Tag Archives: Trump

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,
» Read more

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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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The Washington Empire strikes back!

In response to the revelation earlier this week by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine that the agency is considering replacing SLS with commercial rockets for Orion’s first unmanned lunar test mission in June 2020, the swamp in Washington quickly rallied to SLS’s defense.

Not surprisingly, porkmeister Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) led the charge:

“While I agree that the delay in the SLS launch schedule is unacceptable, I firmly believe that SLS should launch the Orion,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said in a statement to SpaceNews.

This was followed by statements from industry groups and other lawmakers, all supporting SLS. Next came Bridenstine himself, who emphasized his strong support of SLS at a conference yesterday, then issued a memo to NASA employees reiterating that support.

As far as I can tell, the only way SLS will eventually die is when private companies begin doing things that SLS is designed for, for less money and faster, and for profit. And that won’t happen if this Washington swamp has its say. Rather than see an American success, these cronies have made it clear in the past decade that they will work to squelch any such success if poses any threat to their boondoggles. And it appears now that they are moving to block Bridenstine’s suggestion for that first Orion flight.

Whether this new big government campaign against private enterprise succeeds however is not clear.
» Read more

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Trump walks out on North Korea summit

Unsatisfied with the deal offered by North Korea’s leader on his nuclear weapons, President Trump abruptly ended their summit meeting in Vietnam today.

Donald Trump’s talks with Kim Jong-un ended abruptly on Thursday as the president said he was forced to walk away after the North Korean dictator demanded that all sanctions be lifted in return for giving up only some of his nukes.

Trump said the final snag that caused the sudden breakdown was over sanctions – and Kim’s push to have all of them lifted in exchange for a concession Trump and his secretary of state could not live with. ‘Sometimes you have to walk away,’ Trump told reporters at a press conference in Hanoi that was abruptly moved up after a breakdown in talks.

The president expressed his hope that the two leaders would meet again, but acknowledged: ‘It might be soon, it might not be for a long time. I can’t tell you.’

The standard American politician since the 1960s would have instead gone through with the ceremonies, including signing some form of fake agreement that in terms of the U.S. would have stunk. That standard American politician would have typically been willing to sell out the U.S. in order to save face.

Trump is no standard American politician. He is there to actually negotiate, and sometimes a negotiation requires you, as he said, to walk away, as Reagan did with the Soviets in 1986.

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Ohio music shop will refuse service to Trump supporters

They’re coming for you next: An Ohio music shop owner has announced that they no longer wish to provide any service to anyone who supports Donald Trump.

“Dear Trump sympathizers. I am truly sorry, however I feel unclean and dirty accepting money from you. Please, politely shop somewhere else. Sorry, I would rather starve and close the store than participate in wrong-doing. Many blessings to you. I hope you understand,” the sign said.

First, in a free society this owner would have the right to do this.

Second, in a free society this owner’s customers can all choose to go elsewhere, sending their business to places not so filled with hate, and thus giving him his wish and putting him out of business.

Third, the hypocrisy is tragically hilarious. Wasn’t it the left that insisted that bakeries, wedding photographers, and such must provide service to anyone who wants it, and if they refuse for religious reasons the state has the right to destroy their lives?

Fourth, and most important: Imagine the amount of close-minded hate that is required for this shop owner to do this. Blindly, he lumps everyone who supported Trump into a single basket of “wrong-doing”, without evidence or even a rational basis.

Sadly, he represents too many in today’s the leftist political and cultural world. And if you support such people, you are no different.

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Trump signs directive outlining Space Force proposal

President Trump yesterday signed a directive that roughly outlines the creation of a Space Force office operating within the Air Force.

This directive lays out the groundwork that Congress and Air Force official must still work out in detail. The essence however is that this new office will initially be small, will takeover all military space operations, and will be a separate division within the Air Force, for now.

[The directive] does not kill the idea of a separate department but defers it to a later time, after the Space Force has a chance to mature as a service. “What we don’t want to do is do it all at once,” the senior administration official said. If the White House had pressed for a separate department, he said, “we would spend a lot of time dealing with bureaucracy and structure and not focusing on warfighting. We decided to leverage the capabilities and the expertise that is already resident in the Air Force.”

An Air Force spokesman said that if the draft legislative proposal is enacted, “it will be our responsibility to deter and defeat threats in space through the U.S. Space Force, which will organize, train, and equip military space forces.”

But while the Air Force has owned the space mission and has the technical expertise, it still faces enormous political and logistical challenges organizing a new branch that has to be independent and will have to be staffed with members from other services who must be qualified for space-related work.

“Personnel issues are critical,” the senior administration official said. “People in the space business tend to be very highly trained and specialized.” Key personnel issues are being addressed in the legislative proposal, which will suggest a process to transfer service members from other branches to the Space Force. “We’ll focus on the headquarters functions to begin with,” he said. So the Space Force initially would be a few dozen people and then would grow over time. [emphasis mine]

The reason they are emphasizing the small size initially is that they got a lot of opposition to the idea of creating a new and large bureaucracy, something the Air Force and Trump initially pushed. Whether its stays small once Congress joins in the negotiations remains doubtful, however, consider that at least one politician is already lobbying to have a new Space Force headquarters established in Florida.

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A good summary of the FBI coup attempt against Trump

Link here. After more than two years of “Trump colluded with Russia!”, it is now been clearly documented that there was never anything to this, and that it was instead a ploy by the Democratic Party, the FBI, and the hostile Democratic mainstream press to overturn the legal election of an American president.

This article provides a concise and clear summary of the FBI’s illegal and criminal participation in this coup attempt, now admitted to by fired FBI official Andrew McCabe. It lists and details the following seven takeaways:

  • 1. McCabe Proves Trump Firing Comey Was Justified
  • 2. McCabe and His Co-conspirators Only Ever Had The Dossier to Go On
  • 3. Much Of This Seems Like A Cover-up
  • 4. The Conspirators Might Be Turning On Each Other
  • 5. McCabe Might Be Telling The Truth About Rosenstein
  • 6. The Whole Russia Probe Is Tainted And Corrupt
  • 7. Comey, McCabe, Clapper, And Brennan Are Unpatriotic Dopes

For emphasis, I want to quote this description of McCabe’s actions, from the start of the article:

Here we have a formerly powerful and unelected government official, for all the world to see, admitting that the FBI tried to launch a coup against the constitutionally elected president of the United States, in only the first few months of his tenure.

McCabe however was not alone. He was part of a cadre of upper FBI management that teamed up to try to overturn an election, many of whom are still in office. We shall see if the new attorney general, William Barr, is willing to clean house. If he isn’t, this kind of misbehavior will only get worse.

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NASA to put humans on the Moon soon!

Wanna bet? According to NASA officials, the agency is accelerating its manned effort and expects to return to the Moon with humans by 2028 at the latest!

Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, told reporters Thursday that the agency plans to speed up plans backed by President Donald Trump to return to the moon, using private companies.

“It’s important that we get back to the moon as fast as possible,” said Bridenstine in a meeting at NASA’s Washington headquarters, adding he hoped to have astronauts back there by 2028.

“This time, when we go to the Moon, we’re actually going to stay. We’re not going to leave flags and footprints and then come home to not go back for another 50 years” he said.

Why does this announcement remind me of similar enthusiastic predictions made by Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, all of which have never come true? In fact, why does Bridenstine’s prediction remind me of many past NASA predictions since the 1980s, all of which either never happened, or happened decades behind schedule and in a manner that was far from grand?

If NASA is the agency to run this program, this prediction will not happen, period. For NASA to get back to the Moon by 2028 would require them to somehow build Gateway (which Bridenstine labels as a key component in this program) while also accelerating the launch schedule of SLS, a rocket NASA has spent fifteen years building that it doesn’t expect to launch for at least two more years, and will not put humans on it until 2024, at the earliest.

Gateway has not even been funded. It provides no way to get to the lunar surface. If it is funded it will cost billions, and likely take as long to build as SLS. SLS itself is expensive, unwieldy, and incapable of providing launch services for such an ambitious program.

Bridenstine’s announcement though did contain a ray of hope. He and his associates made a big deal about how they wish to hire many different private companies to achieve their goals. If the agency gets out of the way and lets free Americans do the job, then maybe it will happen.

We shall see. NASA’s track record when it comes to letting privately-built manned commercial spacecraft do the job is dismal, and that’s being kind.

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Border wall to divide SpaceX’s Texas spaceport?

According to this article, the proposed location of the border wall in Boca Chica will bisect SpaceX’s spaceport facility there, and Democrats are working a deal to prevent this.

This article is part of the full court press being put on by the Democrats, with blatant media help, to block the wall, in any way possible, as I noted previously. I have very serious doubts the wall will cut across SpaceX’s property in any way that is significant, but if it is threatening to do so, the solution would not be to not build a wall there (which is what the Democrats want), but to work out an arrangement where the wall is built on the edge of their property and thus does them no harm.

If no wall is built here, the property then becomes a target for illegals, and thus will create even worst problems for SpaceX.

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Because of Russian violations, U.S. withdraws from nuclear arms treaty

The United States announced today that it is withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty because of numerous and long-standing violations by Russia.

[Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo explained that Russia has been violating the treaty for years, and despite those violations, the U.S. has attempted to maintain the agreement. “To this day, Russia remains in material breach of its treaty obligations not to produce, possess, or flight test a ground-launched intermediate cruise missile system with a range between 500 and 5500 kilometers,” Pompeo explained. “We have raised Russia’s noncompliance with Russian officials, including at the highest levels of government, more than 30 times, yet Russia continues to deny that its missile system is noncompliant and violates the treaty,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said Russia’s violation of the treaty has compromised U.S. security interests. “It’s our duty to respond appropriately,” Pompeo said. “When an agreement is so brazenly disregarded, and our security is so openly threatened, we must respond.”

The announcement comes one day ahead of the 60-day deadline the U.S. gave Russia to return to compliance with the treaty.

The treaty calls for a six month period following this announcement for the withdrawal to be completed.

Though the announcement mentions a specific “a prohibited missile system,” it does not say what that missile system is. I suspect it might be the hypersonic missile the Russians have tested and say they will deploy this year.

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Another process arrest for Mueller

They’re coming for you next: The office of special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted and arrested Roger Stone, another Trump associate, accusing him of perjury and witness tampering.

Stone is not accused of doing anything in any way related to Russia or collusion. Instead, he is accused of lying to Congress about contacts he made, through a third party, to Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks. He is also accused of trying to get that third party to lie as well.

Perjury and witness tampering are certainly crimes, but they are merely more process crimes, the only kinds of crimes Mueller so far has found. Stone’s actions in trying to contact Assange were not illegal. His crime only exists because of the witch hunt that is being run by Mueller, designed to persecute anyone connected with Trump. It also has nothing to do with so-called Russian collusion by Trump and his campaign, the ludicrous accusation that was used to create Mueller’s investigation and is supposedly its focus. He has nothing, and so he has to create something.

I should also note that it appears Stone was arrested by FBI agents pounding on Stone’s door, with CNN camera’s conveniently there to record it. I wonder how much of this is theater created for the cameras. Had Mueller’s office told Stone he was about to be arrested, I would think he would have surrendered himself peaceably.

Or maybe not. Maybe it was Stone who decided to force the FBI to come to his house and cart him away. In today’s America the issues of right and wrong, crime and innocence, and justice no longer matter much. All that matters is politics, and how you can use power and the media to do the most harm to your political enemies.

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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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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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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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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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Unmanned test flight of manned Dragon delayed again

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

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

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

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

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

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Private businesses take over services to keep Yellowstone functioning

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

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

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

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

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

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SpaceX rolls manned Dragon/Falcon 9 to launchpad

Capitalism in space: This week SpaceX rolled to the launchpad the stacked manned Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket that will fly the first unmanned test flight no early than January 17, 2019.

it is understood that the rollout is a dry simulation and thus will not include any propellant. However, a static fire test including propellant load and a short burn of the first stage’s nine Merlin engines will occur at a later date.

While this week’s rollout and subsequent fit checks do not seem to have been impacted by the ongoing U.S. government shutdown, other aspects of the launch campaign will be delayed.

The launch is expected to slip past the latest official no-earlier than launch date of January 17th. Many aspects of the launch campaign require NASA oversight and thus cannot proceed without NASA’s approval. It is understood that each additional day of the government shutdown translates into about a one day delay with the launch.

The irony here is that there are really no NASA employees required for SpaceX to do the launch. It is occurring on their leased property using their equipment and their launch team. Only when the capsule arrives at ISS will NASA employees be required, and those slots have been deemed “essential” in this government shutdown and are still operating on ISS and at mission control in Houston.

If Trump ordered it, this flight could happen. SpaceX is clearly ready. It is only NASA and its bureaucracy that stands in the way.

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Trump administration: parks to stay open to public during shutdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump’s decision to leave Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump administration reorganizes military space into single command

The Trump administration yesterday announced that it is doing what many in the military space sector have been proposing for several years. reorganizing all military space departments into a single command.

This is not a space force, but a realignment of the military bureaucracy in an effort to make space operations more focused and efficient. Whether it will actually do that I have my doubts. My impression from the news reports is that the military is using this as an opportunity to create a new upper management layer, thus increasing the size of bureaucracy.

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Obamacare struck down by judge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Senate committee demands FBI explain whistleblower raid

The Senate Judiciary Committee has demanded the FBI answer some questions about its raid of a whistleblower’s home in November.

This is nice, but the reality is that, as far as I can tell, the FBI is now a rogue agency, working for the Democratic Party in defiance of the law, the Trump administration, and Congress. Consider for example the article’s closing paragraphs:

The raid on Cain’s house was permitted by a court order issued by federal magistrate Stephanie A. Gallagher in the U.S. District Court of Maryland for Baltimore. The court order and all the documents justifying the raid are sealed and not available for public viewing.

On Nov. 30, The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) requested that Gallagher unseal the affidavit and any other documents that served to justify the raid. The court has not yet responded to the DCNF. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment. The IG declined to comment.

The weak response by the Trump administration to their behavior these last two years has taught them they can act with arrogance without fear. For example, why has Trump done nothing about this? He is by law (which in this case is the Constitution, the highest law in the land) entirely in charge of the FBI and what it does.

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FBI raids home of Clinton whistleblower

Working for the Democratic Party: Despite being protected under whistleblower laws, and despite his demonstrated cooperation with congressional committees, the FBI raided the home of Clinton whistleblower on November 19, spending six hours rummaging through his house.

FBI agents raided the home of a recognized Department of Justice whistleblower who privately delivered documents pertaining to the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One to a government watchdog, according to the whistleblower’s attorney.

The Justice Department’s inspector general was informed that the documents show that federal officials failed to investigate potential criminal activity regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and Rosatom, the Russian company that purchased Uranium One, a document reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation alleges.

The delivered documents also show that then-FBI Director Robert Mueller failed to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct pertaining to Rosatom and to other Russian government entities attached to Uranium One, the document reviewed by TheDCNF alleges. Mueller is now the special counsel investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

“The bureau raided my client to seize what he legally gave Congress about the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One,” the whistleblower’s lawyer, Michael Socarras, told TheDCNF, noting that he considered the FBI’s raid to be an “outrageous disregard” of whistleblower protections.

Sixteen agents arrived at the home of Dennis Nathan Cain, a former FBI contractor, on the morning of Nov. 19 and raided his Union Bridge, Maryland, home, Socarras told TheDCNF.

There is significantly more at the link. It appears most obviously that the FBI here was used to harass and intimidate this man, simply because he has taken action that threatens Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

I wonder once again if our legally elected president, mandated by the Constitution to run this agency, is really in charge, or if we have an agency run by its employees for political purposes, completely out of control. To me it sure looks like the latter. If Trump was the fighter he portrays himself to be, there would be wholesale firings over this raid, today.

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New cost figures for Space Force

A budget analysis by a Washington think tank has proposed a new range of cost figures for a Defense Department unit devoted to space operations.

Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, unveiled a highly anticipated report on Monday, detailing cost estimates for standing up a Space Force as a separate military branch. Harrison made headlines in September when he criticized Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s estimate — $13 billion over five years to establish a new service and a space command — as overinflated.

Harrison estimated it would cost the Pentagon an additional $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion over five years to stand up a new service, based on the assumption that more than 96 percent of the cost would be covered from existing budget accounts within DoD. Harrison’s numbers, however, are hard to compare directly with the Air Force secretary’s because they do not include costly items that Wilson put into her proposal, such as a Space Command and additional programs and people she argued would be needed to fight rising space rivals China and Russia.

Harrison laid out cost numbers for three options — a Space Corps, a Space Force Lite and a Space Force Heavy. The total annual budget of the new service would range from $11.3 billion to $21.5 billion under the three options. None includes the National Reconnaissance Office whose size and budget are classified.

These options are a much more realistic analysis of the costs for a military reorganization of its space operations. For example, most of the money for these options is already being spent, with the cheapest option including $11 billion of its $11.3 billion cost figure from present allocations.

I however now ask: Why are we spending $11 billion for offices in the Pentagon, with staffing exceeding 27,000? From what I can gather, these budget numbers do not appear to include the cost for any actual military satellite launches. It seems to me this should be doable with far fewer people, especially if the Pentagon is hiring private companies to build the satellites themselves.

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