Open thread for night owls: ‘America’s space commanders rattle their lightsabers’

On March 23, 34 years ago, President Ronald Reagan gave the dark hearts of the people who founded the Project for a New American Century reason to beat a little faster with his endorsement of the Strategic Defense Initiative, a plan that included orbiting weapons such as high-powered chemical and nuclear-powered lasers to knock down Soviet ICBMS before they could release their warheads on U.S. targets. The Soviets viewed SDI as a first-strike system, one that would allow the United States to attack the USSR, taking out most of its missiles before they could be launched and having the capability of “mopping up” any surviving missiles as they rose toward orbit, striking them before they could release their warheads.

Although certain kinds of space weapons, including the ridiculous X-ray laser promoted (and lied about) by physicist Edward Teller, were soon given up on, there is still the potential for building maneuverable satellites in orbit that can act as assassins of other satellites with lasers, bombs, or claws: anti-satellites, or ASATs. Despite an effort in the Cold War to negotiate restrictions on ASATs, no agreement was ever produced. In 2014, the U.S. began long-term research to develop ASATs for use against China or Russia.

The U.S. has ships equipped with Aegis radars that are capable of locking onto low-orbit satellites to target them for hits by the Navy’s hundreds of SM-3 antiballistic-missiles. In addition to these systems, the Pentagon is gearing up for more.

Morina Koren at The Atlantic writes—America’s Space Commanders Rattle Their Lightsabers:

Last week, Navy Vice Admiral Charles Richard, the deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said during a conference in Washington, D.C., that “while we’re not at war in space, I don’t think we can say we’re exactly at peace, either.”

“Major power competition is back on the table in a way that we have not seen in the world for perhaps 15 or 20 years,” he said.

Like Thompson, Richard said the U.S. should appear prepared. “[T]he best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war, and we’re going to make sure that everyone knows we’re going to be prepared to fight and win wars in all domains, to include space,” he said. […]

And earlier in March, General David Goldfein, the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, told The Washington Post in an interview that the military branch wants to maintain ensure “space superiority,” which he defined as “freedom from attack and freedom to maneuver.” […]

If war breaks out, it will be fought amongst the hundreds of communications, weather, navigation, and reconnaissance satellites circling Earth. Satellites can be destroyed by ground-based missiles, disabled by lasers, hacked by actors on Earth to knock out transmissions, or stalked and beaten up by spacecraft designed to hunt enemy hardware. There are currently about 1,400 operational satellites orbiting the planet at various altitudes, according to a database maintained by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an American nonprofit group. The U.S. dominates the field with nearly 576 satellites, compared to Russia’s 140 and China’s 181. The U.S. has an edge, but having more assets can mean more vulnerabilities.

In his prepared remarks at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs this week, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, said he envisions a 

“separate Space Force within the Department of Defense, just like the Air Force, which had to be separated from the Army in order to be prioritized and become a world-class military service. Simply put, space must be a priority and it can’t be one if you jump out of bed in the morning thinking about fighters and bombers first.

“We have to acknowledge the national security space organizational structure is broken, and, we are at a time when space is contested like never before.”

Gah.

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“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. It’s very rare that a senator, say, replies, ‘That’s a good argument. I will now change my political affiliation.’”
                    ~Carl Sagan, keynote at the 1987 conference of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

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BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2011—Ryan budget ignores CBO, reality, says health care repeal will reduce deficit:

The non-partisan, number crunching CBO has long since become a major nuisance for the GOP, since many of its conclusions about the realities of the budget run counter to GOP budget truthiness. That’s the case again in the so-called “Path to Prosperity,” Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to weed the nation of the elderly, the sick, and the disabled so the rich people can get even more stuff.

In the case of this budget proposal, Ryan conveniently ignores the fact that the CBO says repealing the Affordable Care Act won’t reduce the deficit.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, America’s great again at last! F*ck the parrots! Greg Dworkin rounds up polls and punditry concluding that Trump’s agenda sucks and people hate him. Joan McCarter agrees and updates the health care, Gorsuch, internet privacy and government shutdown stories.

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Maxine Waters: ‘Bill O’Reilly Needs To Go To Jail’

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) responded to sexual harassment allegations against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly with condemnation, saying he “needs to go to jail.” 

“It’s all catching up with Bill O’Reilly and that sexual harassment enterprise that they created over there at Fox,” Waters said Wednesday on MSNBC, referencing a New York Times investigative piece that brought to light some $13 million in sexual harassment lawsuit settlements that O’Reilly and Fox News have paid to women who had worked with the host.

“It shouldn’t be in America that you can sexually harass women and then buy your way out of it just because you’re rich,” Waters told MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “If they continue to do this in the way that they have done, they need to go to jail. Bill O’Reilly needs to go to jail.”

Since the Times investigation was published on Sunday, “The O’Reilly Factor” has lost more than 40 advertisers. O’Reilly denied the sexual harassment allegations in a statement to the newspaper, saying his prominence made him a target for lawsuits. Fox News said it was working with sponsors to relocate advertising from O’Reilly’s show to other programs.

Just last week, O’Reilly made headlines for his racist and sexist comment about Waters. During an appearance on “Fox and Friends,” O’Reilly responded to a clip of Waters calling out the bigoted behavior of some of President Donald Trump’s supporters by saying, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.”

Hours later, Waters said she had nothing to say to O’Reilly, but she did make her feelings known

“I am a strong black woman, and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined,” Waters said. “And I’d like to say to women out there everywhere: Don’t allow these right-wing talking heads, these dishonorable people, to intimidate you or scare you. Be who you are. Do what you do. And let us get on with discussing the real issues of this country.”

Trump on Wednesday defended O’Reilly, saying he didn’t think the TV host did anything wrong. Waters said she was not surprised. “They are two of a kind,” she said. 

Watch Waters’ comments in the video above. 

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