Tag Archives: policy

British parliament passes Johnson’s Brexit deal while pushing for more delays

The British parliament yesterday finally for the first time passed a deal for leaving the European Union (EU), but then rejected the timetable created by prime minister Boris Johnson to complete that exit by October 31.

The PM [prime minister] did tonight what Theresa May was unable to do in three years – get a majority in the Commons to actually leave the EU. Boris this evening said it was “joyful” that MPs had finally “embraced a deal”.

But minutes later the PM tonight lost his vote 308 – 322 on the crucial timetable motion, leaving his promise to get us out of the bloc by Halloween in tatters. Furious MPs had claimed they didn’t have enough time to look at the 100 page bill.

The PM revealed he would put the Brexit Bill on ice and hit “pause” while the EU consider what to do.

Whether Johnson will have the UK leave at the end of the month, deal or no deal, remains unclear. It increasingly looks like the EU will not give an extension, so if parliament sticks to its guns on rejecting the timetable then the exit will occur on October 31st with no deal. Johnson in turn might also trigger a general election in response.

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Pence endorses property rights in space

In a speech yesterday at a meeting of the International Astronautical Congress in Washington vice president Mike Pence pushed the importance of property rights in space, noting that the Trump administration is looking for ways to protect those rights.

He made clear that the United States would continue to observe international agreements on space activities — presumably including the Outer Space Treaty, which rules out claims of sovereignty on the moon or other celestial bodies. But Pence also said America’s partners should respect private ownership in space, which is a less settled legal frontier.

“As more nations gain the ability to explore space and develop places beyond Earth’s atmosphere, we must also ensure that we carry into space our shared commitment to freedom, the rule of law and private property,” he said. “The long-term exploration and development of the moon, Mars and other celestial bodies will require the use of resources found in outer space, including water and minerals. And so we must encourage the responsible commercial use of these resources.”

Pence hinted that the United States will be developing new policies relating to the use of space resources. “We will use all available legal and diplomatic means to create a stable and orderly space environment that drives opportunity, creates prosperity and ensures our security on Earth into the vast expanse of space,” he said.

I’m not sure how the U.S. can do this, however, under the limitations placed on us by the Outer Space Treaty. Without the ability to apply U.S. sovereignty to any private operations on the Moon, Mars, or asteroids, it will be impossible to apply U.S. law to those operations.

One avenue that the Trump administration might be considering is an amendment to the treaty that would allow nations to apply their laws to their citizens in space, not the territory on which they land and develop. Such an approach would avoid breaking the treaty’s restrictions on not claiming territory, but it would still achieve essentially the same thing.

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Liberals in Canada retain control

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

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

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

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

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

Not good. Not good at all.

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Large numbers of minorities and Democrats attend Trump rallies

According to statistics issued by the Trump campaign manager, significant numbers of Democratic voters, minorities, and non-voters have been attending Trump rallies.

In Dallas: “The data revealed that nearly 54,000 voters signed up for the event, with almost one in eight (12 percent) who didn’t vote in the last four elections and more than one in five (21.4 percent) who identified as Democrats. Eleven percent of the registrants were Hispanic.”

In New Mexico: “Of the 45,000 who registered, 94 percent were from within the state and 78 percent were matched to voter files. More than one in five voted in one or none of the past four elections, and 40 percent were Hispanic, the data showed. Nearly one in three were Democrats.”

In Minnesota: “More than 42,000 voters were identified in the data, of whom 13 percent voted in none or one of the past four elections. Also, 30 percent were Democrats.”

If these numbers reflect reality even vaguely, they strongly suggest two things. First, that large numbers of Democrats are abandoning that party. Second, that Trump is bringing in voters who had habitually not voted in the past. Both trends, if true, suggest disaster for the Democratic Party in 2020.

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Netanyahu fails to form government

It appears that Benjamin Netanyahu’s present reign as Israeli prime minister, begun in 2008, is about to end. He has given up trying to form a coalition led by his Likud Party, and according to Israeli law, the second largest party, Blue and White, led by Bernie Gantz, will try next.

Whether Gantz can form his own coalition, based on the present break down of Israeli factions, is quite questionable. It would appear that he either can form a government with Likud and Netanyahu, something his party opposes, or he must include the Arab Joint List, something that almost all the other parties oppose.

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Clashes in Hong Kong protests escalate

This link provides a lot of videos of this past weekend’s protests in Hong Kong, all of which suggest that the protesters are responding to the police’s harsher enforcement with their own harsher actions.

It also appears that the protests began with a peaceful march of tens of thousands, and only became violent when the police tried to shut the protest down.

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Parliament rejects Johnson’s Brexit deal

A coalition of leftists and former Tories (dumped from the party for being what conservatives in the U.S. call RINOs) today teamed up to reject the deal prime minister Boris Johnson had proposed for leaving the European Union by October 31, as demanded by the voters.

According the vote, Johnson is now required to request a further extension, something he said today he will not do. Instead, reports say he will call Parliament back on Monday to vote again.

Bottom line: The citizens of the UK voted to leave the EU. Parliament is defying the will of the majority by its intransigence and by its effort to water down the exit so much that it will be meaningless. Johnson in turn appears to be trying to represent that majority, which should give him and his now unified Tory party an advantage in the next election. The closeness of the vote, 322 to 306 for rejection, strongly reinforces this conclusion.

UPDATE: Johnson has sent three letters to the EU, one meeting the requirements of the law by asking for an extension but unsigned by him, a second covering letter stating that the first letter was from Parliament, not the prime minister, and a third letter bluntly disavowing the first letter to state that he absolutely does not want an extension.

The article notes that there is now a very good chance the EU will not agree to an extension, which will further benefit Johnson’s political position.

The article also has an interesting side note about how anti-Johnson protesters screamed and threatened an MP and his 12-year-old son as they left parliament, requiring police protection. These protesters are thus allied with the same leftist protesters in the U.S. that have abused Trump supporters. They don’t like democracy, and have repeatedly exhibited a blunt willingness to use force to gain their ends if they lose in the ballot box.

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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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Rocket Lab & China launch rockets

Rocket Lab and China successfully completed launches today.

Rocket Lab used its Electron rocket to put a large cubesat into the highest orbit the company has yet achieved. This was the company’s nineth successful launch, and the fifth in 2019.

China in turn used its Long March 3B rocket to place a military communications satellite into orbit.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

20 China
17 Russia
10 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)
5 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 21 to 20 in the national rankings.

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California’s first cubesat to be named after Jerry Brown

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

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

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

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

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Dream Chaser’s primary structure completed

Capitalism in space: The primary structure for Sierra Nevada’s reusable mini-shuttle, Dream Chaser, has been completed and delivered to the company’s Colorado facility for final assembly.

Essentially, this structure, built by Lockheed Martin, is basically the hull of Dream Chaser. Sierra Nevada now has to install the guts.

They won the contract to build Dream Chaser from NASA in 2016, and for the past three years the company has said little about its progress, causing me concern that there might be issues. This story dispels those concerns.

It is also instructive to compare their progress with SLS, if only to illustrate the advantage of NASA buying what it needs from private companies, who retain ownership of their work, rather than having NASA design and own its hardware.

Dream Chaser: Sierra Nevada first began development of Dream Chaser in 2011, but full construction did not begin until the 2016 contract award. They hope to launch by the end of 2021. This means they will go from award to flight in five years.

The contract’s specific amount was never published, but NASA’s did say that the maximum it would spend for all missions performed by all three cargo capsules (SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada) would be $14 billion. This means Sierra Nevada’s share is probably around $4 to $5 billion.

SLS: NASA began its first design work on this heavy lift rocket in 2004, but the first design, dubbed Constellation, was cancelled by President Obama in 2010. Congress then stepped in and mandated that construction continue, under a revised design, now dubbed the Space Launch System. Launch of the first SLS is now expected in 2021.

The cost? Based on my research for my policy paper, Capitalism in Space, the cost by 2021 will be $25 billion.

So, while Sierra Nevada will take five years and $4 to $5 billion to fly its spacecraft, NASA will take eleven years and $25 billion to fly its. I admit the scale is different, but SLS fares as badly when a similar comparison is made with Falcon Heavy.

The difference? Dream Chaser is privately owned, privately designed, and privately managed, by one company, with the goal of making a profit as quickly as possible. SLS is government owned, government designed, and managed by a host of agencies, lawmakers, and contractors, with no set clear goal and no requirement to make a profit at any time.

Which product would you buy?

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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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Unexplained issues with assembling SLS’s core stage?

It appears that in its effort to finally assembly SLS’s core stage so that it can be tested prior to its first launch, probably in 2021, NASA and Boeing recently experienced an issue that required “corrective action.”

Neither NASA nor Boeing have provided any detailed explanation for what the issue was, but according to the story at the link,

…one source suggested to Ars that Boeing technicians are having difficulty attaching the large rocket engines in a horizontal configuration rather than a vertical position. NASA and Boeing made a late change to the final assembly process, deciding to mate pieces of the core stage horizontally rather than vertically to save time. However, this source said horizontal mating of the engines has created problems.

Despite this, NASA officials said progress is being made. “NASA and Boeing are expected to have the first engine soft mated to the core stage next week,” Tracy McMahan, a spokesperson for Marshall Space Flight Center, said on Saturday. “However, there are many steps in engine installation that have to occur before the installation is complete.”

I applaud them for finally trying to “save time,” a concept that up until now the entire SLS project has never had much interest in. That this effort ended up causing a delay however is symptomatic of the design of the project, which remains cumbersome and inefficient, a fault not of the engineering but of some fundamental decisions at the top by Congress and NASA’s management.

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The bad consequences from California’s imposed blackouts

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

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

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

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

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First SLS launch will likely be delayed again

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

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

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

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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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Air Force selects 8 launch companies for future contracts

Capitalism in space: The Air Force yesterday announced that it has selected eight launch companies as part of a program allowing it to order future launch contracts quickly.

SpaceX, Xbow Launch Systems, Northrop Grumman, Firefly Aerospace, United Launch Alliance, Aevum, Vox Space and Rocket Lab have been selected to provide launch services in the Orbital Services Program-4 [OSP-4] — a $986 million procurement of launch services over nine years. The Air Force announced the winners Oct. 10.

OSP-4 is designed to accommodate small and medium payloads greater than 400 lbs. and providers have to be able to deliver these payloads to orbit within 12 to 24 months after receiving an order. The program is managed by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

…The OSP-4 multi-vendor deal is known as a “multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity” contract. The eight companies will be awarded $50,000 as the contract’s minimum guarantee. Under [this arrangement], the Air Force will compete as many as 20 missions among the awardees.

The company list includes every operational rocket company (SpaceX, Northrop Grumann, ULA, Rocket Lab), as well as several in development (Xbow, Firefly, Aevum, Vox). It is interesting that several other developing rocket companies are not included (Blue Origin, Relativity, Vector). Vector has suspended operations because of financial issues, but Relativity and Blue Origin both appear to be moving forward with full financing. Meanwhile, I have until now never heard of Xbow, Aevum, and Vox. One wonders the reasoning behind their selection.

This selection is separate from the Air Force’s big rocket contracting process, where the military says it will very soon pick two companies to launch its big satellites for the next decade.

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FAA gives Rocket Lab an umbrella 5-year launch license

Capitalism in space: The FAA has awarded the smallsat launch company Rocket Lab a 5-year launch license, allowing it to streamline its regulatory process so that it can up its launch pace.

Rocket Lab has received a new five-year Launch Operator License from the Federal Aviation Administration, which grants it permission to do multiple launches of its Electron rocket from its LC-1 launch site in New Zealand without having to seek individual clearance for each one. While not the only limiting factor, this should help Rocket Lab increase the frequency of its launches from LC-1, servicing more customers more often for commercial small satellite customers.

While Rocket Lab has yet to achieve its goal of launches every two weeks, or even one per month, this license should at least remove one obstacle.

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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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Mars Express looks at Martian river relic

Mars Express perspective view of Nirgal Vallis
Click for full image.

The Mars Express science team today released a mosaic produced by the orbiter’s high resolution camera of the 300 hundred mile long relic river valley Nirgal Vallis. The image to the right, reduced to post here, is the oblique view that was produced by computer using the camera’s stereo images.

This ancient valley system is named Nirgal Vallis, and was once filled with running water that spread across Mars. By exploring the characteristics of the surrounding craters, scientists estimate the system’s age to be between 3.5 and 4 billion years old.

The part of Nirgal Vallis captured in these images lies towards the western end of the river system, where it is slowly spreading out and dissipating; the eastern end is far less branched and more clearly defined as a single valley, and opens out into the large Uzboi Vallis – the suspected location of a large, ancient lake that has long since dried up.

Nirgal Vallis is a typical example of a feature known as an amphitheatre-headed valley. As the name suggests, rather than ending bluntly or sharply, the ends of these tributaries have the characteristic semi-circular, rounded shape of an Ancient Greek amphitheatre. Such valleys also typically have steep walls, smooth floors, and, if sliced through at a cross-section, adopt a ‘U’ shape. The valleys pictured here are about 200 m deep and 2 km wide, and their floors are covered in sandy dunes; the appearance of these dunes indicates that martian winds tend to blow roughly parallel to the valley walls.

Unlike the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which is for taking close-up images of specific surface features, Mars Express is producing a high resolution survey of the entire planet. Its camera does not have quite the same resolution, but as it is taking wider images that’s okay.

What is unfortunate is the European Space Agency’s policy for releasing those images. Unlike MRO, they do not make them all available to the public instantly. Instead, they periodically do press releases like today’s, highlighting a specific region or single large feature. As a result, Mars Express does not get the press it deserves.

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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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