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Member since: Wed Oct 13, 2004, 05:42 PM
Number of posts: 8,636

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Citizen's United debate: Move to Amend's David Cobb vs CU lawyer James Bopp

Move to Amend leader David Cobb debates James Bopp, one of the lawyers who argued for Citizens' United in the infamous 2010 Supreme Court case.

I think you'll agree: David mopped the floor with the CU guy. Bopp just resorted to Ad Hominem and Poisoning the Well arguments, which clearly didn't work with the Indiana University audience.

Move to Amend did not, repeat did not support the Udall Amendment (SJR 19), recently defeated in the Senate. MTA's objection was that SJR 19 did not address the precedent at the heart of Citizens' United and the more recent McCutcheon decision, which is the concept that corporations are persons under the law, entitled to the same constitutional rights as natural persons.

Move to Amend supports the We the People Amendment, introduced in the US House as HJR 29 in February 2013.

'Bad Astronomer' Phil Plait isn't a fan of the SLS either!

I've made my reservations plain in earlier posts; it seems that astronomer/science blogger Phil Plait has similar reservations:

What I want to point out—again—is how the Space Launch System is gumming up the works. SLS is supposed to be a heavy-lift rocket designed by NASA to replace the shuttles. I say “supposed to be” because I have been saying for quite some time that it is very likely to get bloated, over budget, and behind schedule. That’s a common circumstance for really big NASA projects (like the Space Station, the shuttle, Hubble, JWST, and others). NASA’s bureaucracy gets in the way, and as the dollar signs increase, Congress-critters start getting their own states and districts involved, muddying the situation further.


As it stands right now, the first uncrewed test launch date for SLS is set for late 2017, with a crewed flight four years later; a long time from now. These things historically have rarely gotten off on time, too. SpaceX is far closer to having a working crewed vehicle, but if this budget goes through as written, it could mean we won’t have American rockets putting Americans in space again for several more years.


This is getting so ridiculous that I’m starting to lean more and more toward an outright cancellation of SLS. It’s just too big and tempting a target for Congress members to avoid. President Obama canceled its predecessor, Constellation, because of cost overruns and scheduling slips. I still think it was the right thing to do; we’d have thrown billions at a rocket that we still wouldn’t have. SLS is seriously starting to feel like it’s slipping into that same groove. I’m not the only person to think so, either.

An excerpt from the Aviation Week article linked to by Phil:
Simply put, the SLS program should be canceled now to free up approximately $10 billion programmed for this decade. This money could then be redirected to continue the planned flight tests of the Orion spacecraft with the much lower-cost Falcon Heavy booster while making a robust investment in a first-generation space station in the vicinity of the Moon. An investment in such a cislunar station would provide—by the early 2020s—a multifunctional platform to act as a fuel depot, a workstation for robotic operations on the Moon and a habitat to protect against the more intense radiation environment outside of the Earth's magnetic field. This station could even be used as a habitat during longer-duration human missions to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.

From the Space.com article, also linked:
Earlier, SpaceX stated it could develop a rocket that would launch 150 metric tons of payload,or 20 metric tons more than the most powerful version of SLS at a fixed price development cost of $2.5 billion (an amount that comes to roughly 1.25 years of SLS's funding). Also worthy of consideration is spacecraft launch company United Launch Alliance's (ULA) proposed — but not currently pursued — economical, large launcher that would loft 140 metric tons at $5.5 billion total development cost.

Wouldn't it make more sense for NASA to buy a huge rocket from SpaceX or ULA and get much more capability for less money? If SLS were cancelled now, couldn't a small part of the resulting savings help speed up development of the large SpaceX or ULA launch vehicles — or both? In fact, this was exactly what NASA proposed to Congress before SLS was legally forced on them.

Edited to add: I've addressed some of my objections to the current Space Launch System before. Quoting from Elon Musk:

.....prices are expected to rise significantly in the next few years, according to defense department officials. Why? Musk says a lot of the answer is in the government’s traditional “cost-plus” contracting system, which ensures that manufacturers make a profit even if they exceed their advertised prices. “If you were sitting at an executive meeting at Boeing and Lockheed and you came up with some brilliant idea to reduce the cost of Atlas or Delta, you’d be fired,” he says. “Because you’ve got to go report to your shareholders why you made less money. So their incentive is to maximize the cost of a vehicle, right up to the threshold of cancellation.”

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