Tag Archives: Congress

Democratic doxxer threatened to also release the health data of the children of Republicans

They’re coming for you next: The Democratic congressional aide who has been arrested for releasing private information of at least three Republican elected officials also threatened to release the health information and social security numbers of their children if anyone turned him in.

Jackson Cosko, who recently worked for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, was arrested for allegedly posting the personal information (or “doxxing”) of a number of senators including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah on Wikipedia — with information such as their home addresses and phone numbers. Graham, Lee and Hatch’s information was published on Thursday.

According to a sworn statement by Capitol Police Captain Jason Bell, a witness Tuesday saw Cosko at a computer in a senator’s office, where he used to work, a day after two other unnamed senators’ information had been put on Wikipedia. Cosko worked for other Democratic senators including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and former Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. While earlier reports identified Cosko as an intern for Jackson Lee, his lawyer said that he was working as a fellow in her office, paid by an outside institution.

Sources familiar with the case tell Fox News Cosko was in Sen. Hassan’s office, where he was caught using a login he was not authorized to use. Cosko earlier was let go by Senator Hassan’s office. A spokesman for Hassan says she “strongly denounces the alleged actions.”

According to Bell’s statement, Cosko is alleged to have been confronted by the staffer and then walked out. Hours later the witness received an email from “livefreeorpwn@gmail.com” saying: “If you tell anyone I will leak it all. Emails signal conversations gmails. Senators children’s health information and socials.”

While his actions have been disavowed by the Democratic lawmakers for whom he worked, his actions reveal once again the fascist and hateful culture that presently permeates the entire left. They are willing to do you real harm, and if that doesn’t make you shut up and stop opposing them, they will go after your children.

Don’t believe me? You still think this is only a rare exception? Then read this letter from the wife of Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky):

Paul wrote Wednesday that she and her family had “experienced violence and threats of violence at a horrifying level” over the past 18 months. “I now keep a loaded gun by my bed,” she said. “Our security systems have had to be expanded. I have never felt this way in my life.”

For decades the Democrats have allowed this kind of behavior to go unpunished. It is now getting out of their control. Bad things are coming. If you don’t tow the leftist line, get ready. Be prepared. You will need to defend not only yourself, but all your loved ones.

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Bill increases funding to FAA space office, adds other provisions

A bill about to be approved by Congress increases funding to the FAA Office of Commercial Transportation while also requiring that office to create several new regulatory positions.

The bill authorizes a significant increase in spending for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, from the $22.6 million it received in fiscal year 2018 to a little more than $33 million in 2019, growing to nearly $76 million in 2023. Appropriators, though, have not matched that authorized increase for 2019, with House and Senate versions of spending bills funding the FAA offering just under $25 million for AST.

The reauthorization bill includes several policy provisions associated with commercial spaceflight as well. One would require the FAA to designate an official within its air traffic organization to serve as the single point of contact for working with the head of AST on airspace issues associated with commercial launch activity.

Another provision establishes an “Office of Spaceports” within AST intended to support commercial licensing of launch sites and develop policies to promote infrastructure improvements at such facilities. It also requires AST to develop a report within one year of the bill’s enactment on spaceport policies, including recommendations on government actions to “support, encourage, promote, and facilitate greater investments in infrastructure at spaceports.” It directs the Government Accountability Office to prepare a separate report on ways to provide federal support for spaceports.

The bill creates a category of commercial spaceflight vehicles known as “space support vehicles” that cover parts of launch vehicles systems flying for other purposes, such as training or testing. Such vehicles would include the aircraft used by air-launch systems. The bill allows commercial flights of space support vehicles without the need for a full-fledged airworthiness certificate from the FAA.

It is hard to say if these provisions will help or hurt the growth of commercial space. It does appear that Congress’s goal was to help, but their methods always include more spending and greater bureaucracy.

The article also reviews a number of bills not yet agreed to by Congress that would address the regulation of Earth observation satellites as well as satellite servicing. It quotes a number of industry experts supporting the laws being proposed, but once again, it is unclear if those laws would help or hurt. My previous review of one of these laws presently working its way through the House was decidedly mixed. It will clarify and simplify many of the regulatory problems that presently exist, while creating more bureaucracy.

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Republican Congress boosts NIH spending, rejecting Trump proposed cuts

Failure theater: The Republicans in Congress have given the NIH a significant boost in spending, rejecting both Trump’s proposed cuts and reorganization proposals.

Congress has approved a $2 billion raise, to $39.1 billion, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in a 2019 spending bill approved by House of Representatives and Senate negotiators last night.

As expected, the 5% boost matches the Senate’s proposed spending level and surpasses a $1.25 billion increase in a draft bill passed by the House. President Donald Trump’s administration had requested $34.8 billion for the fiscal year that begins 1 October. This is the fourth year in a row that NIH has received a substantial increase, after more than a decade of flat budgets.

Trump had also proposed shifting three Health & Human Service agencies into NIH. Congress ignored this.

This illustrates the bankrupt nature of the Republicans in Congress. Don’t believe them when they argue they want to limit government. They are lying. They pass tax cuts to make you happy and vote for them, then turn around and pour money we don’t have at their Washington friends.

This also illustrates the bankrupt nature of the American voter. We gobble up tax cuts, either ignore or celebrate Congress’s out-of-control spending, and then vote for the elected officials who do this.

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Trump administration goes all in for LOP-G

The swamp wins! In a speech today Vice President Mike Pence made it clear that the Trump administration is giving its full endorsement to the construction of the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), as well as SLS and Orion. These big boondoggles, which will trap us in lunar orbit while the Chinese set up lunar bases and take possession of the surface and its resources, are going forward, with both the president’s support as well as Congress’s.

Providing further evidence that the Trump administration has bought into these projects, in his introduction of Pence NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine gave a big public endorsement to the executive secretary of the National Space Council, Scott Pace, a man who has been a big supporter of these projects of the bureaucracy. Pace believes we need these projects, despite the fact that they have been under construction for two decades, have cost an ungodly amount, and have literally flown nowhere.

Pence also said that they intend to have the space force a reality by 2020, and also hinted that the Trump administration is making a careful review on the future of ISS.

Overall, the speech was a big endorsement for government space, in every way, with the private sector designed not to lead as free Americans following their personal dreams but to follow, servants of the desires of the government and its wishes.

If you want to listen to about 30 minutes of pro-government promotion, I expect it will be posted here at some point.

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Warren: Federal government must have more control over large corporations

They’re coming for you next: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) this week proposed a new law that would give the federal government more control and power over large corporations.

The bill would create a new bureaucracy, would require all corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue to get that bureaucracy’s permission to operate, and require that 40% of their corporate boards be elected by employees.

To translate this into plain language, this is simply a power grab by Democrat Warren, which of course is par for the course for any Democrat. Give them the power to run things, and everything will be perfect! We can see what they mean simply by looking at the past fascist efforts of socialists in Venezuela, the Soviet Union, East Germany, North Korea, and every other socialist paradise where all power was centralized into the hands of ideologues like Warren.

Don’t you want the same here for America?

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Congress nixes Space Force, for now

You can put your decoder rings back in the attic! The Defense authorization for fiscal year 2019 that has now been negotiated between the House and Senate does not include any mention of Trump’s proposed “Space Force.”

President Trump himself has taken center stage in advocating for a Space Force. While the terms Space Corps and Space Force are sometimes used interchangeably, Space Corps notionally refers to an entity with the Air Force while Space Force is separate from the Air Force. Trump made clear last month what he wants: “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal.”

The President cannot accomplish that on his own, however. Congress must authorize and fund a new service. Because of the attention Trump is bringing to the issue, one question was whether the NDAA conference committee might say something about it even though the House- and Senate-passed bills did not.

The answer is no. While the conference report adopts the House provision requiring creation of a U.S. Space Command within USSTRATCOM to carry out joint space warfighting and addresses a number of other space issues, it does not require creation of a Space Force or Space Corps (or another alternative, a Space Guard similar to the Coast Guard). The conference report does require the Secretary of Defense to develop a space warfighting policy and a plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for space as a warfighting domain (Sec. 1607).

In other words, Congress has punted, for the moment. They have not said no to the idea, but they also are not ready to create a new armed force devoted expressly to fighting war in space.

Makes sense to me. A military force in space is going to be necessary, without question and especially because of the terms imposed on us by the Outer Space Treaty. It just isn’t the time yet for such a thing.

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IT specialist Imran Awan solicited a bribe from at least one vendor

More corruption at Justice: IT specialist Imran Awan, while working for many Democrats in Congress, solicited a bribe from at least one IT vendor.

Democratic IT aide Imran Awan solicited a bribe from an IT vendor in exchange for contracting opportunities with the office of then-Rep. Gwen Graham, the vendor alleged to The Daily Caller News Foundation, adding that Imran spoke to him in detail about his alleged financial fraud schemes in the House.

The Department of Justice knows of the source — the longtime owner of a major House IT company — and what he is prepared to testify, a high-level official in Jeff Sessions’ DOJ with knowledge of the investigation confirmed. But the vendor said no law enforcement ever even tried to interview them. [emphasis mine]

Read it all. The vendor also was aware of the falsification of invoices to funnel money and equipment to the Awan family illegally. Yet, no one from Justice has ever felt the need to gather that evidence.

One more detail: Graham is running for Florida governor. If you are in Florida, expect a lot of corruption should she win.

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Were Democratic staffers working with Awan brothers to steal equipment?

New testimony suggests that Democratic congressional staffers were working with Awan brothers to steal significant amounts of equipment from their offices.

Rep. Yvette Clarke’s deputy chief of staff [Wendy Anderson] came into the office on a Saturday in December 2015 and caught the New York Democrat’s part-time IT aide, Abid Awan, rummaging through the congresswoman’s work area with new iPods and other equipment strewn around the room, according to a House document and interviews with Hill staff.

Wendy Anderson told Abid to get out of the office, the document said. She told Capitol Hill investigators that she soon suspected Clarke’s chief of staff, Shelley Davis, was working with Abid on a theft scheme, multiple House staffers with knowledge of the situation told The Daily Caller News Foundation. They also said that Anderson pushed for Abid’s firing.

But Clarke did not fire Abid until six months after the congresswoman formally acknowledged that $120,000 in equipment was missing, records show — not until after House investigators independently announced a review that would potentially catch financial discrepancies. Even then, Anderson told investigators she believed another top staffer in Clarke’s office was subverting their efforts, a House staffer with knowledge of the investigation said.

Read it all. The article outlines numerous facts that once again suggest deep corruption in many of congressional Democratic offices. It also provides a hint as to why the Democrats, led by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have acted to stonewall the investigation. Either they are being blackmailed by the Awan brothers, or were partners-in-crime with them.

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House Judiciary Committee calls for impeachment or contempt for Rosenstein

On a partyline vote the House Judiciary Committee today passed a resolution requiring Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein turn over their requested documents in seven days or face impeachment or contempt.

I don’t think Rosenstein is worried, yet. The resolution doesn’t mean much, since the wimpy Republican leadership in the House has to get it passed there, and then it has to pass in the Senate, filled with even more cowardly Republicans and the obstructionist Democrats. However, this increasing pressure might make Trump reconsider Rosenstein’s employment. Or it might make Trump force Rosenstein to turn over the documents, as he is constitutionally required to do.

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Senate kills House bill to cut $15 billion from passed $300 billion spending deal

Failure theater: The Senate today killed a House bill that would have cut $15 billion from the $300 billion spending deal passed in March.

In a 48-50 vote, senators failed to discharge the measure from committee. A majority vote was needed.

GOP Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine) joined 48 members of the Democratic caucus in voting against bringing up the bill. “My belief … is that it’s the job of Congress to comb through these accounts and that’s what we do on the appropriations committee,” Collins said.

The vote is a blow to conservatives and the White House, who pushed the package in response to backlash from the GOP base over a mammoth rescissions package passed in March.

I wish Burr and Collins would simply switch parties. At least that way there would be no way for them to fool anyone into thinking they believe in smaller government or controlling spending.

The bill was garbage anyway, as it really did little to really promote smaller government or controlled spending. All it did was give House Republicans a fake talking point when they campaign for re-election in the fall. “I fought to cut the budget!” they will scream, citing the House vote that passed the bill, even though they all knew the bill did little, and that it was almost certain the Senate would kill it.

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House passes tiny $15 billion budget cut

The corruption runs deep: House today passed, by the tiniest of margins, a minuscule $15 billion budget cut designed to make believe they are being fiscally responsible after their passage of a two year budget deal that added $300 billion of additional spending to the already bankrupt federal budget.

They will break their arms patting themselves on the back about this bill, even though they also know there is almost no chance this bill will make it through the Senate.

In other words, this is failure theater. After passing the bloated budget deal the Republicans in Congress went home to discover that the voters meant it when they said they wanted the budget slashed. They are now trying to manufacture a lie that says they are trying to cut the budget. They are lying however. They have no intention of trimming the budget. In this matter they are as corrupt as the Democrats.

And they wonder why we got Trump.

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Former staffer of Senate intelligence committee indicted for leaks

The corruption runs deep: The retired director of security for the Senate intelligence committee was arrested today after being indicted for leaking committee information to the press and then lying about it.

It appears he was having an affair with a reporter and feeding her information.

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Homeland Security to track bloggers and journalists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New NOAA weather satellite has serious problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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29 Republicans and all Democrats vote to kill Senate balanced budget proposal

Apropos of my post earlier today: In the Senate yesterday twenty-nine Republicans and every Democrat voted to kill a balanced budget proposal offered by Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky).

Paul’s plan would have reduced spending by $404.8 billion in the fiscal year that starts October 1. After the budget balanced in five years, spending would be held to 1 percent increases per year, resulting in a budget that was 14.6 percent bigger in 10 years that it is now.

This very mild proposal to trim the equivalent of a penny from every dollar spent was too much for these spend-thrifts. The article at the link lists all 29 Republicans who voted against it, all of whom were liars when they said during their campaigns that they support a balanced budget, fiscal responsibility, and smaller government.

Let me repeat it so no one has any doubts about what I mean: These Senators are liars. They didn’t misconstrue the facts. Their statements weren’t misguided. They simply lied during their campaigns, and they have so done repeatedly.

The only saving grace about this story is that the trend has been to replace these crooks. Since 2010 the voters have been favoring candidates who mean what they say, on both sides of the aisle. And the result has been an increase in the numbers of real conservatives in Congress. Their influence is growing.

We also might be getting outright socialists and communists elected on the Democratic side, but at least they are being honest about who they are, unlike the lying Democrats who in the past were also outright socialists or communists, but tried to hide their beliefs behind equally offensive lies.

This honesty will maybe finally allow us to deal with the issue of the out-of-control federal budget. Or it will bankrupt us with more legislators willing to spend money like it is water. In the latter case, however, the result will be because this is what the American people choose to do, rather than being deceived by their leaders. And if that is what we choose, then at least we will deserve the hell we bring down upon ourselves.

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The federal government’s blank check

Three articles this morning about actions taken by Congress in connection with the budgets for NASA and NOAA illustrate the bankrupt nature of our federal government.

The first story describes how several legislators from the House Appropriations Committee have inserted amendments into their budget bill that will restore a $10 million NASA climate monitoring program that the Trump administration had shut down.

The second story describes how that same budget bill generously funds both NASA and NOAA at levels far above their own requests.
» Read more

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Contamination found in shuttle engines to be used by SLS

Now we know why the first launch is likely delayed: It appears that contamination has been found in the used and refurbished shuttle engines that the Space Launch System is using.

A “routine quality assurance inspection” of the core stage, he said, discovered contamination in tubing in the engine section of the core stage, which hosts the vehicle’s four RS-25 main engines and associated systems. That contamination turned out to be paraffin wax, which is used to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured but is supposed to be cleaned out before shipment.

“The prime contractor determined the vendor was not fully cleaning the tubes and it was leaving residue in the tubes,” McErlean said. “This was retained as a requirement in the prime contractor’s spec, but it was not properly carried out.” Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, but he did not disclose the vendor who provided the contaminated tubing.

The contamination was initially found in a single tube, he said, but later checks found similar residue in other tubes. All the tubing in the core stage is now being inspected and cleaned, a process he said is not straightforward because of the “mass of tubing” in the engine section and also because cleaning is a “non-trivial process.”

Some obvious questions immediately arise:

1. These engines were previously flown on the space shuttles, numerous times. How did the paraffin wax, used “to keep the tubes from crimping while being manufactured,” remain in the tubes during all those shuttle flights?

2. Assuming the tubes were a new addition or replacement during the refurbishing process, it still seems astonishing that a subcontractor could be so lax. Did they really believe the wax did not need to be thoroughly cleaned?

3. While they have admitted that they will likely have to delay the launch because of issues with the core stage, why do they deny this contamination problem is the cause? More important, how much is it costing to fix? And how much time are they actually losing to fix it?

4. Finally, this is only one of many similar problems that we have seen with this entire project. Boeing and NASA have gotten so far about $40 billion to build this rocket, and have been working on it since 2006, more than a dozen years ago. Furthermore, they supposedly are building it using shuttle equipment in a Saturn rocket-type design in order to save money and time. Instead, they have wasted billions and taken more than three times longer than it took us to win World War II to get to a point where the program still has not flown.

Does anyone really believe this project is anything but a huge boondoggle? And if so, can they please tell me how it will be possible for the United States to really explore the heavens with a project run this incompetently?

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ULA picks Aerojet Rocketdyne engine for Vulcan upper stage

Capitalism in space: ULA has chosen an Aerojet Rocketdyne engine to power the upper stage of its next generation rocket Vulcan.

The company has not yet made a decision on the engine for the first stage, where Blue Origin’s BE-4 still appears favored over Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine. This decision on the upper stage could partly be a political move, giving Aerojet the upper stage in order to make it easier to give the lower stage to Blue Origin.

ULA is forced to play politics here because politicians are involved. A number of power members of Congress want Aerojet Rocketdyne to get the business, and ULA risks offending these legislators should it abandon that company entirely.

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House committee boosts NASA budget while micromanaging its projects

A NASA budget proposal released earlier this week by the House Appropriations Committee boosts NASA’s budget to $21.5 billion, while also micro-managing some of NASA’s planetary projects.

The bill, though, does specify funding for some programs. It calls for spending $545 million on the Europa Clipper mission and $195 million for a follow-on lander. NASA requested only $264.7 million for Europa Clipper and nothing for the lander.

NASA said in the budget proposal it was seeking to launch Europa Clipper in 2025 on a commercial vehicle, while the bill calls for the use of the Space Launch System and a launch by 2022. In its budget proposal, NASA estimated needing $565 million in 2019 to keep Europa Clipper on track for a 2022 launch but warned of “potential impacts to the rest of the Science portfolio” if funded at that level.

The bill also included $3.5 billion for SLS/Orion, continuing that boondoggle as it continues to fall behind schedule and go over budget. Also in the bill was a half billion dollars for LOP-G, confirming Congress’s desire to get this new boondoggle running, even though the rocket and capsule necessary to fly it, SLS/Orion, hasn’t even come close to completion after almost two decades of work and almost $40 billion so far in spending.

Overall, this NASA budget proposal illustrates once again why we have Trump. Congress is corrupt, is only interested in distributing money to its corporate buddies, and doesn’t care if that cash ever produces anything. In fact, it appears they prefer that nothing ever get built, as a real space effort would carry risk, and we can’t have that!

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House passes law reforming commercial space licensing rules

The House yesterday passed a new law to reform the commercial space licensing rules.

Essentially, the bill shifts a majority of commercial space regulation to the Department of Commerce, and matches somewhat closely the recommendations being put forth by the Trump administration.

The bill appears to be almost identical to the version I analyzed in great detail in an op-ed for The Federalist last year. It has the same positives and negatives. While it definitely aims at simplifying the licensing process for space (abolishing such agencies as NOAA’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs that recently tried to claim it had the right to license all photograph of Earth from space.), it does not appear to completely make Commerce that “one-stop shop” for all licensing, allowing the FAA and FCC to retain their space licensing responsibilities. Moreover, it appears, as I noted in my op-ed, to avoid the more essential legal problems, such as the Outer Space Treaty, that hamper private space today and will hamper private space even more in the future.

Regardless, it does appear that the turf war over licensing between Commerce and the FAA is over. Though the law still must get through the Senate, it does appear that Commerce has mostly won. It will get the majority of this bureaucratic bauble. What that bureaucracy will do with it, however, is the real question.

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Justice Dept Inspector General makes criminal referral against McCabe

While Robert Mueller desperately searches (without success) for some crime he can pin on Donald Trump, an actual criminal referral has been issued by the inspector general of the Justice Department (an Obama appointee) against fired FBI official Andrew McCabe.

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog has sent a criminal referral for fired FBI official Andrew McCabe to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. The move follows a recent DOJ inspector general report that found McCabe leaked a self-serving story to the press and later lied about it to then-Director James Comey and federal investigators, prompting Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire him on March 16.

A source confirmed to Fox News that the referral was sent.

This story follows yesterday’s where almost a dozen members of Congress called for criminal investigations by the Justice Department against Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and a number of other FBI officials involved in abusing their positions of power to spy on the presidential campaign of their political opponents. It appears that the some people in Washington are finally getting up the nerve to actually consider prosecuting these violators of the Constitution and the rule of law.

As I said yesterday, in a sane world the entire journalist world would go nuts covering the recommendation that a former Secretary of State and presidential candidate as well as the fired head of the FBI both be investigated for criminal activity. In the past this story would garner giant screaming headlines and wall-to-wall coverage. We no longer live in a sane world however.

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NASA might scale down the first manned SLS flight

In order to meet its present schedule and budget, NASA is considering scaling down its first manned SLS flight in 2023 by using the same smaller version of SLS that will fly the first unmanned test flight in 2020.

The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA’s main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew — a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won’t be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. “If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can’t do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS],” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. “The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS,” a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

The problem here really is that Congress keeps throwing money at this boondoggle. It will fly, but it will never be able to make the exploration and colonization of the solar system possible. It is simply too expensive and has a far too slow launch rate. Instead, it will allow for NASA to do stunts in space, while elected officials can preen and prance about, bragging about the jobs they brought to their districts.

And the nation’s debt will grow, and grow, and grow.

I hold to my prediction that private companies will bypass SLS in the 2020s, doing far more for far less. The differences between them will become downright embarrassing to SLS and Congress.

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44 Democrats waived background checks for Imran Awan

Every Democrat in the House who hired Pakistani Imran Awan to run their computers, 44 in total, also exempted him from the required background checks.

All of them appear to have waived background checks on Imran Awan and his family members, even though the family of server administrators could collectively read all the emails and files of 1 in 5 House Democrats, and despite background checks being recommended for such positions, according to an inspector general’s report. The House security policy requires offices to fill out a form attesting that they’ve initiated background checks, but it also includes a loophole allowing them to simply say that another member vouched for them.

Among the red flags in Abid’s background were a $1.1 million bankruptcy; six lawsuits against him or a company he owned; and at least three misdemeanor convictions including for DUI and driving on a suspended license, according to Virginia court records. Public court records show that Imran and Abid operated a car dealership referred to as CIA that took $100,000 from an Iraqi government official who is a fugitive from U.S. authorities. Numerous members of the family were tied to cryptic LLCs such as New Dawn 2001, operated out of Imran’s residence, Virginia corporation records show. Imran was the subject of repeated calls to police by multiple women and had multiple misdemeanor convictions for driving offenses, according to court records.

This story is particularly disturbing. Either all 44 Democrats were incredibly stupid, or they actually wanted Awan capable of passing classified information to his sources in Pakistan. Either way, everyone of these Democrats is culpable, and if the latter is true, they are also traitors.

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Congress pumps pork money to NASA in omnibus budget

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

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

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

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Trump mentions interest in creating military “Space Force”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NASA’s interim administrator to retire in April

NASA’s interim administrator, Robert Lightfoot, has announced that he plans to retire in April.

Lightfoot’s retirement leaves NASA without any leadership, as the Senate has shown no interest in confirming Trump’s candidate for the position, Congressmen Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma).

All 49 Democrats in the Senate are expected to vote against to Bridenstine’s confirmation, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is also reportedly also opposed, Space News reported. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) is not in Washington as he undergoes treatment for cancer, leaving Bridenstine short of the 50 votes needed for confirmation.

Bridenstine is not a perfect choice, and I have reservations about his commitment to commercial space, but the reasons for the Democratic opposition is, as far as I can tell, the same as all their other opposition to every other Trump or Republican proposal: pure spite. “We hate it because of YOU!”

The lack of a politically appointed administrator at NASA however is not necessarily a bad thing, considering that the important stuff happening right now is not at NASA but in the private sector. Having NASA adrift for awhile might actually work to weaken NASA’s pork projects, SLS and Orion, that are in direct competition with private space.

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The ever-receding Space Launch System

Today a story at Space News reveals that NASA has decided to forgo construction of a second mobile launcher for its Space Launch System (SLS). Instead, they will modify the one they have.

The mobile launch platform, originally built for the Constellation Program and currently being modified to support the SLS, will be used for one launch of the initial Block 1 version of the SLS, designated Exploration Mission (EM) 1. That platform will then have to be modified to accommodate the taller Block 1B version that will be used on second and subsequent SLS missions.

Agency officials said late last year they were considering starting work on a second mobile launch platform designed from the beginning to accommodate the Block 1B version of the SLS. They argued that doing so could shorten the gap of at least 33 months between the first and second SLS missions caused in part by the modification work to the existing platform.

The first mobile launcher was built and modified for an estimated $300 to $500 million. NASA obviously has decided that the politics of building a second won’t fly. The cost is too great, as would be the political embarrassment of admitting they spent about a half a billion for a launcher they will only use once. (That this mobile launcher is leaning we will leave aside for the moment.)

What this does however is push back the first manned SLS/Orion launch. At present, the first unmanned mission is likely to go in June 2020 (though don’t be surprised if that date sees further delays). If it takes 33 months after that launch to reconfigure the launcher for the first manned mission, that manned mission cannot occur any sooner than April 2023. That second launch however is planned to be the first to use SLS’s new upper stage. To put humans on it untested seems foolish, doesn’t it? NASA is going to have to fly an extra mission to test that upper stage, which is going to add further delays to the schedule.

In November I predicted that the first manned SLS/Orion mission would not happen before 2025. At the time it was assumed that the second flight of SLS would have to launch the unmanned Europa Clipper mission, in order to test that upper stage. Now however it appears that the Trump administration wants to shift Europa Clipper to a commercial launch vehicle, probably Falcon Heavy.

This means that either astronauts will be flying on an untested SLS upper stage, or NASA will have to add a test launch in April 2023, followed some time thereafter by that manned mission. Since NASA does not at present have a budget for a third mission, I am not sure what is going to happen here.

What I do know is that SLS is certain to get delayed again. By 2025 we will have paid close to $50 billion for SLS and Orion, and the best we can hope for is a single manned mission. And that one mission will have taken 21 years to go from concept to launch.

This is not how you explore the solar system. With a schedule like this, all SLS and Orion are doing is distributing pork to congressional districts and to the big space companies (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) that are building both. Establishing the United States as a viable space-faring nation is the last thing these players have in mind.

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Parkland Underscores How Americans Pay For Garbage Government While Doing Its Job Ourselves

Link here. Essentially, the article outlines how, at every single level, government in the U.S. is failing, while demanding more money and more power as a reward. Parkland is only a recent single example.

Each day Americans wake up to hear new revelations of government incompetence that enabled the Parkland, Florida school shooting. First it was the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s failure to follow existing protocols to investigate a highly detailed tip that the shooter was planning and had the means to do exactly what he did. The FBI and local police received at least four separate tips warning of the shooters’ plans and means, and local police had received 45 calls summoning them to the family’s home since 2008.

Then we learned of the police officer — the only person initially onsite able to return the shooter’s deadly force and tasked by his salary-paying community with doing precisely that — hesitated for approximately four minutes to enter the high school as students lay dying. Then local sources told reporters three other Broward County police officers joined that onsite officer in hiding behind their vehicles until police from another jurisdiction showed up. Reports say the Broward County police didn’t even follow the others inside.

Then it was that police didn’t know they were watching the wrong security tape, putting them off the shooter’s whereabouts by 20 minutes, leaving a mass murderer to endanger more people longer. To add insult to literal injury, the hesitating onsite school police officer, Scot Peterson, was allowed to resign and will receive a lifetime public pension of approximately $60,000 a year plus benefits.

The list of failures above for Parkland is actually not complete. However, they do provide a metaphor for our government, which functions about as badly in every other area as well. Readers of Behind the Black will of course be aware of SLS/Orion, NASA’s own failed boondoggle that will never get us into space.

What must happen is a major house-cleaning. Many thought Trump would do it. I continue to see Trump as a transitional figure, willing to slash and burn in a few areas (EPA) but not in most other areas (FBI, Justice Department, NOAA, NASA, to name a few). Essentially, almost everyone working in Washington needs to be fired. Many can reapply for the work, but no one should be guaranteed a job.

Unfortunately, I do not see this happening. Instead, I see this cabal in Washington teaming up with corrupt elected officials and a corrupt national press to defend their positions of power, even as they fail again and again to simply do their jobs. Witness for example how so-called conservative Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has teamed up with Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) to criticize the mere suggestion by the Trump administration that ISS will be transitioned to private hands by 2024, no longer getting federal funds.

This is just one example. The power in Washington is deep and profound, and the people who have it will not give it up lightly.

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Off to Israel

I am about to leave on a ten day trip to Israel, which is why I have not commented yet on the Trump budget [pdf] and how it effects NASA and science.

The links above will give you a chance to form your own opinions, and to comment here. I will absorb them myself and post on the subject at some time I think during the trip, though in truth it generally doesn’t matter that much what a president proposes in his budget. Congress makes the decision, and usually ignores the president’s suggestions, especially if such ideas threaten their pork.

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Trump signs two-year budget deal

Big spending wins! The new two-year budget deal, which provides increased spending and eliminates the sequestration budget caps, has been signed into law by President Trump.

I know people might think me insane when I say this, but Trump’s comments upon signing the bill remind me of Ronald Reagan when he signed compromise bills with the Democrats that were not what he really wanted. Trump calls it a victory, but also said this:

“Without more Republicans in Congress, we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want in order to finally, after many years of depletion, take care of our Military,” he wrote. “Sadly, we needed some Dem votes for passage. Must elect more Republicans in 2018 Election!”

Trump continued to praise the bill as a victory, because of the big spending boost to the military. He criticized Democrats for “waste” in the bill. “Costs on non-military lines will never come down if we do not elect more Republicans in the 2018 Election, and beyond,” he said. “This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes.”

Though I strongly think we have plenty of waste in the military as well, and that the Defense Department didn’t need any increases and could have been cut considerably, in many ways Trump’s comments here reflect reality. For the American public to get its federal government under control, that public is going to have to vote out the people who presently run it in an uncontrollable manner. And while there are many establishment Republicans to which this description applies, the vast majority of the legislators who are pushing out-of-control spending are Democrats.

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