Tag Archives: policy

Blue Origin reveals redesigned New Glenn rocket

Capitalism in space: In a video animation Blue Origin last week revealed a new redesigned version of its orbital New Glenn rocket.

There are a few notable differences between the rocket depicted in the new video and the New Glenn we saw in a similar 2017 animation. For example, the older version featured a payload fairing — the protective nose cone that surrounds spacecraft during launch — that was bullet-shaped and 18 feet (5.4 meters) wide. The current incarnation boasts a 23-foot-wide (7 m) fairing with a traditional snub-nosed look. (A previously envisioned three-stage New Glenn featured this bigger fairing, but this booster variant is no longer part of Blue Origin’s plans.)

And the first stage’s six landing legs will apparently now deploy a bit differently — by unfolding outward from the bottom, much as Falcon 9 legs do, rather than sort of sliding downward.

These changes are almost certainly are the result of the company’s Air Force contract that gave it $500 million in development money in exchange for having a say in how the rocket is built.

For example, I am not surprised that New Glenn now more closely resembles the Falcon 9. The modern American military is not known for its daring or innovation. It had to be sued to finally agree to award contracts to SpaceX. Now that the Falcon 9 is well proven, however, the military bean-counters are probably demanding that New Glenn copy it, rather than introduce innovations of its own.

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Arianespace slashes launch price for Ariane 5

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has announced that it is once again dropping the launch price for an Ariane 5 launch, in order to increase the chances it will win several contracts this year.

Arianespace is competing for two major launch contracts in the Asia-Pacific region that should be awarded this year and expects there could be tenders for another three, said [Arianespace Managing Director and Head of Sales for Asia-Pacific Vivian Quenet].

The article does not mention the actual price, but Arianespace had been charging about $100 million per launch satellite, while SpaceX had been charging $62 million (for a new Falcon 9) and about $50 million (for a reused one).

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Rocket Lab gets DARPA launch contract

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today announced a new launch contract with DARPA, dedicating the company’s first launch in 2019 to that government military research agency.

DARPA’s Radio Frequency Risk Reduction Deployment Demonstration (R3D2) mission is scheduled for launch in late February and intends to space-qualify a prototype reflect array antenna to improve radio communications in small spacecraft. The antenna, made of a tissue-thin Kapton membrane, packs tightly inside the small satellite for stowage during launch, before deploying to its full size of 2.25 meters in diameter once it reaches low Earth orbit. This high compaction ratio enables larger antennas in smaller satellites, enabling satellite owners to take advantage of volume-limited launch opportunities while still providing significant capability. The mission could help validate emerging concepts for a resilient sensor and data transport layer in low Earth orbit – a capability that does not exist today, but one which could revolutionize global communications by laying the groundwork for a space-based internet.

…The mission, the first of monthly Electron launches this year, will lift-off from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on the Māhia Peninsula of New Zealand. To ensure precise insertion and responsible orbital deployment, the R3D2 payload will be deployed via the Electron Kick Stage to a circular orbit. Using this unique launch method, Electron’s second stage is left in a highly elliptical orbit where the stage is subject to significant atmospheric drag, causing it to de-orbit and burn up to nothing in a reduced time frame. The Kick Stage is then used to deploy the satellite payload to a precise orbit, following which the Kick Stage can perform a de-orbit burn to speed up its re-entry, leaving no orbital debris behind in space. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted sections in the quote above indicate the schedule. Rocket Lab had suggested last year that once it successfully completed its November and December 2018 launches it would in 2019 launch monthly. They are still clearly pushing for that schedule, but it is also clear now that they will not launch in January and their February launch will be late in the month, suggesting the next launch will likely not be in March.

These delays at this point are not significant, though if they do not ramp up to that monthly schedule by the end of 2019 it will be.

This late announcement of a payload for the first 2019 launch also suggests that DARPA was willing to pay a premium to leapfrog over Rocket Lab’s already signed customers. My industry sources also suggest that the U.S. military has in the past few months become very very interested in these new smallsat rockets, and has been approaching them all to arrange future flights.

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Problem found with Angara’s most powerful version

The new colonial movement: Engineers of the most powerful variant of Russia’s next generation Angara family of rockets, the Angara A5, have found a serious design issue in the engines that they appear to be having problems solving.

The issue with the Angara A5 was brought to attention by scientists at rocket engine manufacturer Energomash in a paper ahead of a space conference later this month.

The paper, reported by RIA news agency on Friday and published online, said the engines of the Angara A5 could produce low frequency oscillations that could ultimately destroy the rocket.

A special valve had been fitted to mitigate the issue, but in some cases the oscillations continued, it said. Energomash did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

This sounds to me like “pogo,” a somewhat common issue with rockets. A resonance builds up within the engines during launch, and the vibration can grow strong enough to cause serious damage. The Saturn 5 had this issue during its second test launch, requiring a redesign of the upper stage engine hydrogen fuel lines.

With this history in mind, I would still not make that much of a big deal about this issue. The Angara A5 is a new rocket. It simply needs testing in flight followed by engineering revisions to work out these kinks.

The problem will be Russia’s government. Putin wants this rocket flying, for his own political purposes, and the question remains whether he will allow its proper engineering development to proceed at the correct pace. This does not mean development should be slow, but that failure is accepted and allowed for while you maintain a fast pace.

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Kickstarter campaign starts to finance launch of garage-built cubesat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First unmanned test flight of manned Dragon now set for Feb 9

Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s first unmanned test launch of its manned Dragon capsule, delayed repeated in recent months, has now been scheduled for no early than Feb 9, with its dress rehearsal countdown static fire test set for January 23.

It appears that this scheduled date is more firm than the previous ones, as it was announced as part of the upcoming schedule of the Eastern Range’s planning schedule.

The article provides some interesting details about the effect (or non-effect) the government shutdown on this launch. Bottom line: It should not prevent it, in the slightest. It must be repeatedly noted that the launch will use a SpaceX launch team on a SpaceX run launchpad, and will only require NASA participation during docking procedures, procedures that require NASA employees who have been deemed essential and thus are working (even if unpaid at the moment).

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Democratic House threatens Webb cancellation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ariane 6 might be in trouble

Capitalism in space: Arianespace today announced that they will not be able to begin full production of their next generation rocket, Ariane 6, unless they get four more contracts from the partners in the European Space Agency.

With the maiden flight of the Ariane 6 now 18 months away (in July 2020), Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël said the company had anticipated signing a manufacturing contract with ArianeGroup in the second part of last year to begin production beyond the first rocket.

So far, European public entities have purchased three Ariane 6 missions — two from the European Commission for launching Galileo navigation satellites, and one from France for the CSO-3 military imaging satellite — but have not committed to the number envisioned at the start of the Ariane 6 program in 2014.

“We are confident it will happen,” Israël said of the remaining government missions. “But it is not done yet. We are working in this direction. It is now quite urgent because industry has anticipated the manufacturing of these first launchers, but now we need these institutional contracts to fully contractualize the first Ariane 6s.”

I wonder if the fact that the cost for an Ariane 6 launch is expected to be remain higher than a comparable SpaceX launch is the reason they are having trouble getting a commitment from their European partners. Why buy this rocket, when you can get the same service for less?

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ULA successfully launches U.S. spy satellite

Capitalism in space: Using its Delta-4 Heavy rocket, the most powerful in its rocket family, ULA today successfully placed a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spy satellite into orbit.

It was also revealed in this article that ULA plans a total of seven launches in 2019, including today’s launch, the fewest in a year since ULA was formed in 2007 from a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The standings in the 2019 launch race:

1 China
1 SpaceX
1 Japan
1 ULA

The U.S. leads in the national standings 2 to 1 over China.

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Bill to pay federal workers will not pay those not working

UPDATE: Thanks to my readers (see comments below), it appears that the essence of this story is wrong, and that the bill did provide for payment of salaries, even to those who did not work during the shutdown, essentially giving these federal employees a free paid vacation. What makes it even more galling is that federal workers generally are paid about twice what employees in the private sector get, and also get far better benefits, including vacation and sick time that is far far far longer. Now they get a cherry on top of that.

Some fiscal sanity enters Washington: The bill passed and signed this week by President Trump to pay federal workers will only provide pay to those who actually worked during the government shutdown.

While this might seem cruel to these workers, it is no different that the reality experienced by everyone in the private sector, and it is very fair to the taxpayers.

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Astronomers begin their 2020 decadal survey

The astronomy community has begun work on their 2020 decadal survey, the report they issue at the start of every decade since the early 1960s outlining their space priorities for the upcoming ten years.

While the first four decadal surveys were very successful, leading to the surge in space telescopes in the 1990s, the last two surveys in 2000 and 2010 have been failures, with the former proposing the James Webb Space Telescope and the latter the Wide Field Infared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), both of which have not launched, are behind schedule, and significantly over-budget.

The new survey appears focused on addressing this.

The 2020 decadal survey will develop detailed cost estimates for each project, as well as guidance for what managers can do if money gets tight. “We have to look at the budget reality while also doing things that are visionary,” says Fiona Harrison, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and co-chair of the effort.

Unfortunately, it is also going to focus on leftist identity politics.

Responding to problems of racism and harassment in science, the survey will also assess the state of astronomy as a profession and make recommendations for how it can improve. “We’re going to go there,” says the other co-chair, Robert Kennicutt, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Texas A&M University in College Station.

I do not have high hopes for this decadal survey, or for space science in the 2020s. The space astronomy community chose badly in the past twenty years, and it is likely going to take another decade for it to recover. For example, WFIRST appears to be going forward, and it also appears that it will be the same financial black hole that Webb was, eating up the entire space astrophysics budget at NASA for years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boston mayor wants doctors to grill patients about guns

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

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

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

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

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Shake-up at half billion dollar government ecology project

Even as the government shutdown continues, the contractor managing a $434 million ecology project has dismissed two project managers and dissolved a 20-member scientific advisory board.

The turmoil is the latest in a long line of woes for NEON, which launched in 2000 and has faced ballooning budgets and allegations of mismanagement by its previous operator. Battelle took over NEON’s operations in 2016 and, in 2018, appointed Collinge, an environmental scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder, as the network’s observatory director and chief scientist. The non-profit also created the 20-member Science, Technology & Education Advisory Committee (STEAC) to advise NEON.

STEAC members credit Battelle with saving NEON, and construction of its observatories is now on schedule. But several see the dismissals and cancellation of the board as a breach of trust with the scientists who hope to use NEON data. “That’s burning bridges, which you just can’t afford to do in a small community,” says Ankur Desai, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“I understand fully that this is very difficult and emotional for some people,” says Battelle spokesperson Patrick Jarvis. “Our goal remains to develop amazing data products and help the research community understand what’s going on at the broadest ecological level.”

The article includes a lot of whining by scientists about this, but I wonder. I also wonder at this project’s real scientific value. It could be legitimate, with the contractor merely cleaning house to make it run better. Or maybe it’s a boondoggle that is aimed solely at confirming the politically-driven environmental theories of the green activist community. If I had to guess, based on the track record of most big government projects these days, I’d pick the latter.

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Argentinian smallsat company signs 90 satellite deal with China

An Argentinian smallsat company, Satellogic, has signed a 90 satellite launch deal with China.

Satellogic’s constellation seems likely to compete with the remote-imaging satellite constellations operated by San Francisco-based Planet and Seattle-based BlackSky. The company promises to remap Earth at 1-meter pixel resolution every week and dramatically reduce the cost of high-frequency geospatial analytics.

The deal is officially signed with a so-called private launch company in China dubbed China Great Wall Industry, but that company merely acts as an agent for a Chinese government space operation, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

What this means however is that China’s launch rate is going to go even higher in the next few years.

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Arianespace plans at least 12 launches in 2019

Capitalism in space: The head of Arianespace today announced that it plans at least 12 launches in 2019.

Stéphane Israël, CEO of Evry, France-based Arianespace, said the company has four launches of the light-lift Vega rocket planned for this year, plus the maiden flight of the next-generation Vega C.

Arianespace’s first mission of the year is an Ariane 5 launch on Feb. 5. The rocket will carry two satellites — Arabsat’s Saudi GeoSat-1/Hellas Sat-4 and the Indian space agency ISRO’s GSAT-31 — to geostationary transfer orbit. All five Ariane 5 missions planned for this year will carry two satellites, as is customary, Israël said in an interview.

Israël said Arianespace has three firm Soyuz launches on its 2019 manifest, starting mid-February with the launch of 10 small telecom satellites for internet megaconstellation startup OneWeb.

Israël actually lists thirteen launches here, so I am not sure why the article sets the number at twelve. This number is only two more than my initial estimate based on scheduled launches listed here.

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Seeds sprout on Chang’e-4

The new colonial movement: The cotten seeds in a plant experiment on Chang’e-4 have now sprouted, becoming the first biological life to grow on the Moon.

On Tuesday, Chinese state media said the cotton seeds had now grown buds. The ruling Communist Party’s official mouthpiece the People’s Daily tweeted an image of the sprouted seed, saying it marked “the completion of humankind’s first biological experiment on the Moon”.

Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory’s astronomer-at-large, told the BBC the development was “good news”. “It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment. …I think there’s certainly a great deal of interest in using the Moon as staging post, particularly for flights to Mars, because it’s relatively near the Earth,” Mr Watson said.

Prof Xie Gengxin, the experiment’s chief designer, was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post: “We have given consideration to future survival in space. Learning about these plants’ growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base.” He said cotton could eventually be used for clothing while the potatoes could be a food source for astronauts and the rapeseed for oil.

This experiment is actually a very big deal, as it is the first biological experiment, ever, to take place in a low gravity environment. All previous plant experiments in space have taken place in zero gravity, and thus failed to tell us anything about growth in a partial Earth gravity environment.

That the seeds have sprouted only tells us that they can. What we don’t know yet is if the low lunar gravity distorts their growth.

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Iran rocket fails to place satellite in orbit

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

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

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

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

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

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Shutdown update: We don’t need them!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key quote:

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

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

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30+ students doxxed by leftists simply for attending conservative events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The man who challenged the government’s postal monopoly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Corrupt Washington moves to permanently fund itself

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

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

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

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

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

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China completes first launch of 2019, followed by SpaceX

The new colonial movement: China yesterday successfully completed the first launch of 2019, sending a military communications satellite into orbit with its Long March 3B rocket.

It is my impression, from various sources, that China might not launch quite as many rockets in 2019 as it did in 2018. Like SpaceX in the past two years, it was clearing out a backlog of launches caused by the failed launch of their biggest rocket, Long March 5, in 2017.

Still, I expect an active year from China. It is going to be very interesting to watch the 2019 launch race unfold. SpaceX for example has just successfully launched ten Iridium satellites into orbit, the first launch from Vandenberg this year, successfully landing the first stage on a barge.

Right now the U.S. and China are tied in the 2019 launch race, 1-1.

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Chandrayaan-2 launch now scheduled for mid-April

The new colonial movement: India’s Chandrayaan-2 lander/rover mission to the south pole region of the Moon has now been re-scheduled for mid-April.

The launch date had to be pushed from the initially scheduled January-February window, as a few related tests could not be completed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). Isro chairman K Sivan told the media on Friday that the next available slot is during March-April, and the launch could take place by mid-April. However, if this window is passed, the prestigious mission will have to be pushed again to June.

The article also suggests that they have made some changes to the mission’s flight plan.

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Air Force accepts first new Boeing tanker despite problems

The Air Force has accepted delivery of Boeing’s first new tanker airplane, despite problems that leaves the plane “years away from reaching their full operational potential.”

The U.S. Air Force has accepted the first Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker, an important milestone for the troubled program. However, the initial batch of aircraft will still have serious problems with their remote vision and refueling boom systems, meaning that the planes remain years away from reaching their full operational potential.

Foreign Policy was the first to report on the agreement between the Air Force and Boeing to proceed with the deliveries of the aircraft, citing anonymous sources, on Jan. 10, 2019. Defense News then reported that the Chicago-headquartered planemaker had agreed to fix the remaining deficiencies and that the Air Force’s top leadership reserved the right to withhold full payment for the planes – up to $1.5 billion in total if the service docks the company for each of the 52 aircraft in the first batch of planes – until it sees real progress.

…The acceptance and up-coming deliveries are a big deal for the KC-46A program, which has been mired in delays and controversy since Boeing won the Air Force’s KC-X competition in 2011. That decision itself followed nearly a decade of earlier, scandal-ridden Air Force attempts to procure a new tanker aircraft. Notably, in 2004, Darleen Druyun, a Boeing executive who had previously been the Air Force’s top procurement official, went to federal prison after receiving a conviction on corruption charges relating to an earlier tanker program.

The Air Force was supposed to have received a fleet of 18 KC-46As, the first tranche in the total initial buy of 52 aircraft, by the end of 2017 and reach an initial operational capability with the type shortly thereafter. Between 2011 and 2017, continuing technical difficulties…repeatedly pushed this schedule back. This continued into 2018, leading to an unusually public spat between the two parties over the program’s progress. Boeing’s contract is firm, fixed-price, and that company has already had to pay more than $3 billion of its own money to cover cost overruns. [emphasis mine]

Why is it that it seems to me that every single government program today is always “troubled” and “mired in delays and controversary?” Or maybe the question answers itself. These are government programs after all.

The one saving grace of this story is that the Air Force issued a fixed price contract here, so that the cost overruns fall on Boeing’s head, not the taxpayer (though Air Force errors in issuing the contract might negate this advantage). The delays however are shameful. It should not be so hard to build a tanker plane.

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Democratic NY mayor promises to redistribute the wealth of citizens

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

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

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

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

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