Author Archives: Rand Simberg


A dangerous holiday:

For those liberals who believe that Jewish identity should be limited to donating to help Haiti, agitating for illegal aliens and promoting the environment; Chanukah is a threatening holiday. They have secularized it, dressed it up with teddy bears and toys, trimmed it with the ecology and civil rights of their new faith. Occasionally a Jewish liberal learns the history of it and writes an outraged essay about nationalism and militarism, but mostly they are content to bury it in the same dark cellar that they store the rest of the history of their people and the culture that they left behind.

Holidays aren’t mere parties, they are messages. Knots of time that we tie around the fingers of our lives so that we remember what our ancestors meant us to never forget. That they lived and died for a reason. The party is a celebration, but if we forget what it celebrates, then it becomes a celebration of celebration. A hollow and soulless festival of the self. The Maccabees fought because they believed they had something worth fighting for. Not for their possessions, but for their traditions, their families and their G-d. The celebration of Chanukah is not just how we remember them, but how we remember that we are called upon to keep their watch. To take up their banner and carry their sword.

History is a wheel and as it turns, we see the old continents of time rising again, events revisiting themselves as the patterns of the past become new again. Ancient battles become new wars. And old struggles have to be re-fought again until we finally get them right.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

The Wright Anniversary

It’s been 111 years. On the centennial, eleven years ago, I wrote three pieces. One at Fox News, one at TechCentralStation (which later became TCSDaily), and one at National Review on line. Unfortunately, the latter seems to have suffered from link rot. I’m trying to find out if it still exists on their server.

[Evening update]

National Review has resurrected my other piece.

Jerry Pournelle

He apparently suffered a minor stroke. From his son, Alex:

Jerry had a small stroke. He is recovering well at a local hospital. Prognosis is good, though they’re running more tests and he’s expected to stay at least another day or two.

“He felt well enough to call Mom [Mrs. Pournelle] from the hospital.

“Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. More updates when we have them.

I saw him a few weeks ago, and he seemed to be doing as well as a man his age who has recovered from a brain tumor could be expected to. Best wishes for a rapid recovery.

Friday’s Barge Landing

Here‘s the SpaceX press release. Note that no government agency is funding them to do this. It’s actual internal R&D, a rarity in this industry, at least up until now. Also, if NASA was doing this, they’d spend billions up front on analysis. In contrast, SpaceX is flying, and failing, and improving, and flying again, and failing and improving. They may not land on Friday, but they’ll be a lot closer to being able to do it.

[Update a while later]

Why the CRS-5 mission could change everything.

Bush Versus Clinton

If that’s really the 2016 line up. I want them both to lose, badly. Get rid of this dynastical nonsense. It’s un-American. If some have a social need for royalty, let’s stick to Hollywood celebrities, not people who run the country. I agree with Glenn on this:

My concern is that the GOP’s donor class can only get interested in candidates that the GOP’s base finds unappealing, and vice versa.

It’s a big problem.

Our Dependence On Russian Engines


“Certainly the NDAA places future restrictions on the use of the Russian engines for national security space applications. Our application is in civil space. There’s a long history of U.S.-Russian cooperation in civil space, dating back to Apollo-Soyuz in the 1970s at the height of the Cold War. Since our immediate objective is in civil space supporting the International Space Station, it’s got a slightly different twist or perspective than supporting national security space. NASA already relies on cooperation with its Russian partner in other ways to execute the ISS program [including] crew transport. Certainly it would not make sense to restrict the use of engines manufactured in Russia on a program that’s already inherently dependent on cooperation between the United States and Russia.”

In other words, civil space isn’t important. We cooperated with the Soviets during the Cold War, but we were never dependent on them. I assume this means more INKSNA waivers.

PC Question

No, not political correctness — personal computer. I’m doing a mobo/processor upgrade. I notice that almost all the AMD processors have Radeon graphics built in. I assume that in order to take advantage of this, I have to have a mobo with video support? I’ve been operating off an old PCI express card for years, and have no problems with it, but if I can get significant performance improvement from the new built-in GPU, it might be worth spending a little more for a video mobo. I don’t do any heavy graphics, but maybe it would be nice to go to full HD and fast processing.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, all the boards have video outputs, so when it says it has no on-board video support, that just means that it has no dedicated graphics chips, and relies on the processor, right? So the GPU built in to the CPU would work, and be better than my old PCI express? Or is the separate card better because it has its own memory?

Hope And Change

An epitaph:

Such a climate should not have been unexpected, given that the Obamas entered the national scene with rhetoric and associations like “downright mean country,” “raise the bar,” “for the first time [i.e., when Obama was elected] . . . I’m really proud of my country,” Jeremiah Wright, “typical white person,” and the clingers speech. The natural result of all that was soon to be the stupidly acting Cambridge police; Trayvon Martin, the boy who looked like the son Obama never had; and slamming Ferguson at the U.N. — while black unemployment, graduation, illegitimacy, and crime rates were either unaffected by Obama’s presidency or grew worse despite his often racialized rhetoric. We now witness an entire grievance movement highlighted by a slogan — Hands up, don’t shoot — that is most certainly untrue.

The above symptomology is not a partisan tirade, given that the Americans who voted Obama into office twice, and ensured a Democratic Congress from 2006 to 2010, have now come to the same conclusion. The president’s approval ratings hover at 40 percent. Almost single-handedly, Obama has done to the Democratic party far more damage than Herbert Hoover did to the Republican brand. Not in 70 years have Democratic numbers in the Congress been so bleak. State legislatures and governorships are more Republican than at any time in a generation.

“Hope and change” was always an idiotic basis on which to vote for someone. He managed to get elected, twice, only by appealing to low-info types. But even they seem, finally, to be wising up.

Obama’s Executive Amnesty

Is he trying to lose the lawsuit over it?

Whenever I seek an explanation for Barack Obama’s behavior, Occam’s Razor would indicate incompetence and (as Mickey says) hubris, rather than clever Machiavellian intrigues.

[Late-morning update]

“Obama really needs to listen to others, because he really doesn’t understand politics.”

The things that Obama doesn’t understand would fill a large library.

[Update just before noon]

A court has found Obama’s amnesty order unconstitutional. Good.

NASA’s Drift

A $350M monument to it.

I talked to Farenthold about this a few months ago, but I actually see SLS/Orion as a bigger and more dangerous waste of funds, because unlike a test stand that will almost certainly never be used, they have the vague appearance of utility to those who don’t understand the program, and will be harder to kill.

My Uber Experience

Well, so much for my first (and possibly last) try.

I had a 6AM flight out of Reagan, staying in a hotel in East Falls Church, a ten-minute walk from the Metro. Unfortunately, I learned last night that the Metro doesn’t start running until 5AM, and the first train wouldn’t get to the East Falls Church Station until 5:10, upon which I’d have have at least a 27-minute trip to the airport, not counting time to switch trains in Rosslyn. In other words, I had to find a different way to the airport.

I’ve never used Uber, but it’s, shall we say, been in the news, and a Washingtonian friend recommended it in a DM on Twitter. I signed up last night, downloaded the app, and opened it up to check it out. It gave me a search window, into which I typed the hotel address. It came up on the map, but with no indication what to do next. I tapped on the screen and instead of asking me for a destination, it jumped to a different departure address a mile or so away. I dragged the “pin” back to where it needed to be, and it finally opened a new window to destination. I put in “DCA” and it came up with a reasonable fare and time, and said that there was a car two minutes away, and did I want to go? Since my flight was several hours away, I ignored it, but left the app open in the hope it would still be ready to go in the morning.

OK, come time to leave, I open the app, and it insists on starting from scratch. OK, I’ve got a few minutes, I can do this again. But this time, the map comes up in a smaller scale, not showing me the neighborhood, but most of the district and north Virginia suburbs. I try to focus it with my fingers, and all it does is move the departure point to some random address, without a scale change. Finding the right address with the “pin” is like trying to locate and pick up a single atom with salad tongs. I type in the address, at which point it goes to the right place, but once again without asking me where I want to go. If I touch anything on the screen, it once again changes the address to some random location in northern Virginia. This goes on for fifteen minutes, amidst much cursing (I’ve moved outside of the hotel lobby to spare the ears of anyone else up at that ungodly hour). Finally, panicked, I give up, and ask the desk attendant to call me a cab, which he does.

The cab arrives about quarter after five and gets me to the airport at 5:30. I’d checked in by phone when I got up, but my mobile boarding pass wasn’t TSA pre-check (as I usually get, though I’ve never actually signed up for it). This turned out to be the fatal blow, because the regular line was very slow. I got to the gate just in time to see the plane being pushed away.

Bottom line, had to rebook. Good news: they put me on a non-stop to LA that arrived about the same time as I would have if I’d made my original flight through Chicago. Bad news: I had to pay $75 out of pocket for the changes (I could have stood by for free, but I would have had crummy seats, and not necessarily gotten on the flight at all).

I said I had used Uber “possibly” for the last time. It’s possible that my problems were a result of my flaky phone, so after I’ve replaced it, I may give them another chance. But not before.

Nice People

make the best Nazis.

Whenever I point out that Islam is a problematic ideology/religion, people say, “You bigot! I know many Muslims, and they’re very nice people!” Well, I also know many nice Muslims, and in fact most of them don’t necessarily agree with Al Qaeda or IS, but Al Qaeda and IS would (rightfully, in my opinion, though I’m no more of a Muslim scholar than Barack Obama) consider them apostates. The point is that most people are “nice” by nature, but that doesn’t prevent them from adhering to beliefs that aren’t very nice at all. I suspect that if you’d lived in Germany during the war, you’d have thought most Germans “nice,” except for that support-of-Hitler thing. Just don’t let them know you’re a Jew.

The Fatal Conceit

of Jonathan Gruber:

The Times reassuringly described Gruber as “the numbers wizard at MIT,” who has “spent decades modeling the intricacies of the health care ecosystem.” Gruber has “brought a level of science to an issue that would otherwise be just opinion.”

I might note that the Soviets used the term “science” for their own “scientific” planning commission. I drew little comfort from Professor Gruber’s scientific-planning credentials, especially when I learned “he’s the only person you can go to for that kind of thing.” Gruber, aided by his brilliant MIT graduate student assistants, is a one-man Gosplan, the name given to the Soviet Union’s state planning committee. That is not much of a recommendation. Science is better served by competing ideas not by a one-person monopoly.

Both Gruber and the USSR’s Gosplan planners believe their planning is “scientific” and executed by “the best of the best.” Both types of planning commissars suffer from F. A. Hayek’s “fatal conceit”—the belief that we can plan incredibly complex economic systems. As Hayek pointed out in his writings, such “scientific” plans inevitably fall apart under the weight of unintended consequences.

Actually, I’m not sure they’re all unintended.