SpaceX Flight

Looks like another perfect flight of the Falcon 9 and Dragon. Press conference is scheduled at 1700 EDT, when they’ll presumably tell us how the recovery attempt went. They did report a successful entry burn.

[Update about 5 PM PDT]

Elon has some news:

[Another update about twenty minutes later]

[Update an hour or so later]

I should add that while this is great news, it will still be disappointing if the rough seas prevent recovery, or break up the vehicle, because they’ll lose data they’d like to have to see how the stage handled the flight. That’s critical to understanding turnaround. The good news is that they’ll be able to do this every flight (that doesn’t need a lot of performance, like their earlier GEO missions) to get it right, and finally start to understand that.

John Houboult

Rest in peace:

In November 1961, Houbolt took the bold step of skipping proper channels and writing a 9-page private letter directly to incoming Associate Administrator Dr. Robert C. Seamans. Describing himself somewhat melodramatically “as a voice in the wilderness,” Houbolt protested LOR’s exclusion from the NASA debate on the Apollo mission profile. “Do we want to go to the moon or not?” the Langley engineer asked. “Why is Nova, with its ponderous size simply just accepted, and why is a much less grandiose scheme involving rendezvous ostracized or put on the defensive? I fully realize that contacting you in this manner is somewhat unorthodox,” Houbolt admitted, “but the issues at stake are crucial enough to us all that an unusual course is warranted.” Houbolt clearly saw that the giant Nova rocket and the expensive and complex Earth orbit rendezvous plan were clearly not a realistic option–especially if the mission was to be accomplished anywhere close to President Kennedy’s timetable. While conducting a rendezvous in orbit around the Moon was going to be a challenge, the weight, cost and savings of using LOR were obvious once one realized that LOR was not fundamentally much more difficult than Earth orbit rendezvous. This insights, and Houbolt’s brave and energetic advocacy of it, made all the difference.

It’s just a shame that they didn’t do earth-orbit rendezvous as well with smaller vehicles. We could have avoided the Saturn V and the Apollo Cargo Cult.

The IRS Smoking Gun

May have finally been found:

“The David Fish email proves the IRS originated and fed to Senate Democrats the idea of threatening conservatives with criminal prosecution for engaging in political speech – specifically with an eye towards the 2014 cycle. It’s the strongest proof yet that there should indeed be criminal prosecutions, not of conservatives but of the IRS bureaucrats who conspired to suppress them,” said Phil Kerpen, the president of American Commitment and one who has followed this issue closely since it first become public knowledge.

Interestingly, sources close to the House Committee on Ways and Means, one of the congressional panels looking into the issue, is not at all certain the document containing the Fish email was given to the panel subsequent to a rather broad, comprehensive subpoena of the IRS.

There is also this message from Lerner, also made public as a result of the Judicial Watch FOIA. In it she writes, “As I mentioned yesterday – there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report that are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are). One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t fell so comfortable doing the stuff. … So don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity.”

Gee, what does this remind me of? Oh, that’s right:

Al Armendariz, the EPA administrator in the Region 6 Dallas office, made the remarks at a local Texas government meeting in 2010. He relayed to the audience what he described as a “crude” analogy he once told his staff about his “philosophy of enforcement.”

“It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean,” he said. “They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them.

“And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years,” he said.

Armendariz went on to say that “you make examples out of people who are in this case not complying with the law … and you hit them as hard as you can” — to act as a “deterrent” to others.

And in the IRS case, Catherine Engelbrecht was the designated crucifixee.

These totalitarians should not be allowed anywhere near the reins of power.

John Hinderaker has been looking at the documents, too:

…the emails are heavily redacted. Almost all of the redactions cite exemption b5, which is very general; it covers any document or portion of a document that would not have to be produced in a civil action. Actually, if documents fall within the scope of a Rule 34 request, the circumstances under which they do not need to be produced are quite narrow. While it is impossible to judge the appropriateness of a redaction without knowing what has been blacked out, there are a number of instances where it is hard to believe that any normally recognized privilege would apply.

Given what we’ve seen already, imagine what they’re still trying to hide. It’s hard to imagine all this inter-agency coordination without White House involvement. I’ll bet that it’s tied to the campaign, too.

[Update a few minutes later]

The IRS behavior has clearly become more sinister:

Yesterday was a significant day in the IRS abuse scandal. The scandal evolved from being about pesky delays in IRS exemption applications to a government conniving with outside interests to put political opponents in prison.

This is not America.

[Friday-morning update]

“In short, it was a politically motivated witch hunt.”

[Bumped]

Geopolitics In Space

I talked to Glenn Reynolds yesterday about our Russian entanglement. Just civil, though, not the military space problem.

[Afternoon update]

Space News had a blistering editorial on Monday, excoriating the fools on the Hill:

Those who bemoan NASA’s reliance on Russia, yet shortchange the very program designed to fix that problem, are at the same time adamant that the agency spend nearly $3 billion per year on SLS and Orion, vehicles that for all their advertised capability still have no place to go. Their size and cost make them poorly suited for space station missions, even as a backup to commercial crew taxis, and in any case the first SLS-Orion crewed test flight won’t happen before 2021.

NASA currently lacks an independent crew launching capability because of decisions made a decade ago, the consequences of which were fully understood and accepted at the time. The longer this situation lasts, however, the more culpable the current group of decision-makers will become.

In that vein, the current criticisms of NASA and the White House might be viewed as a pre-emptive strike by lawmakers who sense their own culpability. But in pressing arguments that fail to stand up to even modest scrutiny, they not only undermine their credibility, they give NASA cover to pursue a Commercial Crew Program approach that might not be sustainable.

What a pathetic lot they are.

[Bumped]

3-D Printed Guns

Should we be afraid of them?

…should we be afraid to live in a world where anyone can afford the equipment to manufacture a gun in his or her basement? I hope not—because that’s the world we live in now. Guns are comparatively simple devices. In fact, plenty of custom firearms are manufactured today using equipment that wouldn’t be out of place in a basement. Just as the sets of “plastic guns” and “3D-printed guns” are not identical, the sets of “3D-printed guns” and “homemade guns” are not identical. At the moment, virtually every homemade gun is constructed using some technology other than 3D printing.

Yes, as with most hoplophobia, this is silly.

Climate Change

What we don’t know:

We shouldn’t worry, we should just accept that this will happen and we should adapt to it and regard it as a business opportunity.

Its arrogant to assume that climate will remain static.

The whole language of climate change is designed to confuse the public and policy makers

Bob Carter says the IPCC has accomplished the inversion of the null hypothesis, where the onus is now on disproving dangerous anthropogenic climate change

We should focus on protecting people from natural hazards, and not worrying about what is causing them

It makes sense to encourage alternative energy and see what happens.

Bob Carter closed with this: no scientist can tell you whether it will be warmer or cooler in 2020, so we should prepare for both.

Yes. We don’t know much more than we do know.

And as she notes, the people speaking sensibly are independent or retired, not those receiving government funding.

A Clash Of Sticks

“…were [Mann] to prevail in the upcoming Mann vs Steyn trial of the century at the DC Superior Court, it would be the biggest setback for the First Amendment in the half-century since New York Times vs Sullivan.”

A brief history of the case to date, from Mark Steyn.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld the university, Mann, and secrecy.

[Update a while later]

“Don’t start deleting those emails just yet, Mikey“:

One thing the order does is give the green light to the University of Virginia to crank up the incinerator for the biggest destruction of research material in a critical area of public policy – not to mention what my old colleague at the Telegraph in London, Christopher Booker, called the other day “the worst scientific scandal of our generation”. Before they grab the matches and gasoline, however, please note that my lawyers have requested a lot of the same material for Mann’s defamation suit against me. I’ll have more to say about this later today.

We’ll see.

A Rudderless NASA

More thoughts from Mr. Papadopoulos. I don’t have time for a detailed critique right now, but I find it amusing that he thinks Neil Tyson is a reliable source about the history of exploration:

“In the history of civilisation, private enterprise has never led a) large, b) expensive, c) dangerous projects, with unknown risks,” said astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, during a talk for Big Think. “That has never happened.”

That is just nonsense on stilts, based on apparently a grade-school understanding. Columbus himself had already raised half the money privately. Cabot’s expedition was privately funded, based on a patent from Henry VII. Hudson’s expeditions were funded by British merchants who were seeking the Northwest Passage. The mouth of the Columbia was discovered by a seal trader. The vast majority of exploration of the Americas and the West was privately funded.

[Update at noon]

I’d forgotten about this post from last year. There is no evidence that Columbus got any money from the government.

Idiot Education Administrators

This time, it’s not a public school, but college.
And as Glenn Reynolds notes, these morons now outnumber faculty on campus:

I’d sue all of these people personally, and make their lives a living hell until they left or were fired. And they should have to go through a forced psychiatric evaluation, too, to look at their tendency to abuse power and trust.

Yes.

SLS/Orion

The GAO is concerned (as well it should be, even though Congress doesn’t give a damn):

Space Launch System: “Based on current budget estimates, program officials have expressed concern that the first launch in 2017 could be delayed.” GAO says that the program will reach Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C) this month (April 2014) and at that point NASA will establish cost, schedule and performance baselines for the initial (70- ton) version of the launch vehicle. GAO highlights funding risks associated with the flat budget profile under which NASA plans to spend $6.8 billion between FY2014 and 2018, and calls the schedule “aggressive.” It also worries that two years after the program was established, “many of the SLS program contracts remain undefinitized.”

Orion: “The mass of the spacecraft remains a top program risk.” GAO says the spacecraft being designed to take humans beyond low Earth orbit aboard the SLS could be as much as 2,800 pounds overweight at launch for the first exploration mission (EM-1) in 2017. The maximum lift-off mass for that mission is 73,500 pounds, GAO states.

Well, one solution to the overweight problem would be to launch without crew. There’s no need to, since they can go up commercially. That way you can remove the escape tower, which adds many thousands of pounds to the vehicle. Not that it should even be built at all, of course.

The Phony IRS Scandal And The DOJ

It’s looking worse than we suspected,though the persecution of Catherine Englebrecht raised a lot of flags:

Was there a full-fledged plan to use the full power of the federal government to take the abuse, delay and invasive questioning of conservatives to a new level after President Obama’s re-election? Was there a plan to criminalize the mere act of being a conservative activist? Was there a plan to drum up false charges of “lying” on applications in order to put conservatives in jail?

Lois Lerner’s communications with the Justice Department strongly suggest that there was. The disclosure provides strong, compelling evidence that Obama’s re-election had emboldened many, including government bureaucrats like Lois Lerner, to believe that they could move forward unchallenged to criminalize Americans for exercising their constitutional rights.

I also believe that the players in this scam had identified a target to single out, harass, investigate, silence, destroy, and send to prison. Her name is Catherine Engelbrecht.

Lerner’s email on March 27, 2013, suggests that there was an idea moving within the bureaucracy to hit one or just a few Americans, and prosecute and imprison them, to scare others out of political engagement.

“One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff,” Lerner wrote to IRS staff. “So, don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated – it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity.”

It was all about conservative 501(c)(4) orgs. Liberal groups were left entirely alone. This was to be a leftwing reign of prosecutorial terror.

And just how high up did it go?

[Update a few minutse later]

The IRS did the bidding of congressional Democrats to silence conservatives.

Nixon asked the IRS to go after his political enemies,and it refused, but that was an impeachable offense. Obama didn’t even have to ask.

Tortoise Ranching In The Old West

A brief history:

Back in the old West a lot of the toughest codgers tried tortoise ranching, but it died out because it took years to drive the herds up to Kansas City or Chicago. On a good day they might cover a mile and a half, but most days they could only drive them about a mile because a herd has to graze. There was no use bringing skinny turtles to market. In frontier towns along the drive it was a always big week when the boys brought a herd through, and people would grab their kids out of the streets in case there was a stampede as the torts got a whiff of the salad bar at the Golden Corral and Saloon.

A lot of people don’t realize it, but Westerners learned to say little and talk slowly so they didn’t run out of things to say during the big tortoise drives. Now that’s part of our Western culture. But then came the barbed wire fences, and the last of the free-grazing tortoise drives stopped because the tortoises didn’t give a s**t about the barbed wire, but the cowboys would have to carry their beer coolers and lawn chairs the long way round and try to catch back up to the stock, and that was just too much work for the world’s laziest f**king ranchers.

The only ones left are the ones who run mixed herds of cattle and tortoises, like Cliven Bundy’s family. If the BLM wins, an historic and traditional American way of life will come to a final, bitter end, and this nation will close a fascinating chapter of its history.

I did not know that.

Cliven Bundy

Why we should have sympathy for him:

The new head of the BLM is a former Reid staffer. Presumably he was placed in his current position on Reid’s recommendation. Harry Reid is known to be a corrupt politician, one who has gotten wealthy on a public employee’s salary, in part, at least, by benefiting from sweetheart real estate deals. Does Harry Reid now control more than 80% of the territory of Nevada? If you need federal authority to conduct business in Nevada–which is overwhelmingly probable–do you need to pay a bribe to Harry Reid or a member of his family to get that permission? Why is it that the BLM is deeply concerned about desert tortoises when it comes to ranchers, but couldn’t care less when the solar power developers from China come calling? Environmentalists have asked this question. Does the difference lie in the fact that Cliven Bundy has never contributed to an Obama or Reid campaign, or paid a bribe to Reid or a member of his family?

Based on the evidence, I would say: yes, that is probably the difference. When the desert tortoises balance out, Occam’s razor tells us that the distinction is political.

Yup.