&A, Sue claimed that she was “gender neutral” because her sex was unknown, and that she preferred the pronouns they/their/them.

By March 2017, though, Sue, who had graced the museum’s central rotunda for more than a decade, was due to move upstairs to make room for an even larger dinosaur skeleton, and when constructing her pernament home in the museum’s dinosaur exhibit, museum officials adopted Sue’s social media gender-neutral tendencies and made them official. “In her new suite, some of the signage describing the fossil has adopted non-binary pronouns,” Arc Digital says. “One sign does make the distinction between SUE the museum ambassador/Twitter star and the fossil itself, noting that the fossil is properly referred to as ‘it.’ But some of the rest of the signage uses ‘their’ pronouns and seems more interested in teaching museum-goers about the trendy movement for acceptance of non-binary identity than it does about paleontology.”

Our society is truly becoming delusional. This dinosaur was not gender neutral. It goes against every principle of science that a science museum is supposed to be teaching to make believe it is.

Worse, this is a form of political pandering that is disgraceful. It is not the job of the Field Museum to take sides in this sexual political battle. Not only is it inappropriate, it assumes all who enter the museum will agree with them, something that is decidedly a false assumption.

In a sane world I would expect donations to the museum to drop because of this. Unfortunately, I am not convinced we live in a sane world.

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Republican senators move to stop Trump’s Mexico tariffs

The stupid party: A half dozen Republican senators have announced their opposition to the escalating tariffs Trump has imposed on Mexico designed to force that country to cooperate on gaining control of illegal immigration.

Joining [Chuck] Grassley [R-Iowa] in opposition to the tariffs were pro-trade Senate Republicans Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Martha McSally of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Rob Portman of Ohio, whose votes Trump will need to pass the USMCA.

This is the same pattern I’ve seen from Republicans for the past half century. Anytime anyone attempts to do anything that might clean up any of the mess we are in, a bunch jump in, for their own aggrandizement, to stymie it.

The article makes the claim that a border state like Arizona will be hurt by these tariffs. Bah. I live here, and see the harm the illegal immigration is actually doing. First, the flood of illegals is damaging the state’s natural environment, as they leave an incredible amount of trash throughout the wildernesses they travel.

Second, the flood has caused the government to make entering the U.S. a miserable and time-consuming experience for people doing it legally, one that is actually discouraging trade. You want to go to Mexico? You walk or drive across the border in seconds. You want to come back? Expect the wait to be one to two to three hours.

Third, the flood is distorting the market. Illegals have to work in the black market, which means they get badly taken advantage of. At the same time, their presence hurts legal workers, who can’t get work.

Fourth, and most important, the flood of illegals is fueling a rising contempt of the law, both by the illegals as well as American citizens. This in the long run is likely the worst consequence of the federal government’s inability to do its job here effectively.

And as usual, we have a lot of dumb Republicans who will team up with the partisan Democrats (who only want power) to block Trump’s effort, an effort that has already shown a positive effect and might actually fix the problem.

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GAO finds continuing budget and scheduling problems for NASA’s big projects

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released yesterday revealed that the ongoing budget overruns and scheduling delays for NASA’s big projects have continued, and in some cases worsened in the past year.

The cost and schedule performance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) portfolio of major projects continues to deteriorate. For this review, cost growth was 27.6 percent over the baselines and the average launch delay was approximately 13 months, the largest schedule delay since GAO began annual reporting on NASA’s major projects in 2009.

This deterioration in cost and schedule performance is largely due to integration and test challenges on the James Webb Space Telescope (see GAO-19-189 for more information). The Space Launch System program also experienced significant cost growth due to continued production challenges. Further, additional delays are likely for the Space Launch System and its associated ground systems. Senior NASA officials stated that it is unlikely these programs will meet the launch date of June 2020, which already reflects 19 months of delays. These officials told GAO that there are 6 to 12 months of risk associated with that launch date. [emphasis mine]

The Trump administration has made it clear to NASA’s bureaucracy that it expects SLS to meet the June 2020 deadline, or it will begin the process of ending the program and replacing it with private rockets. This GAO report suggests that this threat is almost certain to be carried out.

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NASA IG finds both Europa missions a mess

Our incompetent federal government: A report released today [pdf] by NASA’s inspector general has found that the management of the Europa Clipper orbiter and the later Europa lander missions, both mandated by Congress, are facing serious budget and schedule risks, despite being given more than three-quarters of a billion dollars more than requested.

Congress has taken a strong interest in the project and since fiscal year (FY) 2013 has appropriated about $2.04 billion to NASA for a Europa mission—$1.26 billion more than the Agency requested.

…Despite [this] robust early-stage funding, a series of significant developmental and personnel resource challenges place the Clipper’s current mission cost estimates and planned 2023 target launch at risk. In addition, although Congress directed NASA to use the SLS to launch the Clipper, it is unlikely to be available by the congressionally mandated 2023 date and therefore the Agency continues to maintain spacecraft capabilities to accommodate both the SLS and two commercial launch vehicles, the Delta IV Heavy and Falcon Heavy. [emphasis mine]

The lander meanwhile is in even worse shape, especially because its congressionally-mandated launch date on SLS in 2025 seems impossible.

It seems to me that this entire project could be the poster boy for the overall incompetence of our so-called “betters” in Washington, who in the past three decades have failed spectacularly in practically every major project they have undertaken. The project was mandated on NASA by Congress, led by former congressman John Culberson (R-Texas), who was then the chairman of the House subcommittee that was in charge of funding the agency. It was his pet project. Though the planetary science community were glad to have this mission, it was listed as their second priority in their 2011 decadal survey. Culberson made it first, and also made sure it got a lot of money, far more than NASA ever requested.

Despite this strong support, the inspector general has now found that the project is being badly mismanaged and faces budget overruns and scheduling problems. The scheduling problems partly result from the project’s bad management, but mostly because of Congress’s demand that the spacecraft fly on SLS. Our vaunted elected officials wanted to give that boondoggle (they own pet project) a mission, something it didn’t have, and Europa Clipper and Lander were therefore given that task.

The problem, as I have documented endlessly, is that SLS is woefully behind schedule. It appears it will likely not be ready for Europa Clipper’s launch window in 2023.

But hey, let’s give our federal government more responsibility and power! Let’s go socialist!

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NASA awards Maxar Gateway power/communications contract

The never-ending boondoggle: NASA this week awarded the company Maxar its first official Lunar Gateway contract to develop the power, propulsion, and communications systems for the station.

Interestingly, the contract is structured somewhat similar to the commercial contracts for ISS cargo and crew.

This firm-fixed price award includes an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity portion and carries a maximum total value of $375 million. The contract begins with a 12-month base period of performance and is followed by a 26-month option, a 14-month option and two 12-month options.

Spacecraft design will be completed during the base period, after which the exercise of options will provide for the development, launch, and in-space flight demonstration. The flight demonstration will last as long as one year, during which the spacecraft will be fully owned and operated by Maxar. Following a successful demonstration, NASA will have the option to acquire the spacecraft for use as the first element of the Gateway. NASA is targeting launch of the power and propulsion element on a commercial rocket in late 2022. [emphasis mine]

It is fixed-price, and Maxar will own the design with the ability to sell it to others as well as NASA.

The problem is that Maxar will not be building something that others might want. Their only customer will be NASA, and the design will be focused entirely to NASA’s needs in building their Gateway boondoggle. I am pessimistic anything productive for the future of space travel will come from this.

Moreover, the highlighted words reveal the corrupt nature of this deal. Development could go on forever, and should it do so, do not be surprised if the contract’s fixed price nature gets changed.

Our federal government, including NASA, is very corrupt. They are not interested in the nation’s interest, only the interests of themselves and the contractors they work hand-in-glove with in DC.

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Trump give Barr authority to declassify documents related to campaign spying by Obama

President Trump yesterday gave Attorney General William Barr the authority to declassify any documents related to the campaign spying by the Obama administration that occurred during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump also ordered all intelligence agencies to cooperate completely with Barr’s investigation, an order that common sense says should be unnecessary, as Barr is their boss and they should therefore always cooperate with him. However, we live in interesting times, when federal employees now think they have the right to tell elected officials what to do, and to even act to overthrow those elected officials if they don’t like them.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats who repeatedly scream for transparency and the public release of all documents are protesting Trumps orders.

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House ignores request for more NASA money for moon mission

A House committee today approved a NASA budget that ignored the Trump administration’s request for $1.6 billion more money to support its attempt to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2024.

Instead, the committee shifted more money into earth science and Gateway.

Whether this budget is what ends up being enacted remains to be seen. It does appear however that Trump will have great trouble funding his Moon project. Sadly, that lack of funding does not mean the overall federal budget is coming under control. On the contrary, it appears the Democratic-controlled House simply wants to spend lots of money, but on different things.

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London and art

Trafalgar Square

Yesterday we took the train to London and settled into a really super modern hi-tech hotel dubbed “The Hub by Premier Inns.” It is also the crummiest hotel I have ever stayed at. I picked it because it was well recommended and was located less than a block from Trafalgar Square, shown on the right. And yes, it is new and fancy, with motion-controlled LED lights and fancy touch buttons and aps to control everything. It is also tiny, cramped, the controls are too limited and too difficult to decipher, even for a science journalist like myself. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, as it was reasonable in price considering the location. I still dislike the hi-tech nature of the room that only ended up limiting our convenience and comfort.

And the hotel didn’t even have an ice machine!

National Gallery in London

Today we wandered about the square, watching the street performers (buskers in British lingo) and admiring the statues and sights. Then we went into the National Gallery to enjoy some of humanity’s greatest art, as were a class of elementary school children as shown in the picture on the right.

The museum was packed with people from everywhere. I saw Japanese, Chinese, and Israeli tour groups. I saw people of all types clearly from London, including several school groups like the one to the right.

Interestingly, these crowds were all found in the permanent exhibits. One temporary exhibit we wandered through, art by an modern abstract artist by the name of Sean Scully, was practically empty.
» Read more

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Trump walks out of infrastrucure negotiations

President Trump immediately walked out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) yesterday, saying he will hold no discussions on infrastructure as long as the Democrats continue their investigations into his administration.

Trump’s anger appears to have been sparked by comments Pelosi made earlier in the day when she said, “We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up” by blocking White House aides from giving testimony and responding to document requests from ongoing congressional investigations.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump insisted Wednesday.

The article suggests that Trump planned this as a way to get out of the negotiations. Maybe, but I think his goal is to get the investigations stopped. He is quite willing to make a deal to spend trillions that we don’t have on “infrastructure,” as are the Democrats. By walking out he is putting pressure on the Democratic leadership to shut those investigations down in order to get him to work out a deal to spend the money they also want.

The result, for the moment, is that we have no infrastructure deal. I hope this stalemate lasts forever.

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America’s 10 largest cities drowning in debt

The coming dark age: According to a new report [pdf] from an independent government watchdog, the United States’ ten largest cities are all deep in debt, with taxpayer burdens for that debt ranging from $119K to $13K per taxpayer.

Almost all the cities on this list are and have been run by Democrats for decades, with Democratic strongholds Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia holding the four top spots. Nor have the Republicans been innocent or responsible. In cities where they had some control, such as New York when Rudy Giuliani was mayor, little was done to rein in spending. Still, Democrats have held the bulk of political control in big American cities for the last century, so much of this debt comes from their policies.

The watchdog group that issued the report, Truth in Accounting, also focused on the dishonest accounting practices used by all these cities to hide their debt.

“The largest cities in the U.S. issue so-called ‘Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports,’ but most of them aren’t so comprehensive,” Bill Bergman, Truth in Accounting’s director of research, told Fox News via email.

The report questioned if cities’ annual financial reports “comprehensively track municipal accounts such as school districts, transit agencies, utility systems, etc.” Annual financial reports “for a city doesn’t present the full picture of their fiscal position, and is deceptive to the public,” the report said.

None of this is news. Politicians of all strips at every level of government have been faking their accounting for decades to allow them to spend more money than they have. The result is debt across the board, at every level of American government, with the worst debt held by our out-of-control federal government.

Are the politicians to blame? Yes, but the source of their corruption really falls on the voters, who have favored such politicians because they have been giving money away to those taxpayers. Rather than be responsible citizens, Americans for the past half century have been greedy and selfish, using their governments to get as many free handouts as possible. Or they have been willing to countenance big payouts to unions and others, sometimes for naive idealism, and sometimes because of pure laziness to pay attention to such matters.

Can the U.S. clean up this mess before the whole house of cards collapses? That remains unknown. Trump’s election hints that the voters might be willing to try, but then, Trump is no budget-cutting hawk. He believes in lots of government spending as well, from NASA to infrastructure. It remains to be seen whether the American public has begun to recognize this unsustainable situation. My sense is that they have become aware, but are still unwilling to make the hard sacrifices necessary to fix the problem. For example, the worst political offenders here remain the Democrats, and there is absolutely no indication of them losing power in the big urban cities named in this report. The debt grows, but the voters continue to support them.

Until we see a full house-cleaning in the Democratic Party, the situation is simply not going to improve.

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