Dub Stops

On the 27th of January, US President Trump (AKA Lord Dampnut) signed executive order 13769 the so-called “Muslim travel ban” this amongst other things suspended refugee relocation to the US from Syria, a process which was the most thorough and longest of national refugee applications.

The order generated huge global outrage with firm words from most foreign leader (apart from a mealy mouthed response from Theresa May (AKA Indecisiontron 2000) and numerous successful court cases including last night’s decision by the 9th circuit to uphold the suspension of the order.

With baited breath we waited…

Yes, the President will see those judges in court, although he already has, twice. And lost, twice to use Trump’s own words “he’s been losing so long he’s forgotten how to win [1]

Not to be outdone on the “heartless bastard” scale the UK government announced while the Brexit debate was ongoing that it was winding up the so called “Dubs” programme.

The programme named after Lord Dubs who introduced it as an amendment to the immigration act 2016 would see lone children in the various refugee camps relocated to the the UK. Lord Dubs was himself a child refugee who was one of those saved from the Nazi’s by Nicholas Winton (the British Oskar Schindler). The Amendment originally called for 3000 unaccompanied children to be resettled in the UK, after the Government kicked off the 3000 target was omitted and instead the Government in consultation with local authorities would determine the figure.

The government announced it would stop with 200 currently in the UK and 150 waiting to come over, 350. This government has stopped it with only 350 of the most vulnerable people coming here. The reason was the usual, the blanket excuse used by governments around the world when they simply don’t want immigrants and refugees [2]. That the programme was a “pull factor” and was in fact resulting in more children using people traffickers, and that the total of 350 was suitable as outlined in the “spirit” of the amendment.

In reality this Government has done the sum total of nothing, 350 is a pitiful small number the real reason would be the massive backlash in certain “news” papers about suspiciously old looking children arriving at immigration centres (because surviving a war, walking 3000 miles in desert heat, crossing a sea in a rubber boat then walking through plains, mountains and spending months in a camp without running water wouldn’t age anyone at all)

The decision to release this information shortly before a recess and while there was such a major vote is no accident, it’s a classic “bury the news” tactic. The decision that 350 is enough is disgraceful for a so called “civilised” society and the government who didn’t want this amendment in the first place has yanked it at the first opportunity. If anything it sums up the spiteful, mean and cowardly way this government is run. I can’t think of another government that has performed as poorly as this one. A Prime minister who cannot come to any sort of decision on anything, putting placating her own party’s right wing over the national interest, cozying up to the most vilified world leaders while burning bridges with our nearest and biggest trading partners. Earlier I called for Corbyn to resign, I would say the same to Theresa but she’s simply the less smelly of the assorted bags of shit that make up the Parliamentary tory party.

The devil you know is better than the one you don’t. She’s not the Iron Lady, or the Irony Lady [3] she’s a weak willed, indecisive, pandering harpie, who isn’t fit to fill the position that has been occupied by great leaders previously.

It’s only a matter of time before her party stabs her in the back the way they have with so many. The only question then is who comes next

1 Twitter attack on Senator John McCain, the Vietnam POW and war hero after McCain publicly criticised him for a botched SEAL mission in Yemen which left one SEAL dead and killed an unknown number of civilians including a child, the mission was  by all criteria an utter failure. It was also the first mission to be ordered by the President. Good Start.

2 Well until they invented terrorist attacks and blamed the Black guy who had the job before them.

3 Worst attempt at a joke since Corbyn attempted it, except mines on a blog read by no-one and his is in Hansard


A perfectly justifiable attack on Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn continues his disastrous leadership of the Labour Party despite losing the support of his Parliamentary party last year, his dominating supporter base with the members, and the rather lacklustre challenge by Owen Smith has scotched any attempt to remove him via a challenge.

Criticisms against Jeremy rarely are unwarranted, this is a man who has been promoted well above his ability, surrounded himself with various people who wouldn’t get off the back benches if the leader had any sense, and has a media strategy that appears to be “get him on the TV and pray he doesn’t sh*t himself”.

Now this country is faced with the biggest political crisis since the Abdication, the decision by the Government to trigger Article 50 thus withdrawing the UK from the European Union is one that is incredibly high risk with the potential of no reward but making Nigel Farage and the Tory right happy. The problem is this, there is no credible opposition. The Lib Dems, SNP, and the Labour Party have split the opposition. Labour is in total chaos and the polls showing a comfortable lead, means her only real risk is from the right of her own party. This is prompting May to veer into the worst possible exit for the UK in which is Parliament decides it doesn’t like the deal and votes it down the UK still leaves but with economically crippling WTO rules.

It’s no secret Jeremy wasn’t keen on the EU, his pathetic campaigning and damaging comments on ‘the Last Leg’ coupled with him making the completely wrong arguments for remaining and his demand A50 be triggered immediately the day after the result. Of course supporters of Jeremy point out his gruelling campaign schedule and in particular a quote by Angela Eagle  and a report they claim showed Jeremy made 122 appearances, although that was debunked . Until now Jeremy has been relatively quiet, instead relying on Sir Keir Starmer to take the lead on Labour’s response to Brexit, a job he was until recently pretty good at.

However the Supreme court ruling that Parliament has to have a say on triggering the withdrawal has caught Labour on the hop which is a surprise since the verdict wasn’t exactly a surprise. They have found themselves confounded by the Conservatives matching their attack lines before they can be used properly. Talk of a white paper resulted in an announcement that there will be a white paper, trouble about Parliament having a final vote was matched by the Government announcing there will be a final vote, all taking place when Labour have clearly set that day out to attack them on the issue. This has resulted in Labour lamely claiming victory over the government despite the White paper being light on detail and more a dream-land wish list and as mentioned, a devil and the deep blue sea decision on the final vote.

However Jeremy decided to lead labour, first by suggesting a 3 line whip on the article 50 bill (itself devoid of anything meaningful). Now normally if a cabinet or shadow cabinet member defies a 3 line whip they have to resign or are dismissed, it’s the nuclear option for party unity on a vote. Now this is where it gets confusing.

Many said they would vote against the bill in its original form and would only vote to approve if a number of amendments are accepted, amongst those were the guarantee for EU nationals to remain and membership of the EURATOM nuclear research project. None of the amendments were accepted. The Government Brexit bill is in effect a blank cheque to the Government to attempt a meaningful Brexit negotiation or just leave the EU completely and trade within WTO rules (an agreement many economists have said will ruin the UK economy) and Jeremy whipped Labour into supporting it.
At the first vote last week, Corbyn suffered a rebellion of 47 MPs, or one-fifth of the parliamentary party. Three shadow cabinet members, Dawn Butler, Rachael Maskell and Jo Stevens, resigned to vote against the legislation, and a dozen more junior frontbenchers chose to defy the whip. Just before the 3rd reading Clive Lewis announced he was resigning from the shadow cabinet to vote against the bill.

Now an absolute mess is bad enough, losing another chunk of his shadow cabinet is pretty bad considering the mass walk out last June/July. But the wound was missing more salt until this:

No Jeremy, the real fight started when Cameron fired the starting gun on the referendum, except you wouldn’t have known that as you went on holiday, or bothered to turn up to any of the Labour IN meetings instead of complaining that 0830 in the morning was “too early”. You’d probably have known that if you worked more than 4 days a week as reported in Private Eye this week. Seriously the Leader of the opposition only works 4 days and if he’s booked to appear on anything during the weekend he gets time off in leiu. For God’s sake, man. You are the leader of the opposition, it’s your job to turn up and do the job 7 days a week, I mean what if you bloody become PM, will you only do 4 days then? Would world events have to happen on those 4 days? what if Russia invaded Ukraine on a Tuesday but you were off because you did Peston on Sunday?

Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to lead, simple as. His idea that the “real fight” starts after we’ve given them what they want is laughable and frankly an insult to the 48% who voted remain and the countless many who have since changed their minds. It is in Labour’s and the country’s best interest he resigns and someone who works more than 20 hours a week takes over. Then maybe we’ll be spared complete collapse because May is too weak to stand up to Iain Bloody Duncan Smith.

Reminder about the “So called” Judge

It’s my fault really, I know I’m a crappy writer. It’s true, I sucked at English (but not literature) and I rarely know where a sentence will end when I start typing. However I figure if we’re going to die in a fireball if and when Boris says something on Twitter about Trump it might be a good idea to at least leave some sort of account behind.

Donald Trump’s immigration EO saga is still ongoing. Days after EO 13769 was issued last night (UK Time) Federal Judge  James Robart ordered a temporary suspension of the order the White House acted with dignity and ordered a freeze like a child and slammed the “outrageous” ruling from the Judge. However a second release omitted the word outrageous, but not before Spicer had said it.

Then the World waited for the inevitable, and boy did it come in style:

That is the President of the United States attacking a Federal Judge, a Judge who was confirmed by the US Senate 99-0 when he was nominated by President George W Bush. Judge Robart is a strong champion for the disenfranchised and was praised on the Senate floor for his community work with vulnerable children.  As a reward for upholding his oath, his ideals and the constitution there’s the so called “leader of the Free world”, a champion for Wall Street and whose idea of community work was establishing a charity foundation that spent $10,000 on a portrait of Trump. It also failed to honor a pledge to the 9/11 fund of………………$10,000 attacking him.

Trump needs to re-read the constitution, or really probably read it. Oh and something on Frederick Douglas might avoid further embarrassment. Oh and sack Conway who is just ridiculous.

Words on Trump (Christ and this was only the first few hours)

Ok, we have to talk. 2016 was what we’re probably going to see described on some History documentary in 20 years time as ‘The gathering storm’. First there was Brexit, then celebrities started dropping like foreign legion soldiers in that scene from Carry on Follow that camel then came, what will be seen as the key moment…

Donald J Trump, was elected as President.

We’re in the alternate universe with the little goatees.

We knew we were in for something special, lets not forget Trump has pretty thin skin and any slight, by anyone remotely famous, usually results in a c2q9htlxgaaydyhfew choice words on a late night twitter binge by Trump. In fact in 2008 Clinton released the now infamous “3AM” attack advert showing her ready to lead from her bed if needed. The advantage Trump has is he’ll already be awake, in a dark room lit only by his phone’s screen, writing “John Oliver once again being overrated. HBO has contributed nothing of worth since Sopranos. Sad!”

I was hoping that maybe the realisation of the awesome responsibility and even as some occupants have described the loneliness of power would have taken the edge off President Trump, that maybe he would have listened to what Lincoln described as the better angels of his nature, that he may be more Presidential.

That was the first mistake.

Instead what we had in the awkward transition period from November to January was a President-elect who didn’t really seem to do much, he was only accessible via twitter when he took aim at the defence industry, Carrier, GM, China, and then there’s comparing the CIA/NSA/DIA to Nazis for “leaking” the dodgy research on Trump’s connections to the Russian Government.

Then came Friday.

Per the 20th Amendment at noon on January 20th Donald Trump took the oath of office, a man who looked like he wanted the world to end for the hours leading up to it became more energised as he went through the oath, leading to the address.

“Oratory should raise your heart rate. Oratory should blow the doors off the place.”

Sam Seaborn, ‘The West Wing’ S2 E7 (The Portland Trip) 

An Inaugural address is the first real taste of how the next 4 years will be; the words uttered during them have become part of the fabric of US History. From Lincoln and his “malice to none”, Roosevelt and “nothing to fear but fear itself”, and Bush’s “thousand points of light”, they set the tone of the Presidency. Trump has never given what we would think of as an address; yes there’s been campaign speeches but how much of what he’s said has actually been in the speeches is anyone’s guess. I even hoped that his team contained a capable writer (not that I can really judge but this post isn’t going to be seen by millions, or 3 people if you’re CNN)

This was my second mistake.

Trump’s speech was like a monkey sneezing on alphabet spaghetti, it was more like a caricature of what we all joked would be a Trump speech if it was written by a Tea Partier on an acid trip. There was guff about opening hearts to patriotism then a lot about God, a concept that Trump has rarely mentioned, he did well to try to keep that aspect of US elections out of his campaign; which is what made it more jarring. More concerning to anyone familiar with Modern US History or any interest in World War two was the overuse of the phrase “America First”.

For those who don’t know, America First was a non-intervention pressure group active in the USA until 1941 (and the attack on Pearl Harbor) they preached strict non-interference with the War in europe, no lend-lease, no escorting convoys part way, nothing at all. It also is heavily tainted with anti-Semitism and outright nazism. Trump for all his boasting isn’t necessarily a dumb guy, we’d be wrong to think of him as a punchline in a “made in China” suit but Interwar US political movements may, and probably aren’t his strong point.

However Trump like all modern leaders rarely write their own speeches and the architect of his inaugural was Steve Bannon a white supremacist who almost certainly knew what “America First” originally meant5760 and how it is still used in far right (screw this “Alt-right” nonsense and call them what they are) circles and it was the dog whistle, the call to them saying “we’re in”. I mean we’ve probably seen the videos from the Deploraball or the meetings with the Nazi salutes and “Hail Trump”. We know what we’re dealing with now.

Trumps speech could be played in black and white, it could be played in black and white and the only thing missing would be the red banners and the Koniggratzer march. Leni Riefenstahl‘s reanimated corpse behind a camera wouldn’t have looked out-of-place.

The following contains dodgy psychoanalysis from a person whose total knowledge of the area is that if you’re a therapist and an analyst you don’t want to shorten that down on a business card.

You would think after that he would get down to work and start ‘Making America great again’ but he wasn’t done.

See Donald has a problem, he’s the stereotypical rich guy, he’s been surrounded by yes men, he’s probably never once doubted his ability, or had anyone close to him doubt it. He’s Mr. Burns, but younger and with more “hair” [Citation needed]. He craves the attention and credit for everything he has a deep-rooted desire to be loved. When Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep publicly humiliate him and people laugh or agree that hurts, he’s known to be thin-skinned he can’t comprehend that he’s this object of ridicule it doesn’t bother him when it’s you, or I, over twitter, but these are celebs, they’re people he craves the love from more. When he’s mocked by them it hurts.
It hurts.

When CNN posted pictures showing the crowd at the inauguration he flipped, it wounded him that this liberal elite were sneering at him he had his press secretary go out in front of the Press Corps and humiliated him trying to justify and berate the media for the lies it shattered this worldview that he’s loved, that everyone is shouting “Boo-urns” at him even God turned up and held the rain up while he spoke (he didn’t and it didn’t)

We’re not dealing with an ordinary “bad” President. We’re dealing with an egotistical maniac who deep down is craving attention and I suspect just wants recognition, we’re dealing with a man who likes the trappings of the Presidency but not the responsibility, we’re dealing with a populist. A dangerous man who will do untold damage to the fragile republic. We’re dealing not with satan, but with the guy who runs to 7/11 to buy satan a pack of cigarettes.

In defence of Jeremy’s 9/11 tweet

It seems that everyday the papers are filled with an “Outrage”. Since it’s September it’s the beginning of the “Ban the poppy/Christmas” outrage bus, but it’s now at the point where an “outrage” is simply something as innocuous as a tweet*.

Take for example the “outrage” over a tweet Owen Smith sent back in April:

Yea it’s not exactly up there in terms of funny but at the beginning of September the Corbyn supporters found it and latched onto it as an example of how sexist and misogynistic Owen is. The Gobstopper is obviously a reference to shutting Sturgeon up especially since it was the campaigning for the local elections (one Labour did exceptionally well to avoid a total collapse/ won more than anyone ever has hail Corbyn!) so in context it’s hardly up there with something like this, which by the way is a perfect example of being a sexist waste of skin:

Now for something I never thought I’d do with less than a week until the election results are due, I’m about to defend Jeremy Corbyn.

I’m not a fan or Jeremy anymore and my reasons are scattered throughout this blog and twitter. It all started on Sunday, a day when campaigning across the board ceased to remember the events of September 11, 2001. Amongst the posts from politicians expressing sorrow and remembrance was this from Jeremy:

It’s an inevitability that anything Jeremy was going to post that day was going to be leapt upon his past associations and comments, not to mention his Director of Communications being the person who immediately blamed the US and once said the murder of Lee Rigby wasn’t terrorism because he was a soldier (then there’s the praising Stalin stuff) meant that it was going to be open season. Naturally a lot of people were annoyed that he had shoehorned some anti western sentiment into a sombre moment or that he was using it to score cheap political points (the irony of then using Jeremy scoring cheap points, to score cheap points was immediately lost)

But here’s the thing.

Is it really *THAT* offensive or outrageous?**

Many think that it simply wasn’t the right time to mention the aftermath of 9/11 but then they can never answer the question “then when is?” without giving the same answer “anyday but this”. The problem is I fundamentally disagree. In the 15 years since 9/11 we’ve went to war in Afghanistan, thrown lives and resources trying to bring order to a land that proved the downfall of the greatest empires in history, we’ve left behind a broken country in Iraq, where lawlessness, sectarianism, and now ISIS which rose from the ashes of the insurgency in Iraq controls vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. There’s been attacks in London, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Nice, Tunisia, Bali, Baghdad, Mosul, Moscow, Kenya, Texas, Boston, Cologne, and many of which have their origins in the aftermath of 9/11.

Then there’s the argument of “Think about their families” well what about the Familiy of 13 year old Mohammed Tuaimanor the families of those killed in Yemen when a drone strike hit a wedding ceremony?

I think the issue is this has resulted in a war that hasn’t ended. In 3 months when people stop to remember the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor people will be thinking about the attack, the loss of life and some will think about what happened after, the remembering the victims in the aftermath comes in May and August with VE and VJ day. A day when we stop, fall silent and remember those who died in the battles that followed (for Americans at least.) There’s no single moment in the War on Terror where we can stop and think of everything that has happened after, there’s no VGWOT day.

I think it’s also important that we do remember the aftermath, how as a people once the dust settled we began to fight back, badly. 15 years and the only notable victory was the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan is slowly falling back into the hands of the Taliban, Syria and Iraq are on fire, Libya is a mess, Egypt is in the middle of a brutal crackdown. If we don’t stop to remember what happened and what came next we’re bound to make the same mistakes, we relegate the “War on Terror” as a separate beast to 9/11 and disassociate what we’ve done after as a response to it. We doom ourselves to forget the lessons and if it were to happen again we’re bound to make them again.

As James Joyce wrote in ‘Ulysses’ “History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

At the end of the day Jeremy is vehemently anti-war, he was well within his rights to highlight what came next, we should never forget 9/11, the peaceful bright morning shattered by the sound of jet engines.

*As a caveat I’m not saying that all tweets aren’t worthy of outrage, I mean Donald Trump’s feed is testament to just how awful it can get and the less said about Katie Hopkins the better.

** It’s not like he wished his enemies a happy 9/11, I mean you’d have to be a grade A asshole to do tha- DAMMIT DONALD!


REPOST: NASA’s $349 million monument to its drift

GULFPORT, Miss. — In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space.

Then, NASA did something odd.

As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially “mothballed” — closed up and left empty — without ever being used.

“You lock the door, so nobody gets in and hurts themselves,” said Daniel Dumbacher, a former NASA official who oversaw the project.

The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010.

But, at first, cautious NASA bureaucrats didn’t want to stop the construction on their own authority. And then Congress — at the urging of a senator from Mississippi — swooped in and ordered the agency to finish the tower, no matter what.

The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn’t need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse.

The empty tower in Mississippi is evidence of a breakdown at NASA, which used to be a glorious symbol of what an American bureaucracy could achieve. In the Space Race days of the 1960s, the agency was given a clear, galvanizing mission: reach the moon within the decade. In less than seven, NASA got it done.

GRAPHIC: NASA’s mothballed test towers

Now, NASA has become a symbol of something else: what happens to a big bureaucracy after its sense of mission starts to fade.

In the past few years, presidents have repeatedly scrubbed and rewritten NASA’s goals. The moon was in. The moon was out. Mars was in. Now, Mars looks like a stretch. Today, the first goal is to visit an asteroid.

Jerked from one mission to another, NASA lost its sense that any mission was truly urgent. It began to absorb the vices of less-glamorous bureaucracies: Officials tended to let projects run over time and budget. Its congressional overseers tended to view NASA first as a means to deliver pork back home, and second as a means to deliver Americans into space.

In Mississippi, NASA built a monument to its own institutional drift.

The useless tower was repeatedly approved by people who, in essence, argued that the American space program had nothing better to do.

“What the hell are they doing? I mean, that’s a lot of people’s hard-earned money,” said David Forshee, who spent 18 months as the general foreman for the pipefitters who helped build the tower. Like other workmen, he had taken pride in this massive, complicated project — only to learn that it was in mothballs.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.”

“It’s heartbreaking to know that … you thought you’d done something good,” said David Forshee, who spent 18 months as the general foreman for the pipefitters who helped build the tower. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.” (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

Creating a vacuum

Seven years ago, when the tower still seemed like a useful idea, the governor came to the groundbreaking. So did a congressman. Two senators. On a hot morning in August 2007, next to a canal full of alligators, somebody laid down AstroTurf and clean dirt over the sandy Mississippi soil. The dignitaries stood on the fake grass. They stuck gold-painted   shovels into the fake earth.

They said they were starting one of the greatest journeys in human history.

Right here — at a 30-story tower rising out of the woods — NASA would test the rockets that would take Americans back to the moon. And then even farther, on to Mars.

“You who live in Mississippi and who work at this space center will see that frontier opening,” said Shana Dale, who was then NASA’s second-in-command. “You’ll hear it, too: the rumble of moon-bound rockets being tested here. The thunder of possibility; the roar of freedom.”

This tower was intended to test a rocket engine called the J-2X. The plan was for a spacecraft to carry this engine, un-lit, up out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Then the engine would ignite and propel the spacecraft toward the moon.

But, before NASA stuck an astronaut on top of that idea, it wanted to test the engine. In the near-vacuum at the edge of space, would the whole thing vibrate, crack or blow apart?

There was only one way to know.

“You have to fake the vacuum,” said Dumbacher, the former NASA official.

To do that, NASA had to create a giant pressure cooker on stilts. Workers would build a sealed metal container, big enough to hold a school bus. Then they would install it in the middle of a 300-foot-tall steel tower, reinforced to resist 1 million pounds of upward thrust from a rocket.

Then, they would put the rocket engine in the container. Seal the door. Suck out the air. And light the fire.

At the very beginning, NASA projected that the tower would cost $119 million. It was supposed to be finished by late 2010.

Giving up on the moon

Back in Washington, it wasn’t long after the groundbreaking that NASA officials began to hear about problems with the project.

For one thing, the estimated cost increased to $163 million. To $185 million. Then beyond that. NASA’s inspector general said the main contractor, Jacobs Engineering Group, blamed changes in the design, plus unforeseen increases in the cost of labor and steel.

NASA paid the higher price. The builders kept building.

“I don’t think the contractors were attempting a scam. I think, in all honesty, that they did not understand the magnitude of the job,” said one former senior NASA official who was familiar with the project. “I know people involved as human beings. I do not think they were trying to take advantage” of NASA, the former official said.

Jacobs declined to comment.

At NASA, as at other large government agencies, this was an old institutional vice: making a big purchase, then letting the cost get bigger and bigger. Studies had found that when NASA projects ran way late or way over budget, the agency rarely took the hard step of killing them.

It kept paying

“The [International] Space Station was sold as an $8 billion program. It ended up costing $100 billion. The Webb telescope was sold as a $1 billion program. It’s now up to $8 billion,” said Lori Garver, who served as the number two official at NASA from 2009 until last year. “It usually works out for them,” she said, meaning the contractors get paid, even when they raise the price.

Decision-making about NASA was twisted, she said, because of a mismatch between its huge funding and its muddled sense of purpose. “There’s no ‘why’ ” in NASA anymore, Garver said.

Instead, she said, there was only a “how,” a sense that something big still needed to be done. “And the ‘how’ is all about the [construction] contracts and the members of Congress.”

At the same time that the test stand was busting its budget, NASA  had a much bigger problem to deal with. The whole effort to return to the moon — a suite of projects called “Constellation,” which included the A-3 tower and the engines it was meant to test — was falling deeply behind.

That program had begun in 2004, with a call from President George W. Bush. “We will undertake extended human missions to the moon as early as 2015,” Bush said then.

But its funding never matched its ambitions. The nation’s ETA on the moon was repeatedly pushed back. By 2009, a study commissioned by President Obama found that — at its current budget — NASA might not get a man back to the moon until the 2030s.

“They were trying to do more work than they had money to do. And they tried to make it up by slipping” the due date further and further into the future, said Norman R. Augustine, a former chief executive of Lockheed Martin, who led the study.

What was left was a choice, he said.

“We have to decide in this country whether we want a jobs program,” he said, “or a space program.”

Finally, in early 2010, Obama made a stunning announcement.

He wanted to give up on the moon. In fact, he wanted to scrap the entire Constellation program, including the rocket engines that the Mississippi tower was meant to test.

At that point, NASA officials said, about $200 million in federal money had been committed to the Mississippi project. But the thing was still nowhere near done. In fact, officials said, it might need another year and a half of work.

What was left was a choice.

“If it didn’t look like we were going to use it again, I would have stopped it right there. Just to save the money,” said Douglas Cooke, the NASA official who was tasked with making that decision. He was a lifer, 35 years in.

In the spring of 2010, Cooke was not ready to kill the tower.

After all, Obama had only proposed killing the Constellation program. Congress hadn’t signed off. In fact, lawmakers already were howling, outraged that home-district projects might be cut. So what if lawmakers decided to save that rocket engine that fired in space after all?

Just to be safe, Cooke kept it going.

“If we just stopped work on it, in the middle, it was going to be a pretty high recovery cost, to go back and restart it,” he said. “So we just decided to go ahead.”

Keeping eyes on the prize

In Mississippi, construction continued without a break. To the workers on the ground, the test stand was looking like a major achievement — a demonstration of what NASA and America and they were capable of.

Steam billows from the A-3 test stand during a preliminary test of one system at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (NASA)

First, they put up the steel. There was 4 million pounds of it, with holes for 450,000 bolts — a thicket of metal so dense that workers joked about a “bird test.” Any bird that tried to fly straight through it would conk into a beam.

For workers, the job was hard because the structure was naked. No ladders. No railings. No floors. To build it, they had to stand on the bare skeleton itself, high enough in the air that the swinging steel blended in with the passing clouds.

“You’re standing on a steel beam 100 feet in the air,” said James Blackburn, whose company, then called Lafayette Steel Erector, worked on this phase of the project. “The crane is swinging, one of these large steel members is coming toward you. . . . As the clouds are moving by, this piece is moving at you, your brain easily gets confused.”

After the steel went up, the workers attached the sealed metal container. The hardest part to build was the 120,000-pound door. It had to swing open to let the rocket engine in, then swing shut and hold up under 40 pounds per square inch of pressure from the atmosphere outside.

“You stop and realize 40 psi is — what’s 40 times 144?” Jasper Reaves asked aloud at American Tank & Vessel, in the basement of a grand mansion in Mobile, Ala.

“Five thousand two hundred sixty pounds” per square inch, said William Cutts, the company’s chief executive, working the calculator.

“ . . . per square foot,” Reaves, the chief engineer, finished the sentence. “That’s a hell of a lot of pressure on this thing.” Reaves gestured toward a photo of the door, crosshatched with a grid of steel bars. It looked like the door to a super-villain’s jail cell. “So that’s all to make the door keep its shape.”

Just the paint job was enormous. It took two days for a man hanging in a “spider basket” to paint one wide stripe from bottom to top. Then he moved  over a few feet, and started at the bottom of another section.

But the payoff would be enormous, too.

Years later, they would have touched the thing that touched the thing that put humans on another planet.

“I mean, you talk about something neat,” said Brent Anthony, who spent days inspecting the stand, hanging in a basket that swung unnervingly in the breeze. “You’re talking about building something that’s going to help us go to Mars.”

In the final years of the project, however, word began to filter out on the jobsite. The thing they were working on might not be needed after all. Not for Mars. Not for anything.

“Yeah, yeah. It was a pretty strange feeling. To know that we were working on a project that, you know, seemed like that was just the local politician’s pet project but didn’t necessarily fit into the national scheme. Well, I don’t think the rank and file really had a morale issue with that. You know, to them, it was another construction project,” said Joel Ellis, a contractor who helped install the pipes on the stand.

For Ellis personally, the key was to take pride in the work, even if the work wasn’t ever used. “There’s no sense in dwelling on it,” he said.

Sealing tower’s fate

In the summer of 2010, Congress saved the tower in Mississippi for good.

It happened without anybody mentioning the project’s name aloud.

“This is a big day for America,” said then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), as it was about to happen. Hutchison was speaking in July 2010 at a meeting of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

“We’re doing the right thing for America. For our economy. For our creativity,” she said. “For our science. And for our security.”

Hutchison was announcing a new compromise with the White House, which would finally settle the fight over Constellation. Constellation was dead. Instead, the senators were telling NASA to build something that they had just made up: a “Space Launch System” (jokers at NASA call it the “Senate Launch System”).

The new plan for NASA was, as usual, long on “how” and short on “why.”

The senators were clear about what they wanted NASA to do: keep some Constellation-era projects going, with all their salaries and spending, and try to integrate them into a new system.

But what was the goal of all that? The moon was off the table. Instead, NASA is now focused on a less impressive rock: an asteroid. Sometime in the 2020s, NASA wants to capture one about the size of a house, and then have astronauts zoom up and examine it. This was not a mission chosen to captivate the world’s imagination. It was a mission chosen to use the leftovers that Congress had told NASA to reheat. (Mars still remains a distant goal: At the earliest, NASA might get there in the 2030s.)

At first, the Senate’s new plan looked bad for the tower in Mississippi. At best, it now would be a project built on spec: erected in the hope that someday NASA might return to the idea of a giant rocket engine that fired in a vacuum.

But, in the committee room, Hutchison was still talking.

“I move that the following amendments to the NASA reauthorization bill be adopted,” she was saying. “Wicker Two, as modified. Wicker Three, . . .and Wicker Four,” Hutchison said.

“All those in favor?” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the committee chairman.

Everybody said aye.


Nobody said anything.

“It does appear to the chair that the ayes have it,” Rockefeller said.

“Sherlock Holmes, you are,” Hutchison said.

And that was it. “Wicker Three” was an amendment sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). His amendment said NASA “shall complete construction and activation of the A-3 test stand with a completion goal of September 30, 2013.”

That language was included in the bill that passed the committee. Then the Senate, then the House. In October 2010, Obama signed it into law.

“Administrations come and go. I think it makes sense not to leave a partially constructed asset sitting there,” Wicker said this month, in an interview in a hall outside the Senate chamber. “I do believe, a decade from now, we’ll look back and see that it has been used in a very positive way.” He did not name a specific NASA program that he believed would use it.

In a separate interview this year, Hutchison — who is now retired — had said she couldn’t remember how Wicker managed to get his amendment included in that compromise.

So how did he do it?

In the Capitol hall, the senator burst out laughing.

“Just talented legislating,” he said, and then walked away.

William Cutts, left, chief executive of American Tank & Vessel in Mobile, Ala., and Jasper Reaves, the company’s chief engineer, look at photographs of the A-3 test stand. (William Widmer for The Washington Post)

Test stand, at a standstill

Work on the tower finally concluded this past summer. By then, the project had cost $349 million, which was nearly three times the original NASA estimate. It had lasted almost seven years, which was 3 1 /2 years longer than first expected.

But at last, the A-3 test stand was done.

Or, mostly done.

“A-3 could not be used for testing right now, if we wanted to,” said Dumbacher, the NASA official, who left in July to become a professor at Purdue University. He said instruments still needed to be installed, and the pressure vessel needed to be tested to see if it would hold a vacuum. How much work would it take to get it ready?

“Probably another two to three years, I would guess,” Dumbacher said. (A current NASA spokesman gave a slightly shorter time frame, saying that “probably less than two years would be required.”) But, he said, Congress had assured NASA behind the scenes that this stage of completion would be enough to satisfy them. So construction work ended on June 27, and workers began the job of mothballing the stand.

The dignitaries did not come back to see that.

“There was no ceremony,” a NASA spokesman said.

The revelation that the tower was going to be mothballed was revealed in an inspector general’s report in January.

For now, the stand does not seem likely to be needed anytime soon. NASA says it has no rockets, even in development, that would require the kind of test this tower does.

So the tower stand has taken its place on NASA’s long list of living dead. Last year, the agency’s inspector general found six other test stands that were either in “mothball” status, or about to be. Some hadn’t been used since the 1990s. Together, those seven cost NASA more than $100,000 a year to maintain.

Forshee, the pipefitting foreman, had no idea. He had left the tower job years ago, had gone to work in Montana, and then had come back to Mississippi to build a firehouse. But he had kept a jacket with the NASA logo, which he had been given on the tower project. He savored the idea that his kids might one day see an American walk on Mars, and know their father helped make it possible.

Then, in July, Forshee got an odd job offer. Could he come to Stennis Space Center to work on a new rocket test stand?

Forshee was confused. Didn’t he just build one of those?

“They told me, “Hey, you know, they mothballed A-3.’ I said, ‘What?’ ” he said, in an interview at the bar at a Hooters restaurant in this industrial city of Gulfport. “And they said, ‘Yeah, they’re gonna do this one’ ” instead, he said.

It turned out that the engines required for the new Space Launch System needed a new test stand, with no vacuum involved. So NASA is renovating another stand just a short distance away from the A-3, called the B-2. That project is supposed to cost $134 million.

Forshee is a tea party supporter, somebody who hates for government money to be misspent. And here, he sees, it was misspent on him. After his interview at Hooters, he called a reporter back to be sure he had it right.

“They’re just saying they spent $350 million for no reason?” he asked.

Yes, he was told.

“Well,” he said. “Nice.” (He took the job at the new test stand anyway, to be sure the work stayed with his union local: “If we don’t do this work, then they’re going to give it to Local 60 out of New Orleans.”)

NASA would not allow a reporter to visit the disused tower up close. The only way to see it at all was to pay $10 at the visitor center and take the official Stennis Space Center bus tour.

On the tour, the guide drove by several test stands left over from the glory days of the 1960s, and recounted how exhaust billowed, and the earth shook. The bus drove by the B-2 stand, now under construction.

Then the bus passed a skeletal, white-painted tower, alone in the distance.

“The one to the left there is called the A-3,” the guide said.

So what does that one do?

“It actually does not have a customer,” the guide said. “So it’s just kind of hanging out right now.”

Washington Post online

David A. Fahrenthold

Published on December 15, 2014

On this day July 4: Thomas Jefferson survives

July 4 1826, USA.

On the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence, the two key figures of the declaration lie on their deathbeds.
John Adams, the second President of the United States and Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the declaration. Although their friendship soured to the point they were bitter rivals, they rekindled their friendship in 1812 and their letters survive as an important collection in American history.

Jefferson had been ill for around a year and during the last hours of Jefferson’s life he was accompanied by family members and friends. He calmly gave directions for his funeral, forbidding any sort of celebration or parade. Moments later Jefferson called the rest of his family and friends around his bedside and with a distinct tone he uttered:

I have done for my country, and for all mankind, all that I could do,
and I now resign my soul, without fear, to my God, – my daughter to my country.

After falling back to sleep Jefferson later awoke at eight o’clock that evening and spoke his last words, “Is it the fourth yet?“. His doctor replied, ”It soon will be“. On July 4 at ten minutes before one o’clock Jefferson died at the age of 83

Adams died at his home in Quincy. Told that it was the Fourth, he answered clearly, “It is a great day. It is a good day.” His last words have been reported as “Thomas Jefferson survives” although he died earlier in the day.

John Adams
Thomas Jefferson

John Adams (October 30 1735 – July 4, 1826)
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743  – July 4, 1826)

A plea

I’ve been struggling for 2 weeks to write something about the events in London and also in the country as a whole. Obviously with the brutal and senseless murder of Lee Rigby the EDL have seized on this as proof “Islam is a violent religion” complete crap as you all know but this hasn’t stopped them getting the spotlight for a few weeks while the real media and let’s face it, saner people know to ignore them.

The EDL are not a DL, they’re a bunch of idiots who hide behind the flag and faux patriotism to make a point. They’re not all idiots of course, some are just confused and follow the crowd, others are racist, others are basically Hitler in a baseball cap.

Lee Rigby however was a defender of England, and the UK. He was a serving soldier, a veteran of one tour in Afghanistan and his family has been vocal in their opposition to any revenge attacks and has pleaded for calm.

However those brave defenders of England, the Home guard of Albion didn’t listen, a UKIP activist went as far as to call his grieving family “idiots” and have instead decided to shout loudly and carry big sticks, bottles and anything else that can be thrown.

So here it is. A plea, a request.
EDL please honour the families wishes, be angry – I am – do not be vengeful, do not tar a whole section of a community for the actions of 2 warped individuals, do not demand that every Muslim in the UK apologise for the actions of 2 people who had twisted their religion and carried out these hateful attacks. Remember Lee, but do not seek to right a wrong.

To the UAF, the EDL are cocks, we know this, oppose them by all means, do not antagonise, don’t play into their “minority in our own country” and victim mentality.

Lee and millions of others have died so people can speak their mind without fear of persecution, you may not like what they say, and that is also your right. It is also the price you pay for living in a country where men and women of all faiths have rallied around and defended us, paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Put simply:

Michael Gove:- Looking for an old England.

I will admit right off the bat I’m not a fan of Michael Gove, before we even get to how wrong his latest hissy fit was we need to really look at him. Since the Toryeducation twitter profile went offline, no doubt because of the truth rumours that it was run by one of his closest advisors to smear critics, it’s not completely safe.

Go ahead, gaze on Ozymandias’ works, and despair. For he has sapped morale in teachers to a level Alan Pardew would be envious of while maintaining an aura of “self serving smug prick”

And on the pedestal these words were written. “Teachers know nothing”

He’s provoked the ire of historians and academics for his narrative history of how great britain is. Soon kids will be able to tell you what year the glorious revolution was, but nothing much about why it happened or its effects. For Gove it seems, being able to recite a date and a few facts is enough to get by in life. Who needs the ability to look at all the sources and come to their own conclusion.

In many ways he is straight out of an Edwardian book for boys. His idea of education comes from those long summer days before the war when the Empire and King and Country were important. His latest speech however is just nauseating. From the complete lies about History pupils being told to sort the leaders of the Nazi party into Mr Men and how children shouldn’t read Twilight or play Angry birds but should be reading Middlemarch and coding.

He bemoans the fact that “an inspector calls” is still the most used play for drama pupils. Not because it’s dry, boring and tedious (it really is, my English Lit books prove it) but because it’s too ‘modern.’ He’d rather children tackle the romantic poets, learn the great history of the United Kingdom, from brave Boudicca to a prosperous Roman colony, a shining light of learning in a dark age to the “greatest Empire in the world, civilizing the noble savages of the dark continent and bringing democracy and industrialisation, commerce and christianity to the far flung parts of the world.

When you consider that Gove’s advisor for the history curriculum is none other than gaffe prone Niall Ferguson (another man transplanted from the 1900’s) it’s no surprise the Mau Mau and other dark sides of the Empire are simply washed away.

What makes Gove more dangerous is his part about how Children are taught History.

““The following steps are a useful framework: Brainstorm the key people involved (Hitler, Hindenburg, Goering, Van der Lubbe, Rohm…). Discuss their personalities / actions in relation to the topic. Bring up a picture of the Mr Men characters on the board. Discuss which characters are the best match.””

Gove is using this to attack modern teaching methods and then remarks
“I am familiar with the superb historical account Richard J Evans gives of the rise, rule and ruin of the Third Reich and I cannot believe he could possibly be happy with reducing the history of Germany’s darkest years to a falling out between Mr Tickle and Mr Topsy-Turvy.”

Except whoever discovered that omitted a few key parts. While it is a lesson plan it’s not used in state schools, it’s for the iGCSE which is based on the O-Level, an exam Gove is desperate to bring back. Not only that but it’s for 15-16 year olds to teach Nazism to children in years 3 and 4, in other words 8-9 year olds, who I suspect may struggle with Weimar Germany, reparations, re-armament and enabling acts.

When I was at school we’d sit in the room, listen for half an hour as the teacher gave us the bare bones of a particular topic then we’d read a rather poorly written text book (and in later years I discovered, completely wrong) and answer the tasks. And that was it, no fancy “Imagine you’re hitler” or reading all of Gibbon’s ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ and yet I’m still madly in love with the subject. I read books like a hungry man eats pie and not only that, I play Angry Birds, read Tom Clancy and not only that…..

I don’t need to lie, distort or set up a twitter account to defend myself.


So Thatcher is dead, ding dong and all that. Right now the TV is filled with rose tinted views of her, people who in life betrayed her and forced her out of office praising her strength and character. Others, especially here are relieved I suppose is the word. Some have gone too far and are partying in the streets in Brixton and in Scotland.

I myself, am nonplussed. Thatcher did good and in the North extremely bad is she worthy of the reaction? probably. Is it right? no. Now i’m not going to take the moral high ground and plead for decorum and to think of her family, after all she didn’t care about the families of the 96 at Hillsborough or the families who starved and went poor in her battle against the unions.

History will judge her, not you or I, Instead I leave you the words of Shakespeare:

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;”