The Founder of SQLite I heard was forced to put up a “Code of Conduct” and put up an interesting one. I had never heard of this. I was reading at PJMEDIA how a knitting site Ravelry has decided to take all things Trump from their site because it was deemed to be too unwoken. In the discussion a reference was made to SQLite founder’s code. It surprised me. How did he ever get away with this?
First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole strength.
Then, love your neighbor as yourself.
Do not murder.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not steal.
Do not covet.
Do not bear false witness.
Do not do to another what you would not have done to yourself.
Deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
Chastise the body.
Do not become attached to pleasures.
Relieve the poor.
Clothe the naked.
Visit the sick.
Bury the dead.
Be a help in times of trouble.
Console the sorrowing.
Be a stranger to the world’s ways.
Prefer nothing more than the love of Christ.
Do not give way to anger.
Do not nurse a grudge.
Do not entertain deceit in your heart.
Do not give a false peace.
Do not forsake charity.
Do not swear, for fear of perjuring yourself.
Utter only truth from heart and mouth.
Do not return evil for evil.
Do no wrong to anyone, and bear patiently wrongs done to yourself.
Love your enemies.
Do not curse those who curse you, but rather bless them.
Bear persecution for justice’s sake.
Be not proud.
Be not addicted to wine.
Be not a great eater.
Be not drowsy.
Be not lazy.
Be not a grumbler.
Be not a detractor.
Put your hope in God.
Attribute to God, and not to self, whatever good you see in yourself.
Recognize always that evil is your own doing, and to impute it to yourself.
Fear the Day of Judgment.
Be in dread of hell.
Desire eternal life with all the passion of the spirit.
Keep death daily before your eyes.
Keep constant guard over the actions of your life.
Know for certain that God sees you everywhere.
When wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ immediately.
Disclose wrongful thoughts to your spiritual mentor.
Guard your tongue against evil and depraved speech.
Do not love much talking.
Speak no useless words or words that move to laughter.
Do not love much or boisterous laughter.
Listen willingly to holy reading.
Devote yourself frequently to prayer.
Daily in your prayers, with tears and sighs, confess your past sins to God, and amend them for the future.
Fulfill not the desires of the flesh; hate your own will.
Obey in all things the commands of those whom God has placed in authority over you even though they (which God forbid) should act otherwise, mindful of the Lord’s precept, “Do what they say, but not what they do.”
Do not wish to be called holy before one is holy; but first to be holy, that you may be truly so called.
Fulfill God’s commandments daily in your deeds.
Hate no one.
Be not jealous, nor harbor envy.
Do not love quarreling.
Respect your seniors.
Love your juniors.
Pray for your enemies in the love of Christ.
Make peace with your adversary before the sun sets.
Low Taek Jho, who westernised his name to “Jho Low”, which I will use henceforth, was the son of a wealthy family in Penang, Malaysia. The family’s fortune had been founded by Low’s grandfather who had immigrated to the then British colony of Malaya from China and founded a garment manufacturing company which Low’s father had continued to build and recently sold for a sum of around US$ 15 million. The Low family were among the wealthiest in Malaysia and wanted the best for their son. For the last two years of his high school education, Jho was sent to the Harrow School, a prestigious private British boarding school whose alumni include seven British Prime Ministers including Winston Churchill and Robert Peel, and “foreign students” including Jawaharlal Nehru and King Hussein of Jordan. At Harrow, he would meet classmates whose families’ wealth was in the billions, and his ambition to join their ranks was fired.
After graduating from Harrow, Low decided the career he wished to pursue would be better served by a U.S. business education than the traditional Cambridge or Oxford path chosen by many Harrovians and enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School undergraduate program. Previous Wharton graduates include Warren Buffett, Walter Annenberg, Elon Musk, and Donald Trump. Low majored in finance, but mostly saw Wharton as a way to make connections. Wharton was a school of choice for the sons of Gulf princes and billionaires, and Low leveraged his connections, while still an undergraduate, into meetings in the Gulf with figures such as Yousef Al Otaiba, foreign policy adviser to the sheikhs running the United Arab Emirates. Otaiba, in turn, introduced him to Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, who ran a fund called Mubadala Development, which was on the cutting edge of the sovereign wealth fund business.
Since the 1950s resource-rich countries, in particular the petro-states of the Gulf, had set up sovereign wealth funds to invest the surplus earnings from sales of their oil. The idea was to replace the natural wealth which was being extracted and sold with financial assets that would generate income, appreciate over time, and serve as the basis of their economies when the oil finally ran out. By the early 2000s, the total funds under management by sovereign wealth funds were US$3.5 trillion, comparable to the annual gross domestic product of Germany. Sovereign wealth funds were originally run in a very conservative manner, taking few risks—“gentlemen prefer bonds”—but since the inflation and currency crises of the 1970s had turned to more aggressive strategies to protect their assets from the ravages of Western money printing and financial shenanigans.
While some sovereign wealth funds, for example Norway’s (with around US$1 trillion in assets the largest in the world) are models of transparency and prudent (albeit often politically correct) investing, others, including some in the Gulf states, are accountable only to autocratic ruler(s) and have been suspected as acting as personal slush funds. On the other hand, managers of Gulf funds must be aware that bad investment decisions may not only cost them their jobs but their heads.
Mubadala was a new kind of sovereign wealth fund. Rather than a conservative steward of assets for future generations, it was run more like a leveraged Wall Street hedge fund: borrowing on global markets, investing in complex transactions, and aiming to develop the industries which would sustain the local economy when the oil inevitably ran out. Jho Low saw Al Mubarak, not yet thirty years old, making billion dollar deals on almost his sole discretion, playing a role on the global stage, driving the development of Abu Dhabi’s economy, and being handsomely compensated for his efforts. That’s the game Low wanted to be in, and he started working toward it.
Before graduating from Wharton, he set up a British Virgin Islands company he named the “Wynton Group”, which stood for his goal to “win tons” of money. After graduation in 2005 he began to pitch the contacts he’d made through students at Harrow and Wharton on deals he’d identified in Malaysia, acting as an independent development agency. He put together a series of real estate deals, bringing money from his Gulf contacts and persuading other investors that large sovereign funds were on-board by making token investments from offshore companies he’d created whose names mimicked those of well-known funds. This is a trick he would continue to use in the years to come.
Still, he kept his eye on the goal: a sovereign wealth fund, based in Malaysia, that he could use for his own ends. In April 2009 Najib Razak became Malaysia’s prime minister. Low had been cultivating a relationship with Najib since he met him through his stepson years before in London. Now it was time to cash in. Najib needed money to shore up his fragile political position and Low was ready to pitch him how to get it.
Shortly after taking office, Najib announced the formation of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, a sovereign wealth fund aimed at promoting foreign direct investment in projects to develop the economy of Malaysia and benefit all of its ethnic communities: those of Malay, Chinese, and Indian ancestry (hence “1Malaysia”). Although Jho Low had no official position with the fund, he was the one who promoted it, sold Najib on it, and took the lead in raising its capital, both from his contacts in the Gulf and, leveraging that money, in the international debt markets with the assistance of the flexible ethics and unquenchable greed of Goldman Sachs and its ambitious go-getters in Asia.
Low’s pitch to the prime minister, either explicit or nod-nod, wink-wink, went well beyond high-minded goals such as developing the economy, bringing all ethnic groups together, and creating opportunity. In short, what “corporate social responsibility” really meant was using the fund as Najib’s personal piggy bank, funded by naïve foreign investors, to reward his political allies and buy votes, shutting out the opposition. Low told Najib that at the price of aligning his policies with those of his benefactors in the Gulf, he could keep the gravy train running and ensure his tenure in office for the foreseeable future.
But what was in it for Low, apart from commissions, finder’s fees, and the satisfaction of benefitting his native land? Well, rather more, actually. No sooner did the money hit the accounts of 1MDB than Low set up a series of sham transactions with deceptively-named companies to spirit the money out of the fund and put it into his own pockets. And now it gets a little bit weird for this scribbler. At the centre of all of this skulduggery was a private Swiss bank named BSI. This was my bank. I mean, I didn’t own the bank (thank Bob!), but I’d been doing business there (or with its predecessors, before various mergers and acquisitions) since before Jho Low was born. In my dealings with them there were the soul of probity and beyond reproach, but you never know what’s going on in the other side of the office, or especially in its branch office in the Wild East of Singapore. Part of the continuo to this financial farce is the battles between BSI’s compliance people who kept saying, “Wait, this doesn’t make any sense.” and the transaction side people looking at the commissions to be earned for moving the money from who-knows-where to who-knows-whom. But, back to the main story.
Ultimately, Low’s looting pipeline worked, and he spirited away most of the proceeds of the initial funding of 1MDB into his own accounts or those he controlled. There is a powerful lesson here, as applicable to security of computer systems or access to physical infrastructure as financial assets. Try to chisel a few pennies from your credit card company and you’ll be nailed. Fudge a little on your tax return, and it’s hard time, serf. But when you play at the billion dollar level, the system was almost completely undefended against an amoral grifter who was bent not on a subtle and creative form of looting in the Bernie Madoff or Enron mold, but simply brazenly picking the pockets of a massive fund through childishly obvious means such as deceptively named offshore shell corporations, shuffling money among accounts in a modern-day version of check kiting, and appealing to banks’ hunger for transaction fees over their ethical obligations to their owners and other customers.
Nobody knows how much Jho Low looted from 1MBD in this and subsequent transactions. Estimates of the total money spirited out of 1MDB range as high as US$4.5 billion, and Low’s profligate spending alone as he was riding high may account for a substantial fraction of that.
Much of the book is an account of Low’s lifestyle when he was riding high. He was not only utterly amoral when it came to bilking investors, leaving the poor of Malaysia on the hook, but seemingly incapable of looking beyond the next party, gambling spree, or debt repayment. It’s like he always thought there’d be a greater fool to fleece, and that there was no degree of wretched excess in his spending which would invite the question “How did he earn this money?” I’m not going to dwell upon this. It’s boring. Stylish criminals whose lifestyles are as suave as their crimes are elegant. Grifters who blow money on down-market parties with gutter rappers and supermarket tabloid celebrities aren’t. In a marvelous example of meta-irony, Low funded a Hollywood movie production company which made the film The Wolf of Wall Street, about a cynical grifter like Low himself.
And now comes the part where I tell you how it all came undone, everybody got their just deserts, and the egregious perpetrators are languishing behind bars. Sorry, not this time, or at least not yet.
Jho Low escaped pursuit on his luxury super-yacht and now is reputed to be living in China, travelling freely and living off his ill-gotten gains. The “People’s Republic” seems quite hospitable to those who loot the people of its neighbours (assuming they adequately grease the palms of its rulers).
Goldman Sachs suffered no sanctions as a result of its complicity in the 1MDB funding and the appropriation of funds.
BSI lost its Swiss banking licence, but was acquired by another bank and most of its employees, except for a few involved in dealing with Low, kept their jobs. (My account was transferred to the successor bank with no problems. They never disclosed the reason for the acquisition.)
This book, by the two Wall Street Journal reporters who untangled what may be the largest one-man financial heist in human history, provides a look inside the deeply corrupt world of paper money finance at its highest levels, and is an illustration of the extent to which people are disinclined to ask obvious questions like “Where is the money coming from?” while the good times are rolling. What is striking is how banal the whole affair is. Jho Low’s talents would have made him a great success in legitimate development finance, but instead he managed to steal billions, ultimately from mostly poor people in his native land, and blow the money on wild parties, shallow celebrities, ostentatious real estate, cars, and yachts, and binges of high-stakes gambling in skeevy casinos. The collapse of the whole tawdry business reflects poorly on institutions like multinational investment banks, large accounting and auditing firms, financial regulators, Swiss banks, and the whole “sustainable development” racket in the third world. Jho Low, a crook through and through, looked at these supposedly august institutions and recognised them as kindred spirits and then figured out transparently simple ways to use them to steal billions. He got away with it, and they are still telling governments, corporations, and investors how to manage their affairs and, inexplicably, being taken seriously and handsomely compensated for their “expertise”.
Wright, Tom and Bradley Hope. Billion Dollar Whale. New York: Hachette Books, 2018. ISBN 978-0-316-43650-2.
Here is a talk by author Bradley Hope about the Jho Low affair. The recording is audio only and the quality is less than ideal.
The decision has been made for Ratburger TV to stand in solidarity with C-Span, CNN, and FOX who were excluded from telecasting live the South Carolina Democratic Convention. Only MSNBC is allowed to do the live broadcast.
In a first, only one TV outlet — MSNBC — will be allowed to deliver live coverage of Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic Convention where 21 presidential candidates are expected to speak, drawing heated complaints from other networks.
C-SPAN, which has never been denied live coverage of a state convention in the network’s 40 years, has reluctantly pulled out of the convention and other weekend events sponsored by the party. CNN has filed a complaint. Fox will also be barred from providing live coverage to its viewers.
In March, 1763, King Louis XV of France made a land grant of 140 square kilometres to Gilbert Antoine St Maxent, the richest man in Louisiana Territory and commander of the militia. The grant required St Maxent to build a road across the swampy property, develop a plantation, and reserve all the trees in forested areas for the use of the French navy. When the Spanish took over the territory five years later, St Maxent changed his first names to “Gilberto Antonio” and retained title to the sprawling estate. In the decades that followed, the property changed hands and nations several times, eventually, now part of the United States, being purchased by another French immigrant, Antoine Michoud, who had left France after the fall of Napoleon, who his father had served as an official.
Michoud rapidly established himself as a prosperous businessman in bustling New Orleans, and after purchasing the large tract of land set about buying pieces which had been sold off by previous owners, re-assembling most of the original French land grant into one of the largest private land holdings in the United States. The property was mostly used as a sugar plantation, although territory and rights were ceded over the years for construction of a lighthouse, railroads, and telegraph and telephone lines. Much of the land remained undeveloped, and like other parts of southern Louisiana was a swamp or, as they now say, “wetlands”.
The land remained in the Michoud family until 1910, when it was sold in its entirety for US$410,000 in cash (around US$11 million today) to a developer who promptly defaulted, leading to another series of changes of ownership and dodgy plans for the land, which most people continued to refer to as the Michoud Tract. At the start of World War II, the U.S. government bought a large parcel, initially intended for construction of Liberty ships. Those plans quickly fell through, but eventually a huge plant was erected on the site which, starting in 1943, began to manufacture components for cargo aircraft, lifeboats, and components which were used in the Manhattan Project’s isotope separation plants in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
At the end of the war, the plant was declared surplus but, a few years later, with the outbreak of the Korean War, it was re-purposed to manufacture engines for Army tanks. It continued in that role until 1954 when it was placed on standby and, in 1958, once again declared surplus. There things stood until mid-1961 when NASA, charged by the new Kennedy administration to “put a man on the Moon” was faced with the need to build rockets in sizes and quantities never before imagined, and to do so on a tight schedule, racing against the Soviet Union.
In June, 1961, Wernher von Braun, director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, responsible for designing and building those giant boosters, visited the then-idle Michoud Ordnance Plant and declared it ideal for NASA’s requirements. It had 43 acres (17 hectares) under one roof, the air conditioning required for precision work in the Louisiana climate, and was ready to occupy. Most critically, it was located adjacent to navigable waters which would allow the enormous rocket stages, far too big to be shipped by road, rail, or air, to be transported on barges to and from Huntsville for testing and Cape Canaveral in Florida to be launched.
In September 1961 NASA officially took over the facility, renaming it “Michoud Operations”, to be managed by NASA Marshall as the manufacturing site for the rockets they designed. Work quickly got underway to set up manufacturing of the first stage of the Saturn I and 1B rockets and prepare to build the much larger first stage of the Saturn V Moon rocket. Before long, new buildings dedicated to assembly and test of the new rockets, occupied both by NASA and its contractors, began to spring up around the original plant. In 1965, the installation was renamed the Michoud Assembly Facility, which name it bears to this day.
With the end of the Apollo program, it looked like Michoud might once again be headed for white elephant status, but the design selected for the Space Shuttle included a very large External Tank comparable in size to the first stage of the Saturn V which would be discarded on every flight. Michoud’s fabrication and assembly facilities, and its access to shipping by barge were ideal for this component of the Shuttle, and a total of 135 tanks built at Michoud were launched on Shuttle missions between 1981 and 2011.
The retirement of the Space Shuttle once again put the future of Michoud in doubt. It was originally tapped to build the core stage of the Constellation program’s Ares V booster, which was similar in size and construction to the Shuttle External Tank. The cancellation of Constellation in 2010 brought that to a halt, but then Congress and NASA rode to the rescue with the absurd-as-a-rocket but excellent-as-a-jobs-program Space Launch System (SLS), whose centre core stage also resembles the External Tank and Ares V. SLS first stage fabrication is presently underway at Michoud. Perhaps when the schedule-slipping, bugget-busting SLS is retired after a few flights (if, in fact, it ever flies at all), bringing to a close the era of giant taxpayer-funded throwaway rockets, the Michoud facility can be repurposed to more productive endeavours.
This book is largely a history of Michoud in photos and captions, with text introducing chapters on each phase of the facility’s history. All of the photos are in black and white, and are well-reproduced. In the Kindle edition many can be expanded to show more detail. There are a number of copy-editing and factual errors in the text and captions, but not too many to distract or mislead the reader. The unidentified “visitors” shown touring the Michoud facility in July 1967 (chapter 3, Kindle location 392) are actually the Apollo 7 crew, Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham, who would fly on a Michoud-built Saturn 1B in October 1968.
For a book of just 130 pages, most of which are black and white photographs, the hardcover is hideously expensive (US$29 at this writing). The Kindle edition is still pricey (US$13 list price), but may be read for free by Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Primetime Viewership Compared to Same Week Last Year
Fox News: -4 percent
MSNBC: -4 percent
CNNLOL: -33 percent
Total Day Viewership Compared to Same Week Last Year
Fox News: -7 percent
MSNBC: -5 percent
CNNLOL: -21 percent
It looks like CNN is Tapped out. The Cuomo News Network may need to remember not all the bad news is about Trump. It can be closer to home. I haven’t been watching but is Rachel still smirking. I know I am. Are you? (This is unkind but turnabout is fair play.)
The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November 2016 was a singular event in the history of the country. Never before had anybody been elected to that office without any prior experience in either public office or the military. Trump, although running as a Republican, had no long-term affiliation with the party and had cultivated no support within its establishment, elected officials, or the traditional donors who support its candidates. He turned his back on the insider consultants and “experts” who had advised GOP candidate after candidate in their “defeat with dignity” at the hands of a ruthless Democrat party willing to burn any bridge to win. From well before he declared his candidacy he established a direct channel to a mass audience, bypassing media gatekeepers via Twitter and frequent appearances in all forms of media, who found him a reliable boost to their audience and clicks. He was willing to jettison the mumbling points of the cultured Beltway club and grab “third rail” issues of which they dared not speak such as mass immigration, predatory trade practices, futile foreign wars, and the exporting of jobs from the U.S. heartland to low-wage sweatshops overseas.
He entered a free-for-all primary campaign as one of seventeen major candidates, including present and former governors, senators, and other well-spoken and distinguished rivals and, one by one, knocked them out, despite resolute and sometimes dishonest bias by the media hosting debates, often through “verbal kill shots” which made his opponents the target of mockery and pinned sobriquets on them (“low energy Jeb”, “little Marco”, “lyin’ Ted”) they couldn’t shake. His campaign organisation, if one can dignify it with the term, was completely chaotic and his fund raising nothing like the finely-honed machines of establishment favourites like Jeb Bush, and yet his antics resulted in his getting billions of dollars worth of free media coverage even on outlets who detested and mocked him.
One by one, he picked off his primary opponents and handily won the Republican presidential nomination. This unleashed a phenomenon the likes of which had not been seen since the Goldwater insurgency of 1964, but far more virulent. Pillars of the Republican establishment and Conservatism, Inc. were on the verge of cardiac arrest, advancing fantasy scenarios to deny the nomination to its winner, publishing issues of their money-losing and subscription-shedding little magazines dedicated to opposing the choice of the party’s voters, and promoting insurgencies such as the candidacy of Egg McMuffin, whose bona fides as a man of the people were evidenced by his earlier stints with the CIA and Goldman Sachs.
Predictions that post-nomination, Trump would become “more presidential” were quickly falsified as the chaos compounded, the tweets came faster and funnier, and the mass rallies became ever more frequent and raucous. One thing that was obvious to anybody looking dispassionately at what was going on, without the boiling blood of hatred and disdain of the New York-Washington establishment, was that the candidate was having the time of his life and so were the people who attended the rallies. But still, all of the wise men of the coastal corridor knew what must happen. On the eve of the general election, polls put the probability of a Trump victory somewhere between 1 and 15 percent. The outlier was Nate Silver, who went out on a limb and went all the way up to 29% chance of Trump’s winning to the scorn of his fellow “progressives” and pollsters.
And yet, Trump won, and handily. Yes, he lost the popular vote, but that was simply due to the urban coastal vote for which he could not contend and wisely made no attempt to attract, knowing such an effort would be futile and a waste of his scarce resources (estimates are his campaign spent around half that of Clinton’s). This book by classicist, military historian, professor, and fifth-generation California farmer Victor Davis Hanson is an in-depth examination of, in the words of the defeated candidate, “what happened”. There is a great deal of wisdom here.
First of all, a warning to the prospective reader. If you read Dr Hanson’s columns regularly, you probably won’t find a lot here that’s new. This book is not one of those that’s obviously Frankenstitched together from previously published columns, but in assembling their content into chapters focussing on various themes, there’s been a lot of cut and paste, if not literally at the level of words, at least in terms of ideas. There is value in seeing it all presented in one package, but be prepared to say, from time to time, “Haven’t I’ve read this before?”
That caveat lector aside, this is a brilliant analysis of the Trump phenomenon. Hanson argues persuasively that it is very unlikely any of the other Republican contenders for the nomination could have won the general election. None of them were talking about the issues which resonated with the erstwhile “Reagan Democrat” voters who put Trump over the top in the so-called “blue wall” states, and it is doubtful any of them would have ignored their Beltway consultants and campaigned vigorously in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania which were key to Trump’s victory. Given that the Republican defeat which would likely have been the result of a Bush (again?), Rubio, or Cruz candidacy would have put the Clinton crime family back in power and likely tipped the Supreme Court toward the slaver agenda for a generation, that alone should give pause to “never Trump” Republicans.
How will it all end? Nobody knows, but Hanson provides a variety of perspectives drawn from everything from the Byzantine emperor Justinian’s battle against the deep state to the archetype of the rough-edged outsider brought in to do what the more civilised can’t or won’t—the tragic hero from Greek drama to Hollywood westerns. What is certain is that none of what Trump is attempting, whether it ends in success or failure, would be happening if any of his primary opponents or the Democrat in the general election had prevailed.
I believe that Victor Davis Hanson is one of those rare people who have what I call the “Orwell gift”. Like George Orwell, he has the ability to look at the facts, evaluate them, and draw conclusions without any preconceived notions or filtering through an ideology. What is certain is that with the election of Donald Trump in 2016 the U.S. dodged a bullet. Whether that election will be seen as a turning point which reversed the decades-long slide toward tyranny by the administrative state, destruction of the middle class, replacement of the electorate by imported voters dependent upon the state, erosion of political and economic sovereignty in favour of undemocratic global governance, and the eventual financial and moral bankruptcy which are the inevitable result of all of these, or just a pause before the deluge, is yet to be seen. Hanson’s book is an excellent, dispassionate, well-reasoned, and thoroughly documented view of where things stand today.
Hanson, Victor Davis. The Case for Trump. New York: Basic Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-5416-7354-0.
Here is an Uncommon Knowledge interview with the author discussing the book.
Over at Quillette, there’s an article on the publication anniversary of Orwell’s 1984. The article is pretty good, but I’d like to highlight two of the comments. The comments section of Quillette used to be really good, with a high signal-to-noise ratio, but that has declined over time as trolls and/or boors have found it and taken up residence there, becoming yet another example of Gresham’s law applied to the internet. The trolls have not poisoned this particular article’s thread (yet).
From a Mr. “El Uro”:
Nikita Khrushchev was removed from power October 14, 1964. The next day at school in history class, the teacher asked us to take pens, to open the history textbook on page N and to black out his face in the photo, where he was standing next to Gagarin.
I was not a dissident. I was 11 years old, a curious boy who loved to read. But so far I remember what I was thinking at that moment: “History is something that you have no right to erase”. Now I am 65 years old. And with horror I see that the left, like zombies, rise from their graves here, in the homeland of freedom.
What does one do when Orwell’s dystopian nightmare comes to fruition before one’s eyes? China is Oceania. In every way possible, from the two minutes of hate to the endless revision of history and control of all news. Iran is similar, although not as technologically or bureaucratically sophisticated.
And in the West we have our “soft-totalitarian” version of it, which in some ways is the hardest to watch. I’ve watched Progressives and Socialists, who make up about 8% of the U.S. population claim ownership of our political and social discourse, essentially policing the public square. They use every angle of pressure, shaming, denigration and their own hate to suppress, oppress and disappear those who’s speech they find “offensive”. All because “they know” that their morality is superior, that’s “settled” for them. Me and mine? Mere backlash to be mopped up.
As I write this, I’m thinking about revolution. I’m not even as brave as Winston Smith. I play along in public cuz I have to and I don’t want endless fights. I “go along to get along” and am broadly cynical about our society so I pull inwards and cut off the spew of endless propaganda I’m subjected to by the Prog-Marxist media. […]
John Hugo, president of Super Happy Fun America, which argues that “straight people are an oppressed majority,” initially used the likeness of Brad Pitt to promote the parade before the award-winning actor made it clear he wanted no part of that.
“I really like his movies and his lawyers sent us a letter asking us to take his stuff down but, you know, you’re allowed to do satire,” Hugo told The Boston Herald.
Yiannopoulos was later chosen as the face of the parade.
I do like the name of the group,”Super Happy Fun America”. Stay tune things should get interesting.
Fifty years ago, with the successful landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon, it appeared that the road to the expansion of human activity from its cradle on Earth into the immensely larger arena of the solar system was open. The infrastructure built for Project Apollo, including that in the original 1963 development plan for the Merritt Island area could support Saturn V launches every two weeks. Equipped with nuclear-powered upper stages (under active development by Project NERVA, and accommodated in plans for a Nuclear Assembly Building near the Vehicle Assembly Building), the launchers and support facilities were more than adequate to support construction of a large space station in Earth orbit, a permanently-occupied base on the Moon, exploration of near-Earth asteroids, and manned landings on Mars in the 1980s.
But this was not to be. Those envisioning this optimistic future fundamentally misunderstood the motivation for Project Apollo. It was not about, and never was about, opening the space frontier. Instead, it was a battle for prestige in the Cold War and, once won (indeed, well before the Moon landing), the budget necessary to support such an extravagant program (which threw away skyscraper-sized rockets with every launch), began to evaporate. NASA was ready to do the Buck Rogers stuff, but Washington wasn’t about to come up with the bucks to pay for it. In 1965 and 1966, the NASA budget peaked at over 4% of all federal government spending. By calendar year 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, it had already fallen to 2.31% of the federal budget, and with relatively small year to year variations, has settled at around one half of one percent of the federal budget in recent years. Apart from a small band of space enthusiasts, there is no public clamour for increasing NASA’s budget (which is consistently over-estimated by the public as a much larger fraction of federal spending than it actually receives), and there is no prospect for a political consensus emerging to fund an increase.
Further, there is no evidence that dramatically increasing NASA’s budget would actually accomplish anything toward the goal of expanding the human presence in space. While NASA has accomplished great things in its robotic exploration of the solar system and building space-based astronomical observatories, its human space flight operations have been sclerotic, risk-averse, loath to embrace new technologies, and seemingly more oriented toward spending vast sums of money in the districts and states of powerful representatives and senators than actually flying missions.
Fortunately, NASA is no longer the only game in town (if it can even be considered to still be in the human spaceflight game, having been unable to launch its own astronauts into space without buying seats from Russia since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011). In 2009, the commission headed by Norman Augustine recommended cancellation of NASA’s Constellation Program, which aimed at a crewed Moon landing in 2020, because they estimated that the heavy-lift booster it envisioned (although based largely on decades-old Space Shuttle technology) would take twelve years and US$36 billion to develop under NASA’s business-as-usual policies; Constellation was cancelled in 2010 (although its heavy-lift booster, renamed. de-scoped, re-scoped, schedule-slipped, and cost-overrun, stumbles along, zombie-like, in the guise of the Space Launch System [SLS] which has, to date, consumed around US$14 billion in development costs without producing a single flight-ready rocket, and will probably cost between one and two billion dollars for each flight, every year or two—this farce will probably continue as long as Richard Shelby, the Alabama Senator who seems to believe NASA stands for “North Alabama Spending Agency”, remains in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body).
In February 2018, SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy booster, which has a payload capacity to low Earth orbit comparable to the initial version of the SLS, and was developed with private funds in half the time at one thirtieth the cost (so far) of NASA’s Big Rocket to Nowhere. Further, unlike the SLS, which on each flight will consign Space Shuttle Main Engines and Solid Rocket Boosters (which were designed to be reusable and re-flown many times on the Space Shuttle) to a watery grave in the Atlantic, three of the four components of the Falcon Heavy (excluding only its upper stage, with a single engine) are reusable and can be re-flown as many as ten times. Falcon Heavy customers will pay around US$90 million for a launch on the reusable version of the rocket, less than a tenth of what NASA estimates for an SLS flight, even after writing off its enormous development costs.
On the heels of SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin is developing its New Glenn orbital launcher, which will have comparable payload capacity and a fully reusable first stage. With competition on the horizon, SpaceX is developing the Super Heavy/Starship completely-reusable launcher with a payload of around 150 tonnes to low Earth orbit: more than any past or present rocket. A fully-reusable launcher with this capacity would also be capable of delivering cargo or passengers between any two points on Earth in less than an hour at a price to passengers no more than a first class ticket on a present-day subsonic airliner. The emergence of such a market could increase the demand for rocket flights from its current hundred or so per year to hundreds or thousands a day, like airline operations, with consequent price reductions due to economies of scale and moving all components of the transportation system down the technological learning curve.
Competition-driven decreases in launch cost, compounded by partially- or fully-reusable launchers, is already dramatically decreasing the cost of getting to space. A common metric of launch cost is the price to launch one kilogram into low Earth orbit. This remained stubbornly close to US$10,000/kg from the 1960s until the entry of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 into the market in 2010. Purely by the more efficient design and operations of a profit-driven private firm as opposed to a cost-plus government contractor, the first version of the Falcon 9 cut launch costs to around US$6,000/kg. By reusing the first stage of the Falcon 9 (which costs around three times as much as the expendable second stage), this was cut by another factor of two, to US$3,000/kg. The much larger fully reusable Super Heavy/Starship is projected to reduce launch cost (if its entire payload capacity can be used on every flight, which probably isn’t the way to bet) to the vicinity of US$250/kg, and if the craft can be flown frequently, say once a day, as somebody or other envisioned more than a quarter century ago, amortising fixed costs over a much larger number of launches could reduce cost per kilogram by another factor of ten, to something like US$25/kg.
Such cost reductions are an epochal change in the space business. Ever since the first Earth satellites, launch costs have dominated the industry and driven all other aspects of spacecraft design. If you’re paying US$10,000 per kilogram to put your satellite in orbit, it makes sense to spend large sums of money not only on reducing its mass, but also making it extremely reliable, since launching a replacement would be so hideously expensive (and with flight rates so low, could result in a delay of a year or more before a launch opportunity became available). But with a hundred-fold or more reduction in launch cost and flights to orbit operating weekly or daily, satellites need no longer be built like precision watches, but rather industrial gear like that installed in telecom facilities on the ground. The entire cost structure is slashed across the board, and space becomes an arena accessible for a wide variety of commercial and industrial activities where its unique characteristics, such as access to free, uninterrupted solar power, high vacuum, and weightlessness are an advantage.
But if humanity is truly to expand beyond the Earth, launching satellites that go around and around the Earth providing services to those on its surface is just the start. People must begin to homestead in space: first hundreds, then thousands, and eventually millions and more living, working, building, raising families, with no more connection to the Earth than immigrants to the New World in the 1800s had to the old country in Europe or Asia. Where will they be living, and what will they be doing?
In order to think about the human future in the solar system, the first thing you need to do is recalibrate how you think about the Earth and its neighbours orbiting the Sun. Many people think of space as something like Antarctica: barren, difficult and expensive to reach, unforgiving, and while useful for some forms of scientific research, no place you’d want to set up industry or build communities where humans would spend their entire lives. But space is nothing like that. Ninety-nine percent or more of the matter and energy resources of the solar system—the raw material for human prosperity—are found not on the Earth, but rather elsewhere in the solar system, and they are free for the taking by whoever gets there first and figures out how to exploit them. Energy costs are a major input to most economic activity on the Earth, and wars are regularly fought over access to scarce energy resources on the home planet. But in space, at the distance Earth orbits the Sun, 1.36 kilowatts of free solar power are available for every square metre of collector you set up. And, unlike on the Earth’s surface, that power is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and will continue to flow for billions of years into the future.
Settling space will require using the resources available in space, not just energy but material. Trying to make a space-based economy work by launching everything from Earth is futile and foredoomed. Regardless of how much you reduce launch costs (even with exotic technologies which may not even be possible given the properties of materials, such as space elevators or launch loops), the vast majority of the mass needed by a space-based civilisation will be dumb bulk materials, not high-tech products such as microchips. Water; hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel (which are easily made from water using electricity from solar power); aluminium, titanium, and steel for structural components; glass and silicon; rocks and minerals for agriculture and bulk mass for radiation shielding; these will account for the overwhelming majority of the mass of any settlement in space, whether in Earth orbit, on the Moon or Mars, asteroid mining camps, or habitats in orbit around the Sun. People and low-mass, high-value added material such as electronics, scientific instruments, and the like will launch from the Earth, but their destinations will be built in space from materials found there.
Why? As with most things in space, it comes down to delta-v (pronounced delta-vee), the change in velocity needed to get from one location to another. This, not distance, determines the cost of transportation in space. The Earth’s mass creates a deep gravity well which requires around 9.8 km/sec of delta-v to get from the surface to low Earth orbit. It is providing this boost which makes launching payloads from the Earth so expensive. If you want to get to geostationary Earth orbit, where most communication satellites operate, you need another 3.8 km/sec, for a total of 13.6 km/sec launching from the Earth. By comparison, delivering a payload from the surface of the Moon to geostationary Earth orbit requires only 4 km/sec, which can be provided by a simple single-stage rocket. Delivering material from lunar orbit (placed there, for example, by a solar powered electromagnetic mass driver on the lunar surface) to geostationary orbit needs just 2.4 km/sec. Given that just about all of the materials from which geostationary satellites are built are available on the Moon (if you exploit free solar power to extract and refine them), it’s clear a mature spacefaring economy will not be launching them from the Earth, and will create large numbers of jobs on the Moon, in lunar orbit, and in ferrying cargos among various destinations in Earth-Moon space.
The author surveys the resources available on the Moon, Mars, near-Earth and main belt asteroids, and, looking farther into the future, the outer solar system where, once humans have mastered controlled nuclear fusion, sufficient Helium-3 is available for the taking to power a solar system wide human civilisation of trillions of people for billions of years and, eventually, the interstellar ships they will use to expand out into the galaxy. Detailed plans are presented for near-term human missions to the Moon and Mars, both achievable within the decade of the 2020s, which will begin the process of surveying the resources available there and building the infrastructure for permanent settlement. These mission plans, unlike those of NASA, do not rely on paper rockets which have yet to fly, costly expendable boosters, or detours to “gateways” and other diversions which seem a prime example of (to paraphrase the author in chapter 14), “doing things in order to spend money as opposed to spending money in order to do things.”
This is an optimistic and hopeful view of the future, one in which the human adventure which began when our ancestors left Africa to explore and settle the far reaches of their home planet continues outward into its neighbourhood around the Sun and eventually to the stars. In contrast to the grim Malthusian vision of mountebanks selling nostrums like a “Green New Deal”, which would have humans huddled on an increasingly crowded planet, shivering in the cold and dark when the Sun and wind did not cooperate, docile and bowed to their enlightened betters who instruct them how to reduce their expectations and hopes for the future again and again as they wait for the asteroid impact to put an end to their misery, Zubrin sketches millions of diverse human (and eventually post-human, evolving in different directions) societies, exploring and filling niches on a grand scale that dwarfs that of the Earth, inventing, building, experimenting, stumbling, and then creating ever greater things just as humans have for millennia. This is a future not just worth dreaming of, but working to make a reality. We have the enormous privilege of living in the time when, with imagination, courage, the willingness to take risks and to discard the poisonous doctrines of those who preach “sustainability” but whose policies always end in resource wars and genocide, we can actually make it happen and see the first steps taken in our lifetimes.
Zubrin, Robert. The Case for Space. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-63388-534-9.
Here is an interview with the author about the topics discussed in the book.
This is a one hour and forty-two minute interview (audio only) from “The Space Show” which explores the book in detail. The audio gets much better after the pre-recorded introduction.
Lauren Southern has a new documentary, Borderless, released on 24May2019. It concerns the immigration crisis in Europe. As with her previous documentary, Farmlands about attacks on white farmers and the general disorder in South Africa, her new documentary has professional-level production values. She traveled to several locations with her crew to investigate the nature and scope of human trafficking in Europe and Asia Minor. Even though it’s only been out for about two days, it already has about a half million views. It is free to view on YouTube (at least for now)* and on BitChute.
The film opens on the Turkish coast, near the island of Lesbos (Λέσβος). Because of its proximity to Greece, this location is often used as a staging area for migrants seeking to enter Europe illegally. Southern interviews a Turkish farmer in the area who explains how the area has become unsafe because of the influx of smugglers and migrants. She also interviews some Afghanis who are trying to make the crossing.
Southern moves on to Morocco, a staging area for migrants crossing to Spain. There are two autonomous Spanish cities on the Moroccan coast, Melilla and Ceuta, that serve as convenient launching points for illegal immigration into Spain. Even though there is a fortified border barrier, migrants storm the wall on a regular basis.
Back in Lesbos, Southern visits a refugee camp, interviews some inhabitants and a Médecins Sans Frontières physician who describe the conditions and dangers in the camp, and expose a scam whereby physicians falsify medical records to facilitate illegal migration. One of her producers conducts an undercover interview with an NGO operative who explains how she trains migrants to game the refugee system.
There’s a lot more, including interviews with immigration-skeptic MEPs, a visit to the Bulgarian border with Turkey, interviews with residents of a small town in Ireland overrun with migrants. Southern’s reporting is closer to objectivity than to advocacy. She concludes that migrants are exploited by traffickers, NGOs, and governments without consideration or care about the effects on the local European population. She concludes with…
The story of a borderless Europe is one where nobody wins.
This film is definitely worth 90 minutes of your time.
*The original upload of this film on 24May was apparently taken down by YouTube without explanation. Perhaps it was an “accident.” However, the censors seem to be leaving the re-upload alone.