You Shouldn’t Have Run Joe

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Joe Biden disqualifies himself to be President

An Open Letter to Joe Biden

Dear Joe Biden,

What the hell are you thinking? Seriously, you think you can begin a campaign to be President of the United States by quoting a document that was written angry white men who didn’t believe that slaves or women were equal, and no one is going to notice?

Don’t get me wrong, the Declaration of Independence is an important document in our country’s history, but if you’re trying to talk about equality you need to talk about the journey our country took to recognize that all are equal, not just what a group of wealthy white men wrote down about equality for wealthy white men.

You also apparently believe that you can make one call to an African American woman and apologize for your inappropriate behavior and that qualifies you to be President. When our son doesn’t do his homework, then later apologizes for not doing his homework, he still doesn’t get to do a sleepover.

If you were truly attempting to atone for your behavior you would have called Anita Hill, apologized, then told her that your behavior against her and other women is why you shouldn’t be President. That is what sincerity is about. That is atonement.

You shouldn’t have run Joe. This was a mistake before you made your announcement and your announcement itself proves why you should be President.

I don’t dislike you. You have worked hard in your life to try and correct the mistakes you have made, but you still don’t understand why old white men are not the people who should lead our country out of this mess created by old white men.

Nevada Education: The War On Children

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Nevada Schools Closed on April 9th

April 9th was the last day of school in Nevada. Teachers, students, and staff will continue to keep the schools active until June 7th, but they are essentially working for free. This is based on a simple assumption. The assumption is that Nevada children should have the same level of funding as the average student in the United States. It doesn’t because education in Nevada is under siege and being starved of the funds it needs.

Schools in the United States spent an average of $11,762 on each student in the 2015-16 school year (the latest data available.) Nevada only spent $8,615 per pupil. [Sources:  Governing.com/U.S. Census Bureau Update 1 June 2018] Nevada funds their student’s education at 76% less than the average U.S. student. That is down from 83% in 2007.

Downward Spiral: Nevada per pupil funding as a % of the U.S. Average

At 76% of U.S. average per pupil funding, and based on a 180-day school year, Nevada’s per pupil funding runs out on April 9th, while the average U.S. student is funded to the end of the school year.

Nevada Education:  The No Money Myth

According to Education Week’s Quality Counts 2018, only Idaho ranks lower in School Finance and Nevada’ Overall education score is the worst in the United States. [Source:  Education Week 17 Jan 2018, updated 10 Oct 2018] But why doesn’t Nevada adequately fund public schools?

Nevada’s school funding, or lack thereof, is based on the assumption that Nevada is a poor State. Many believe that Nevada’s industries are overtaxed and cannot pay more in taxes than they are currently. They are not overtaxed. In fact, they’re hardly taxed at all.

Nevada is Not California, But It’s Not Nothin’

Nevada sits next to the 5th largest economy in the world, California. California casts a long shadow over almost all the other states in the United States, and it is true, Nevada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is less than six percent of the Golden State.

Nevada’s GDP increased by 3.8% in 2017. In 2018, Nevada’s GDP increased by 5.7% in Q1, 4.3% in Q2, and 4.1% in Q3. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Table 1)

However, Nevada’s GDP is not minor. In the United States, Nevada’s GDP is ranked 33rd (2017.) If Nevada were a country its GDP would rank 55th in the world. [Sources:  Wikipedia GDP World GDP USA] Nevada’s growth in GDP in 2017 was the second largest in the country.

What We Got Here…Is a Failure to Tax

Nevada’s problem is an almost religious belief that corporations should not pay taxes. Almost every tax in Nevada impacts the consumer, not the business. The gaming industry contributes almost nothing in taxes. They collect taxes from the winnings of the customer and collect lodging and entertainment taxes from the guest, but they pay no State corporate tax on their profits. They are essentially a tax collector for the State of Nevada, but not a taxpayer.

Nevada Mining’s Dirty Truths

Mining is one of Nevada’s major industries with a real GDP of $4.3 billion. [Source:  US ReapProject.org] Richard Perry of the Nevada Division of Minerals stated that in 2017, gold mining alone produced over $7 billion. [Source:  Nevada Business 1 Aug 2018] Since 2014, gold production has been increasing every year. [Source:  Nevada Mining Association] In 2017, Nevada accounted for 72% of all U.S. gold production. [Source:  Nevada Mining Association] Mining also offers one of the highest average wage of any industry in Nevada at just over $90,000.

It’s the other truths that make the ethics of the Nevada mining industry disturbing. Despite being a major industry, taxes paid by mining activities will only account for 1.1% of the State’s tax revenue during the 2017-19 budget. Cigarette taxes will account for almost four times the tax paid by mining. [Source:  Nevada Revenue Reference Manual 2017] 

Nevada’s Current State Revenue: Smoking is almost four times better for Nevada’s budget than mining

In 2018, Nevada ranked second in the world. For what? The mining industry ranked Nevada as having an almost a perfect score for having the most favorable policies in the world. Nevada is also ranked number one in Investment Attractiveness. [Source:  Fraser Institute 2018 Annual Mining Survey] Mining loves Nevada, in large part, because of a lax environment of taxation, labor, and regulation. Simply put, Nevada lets mining walk away with its natural resources with little benefit to its citizens.

One thing the Nevada mining industry does best is to control the message. They boast of having the highest average salary in the State. What they don’t emphasize is that mining only employees about 14,000 employees. [Source:  Wikipedia]

Mining’s high salaries are a result of, 1) employing few unskilled workers, and 2) competitive issues. They are trying to recruit highly skilled professionals to live and work in a rural, isolated environment. The high salaries are due to a workforce that is heavily mechanized and uses few unskilled labors. One report explains the employment situation in the Nevada mining industry:

Support positions represent the minority and are low-paying jobs, but this sector pays and average of about $90,000, if you’re lucky to get one of the mining or administrative positions.

Newsmax 14 Apr 2015 M.A. Smith 

 At War:  Disinformation About Public Schools

The motivation behind the war on Nevada children is greed. Also, a certain element in Nevada opposes the public education concept. This element, largely led by Nevada’s major industries, seem to believe that education is a black hole that consumes money but has no financial benefit to them.

The strategy has been to demonize public schools. For decades, a disinformation program has promoted the idea that public schools are corrupt, wasteful, and evil. Nevada’s business community, especially mining and gaming, have used their money and resources to back candidates that work to prevent adequate funding of public education. 

In addition, certain politicians have resurrected the belief that education should be centered on the concept of a deity. In 2015, Nevada Republicans passed a measure that would give parents taxpayer money to send their children to religious-operated schools. Republican Governor Brian Sandoval, whose children had attended a Catholic elementary school, signed the bill into Nevada law.

In 2016, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the law to be unconstitutional but left the option open for Republicans to write a new bill that would allow taxpayer money to be given to parents for private religious schools. [Source:  AP 29 Sep 2016 – M. Rindels]

The Teacher Salary Deception

Those who are waging war against Nevada’s schools will point to the average teacher salary in Nevada. At $57,366, Nevada’s average teacher salary ranks as the 18th highest in the nation. [Source:  Business Insider 11 Feb 2019 – M. Perino] It is one of the few bright spots in the education story of the State…until you look closer.

With Nevada’s relatively high average teacher salary, one would expect the amount of money spent on instruction in Silver State’s schools to also be high, or at least above average. It is not.

Nevada’s per pupil spending on instruction is even worse than its overall per pupil spending. Nevada is only spending 73% per pupil than the U.S. average. So if the average Nevada teacher is paid more, why is instructional per pupil spending less?

The answer lies in Nevada’s teacher to student ratio. A single Nevada teacher instructs the same number of students as 1.6 teachers in the nation’s typical classroom. At almost 26 students per teacher, Nevada ranked first in the United States in student/teacher ratio for both 2016 and 2017. [Source:  NEA Research Table B3 Apr 2018]

Nevada pays teachers more than average because they have fewer teachers to pay. 

At War:  Infiltrate and Subvert

Stacking the Deck

Another tactic by anti-public school forces has been to infiltrate both local and state public school institutions and subvert efforts to increase public school funding to appropriate levels. The President of the Nevada State Board of Education is Elaine Wynn, co-founder and Director of Wynn Resorts, one of Nevada’s largest gaming corporations.

Seven of the eleven State Board of Education members do not have a degree in education, nor have they been employed as a public school teacher. The only active teacher on the Board is a part-time music teacher. [Source:  DOE.NV.GOV] The State Board of Education is designed to allow people with a vested interest in keeping a tight reign on funding for education.

At the school district level, the demoralizing environment of underfunded schools has caused the loss of great educators leaving the profession. This has also allowed in people who have a sadistic pleasure in experimenting on children. In the Washoe County School District (WCSD,) Nevada’s second largest, the vacuum of qualified teachers has attracted a few administrators and teachers that have seized the opportunity to push for cruelty in the schools.

Ms. Ratched is in the Classroom

The primary agenda of these dysfunctional administrators and teachers seems to the establishment a strict disciplinary state in the schools using the term, ‘rigor,’ as a code word for mental and social abuse of children. Rigor is interpreted by some teachers as an excuse to require hours of studying at home every night. When students fall behind, the teacher and the school blame the student for being mentally and/or emotionally flawed. Like Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a passive-aggressive teacher thrives in an environment where they’ve been approved to be tough on the students. 

Nurse Ratched also applied rigor and strict discipline to the people in her charge

Student absences are seen as opportunities by some teachers to burden the student with hours of makeup work. This work is added to the hours of homework that these same teachers send home every day. This work is due within 48 hours of receiving it. [Source:  WCSD Website] Some teachers have interpreted this policy as beginning 48 hours of being posted online, meaning students are expected to retrieve their makeup work at home while they are sick.

Some teachers have opted to use homework as an alternative to classroom instruction. In one case, a math syllabus for 7th-grade students warns students that homework will include introducing concepts not discussed in the classroom. The student is expected to research the concept at home and teach themselves how to complete the math problem. A math teacher reportedly told her students, “I’m not here to teach you, I’m here to grade you.”

I’m not here to teach you, I’m here to grade you.

Washoe County School District Teacher

During the past school year, the district also attempted to implement a program requiring students to complete improvised curriculum from home during ‘Snow Days.’ This program, known as ‘Digital Snow Days,’ had no educational justification. [See previous article] It was implemented under the banner of rigor and even though it was considered unlawful by the State Board of Education, certain district administrators vowed to pursue the program.

A typical child will often say they hate school, That’s expected, however, the fallout from an excessively cruel school environment is that students learn to hate learning.

Nevada Education:  Everyone Loses

In Nevada’s War on Children, everyone loses. Children that hate learning may do well on tests and graduate, but their motive is to do what is necessary to get away from school, not move forward with their education.

Employers that need bright, eager, well-educated employees to be competitive find Nevada high school graduates lacking. Companies like the aerospace company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, has its headquarters in Nevada where it escapes corporate and personal income taxes, but most of the company’s workforce is in Colorado. The jobs go to where the qualified people live.

Schools lose because they can’t keep great teachers who are faced with impossible work conditions. When schools recruit new teachers they are beggars offering salaries that don’t reflect the degree of education, training, licensure, personal scrutiny and professionalism required. Often they get the person willing to work for the salary, not the person they want in their school.

Parents lose because they have to confront the reality of underfunded schools, but their words fall on deaf ears when they seek remedies to the situation.

Nevada Education:  In a Tunnel Going Nowhere

There is no light on the horizon for Nevada’s schools. The current legislative session that will set the budget for the next two years will once again close without any effort to correct Nevada’s underfunding. Each year, Nevada’s per pupil funding will fall farther behind the funding for the average student in the United States. Money that belongs to Nevada’s children will end up in the bonus for a corporate executive…and the politicians will just shrug their shoulders and go home.

[NOTE:  Additional historical data was obtained from the Public Education Finances Report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015]

How a Layoff in January Can Impact an April Launch

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SpaceX has taught us all a valuable lesson. If you need five new boosters in March and April, it’s probably best to not cut ten percent of your workers in January. Three of those boosters were needed for this week’s first Block 5 Falcon Heavy launch. At least three delays of the static fire test have now pushed the launch back to next week at the earliest.

What a January layoff looks like in April

Layoff:  Cut Their Nose Off

SpaceX announced that they were laying off ten percent of their workforce in California, primarily at the rocket manufacturing plant. This came at a time when they would also be using five new Block 5 boosters for March and April. From a strategic and logistical perspective, it was a dumb move. It also indicates how bad things are at SpaceX.

Layoffs have three primary effects. First, they demoralize the workforce. When layoffs are announced, everyone lives in fear that he or she will be the one losing their job. Low morale is not usually associated with quality work. 

Second, the survivors of a layoff typically have to take on additional responsibilities. They are expected to work harder and more efficiently to make up for the workforce lost in the layoff.

Finally, layoffs tend to reduce the knowledge and skill base of the workforce. A layoff rarely allows the opportunity for the worker to pass on her or his knowledge to the survivors. Usually, the worker is called to human resources, given the goodbye speech, handed their final check, and escorted out the door.

A layoff is a bad idea at any time, but in an industry where there is no margin for error, it’s a nightmare.

Booster Shortfall?

The first Block 5 Booster was launched eleven months ago (B 1046.) Since then only six more have been launched. Seven boosters in 13 launches. Two of those seven have been lost. SpaceX was debuting a new booster at a pace just slightly greater than one a month before the layoff.

After the layoff, they needed five new Block 5 boosters in March and April, three of them for this week’s launch. Has SpaceX has been rushing to build Block 5 boosters with a workforce injured by a recent layoff?

Enter the Falcon Heavy Static Fire Test

SpaceX is silent on the this week’s static fire delays but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to suspect something is wrong with the Falcon Heavy rocket. Knowledgable sources said that the test would occur on Monday, then Wednesday, then Thursday, Now it’s supposed to happen today (Friday.)

The delays suggest that this is why you don’t lay off your workers in January when you need new boosters in March and April.

SpaceX Public Relations: Secrecy is Modus Operandi

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[UPDATE:  Eric Ralph, a writer for Telsalarti, posted an article saying that the Falcon Heavy launch was likely to be delayed and that it was “OK.” Again, Ralph is a knowledgable source but not an official source, so SpaceX is not accountable for the speculation. Source:  Teslarati 4 Apr 2019.]

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the new Block 5 version of the Falcon Heavy on Sunday (7 April) sometime between 6:36 PM and 8:35 PM EDT. We know this from an official source of information that was made available on 22 March. That information was not provided by SpaceX to the directly to the public. SpaceX reported it as required; however, if not for that requirement, the public would have no information on the time or date of the launch. The public is given the silent treatment while SpaceX collects billions in taxpayer dollars.


This tweet by Michael Baylor, a managing editor for NASASpaceflight.com and considered a highly knowledgeable source, was wrong. SpaceX has remained silent.

SpaceX Public Relations:  Code of Secrecy

Because SpaceX is a private company, they’re not required to tell the public anything,…and they don’t. This leads to speculation through other sources and that speculation works to their favor. By not making announcements about time or dates, they can’t be held responsible for delays. SpaceX avoids negative publicity by not being accountable to the public. The new reality of public relations in space exploration is that everything is on a need to know basis…and the public doesn’t need to know.

Prep for Falcon Heavy Static Fire Test…in 2018

Falcon Heavy Problems?

This week’s Block 5 Falcon Heavy debut is a prime example of how SpaceX uses secrecy to their advantage. Instead of informing the public, the public relations people at SpaceX are taking a low profile prior to the launch. No announcements, no tweets.

Speculation has been made that the static fire test (a short test-firing of the engines) would occur on Monday (1 April,) Wednesday (3 April,) and now Thursday (4 April.) [Sources:  Teslarati 28 Mar 2019 – E. Ralph, Spaceflight Now 1-3 Apr 2019 – S. Clark] Again, not from official sources, but by knowledgeable sources. This type of teasing drives SpaceX fans into a feeding frenzy of speculation, but SpaceX isn’t accountable for any of the speculation, regardless of how knowledgable the source.

This allows SpaceX to miss a projected date or time for the static fire test because they never said when the test would occur. It is likely that the information in the above tweet by Michael Baylor was accurate and something has happened to cause SpaceX to push back the static fire test, but they don’t have to reveal that to the public. They can keep the public guessing until it becomes obvious that the launch date and time will not be met.

This also allows SpaceX to minimize failure while wildly pronouncing a success. If the launch is a success, SpaceX will make public announcements with video of every positive aspect of the launch. If the Falcon Heavy launch fails SpaceX will likely cut video feeds to the public and wait several hours to form a carefully crafted explanation that will suggest the failure was an expected risk of a rocket launch. Then they will go silent.

This is what SpaceX did on the first Falcon Heavy (Block 4) launch when the booster core failed to land on the drone ship. The video feed was cut when the booster crashed near the ship and damaged the engines. SpaceX then didn’t confirm or deny what happened until several hours later, even though they had a continuous video of the event. [Source:  The Verge 6 Feb 2018 – L. Grush]

Why Should the Public Know?

Roughly half of SpaceX’s revenue has come from the taxpayers pocket. According to Sam Dunkovich, $5.5 billion of SpaceX $12 billion in launch contracts are from NASA or the U.S. military [Source:  RealClear Policy 2 Feb 2018.] SpaceX wouldn’t be in the space industry if it were not for the financial revenue it gains from the U.S. taxpayer. The first launch of a Block 5 Falcon Heavy is a significant milestone of how our money is being spent by this private company.

Space exploration has been a public concern since Soviet Russia launched Sputnik on 4 October 1957. The conservatives desire to privatize space exploration is at best an experiment and certainly is a one-sided political agenda. By withholding information from the taxpayers, the effectiveness of that political agenda cannot be fairly determined.

Secrecy in public relations is a Soviet model and not acceptable in the United States. Withholding information from the public to hide the true situation is still a lie. This is why private business is incapable of overseeing themselves and should be required to inform the public of their true activities and problems.  

Musk New Plan: Space Bridge to Mars

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[1 April 2019 – Hawthorne, California] Forget rockets, Elon Musk announced a major change in his goal to colonize Mars: Build a space bridge with a 3D printer. Musk latest Tweet indicates he’s serious with a prototype by the end of this Summer.

Space Bridge Starts Twitter Storm

Reaction on Twitter was quick and enthusiastic.

But there were a few who had doubts:

But SpaceX fans quickly shot down the naysayers:

Another SpaceX fan quickly put up a professional artist’s rendering of what the space bridge and 3D printer might look like:

NASA All For Space Bridge

Coming out from an outdoor meeting with President Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Largo Club, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said,

This is exactly why we need business thinkers and wealthy people running NASA! This is the type of out-of-the-box thinking that scientists and engineers would reject before we’ve had a few billion tax dollars spent by private companies to try and make it work.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

Bridenstine also indicated that Trump would declare a national emergency to get the funding for the space bridge. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders allegedly mumbled in the women’s bathroom at Mar-a-Largo Club that someone might, someday, issue a press briefing regarding the Space Bridge, maybe.

The online space news site, Space.com immediately posted an article praising Musk for his vision and wisdom. Space.com Senior Editor Ima Dunsel said, “We have no evidence of superior beings, but with Elon Musk, who needs them?” Other online space news sites voiced similar praises for Musk’s idea. 

It is as yet unclear as to what material would be used for the bridge, but as one SpaceX fan put it, “There is no doubt that SpaceX will get this done.” Another tweet suggested that other space corporations should, “…just die now and get it over with..,” as SpaceX has trumped them all.

No Pressure, But If the Falcon Heavy Fails, So Does SpaceX

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SpaceX has put themselves in a corner. Next week’s launch of the new Block 5 Falcon Heavy has to go almost flawlessly or much, if not all, of what they have will go down in flames with the rocket.

SpaceX 1 September 2016 Static Test Explosion – Ignition

SpaceX’s Financial State

SpaceX played a risky game last year focusing on making money in commercial launches. That should have been a big boost to their revenue stream, but in January they announced layoffs. SpaceX also announced a sudden cut in the number of launches in 2019. [Source:  Business Insider 21 Jan 2019 – Dave Mosher] That might indicate that SpaceX was offering bargain prices to its customers to land contracts but losing money in the process.

One line in a statement made to Business Insider by a SpaceX representative regarding the layoffs is telling:

This action is taken only due to the extraordinarily difficult challenges ahead and would not otherwise be necessary.

SpaceX Statement

Taken at face value, SpaceX’s rationale for the massive layoffs in its rocket manufacturing division sounds like a proactive business strategy, but why be so forceful in the justification? They insist that the “only” reason for the layoffs is for the “challenges ahead.” SpaceX then repeats itself at the end of the sentence by saying, “and would not otherwise be necessary.”

SpaceX 1 September 2016 Static Test Explosion – Upper Booster Engulfed

The Organization Doth Protest Too Much

The defensiveness of the statement indicates that the layoffs are necessary because SpaceX is already in trouble. By saying the layoffs were to prepare for a grim future, they may have confirmed that they were a reactionary, not proactive move. 

SpaceX 1 September 2016 Static Test Explosion – Entire Rocket/Pad Engulfed

The Falcon Heavey Gambit

Up to now, SpaceX has landed customers on bargain pricing, but it is likely that they desperately need to attract customers that can pay top dollar. Enter the U.S. military. SpaceX has yet to gain the full confidence of the U.S. Air Force for their military satellites. Elon Musk may have thought that one successful launch using the old Block 4 boosters would have the U.S. military eating out of their hand, but that didn’t happen.

Now SpaceX desperately needs another spectacular success of the Falcon Heavy to convince those with deep pockets that their bird is equal or better than the competition.

But what if the next Falcon Heavy launch is a failure?

SpaceX 1 September 2016 Static Test Explosion – Upper Stage with payload fall to the ground

What’s at Risk for SpaceX

It is unlikely that SpaceX will experience the worst-case scenario of the complete loss of the Falcon Heavy and its Arabsat 6A satellite, but what would happen if the nightmare happened?

No space cred for the Falcon Heavy. The Falcon Heavy would not be in consideration for heavy-lift payloads by the military, nor private customers at any price.

No human-rating cred for Block 5 redesign. NASA requires seven successful launches of the Block 5 booster without a significant redesign to gain a human rating. The 15 November 2018 launch of Booster 1047 was the first with newly designed tanks. Since then, SpaceX has had six launches with the new design. The Falcon Heavy would be the seventh launch. Failure would mean another delay in obtaining the human rating for the Block 5 booster.  

Loss of two Falcon 9 Block 5 boosters and one Block 5 core. The two side boosters would be the biggest loss. They are planned to be reused on the next Falcon Heavy flight in July. That flight would have to be delayed for months and SpaceX can’t afford that delay. Remember that layoff? That hit the rocket manufacturing plant the hardest.

More expense with no revenue. Insurance would cover most, if not all, of the loss of the vehicle, but it’s not going to provide more revenue. More cuts would have to follow, pushing back the launch schedule even farther.

Loss of pad, more delays. It would be bad if SpaceX lost the vehicle in flight, but in the worst-case scenario, the loss would occur on the pad. It could be a year or more to rebuild the launch pad. The destruction of the pad and the two side boosters would bring into question whether SpaceX could make the contracted cargo deliveries to the ISS.

Testing of the Dragon 2 crew capsule flights would be jeopardized. If the April launch of the Falcon Heavy fails, Boeing would probably be able to coast into NASA’s crew capsule contract.

Enough Pessimism, What If the Falcon Heavy Flies!

A win for SpaceX would be a successful launch and recovery of at least the two side boosters, but that only buys them three months. The April Falcon Heavy launch is Act I of a two-act play. Act II is a follow-up flight in July of the Falcon Heavy reusing the two side boosters from the April launch. Part of the show is to demonstrate that the boosters can be turned around and relaunched in a matter of weeks.

The U.S. Air Force may give SpaceX a heavy-lift contract even before the July flight of the Falcon Heavy; however, it is likely that they will negotiate a below market price and it may be contingent on both the April and July flights meeting all expectations.

False Bravado

Less than a year ago Elon Musk was boasting that in 2019, SpaceX would have a 24-hour turnaround on a Block 5 booster. [Source: NASASpaceflight.com 17 May 2018 – Michael Baylor] Eight months later SpaceX was cutting their labor force by ten percent. Rather than two launches of the same booster in 24 hours, this year SpaceX is struggling to have more than one launch per month. 

SpaceX fans worship Elon Musk’s great vision but there is a fine line between vision and false bravado. Musk is known to continually overstep that line. Now one misstep with next week’s Falcon Heavy launch and SpaceX is risking a lot more than the loss of one satellite.

Is Space.com a Soviet-Style News Agency for SpaceX

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Space.com is in love. They are head-over-heels in love with SpaceX. Reading the articles posted by Space.com writers one might think that SpaceX has already landed on Mars, colonized the Moon, and cured the common cold. It’s not that Space.com writers present false information about SpaceX, it’s just that they tend to overlook…well, almost everything negative.

This style of almost compulsory cheerleading of SpaceX by an alleged news source is reminiscent of the type of reporting from the Soviet days of TASS (Telegrafnoye agentstvo Sovetskogo Soyuza,) Russia’s official news source. From 1925 to 1992, Soviet intelligence agencies often used TASS to put out positive news and disinformation, including crafted stories praising the Soviet space program. For decades, TASS was the mouthpiece for the Soviet government reminding Soviet citizens that the Soviet government was always correct even when they were wrong.

A Fake Starship Prototype?

Space.com demonstrates the Soviet-like reporting in one of its latest articles on SpaceX. Writer Lee Cavendish published an article [Space.com 29 Mar 2019] that gushed about SpaceX’s Starship Hopper. He began his piece as follows:

SpaceX continues to amaze in popularizing space exploration. Not only is it doing fantastic work in reaching and exploring space…

Lee Cavendish for Space.com

For his article, he used this artist’s rendering of the Starship…

Artists rendering of SpaceX’s Starship used by Space.com

However, this is what the actual craft looked like at the test site in January before the top blew off in the wind…

…and this is what it looked like after it fall down, go boom….

…and finally, this is what it looked like for this week’s tests:

A test of a Starship, or a silo with legs?

It’s understandable why the artist’s rendering was used and not images of the real thing. SpaceX didn’t even bother to put the top half of the Starship back on for the test.

Not an expert, but doesn’t that seem to be a wimpy propulsion system?

Close-ups of the bottom of the Starship would indicate that almost no effort was put into making this ‘prototype’ anything but a show for the public. From top to bottom this doesn’t look like anything that can get off the ground, which is may be why Space.com used an artist’s rendering.

Is Space.com Ignoring the Problems?

SpaceX has glaring problems and yet, Space.com has nothing but praise for the company. This week I wrote two articles detailing their problems (SpaceX’s Implosion and SpaceX 2019 Launch Schedule Realities] and yet, space-focused media outlets like Space.com seem to have a blind eye regarding the issues that seem to be obvious.

Among the issues that seem to be ignored are:

  • Hidden costs of relanding the boosters (30% fuel reserved for relanding reducing lift capacity, cost of boosters built for reentry and landing, cost of maintaining an ocean landing pad, costs of launch delays because of weather conditions at the ocean landing pad, cost of transportation of reused booster, costs of refurbishment of a booster, etc.)
  • Reduction of 10% of their workers when they should be expanding
  • Failure to test a Block 5 version of the Falcon Heavy before launching for a paying customer
  • A lack of progress on Dragon 2 and Falcon Heavy testing for most of 2018
  • Drastic reduction in 2019 launch schedule
  • Significantly underpricing the cost of a mission while apparently in a financial crisis
  • A silly prototype test of the SpaceX Starship
  • Overhyping an unmanned test of the Dragon 2 crew capsule that was essentially a mimic of a cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS)

Space.com:  SpaceX’s Public Relations Team

Instead, Space.com publishes an unending series of articles that 1) sing praises of SpaceX, 2) seem to be expanded versions of a SpaceX public service announcement, and/or 3) are based on an Elon Musk Tweet. At times the articles cover the same topic as reported by another Space.com writer or sometimes the same writer will cover the same topic, only days apart.

Below is a list of articles that Space.com has published regarding SpaceX in the last 35 days:

  1. Meet SpaceX’s Starship Hopper [Space.com 29 Mar 2019 – Lee Cavendish]
  2. SpaceX’s Hexagon Tiles for Starship Heat Shield Pass Fiery Test [Space.com 22 Mar 2019 – Tariq Malik]
  3. You Can Watch SpaceX’s Starship Hopper Tests Live Via a South Texas Surf School [Space.com 22 Mar 2019 – Sarah Lewin]
  4. SpaceX Preparing to Begin Starship Hopper Tests [Space.com 18 Mar 2019 – Jeff Foust]
  5. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Megarocket to Fly 1st Commercial Mission in April: Report [Space.com 18 Mar 2019 – Mike Wall]
  6. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-1 Test Flight in Pictures [Space.com 8 Mar 2019 – Hanneke Weitering]
  7. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Looks Just Like a Toasted Marshmallow After Fiery Re-Entry [Space.com 8 Mar 2019 – Tariq Malik]
  8. SpaceX Crew Dragon Splashes Down in Atlantic to Cap Historic Test Flight [Space.com 8 Mar 2019 – Mike Wall]
  9. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Success Heralds ‘New Era’ in Spaceflight [Space.com 8 Mar 2019 – Mike Wall]
  10. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Left Its ‘Little Earth’ Behind on Space Station [Space.com 8 Mar 2019 – Hanneke Weitering]
  11. SpaceX Crew Dragon Re-Entry May Be Visible Over Some of Eastern US [Space.com 7 Mar 2019 – Joe Rao]
  12. Astronauts Pack Up SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for Return to Earth [Space.com 7 Mar 2019 – Meghan Bartels]
  13. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Homecoming Friday May Be Toughest Part of Its Mission [Space.com 6 Mar 2019 – Mike Wall]
  14. VP Mike Pence Hails SpaceX Crew Dragon Success at Space Station [Space.com 6 Mar 2019 – Mike Wall]
  15. ‘Little Earth’ on SpaceX Crew Dragon Gives Boost to Celestial Buddies [Space.com 4 Mar 2019 – Robert Z. Pearlman]
  16. New ‘Celestial Buddies’ Earth Plush Is Even Cooler than SpaceX’s ‘Zero-G Indicator’ [Space.com 4 Mar 2019 – Kasandra Brabaw]
  17. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Docks at Space Station for First Time [Space.com 3 Mar 2019 – Mike Wall]
  18. Trump Hails SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch, Says NASA’s ‘Rocking Again’ [Space.com 3 Mar 2019 – Tariq Malik]
  19. SpaceX Adds Adorable ‘Zero-G Indicator’ Inside the Crew Dragon [Space.com 2 Mar 2019 – Hanneke Weitering]
  20. Elon Musk Was Emotionally Wrecked by SpaceX’s 1st Crew Dragon Launch Success — But In A Good Way [Space.com 2 Mar 2019 – Tariq Malik]
  21. SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch Heralds ‘New Era in Spaceflight,’ NASA Chief Says [Space.com 2 Mar 2019 – Mike Wall]
  22. With SpaceX and Boeing, Commercial Crew Launches Will Boost Space Station Science [Space.com 1 Mar 2019 – Meghan Bartels]
  23. It’s Just About ‘Go’ Time for SpaceX’s 1st Crew Dragon Spaceship [Space.com 28 Feb 2019 – Tariq Malik]
  24. SpaceX Is Launching a Spacesuit-Clad Dummy on 1st Crew Dragon [Space.com 27 Feb 2019 – Mike Wall]
  25. NASA, SpaceX ‘Go’ for 1st Crew Dragon Test Flight on March 2 [Space.com 23 Feb 2019 – Mike Wall]

Why?

The question is why? Why do Space.com writers seem like they are part of a Soviet-style news agency? One reason is that perhaps they are just fans of SpaceX and Space.com has become a SpaceX fansite. Another possibility is that their access to information regarding SpaceX is conditional on cooperation with the company. It may be as simple as an article that is critical of SpaceX will result in he or she being blacklisted. Maybe the writers are enamored with and afraid of SpaceX at the same time.

Regardless, it would seem that Space.com is not a reliable source of unbiased information. In 2003, Space.com won an award from the Online Journalism Association for coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. That was over 15 years ago. Maybe they haven’t won another award because they actually have to do journalism to be considered.

SpaceX 2019 Launch Schedule Realities

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SpaceX Retreating Launch Schedule

SpaceX has had three successful launches so far this year. The problem is that one launch per month is a major retreat from the 21 launches it had in 2018. Looking forward, SpaceX next three quarters will not improve. Based on the available information they will only attempt ten more launches before the end of the year.

[NOTE:  This is a follow-up story to Tuesday’s article – SpaceX Implosion]

The One and Only: The 1st and last Falcon Heavy launch one year ago

Soviet Style Space Program…Everything is on a Need To Know Basis

Much like to old Soviet Space program, SpaceX avoids making public announcements regarding its launch plans. On its website, SpaceX lists the contracts it has by the customer or satellite name in alphabetical order but doesn’t give a date or time for the launch. Most of the information on SpaceX launches is derived from secondary sources and legally required filings. Here is a list of what is known about the rest of the 2019 SpaceX schedule:

ªNL – Launch not likely in 2019.
¹The original target date for launch.
²Author’s best estimate of the likelihood of launch on that day, or during that time period based on multiple sources.
³Launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

[Primary Source: Spaceflight Now Secondary Sources: Wikipedia, RocketLaunch.live, NASA, Brian Webb]

Based on multiple sources, four of these launches are unlikely to occur in 2019. The Starlink flight [14 May] has disappeared from most launch schedule websites. This is a program that would seem to be the lowest priority and would add more expense to SpaceX with little or no revenue in return.

There are some reports that the late June Dragon 2 abort test flight is being pushed back and that the 25 July Dragon 2 test flight with a crew will be no earlier than November at the earliest. This would make the first Dragon 2 delivery of a crew to ISS unlikely until 2020. [Source:  TASS 22 Mar 2019] Comments from the unnamed space representative said that the Dragon 2 parachute system would have to be replaced. If true, the launch abort test in June could be significantly delayed and the crew test would hang in the balance of a completely new parachute system, making the crew test unlikely even by November. 

Finally, the Sirius Radio Satellite schedule for the 4th quarter of 2019 would seem unlikely based on the flights being pushed back or already scheduled in the 4th quarter.

Falcon Heavy Headaches

Another major issue in the SpaceX schedule is the second Falcon Heavy flight now scheduled for June. Everything would have to go perfectly on the 7 April Falcon Heavy flight for any chance of meeting the planned June flight as two of the three boosters on the April flight are to be reused for June flight. Any issues with the two side boosters in April would require SpaceX to find a replacement booster(s.) It is questionable if SpaceX has any Block 5 boosters to spare.

In addition, the launch pad has to be configured for a Falcon Heavy launch and then reconfigured for a normal Falcon 9 launch. That means weeks of extra work between launches that render the pad useless.

Dragon 2 Human-Rating Race

SpaceX has had an advantage in the race to provide a human-rated space capsule. It already has a cargo capsule that is already operational for unmanned flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS.) Since the crewed Dragon 2 capsule will be under autopilot as its default, the basic spacecraft needed little conversion to fly its first test mission to ISS and back.

Dragon 2 Cargo Capsule – already flying

Many looked at this month’s [2 March 2019] Dragon 2 test flight as a major milestone; however, it really was a cargo flight with seats, a dummy, and an Earth-shaped plush toy. It really proved little about the human-rating of the capsule, but it was a big show for SpaceX.

Dragon 2 Crew Capsule – take out the cargo, add seats and touchscreens

The reason that it’s significant that Russia news agencies are reporting a major delay in Dragon 2 testing is that Russia would have to be contracted to provide ISS crew flights if the United States doesn’t have a human-rated capsule by the end of this year. Since SpaceX doesn’t usually report problems in their space program to the United States media, the first report of the schedule being significantly pushed back would likely come from Russia.

If it is true that SpaceX can’t launch the first crewed test until 2020, it would be devastating to its Dragon 2 program and open the door for Boeing’s Starliner to be tested and rated by the end of this year.

What’s SpaceX’s Problem?

SpaceX seems to be in financial trouble. The ten percent reduction in the staff indicates a severe cash flow problem. The 40% reduction in the launch schedule would indicate the financial issues are more severe than they would publicly acknowledge.

2018 was a year of primarily paying the bills with commercial launches. That may have actually cost SpaceX in the long term. Now they are in a heated race with Boeing to win the crew capsule business and because they only have one test launch of the Falcon Heavy they didn’t land the military contracts they desperately need. Now they are trying to prove that the Falcon Heavy is reliable with two launches in three months. SpaceX fans applaud the company on its brilliant strategy but this year their strategy isn’t working.

SpaceX’s Implosion

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SpaceX on Self Destruct

Elon Musk is the Wizard of Odd desperately telling the public to pay no attention to the SpaceX problems behind the curtain. Admittedly, the bad news at SpaceX is usually buried by Musk’s talent to distract attention by offering some new Tweet that causes his fan club and space mediaites to swoon, but even Musk is challenged by the train wreck in progress. 

SpaceX Starship Down – Image credit: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Image credit: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

First, the Good News

SpaceX has successfully launched three rockets this year. The three bright spots of those launches are:

  • the 2 March the Dragon 2 capsule demo (no crew) flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and back
  • the 22 February, third launch of a reusable Falcon 9 (F9) Block 5 booster
  • three successful launches

Successful launches might seem to be a basic expectation but in the case of SpaceX, the lack of a launch failure is great news.

SpaceX Downsizing Nightmare

The most alarming news is that SpaceX has laid off about 10% of its employees. In an article in Business Insider, [21 Jan 2019] Dan Mosher reported the according to a notice required by California law, 93% of those jobs eliminated were front line workers and only 7% were managers or supervisors. This cuts into the core of SpaceX’s ability to put a product into space.

This also means that SpaceX’s effort to develop new technology will be impacted as experienced workers have now left the company taking their knowledge and skills with them.

2019 SpaceX Schedule in Retreat

In 2015, SpaceX had 7 attempted launches with one failure. In 2016, SpaceX had 8 attempted launches with no failures, but one rocket blew up on the pad during a static fire test. In 2017, they had 18 attempted launches and no failures. In 2018, they had 21 attempted launches and no failures. [Source:  Wikipedia – Launches]

This year SpaceX has only had three launches in the first quarter, and only 10 launches scheduled for the remainder of 2019. [Source:  Spaceflight Now 25 Mar 2019] This means that SpaceX will have no more than 13 launches this year which almost a 40% drop in launch attempts from last year. Another source lists 14 [See Wikipedia – Launches above] remaining launch attempts this year; however, SpaceX has some obvious launchpad [Source:  NASA Spaceflight.com 6 Mar 2019 – M. Baylor] and booster reuse conflicts that would make that schedule nearly impossible. 

Regardless, SpaceX 2019 launch schedule will be dramatically smaller than 2018. The reduction is because SpaceX doesn’t have the resources and/or customer orders to maintain or grow its business. Either way, SpaceX is in trouble. 

SpaceX Begging for Contracts?

The layoff notice came three months after it was reported [Source:  Space News 10 Oct 2018 – S. Erwin] that SpaceX was excluded from $2 billion worth of U.S. Air Force heavy-lift rocket contracts that went to three competitors. Within two weeks of that announcement, Eric Ralph of Musk’s fan site, Teslarati, [25 Oct 2018] reported that SpaceX had quickly landed two private satellite launches for the Falcon Heavy, but he didn’t report the value of the contracts.

Musk is known for offering below bargain prices and grand claims to his company’s customers to attract business and this sudden rebound of two heavy-lift private contracts of an undisclosed value had all the trappings of Musk offer-they-couldn’t-refuse. 

This was followed last month in a Forbes [20 Feb 2019] article by Elizabeth Howell, reporting that SpaceX and veteran military contractor United Launch Alliance (ULA) each won a three rocket contract from the Air Force. The ULA contract was for $442 million, but the SpaceX contract was essentially a buy-two-get-one-free contract of $297 million.

SpaceX can’t afford to lose money and still launch rockets. If that is what has happened it is a strategy that will eventually destroy the company from the inside out.

The Falcon Heavy Gap

SpaceX’s spectacular Falcon Heavy debut last February has been followed by a year of silence. This behavior was characteristic of Musk’s tendency to rely more on grandiosity and less on substance in his business ventures. The Falcon Heavy test flight buoyed the company’s public image, but the lack of a follow-up test left the question of whether the first Falcon Heavy was luck or skill.

Next month, SpaceX will be the second launch the Falcon Heavy, but this will be for a paying customer. Caleb Henry, reporting for Via Satellite, [18 Sep 2015] said that SpaceX won the contract for the Arabsat 6A satellite three and a half years ago. According to Spaceflight Now [25 Mar 2019], the launch was originally scheduled for the first half of 2018, then delayed multiple times to the 7 April 2019 date. Since this contract was agreed upon two and a half years before the first Falcon Heavy flew, the customer committed to SpaceX on blind trust. In business, you don’t do blind trust contracts unless you’re getting an exceptional deal.   

Sandra Erwin of Space News [25 Mar 2019] reports that the U.S. Air Force will be closely monitoring the second launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket to evaluate SpaceX’s ability to perform as promised. This indicates that customers are still not sold on the Falcon Heavy. 

Booster Hype

Emre Kelly of Florida Today [5 Aug 2018] wrote that Musk has boasted that the Falcon 9 Block 5 booster will be the ultimate in cost savings. He has said that SpaceX will be able to launch, land, and relaunch it quickly with minimal refurbishment and inspection. He also claims that each Block 5 booster will be reused a minimum of 10 times, and up to 100 with ‘moderate refurbishment.’

However, the reality of the Block 5 boosters seems to suggest they are not as reusable as stated. The next scheduled launch [7 April] will use two new Block 5 boosters and a new Block 5 core booster. After that, the launch currently scheduled for 25 April will use a new Block 5 booster. The subsequent scheduled 16 May launch will be a second-time use of a Block 5 booster first flown earlier this month. The reuse of the Block 5 boosters isn’t evident in the SpaceX schedule.

Three F9 Block boosters seem to be retired (1046, 1047, and 1049) after a handful of launches. One booster (1054) was intentionally destroyed, one booster is planned to be destroyed (1048), and another failed to reland (1050.) The question about cost savings from reuse and minimal refurbishment remain for a private space organization offering bargain prices and laying off workers.

F9 Block 5 Boosters History/Status [Source:  Wikipedia – Boosters]

      • 1046 – Successfully launched and recovered 3 times/not schedule for further service
      • 1047 – Successfully launched and recovered twice/not scheduled for further service
      • 1048 – Successfully launched and recovered 3 times/scheduled for June 2019 launch and destruction
      • 1049 – Successfully launched and recovered twice/not scheduled for further service
      • 1050 – Successfully launched once, failed to land
      • 1051 – Successfully launched and recovered once/planned for relaunch [May 2019]
      • 1052 – Planned for next two Falcon Heavy launches [April, June 2019]
      • 1053 – Planned for next two Falcon Heavy launches [April, June 2019]
      • 1054 – Successfully launched once, no recovery
      • 1055 – Planned as Falcon Heavy core launch [April 2019]
      • 1056 – Planned for launch [April 2019]
      • 1057 – Planned as Falcon Heavy core launch [June 2019]

Too Many Irons, Too Little Fire

SpaceX is a horse with many riders, each pulling in a different direction. Instead of focusing on innovative spacecraft engineering, or heavy-lift rockets, or human-rated capsules, or commercial and military satellites, or deep space exploration, SpaceX tries to have its hand in it all. The result is a chaotic mess of programs that wax and wane in priority to the management of the organization.

It is a rebirth of the Soviet-style space program of secrecy and public image stunts without the financial resources or management style that produces high quality, successful programs. Musk’s volatile leadership [Source:  Reuters 30 Oct 2018 – E. Johnson, J. Roulette] has led to a space organization coming apart at the seams.

Will SpaceX’s Implosion Cost Lives?

Elon Musk seems to follow a path of metaphorically pushing harder on the accelerator when the charge on his high tech lithium batteries are running low. Musk has a reputation of lashing out at employees, demanding long hours, and pushing for strict deadlines. [Source:  CNBC 18 Oct 2018 – R. Umoh] The problem is that Elon Musk doesn’t make the rockets, his workers do. Soviet Russia learned the hard way that high pressure in the space industry adds high risk for those depending on the workers on the ground.

After a two year delay, 2019 is the year that SpaceX is supposed to put humans in space. That is not a task for an organization in distress.

School Snow Days: Flaky Evidence of Educational Harm

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Snow Daze: The Law and Education

Schools in Reno, Nevada and the surrounding county of Washoe are in a tempest about Snow Days or days of school closures caused by inclement weather. The Washoe County School District (WCSD) is not alone in this issue. The Winter of 2018-19 has caused many schools to address their policies on school closure and the need to compensate for Snow Days with strategies to ‘make up’ the lost in-class time.

The concern is two-fold. One is a legal issue. Many States adopted boilerplate language in their Constitutions regarding the responsibility of establishing public schools. Most States have a requirement that public schools be in session for a minimum of six months each year

The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district at least six months in every year…. 

Nevada State Constitution 

While it may seem obvious that this six-month requirement was not meant to be a schedule of a seven day per week schedule for six months, Nevada has followed the example of many other States and reinterpreted the six-month requirement into 180 days of instruction. This has opened the legal issue of whether a school district that has a strict 180 school days schedule is violating the law if classes are canceled for even one day.

Except as otherwise provided in this section, boards of trustees of school districts shall schedule and provide a minimum of 180 days of free school in the districts under their charge.

Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 388.090

Snow Daze:  Educational Harm

The second issue with a Snow Day is a claim of educational harm. Traci Davis, the WCSD Superintendent, is claiming that making up a snow day is about meeting the educational need of the student. This Fall she implemented a controversial program to make up Snow Days by requiring that students work from home. Davis’ Master’s degree is in Educational Technology, and that may be the motivation of this year’s sudden establishment of a District-wide ‘Digital Snow Day’ plan to require students to work at home on improvised curriculum posted by their teachers online.

She explained that Digital Snow Days are an effort to find a way for students to keep learning even when school was canceled. Her plan abruptly ended when the Nevada State Board of Education was determined to not in compliance with State law. Davis vehemently denied that Digital Snow Days violated State law, but then admitted that the school district would have to work with the legislature to allow Digital Snow Days to comply with Nevada law.

Sketchy Evidence

In a search for evidence of school closures causing educational harm, only one published paper (Marcotte/Hemelt 2007) could be found. The paper was a discussion paper submitted to IZA of Bonn, Germany in July 2007 by Dave E. Marcotte and Steven W. Hemelt of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. The forward of the discussion paper warns,

Discussion Papers often represent preliminary work and are circulated to encourage discussion. Citation of such a paper should account for its provisional character.

The study presented in the discussion paper is of a review of school closures in Maryland from 1994 through 2005, and it compared each year with that year’s test scores. Specifically, it looked at the percentage of 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade students that performed satisfactorily on the Spring standardized reading and math tests.

This study did find that in years of higher unscheduled school closings there was an inverse relationship between the number of unscheduled school closings and the percent of 3rd grade students performing satisfactorily on the math and reading scores; however, 5th and 8th grade test scores did not have as significant of a relationship.

In addition, the data indicates that in years of five (5) or less unscheduled closures, 3rd grade math and reading test scores improve in almost every case. The exceptions were the 1997 reading scores and the 2002 math scores that were virtually unchanged.

Years with 5 or less unscheduled school closures improved 3rd grade test scores in Maryland (Marcotte 2007)

The paper also cites two other studies on the impact of teacher absences on student tests scores that indicate the significance of the teacher in student performance. These studies would contradict the idea that the replacement of the teacher with a digital or virtual lesson would help improve student performance.

Another Possible Reason For Lower Test Scores

The 2007 study also identifies a link between snowfall and unscheduled school closures. According to the study, there was a direct relationship between the amount of snowfall in Maryland and the number of unscheduled closures. It is reasonable to question whether or not that the relationship with lower 3rd grade test satisfactory test scores is related to unscheduled school closures or if the amount of snow in that year caused more absences resulting in lower satisfactory test scores.

Simply put, more snow may mean higher student and teacher absences leading to lower test scores. The Marcotte study did not compare teacher or student absences, which may play an even more important role in student performance than unscheduled school closings.

Snow Days and Educational Harm:  The Imaginary Storm

There may be a link between excessive (more than five) unscheduled school closings and a drop in student performance on end-of-year standardized tests; however, the impact, if any, may be in early elementary grades with a diminishing effect in later grades. There is little reason to believe that a handful of unscheduled closings has a negative impact on student performance, and the 2007 Marcotte/Hemelt discussion paper suggests that a few unscheduled closings may have a positive effect on end-of-year standardized tests.

Regardless, there is no solid, peer-reviewed research that concludes any link between unscheduled school closures and student performance. There have been studies that demonstrate a link between the absence of a teacher and student testing performance, but those studies would contradict the idea that temporary, improvised, online home-based schooling is an effective replacement for in-class instruction. 

The Digital Snow Day, such as the program being pushed by the Washoe County School District, is simply a gimmick that has no proven benefit to student performance.

Is Jupiter the Cause of the Solar Sunspot Cycle?

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A Strange Coincidence

About every eleven years the Sun completes a sunspot cycle. Every 11.9 years Jupiter completes its orbit of the Sun. Coincidence? Maybe, but there is compelling evidence to suggest that Jupiter and the sunspot cycle are linked.

Image 1.0  Sunspots at the beginning of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

The Solar Sunspot Cycle

The solar maximum (the period when the Sun has the maximum sunspot count) of last six cycles occurred in 2012, 2001, 1990, 1979, 1968, and 1957. In each case, the solar maximum extended over many months, but by selecting a common date within the period, (e.g.; June 1st,) the eleven year period becomes apparent (SEE Graphic 1.0)

Graphic 1.0 The Eleven-Year Solar Cycle using a Common Date (June 1st)

It is important to note that the eleven-year cycle applies to the maximum sunspot activity. Solar minimums tend to vary significantly from cycle to cycle; however, solar maximum activity is usually reliable within plus or minus six months.

Jupiter’s Solar Cycle Precession

The question is, where is Jupiter in relation to the Sun during the solar maximums? The answer is simple. For the last six solar maximum cycles, Jupiter has been approximately twenty-five degrees (25°) further back in its orbit than the previous solar maximum. 

Graphic 2.0 The position of Jupiter in its Orbit for the Recent Solar Maximum Cycles and the upcoming cycle (Planets reflect orbital positions for 25 FEB 2019)

The idea of a connection between Jupiter’s orbit and the solar cycle has been traditionally scoffed at by astrophysicists; however, as more is understood about the dynamics of the Sun’s influence beyond the visible solar atmosphere, scientists are less eager to ignore the possibility. A 2016 German study suggests Jupiter, Venus, and Earth may all play a role in sunspot activity.

If there is a connection between the position of Jupiter and the solar maximum, it raises the question of why? Is it a gravitational link, or is it an electromagnetic link? Why does the solar maximum occur when Jupiter is approximately 25° further behind its position of the last solar maximum? Answers to these questions will certainly lead to more questions.

The answers may come soon. In the meantime, Jupiter is raising some interesting questions. 

SpaceX 2018 Report Card: C+

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Last February I wrote that SpaceX had three “must do” things in 2018 to prove that all the self-promotion and bragging is justified. It’s time to look back and see how SpaceX did in achieving these critical milestones.

SpaceX Roadster in Space: A symbol of a company going nowhere fast

No. 1 – Consistency in SpaceX Payload Delivery:  B

SpaceX had 21 launches this year. All of them successful, meaning they didn’t blow up in the first few minutes. This was three more launches than the previous year. One of the launches was the test flight for the Falcon Heavy rocket, but the rest were largely for SpaceX customers.

There was only one payload that did not make it into orbit. The Zuma military satellite was shrouded in secrecy, which means no one had to take the blame or acknowledge the payload failure. A report indicates that SpaceX was not to blame, but there are discrepancies in the live reporting by the SpaceX Launch Announcer that indicate a failure of the SpaceX fairings to deploy on time.

That gives SpaceX a 95% success rate, which would seem to be great, but with billions of dollars invested in payloads, one failure is too many. SpaceX gets a B.

No. 2 – Prove Falcon Heavy is Reliable:  D+

SpaceX had a major publicity win with the first launch of Falcon Heavy rocket last February. The stunt of launching a Tesla Roadster was a stroke of public relations brilliance that overshadowed the fact that no additional Falcon Heavy launches followed the single success.

The next Falcon Heavy launch is scheduled for March of 2019. If all goes well, SpaceX will be one step closer to proving reliability, but SpaceX has not made its case to the people who can afford to pay SpaceX to launch their satellites.

Another Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to be launched in April, but those are the only two Falcon Heavy launches scheduled in 2019. The fact that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) announced in late October that it awarded a Heavy Lift contract to SpaceX’s competitor, United Launch Alliance (ULA) indicates that SpaceX is not considered reliable and/or as economical in the heavy launch market.

If SpaceX has any issues with either of the 2019 Falcon Heavy launches, it may have to end its Falcon Heavy program for a lack of customers. SpaceX gets a D+.

No. 3 – Success of the F9 Block 5 Version:   C+

There are two primary missions of the Block 5 booster. First, it has to be proven to be safe for human flight. Second, the Block 5 booster is supposed to be the savior of space travel because of reusability and reliability. It is supposed to have a quick turnaround from launch to re-launch and it is touted as a booster that can easily be used ten times or more.

In 2018, SpaceX put up six Block 5 boosters in ten launches. One Block 5 booster has been used three times and two boosters have been used twice. Of the three Block 5 boosters that have been reused, the average turnaround time from launch to re-launch is 99 days.

SpaceX had to delay the December 2018 crewed mission back to June 2019. That means they failed to prove human rating in 2018.

The reusability and reliability of the Block 5 booster are also still in question. They have to be given credit for the ten successful launches, and the turnaround time is better than the Block 4 booster turnaround time (Average 177 days.)

Still, there is not enough information to determine if the Block 5 will achieve its primary goals. SpaceX gets a C+.

SpaceX gets an A+ in generating excitement and a polished public image that invites public support; however, the public image is not what counts in the commercial space business. SpaceX is practically giving away space on some of its rockets to stay in the public spotlight with its launches. The reality is that SpaceX maintained its ability to stay in business one more year, but that was not what it needed to do. Overall grade:  C+

White Racists: Always About Power Over Non-Whites

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Racism has always been about power. The power to dominate another group of people is at the core of white supremacist groups. When the South formed the Confederate State of America, they were provoking a civil war in order to maintain their power and control over African Americans. Historically, racism has been the tool of the Caucasian race to threaten and intimidate non-Caucasians.

But African Americans were not the only target of white racists. 

Nathan Meeker:  Tool of White Power

In 1878, Nathan Meeker was appointed as the Indian agent overseeing the Ute Indians of northwestern Colorado. Meeker was not qualified, nevertheless, he was appointed.  He needed the job to pay off loans to the daughters of Horace Greeley. Meeker took out those loans to establish a religious-based utopian colony at what is now Greeley, Colorado. Meeker’s colony was a failure and he found himself in a financial bind when his loan was called due.

Nathan Meeker: Indian agent, racist

As the Indian agent of the White River Agency, Meeker saw the Native Americans as lesser people. In an article published shortly before his appointment he said:

…They are savages, having no written language, no traditional history, no poetry, no literature . . . a race without ambition, and also a race deficient in the inherent elements of progress. Vermin abound on their persons,… 

Nathan Meeker

Shortly after Meeker assumed his job as Indian agent, Frederick Walker Pitkin became Governor, in part, on a slogan, “The Utes Must Go!” He and others exaggerated claims of ‘Indian problems’ in an effort to justify a forced relocation of the Utes off of land with valuable resources.

Meeker was the tip of the racist sword as the Indian agent. Meeker decided it was his job to pound the Utes tribes into submission. His goal was to force the Ute Indians to adopt his agricultural and religious values. The Utes were nomadic hunter-gatherers but Meeker wanted to make them farmers. This resulted in tension between the Utes and Meeker that led to an altercation.

The Utes had created a place for gathering and competing in horse races. Meeker objected to this and decided to plow under the area. It was a racist move to provoke a reaction. He got it. When confronted by the Utes, Meeker claimed he was attacked by the Ute chief and severely injured. More reliable versions of the story say he was push and fell to the ground.

Chain of Tragedies

Meeker wired for military support and used the incident as cause for immediate action. On 21 September 1879, Major Thomas T. Thornberg led a force of about 175 men from Fort Steele in South Central Wyoming. The Utes knew or suspected that Meeker had requested troops to be sent to the area.

On 29 September, a band of Ute Indians attacked the White River Agency and killed Meeker and ten male employees. They then took some of the women and children as hostages.

By accident or design, the Utes met the incoming army later that day about 30 km from the White River Agency. The Utes pinned Thornberg’s force down and killed the Major and 13 of his men. The troops held out several days until 35 of the all-African American Buffalo Soldiers arrived from southwestern Colorado.

After rescuing the remain Thornberg forces, negotiations took place to gain the release of the hostages.

Aftermath of a Provoked Attack

There is no doubt that Nathan Meeker’s incompetence and aggression provoked the attack. There is no doubt that many white people settling in Colorado wanted the Native Americans out. There is also no doubt that the Ute’s involved in the attacks were wrong in taking a drastic action against the agency and the U.S. Army. It was a mistake for which their people would pay dearly.

The attacks were the perfect excuse to move the Ute Indians out of Colorado. Initially a deal was struck for one tribe of Ute Indians to remain, but eventually, the government renigged on the deal and forced all Utes to a reservation in Utah. Within three years after the attack, all Native Americans had been relocated.

The white racists of Colorado got what they wanted. Ranchers and miners moved in quickly. Soon after the turn of the century, homesteading began and hundreds packed up everything they owned to claim a new life in Colorado.

Postscript

It is somewhat ironic that all this resulted in little benefit to the incoming white culture in the area. The current population of both Rio Blanco and Moffat Counties in northwestern Colorado is less than 20,000 people in an area that is about the size of Massachusetts (12,800 km.) The population is almost the same as it was for the 2000 census. The economy is almost completely dependent on coal mining, an electric generating plant, and hunting/fishing tourism.

If Karen Carpenter Lived in the #MeToo Age

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Karen Carpenter:  Public Stage Versus Private Reality

In her public life, Karen Anne Carpenter was a legend in pop music. Her rich vocal tones were unique and inspiring. She was Shakespearean in her ability to give deep meaning to the words she sang. To this day, her songs define the expanse of love, from soaring joy to the depths of pain and anguish. 

In her private life, Karen Anne Carpenter was a mental maelstrom of emotions that led to a self-destructive path resulting in her death just weeks before her 33rd birthday. In an age that believed that women are frail creatures, it was easy to blame Karen Carpenter for her own problems.

However, since her death in 1983, a growing awareness of the causes of mental and emotional stress might suggest hidden issues of abuse that could explain Karen Carpenter’s behavior. In the 21st century, any other woman afficted with Karen Carpenter’s symptoms might indicate a trauma in her personal life. To be clear, I am not suggesting that Karen Carpenter was emotionally or sexually abused. There is no evidence or testimony to suggest abuse. What I am suggesting is that many of her symptoms and behaviors might be cause for further investigation of possible abuse.

The ‘Good’ Family Version

In multiple retrospectives and biographies of the famous singing duo, Karen Carpenter was identified to have several flaws. Among them were:

  • She was never happy coming out from behind the drums and becoming the focus of attention.
  • She couldn’t handle the pressure of fame.
  • She was desperate for the affection of her mother.
  • She saw herself as a failure and/or inadequate.

The Carpenter family blocked efforts of biographers to learn or tell any account of her life that would be seen as negative to the family. In the 1989 movie, The Karen Carpenter Story, her brother, Richard, had close oversight on the production and demanded that scenes be rewritten to avoid possible embarrassment.

Her Symptoms and Environment

Of what has been revealed about Karen Carpenter’s personal life we know the following:

  • She had low self-esteem
  • Her life was mostly devoid of romantic relationships
  • She felt a strong sibling rivalry for her Mother’s affection
  • She was three and a half years younger than her brother, Richard
  • Karen engaged in self-destructive behavior
  • She seemed to be subservient to her brother’s wishes
  • Despite her brother being in primary control of music and business management, Richard was not the star of the act
  • In her songs, she portrayed a deep connection to the emotions of a relationship despite having little or no experience of love in her life

In the #MeToo age, many of these symptoms would be reflective of a person who has experienced some type of emotional and/or sexual related trauma. Again, there is no evidence that Karen Carpenter was a victim of emotional/sexual trauma; however, many of these behaviors are noted by victim-support groups as warning signs.

Victim Behaviors and Responses to Sexual Abuse

Abuse of a victim can occur in many forms, but usually involves a power and/or control aspect of the abuser over the victim. One type of sexual abuse is incest and a victim may manifest several types of dysfunctional reactions to the abuse.  In an article published in Counseling Today, David M. Lawson states: 

…incest is associated with secrecy, betrayal, powerlessness, guilt, conflicted loyalty, fear of reprisal and self-blame/shame. It is of little surprise then that only 30 percent of incest cases are reported by survivors.

He also maps out three types of possible ‘disturbances’ to incest victims:

  • Disturbances in emotions: Affect dysregulation, heightened emotional reactivity, violent outbursts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and dissociation.
  • Disturbances in self: Defeated/diminished self, marked by feeling diminished, defeated and worthless and having feelings of shame, guilt or despair (extends despair).
  • Disturbances in relationships: Interpersonal problems marked by difficulties in feeling close to others and having little interest in relationships or social engagement more generally. There may be occasional relationships, but the person has great difficulty maintaining them.

In some cases of sibling incest, parents may lay blame on the victim rather than consider the abuser responsible. Dr. Richard P. Kluft also suggests a tragic response to incestual abuse:

The victim becomes accustomed to linking mistreatment with a perverse form of caring.

Was Karen Carpenter Sexually Abused?

There is no evidence that Karen Carpenter was sexually abused. There is reason to stop accepting that she was simply a person with severe personality flaws that led to her tragic death. If the #MeToo movement is to move forward, we can no longer ignore dysfunctional mental and emotional behavior in women as their failure, nor can we accept the male interpretation of a woman’s behavior as fact.

Equinox Does NOT Mean Equal Day and Night

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The Myths of the Equinox

This Saturday at 6:54 pm PDT the Sun will be directly over the Equator. Geographically, the event will occur over the western Pacific Ocean, north of Papua New Guinea (≅149° east longitude.) It is the Autumnal Equinox and it is the moment that summer ends and winter begins…in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, the equinox is the end of winter and beginning of spring.

Equinoxes are ripe with myths, but probably the most common myth is that an equinox is a date of an equal day (12 hours) and night (12 hours.) It is a myth established by those who live in the mid-latitudes because, on the day of the equinox, the day and night are approximately equal. Near the equator, the length of day and night are nearly the same year-round, so the equinox has no significance.

Equal Day/Night is About Location, Location, Location

Near the equator, day and night are almost equal the entire year; however, the closer one is to either pole, the length of the day increases to the point that there is no night on the equinox. Most locations away from the poles do have a date when day and night are approximately equal, but that rarely occurs on the equinox.

In Panama City, Panama, October 6, 2018, is the date when day and night are equal. In Reno, Nevada, USA, the date is September 25th. In New York City, NY, USA the date is September 26th. In São Paulo, Brasil it is September 17th. The date occurs near the equinox, but the exact date varies depending on location.

Finding East and West on the Equinox

What is true about the equinox? The equinox is the date that an observer can determine true east and true west from her or his location if she or he has an unobstructed view of the sunrise and sunset. Why this happens is complicated, but the point on the horizon where the Sun rises is true east and where it sets is true west.

Don’t get me started about balancing an egg. Eggs are for eating regardless of the date…and that’s about it.

‘Rigor’ is About a School’s Public Image, Not Education

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Education 2020 Series – Part II:  Rigor

Rigor:  An End That Ignores the Means

Rigor is a catch phase in education. Rigor is touted by business and conservatives as preparation for college and/or the ‘working world.’ The application of rigor is often interpreted by educators as ‘making the students work hard.’ The argument is a continuation of the belief by conservatives that all the problems in the world are the fault of the individual. Schools would be great if only the students worked harder.

The irony is that the definition of rigor doesn’t match the conservative use of the word. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary uses the following words to define ‘rigor.’

…severity, unyielding or inflexible, strictness, austerity, an act or instance severity or cruelty, a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable, strict precision: exactness…”

All of these words indicate that rigor is a cruel and inflexible education system that ignores everything we have learned about best practices in teaching. 

Emphasis on Test Performance

My son is in the seventh grade in the gifted and talented education (GT or GATE) program of his school district. This his third year in the GT program and he is no stranger to a heavy homework load. Prior to joining the GT program, he attended a public charter school run by a Turkish Islamic group. In that school, he was also subject to rigor in the form of hours of homework designed to facilitate high test scores on standardized test required by the State of Nevada.

The purpose of rigor at the public charter school was two-fold. First, the public charter school administration used the high test scores as a shield to protect it from scrutiny by the school district and those test scores created an image of quality education for the school. Second, rigor was used to wash out all but the best academic performers in order to retain only college-bound students. The school has been in operation for 18 years; however, since they have had a K-12 program, the school graduates less than 25% of the students that were at the school in seventh grade. The rest of the students presumably move to other schools, which allows the charter school to brag about its 100% college-bound rates.

This week I attended my son’s “Parent Open House” His instructors pointed out their elaborate ‘agenda’ boards that covered the curriculum each day of that week. The agenda detailed in-class activities as well as assigned homework. They listed the multiple websites that are primarily established for one-way communication from instructor to student. Students are expected to constantly monitor the information provided and bear the burden of being aware of all requirements made by every instructor from every class.

Corporate Job Standards For Children?

It was a display of organization of information that any middle manager or corporate executive would envy. No student could possibly say that they didn’t know what was required of them. In the corporate world, we call these type of complicated objectives “Job Standards.”

Job Standards in the working world are used by managers to set expectations, then allow the manager to judge an employee’s performance. It sounds great, but Job Standards fail to provide mentoring for the employee, nor do they identify the shortcomings of the manager. If an employee has not been given the necessary training or resources, Job Standards create a situation to punish the employee. If the manager is partially, or completely at fault for an employee not achieving the expectations set down in the Job Standards, the employee potentially will be penalized.

Like corporate job standards, the concept of rigor in education create a system designed to produce results regardless of the objectives are realistic or not. It puts all the pressure on the victim of rigor and absolves the one who inflicts the rigor. If the student succeeds, the instructor and school can claim victory. If the student fails, it is the fault of the student.

To Mentor Students Or Throw Them In the Deep Water?

Instead of following an educational model that is based on mentoring the student, rigor is the educational model that follows the conservative concept of ‘sink or swim,’ and if the student sinks, it’s their fault. The fact that students are overwhelmed by the hours of homework and the confused by all the information coming at them from multiple instructors is acknowledged as a fact of life, not a problem. Counselors are sympathetic but cite the problem as the student’s need to adjust, not the school overreaching.

This is not to suggest that students need to be coddled, or that a challenging curriculum is wrong….let me say that again…this is not to suggest that students need to be coddled, or that a challenging curriculum is wrong;

This is not to suggest that students need to be coddled, or that a challenging curriculum is wrong…

…however, the conservative belief that education is simply a matter of demanding a heavy workload and establishing Job Standards for students is not appropriate. Twelve, thirteen, and fourteen-year-olds are not corporate employees, nor should they be subject to extended periods of excessive heavy workloads. 

The Ugly Side of Educational Rigor

It should also be noted that educational rigor benefits specific groups. Students from wealthy families have more resources for tutors, computers, etc. to help them cope with the heavy workload and digital format. Students from Caucasian or Asian families also tend to have an advantage as their cultural background has established decades of high educational expectations. This means that the students from poorer economic situations and other minorities will not have the same support and become more at-risk under the rigor model.

The failure of the rigor model is that it de-emphasizes a mentoring model and focuses on a ‘sink or swim’ model. Not only is rigor wrong for the pedagogy used in our schools, but it also is biased towards certain socioeconomic and ethnic groups. It will only be a matter of time before there is enough research to prove that schools that employ ‘rigor’ in the curriculum are discriminating against certain ethnic groups. 

Educational Landmines: Questioning the Pedagogy of Your Child’s School

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Education 2020 – Part I:  Criticizing Pedagogy

Dangers of Discussing Pedagogy

Before any discussion of education begins, one must accept that if a parent questions the pedagogy (the methods and practice of teaching) of their child’s school that they risk being attacked, especially by other parents. My personal experience has been that other parents may become passionate about how wonderful the school is, even if there is clear documentation of problems within the school.

Sadly, parents who do criticize their child’s school often lack the knowledge and understanding of pedagogy to intelligently discuss issues and concerns. This has created a long history of parent’s crying ‘wolf’ about problems in the school. Now, all parents are assumed to be uninformed and overprotective, and their concerns and issues to be insignificant.

However, parents do have a legitimate perspective on the education of their children. It must be assumed that the parent will be biased toward their own child, but that does not completely negate the perspective. 

Who Are the Experts For Pedagogy?

Ideally, pedagogy should be influenced by people who have expertise in education. Experience and or advanced degrees in the field are factors, but should one educator’s opinions determine the pedagogy for all educators? Research is also a factor; however, simple data (graduation rates, test scores, etc.) is not research because this data is not peer-reviewed. Without peer review, critical questions are left unanswered regarding the validity of the data.

In our country’s current political climate, the idea of equal opportunity in education for all has been supplanted by education to meet the needs of corporations and religious interests. The decades-long effort of lower taxes and attacks on public schools have led conservatives to invade the school boards and districts to plant a new agenda that benefits particular groups. To support their agenda, conservatives often use single viewpoints of an expert touting his or her ‘years’ of educational experience, or advance degrees to support their political agenda.

Who Speaks For the Children?

Is there a legitimate voice in determining the pedagogy of our schools? Yes and no. Teachers and students are the core of education of our youth. Mentoring, not rigor should be the core of pedagogy in any legitimate school. Pedagogy should not be guided by what will make a student a better worker, but by what will develop the skills and ability of the student to make them a better person. Parents are biased, but parents should serve as an assistant to teachers regarding their child’s education. 

Most administrators and politicians should not have a significant role in pedagogy simply because they may have a corrupted interest in what is best for the student. Cutting costs, serving political and/or religious interests, etc. should not be part of the teacher/student interaction.

Finally, research, not data, should be at the core of pedagogy. The research should be unbiased for gender, race, and/or socioeconomic status. Graduation rates are meaningless unless there it can be documented that graduating from high school has led to personal, economic, and social success in adult life after graduation. College-bound rates are meaningless unless the student actually succeeds in college and completes a degree. Test scores and standardized tests are meaningless unless it can be proven that high test scores relate to success in adult life.

The Education 2020

It is dangerous territory to initiate a discussion on pedagogy and education in the United States of America; however, it is absolutely necessary. The future is determined by the wisdom of the present. Now is the time to discuss and correct the derailment of pedagogy in our schools.

The purpose of the Education 2020 series is to continue the discussion, identify the problems, and seek solutions.

Nevada Democratic Primary State and Federal Choices

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Early voting in Nevada’s 2018 Primary begins today. Because Republicans have damaged themselves severely in attempting to create a Soviet-type government, some conservatives have shifted to the Democratic party in order to be elected. This makes the Nevada primary more critical than the General election, as the Democratic Primary nominee is likely to win.

Casinos and mining industries are heavy contributors in Nevada elections and an informed voter will note that any candidate that has a well-funded campaign is possibly being propped up by those special interests. In this Primary, there are several candidates that seem to have an unusual amount of money to spend.

Based on my research, here is who I’m voting for in the Nevada Democratic Primary for Federal and State offices, and why:

Governor of Nevada

MY VOTE:  Christina ‘Chris G.’ Giunchigliani

Casinos and mining have managed to control the Governor’s race for at least the last twelve years. Jim Gibbons and Brian Sandoval have been noted to follow an agenda that has favored those industries over the needs of the citizens of Nevada. This year, the two candidates for Governor that seem to have the nod of casinos and mining are Republican Adam Laxalt and alleged Democrat Steve Sisolak. If Sisolak wins the Democratic primary, Nevada will end up being the stooge of those two industries.

The only plausible candidate is Christina ‘Chris G.’ Giunchigliani. She has a consistent record of Democratic ideals as opposed to Steve Sisolak who has suddenly become a champion of a few Democratic issues. Sisolak has a reputation of being arrogant, unintelligent, and Trump-like in his behavior. He is the ideal candidate that casino overlord Sheldon Adelson would want as his errand boy.

Candidate Chris G for Nevada Governor

All other Democratic candidates lack the support to win in the General election.

U.S. Senate

MY VOTE:  Jacky Rosen

Why not Danny Burleigh? Impotent campaign.

Why not David Drew Knight? He wants more vocational training in public schools. We don’t need to spend more public money to train workers for businesses. Businesses should train their own workers through internships where workers are paid to learn to do the job instead of taxpayers and workers paying for their own industry-specific training.

Why not Sujeet ‘Bobby’ Mahendra? Ignorance. Mahendra wants to reduce corporate and personal taxes in a State that doesn’t have corporate tax and income tax, but has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the U.S. and the worst education system in the U.S. Mahendra is a Soviet Republican running as a Democrat.

Why not Allen Rheinhart? Wants to join with Russia in a fight against fake Islamists? WTF?

Why not Jesse Sbaih? He would be my second choice, but he is inexperienced and would be a weak candidate against the incumbent Soviet Republican Dean Heller.

I have some issues with Jacky Rosen. One red flag is the award she received from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That organization has devolved into an extreme right-wing organization, and any recognition by them is not good.

However, she is likely to defeat Heller and she is the best choice of the field.

U.S. House of Representatives District 2

MY VOTE:  Rick Shephard

Why not Dr. Vance Alm? Weak campaign.

Why not Patrick Fogarty? I like his positions on the issues, but I don’t see him as a strong candidate in the General election.

Why not Jesse Douglas Hurley?  Impotent campaign.

Why not Clint Koble? He would be my second choice because of his stance on issues and work with rural communities.

Why not Jack L. Schofield, Jr.? Impotent campaign.

Why Rick Shepherd? Shepherd is passionate about many issues. In everything I read, I couldn’t find any issue with which I significantly disagreed. We need a passionate Democrat to contrast the Good Ole Boy Republican Mark Amodei.

Lieutenant Governor

MY VOTE:  Kate Marshall

Why not Laurie L. Hansen? Impotent campaign.

Why Kate Marshall? Experience, dedication to Nevada, and intelligence.

Attorney General

MY VOTE:  Aaron Ford

Why not Stuart J. MacKie? Impotent campaign.

Why Aaron Ford? Only logical choice and has the experience for the job.

State Assembly District 24

MY VOTE:  Sarah Peters

Why not Edward Coleman? I believe Sarah Peters demonstrates a stronger passion, which I feel is important in battling Republican bullying; however, Coleman seems to be qualified and a strong alternative.

Why not Deonne Contine? There are two issues I have with Deonne that concern me. First, she doesn’t have her children in a public school. I’m not criticizing the personal choice of education for her children, but we need an advocate for public schools and Brian Sandoval has demonstrated that when you don’t have your own children in public school it is easier to cut public school budgets.

My second issue is the funding of her campaign. She seems to have a lot of money to spend, which makes me concerned as to who is pulling the strings in her campaign.

Why not Tom Stewart? Again, the key for me is a passion to move forward and Stewart’s campaign seems a little generic to me.

Why Sarah Peters? I feel Peters has a desire to call out bad decisions and she seems highly intelligent in her assessment of key public issues.

Hot Tub “Make It Work Project” Video

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Make It Work: Hot Tub Repair

With a background and a degree in theatre, as well as years of home projects, I often have encountered “make it work” situations. My experiences in electrical and plumbing have allowed me to undertake projects that I would have never attempted as a young man.

A “Make It Work” project is a significant repair or build that is not done by a professional, nor done with a major budget. It is a project that involves adaptation and usually requires resolving several issues that are not part of the standard procedure. 

I just completed a major repair on our hot tub (spa) and created a video that records the steps taken to replace several worn out key components. 

Balboa Water Group:  The Customer is the Enemy

The most significant challenge of this project was the anti-customer relations of the Balboa Water Group. Balboa was the company that made the controller that failed and the replacement. Their philosophy of support is to only deal with spa technicians and shun customers.

That philosophy is understandable as spa technicians require less interaction in troubleshooting a problem because of the technician’s familiarity with hot tubs. Customers require more explanation and are more time consuming. Because of the plumbing and electrical issues associated with a hot tub, most people rely on a professional technician to deal with any spa problems.

However, the customer is the person that actually purchases the product (one way or another) and the company should have some accountability to the customer. Balboa tech support is so anti-customer, the phone maze actually hangs up on the customer once the person identifies themselves as a customer, not a technician.

Fortunately, they will take emails from a customer, and tech support called me almost immediately after I sent an email, but the attitude of the support person was that I needed to hire a professional. He did give me enough information that I was able to know what to test, but he was elusive in giving me direct answers to my questions.

Their lack of cooperation and the confusing electrical design of the Balboa control board was responsible for about one-quarter of the time involved on this project. 

Nevada Education: School District Regular Instruction Budget $22.5 Million Less Than Decade Ago

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To understand why Nevada is ranked the worst for Education, one only has to look at the State’s Washoe County School District (WCSD.) The expense for “Regular Instruction” was $22.5 million less in 2017 than it was in 2008. For next year’s budget, the district that includes Reno/Sparks schools is looking to cut the budget…again. The deficit in the budget is caused by a dysfunctional State taxation system that fails to provide the needed revenue to fund the government.

Graph 1. 0 – WCSD Regular Instructions Expense (Actual vs. 2% adj. for inflation)

Nevada Education Never Fails to Fail

There is one significant item in the school district’s financial reports. Under expenses, WCSD reports “Regular Instruction.” It is the money spent in the classroom for educational functions. It does not include the special education, vocational, nor extra-curricular programs. Regular Instruction expense is the core of the existence of public education in Nevada.

Instruction – Expenditures associated with providing direct regular instruction to students consisting mostly of salaries and benefits for teachers, teacher aides and assistants, as well as other direct instruction costs for supplies, textbooks and equipment. The category also includes costs for teacher substitutes, ROTC teachers, Early Separation Incentive Program (ESIP) costs and sick leave payout. 

Definition of “Regular Instruction” page A15
Fiscal Year 2016-17
Final Budget Summary with Detailed
Budget Accounts and Positions
May 24, 2016

In 2008, the money spent for Regular Instruction in the school district was $249 million. In 2017, only $226.5 million was spent. A reduction of $22.5 million dollars from spending needed ten years prior. Adjusted for two percent inflation per year, the amount of the reduction is $63 million for 2017 fiscal year. The cuts have the forced school district to cut over $475 million dollars in Regular Instruction to keep pace with inflation during the last decade.

Education in Nevada is consistently in the bottom of most State rankings, and deservedly so. The fault is citizens who fail to value education, who elect politicians that seek to dismantle public education. Governor Brian Sandoval has been a primary architect of this effort, which should not be that surprising. When he was elected, his children attended a private religious school. The Legislature decides the funding for education, but they have followed Sandoval’s lead in underfunding public education.

School districts have given up battling the State for more money. Now school boards consist of people who seek to cut budgets instead of demanding more money. School administrations and staff have known for years that the continued deterioration of education is the inevitable path that Nevada has chosen to follow.

Graph 2.0 – Washoe County School District projected expenses for the 2018-19 year

Nevada Education: Constitutionally Protected To Be Bad

There is no positive news regarding Nevada’s Education. It is a black hole of ever-decreasing funding with a Governor leading the charge to let it fail. Nevada’s Constitution says,

The Legislature shall enact one or more appropriations to provide the money the Legislature deems to be sufficient, when combined with the local money reasonably available for this purpose, to fund the operation of the public schools in the State for kindergarten through grade 12.

The Constitution leaves it to the Legislature to decide how much money to make available for education. The politicians feel that being the worst educated State in the Nation is ‘sufficient.’

 

NOTE:  Discrepancies in Financial Reporting

If someone is interested in reviewing the financial information of the Washoe County School District, they will find it a challenge. Finalized numbers for the same line item for the same year do not match across WCSD documents.

There is one report (used here) that has is an annual report of the finances of the school district. It is called the Comprehensive Financial Annual Report (CFAR) and it is the only WSCD document available online that offers annual financial data for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. It is typically published about four months after the end of the year.

However, other reports, including the budget information for the 2018-19 school year have different values for the same budget item without any explanation. The 2017 CFAR (pg. 8 or pg. 37 on pdf) shows Regular Instruction Expense to be $226.5 million. The 2017-18 Annual Report (pg. 42 or pg. 51 on pdf) shows the 2017 Regular Instruction Expense to be $212.3 million ($14.2 million less.)

There is no explanation given for the discrepancies for the same budget item for the same ‘final’ budget; however, it makes it difficult for anyone from the public to know what number is the actual amount. It also makes it difficult to compare past numbers to future budgets.

Starbucks: The Adults In the Business World

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When you have with 238,000 employees, most of whom interact with the public all day, someone is going to do something stupid. That is a fact of human nature. The question is, how the leadership of a company deals with an incident? In the case of Starbucks, you be the adult and not the five-year-old.

Racists Don’t Think They’re Racist

Racism is a major problem in this country. Racists usually don’t know they are a racist. In their minds, they do what they think is ‘natural’ from their cultural perspective. What is natural is what is correct. This means most racists are in the bigot closet and don’t even know it.

There is no racism test for an employer to give a job applicant. If there were, a lot of people would be unemployable. Closet racists are going to be hired at all major corporations. Sometimes, like at Cracker Barrel, the racism is condoned by the employer; however, most companies avoid hiring overtly racists employees. At least that’s what they claim.

Regardless, when an employee does something that is racist, many executives will attempt to minimize the incident, or attempt to deny the issue was about race. The public relations (PR) people are experts at diluting the obvious by reminding the media that motivations can’t be proven. From a PR perspective, a company, like United Airlines, can do no wrong, even when it does something wrong.

Starbucks Policy of Responsibility

The leadership at Starbucks is probably not perfect, but at least they make every attempt to be aware of what is correct from what is wrong. That is why Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks wasted no time in responding to one of his employees calling the police on two African Americans for trespassing in a Starbucks when they didn’t purchase something in the store.

In this incident is noteworthy that at least six officers were present to arrest two non-combative African American males. It was overkill that the police were called, and overkill that six police responded. If a white man had robbed the Starbucks it is likely that it wouldn’t have had this response.

The victims of this incident were held for over eight hours after being arrested. They were released after the police admitted they had no crime to with which to charge them.

What Starbucks Didn’t Do

Johnson didn’t offer excuses for his company. He didn’t say the video doesn’t really tell the whole story. The CEO didn’t even hint that it might not have been a racist act.

Instead, Johnson offered apology after apology.  Johnson met directly with the men involved. He called the act “reprehensible.” It is unclear what happened to the employee in question, but the employee is no longer at that store.

Most companies today look like children trying to cover up their misbehavior after a public relations incident such as this one. It is good to know that Starbucks is capable of using common sense and decency in responding to this situation.

Sadly, the rest of the employees at Starbucks will be impacted by this one person’s act. We all pay for the bad behavior of others.

Nevada School District is Missing Children

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Nevada’s Washoe County School District is missing children. About 6,500, and no one seems to have noticed. In the last decade (2008 to 2017,) the student population in Washoe County Schools has increased by 291 students. That is a half of one percent increase (0.05%) in ten years. The population of Washoe County has increased by almost eleven percent (10.7%) during the same time period. If the student population grew at the same rate the school district would have 6,500 more students than it does. Where are the missing children?

GRAPH 1.0 – WCSD Growth vs Washoe County Population (1,000’s of people)

Mystery of the Missing Students

The population of Washoe County increased by over 44,000 people from 2008 to 2017. One might expect that the Washoe County schools would have increased by more than 291 students. If the student population had kept pace with the Washoe County population growth, there should be over 70,000 pupils instead of just under 64,000.

Table 1.0 – WCSD student population growth compared to projected growth (Based on Washoe County population. NOTE:  All figures are from WCSD reports.)

Some of the missing students can be found in private schools and public charter schools. Private schools in Washoe County enrolled 3,419 students in 2016-17; however, total enrollment in private schools in Nevada have not changed significantly during the last ten years. Public charter schools account for some of the missing students, but they only enrolled 2,753 students in Washoe County during the 2016-17 year.

Assuming that public charter schools absorbed 1,000 new students during the last ten years, and private schools absorbed 500, there is still approximately 5,000 missing students. It is possible that the growth in Washoe County was primarily adults without children. If that is the case, it may indicate that families aren’t moving to Nevada.

Flat Student Growth Saved Schools

There is a silver lining to the flat growth in Washoe County schools. Prior to 2008, the district was overcrowded and facing a crisis. The flat growth allowed time to ease some of the overcrowding and end some of the desperate measures to handle the situation.

However, Nevada may be facing a bigger crisis. If families are choosing not to move to the State it may be that Nevada’s poor school rankings have finally sealed its fate. No one wants to raise a family in a State that has underfunded schools.

Impotent Taxation: Why Nevada Can’t Have Nice Things

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Nevada, as a community is not pretty. In fact, it is probably the ugliest State in the nation when it comes to the ‘American Dream.’ Don’t tell that to one of the few citizens (25%) born in the State. Hardcore Nevadans are almost cult-like in the fondness of a State of mostly sagebrush and blowing sand. What Nevada can’t figure out is that it takes money to run a State, and that requires taxes. Nevada doesn’t believe in taxes, they believe in being a failure.

Proud to be the worst…at everything

Nevada Sucks And Has the Rankings to Prove It

Nevada ranks #3 in violent crimes per capita. In education, Nevada is the worst State according to USA Today. Of the best States with the best quality of life, Nevada ranks 43 out of 50, and in the area of social environment, it ranks dead last. Nevada has the 46th worst in the unemployment rate. These aren’t a new downward trend in rankings. Nevada is consistently at the bottom of these rankings.

Nevada is a State everyone points at as the example of what not to do. Companies don’t want to move to Nevada because of the crime, poor education, bad quality of life, which makes unemployment higher.

Nevada Taxation:  Where Rich People Come For a Free Ride

Nevada can’t figure out that it has a taxation problem. More taxes, better schools, lower crime, better quality of life, etc. But Nevada isn’t run by citizens. Nevada is run by the beasts of mining and casinos. It is sad to see how normal citizen rush to defend the monster that feeds on them.

Mining is digging up Nevada’s one-time resources and taking them out of State. Mineral corporations account for over $3 billion dollars of Nevada’s gross domestic product, but mining’s contribution to the State revenues is only one percent. For comparison, Nevada’s cigarette tax contributes four percent to the State budget.

Gaming is the 363 kg gorilla of Nevada politics but pays minimal taxes. The ‘Gaming Tax’ is a tax levied on the winnings of their customers. The ‘Live Entertainment Tax’ is added to the cost of admission. The ‘Room Tax’ is added to the hotel invoice to the customer. The gambler/customer pays the tax, not the casino.

Casino owners like Sheldon Adelson don’t pay income or corporate taxes. They are reaping the money, but not supporting the State of Nevada.

Nothing Else Works

Nevada is the State of blind voters and boot-licking politicians. It is a State that will do anything to avoid fixing the real problem if the solution would impact corporations or the wealthy. The State is has tried everything but the one solution that is obvious:  raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

The Silver State is likely to be hit by a perfect storm of economic destruction. The upcoming recession will catch Nevada completely unprepared. Housing prices far exceed the wage-earning potential of the middle class. As jobs collapse, housing will collapse. Underfunded schools, law enforcement, and government services will only get worse.

There is no positive response Nevada will be able to make to an economic downturn. Nevada will become a third world State and the politicians will respond by doing the wrong thing…cutting desperately needed taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

This is why Nevada can’t have nice things.

Ethics Wins…Always

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People who believe in a deity believe that there is a guiding force in our lives. Most people cling to the idea that, in the end, good will prevail. They want to know that whatever Judgment Day looks like, that ‘bad’ people will fail, and ‘good’ people will win. The need for a deity is secondary because what we really seek is the hope that ethical behavior will triumph over unethical behavior. And it does.

Ethical?: Price of Life for Diabetics

Ethics, Dual Harm Theory, and Time

When someone acts unethically it harms all parties. It, of course, harms the victim(s) of the unethical act, but it also harms the party responsible for the act. Neither of the parties may realize the harm caused at the time of the act. The victim(s) may take years to realize the offense committed. The party responsible may actually have a feeling of pleasure in committing the act. If an unethical act were obvious to the victim(s) and unpleasurable to the perpetrator, we wouldn’t have unethical acts.

But over time, the victim(s) will realize the harm and it will form a negative feeling or reaction that person or party. That negative feeling will become the foundation of the relationship between the two parties and will only be undone by multiple acts of contrition by the perpetrator.

As for the perpetrator, it may take much longer for their feeling of pleasure to spoil. They may even develop a lifestyle based on repeating the unethical behavior, but eventually, they will experience negative repercussions from their unethical acts.

Reaping What They Sow

The first impact of unethical behavior on a perpetrator is mistrust and anger from the victim(s.) This essentially defeats any opportunity for a positive relationship as the betrayal of the perpetrator will determine the relationship.

CASE STUDY:  A service department representative at a car dealership gives an estimate of $725 for routine maintenance on a car purchased from them, new, three years prior. When questioned, he offers two other options for lesser maintenance at $600 and $450. The routine maintenance would cost less than $150 anywhere else.

The perpetrator may also become involved in reactions from the victim(s) and/or people who are sympathetic to the victim(s.) Revenge is only one of the possible reactions, as the perpetrator will have people they didn’t even know harbor ill-will toward them. There is no limit to the damage caused by unethical behavior. 

Over time, the perpetrator is tainted with the unethical behavior, and all other actions are viewed in light of the previous behavior. Eventually, the perpetrator may realize the offensive nature of the behavior and face an internal conflict of self-loathing compensated with a delusional sense of ego. 

Support of Enablers

Some perpetrators of unethical behavior are reinforced by an enabler or enablers. These people prop up the unethical behavior and act as cheerleaders for the perpetrator, while vicariously enjoying the acts of unethical behavior.

The problem for enablers is that a person who is routinely unethical will likely be unethical at some point with the enabler. This eventually leads to enablers to have a limited lifespan of supporting the unethical person.

CASE STUDY:  Donald Trump has had 30 notable members of his staff resign or be fired in less than 30 months after being elected President. Most of these people were enthusiastic supporters of Trump. Some of them were let go with little or no notice. In at least one case, the victim learned through a Trump tweet that he was no longer in the position. 

Ethical Behavior Builds, Not Destroys

The destruction of unethical behavior is punished over time; however, ethical behavior is rewarded over time. Ethical people tend to be trusted, build lasting relationships, enjoy life more, and have a positive outlook. There is a perverse immediate pleasure that can come from fooling another person into doing something that is not in their interest. That feeling is temporary. Lasting satisfaction comes from doing the correct thing, even when there are other options.

Hey, Small Hands. Don’t Screw With the U.S. Postal Service

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Republican Head Witch Donald Trump is doing his Kylo Ren tantrum by attacking the U.S. Postal Service for revenge. He’s mad at Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos because of fact-based articles about him in the Washington Post. I know, it’s confusing and silly, but aren’t most temper tantrums? The problem is that Trump is threatening to screw up a great service for our country because he has the maturity of a three-year-old.

Much Ado About the U.S. Postal Service

Trump is attacking the U.S. Postal Service because it gives a volume discount to Amazon on shipping its products to its customers. The partnership gives the Post Office vital business income and forces it to be more efficient. Amazon gets better shipping fees that help reduce the cost to its customers, and a delivery service that can handle the volume of packages it ships.

Home Delivery:  What Makes the United States Great

Jeff Bezos owns both Amazon and the Washington Post, so in Trump’s little mind attacking the Post Office is a way to attack Amazon, which is a way to attack Jeff Bezos, which is a way to attack the Washington Post. Yes, Trump is really that immature.

Don’t Screw With a Good Thing

What many citizens may not realize that while the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t break even, it is vital to our country. Most importantly is the security it gives us in sending letters and parcels around the country. In the USA, we take it for granted and become really upset on the rare occasions our mail is lost. That is not the case in many countries.

A person can’t send a letter to someone in Panama and expect it to be delivered. If it is a package, it will almost never be delivered. It takes a very organized, very committed postal service to keep the integrity of delivery that we have in the United States. We trust that we can give something to a stranger and it will arrive at its destination in a reasonable amount of time. That is the exception in the world, not the rule.

The U.S. Postal Service also employees over half a million people in jobs that pay a living wage in communities small and large. For the service we receive, we also have half a million people not looking for a decent job. That has a major impact on our economy.

What About the Alternative Services?

FedEx and UPS have been good competitors with the U.S. Postal Service, but they don’t replace the mail carrier. They even have partnerships with the Post Office to that allow them to focus on more profitable business. They pass off less profitable package delivery that requires more service, such as some residential deliveries with more stops.

Let’s keep the investigations of things that don’t work to the people and services that really have problems…like Donald Trump.