THE NEW SPACE RACE: SpaceX seeks a waiver to launch Starship ‘at least’ nine times this year.

SpaceX launched its first Starship vehicle, which is the largest rocket ever built and is intended to eventually be fully reusable, in April 2023. That flight caused serious damage to the launch site near Boca Chica Beach and raised environmental concerns after it kicked up large chunks of concrete and dust into the surrounding wetlands. Coleman said the anomaly investigation and regulatory review process after that flight took about six months, which he believes is commensurate with the work involved.

The company’s second launch attempt in November was more successful, as the first-stage booster, Super Heavy, had a mostly nominal flight, and the Starship upper stage managed to separate from the booster before it experienced an anomaly and was lost. There was no damage on the ground this time. The work entailed by the FAA for this anomaly review was about one-third as much, Coleman said.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said his company is now targeting early to mid-March for the third launch attempt of Starship. This flight of the highly experimental vehicle, Musk said, has a reasonably good chance of successfully reaching orbit. Coleman said that, from a regulatory standpoint, that timeline sounds “about right.”

Would it be presumptuous to add a “Faster, please?”

JONATHAN TURLEY: CBS faces uproar after seizing investigative journalist’s files.

CBS is one of the world’s premier news organizations, with a legendary history that includes figures from Murrow to Walter Cronkite to Roger Mudd. That is why the hiring of [Catherine] Herridge was so welcomed by many of us. The network was at risk of becoming part of the journalistic herd, an echo-chamber for Democratic and liberal narratives. It had been mired in third place for ages, and it was moving in the wrong direction by alienating half of the country.

Herridge had been a celebrated investigative reporter at Fox News. An old-school investigative journalist, she is viewed as a hard-driving, middle-of-the-road reporter cut from the same cloth as the network’s legendary figures.

The timing of Herridge’s termination immediately raised suspicions in Washington. She was pursuing stories that were unwelcomed by the Biden White House and many Democratic powerhouses, including the Hur reporton Joe Biden’s diminished mental capacity, the Biden corruption scandal and the Hunter Biden laptop. She continued to pursue these stories despite reports of pushback from CBS executives, including CBS News President Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews.

Given the other layoffs and declining revenues, the inclusion of Herridge was defended by the network as a painful but necessary measure. But then something strange happened. The network grabbed Herridge’s notes and files and informed her that it would decide what, if anything, would be turned over to her. The files likely contain confidential material from both her stints at Fox and CBS. Those records, it suggests, are presumptively the property of CBS News.

For many of us who have worked in the media for decades, this action is nothing short of shocking.

For those of us who have studied CBS Kremlinologist-style for years, it really isn’t.

SKYNET DOESN’T APPROVE OF YOUR ATTITUDE: What the Hell Went Wrong with Google Gemini? It Isn’t What You Think. “I don’t believe that there’s anything sinister going on here. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wasn’t sitting at his computer in the days before the image function went live, laughing, ‘MUAHAHAHAHAHA! At last, I have perfected the No White Men algorithm!'”

EVERYTHING IS GOING SWIMMINGLY: America’s housing affordability crisis makes a comeback after a brief respite. “Buyers and sellers came off the sidelines in December when the Fed signaled it would lower interest rates three times in the next year, but now some are getting cold feet because the Fed indicated that rate cuts may come later than expected.”

I wouldn’t call a month or two a respite — more of a blip.

REMEMBER WHEN BIG BUSINESS USED TO MAKE FUN OF COMMIES? THE ’80S WERE AWESOME: Congressmen Bash Google AI for Refusing Image of Tiananmen Square. “Hawley reacted to Miller’s post by slamming Google and all CCP-pandering tech companies. ‘Google AI refusing to tell the truth about Tiananmen Square. When is Congress going to wake up and realize these tech companies are totally compromised by China. They’re killing our kids while vomiting Communist propaganda,’ he stated.”

The Eighties:

THE CHINA SYNDROME: How China’s economic pain will help US Fed rate cuts.

Asia’s largest economy, not long ago considered a contender to supplant the US, is having a rough patch. Growth has struggled after the pandemic,foreign investment is waning, and real estate companies are failing. But the most pernicious development has been deflation. When consumer prices posted a small decline in July, the figure was seen as a blip. It hasn’t really let up and January showed the biggest drop since 2009.

The risk is that traders are so focused on Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell that they dismiss what Pan Gongsheng, his counterpart in Beijing, is contending with. That would be a mistake. The longer China refrains from meaningful efforts to arrest deflation, the greater the risk it becomes entrenched — and all the tougher to escape. Citigroup Inc. economists were prescient when they warned in May of a “confidence trap.”

The opening of China’s economy, its entrance into the global labor pool and the World Trade Organization are widely considered to be seminal events.

They were critical to the low-inflation regime that prevailed pretty much everywhere in the decades prior to Covid. China may once again prove pivotal — this time in eclipse. It will help drive inflation down from levels authorities around the world remain less than enthusiastic about, despite a pronounced retreat since mid-2022.

China exported deflation for 20 years in the form of ever-expanding exports of cheap consumer goods. Now it might be coming again in a totally different form.

THE GREATER THE TRUTH THE GREATER THE INJURY AND THE GREATER THE ANGER: An emailed press release from John Banzhaf, law professor at GWU, on the Amy Wax affair:

It has been reported that the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School has received a recommendation from its hearing board that it impose, on a law professor protected by tenure, severe sanctions – including a one-year suspension at half pay, and the removal of her named chair and summer pay – for statements she made which may have been true and apparently were never refuted.

In other words, although Professor Amy Wax’s right to express even the most controversial opinions is supposedly protected by both the guarantees of tenure and by legally binding commitments by her university, she may nevertheless be deprived of any income for an entire year, and lose other valuable benefits, for making factual-type statements which may even be true.

It appears that the university has not attempted to refute them, much less show that they are so clearly false and outrageous that merely uttering them, especially in off-campus settings, would warrant severe punishment, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has won many such free speech battles.

The action is even more questionable here because Penn has published a legally binding promise that all professors, and especially those who have earned the guarantees of tenure, will enjoy freedom of speech and academic freedom, and has publicly reiterated several times that Wax’s controversial assertions are fully protected by those published promises.

Thus her statements, because they are more in the nature of facts than pure speculation or opinion, and rest upon easily ascertainable and indisputable data, are ones which should be subject to objective discussion and refutation in the spirit of academic freedom and open debate.

Penn should not simply label them “racist,” and then try to use them as a basis for severe punishment, he suggests.

In other words, simply labeling something as “racist,” even if it is racist according to most law students, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is incorrect and/or should never be uttered, especially beyond the confines of the campus, argues Banzhaf.

For example, in one statement which has been cited, Wax said in a podcast about affirmative action that “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Black student graduate in the top quarter of the class, and rarely, rarely, in the top half of my required first-year course.”

If even plausible, this observation would seem to be relevant to legitimate academic concerns and discussions about possible problems with utilizing affirmative action in admission to law schools, with how African American students are treated and/or graded at the law school, etc.

Indeed, following that statement, Wax asked “What are we supposed to do about that?”

This second statement suggests that she was legitimately concerned about the apparently poor showing among Black students (at least from her own perspective) and what can be done to improve it; and not seeking to denigrate, insult, frighten, or belittle them, suggests Banzhaf.

Penn could easily refute this statement if it’s factually incorrect, and especially if it is so clearly wrong (rather than simply being a small misstatement or slight exaggeration) as to warrant punishment, since it has in its own computer the grades Wax and other law professors assigned during her time there.

Moreover, it knows – or should be able to easily ascertain – which of those students are African American, and therefore the percentage of Black law students which received grades in the top quarter of classes and the top half of Wax’s classes.

Yet Penn apparently has refused – although it clearly has the ability – to refute Wax’s fact-type statement, and thereby at least begin to possibly justify imposing some punishment.

Indeed, this strange silence suggests that Wax might even have been correct in pointing out a possible problem at the law school with its African American students, says Prof Banzhaf.

I think it’s pretty obvious that what she said was true, and that that’s why they’re angry. Note, meanwhile, that Penn tolerates all sorts of racist and antisemitic speech on its campus even as it seeks unprecedented revenge against Amy Wax.

Plus:

It also appears that Wax is about to be punished for saying, in a discussion about whether America’s immigration policy should ever consider race, “that our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites.”

But whether or not our country would “be better off” if our immigration policy favored Caucasians over other races or ethnic groups as an empirical – or at least empirical-sounding assertion – should be capable of rational analysis based upon statistical and other reliable evidence, not name calling (e.g., “racist”) or isolated anecdotal examples of non-Caucasian immigrants who have been successful.

Penn believes that its views can’t withstand contradiction or discussion. What does that tell us?

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, REAL CRAZY: ChatGPT ‘off the rails’ as AI starts ‘threatening users’ who worry chatbot is ‘sentient.’

Some users were left wondering whether the Chatbot had gained some sort of sentience as it warned the “AI is in the room” with its users. “Scary” lines of dialogue from the bot were found within streams of nonsense.

A flurry of announcements from OpenAI soon followed as they confirmed maintenance work was underway on the tech tool. Teams as of today are “continuing to monitor the situation”.

Screenshots of the out-there robot later circulated on Twitter/X, with one interaction showing the bot put together “the stages of ether in music time”, before repeating “Happy listening!” dozens of ftimes.

Another saw the bot flicker between Spanish and English responses as it promised to speak “in a more grounded lingua”, before slipping into complete Spanish. It kicked back into English to suggest a “grape-turn-tooth over a mind-ocean jello type?”

Indeed.

NOTHING’S SHOCKING: A Florida Republican Congresswoman Just Made a Shocking Statement About UFOs. “During the program, she stated she believes that the unidentified flying objects described in whistleblower testimony were not made by humankind. And she’s not the first person within the government to make such a statement, which lends some credibility to the idea that maybe, just maybe, extraterrestrials exist.”

MEN ON STRIKE: Here is video of my interview with the Atlas Society:

UNEXPECTEDLY: Democrats pushed climate action. Then utility bills skyrocketed.

There is intensifying political pressure on state lawmakers to do something about utility bills that have shot up by as much as 127 percent over the last decade. Climate spending — from wildfire prevention to building out transmission capacity and paying for renewables — is partly to blame.

“Californians are fed up,” said Democratic state Assemblymember Marc Berman at a recent news conference in Sacramento. “My constituents are pissed off. I know because they told me over and over again at every community coffee that I had in the fall and in the winter. Their rates keep going up.”

Lawmakers there and in other Democratic states with nation-leading climate objectives — like New York and Massachusetts — are scrambling to make their transitions from fossil fuels affordable before they face an all-out ratepayer revolt. The problem is more pressing in an election year when Republicans say Democrats don’t pay enough attention to Californians’ ability to afford the high costs of daily life.

Gooder and harder, California.

THANKS TO ELON FOR MAKING THIS NEWLY RELEVANT: