Tag Archives: Trump

Bridenstine: Artemis to cost $4-$6 billion per year

According to several reports this past weekend, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is now estimating the cost for the Trump administration’s Artemis lunar program at $20 to $30 billion, or $4 to $6 billion per year.

This has not been officially confirmed. Either way, I am not sure how Bridenstine will get this approved in the House, where the Democrats now have a policy to oppose any Trump proposal 100%. And if it doesn’t get approved, SLS will die after its second launch, as the bulk of this budget is to pay for its future flights to the Moon.

If a lower figure gets approved, that might force NASA to buy private rockets almost exclusively to get back to the Moon, rather than the mix of private and SLS as now proposed.

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Mexico deploys its national guard to its southern border

The Mexican government has begun deploying its national guard along its southern border in order to stem the tide of illegals entering its country aimed at reaching the U.S.

This is a major change from past Mexican policy, which previously had facilitated the movement of those illegals through its country so that they could reach the U.S. as easily as possible.

Mexico’s president is going to pay for this operation by selling his presidential plane for $150 million.

These actions are a direct result of the tariff deal Trump forced on Mexico last week. Though it is still unclear how much effect these actions will have, it is clear that Mexico wants the U.S. to believe it is now serious about stopping illegal immigration. The proof however will be in the pudding. The tariff deal gets reviewed in 90 days, and if the U.S. doesn’t see some real progress by Mexico in reducing illegal immigration through its country to the U.S., Trump has said he will then impose those tariffs.

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India sides with Israel in UN for the first time

On June 6 the Indian government for the first time voted in support of Israel and its motion against a Palestinian non-governmental organization linked to jihadi terrorist groups.

The vote took place on June 6, just weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his allies won a two-thirds majority in the Indian general elections. Since Modi took office in May 2014, India has mostly abstained from voting on UN resolutions targeting the Jewish state but has shied away from siding with Israel at the international body.

…By backing Israel at the UN, Prime Minister Modi has finally broken away from the country’s historical voting pattern of siding with the Arab and Muslim countries.

Modi’s landslide election victory probably helped bring about this change of position. I also suspect that Trump’s decision to cut off funds from Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations, while moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, also made it easier for Modi to make this change. Trump has essentially said that the Palestinian emperor has no clothes (ie they are not interested in peace, only killing Jews), and this has allowed many others to chime in as well.

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House proposes streamlined Space Corps within Air Force

The House Armed Services Committee has proposed a streamlined Space Corps operating within the Air Force.

The bipartisan agreement calls for a single four-star general in charge of Space Force, compared with the three four-star generals the administration envisioned. It would also have fewer personnel transferred from other services into the Space Force, Smith said. “The main difference from the administration’s approach is less bureaucracy,” Smith said.

This is largely the same plan the committee endorsed in the House’s version of the 2018 NDAA, he said. The Senate Armed Services Committee, which has endorsed Trump’s plan, rejected Space Corps and the language did not make it into the final bill.

As always in Washington, the battle is between those who want to increase the size, power, and wealth of government, and those who wish to shrink it, while making it more effective (something it has not been for decades). The Democratic House plan appears to be taking the latter approach, while the Republican Senate wants the former.

Note how the partisan politics here are reversed. The Democrats in the House are pushing for smaller and more efficient government, and the Republican Senate is opposed, preferring a big unwieldy and unneeded Space Force instead.

In other words, politicians from both parties are not to be trusted. We need to make them all understand that we are watching, and that they will lose at the polls if they choose to expand this bankrupt government.

As for this House proposal, I am encouraged that the House is still pushing it. Hopefully the Senate will finally get on board.

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Trump announces immigration deal with Mexico, suspending tariffs

President Trump today announced that an immigration deal has been worked out with Mexico, and that he is indefinitely suspending the tariffs he was going to impose on imports from that country.

A “U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration” released by the State Department late June 7 outlined the details of the deal, saying the U.S. “will immediately expand the implementation” of a program that returns immigrants who cross the southern border to Mexico while their claims are adjudicated. Mexico will “offer jobs, healthcare and education” to those people, “according to its principles,” the agreement stated.

Mexico has also agreed, it said, to take “unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration,” including the deployment of the Mexican National Guard throughout the country, starting June 10, especially on its southern border with Guatemala. And Mexico is taking “decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks,” the State Department said.

The agreement calls for more negotiations over the next ninety days.

We shall see. These kind of government deals never seem to accomplish what they promise, so I therefore remain skeptical Mexico will do much to stem the tide of illegals flowing through their country to the U.S.

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White House to allow ISS commercialization, including tourists

Capitalism in space: The White House today released an interim proposal [pdf] that would allow private enterprise on ISS, including allowing American private companies to fly tourists to the station.

A new interim directive from NASA allows private companies to buy time and space on the ISS for producing, marketing, or testing their products. It also allows those companies to use resources on the ISS for commercial purposes, even making use of NASA astronauts’ time and expertise (but not their likeness). If companies want, they can even send their own astronauts to the ISS, starting as early as 2020, but all of these activities come with a hefty price tag.

This fits with the Trump administration’s overall push to shift the American space effort from a NASA “program” to an independent and profitable American space industry.

Will this work? I cannot see how it can’t. At a minimum, it will tell us if there really is a viable market for space tourism and industry on the space station.

For the Russians this is another disaster. They had planned to sell the available seats on their Soyuz, no longer used by NASA astronauts, to tourists. It is very likely that business will shift to the U.S. manned capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing.

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Trump considers delaying tariffs as Mexico increases action on illegals

It appears that Trump’s threat to impose escalating tariffs on Mexico if it does not start enforcing its own laws against illegal immigrants is having an effect.

First, Mexico today blocked hundreds of illegals as they attempted to cross from Guatemala into Mexico.

Second, Trump has signaled that if this is true he is now willing to consider delaying the first round of 5% tariffs, set to go into effect on June 10.

Mexico’s action might simply be a Potemkin Village, not be be taken seriously. For anyone, including Trump, to take it seriously will require a lot more enforcement. Regardless, it does appears that the tariff threat might be forcing Mexico to give Trump what he wants.

Update: Mexico today also froze the banking accounts of 26 individuals and organizations its says an investigation has found provided funding for the illegal migrant caravans.

The operation tracked financial movements from October 2018 through current dates in an attempt to determine the sources of funding for the migrant caravans. According to their statement, the UIF identified a group of individuals that made several questionable international financial transactions from the cities of Chiapas and Queretaro during the times that the migrant caravans were moving through those places.

Mexican authorities followed the path of the caravans and the financial operations from Queretaro to the border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Ciudad Acuna, Piedras Negras, and Reynosa. Based on that information, Mexican authorities were able to trace the source of the funds to the U.S., England, Cameroon, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the statement revealed.

Based on the result of the investigation, the UIF moved to freeze the accounts in Mexico of the 26 individuals and entities that are believed to have helped fund the migrant caravans or contributed to human smuggling organizations, the SHCP statement revealed. While authorities did not name the individuals or the entities whose assets they froze, they revealed that they would be filing complaints with Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

Once again, this is positive news, but until we see some actual prosecutions I suspect that Trump will remain skeptical.

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New Zimmerman op-ed at The Federalist

In the piece, Trump’s Promising New Space Plan Won’t Work Without Cutting The Pork, I take a close look at Trump’s Moon plan and actually come away somewhat encouraged.

For one, it is pretty clear that Gateway has been dumped, or at least deemphasized significantly. Second, the plan shifts the focus from NASA being the builder of the program to NASA being a customer of the private sector.

Read it all. There’s a lot more.

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Republican senators move to stop Trump’s Mexico tariffs

The stupid party: A half dozen Republican senators have announced their opposition to the escalating tariffs Trump has imposed on Mexico designed to force that country to cooperate on gaining control of illegal immigration.

Joining [Chuck] Grassley [R-Iowa] in opposition to the tariffs were pro-trade Senate Republicans Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Martha McSally of Arizona, John Cornyn of Texas, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Rob Portman of Ohio, whose votes Trump will need to pass the USMCA.

This is the same pattern I’ve seen from Republicans for the past half century. Anytime anyone attempts to do anything that might clean up any of the mess we are in, a bunch jump in, for their own aggrandizement, to stymie it.

The article makes the claim that a border state like Arizona will be hurt by these tariffs. Bah. I live here, and see the harm the illegal immigration is actually doing. First, the flood of illegals is damaging the state’s natural environment, as they leave an incredible amount of trash throughout the wildernesses they travel.

Second, the flood has caused the government to make entering the U.S. a miserable and time-consuming experience for people doing it legally, one that is actually discouraging trade. You want to go to Mexico? You walk or drive across the border in seconds. You want to come back? Expect the wait to be one to two to three hours.

Third, the flood is distorting the market. Illegals have to work in the black market, which means they get badly taken advantage of. At the same time, their presence hurts legal workers, who can’t get work.

Fourth, and most important, the flood of illegals is fueling a rising contempt of the law, both by the illegals as well as American citizens. This in the long run is likely the worst consequence of the federal government’s inability to do its job here effectively.

And as usual, we have a lot of dumb Republicans who will team up with the partisan Democrats (who only want power) to block Trump’s effort, an effort that has already shown a positive effect and might actually fix the problem.

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Mexico’s president responds to Trump’s imposition of tariffs

Mexico’s president Andres Manuel López Obrador has issued a response to Trump’s announcement yesterday of the imposition of tariffs, set to escalate monthly, until Mexico makes some effort to help with the illegal immigration problem.

In his letter (pdf) translated by the Wall Street Journal, the socialist leader pushed back at Trump’s announcement, accusing him of transforming the United States from “a country of fraternity for the world’s migrants into a ghetto.” He also attacked Trump’s “America First” slogan, calling it a fallacy as they should be seeking instead the socialist principles of “universal justice and fraternity.”

Obrador then proposed to “deepen the dialogue” instead of using “taxes or coercive measures” to resolve the illegal immigration issue, which has overwhelmed the immigration system at the U.S.-Mexico border. “It is worth remembering that, within a short period of time, Mexicans will not need to migrate into the United States and that migration will become optional, not compulsory. This is because we are fighting corruption, the main problem in Mexico, as never before!” Obrador said as he tried to convince Trump to “seek alternatives to the immigration problem.”

He added that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico is leading a delegation to Washington to discuss with the Trump administration in order to seek “an agreement for the benefit of the two nations.”

The last paragraph is the important part. Everything else is bluster. Obrador needs to get those tariffs lifted, so he needs to negotiate something with the U.S. to get Trump to remove them. Whether he is really willing to help shut down the illegal traffic remains to be seen.

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Trump imposes escalating tariffs on Mexico

President Trump announced today the imposition of escalating tariffs on Mexico until it acts to stop illegal immigration traveling through its country from Central America.

From the White House statement:

To address the emergency at the Southern Border, I am invoking the authorities granted to me by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Accordingly, starting on June 10, 2019, the United States will impose a 5 percent Tariff on all goods imported from Mexico. If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed.

If the crisis persists, however, the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1, 2019. Similarly, if Mexico still has not taken action to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States, Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019. Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory.

It seems to me a perfectly reasonable position, considering how unwilling Mexico has been to enforce its own immigration laws in connection with illegals heading to the U.S. The illegal immigrant caravans crossing Mexico last year from other Central American countries could have been stopped if the Mexico government had taken action. Instead, it provided aid and comfort to these illegals, often to the distress of its own citizens.

Since then that government’s policies on illegal immigration have been very mixed.

Trump’s action here might serve to clarify the situation.

The bottom line remains the same as always. The law should be obeyed. The federal government is obligated to enforce that law. And, as the White House statement noted, “Workers who come to our country through the legal admissions process, including those working on farms, ranches, and in other businesses, will be allowed easy passage.” Nothing the Trump administration has done has contradicted that statement.

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Turkey releases jailed American citizen

Turkey yesterday released an American citizen and former NASA researcher whom they had arrested in 2016 during their effort to squelch a failed coup.

39-year-old Serkan Golge has been in Turkish custody since 2016 when he was arrested in the southern part of the country while on vacation. The arrest occurred in the midst of a failed coup attempt where thousands were detained on dubious evidence as suspicions swirled in the Turkish government. Golge was sentenced to five years on terrorism charges.

…Golge was accused of working with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government alleged was the mastermind behind the failed coup attempt. The only evidence authorities had against Golge was a $1 bill they found after searching his brother’s house. Turkish prosecutors alleged that Gülen would give blessed $1 bills to his followers.

Though the decision to release Golge was made by the Turkish courts, don’t be fooled. This was done for political reasons. It occurred only hours after Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan completed a phone conversation about trade and tariff issues. They apparently did not discuss Golge, but I am sure Erdoğan realized that getting Gloge released would make negotiations with Trump easier.

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Trump give Barr authority to declassify documents related to campaign spying by Obama

President Trump yesterday gave Attorney General William Barr the authority to declassify any documents related to the campaign spying by the Obama administration that occurred during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump also ordered all intelligence agencies to cooperate completely with Barr’s investigation, an order that common sense says should be unnecessary, as Barr is their boss and they should therefore always cooperate with him. However, we live in interesting times, when federal employees now think they have the right to tell elected officials what to do, and to even act to overthrow those elected officials if they don’t like them.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats who repeatedly scream for transparency and the public release of all documents are protesting Trumps orders.

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House ignores request for more NASA money for moon mission

A House committee today approved a NASA budget that ignored the Trump administration’s request for $1.6 billion more money to support its attempt to land a manned mission on the Moon by 2024.

Instead, the committee shifted more money into earth science and Gateway.

Whether this budget is what ends up being enacted remains to be seen. It does appear however that Trump will have great trouble funding his Moon project. Sadly, that lack of funding does not mean the overall federal budget is coming under control. On the contrary, it appears the Democratic-controlled House simply wants to spend lots of money, but on different things.

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Trump walks out of infrastrucure negotiations

President Trump immediately walked out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) yesterday, saying he will hold no discussions on infrastructure as long as the Democrats continue their investigations into his administration.

Trump’s anger appears to have been sparked by comments Pelosi made earlier in the day when she said, “We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up” by blocking White House aides from giving testimony and responding to document requests from ongoing congressional investigations.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump insisted Wednesday.

The article suggests that Trump planned this as a way to get out of the negotiations. Maybe, but I think his goal is to get the investigations stopped. He is quite willing to make a deal to spend trillions that we don’t have on “infrastructure,” as are the Democrats. By walking out he is putting pressure on the Democratic leadership to shut those investigations down in order to get him to work out a deal to spend the money they also want.

The result, for the moment, is that we have no infrastructure deal. I hope this stalemate lasts forever.

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Trump seeks $1.6 billion more for NASA, cuts money to Gateway

The Trump administration, in order to support its desire to accomplish a lunar landing by 2024, is requesting a $1.6 billion increase in NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2020. The key detail however is this:

NASA shortly thereafter published a summary of its budget amendment, which calls for nearly $1.9 billion in new funding for developing lunar landers and accelerating work on the Space Launch System and Orion. It would also go towards exploration technology development and additional science missions to the moon. That increase would be offset by cutting funding for the lunar Gateway by $321 million, reflecting the agency’s plan for only a “minimal” Gateway needed to support a 2024 landing.

In other words, in total Trump wants $1.6 billion more. The good news: He is de-emphasizing Gateway in his future plans. This might even lead to its cancellation as a project.

The bad news? He is pumping more money into SLS/Orion. However, this might not be that bad, when one considers how our bankrupt Washington government functions. Trump doesn’t have the political backing to cut SLS/Orion outright. Instead this proposal is that project’s Hail Mary pass for a touchdown. While private efforts continue to mature to develop cheaper rockets and manned capsules, SLS/Orion will have this one last chance to finally prove itself. If it finds it can’t get it done, and those private options show that they can, then Trump might finally be able to harness the political will in our dumb Congress to dump SLS/Orion.

And if SLS/Orion does succeed? The victory will likely still be a Pyrrhic one. SLS/Orion will still be too expensive and too slow to do much else but a single lunar landing, a stunt much like Apollo, with far less long term possibilities. Meanwhile, those private efforts will continue to develop. By 2024 a switch by NASA to private enterprise and competition will still make sense anyway, even if SLS/Orion gives the nation a spectacular lunar landing.

This action indicates that the Trump administration is paying attention to these matters. They are creating a situation that will put them in a strong negotiating position to get what they want, for the nation. One way or the other, we will be heading back to the Moon.

One minor detail: NASA has chosen “Artemis” as the name for its project to land on the Moon by 2020.

Bridenstine also … announce[d] that this 2024 lunar landing mission will be named Artemis, after the sister of Apollo and the Greek goddess of the moon. “I think it is very beautiful that, 50 years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man and the first woman to the moon.”

No one should be fooled by this. Apollo was a full program, with a well-thought slate of missions designed to get us to the Moon quickly. This SLS/Orion project is still an off the cuff mishmash, with only two or three flights at most, and without much of a plan behind those flights. It has been and continues to be an improvised mess.

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Blue Origin unveils proposed lunar lander

Capitalism in space: Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Blue Origin, today unveiled his company’s proposed lunar lander, dubbed Blue Moon, that Bezos claims will land on the Moon by 2024.

It harnesses many of the same ‘propulsion, precision guidance, vertical landing and landing gear systems’ utilized by New Shepard, Blue Origin’s rocket meant to ferry humans to the moon. The craft is equipped with fuel cells to provide ‘kilowatts of power’ that are capable of lasting for long-distance missions. Once Blue Moon arrives at its destination, it uses machine learning algorithms to land with precision on the lunar surface.

Blue Moon can deliver several metric tons of payload to the moon, thanks to its top deck and lower bays, the latter of which will allow for ‘closer access to the lunar surface and off-loading,’ the firm said.

With this technology, Blue Origin hopes it will prepare us to be able to send humans back to the moon as soon as 2024.

The article also mentions a new rocket engine that Bezos said Blue Origin is developing, called the BE-7, specifically designed for these lunar landers.

Blue Origin is clearly lobbying to get the job of building the lunar landers NASA needs and has said it will buy from the private sector. And its New Shepard reusable suborbital craft, with a booster that has successfully landed vertically now eleven times, shows that it understands this technology.

Nonetheless, I must admit that Bezos is beginning to remind me of Richard Branson, big with promises but late on delivery. New Shepard was going to start flying humans in 2017, then 2018, now this year. New Glenn was supposed to fly by 2020. They have now delayed that until 2021. Development of the BE-4 engine that Blue Origin wants to use in New Glenn and also sell to ULA for its Vulcan rocket seems to have stalled. The last update on its status was more than a year ago, which was also about the time of the last mention of any engine tests. They could be keeping things quiet, but I wonder. At that time they appeared close to certifying the engine for flight. They have never announced that this has happened, though ULA subsequently did choose the engine for Vulcan.

In fact, in writing the last paragraph and reviewing my posts on Behind the Black, I realized that there has been little or no press for the past year on either New Glenn or BE-4. I wonder why. I can’t imagine any reason at all for not announcing the engine’s certification as operational, yet no such announcement has ever been made.

Anyway, if Blue Origin delivers on today’s hyped-up press announcement, it will be very exciting. He definitely is pushing the right buttons for getting the government work from NASA.

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North Korea does second missile test in a week

North Korea today did its second short-range missile test in the past week.

They launched two missiles, each traveling about 260 miles.

This is clearly a negotiating tactic on their part. This spat of launches now might also have been encouraged by their sponsor, China, which is also in negotiations with the Trump administration about trade. China gains negotiating leverage with Trump in that it can say: Give us what we want and we will pressure North Korea to cease missile tests.

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House Democrats threaten to withhold salaries from Trump officials

The various House committees now run by the Democrats who have been demanding information and testimony from a host of Trump administration officials, some very inappropriate and even possibly illegal, are now threatening to withhold salaries from any Trump officials who defy their demands.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent letters Tuesday calling for eight current and former Trump administration officials to provide information for two of the panel’s investigations, cautioning that officials who block the interviews from taking place could see their salaries withheld.

“Please be advised that any official at the Department who ‘prohibits or prevents’ or ‘attempts or threatens to prohibit or prevent’ any officer or employee of the Federal Government from speaking with the Committee could have his or her salary withheld pursuant to section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act,” Cummings wrote in the letters.

Cummings is one of two House committees threatening this action.

I doubt they will be able to follow through with this threat, but I am very sure they mean it and will do it if they can. And this illustrates better than anything the difference between the weak-kneed Republicans in Washington and the Democrats. The Republicans are generally afraid of their own shadow, and are never really willing to use the law or the evidence aggressively to gain a political advantage. The Democrats meanwhile always mean business, and will do whatever they can to get what they want. This is why we are losing the country to these thugs.

And it is also why we have Trump today. Unlike those cowardly Republicans, Trump also means business, and is willing to fight. I might not always agree with him, but so far he has been very straight about what he wants to do, and he has done everything he can to aggressively achieve those goals.

I just wish we had a few more people on the right side of politics with the same courage.

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The battle over Trump’s Moon effort exposes Washington’s power-hungry bureaucracy

This analysis by Eric Berger at Ars Technica of the political situation surrounding SLS, Orion, Gateway, and the Trump administration’s desire to quickly get back to the Moon is quite cogent and worth reading in full. It suggests that it will be very difficult for Trump to get his lunar landing, for several reasons. First, the Democrats in the House will likely not fund it. Second, because to get it done by 2024 will likely require switching to private rockets, and that action will be opposed by Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama). And third because there are factions in the NASA bureaucracy that are in love with SLS and Gateway and will work to save it.

This quote is most telling:

At NASA headquarters, [human spaceflight chief Bill] Gerstenmaier and this team that plays a central role in developing policy for the space agency are likely content to play a waiting game. Without an increased budget he can continue to spend money on developing the SLS rocket for some future launch date and begin procuring elements of the Lunar Gateway. He can make some small investments in a lunar lander but doesn’t have to commit to its development before the end of next year, which may bring a new president and new priorities.

In other words, Bill Gerstenmaier, an unelected bureaucrat at NASA, has more power to determine U.S. space policy than elected lawmakers.

I ask, how does Gerstenmaier have the right to “develop policy for the space agency?” What legislative authority gives him the right to “play a waiting game” while continuing to “spend money on developing the SLS rocket… and procuring elements of Lunar Gateway?” These are policy decisions that belong solely to Congress and the President, not some hired government bureaucrat.

In a sense this story is only another reflection of the entire Russian collusion scandal. Hired government officials with no legal authority decide that they really know best, and this hubris allows them to supplant the decisions of lawmakers, and even attempt to overthrow them if necessary.

I reluctantly predicted this behavior back in June 2016 when I visited Washington and wrote this essay: The think tank culture of Washington:

What will this elite community do should Trump win the presidency and start demanding that they do things differently? Will they recognize that we are a democracy and work with him, the elected choice of the American people, or will they resist because he isn’t the politician they wanted and wants to institute policies they disagree with?

…I fear that the culture of Washington is becoming increasingly hostile to and insulated against the choices of the American electorate. I fear that they will one day soon decide to team up with the politicians they like to use the concentrated power we have given them in Washington to reject those choices, even to the extent of tossing out the Constitution and the democratic legal system that made the United States once the freest and wealthiest nation in the history of the human race.

I hope I am wrong. I pray that I am wrong. I think we might very well find out in the coming year.

Sadly, what we have learned in the past three years is that this Washington think tank culture is quite willing to overthrow the Constitution and the law, to get what they want. The situation at NASA only gives us another example of this terrible reality.

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Trump & Democrats work out $2 trillion spending deal

The coming dark age: President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats have come to a preliminary deal for spending an additional $2 trillion for “infrastructure.”

The dozen Democratic lawmakers in the meeting with the president called it a constructive start. They said Trump agreed that infrastructure investments should go beyond roads and bridges and include broadband, water systems, and enhancements to the electrical grid.

Democrats also put the onus on Trump to come up with a funding source, and said they would meet again in three weeks, when the president will present his ideas. The nation’s top business groups and labor unions support increasing the federal gasoline tax, currently 18.3 cents a gallon. It was last raised in 1993. [emphasis mine]

Everything about this deal illustrates the corruption and bankruptcy in Washington. They all think money falls from the sky like rain, and can be spent freely without any thought or discipline. Instead of looking for available cash to pay for this work, they will make a deal to spend the money, and hope new gas taxes will pay for it. They won’t, not by a long shot, and we will fall deeper into debt, even as we cripple the already handicapped citizenry with more taxes.

Worse, most of this spending is for local projects that should be paid for by local governments, as had once been the tradition. Now every Senator and Congressperson is making deals to bring federal cash back to their state or district, even if the federal government doesn’t have the money. And Trump is joining in the game, to win votes and claim he helped rebuild the country! No one mentions that we are going bankrupt, including the bankrupt press which joins the politicians in playing this gamel.

The politics of this deal also illustrate the corruption that is rotting the heart of the country. Too many voters cheer this wild spending on, voting for these very politicians because they bring home this bacon, even though it is bacon no one can afford. It is why the politicians spend the money. They benefit from it at the voting booth.

A dark age is coming. Be aware.

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How not to fall for modern news propaganda

Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist yesterday posted a very cogent and honest essay entitled, “Here’s Why I Didn’t Fall For The Russia-Trump Conspiracy.”

To preface, during the past two years Hemingway, along with a small cadre of honest Washington reporters, maintained their objectivity and did not fall for the Russian collusion scam. Instead, they documented the absurdity of the mainstream press’s claims and its never-ending “bombshells” (all of which ended up to be duds).

Hemingway outlines how, living deep within that Washington press culture, she at first found it difficult to resist peer pressure to accept the anti-Trump claims. She then describes how she did come to resist, and concludes as follows:

I didn’t fall for the Russia hoax that CNN and other media outlets did because I worked hard at understanding the appeal of his candidacy even before the Russia narrative started. At the same time, I recognized how disruptive he was to the established order and the livelihoods of those who had grown comfortable in D.C. Unlike many reporters, I knew and loved many people who voted for Trump. My background as a media critic made me aware of information campaigns and how to resist them. My dislike of the interventionist foreign policy made me less susceptible to scaremongering about realist foreign policy.

Her essay is worth reading because it provides a nice summary of the dishonesty rampant the past two years in the leftist press and Washington culture.

Reading her essay, however, made me wonder why I never fell for the Russia-Trump conspiracy. The answer was obvious. Hemingway, seeped in that mainstream press culture, as a Washington reporter, found increasingly she had to check what that press was telling her, and repeatedly found what it was saying was a lie.

I however long ago realized how dishonest and untrustworthy that mainstream press is, and thus have not relied on it for information, in the slightest, for about two decades. When a news source routinely gets its story wrong and then does nothing to correct the problem, I then decide that news source is not a source I will rely on for information.

For the past two years I have routinely ignored the anti-Trump claims and “bombshells” put forth by the NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, and all the other mainstream news sources. I simply don’t go to them for information. I knew from much experience that information would be wrong, and not worth the electrons that broadcast it.

Thus, I found it easy to dismiss as hogwash their claims that Trump was an agent for Russia. I already knew the people making the claim were clowns not to be listened to.

Does that make me uninformed or close-minded? No. Instead, I avoid being misinformed, as the facts I dig up from many other news sources, checked against each other, generally turn out to be trustworthy.

Everyone in the U.S., going forward, should keep this in mind. These leftist news sources are merely propaganda operations for the Democratic Party. If you rely on them for information you will definitely not know what is going on. Instead, you will be a puppet for that political party, someone unfit to call themselves a free citizen of a free nation.

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CNN reporter advocates censorship by the FBI

Words fail me: In an interview of former FBI head James Comey, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour actually had to have the first amendment explained to her by Comey after she suggested that the FBI should act to censor speech it considers “hate speech.”.

“Of course, ‘lock her up’ was a feature of the 2016 Trump campaign,” Amanpour said. “Do you in retrospect wish that people like yourself, the FBI, I mean, the people in charge of law and order, had shut down that language — that it was dangerous potentially, that it could’ve created violence, that it’s kind of hate speech. Should that have been allowed?

Comey explained the First Amendment to Amanpour, replying, “That’s not the role for government to play. The beauty of this country is people can say what they want, even if it’s misleading and it’s demagoguery.” [emphasis mine]

I am no fan of Comey, as I think he was a willing participant in the effort at the FBI to illegally overturn the 2016 election of Trump. However, he at least has a basic understanding of the Constitution, the fundamental law of the land. For a reporter at a national cable network to not understand this is horrifying.

The video of Amanpour’s comments is posted below the fold. The clip begins with Amanpour giving Comey a platform to condemn any possible investigation into the FBI’s abuse of power. Not surprising, as he and others remain very vulnerable in this matter.

Amanpour then wonders why that the FBI didn’t shut down free speech she and Comey didn’t like. Also not surprising, coming from an employee of a network whose sole purpose these past two years has been to overthrow the legal election of Trump, in league with that corrupt FBI.

And CNN wonders why Trump calls them “fake news”.
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Scientists horrified that Trump wants to require universities to honor free speech

This is not a Babylon Bee story. An article today in the science journal Nature actually expressed outrage and concern about President Trump’s executive order last week tying the grants a university gets to its willingness to protect the free speech of all its students and teachers.

What evil thing did Trump’s order require of these universities? To quote the Nature article itself,

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on 21 March that requires universities to certify that they protect free speech, or risk losing federal research funds.

Public institutions will have to certify that they are following free-speech protections laid out in the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and private institutions must promise to follow their stated policies on free speech, a White House official told reporters on 21 March.

The order applies to 12 research agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and NASA. It affects only money for research, not financial aid for students.

O the horror! The universities will have to show that they support free speech! What a travesty!

The Nature article then proceeded to find quotes from a number of scientists and organizations who oppose Trump’s action. One even claimed that Trump was not trying to protect free speech, “but the enhancement of conservative voices.”

In other words, to these scientists, there is plenty of free speech in academia. Liberals and leftists are all free to say whatever they want. However, any attempt to allow conservatives the right to speak is clearly a biased threat to freedom and must be stopped at all costs. And to threaten their funding because of this? The nerve of that bad orange man!

The intellectual dishonesty exhibited here is mind-boggling. And for it to come from scientists, whose entire field is built on the need for brutal intellectual honesty at all times, is quite appalling.

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The National Space Council’s full recommendations

Yesterday’s meeting of the National Space Council resulted in a number of recommendations beyond vice-president Mike Pence’s announcement that the Trump administration is quite willing to dump SLS if it doesn’t get its act together.

First, see this statement by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. He outlines the tasks that NASA has now been given, including getting astronauts on the Moon by 2024. Those tasks also require NASA to “[s]tay on schedule for flying Exploration Mission-1 with Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission to the lunar vicinity by 2022.”

This article at SpacePolicyOnline outlines those tasks in more detail, stating that:

NASA will create a Moon-to-Mars Mission Directorate and make all necessary efforts to achieve Exploration Mission-1 no later than 2020 and Exploration Mission-2 no later than 2022. [emphasis mine]

These announcements inadvertently reveal two facts. First, the establishment of a new directorate at NASA is Bridenstine’s attempt to shake up and take control of NASA’s bureaucracy. This will allow him to put people in place that support his agenda.

Will this work? I doubt it. I have watched NASA administrators do this time after time in the past twenty years, with nothing really changing. In a sense, it is really nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Second, they are admitting here (as indicated by the highlighted words) that the first SLS unmanned launch will not happen in June 2020. They have reviewed everything and realized the fastest way to get this launch off is to allow SLS to launch it, but they have also realized that the June date can’t be met. This announcement gives NASA and Boeing an extra six months, to the end of 2020, to get the mission off the ground.

The recommendations also included the release of major suggested changes to streamline how both the State Department and the FAA regulate commercial space. Neither appear to streamline things much. For example, the FAA’s new rule [pdf] on federal commercial space transportation requirements is only 580 pages long. My eyes glazed over as soon as I started reading it. Similarly, the new State Department procedures appear as complex. I haven’t digested either yet, so my pessimism might be unfounded. We shall see.

All in all, the significance of these policy announcements is not so much in the details, all of which illustrate the continuing incompetence and failures of the federal space bureaucracy. What these announcements instead tell us is that the Trump administration is finally attempting the first baby steps for gaining some measure of control over that federal space bureaucracy. It is telling that bureaucracy that it had finally has to do something, or face the consequences.

Whether the administration’s efforts will succeed however remains very questionable. Many in that bureaucracy and in Congress will oppose this effort. They like things as they are, where billions get distributed throughout the country to their friends, and no one is ever required to accomplish anything. And they have managed for the past twenty years to maintain this status quo. It will not be easy to force a change now.

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Pence reiterates Trump administration’s willingness to abandon SLS

Turf war! At today’s National Space Council meeting, vice-president Mike Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s willingness to replace SLS with commercial rockets, if that is what it will take to get Americans back to the Moon by 2024.

Pence said the schedule for completing SLS must be accelerated, but also opened the door to using rockets built by a commercial spaceflight company for the lunar mission. “We’re not committed to any one contractor. If our current contractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will,” he said. “And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be.”

It is very clear now that the Trump administration is beginning the political war necessary for shutting down the SLS boondoggle, something that cannot happen easily considering how its large workforce is scattered in so many states and congressional districts. To make it happen, they need to publicly illustrate its failure, repeatedly, but do so in a manner that does not overly antagonize SLS’s supporters. This is why both Pence and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine have been careful to express support for SLS, even as they hint at its replacement.

The battle is joined, however, and that could be a very good thing for the American space industry, in the coming years.

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Key House Democrat announces opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal

Adam Smith (D-Washington), the House Democrat who now heads the committee that approves military space funding, has announced his opposition to Trump’s Space Force proposal.

He revealed two objections. One, he claimed the proposal was top heavy in management, with its leadership delegated to one civilian and two generals. The second complaint I think is more pertinent.

The Trump proposal includes language about the Space Force’s civilian workforce that the Democrats just can’t stomach. In his statement, Smith says that “a large part of the proposal is an attack on the rights of DoD civilian employees. It asks for broad authority to waive long-standing and effective elements of civil service rules, pay rates, merit-based hiring, and senior civilian management practices.”

As usual, the Democrats are more interested in acting as union reps for the government workforce than serving the needs of the country. Trump’s proposal, as put forth, might not make sense, but Smith is clearly not interested in fixing it. Instead, he wants shape this new bureaucracy so that it provides him and DC with more funding and power. The country can go to hell.

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U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights

The United States today officially recognized the Israeli claim of sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

President Trump on Monday formally recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a much-needed boost as he raced home to respond to a rocket attack that struck near Tel Aviv, wounding seven.

Mr. Trump’s proclamation reversed about a half-century of U.S. policy, which viewed the Golan Heights as Syrian territory occupied by Israel. “This was a long time in the making, it should have taken place many decades ago,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the papers inside the White House.

The rocket attack came from Gaza, causing Netanyahu to cut short his U.S. trip to deal with it.

Remember Gaza? That was the territory that Israel once controlled, and unilaterally left in order to give the Palestinians their own sovereign state. They have since used that sovereignty to elect terrorists as their leaders, and to lob bombs at innocent Israelis.

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Does the Mueller report suggest there is hope?

I have come to three somewhat contradictory conclusions in thinking this weekend about the unexpectedly reasonable conclusions announced in the final Mueller report, stating that, despite two years of intense investigation which at times bordered on a witch hunt, there was no collusion between Trump and the Russians to win the election.

1. Robert Mueller is a hack who works hard for the liberal Washington swamp, doing their bidding whenever he can. The summary letter of his report by Attorney General William Barr inadvertently reveals this.

In the first paragraph of Barr’s letter he describes Mueller’s report has entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” This would imply that Mueller’s goal was to investigate all possible aspects of Russian interference, including collusion that might have also taken place in the Clinton campaign.

However, in the very next paragraph Barr states,
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Mueller submits report, ends investigation

Special Council Robert Mueller today submitted his report to his new boss Attorney General Bill Barr at the Department of Justice, officially ending his two year long investigation that was supposedly aimed at proving collusion between Donald Trump and the Russian government in order to get him elected.

In those two years, Mueller made a few indictments, none of which had anything to do with Trump-Russian collusion. Most were process crimes, created during the investigation against individuals for either not answering questions perfectly or because Mueller went on a fishing expedition until he found something. None would have happened had this faux investigation had not been instigated.

Moreover, according to the news story at the link, Mueller is “not recommending any further indictments” with this submission.

Or to put it more bluntly, this was all a sham, aimed at deposing the legally elected president of the United States.

Meanwhile, evidence of real collusion, involving Obama and Hillary Clinton and the Russians, was ignored, and in fact the FBI took hostile actions against those involved in revealing it.

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