Tag Archives: oppression

Scientists propose changes to planetary protection rules

In a new report [pdf], a panel of scientists have proposed major revisions to NASA’s policy for protecting other planets from contamination by Earth biology.

In general, the recommendations seem an effort to streamline the rules (first established in the 1960s), while also making them more reflective of present knowledge. For example, the report says the following,

NASA should also rethink how it classifies the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, the report says. All of the Moon is now classified as potentially of interest to research on the origins of life, meaning NASA doesn’t want to contaminate it with imports from Earth. But few scientists now view the Moon as an important site for studying such questions—except for its poles, where ice that might have helped sustain life exists. Reclassifying much of the Moon’s surface as nonessential for biological studies would simplify exploration for NASA and other space agencies—along with commercial actors. Similarly, the report says, much of Mars has been treated as if microbes that landed on its surface could survive and be transported to regions thought to host water and allow the replication of life. But many scientists think that outcome is unlikely and worth rethinking.

Because it’s possible that humans could return to the Moon, and arrive on Mars, in the next few decades, NASA should also think about establishing two management zones on the bodies, the report adds. The first would create protected astrobiology zones considered essential for the exploration of possible extinct or existing life. The second would be human exploration zones that invariably would be exposed to the zoo of microbes that accompany humans anywhere they go.

The report also recommends changes to the rules governing samples returned from other words that would streamline the process as well as tailor it more closely to present knowledge. It also recommends that the rules be better written to accommodate and encourage private enterprise in space.

All in all this appears to be a remarkably intelligent report, quite unlike what I expected. Almost always such reports from government instituted panels demand more stringent rules and greater governmental power. This report appears to call for exactly the opposite, while suggesting reasonable restrictions to protect both the Earth and any alien life that might be on other worlds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Compliation video of violent leftist protesters at Minnesota Trump rally

The video, embedded below the fold, breaks my own rules regarding obscenities, but I think it is necessary for every American to view it. I think it is even more important that ordinary Democratic voters view it. The party these decent people support has nothing to do with the party of John Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. It has instead become a fascist violent machine, aimed at destroying any opposition. And we know this because Democratic politicians have not only not condemned this ugly violence, but some have even endorsed it.

I obtained the video from an article by John Hinderaker at Powerline, which he titled, quite bluntly, “How Evil Is the Left? This Evil.” He notes an additional reason to distribute this video as widely as possible.

Some of the victims of the liberals’ violence are interested in suing the parties responsible, potentially including organizers of the violence and public officials who may have been implicated. If you recognize any of the criminals shown in the video, please send information to powerlinefeedback@gmail.com.

Any help my readers can provide in this effort would be an important step in re-establishing the rule of law and free speech in the United States.

» Read more

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500 climate scientists challenge the UN on global warming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boris Johnson strikes Brexit deal with EU

Boris Johnson has made a deal with the European Union for Great Britain’s exit, but the deal’s approval by the UK’s parliament remains in doubt.

Johnson now needs to secure the votes needed at an extraordinary session of parliament on Saturday. But the arithmetic is not easy or straightforward for him.

The Northern Irish party that Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has refused to support it, saying it is not in Northern Ireland’s interests. The head of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said he was “unhappy” with the agreement and would vote against it. Labour has said it wants any deal to be subject to a public vote, but as yet has not indicated whether it will back any move for a second referendum on Saturday.

Johnson appears intent on presenting parliament with a stark choice — the deal he has struck or no deal — in the hope of securing enough votes to get approval. “The PM’s position is that it’s new deal or no deal but no delay,” said a senior British government official.

The main issue is Northern Ireland, which now has open borders with the rest of Ireland, as part of the peace deal that settled decades of unrest. Leaving the EU requires some sort of border control, since Ireland is in the European Union. Northern Ireland politicians oppose any border controls.

Johnson’s deal calls for limited border controls. If Great Britain exits with no deal, than full border controls would be imposed. Since Johnson seems very intent on honoring the voters’ decision to leave, one way or the other, we shall have to see which option Parliament chooses.

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House committee rejects extra funding for 2024 moon landing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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California moves to shut down ham radio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Democrats decimated in Louisiana election

Good news? In state elections in Louisiana this past weekend the Democratic Party experienced losses across the board, with Republicans also gaining a veto-proof majority in the state senate.

Among statewide office-holders, the incumbent GOP Lieutenant Governor (68 percent), Attorney General (66 percent), Treasurer (60 percent, and Agricultural Commissioner (58 percent) were all re-elected without the need for a run-off, under the state’s ‘jungle primary’-style system. It also appears that the solid Republican majorities in both state legislative chambers will remain intact — with the GOP expanding its Senate advantage into super-majority territory by picking up a pair of Democratic seats:

And the two elections that are going to a run-off, the governor and secretary of state, both appear likely to go Republican as well.

This is what needs to happen nationwide. The Democratic Party needs to be decimated everywhere, in order to allow a new crop of sane Democrats to retake that party from the far-left power-hungry and anti-American radicals that now control it.

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The bad consequences from California’s imposed blackouts

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

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

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

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

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Leftist rioters attack Trump supporters leaving Trump rally

They’re coming for you next: As has become routine now from fascist Democratic Party supporters, a mob of several hundred rioters in Minnesota yesterday attacked Trump supporters as they were leaving last night’s Trump rally.

It appears individuals were surrounded and attacked. Others had their MAGA hats stolen, which were then burned. In addition, reporters were maced, and it also appears the police stood by while this was happening.

The Democratic mayor of Minneapolis vehemently opposed this rally, trying and failing to squelch it with an unreasonable security fee. It appears he has decided to allow violence to act for him instead.

This is today’s Democratic Party, a fascist operation that tries to squelch the free speech of its political opponents, by any means necessary. If legal manipulation fails, they then send out their jack-booted thugs.

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Bridenstine’s visit to SpaceX a non-story

Link here. Essentially he just reiterated his desire to have the private capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing flying by early next year.

Essentially, the announcements in the last few days by Musk and Boeing about their upcoming testing and launch schedule for both Dragon and Starliner respectively took the steam out of his SpaceX visit.

In fact, I wonder what the politics were behind this. It is almost as if both companies wanted to take the steam out of his appearance here. Most intriguing.

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More “Free Hong Kong” protesters at NBA-Chinese exhibition games

Maybe we aren’t sheep: A group of protesters showed up at a Washington Wizards exhibition game yesterday against a Chinese basketball team with more “Free Hong Kong” signs, chanting the same throughout the game.

NBA officials however continue to kowtow to China’s demand to squelch these American protests, in America:

During the pregame singing of the Chinese national anthem, there were additional protests, with activists holding up signs and yelling, “Free Hong Kong.” One couple displaying a Tibetan flag left after being confronted by security. Yells of “Free Hong Kong” continued to ring out over the course of the game, as protesters migrated to different sections of the arena.

Security confiscated a “Free Hong Kong” sign from a group of protesters sporting the t-shirts. Later in the first quarter, the protesters displayed a smaller sign reading “Google Uyghurs,”—referring to Chinese Muslims incarcerated in state prison camps—which was also confiscated. [emphasis mine]

Meanwhile, the satirical website, the Babylon Bee, captures the stupidity and anti-Americanism of the NBA perfectly: NBA Now Requiring All Players To Stand For Chinese National Anthem, adding that “Anyone who doesn’t comply will be shot, a beloved Chinese custom that should further smooth things over with the authoritarian regime.”

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Ulysses S. Grant

In my leisure reading these days I have been very focused on the life and history of Ulysses S. Grant, the man who more than any single person made it possible for the north to win the Civil War in the 1860s..

More importantly, Grant’s unwavering offensive strategy in war, to never retreat, to always take the battle to the enemy, to always demand, as he wrote after winning his first major battle at Donelson, “complete and unconditional surrender,” and to always follow up that victory with grace and mercy, became the central tenet of American military and political strategy for the next eighty years, through the end of World War II. It is for this reason Grant in many ways could be considered among the four or five most influential individuals in American history.

In this leisured effort I have read a number of classic histories, including Shelby Foote’s three volume The Civil War: a Narrative and Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox. I also, as I always do when I am trying to learn something about history, read the original sources, and for this Grant’s own memoirs came next. (Historians such as I might try to get things right, but for any non-historian it behooves you to read some original sources as well. This will help you distinguish between the historians who succeed in getting it right, and those who don’t.)

I then followed most recently with Jean Edward Smith’s 2001 biography, Grant. The previous writing had focused only on the Civil War. This book gave me the story before and after.

Grant is a remarkable figure. He appears to have been an astonishngly honest and straightforward man, coldly rational about war and what must be done to win. He also was amazingly unambitious, even as he strove hard to succeed. It was his belief never to aim for a promotion, because he believed that effort would warp his judgment. Instead, he tried to do the best he could at any moment, and hoped that by his good works he would rise.

One story I think not only epitomized the character of Grant, but of the America of his time. After the war and the completion of his two terms as president, he went on a world tour, where he was greeted everywhere with honors and adulation. Upon his arrival in Berlin Chancellor Bismarck immediately invited Grant to come and visit.
» Read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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California utility cuts power to more than a million customers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Justice expands investigation into coup attempt against Trump

The Justice Department investigation by John Durham into the Obama-initiated spying on the Trump campaign, followed by an effort to frame Trump with the fake accusation that he colluded with the Russians, has now been expanded.

Fox News previously reported that Durham would be reviewing the days leading up to the 2016 election and through the inauguration.

However, based on what he has been finding, Durham has expanded his investigation adding agents and resources, the senior administration officials said. The timeline has grown from the beginning of the probe through the election and now has included a post-election timeline through the spring of 2017, up to when Robert Mueller was named special counsel.

Meanwhile, the Democrats effort to frame Trump again, this time in connection with his phone call with the head of Ukraine, continues to unravel. Some recent stories:

As I noted in my October 1 essay on the fake nature of the Democrat’s impeachment effort, this mirrors the situation with their fake Russian-collusion accusations. As more evidence is uncovered the more untrustworthy those accusations appear.

I remain skeptical at the seriousness of the Trump Justice Department’s new investigation however. The MO of the Washington Republican crowd so far has been to gather information that shows the corruption within the federal government, release it, and then do nothing. Unless they move forward with actual indictments this will all be another variation of failure theater.

UPDATE: This article, Who Does the Whistleblower Know?, provides a nice timeline and summary of what we presently know, all of which appear to point to real corruption on the part of both Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress and the executive bureaucracy.

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Protests in Iraq

Three days of protests in Iraq have now resulted in the deaths of 60 demonstrators, many shot by sniper fire.

The violence is the worst since Iraq put down an insurgency by Islamic State two years ago. The protests arose in the south, heartland of the Shi’ite majority, but quickly spread, with no formal leadership.

Security and medical sources gave a death toll on Friday of 60 killed across Iraq in three days of unrest, the vast majority of the deaths in the last 24 hours as the violence accelerated.

“It is sorrowful that there have been so many deaths, casualties and destruction,” Iraq’s most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said in a letter read out by his representative during a sermon. “The government and political sides have not answered the demands of the people to fight corruption or achieved anything on the ground,” said Sistani, who stays out of day-to-day politics but whose word is law for Iraq’s Shi’ites. “Parliament holds the biggest responsibility for what is happening.”

Populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who leads the largest opposition bloc in parliament, ordered his lawmakers to suspend participation in the legislature until the government introduces a program that would serve all Iraqis.

Many government officials and lawmakers are widely accused of siphoning off public money, unfairly awarding contracts in state institutions and other forms of corruption.

It is suggested that the demonstrators are protesting government corruption. This could easily be true, since bribery, payoffs, embezzlement, etc, are very normal in Arab culture. At the same time, the factionalism that divides Iraq has not gone away, and these demonstrations could be a tactic by the opposition to damage the ruling party. Moqtada al-Sadr (who had been nicknamed “Mookie” by U.S. troops) has a long history of using force for his own political gain. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is behind these protests.

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Chinese head in Hong Kong invokes emergency powers

Escalation: Carrie Lam, the Chinese-appointed chief executive in Hong Kong, today invoked emergency powers in her effort to stem the anti-Chinese demonstrations that have been on-going now for four months.

[P]rotesters here can now face criminal penalties of up to than $3,000 and a year’s imprisonment simply for wearing the masks they have used to defend themselves against tear gas and the possibility of arrest.

And, having invoked emergency powers, Lam is now in a position to do almost anything. As the New York Times sums it up: “Under the emergency powers, Mrs. Lam has a wide discretion to create new criminal laws and amend existing laws — all without going through the legislative process.” Newspapers can be censored or shuttered, web sites closed down, property seized, searches carried out galore, and so forth.

It appears that China is beginning the process of cracking down, and will likely do it incrementally, in the hope this will defuse the response, both by the Hong Kong population and the international community.

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Ukraine: The Democratic Party’s effort to overthrow the elected government

In the past two weeks the mainstream media, working for the Democratic Party, has blasted us with a new anti-Trump scandal, accusing the president of using his influence during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the Ukraine to instigate an investigation of Joe Biden.

As I usually do with big political stories such as this, I let them play out a bit before drawing some conclusions. I will admit that I immediately thought this was all balderdash, comparable to the same fake accusations against Trump in connection with Russian collusion. Those were never creditable, and after almost two years even Robert Mueller, the FBI hack chosen by DC insiders to frame Trump, found he had no evidence and came up empty.

The Trump-Ukraine accusations seemed at first glance to be the same garbage, but I decided to watch and wait, to see if they had substance.

Not surprisingly, they don’t.

First we have the accusation itself, coming from an anonymous whisteblower. Not only is the accuser anonymous, so are all his or her sources. All.

Even more significant, the accusation is not based on first hand knowledge. The accuser was not witness to Trump’s phone call. His claim is based entirely on hearsay and rumor, which would be laughed out of any court in the land. That anyone in the press is taking these accusations seriously based on this evidence proves they are, as Glenn Reynolds often says, merely Democratic operatives with bylines.

Second, soon after the press and the Democrats (I repeat myself) began to make a big deal about this feeble accusation, Trump went ahead and released the transcript of his conversation.

The transcript shows absolutely nothing scandalous. » Read more

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Sweden is no leftist utopia

Link here. This quote gives the flavor:

‘Nowhere else has the direct link between individual and state evolved as far as in Sweden,” Asbrink writes. “You don’t expect your family or relatives or friends or charity organizations to help if you become vulnerable,” she said. “You expect the state to help you.” Swedish parents have no obligation to their children once they turn 18. The elderly turn to the state rather than their adult offspring for support.

“This of course means freedom from family bonds or ties,” Asbrink said. “But it also means isolation. People feel lonely. There is a built-in depression that comes with this deal with the state.”

From the 1950s through the 1970s, that translated into some of the developed world’s highest suicide rates and had a noticeable impact on Sweden’s artists.

There’s more in the article, including detailing how in the past few decades Sweden has been moving back to individual responsibility and private enterprise. This information is important in connection with American politics, as Democrats routinely tout Sweden as the paradise they wish to build in America. The article questions their assumptions.

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Adventures in TSA fantasyland

Another airplane journey, another idiotic example of the stupidity of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).

I am in the airport in Panama City, Florida, waiting for my flight home. As I was putting my shoes and belt back on at the security conveyor belt, I watched as an older couple was having their carry-on bags opened and inspected. The woman was wearing an Islamic scarf. (Despite this I am sure neither posed any threat, because both were somewhat elderly, and had been given passes that I think signified this, since anyone over 75 years old is allowed to keep shoes and belts on.)

What was amazing to me was what happened when the TSA officer discovered that the women had brought a take-out lunch with her, as well as a full set of metal silverware to eat it. The officer hardly glanced at silverware, seeming more interested in her lunch in a plastic food container. While he inspected this the woman put the silverware back in her purse, and after the officer was satisfied that the take-out food was not dangerous, he allowed them to leave, silverware and all.

As they left I was right there, putting my wallet and keys back in my pockets, with that officer only about two feet away. I couldn’t help it. I said, “Excuse me, it is now permissible to bring metal silverware, forks, knives, so forth, on an airplane?”
» Read more

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NASA awards Lockheed Martin long term Orion contract

The never-ending boondoggle: NASA today awarded Lockheed Martin a long term contract to build as many as twelve future Orion capsules.

OPOC is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that includes a commitment to order a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 Orion spacecraft, with an ordering period through Sept. 30, 2030. Production and operations of the spacecraft for six to 12 missions will establish a core set of capabilities, stabilize the production process, and demonstrate reusability of spacecraft components.

“This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon to bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Orion is a highly-capable, state-of-the-art spacecraft, designed specifically for deep space missions with astronauts, and an integral part of NASA’s infrastructure for Artemis missions and future exploration of the solar system.” [emphasis mine]

I honestly don’t know how NASA can commit to building these Orion capsules, when Congress has yet to fund them. I guess NASA has decided that Congress and elections are irrelevant, that they — as our anointed rulers in Washington — can make these decisions unilaterally, at their own whim.

One quote in the press release really stood out to me:

“As the only vehicle capable of deep space exploration, the Orion spacecraft is critical to America’s continued leadership,” said Rep. Brian Babin [R-Texas].

What a crock. Orion is pork, period. It is simple too small for any deep space mission, no matter what lies NASA tries to tell us. It will get us nowhere.

All this contract does is justify the existence of the Johnson Space Center, which really has no purpose since the retirement of the shuttle and the decision to fly future astronauts on privately built spacecraft. Having Orion to “manage” will convince people that the workers at Johnson are doing something, when really almost everything of importance will be done by Lockheed Martin.

This contract is also another component in NASA’s political strategy to get as many players in the space business committed to both Artemis and Gateway. Pretty soon they will have everyone on board, with big tax dollar bribes.

Meanwhile, what they are building won’t accomplish anything, and will strand us in lunar orbit for decades, while other countries land and learn how to build bases on other worlds.

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Climate forum disrupted by screaming protesters

They’re coming for you next: A climate forum set up by the Republican club at Georgetown University College was so disrupted by screaming protesters that the police had to clear the room.

At the start of “Climate Forum: A Rebuttal,” protestors packed the room and, beginning with the introduction of the first speaker, shouted talking points, various obscenities, and hostile chants.

Despite campus free speech policies announced clearly by the hosts at the start of the event, the harassment continued. Amid the frequent disruptions, a protester dressed as a clown intermittently honked a horn.

The College Republicans called campus police, who tried to remove those interrupting the event, but the students refused to comply. They argued with the officers, refused to show the officers their student IDs, and declared the room an “open forum.”

Eventually, police had to clear the room entirely in an attempt to gain control of the situation. The hallway flooded with protestors — as well as students who appeared genuinely interested in listening to the panelists. Numerous campus administrators and even more officers arrived as the event remained postponed.

The panel finally restarted after police had blocked all but one doorway and refused entrance to anyone with signs. But some hecklers made it through, including one protester who had to be escorted out, but not before ensuring all attendees they are “on the wrong side of history.”

Note also that prior to the event and before they had heard anything, the Georgetown Democratic club condemned the forum,

Let us summarize what this event has taught us:

1. Those who believe in global warming are so close-minded that they are entirely unwilling to listen to another perspective.

2. Those who believe in global warming are so close-minded that they are determined to prevent anyone else from hearing another perspective.

3. Those who believe in global warming are so close-minded that they are determined to prevent anyone with a different perspective from speaking.

4. Those who believe in global warming are even willing to commit acts of violence to enforce numbers 2 and 3 above.

5. Law enforcement and the college administration at Georgetown are terrified of these protesters, and are unwilling to do anything to enforce the law and prevent those protesters from doing numbers 2, 3, and 4.

None of these lessons are very hopeful, because eventually this behavior will routinely lead to violence and possible death. In fact, it already has nearly done so in a number of places, such as the shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Washington in 2017, and the routine violence in Portland whenever conservatives try to publicly demonstrate.

And it is why we got Trump, because unlike the police and administrators at Georgetown, Trump does not bow to this kind of childish and close-minded behavior. He fights back.

Finally, in what way do these protesters think they are going to persuade anyone to their perspective, with this kind of behavior?

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Boeing pushing to kill Gateway for more SLS funds?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Senate appropriations bill slams new commercial space regulations

In releasing its report yesterday on the Senate’s appropriations bill for transportation and housing, the Senate appropriations committee has demanded the FAA’s review and revise its proposed new regulations for commercial space, intended originally to streamline the red-tape but instead increased it. From their report:

Prior to drafting the rulemaking, the FAA convened an Aviation Rulemaking Committee [ARC] consisting of both traditional and emerging commercial space companies. However, the draft rule does not include relevant language approved by a majority of ARC members, and as a result, the proposed rule fails to implement a streamlined and performance based approach to regulating an industry whose continued growth and innovation is critical to national security and civilian space exploration. The draft rule creates unnecessary barriers to entry for new companies, may prevent many operators from achieving or maintaining flight rates and cost efficiencies to support new space applications and markets, and fails to address the application of the regulations to future space port locations. The Committee encourages the FAA to reconvene the Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements ARC and consider a supplemental NPRM prior to issuing a final rule in order to meet an artificial deadline. [emphasis mine]

It appears the FAA has agreed to review the regulations, as demanded.

I found it amusing that the entire appropriations bill is dubbed THUD, for “Transportation/Housing and Urban Development”. Though this acronym choice had nothing to do with the FAA’s space regulation debacle, it certainly seems most appropriate.

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Progress on Dragon parachute tests

It appears that SpaceX’s parachute testing for its Dragon manned capsule is finally satisfying the concerns of NASA and its safety panel, based on a Sept 17 NASA blog post.

In fact, SpaceX’s success has even forced NASA “to reevaluate its own [parachute] standards and certification processes.”

The article at the link also notes quite correctly NASA’s tendency to miss the forest for the trees, which is why it has forced SpaceX to do so much additional parachute testing, even though the company apparently had a solid understanding of its parachutes a long time ago.

[T]he space agency has been focused on parachutes and COPVs [the tank issues that caused the 2016 launchpad explosion] for years. This is primarily a result of NASA’s notoriously reactive approach to safety: SpaceX suffered two COPV-related Falcon 9 failures in 2015 and 2016 and has experienced an unknown number (likely 1-3) of anomalies during Crew Dragon parachute testing.

As a result, NASA has focused extensively on these two stand-out concerns. To an extent, this is reasonable – if you know things have a tendency to fail, you’re going to want to make sure that they don’t. However, prioritizing reactive safety measures at the cost of proactive safety would be a major risk, akin to getting in a car crash because you didn’t use a turn signal and then prioritizing turn signal use so much that you forget to look both ways before making turns. Sure, you will probably never get in the same crash, but you are raising the risk of new kinds of accidents if you overcorrect your attention distribution.

Either way, it increasingly appears that a manned Dragon mission might finally be getting close to launch.

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Yang: Private car ownership must end

They’re coming for you next: In a climate forum at Georgetown University today, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang proposed the government eliminate the private ownership of cars, and replace it with a “constant roving fleet of electric cars that you would just order up.”

Of course, this fascist Democrat doesn’t mention that, according to his own climate plan it would be the government creating and operating that fleet of cars.

Just imagine having to depend on the DMV for your actual transportation. Right now it is generally bad enough, especially in the Democratic-controlled big urban cities, to just get your driver’s license renewed. Won’t it be just wonderful when you have to call them to provide you your car?

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House hearing, and budget, raises doubts about 2024 Moon landing

Two events yesterday increased the likelihood that the Trump administration’s effort to complete a manned Moon landing by 2024 will not happen.

First, at hearings yesterday before the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee, not only did a top NASA official express skepticism about the 2024 date, several key Democratic lawmakers added their own skepticism about the entire project.

Then, the Democratically-controlled House released a draft continuing resolution which included none of the extra $1.6 billion requested by the Trump administration for the 2024 Moon mission.

At the first link there is much discussion about the issues of Gateway, of using commercial launchers instead of SLS, of funding, and of the endless delays for SLS, of the management problems at SLS/Orion/Gateway. All these issues illustrate the hodgepodge and very disorganized project design that has represented SLS/Orion/Gateway from the beginning. SLS/Orion was mandated by Congress, with no clear mission. Gateway was tacked on later by NASA and the big space contractors building SLS (Boeing) and Orion (Lockheed Martin), with lobbying help from other international space agencies who want a piece of the Gateway action. None of it ever had a clear over-arching goal or concept related to the actual exploration of space. All of it was really only designed to justify pork spending in congressional districts.

As much as the Trump administration wants it, I do not see a path for its 2024 Moon landing. Congress, as presently structured, will not fund it, and SLS and Gateway are simply not the projects designed to make it happen.

The confusion at the hearings over Gateway also suggests that if this project gets going, it will only serve to drive a nail into the coffin of all American manned exploration, as run by our federal government. Too many vested interests are fighting over this boondoggle. In the end I think they will rip it apart and then reshape it into a Frankenstein monster.

The only hope for a real American vibrant manned space effort in the near future still appears to me to reside in the private sector’s own manned projects, which right now means SpaceX and its Starship.

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IG had recommended criminal prosecution of Comey

The law is only for little people: In testimony today before Congress, Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz revealed that he had recommended criminal prosecution earlier this year against former FBI director James Comey.

The Justice Department however declined to follow through, essentially letting Comey off the hook.

In the past few weeks there have been many rumors about more criminal referrals by Horowitz in connection with his investigation into the illegal use of the FISA court by the FBI and Obama Justice Department to initiate spying operations on Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. The conservative press has made much of those rumors.

To my mind, the rumors mean squat, just as Horowitz’s recommendation here against Comey. Until these corrupt officials are actually indicted, the IG can say whatever he wants, but nothing has been accomplished, and future federal employees will know that they can attempt a coup against legally elected lawmakers and face no consequences.

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Has the leftist smear machine begun to crack?

Several stories in the past week suggest that cracks might finally be appearing in the leftist/Democratic/media smear machine that since 2008 has used lies and slanders to destroy the reputations of its opponents.

What makes the first five stories above different from everything I have seen in the past two decades, since Bill Clinton’s perjury and impeachment in the late 1990s, is the willingness of people on both the right and left, within the entertainment community, to come out publicly and condemn the leftwing blacklisting efforts that have normally been supported blindly and in mass by those same communities.

In the past the support for such blacklisting threats against conservative entertainers would have been monolithic, and any conservatives in Hollywood would have been silent, out of fear they own careers would have been destroyed.

Now we not only have a number of conservative entertainers fearlessly blasting this fascist blacklisting, they are being joined by many liberal entertainer icons.

The last story is similar, but instead of the entertainment community the story involves a rebellion by a Democratic politician. Since Bill Clinton’s presidency I have practically never seen a Democratic politician resist this blacklist culture. Yang might be the very first. And I say that despite the fact that I definitely oppose his politics.

We are also seeing some of the same thing with this week’s New York Times slander of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. While the right has justly blasted the newspaper for its partisan lying and incompetence, so have some liberal outlets.

It could be that the leftist smear machine has finally gone too far, and has become so vile and despicable that even many ardent leftists can no longer tolerate it.

Then again, I am a forever optimistic person, and sometimes see hope where none exists. These might merely be the exceptions that prove the rule. Only time will tell us whether this is a new positive trend, or a minor blip in left’s never-ending quest to persecute its opponents.

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