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Elon Musk, Space Pirate

Space pirates like Elon Musk have commandeered NASA and turned the once proud public agency into a vehicle for private profiteering and pillaging of the public treasury.


NASA is an agency of the federal government that each year receives billions of dollars in funding. The process by which this agency has been commandeered is through the “no strings attached” policy, whereby NASA willingly gives astronomical amounts of public funds and benefits away without regard for accountability. All that is required to “qualify” for these funds is an earnest desire to hopefully do “something” that could possibly equal the agency’s mission.

The agency’s “mission” has not been clearly defined for over five decades; indeed, five decades have passed since the last defining “success” and confirmation of the agency’s stated purpose and reason to exist. Recipients of the agency’s billions of dollars in government grease need not bother to bid or even compete for the funds, nor provide any indicia of their ability to perform the tasks to further the agency’s mission for which the funds are provided because there are no audits of the expenditures.

All that is required to plunder millions, even billions of dollars of this agency’s funding is to look up at the heavens and set your sights on the cosmos with a passably earnest face and a reasonably articulable desire or plan to match what the agency has previously accomplished but now seems impotent to even attempt. Then, it’s welcome aboard matey, and set the mainsail to cash grabs of untold riches!

Look up! The Treasure Island of space exploration can be yours, if you have a vision and a dream to sell. Like Elon Musk, no need to be concerned with performance – he’s blown up countless rockets over the years, delaying NASA missions years into the future -- or even impossibility.

Look up Space Cadet, look up! Dreams come true and all you must do is attach yours to a NASA-based component or program (demonstrable failure is never a reason to be denied!) and you can take part in the Space Program that achieves at or below the level of 1963!

Case in point: SpaceX’s recent congressional “ask” to receive taxpayer funding for deep space missions even though the company hasn’t even been able to perfect simpler launches. There is a reason former NASA Chief Charles Borden said he is “not a big fan of commercial space companies building large, heavy lift rockets.” Why? Because he “believe[s] (NASA’s) responsibility to the nation is to take care of things that normal people cannot do … like large launch vehicles.” Yet, that hasn’t stopped Musk from lobbying heavily.

Effort without performance? Concepts in disregard of the plausible? Ideas divorced from the scientifically possible? NASA is buying and has billions to give away! Yes, the money is there for the taking. Convincing earnestness and platitudes aplenty are all that is needed. All you have to do is look up and reach for the stars…

And climb on board, like Elon Musk, Space Pirate.

NASA, where have you gone? The agency created to give life to the hope of the future and the mythical Kennedy-esque mandate of the undeniable greatness of America and unconquerable drive for achievement that makes America great and exceptional. To all that grew up with the Cold War inspired Space Race and the desire to fulfill the American birthright of being the best and the brightest as expressed through technological achievement that could never remain earth bound, NASA embodied all that was good, hopeful, and possible about technology and the quest for a better life and a better humanity. It was our calling, heeding the American siren-call to save the world and save humanity – certainly we could not leave it to the Soviets to save humanity! God, (and President Kennedy – then Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Ford, sort of….) chose us, the U.S.A, to save humanity by landing on the moon. And we succeeded! The sky was literally the limit.

Then, nothing happened. The good ship NASA foundered, adrift without a rudder, though laden with treasure. NASA has not only lost its way like a damsel in distress cast amongst scalawags and privateers, it has de-evolved. It is the government counterpart to the fanatic—it has redoubled its efforts after having lost sight of its aim. Congress has fueled NASA’s lunacy by crowning it with virtually unfettered discretion to do anything that might be said to be a third cousin of “space.” Congress has supplied no metrics by which to measure performance, which is the very definition of crony capitalism.

NASA has become a clearinghouse for political favors and cash grabs for favored insider profiteers, like Elon Musk, who have boarded and commandeered the Good Ship NASA with over $5 billion in subsidies or incentives, despite his demonstrated incapacity to reliably launch even a single test rocket on schedule or budget.

What was once the paragon of American pride, hope for the future and virtue is now a seedy dealer of unchecked crony capitalism payouts and backroom deals. Unlike any other agency in the governmental constellation, NASA doles out dollars and contracts without regard to applicable law, the Federal Acquisition Requirements (“FAR”).  by which executive agencies of the United States federal government acquire or provide goods and services by contract with appropriated funds.  The FAR establishes procurement protocols for the acquisition or provision of goods and services by contract with appropriated funds for all executive agencies. The mandate of the opening paragraph of FAR, Title 48, Chapter 1 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) could not be clearer:

1.101 Purpose.

The Federal Acquisition Regulations System is established for the codification and publication of uniform policies and procedures for acquisition by all executive agencies.


However, NASA has obtained an exemption through the Space Act, Pub. L. No. 111–314, 124 Stat. 3328 (Dec. 18, 2010), that permits awards of contracts and provision of services free of charge to favored, but essentially unvetted, contractors lined up at the feeding trough. The only requirement for these “non-reimbursable deals” is that the handout hopeful convince NASA that their projects will “benefit the government” in a nebulous and to-date unprecise way. Neither the demonstrated ability to escape the bonds of gravity or measurable performance are part of the equation. These cosmic cadets of crony capitalism soar to the dizzying heights of the hop toad when it comes to performance whilst continuing to collect billions of tax dollars for only having that necessary sense of earnestness and “vision”.

The estimated nominal annual cost to the taxpayer for these Moonage Buccaneer Daydream Deals is more than $36 million –  excluding the $1.1 billion in funding for ongoing non-reimbursable deals for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) awarded to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the other space pirates who plunder NASA for their own privateering purposes. Congress welcomes NASA’s operations and enrichment of these cosmic cadets of crony capitalism - predictably because all members who are permitted to chair or sit on relevant oversight, appropriations, or authorization committees generally represent districts or states where the flags of space pirates like Musk are flown. 

And yet, with regard to manned space travel, we are further from the stated ideal contained in NASA's vision statement: “We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind,” than we were in 1968 – the year before the Apollo 11 moon landing. There is no effort to benefit humankind. Only the space pirates benefit and we the taxpaying people pay for their singular enrichment. Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A space pirate’s life for me, indeed….

In addition to being the treasure chest of space pirates like Elon Musk, et al, NASA has become a dinosaur; an agency that has lost its way. NASA would crash and burn if subjected to cost-benefit analytical scrutiny. NASA cannot likely replicate its crowning achievement accomplished nearly 50 years ago.  The Trump Administration would be well advised to avoid “looking up to the stars” and cease cowering before the Crony Capitalism Calico Jack when it comes to NASA and instead look down to the bottom line at a failed business model that costs the public billions in wasted giveaways while serving only the cosmic cadets of crony capitalism - Elon Musk, space pirate, foremost amongst them.

W Bruce DelValle is a litigator and founding member of the Washington, D.C. constitutional law, commercial and civil litigation firm Fein & DelValle PLLC. He is a native Texan who grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida. DelValle graduated from Penn State University and worked as a nuclear engineer prior to attending Washington and Lee School of Law.

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Tesla On Fire, Again

Yahoo Auto News is reporting that second Tesla car has caught fire:

The first fire in a Tesla Model S earlier this month brought about all the expected reactions; a steep sell-off by Wall Street in its volatile shares, followed by a spirited defense of electric vehicle technology from Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Last week, U.S. auto safety officials said they agreed with Musk's assessment that the fire was due to road debris, and said no official investigation was necessary — a fairly typical step given that NHTSA only investigates a fraction of the 180,000 vehicle fires in the United States every year.

So what to make of the second report of a Tesla Model S crashing and catching fire, in far different circumstances?

Unearthed by Axis of Oversteer, the crash happened Oct. 18 in Merida, a city in the northern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. According to local news reports, the Tesla was speeding through a roundabout at 4 a.m. when it hit a raised pedestrian crossing and briefly took flight before crashing into a wall and tree. The driver and perhaps a couple of passengers quickly left the scene, leaving the Tesla to burn for several minutes before firefighters arrived. (Warning: if you understand Spanish, there's some rough language in the video below).

As the video shows, the Model S burns freely, and in doing so sends off a couple secondary explosions before firefighters arrive to douse the flames. The fire appears more intense than the one in Washington State earlier this month, although it does stay contained to the front of the vehicle, which comports with Musk's assertions that the firewalls in the Model S battery compartment underneath the car keep flames from spreading.

Tesla says it's been in touch with the driver who fled the scene, and he's ready to get behind the wheel again:

We were able to contact the driver quickly and are pleased that he is safe. This was a significant accident where the car was traveling at such a high speed that it smashed through a concrete wall and then hit a large tree, yet the driver walked away from the car with no permanent injury. He is appreciative of the safety and performance of the car and has asked if we can expedite delivery of his next Model S.

Given the reported severity of the crash, a fire would have been likely from a gas-powered vehicle, and the fact the driver was able to flee does speak to the Tesla's crashworthiness. But the Model S remains rare enough, and first responders' experience with lithium-ion battery fires limited enough, that it will take several more cases before such events lose their notoriety.

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Meet An Obama "Winner"

If there was one billionaire more excited than George Soros at President Obama's re-election, it was Elon Musk.

The South African born Musk has been a triple recipient of Obama's "green" government investment schemes and the president's re-election appears to keep the taxpayer spigots open for the crony capitalist.


Musk is a three-time winner in the Obama taxpayer giveaways to his cronies and campaign contributors. 


Musk's Tesla Motors turned a $465 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy into a $600 million personal windfall in profits when the company went public.  Musk used the loan to lobby Congress for more largess, spending $480,000 from 2007 to 2011 on lobbying Congress, the White House, EPA and DOE on climate and energy issues, the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, the Promoting Electric Vehicles Act, and the Recovery Act.


After giving thousands of dollars to the President and the political parties, Musk's company Space-X won $440 million in grants from NASA to design the next American spacecraft capable of launching humans into space.


Refusing to quit while he is ahead, Musk has entered the failing solar space.  SolarCity, another of Musk's companies living of the taxpayers, has filed for an IPO as Musk tries to replicate his get rich scheme.  But recent filings appear to put a bump in the road for SolarCity. 


The company, which awarded the company a $275 million loan guarantee, received a subpoena in July from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Treasury to determine whether the company was part of a scam to inaccurately stated the fair-market value of their PV systems when applying for funds under the Treasury's Section 1603 cash-grant program.


In addition to fleecing the taxpayers to pad his wallet, it appears that Musk's Tesla Motors is also coming under scrutiny. Tesla's own SEC reports that the battery could be unsafe and catch on fire.


The green industry is a racket that hurts taxpayers and makes Obama's cronies rich.  Unless Congress acts, we will likely endure another four years of bailouts, handouts and giveaways to the president's supporters.


It's time for conservatives to demand separation of business and state and it should start with Elon Musk. 

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