Tag Archives: oppression

Kickstarter campaign starts to finance launch of garage-built cubesat

Capitalism in space: PocketQube has initiated a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of its first home-made plastic cubesat.

I have written about this project previously, because it epitomizes the old-fashioned vision of a single guy or gal working in his or her basement or garage to build a new invention. It now appears they are getting close to being ready to launch.

Make sure you watch their video at the first link above. It not only explains what they’ve accomplished so far as well as what they hope to do, it is quite amusing at how it pokes fun at the kind of fake-epic videos we see from NASA, promising big but delivering little. In the case of this project, they are instead promising little, but if they succeed they should deliver big.

This quote from the Kickstarter page though I think reveals once again where the real barriers to commercial space lie:

The biggest risk to the project is licensing. The FCC has placed additional burdens on small satellite operators after an incident earlier this year that resulted in four unlicensed satellites being placed into orbit. Possible delays in our applications could result in Mini-Cubes missing the flight. We do have a backup flight should that happen but it will not launch until 2020 at the earliest.

The quote refers to Swarm’s unlicensed launch of four cubesats in March 2018, and the FCC’s subsequent response, imposing fines and strict reporting requirements on Swarm. It now appears some of those strict reporting requirements have been applied across the board to all cubesat companies, increasing costs and paperwork, and even threatening their viability.

No matter the justification, it is once again the government that stands in the way of the ability of free humans to follow their dreams. I have seen this pattern repeat itself for the last half century, resulting in little space exploration since the Apollo landings. It now stands in the way of a new revolution in commercial space.

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Democratic House threatens Webb cancellation

The House, now controlled by the Democratic Party, has threatened cancellation of the James Webb Space Telescope should that project, already overbudget by $8 billion and 9 years behind schedule, fail to meet its present budget limits.

[The House budget] bill includes the full $304.6 million requested for JWST in 2019, but the report accompanying the bill offered harsh language, and a warning, regarding the space telescope given the cost overruns and schedule delays announced last year.

“There is profound disappointment with both NASA and its contractors regarding mismanagement, complete lack of careful oversight, and overall poor basic workmanship on JWST,” the report states. “NASA and its commercial partners seem to believe that congressional funding for this project and other development efforts is an entitlement, unaffected by failures to stay on schedule or within budget.”

The bill does increase the cost cap for JWST by about $800 million, to a little more than $8.8 billion, to address the latest overruns. “NASA should strictly adhere to this cap or, under this agreement, JWST will have to find cost savings or cancel the mission,” the report states.

I really don’t take this Congressional threat seriously. Our Congress is universally known in Washington as an easy mark for big money. The technique is called a buy-in, where you initially lowball the budget of your project, get it started, and then when it goes overbudget, Congress routinely shovels out the money to continue. Webb is a classic and maybe the worst example of this, but this game has been going on since the 1960s, with no sense that the Congresses of the last half century have had any problem with it.

And I especially don’t take it seriously from the Democrats who, even more than the Republicans, like to shovel money out.

The bankrupt unwillingness of both parties to care for the interest of the country for the past few decades in this matter explains why we have federal debt exceeding $20 trillion.

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Congress and Trump give free paid vacation to federal workers during shutdown

The swamp wins: President Trump yesterday signed a Democratic Party bill guaranteeing the pay for all furloughed federal employees for the time they are either furloughed from work or working now without pay.

The signing of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., requires that all government employees be compensated for “wages lost, work performed, or leave used” during the shutdown, the Whitehouse announced in a news release.

Obviously, it seems just to pay for their time those who have been forced to work without pay. Why those who have not been needed are getting paid however seems very unjust, to the taxpayer. It would seem to me that they should not be paid for work they did not do. More apropos would be to consider removing them from the payroll permanently, as it appears based on this shutdown that most are likely unneeded to begin with.

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Oregon & Washington politicians considering supervision of parents of all newborn babies

They’re coming for you next: The Democratic politicians in both Oregon and Washington are pushing new legislation that would mandate supervision by government health care workers of the parents of all newborn babies.

According to the Beaver Valley Times, “When the program is complete, every new parent — this includes adoptions — would receive a series of two or three visits by someone like a nurse or other health care practitioner. The visits could include basic health screenings for babies; hooking parents up with primary care physicians; linking them to other services; and coordinating the myriad childhood immunizations that babies need.”

The program has been piloted in Lincoln County but has not been tried statewide.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton), who sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee that will hammer out the language of the legislation, has said that universal home visits are a priority for her.

And Oregon is not alone in the push for “universal” home visits. Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted earlier this month, “My budget would also offer universal home visits. This gives every new parent the opportunity to get a visit from a nurse during the first few weeks back home with their newborn to share important information and build confidence.”

While it’s not clear whether either of these programs would be mandatory, the use of the term “universal” suggests that they would. It’s frightening to think about what would happen to parents who refuse such visits.

Read it all. It is obvious to both the author and I that while the present programs are vague about their mandatory nature, the goal is that they will soon become so.

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Boston mayor wants doctors to grill patients about guns

They’re coming for you next: Boston’s liberal mayor want to require doctors to ask patients if they own guns and then lecture them about gun safety.

This act would require medical professionals to ask patients about guns in the home, and bring up the topics of gun safety. The goal, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said, is to identify those at risk for domestic violence, suicide or child access to guns in order to guide people to mental health counseling, resources or other help. “We’re just asking them to help identify ways to save lives,” Gross said.

The fact that a patient owns guns would not be put in their medical record, and is not intended to have physicians help solve crimes.

If my doctor asked me this, I would tell him to jump in a lake. It is none of his business. However, this is clearly aimed at raising the social cost of gun ownership by making society more hostile to it. The next step would be to demand this data be recorded, which would then provide the government a list of gun owners that they can target.

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Iran rocket fails to place satellite in orbit

The new colonial movement: According to their government sources, Iran today tried and failed to place a Earth imaging satellite into orbit with their Simorgh rocket.

The rocket carrying the Payam satellite failed to reach the “necessary speed” in the third stage of its launch, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.

Jahromi said the rocket had successfully passed its first and second stages before developing problems in the third. He didn’t elaborate on what caused the rocket failure but promised that Iranian scientists would continue their work.

I wonder how much of a failure this launch is. If they were testing an ICBM capability, then the successful operation of the first and second stages would likely rank this as a success. And even if their main goal wasn’t ICBM testing, in the end they have done so, as they can apply what they learn here to all military missile technology.

Update: You can see video of the launch at this Iranian press story, along with other details about Iran’s space effort. I found the comments there most educational however. Here’s one sample: “Iran needs to use its space technology to fire invincible hyper-sonic missiles from space at the Jews in Israel.” The comments are all not like this, but there are enough to give you a sense of Iran’s social culture.

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Shutdown update: We don’t need them!

Three stories today illustrate why the longer the government shutdown lasts, the more it will prove that almost every employee presently furloughed is entirely unneeded.

The first story is truly hilarious. Several “experts” lament the possibility that, because of the shutdown, some of NASA’s best scientists and engineers might leave the agency and get good jobs in the private sector. First of all, if they succeed in doing this all power to them. That’s what competition is all about. If they are that good and the private sector wants them, they should go.

Second, who says the private sector will want them? The article notes that the surge in commercial space now gives these employees options, but all those options are in the launch industry, and NASA’s track record there has been dismal, at best. Why would SpaceX want to hire an engineer who has been working on building a single manned Orion capsule for more than a decade, or the SLS rocket for even longer?

The second article illustrates how easy it would be to replace the National Park Service. If people care so much about these parks, they should volunteer to do something to keep them clean. I have already noted how the commercial vendors in the parks have begun paying for cleaning services formerly handled by the Park Service, but this responsibility can be picked up by the general public as well. (I speak from experience, as I spent my Sunday two weeks ago in a Forest Service cave, cleaning its formations of mud put there carelessly by visitors. Nor has this been the only time I have done this kind of volunteer work.)

The third article is an op-ed by an anonymous Trump official, describing quite accurately the uselessness of most government workers. (I consider this description accurate based on my own experience working in the government as well as almost all news stories I have read about government workers.)

The lapse in appropriations is more than a battle over a wall. It is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.

On an average day roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. I wish I could give competitive salaries to them, and no one else. But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don’t feel like doing what they are told, they don’t.

Why would they? We can’t fire them. They avoid attention, plan their weekend, schedule vacation, their second job, their next position, some do this in the same position for more than a decade.

They do nothing that warrants punishment and nothing of external value. That is their workday: errands for the sake of errands; administering, refining, following and collaborating on process. “Process is your friend” is what delusional civil servants tell themselves. Even senior officials must gain approval from every rank across their department, other agencies and work units for basic administrative chores.

Process is what we serve, process keeps us safe, process is our core value. It takes a lot of people to maintain the process. Process provides jobs. In fact, there are process experts and certified process managers who protect the process. Then there are the 5 percent with moxy (career managers). At any given time they can change, clarify or add to the process — even to distort or block policy counsel for the president.

Saboteurs peddling opinion as research, tasking their staff on pet projects or pitching wasteful grants to their friends. Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president’s agenda. This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president’s agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them. Until the shutdown.

Trump right now appears to be doing what I had hoped every previous Republican president had had the courage to do: Allow the shutdown to go on for as long as possible. Not only will it increase the chances Trump can get what he wants, he will clearly demonstrate the amount of waste that permeates our federal government.

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FBI started Trump investigation because they disliked/opposed him; had no evidence

Working for the Democratic Party: New evidence in a NY Times article on Friday revealed that the FBI started its Trump investigation not because they had and evidence but because they opposed his foreign policy and his firing of FBI director James Comey, both issues they have no authority to address under the Constitution.

Key quote:

The latest Times report…provides evidence of a usurpation of constitutional authority to determine foreign policy that belongs not with a politically unaccountable FBI but with the citizens’ elected president.

More here. Read it all. The facts detailed in both articles have actually been quite obvious for more than a year, for those that have any intellectual honesty. These new articles merely confirm them: The FBI hated Trump, and decided it was going to use its power to overturn his legal election.

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30+ students doxxed by leftists simply for attending conservative events

They’re coming for you next: More than thirty University of Texas students have had their personal data published on the web by a leftist antifa organization, simply because those students joined a conservative club or attended a lecture by a conservative.

The doxxers — calling themselves Austin Autonomous Media (AAM) — are a small collective of UT students. Since fall 2018, AAM members have snuck into conservative club meetings, taken photos of attendees, and posted students’ names and emails online. The AAM also typically posts students’ phone numbers and employers. For example, one young woman was doxxed for the crime of attending a pro-Kavanaugh rally. “Call [employer redacted] to get her fired: (512) XXX-XXX” the post said.

Saurabh Sharma, 21, is the president of the UT chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT). Many of Sharma’s cabinet members have been doxxed, and he says the fallout has been immense. (PJ Media is not linking to the doxxing posts to protect students’ privacy). “It hasn’t impacted all our members… but it has discouraged many from staying involved,” Sharma told PJ Media on Monday. Sharma himself was one of the first students to be doxxed, and says the experience has him rattled. His contact information is still online.

“It makes me nervous, walking around campus. I never walk around outside with my phone out. One thing people like to do in Texas is to run up to people and snag their phone,” he said.

In another case, a student’s employer had received “numerous harassing phone calls” after her private contact information was published.

We have only just begun. These fascist thugs are now realizing that they can do this with impunity. As is typical in today’s society, the laws of harassment will not be applied to them, being on the left. They will thus feel emboldened to do worse.

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The man who challenged the government’s postal monopoly

Link here. The story is interesting indeed, and is especially relevant in the context of what SpaceX and Elon Musk have done to force prices down in rocketry. This quote, about the government’s eventual response to the challenge to its postal monopoly, struck a nerve with me.

Constitutional or not, the government defended its monopoly. Six days after Spooner’s company began, Congress introduced a resolution to investigate the establishment of private post offices. Meanwhile, Spooner’s company was booming. As the US postal revenue went down, the government threatened those who were caught serving private mail carriers. In his book, Spooner noted that by March 30, he and his agents were arrested while using a railroad in Maryland to transport letters. Spooner, busy with multiple legal challenges, was released on bail by mid-June ( “Mr. Spooner’s Case.” Newport Mercury, June 15, 1844.)

People had become accustomed to inexpensive mail, and Congress reluctantly acknowledged the need to lower postal rates. Still, officials stressed that “it was not by competition, but by penal enactment, that the private competition was to be put down” (The Congressional Globe, 14. Washington: The Globe Office, 1845, page 206). In March 1845, Congress fixed the rate of postage at five cents within a radius of 500 miles. The post office adopted tactics that private carriers used to increase efficiency, such as requiring prepayment via stamps. These changes turned the post office’s budgetary deficit into a surplus within three years.

It seems that as much as things change, they remain the same.

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Pressure builds on Trump to declare national emergency to fund border wall

The coming dark age: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) joined a growing chorus from the right calling for President Trump to fund and build the border wall by declaring an national emergency.

Trump himself has raised this option, and has even looked into the legality. Whether he will do it remains at this moment unknown.

What is known is that to do such a step would continue the ugly process of increasing the arbitrary power of the president, irrelevant to Congress or elections. This process has been on-going since President Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s, but it accelerated significantly during Obama’s term. If Trump bypasses Congress he will further cement the idea that the President can do whatever he wants, without restrictions.

The eventual result will be a dictatorship, not by Trump but by a future President, in the not too distant future. I say this as a historian who has studied how democratic governments fall. We are heading that way.

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Corrupt Washington moves to permanently fund itself

The coming dark age: A group of Republican Senators have introduced legislation that would make future government shutdowns impossible by creating a permanent continuing resolution should budget negotiations fail.

Currently, when Congress fails to meet a deadline to pass a government funding bill, the agencies which remain unfunded shut down. Often, Congress chooses to pass what’s called a continuing resolution (CR) to delay and extend the deadline to pass funding bills, which keeps funding operations at their current levels. The “End Government Shutdowns Act” would automatically create a continuing resolution for any appropriations bill not passed by Oct. 1, the deadline to pass a bill funding the government for the next fiscal year. In theory, this would allow members of Congress to continue to negotiate over appropriations while keeping the government open.

CR funding would be reduced by 1 percent after 120 days, and would be reduced by another 1 percent every 90 days “until Congress does its job and completes the annual appropriations process,” according to the release announcing the bill.

To put this in plain language, this bill would make permanent all government funding, forever, while taking all power from the voters to influence what the government does. Congress would no longer need to do anything to get its money to its cronies, and no matter what the voters did, the money would still flow. The one percent reduction in funding every 90 days is worthless, a mere bone to make everything think they mean business. It would be years before any government department would feel a pinch from this reduction, and in that time they would easily have the opportunity to get the reduction canceled.

Note that the bill was introduced by Republican senators, including “libertarian” Mike Lee (R-Utah). If this doesn’t demonstrate that the people in Washington, from both parties, and from across the political spectrum, have no interest in the national interest, nothing will.

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Democratic NY mayor promises to redistribute the wealth of citizens

They’re coming for you next: During his state of the city speech today the Democratic mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, promised bluntly to use the force of government to redistribute the wealth of the city’s citizens.

“Brothers and sisters, there’s plenty of money in the world. Plenty of money in this city,” his prepared speech reads. “It’s just in the wrong hands!”

I know whose hands this Democratic thug wants that money redistributed to: himself and his allies. This is what socialists/communists like him always do: steal from people to finance their own power and high class lifestyle.

And if you don’t live in New York City don’t make the mistake of thinking this doesn’t concern you. Politicians like de Blasio now run the Democratic Party, have significant power and control in many states and in Congress (with the willing support of large swaths of the populace), and are moving to institute these same oppressive policies nationwide. These mobs are coming, and they will be moving in on you, wherever you are, very soon.

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FBI union says FBI operations hurt by shutdown

My heart bleeds: The head of the union that represents FBI agents petitioned Congress today, stating that the government shutdown is now beginning to affect FBI operations.

Does this mean they will no longer be able to perform their duties as Democratic Party operatives, spying on Republican candidates and working to void legal elections where Democrats are defeated?

Or does it mean that he fears we may discover that we don’t need them that much, that the work they do is generally pointless and a waste of the taxpayers’ money?

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A visit to the Mexican border

Last night President Trump gave his first prime-time speech to the nation, focused specifically on the hot-button issue of illegal immigration. You can read the full text, with the Democratic response, here. A fair analysis can be read here, which also includes a thorough critique of the press’s mindless partisan reaction.

I usually don’t watch such speeches. I read the transcript afterward, to see if there is any substance there (usually not). It saves time.

What I did do yesterday however was visit the very location that is the subject and focus of these speeches, the border between the United States and Mexico. Diane and I and Earl, a visiting friend from back east, decided to give Earl a taste of international travel by driving down to Nogales to cross the border for lunch.

We do this periodically, not to go sightseeing but buy many of our prescription drugs, which tend to be about 75% cheaper in Mexico and do not require that prescription for purchase. For example, one of our cats has a fungal disease called valley fever which requires giving her a pill twice a day. In the states that drug costs more than $200 for a ninety day supply. In Mexico I can get that same amount for less than $50. (The cost difference illustrates well the mess our Congress has created of our drug industry, since the high cost is directly related to government regulations imposed in the last two decades and topped off by the passage of Obamacare in 2010.)

Anyway, below are some photos from this trip. They give you a sense of what it is like at one of the major populated border crossing points, which by the way and not surprisingly does not much resemble the impression given by our modern mainstream press.
» Read more

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Shutdown and government politics slows some science work

The partial government shutdown appears to be causing problems for some researchers, some of it fake and some of it real.

The article doesn’t put it that way. Instead, it sells the shutdown as a terrible tragedy, blocking all work by scientists, a claim that simply isn’t true if you read the article honestly.

The real problems include cases where the closure of government buildings prevents scientists from accessing their labs or research samples. The fake problems include things like this:

Rattlesnakes, bears, hurricanes, and freezing weather haven’t stopped ecologist Jeff Atkins from taking weekly hikes into Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park for the past 8 years to collect water samples from remote streams. But Atkins is now facing an insurmountable obstacle: the partial shutdown of the U.S. government, in its third week.

Park managers have barred Atkins from entering since 22 December 2018, when Congress and President Donald Trump failed to agree on a deal to fund about one-quarter of the federal government, including the National Park Service. That has shut down the sampling, part of a 40-year-old effort to monitor how the streams are recovering from the acid rain that poisoned them in past decades.

There is no reason this scientist can’t enter the park and get his samples. In fact, Trump administration policy has kept the national parks open, even if no one is working there. I am thus very suspicious of the claim that he is “barred” from entering.

Then there are claims that government scientists are forbidden from attending conferences. Bah. They aren’t slaves. If the conference is that important, they should go on their own dime. And if they aren’t willing to go, it makes me suspect their work is not that important. In fact, I know this, as I have watched many government scientists attend conferences merely to tout the wonderful things their government agency is accomplishing, not to really report on science.

The article also makes a big deal about the loss of pay to these individual scientists. My heart bleeds. For one thing, as government workers they are generally paid at a far higher rate, with many more benefits, than most taxpayers, who for the past decade have been suffering far worst economic times. These government scientists can afford the loss of pay for a few weeks.

For another, based on what has happened after all other previous shutdowns, Congress will approve their pay during this time, meaning this shutdown is really nothing more than an extra paid vacation for them.

I thus find myself having little sympathy for these scientists. In fact, the facts in this article make me inclined to think the taxpayer might benefit from getting rid of them all.

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Unmanned test flight of manned Dragon delayed again

Elon Musk has now confirmed that the first unmanned test flight of the manned Dragon capsule has been delayed, and is now scheduled for sometime next month.

SpaceX is about a month away from launching its first commercial crew mission, the company’s founder, Elon Musk, tweeted this weekend. This will be a demonstration flight, without humans on board.

Officially, NASA had been holding to a January 17 launch date, but that has become untenable due to ongoing work to resolve technical issues, two sources said, as well as the partial government shutdown. More than 90 percent of the space agency’s employees are presently furloughed during the shutdown, which is affecting the agency’s ability to make final approvals for the launch. Some key government officials are continuing to work on the program without pay.

As far as I can tell, the “technical issues” are bureaucratic maneuvers by NASA designed solely to delay the launch. The article makes a big deal about the risks of this first test flight, as if none of its systems have ever flown before. That is absurd, While Dragon has been significantly modified, this can hardly be called a first flight for this capsule or rocket.

I repeat: The launch will occur on a SpaceX launchpad, run entirely by SpaceX employees. The only time NASA employees need get involved is during the docking procedures, and right now those employees at mission control and on ISS have been deemed essential and are working. If Trump ordered it, this mission could fly, even during this partial government shutdown.

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Private businesses take over services to keep Yellowstone functioning

The private businesses that make their living from tourism at Yellowstone have picked up the tab for all services the National Park Service is no longer doing because of the the government shut down.

Xanterra Parks and Resorts, which runs the only hotels inside Yellowstone that remain open during the winter, is leading the effort to cover the $7,500 daily tab for keeping the roads plowed and the snowmobile trails groomed during the shutdown, according to NPR. Thirteen other private businesses that offer tours of the park are chipping in $300 a day to help cover that expense.

Meanwhile, Xanterra has some of its own employees assigned to clean park bathrooms during the shutdown, and snowmobile tour guides are packing their own toilet paper for customers to use.

These private businesses have a financial self-interest in keeping the park clean and functioning. And they also have an incentive to get the job done as efficiently as possible. In fact, they are demonstrating how little we need much of the park service.

I imagine similar things are occurring in many other national parks and forests. And if they are not, they should be. And those cases where their aren’t private businesses to pick up the slack, the local state governments should move in. They too have a financial incentive to keep these natural wonders open and unharmed.

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Portland State University moves to punish professor for uncovering bad scholarship

They’re coming for you next: Portland State University has moved to punish one of its professor who participated in a project to uncover bad and corrupt leftwing scholarship in the social sciences by writing fake papers and getting them published.

Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University in Oregon, led a trio of scholars last year who submitted what they called “intentionally broken” papers to leading publications on gender, race and sexuality. Several of the absurd pieces were published.

Now, Portland State has initiated disciplinary action against Mr. Boghossian for an alleged breach of the institution’s ethical guidelines.

…The punishment Portland State may impose on Mr. Boghossian was unclear Monday morning, and the university did not immediately respond to questions posed about its process.

It must be emphasized that the three academics who participated in this project loudly considered themselves leftwing and liberal. No matter. They did something that revealed the hollowness and dishonesty of the entire “race, gender, and sex” academic community. That must not be allowed.

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2018 – One Of The Least Extreme Weather Years On Record

Link here. For the past half decade or so global warming activists both in and out of the climate science community have been pitching the idea, based on literally no evidence, that increased CO2 in the atmosphere would cause an increase in extreme weather events.

The article at the link illustrates how badly that prediction is turning out. In fact, it was clear five years ago that there was no trend visible in the amount of extreme weather events, and that lack of a trend has continued since.

The bottom line remains: The uncertainties in the field of climate science remain gigantic. Our knowledge of how the climate functions remains poor and somewhat limited. And any theory about the consequences of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere remains tentative and unproven, at best.

Good science is based on cold-hearted skepticism and a recognition of the uncertainties in our knowledge. To be a good scientist you have to strive for intellectual honesty every moment of your life.

For the past two decades the climate science community has decided to abandon these fundamentals, and pushed hard instead to confirm the theory that a trace gas in the atmosphere (carbon dioxide) can cause significant global warming. And they have pushed this theory regardless of the facts. Sometimes they have even pushed this theory despite the facts. Sometimes they have even changed the facts to conform to the theory.

This corruption of scientific principle has harmed the reputation of science badly, and made future work in this field difficult, because much of the data that exists now has been tampered with in ways that make much of it untrustworthy.

Worse, it appears that this is all a terrible indicator of the corruption of our entire society. Everywhere I look, intellectual honesty has been abandoned. Instead, we have become a society of unruly children, picking petty twitter fights based on minor details we pick and choose at our convenience in order to prove our point. Thoughtful consideration of all the facts has become abandoned. And if you try to encourage it, you are called names and blackballed.

Under these circumstances, I do not see a civilized way to recover our society. It seems that very bad times must happen first. Whether we can then recover our civilization afterward remains an open question.

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The 2018 global launch race plus predictions for 2019

In 2018 the global launch industry turned a significant corner. While there have been strong signs in 2016 and 2017 that we were about to see the arrival of a boom, it was not until this past year that we finally saw the beginnings of this boom.

Below is my updated launch graph showing what was accomplished in 2018. To put what was done in context, the graph shows all launches by every nation and private company for each year beginning in 1980, with 1968 added to provide a sense of what the launch industry was like during the height of the Cold War space race.

Before reading further, however, it is worthwhile to review what I wrote in my 2017 launch industry assessment, written in January 2018. My assessment then, as well as my predictions, provide some worthwhile context for understanding what actually happened this past year.
» Read more

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Leftist Jewish cafe owner attacked by leftists

They’re coming for you next: Manny Yekutiel, a leftist Jewish cafe owner in San Francisco who worked on the election campaign’s of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is now being picketed and attacked by other leftists because he supports Israel.

[O]n Wednesday, protesters associated with the Lucy Parsons Project, a self-described “radical black queer direction action group,” joined other groups to yell Yekutiel was a “Zionist gentrifer,” and “Zionists out of the Mission!” The Lucy Parsons Project even tweeted their instructions to do so: “Join our boycott and picket line every Wednesday at 6:30pm, Zionists out of Palestine and Zionists out of the Mission!!!”

The Forward reports that the group “has protested at Manny’s every Wednesday this month, and says it will continue protesting every Wednesday until Manny’s is ‘shut down.’ The Project only has about 300 Twitter followers, but among the protest’s supporters is a local rapper, Equipto, with 14,500 followers.”

Equipto had tweeted, “Tonite & every Wednesday at 6:30 pm. 3092 16th st & Valencia.The people are boycotting Manny’s cafe. A proud zionist & gentrifier has come into the Mission district. Please read the literature to fully understand why folks have organized. #BoycottMannys #SaveFrisco #FreePalestine.”

The Lucy Parsons Project echoed, “Come out Tonight and every week Wed. at 6:30pm to help our comrades at Black and Brown run this gentrifier Zionist Manny (Emmanuel Yekutiel) the [deleted] out of San Francisco!!!

It doesn’t matter that this guy created a cafe aimed at promoting Democratic leftist politics, he is Jewish and not black or brown and supports the only democratic nation in the Middle East. His business must be shut down!

Maybe they should try smashing the windows of his business and looting it. It has worked before.

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Japan quits global whaling regulatory body

Japan yesterday announced that it is quitting the International Whaling Commission, a global whaling regulatory body founded shortly after World War II to regulate commercial whaling that has instead in recent years attempted to ban all commercial whaling, except for favored native tribes in Russia and the Arctic.

The article’s last few paragraphs provide the real political background to this move by Japan:

An IWC-Japan divorce is the culmination of a wide ideological divide at the commission between ardent anti-whaling nations and countries seeking recognition of limited commercial whaling activities as legitimate. The anti-whaling forces have the upper hand, even though IWC’s expansion has seen more pro-whaling countries joining in recent years.

At the Brazil gathering, Japan had attempted to nudge the IWC toward reforms that would have potentially paved the way for a resumption of commercial whaling. The IWC was initially established to regulate whaling but has enforced an outright moratorium on commercial whaling operations since the 1980s in a desperate bid to prevent the extinction of several whale species. Many whale species have since recovered to a degree, but a few are still considered endangered.

Japan’s reform push was easily voted down. Instead, a majority of IWC members voted to have the commission turn its back on commercial whaling for good. That successful resolution also condemned Japan’s scientific whaling practices, widely regarded as a clandestine commercial operation as Japan’s whaling fleet takes hundreds of whales each year, with the meat ending up in grocery stores and restaurants.

IWC also approved subsistence whale hunts for Arctic aboriginal communities.

The large Japanese delegation at Brazil didn’t hide its frustration. The government accuses IWC members of hypocrisy for allowing culture exemptions from the moratorium for Alaskan and Russian native groups, but not for Japan and Scandinavian whaling cultures.

In other words, this commission has become increasingly political. Rather than focusing on protecting whale populations while allowing whaling by all parties, it has decided to pick and choose who can whale, and has decided to ban Japan while giving others the right to whale.

This political bias is not much different than what was seen at the Paris climate accords. Those agreements put odious restrictions on U.S. commercial activity, while putting no restrictions on China and others. It was this political bias, totally divorced from any sincere effort to reduce CO2 emissions, that prompted Trump to exit that agreement.

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Trump administration: parks to stay open to public during shutdown

Compare and contrast: Unlike the Obama administration, which went out of its way to inconvenience the public during government shutdowns, to an extent that it actually cost the government money, the Trump administration is leaving the national parks open to the public during the shutdown, even as it shuts visitor centers.

The link describes the National Park Service’s policy at Saguaro National Park here in Tucson, but this is apparently the policy nationwide:

“When you arrive at the park, both visitor centers will be closed. This is because due to the lapse of appropriation, we do not have money to pay for staff, so any facility that requires staff presence is going to be closed,” said Andy L. Fisher, a park ranger at Saguaro National Park.

That includes the contact station, the education building and programs, and ranger-guided walks and hikes.

“If you come out to one of the trail heads and plan on going for a hike, we’re not go to close the trail heads. We’re not going to chase you off the trails, the roads are going to continue to be open,” said Fisher.

This approach by the Trump administration is the morally correct one. The shutdown means they don’t have the money to run the government. It does not mean the parks can’t be accessed. They belong not to the government but to the American people. If there is no money to pay the government workers, that just means there will be no government workers at these parks. The parks themselves should remain open for public use.

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FCC fines company $900K for unapproved satellite launch

The FCC has issued a $900K fine against the smallsat company Swarm for its unlicensed launch in January on an Indian rocket of four smallsats.

Along with paying a massive fine, Swarm has agreed to submit reports to the FCC before every satellite launch it wants to make for the next three years. These reports must include all of the details about the launch vehicle that will carry the satellites, the time and location of the launch, and contact information for who is coordinating the launch. And Swarm has to do this a lot, too. Reports need to be submitted within five days of Swarm purchasing a ride on a rocket, or within 45 days of the flight. Additional reports must be submitted when the satellites are shipped to be integrated on the rocket, whenever the satellites are actually integrated, and around the time the launch is supposed to take place.

Within the next two months, Swarm must also establish its own “compliance plan” and appoint a compliance officer to make sure the company adheres to all of the regulations surrounding a satellite launch. This entails crafting clearly defined procedures and checklists that every employee must follow to confirm that the FCC’s licensing requirements are being met.

I have very mixed feelings about this. While it is important that the FCC make sure U.S. satellites are compliant with the Outer Space Treaty and that satellite makers and launch companies do not do things willy-nilly without some common sense coordination, this settlement, with its complex bureaucratic paperwork requirements, strikes me more as a power play by the agency to tell everyone that the government will rule here.

At the same time, I can understand the FCC’s concern. We are about to see a smallsat revolution, with tens of thousands of these satellites being built and launched by numerous big and small companies. The FCC wanted it very clear to everyone the need to get that licensing done properly. This settlement makes that clear.

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Trump’s decision to leave Syria

Link here. A less favorable analysis can be read here.

It is very clear, as the first article notes, that Trump was making the same decision as Reagan did back in the earlier 1980s in Lebanon. You either fight a war hard, without hesitation, aiming for complete victory, or you get out. Anything in between wastes lives, money, and only makes a bad situation worse. Reagan in Lebanon chose the latter. I suspect Trump today in Syria was doing the same.

The bad part of this is that our political leadership since 1945 had routinely chosen the middle, wishy-washy route, which has failed time after time and left us where we are today. This Babylon Bee satire article, “Trump Criticized For Breaking With Longstanding American Tradition Of Remaining In Middle Eastern Countries Indefinitely”, captures perfectly the insane approach to foreign policy by our elitist culture that they have followed for decades. It is not that they don’t want to make positive changes and help America’s strategic position globally, it is that they have no desire to make the real and possibly very violent commitments necessary to accomplish their goals. They instead do the insane thing, doing the same indecisive thing over and over, even though doing that thing is guaranteed to fail, every single time.

Trump at least made a firm decision, that in the short run will likely save American lives and money. In the long run, however, we continue to put our heads in the sand. We do not want to deal with the violent evil in the world, both at home and abroad, that is gaining power and dominance. This weakness is eventually going to bite us, badly.

Hat tip to Kirk Hilliard for prodding me to report on this story. I admit to being lax about reporting it. Since the election, my desire to read hard news has waned somewhat, though it is probably still far more extensive than most people. I see very bad things coming, and have found little in the news to reassure me that I am wrong. And I hate reporting bad and depressing news. I saw this story in a number of news outlets but just didn’t have the urge to read and report it.

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NASA approves Dream Chaser design

Capitalism in space? Sierra Nevada has, after several years of work, obtained NASA’s approval of the design of its Dream Chaser mini-shuttle, and will now begin construction.

I put a question mark in the header above because I am no longer sure Sierra Nevada is building a privately designed and privately owned spacecraft for the launch market. It seems that they have been captured entirely by NASA, and will instead be building the spacecraft NASA wants, which might raise costs enough to make this vehicle unaffordable for other customers.

The situation is understandable. Sierra Nevada does not have the independent capital that gives SpaceX its independence. It needs NASA to get this ship built, and thus will do whatever NASA demands. I just worry that NASA, unconcerned about cost (as is every agency in the federal government today), will spoil Dream Chaser’s viability in the commercial market.

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Obamacare struck down by judge

A federal judge in Texas on Friday ruled that the entire Obamacare law is no longer valid based on changes passed by the Republican Congress in the past two years.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth sided with the argument put forward by a coalition of Republican-leaning states, led by Texas, that Obamacare could no longer stand now that there’s no penalty for Americans who don’t buy insurance.

The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the law in 2012, by classifying the legislation as a tax. But since Congress removed the individual mandate in 2017, O’Connor ruled, there’s no way the ACA can be allowed to stand.

“The Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional,” O’Connor wrote. “The Individual Mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA.”

Without the system being upheld by a wide pool of mandated participants, the ACA cannot stand, O’Connor ruled.

All of this has been unconstitutional from day one, but what does that matter in the banana republic we now live in, where childish twitter mobs rule, unelected bureaucrats have more legal power than presidents, and elected officials can pick and choose the laws they obey?

Trump, returning to his liberal roots, immediately called for a new law to protect “pre-existing conditions.” To quote his tweet: “Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!”

Forcing insurance companies to accept anyone, regardless of their health, makes insurance impossible. Why would anyone buy insurance when they are healthy under Trump’s system? Instead, everyone will wait until they are diagnosed with an illness, and buy the insurance then. Lacking a pool of healthy customers, insurance companies will go bankrupt.

The silver lining here is that Congress is divided, and might find it impossible to make a deal. At the same time, I would not be surprised if both parties teamed up to give voters this fake present, continuing our slide to bankruptcy.

In the meantime, expect the reappearance of low-cost catastrophic insurance plans, the kind of plans that Obama called “junk” and banned with Obamacare, but provide lower-class people without a fancy health plan an affordable way to insure themselves against a ruinous illness or accident.

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NASA’s warped measure of safety

In posting an invitation to social media users to attend the launch of the first unmanned test flight of SpaceX’s man-rated Dragon capsule on January 17, 2019, NASA’s public relations department added the following warning:

NASA has a series of reviews before the uncrewed test flight, and the outcome of these reviews, including the Flight Readiness Review, will ultimately determine the Demo-1 launch date.

For months I have reported numerous examples of NASA’s safety panel acting to create fake problems that will force a delay in this launch. First it was the fueling method. Then it was the insulation on the helium tanks. Then there was the need for SpaceX to fill out all the paperwork. Now it is the parachute system and worries about the safety culture at SpaceX.

I might take these concerns seriously, except that NASA’s safety panel seems to be so sanguine about far more serious safety issues with NASA’s SLS rocket and Orion capsule. This double standard is starkly illustrated once again in this NASASpaceflight.com article about NASA’s plans for the very first manned Orion/SLS mission.

On that manned mission, NASA will fly a host of new equipment for the first time. For example, the capsule’s “Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), crew displays, and other crew systems will be making their debut in Orion.” Anything else that has flown previously will essentially have done so only once, during the first unmanned test flight of SLS/Orion.

It gets worse. While NASA has demanded SpaceX fly the final manned version of its Falcon 9 rocket seven times before it will allow its astronauts on board, the agency plans to launch humans on SLS on only its second launch. More astonishing, that second launch will include a mission taking those astronauts on a loop around the Moon.

During the Apollo missions in the 1960s, NASA had a policy that no mission would head to the Moon without carrying a lunar module (LM). The logic was that the LM would act as a lifeboat should something go wrong with the Apollo capsule, a logic that was actually proven during Apollo 13.

NASA did send Apollo 8 to the Moon without the LM, but it did so in the context of a Cold War space race and an end-of-the-decade commitment by an assassinated president. The agency then knew the risks were high, but it decided the situation justified those risks.

NASA is not faced with a Cold War space race today. Instead, it has a grossly over-budget and long delayed boondoggle called SLS/Orion, increasingly embarrassed by the quick and efficient achievements of private space companies. In a desperate effort to keep that boondoggle alive, the agency is apparently pushing it to fly it too soon and with inadequate development. In fact, it appears to me that the safety culture at NASA that caused both shuttle accidents (a desire to favor frequent launches while ignoring safety analysis) has returned at NASA, and it has done so with a vengeance.

Meanwhile, the contrast with how the agency’s safety panel treats SpaceX versus SLS/Orion demonstrates how corrupt and unreliable that safety panel has become. They no longer really work to reduce risk. Their goal appears to promote government-built rocket systems over those manufactured by the private sector.

Hat tip to Kirk Hilliard for pointing out the language in the NASA pr invite to the SpaceX launch.

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“Just leave me alone.”

They’re coming for you next: The New York City government, in an effort to protect the used and iconic bookstore “The Strand,” is considering giving it landmark status, a designation the owner, wife of a liberal Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), has begged them not to do.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering whether or not to designate the Strand a city landmark, protecting the store from financial marauders who want to scoop up its valuable real estate. But, in a bit of Shakespearean irony, the iconic bookstore is threatened by those charged with its preservation.

Strand’s current owner, Nancy Bass Wyden, wife of Oregon senator Ron Wyden, is not letting her liberalism balance the books. “By landmarking the Strand, you can also destroy a piece of New York history. We’re operating on very thin margins here, and this would just cost us a lot more, with this landmarking, and be a lot more hassle,” Wyden told the Commission during a public hearing.

Wyden also took a shot at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, owner of the great scourge of brick-and-mortar bookstores everywhere. “The richest man in America, who’s a direct competitor, has just been handed $3 billion in subsidies. I’m not asking for money or a tax rebate,” she explained, appealing not to the Commission’s egalitarian instincts, but to the principle of privacy. “Just leave me alone,” Wyden beseeched her would-be viceroys.

It doesn’t matter if you are Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, big government bureaucracies always end up abusing their power under the lie that they “are here to help you.” The sad thing is that Senator Wyden and his wife are not going to learn any lessons from this tale. I am certain that the Senator will continue to support the Democratic Party’s modern effort to socialize American society under the banner of an all-powerful federal bureaucracy, so that an even bigger government bureaucracy will have the ability to abuse its power over even more people, under the lie that they “are here to help you.”.

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