Author Archives: Rand Simberg

Hamas

Why Israel needs to finish the job now:

Iron Dome can defend successfully against a handful of rockets fired simultaneously in the general direction of Israeli cities. At some point Israel’s enemies will acquire the capability to fire large salvos of precision-guided weapons at key military or civilian targets and overwhelm the existing defenses. GPS-guided rockets are not that difficult to make. Iron Dome gives Israel a respite, not relief in the long term.

Israel has an extraordinary opportunity that may not last. It can protect its citizens from retaliation for the time being. Its right to self-defense is so obvious that Western governments usually hostile to Israeli interests must affirm its right to self-defense. Even the German Left Party (“die Linke”) is split, with some of its leaders attending pro-Israel rallies while others join the largely Muslim demonstrators chanting “Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, Komm heraus und kaempf allein” (“Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone”). It has the tacit (and sometimes not entirely tacit) support of Egypt, not to mention the Gulf states, in its war against Hamas. But it cannot afford a repeat of 2012, after which Hamas rebuilt its weapons capability. Where Hezbollah is concerned, the Chinese proverb applies: Kill the chicken while the monkey watches. The reduction of Hamas has to serve as a deterrent for Hezbollah and Syria, not to mention Iran.

Yes.

ObamaCare Is Slowly Dying

from its birth defects.

A great analogy.

Congress has no authority to grant bureaucrats such discretion either way. It cannot simply hand over its powers to another branch of the government. That is the subject of a recent book by Columbia Law School professor Philip Hamburger, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? Hamburger’s thesis is that federal agencies are under the control of the executive branch and, by definition, have no power to create regulations that legally bind anyone. That is, of course, precisely what HHS attempted when it drew up its list of “must cover” contraceptives.

During oral arguments in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, Justice Kennedy was obviously interested in this issue and its implications for the separation of powers. Among his questions to the government lawyers was the following: “Now, what kind of constitutional structure do we have if the Congress can give an agency the power to grant or not grant a religious exemption based on what the agency determined?” According to Hamburger, it gives us a structure more like that which England’s James I presided over than anything envisioned by the framers.

The latter favored a very weak executive branch. In fact, according to Hamburger, they didn’t want it “bringing matters to the courts or … physically carrying out their binding acts.” This is why the Constitution is so specific about the separation of powers. The framers must have been spinning in their graves when the government lawyers were arguing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Halbig v. Burwell. But shady deals like the cornhusker kickback and violations of the separation of powers doctrine are but two of the birth defects with which Obamacare was born.

And, as he notes, the Origination problem will be potentially fatal as well.

Math

Why Americans suck at it:

American institutions charged with training teachers in new approaches to math have proved largely unable to do it. At most education schools, the professors with the research budgets and deanships have little interest in the science of teaching. Indeed, when Lampert attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in the 1970s, she could find only one listing in the entire course catalog that used the word “teaching” in its title. (Today only 19 out of 231 courses include it.) Methods courses, meanwhile, are usually taught by the lowest ranks of professors — chronically underpaid, overworked and, ultimately, ineffective.

Without the right training, most teachers do not understand math well enough to teach it the way Lampert does. “Remember,” Lampert says, “American teachers are only a subset of Americans.” As graduates of American schools, they are no more likely to display numeracy than the rest of us. “I’m just not a math person,” Lampert says her education students would say with an apologetic shrug.

Consequently, the most powerful influence on teachers is the one most beyond our control. The sociologist Dan Lortie calls the phenomenon the apprenticeship of observation. Teachers learn to teach primarily by recalling their memories of having been taught, an average of 13,000 hours of instruction over a typical childhood. The apprenticeship of observation exacerbates what the education scholar Suzanne Wilson calls education reform’s double bind. The very people who embody the problem — teachers — are also the ones charged with solving it.

…Left to their own devices, teachers are once again trying to incorporate new ideas into old scripts, often botching them in the process. One especially nonsensical result stems from the Common Core’s suggestion that students not just find answers but also “illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.” The idea of utilizing arrays of dots makes sense in the hands of a skilled teacher, who can use them to help a student understand how multiplication actually works. For example, a teacher trying to explain multiplication might ask a student to first draw three rows of dots with two dots in each row and then imagine what the picture would look like with three or four or five dots in each row. Guiding the student through the exercise, the teacher could help her see that each march up the times table (3×2, 3×3, 3×4) just means adding another dot per row. But if a teacher doesn’t use the dots to illustrate bigger ideas, they become just another meaningless exercise. Instead of memorizing familiar steps, students now practice even stranger rituals, like drawing dots only to count them or breaking simple addition problems into complicated forms (62+26, for example, must become 60+2+20+6) without understanding why. This can make for even poorer math students. “In the hands of unprepared teachers,” Lampert says, “alternative algorithms are worse than just teaching them standard algorithms.”

No wonder parents and some mathematicians denigrate the reforms as “fuzzy math.” In the warped way untrained teachers interpret them, they are fuzzy.

It’s a long, but interesting, and depressing article.

I should note that I was one of the kids who suffered from the “New Math” in the sixties, but I had a great algebra teacher in junior high (I forget her name, but she was a black woman), and good ones in high school as well. We actually learned calculus and analytic geometry from Mr. Troyer.

[Update a while later]

The more I think about this, the more furious I get that we have these worthless schools of “education” that don’t even teach teachers to teach.

Falcon Recovery News

SpaceX has released a statement:

After landing, the vehicle tipped sideways as planned to its final water safing state in a nearly horizontal position. The water impact caused loss of hull integrity, but we received all the necessary data to achieve a successful landing on a future flight. Going forward, we are taking steps to minimize the build up of ice and spots on the camera housing in order to gather improved video on future launches.

At this point, we are highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment. However, our next couple launches are for very high velocity geostationary satellite missions, which don’t allow enough residual propellant for landing. In the longer term, missions like that will fly on Falcon Heavy, but until then Falcon 9 will need to fly in expendable mode.

We will attempt our next water landing on flight 13 of Falcon 9, but with a low probability of success. Flights 14 and 15 will attempt to land on a solid surface with an improved probability of success.

Some questions. Did they recover the hardware, or did it sink? If they didn’t recover it, how can they inspect it post flight to have that level of confidence in a low-refurbishment reflight?

So they’ve basically give up on ocean recovery. I wonder what “solid surface” they’ll attempt to land on? On Twitter the other day, I suggested flying back to Walker Cay, the northernmost island of the Bahamas, if they can’t get FAA permission to come back to Florida. Or perhaps they could try to drop it on a barge down range.

You People Are Far Too Cynical

C’mon, folks! Didn’t you hear Michelle tell you that Barack was going to make you shed your cynicism?!! DIDN’T YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT SHE MEANT??11!!!

It was purely a coinkidinky that all of the people with whom Lois Lerner was communicating about those teabaggers at the time also had their hard drives fail. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU CONSPIRACY THEORISTS?!!11!Eleventy!!1

Halbig

The appeals court has ruled against the administration. This really guts ObamaCare.

[Update a few minuts later]

Jonathan Adler has some initial thoughts:

If this decision is upheld, it will present some three-dozen states with a choice: Establish exchanges so as to authorize tax credits for state citizens while also triggering penalties on employers and individuals who do not wish to purchase qualifying health insurance. As my co-author Michael Cannon notes, the implications of this decision go beyond its effect on tax credits. How will states respond? Time will tell. As with the Medicaid expansion, it is not entirely clear how states will react now that so much of PPACA implementation is clearly in their hands.

A lot of dominoes could fall from this.

[Update early afternoon]

Thoughts from John Hinderaker:

If the D.C. Circuit does re-hear the case en banc, it may reverse today’s panel decision. If that happens, there will no longer be a split between the circuits, but one would think the Supreme Court will take the case regardless. In that event, we may be back in familiar territory, with Justice Anthony Kennedy deciding what Congress had in mind. If you think that discerning Congress’s intent is, in this case, a fool’s errand, since no one in Congress had read the law before voting on it, you are probably right. Which is one reason why courts look to the words of a statute rather than to the subjective intentions of 535 legislators. Given that Justice Kennedy was willing to deal Obamacare what he thought was a death blow under the Commerce Clause, Democrats cannot view their ultimate prospects with much confidence.

Especially after the election.

The Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Some reflections from Bill Whittle.

[Monday-morning update]

It’s long past time to rethink NASA:

Unrealistically, the NRC committee recommends a 5 percent annual increase in NASA’s budget to carry out its recommendations, which are to spend billions for many decades with the eventual result of putting a few civil servants on Mars. My assessment, as a space enthusiast and a taxpayer? As Senator William Proxmire once famously quipped, on the topic of funding for space colonies: “I say not a penny for this nutty fantasy.” I don’t know what the future of human spaceflight is, but I do know that the NRC’s recommendations are not it.

Read the whole thing. It was written by someone who knows what he’s talking about, one of the great minds of our age.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Some of the comments over there are amusing, albeit predictable.

[Update a few minutes later]

Should we go back to the moon? I participate in a debate on the topic, over at US News. I have to say that Etzioni’s remarks are certainly ignorant. And you’ll be shocked to discover that Bob Zubrin wants to go to Mars.

[Update mid morning]

I have a roundup of my and others’ apollo anniversary pieces over at Ricochet. Plus, hey moon! We’re coming back soon.

[Late-afternoon update]

I’m tied with Peter over there for thumbs up, if you want to go vote. Also, Bob is getting lots of negative ratings, but nothing like Etzioni.

[Bumped]

[Late evening update]

I assume that, thanks to my readers, I’m Number One!

The IRS Emails

Six questions from outside IT experts:

Ordering the destruction of a hard drive and documenting that process would be handled by trained, certified IT asset managers, according to IAITAM. But the group’s records show that at least three IRS IT asset managers were shuffled out of their positions around the time of the May 2013 inspector general’s report that detailed the agency’s targeting practices.

IAITAM said investigators need to “determine if these in-house IT asset managers were removed from the picture as the IRS email investigation heated up.

I predict that they’ll continue to stonewall.

[Update a while later]

The Next Generation Of Republicans

Are they already here?

What’s behind all these surprising numbers? I can’t say, but it’s hard not to notice that a decline in destructive behavior associated with peer pressure has happened at the same moment that the US became a fully wired nation.

Now that broadband access is nearly universal — 78% of homes, and that’s not counting all the schools and library and Wi-Fi hotspot connections available to most kids with minimal effort — restless youth don’t have to go along with whatever the local knuckleheads are up to.

They can find their community of likeminded souls online, and an unintended consequence of their tinkering with YouTube videos or playing “Call of Duty” with a buddy in Mexico City, they’re staying in. As a frustrated barman in England, where pubs have been closing in huge numbers, put it to The Economist, “Kids these days just want to live in their f- – – ing own little worlds in their bedrooms watching Netflix and becoming obese.” That sounds right, but at least no one ever got pregnant from eating Cheetos.

How are young people turning out politically? They’re liberal Democrats . . . who sometimes sound an awful lot like conservative Republicans.

I don’t really care whether or not they’re Republicans, as long as they’re vehemently not Democrats.

[Update a while later]

This seems related, somehow: How the Left got boring.

[Late-morning update]

Sorry, first link was broken. Should be fixed now.