Category Archives: History

Time To Euthanize The Lame Duck

Over at Bloomberg View, Stephen Carter writes that it’s time for Congress to go home. I agree. As he notes, lame-duck sessions are an artifact of of transportation technology.

When the Constitution was first ratified, no one could travel faster than the pace of a horse, and it could take weeks to travel from the farthest reaches of the young nation to its capital. Even in 1932, the last time the end date of a session of congress was stipulated, in the 20th Amendment, the fastest safe means of travel was by train. It still took days to travel across the country.

But in the 21st century, with the jet age over half a century old, it is possible to get all the way from all the way even from Anchorage or Honolulu to Washington DC in a single day. There is no longer any excuse for Congress to last more than a week past an election. In fact, I would propose that it be dissolved on the Friday following.

Whether the new Congress was sworn in the following week, or waited until the current January date would be of little moment, as far as I’m concerned. The Founders didn’t require or expect Congress to be in permanent session, and the Republic would survive (and even benefit from) a couple of months without one, absent a national emergency such as the need for a declaration of war. But to maintain the current situation, in which people who had just been repudiated at the polls are allowed to continue to vote, is abhorrent to the very notion of representative democracy, and (as history has shown) a recipe for profound and damaging mischief.

Because the current dates are now established in the Constitution, changing them will require another amendment, and historically, amending the Constitution is difficult. But with Republicans controlling both houses of the Congress and so many state houses (and the president having no say in the matter), the time hasn’t been better in a while for doing amendments in general. Many will be difficult to get past the requisite number of states, but I’ve never heard any good argument for why a Congressional session should long survive an election, so I think amending the 20th Amendment may have good prospects. But if there is one, let’s hear it.

Lest We Forget

Today’s Remembrance Day is particularly poignant, the first one on a century anniversary from the beginning of the war. And I think that no one who fought it is with us any longer. My paternal grandfather was a veteran. He had emigrated from Eastern Europe as a young man, and then returned to fight in France.

Poppies In England

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The New John Birchers

of the Left:

The modern left is built around a trio of laudable principles: protecting the environment is good, racism is bad, and so is demonizing a person over his or her sexual preferences. (In the chapter of his book Intellectuals titled “The Flight from Reason,” Paul Johnson wrote that “At the end of the Second World War, there was a significant change in the predominant aim of secular intellectuals, a shift of emphasis from utopianism to hedonism.” ) But just as the Bircher right began to see communists everywhere, the new Bircher left sees racism, sexism, homophobia, and Koch Brothers everywhere.

They’re lurking around more corners than Gen. Ripper imagined there were commies lurking inside Burpelson Air Force Base. They’re inside your video games! They own NFL teams! They’ll steal your condoms! Disagree with President Obama? Racist! (That goes for you too, Bill, Hillary, and your Democratic supporters.) Not onboard for gender-neutral bathrooms? Not too thrilled with abortion-obsessed candidates like Wendy Davis and “Mark Uterus”? Sexist! Disagree with using global warming as a cudgel to usher in the brave new world of bankrupt coal companies and $10 a gallon gasoline? Climate denier!

And as with the original Birchers, don’t get ‘em started on fluoride.

Or GMO foods, or vaccines.

A Wounded Obama

Beware.

We may be in for a rough ride.

And then there’s this:

The article, which includes a senior administration official gloating that Obama successfully pressured Netanyahu to avoid launching a military strike on Iran back when it could still have stopped the radical Islamic regime’s nuclear program, signaled that Obama has Iran’s back.

It continues to amaze me that any American Jews continue to support this man. Or Americans who care at all about our national security.

The “Time Served” Model Of Education

…is breaking down. This, I think, is the key point:

The conventions of the credit hour, the semester and the academic year were formalized in the early 1900s. Time forms the template for designing college programs, accrediting them and — crucially — funding them using federal student aid.

But in 2013, for the first time, the Department of Education took steps to loosen the rules.

The new idea: Allow institutions to get student-aid funding by creating programs that directly measure learning, not time. Students can move at their own pace. The school certifies — measures — what they know and are able to do.

The public-school paradigm is also based on a century-old model: industrial learning. Time to abandon it, but it’s hard, because it so benefits the status quo, even if it’s a disaster for the kids.

The Problem With Ebola

It isn’t the virus, it’s the incompetence. Not to mention the venality.

[Update late morning]

Amazingly, left-blogger Atrios (aka Duncan Black) agrees:

Ultimately the point is that as of now, Ebola is a small problem in the United States overall, if a very serious problem for the people infected by it, and we have failed to deal with this small problem. The lack of clearly established systematic responses to potential deadly disease outbreaks is extremely worrying. If a genuine epidemic occurs, there’s no reason to think the response will be any better.

At least as of now, there’s no reason to be frightened of Ebola. Turn off cable news and go about your day. A small number of infected people is not an epidemic. But there is reason to be frightened of the apparent inability of our institutions to deal with an actual epidemic, or true national emergencies of any kind.

Yes. As has been pointed out ad infinitum. when the government (and particularly the federal government) tries to do too many things, it ends of doing none of them well.

The Party Of Lynching

warns (ignorant) Democrat voters in North Carolina of lynchings if Republicans win.

If they want to play that game, put together a few thirty-second ads with history lessons about the (Democrat) Klan, and the (Democrat) Bull Connor, and the (Democrat) Lester Maddox, and the (Democrat) George Wallace. And a reminder that Lincoln was a Republican, and that the voting-rights act would not have been passed without Republicans.

[Late-morning update]

Oopsie. Senator Pryor’s college thesis, called desegregation “an unwilling invasion” (as opposed, I suppose, to a willing one?).

Democrats, once the party of racism, always the party of racism.

Obama’s Great Ebola Error

The last time a president tried to make a health crisis about national security, fifty million people died.

It’s not surprising, really. Wilson was our first truly fascist president (complete with racism). Obama is simply following in his (and Roosevelt’s) footsteps.

And meanwhile, we don’t really have anything resembling a national response. So I guess ebola is just another thing that the president has no strategy on.

[Update a while later]

Well, this was inevitable. Ebola is the GOP’s fault. Because they’ve been in charge of the CDC, with its emphasis on junk nutrition science and gun control, while its budget rose.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The problem with the argument that it’s Republicans’ fault.

As Glenn says, if Congress was smart, it would force the CDC to shift funding from all the junk science it’s been doing, and start focusing on actual infectious diseases. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world in which Congress is smart.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The CDC is losing its grip. The country’s in the very best of hands.

The Disintegrating Obama Presidency

Steve Hayes has a long piece (necessarily, because it’s such a target rich environment) on how it is chock full of fail.

[Update a couple minutes later]

This isn’t from the essay, but rather from Jonah Goldberg’s latest “newsletter” (so no link), but it seems apt:

Islamic State took Fallujah and Mosul months ago and he kept calling it the “jayvee team.” As recently as August, he was telling Tom Friedman that it was ridiculous to arm the Syrian rebels. In September, he was wistfully complaining that the Islamic State made a mistake in beheading those Americans because it aroused U.S. public opinion for war. In other words, doing nothing about the Islamic State was Obama’s foreign policy until the domestic political situation made his foreign policy untenable. Chess Masters think many moves ahead, novices respond to whatever their opponent’s latest move is. Total amateurs just move pieces based on shouts from the crowd watching the game. Obama’s like a kid looking for approval every time he touches a piece.

It’s sad because it’s true.

Von Braun And Elon Musk

Is Elon Wernher’s heir?

Regardless of what NASA envisioned for COTS—indeed, regardless of what it had ever envisioned or accomplished under any program—the sum total of Congressional interest in NASA was always just ensuring a maximum of federal money goes into their district or state (and thereby, into their own campaign funds). So to their ears, COTS was simply another revenue stream that could go to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or other established players under a slightly different operating scheme.

But a program that meant barely anything to Congress was taken up with enthusiasm by NASA as a way to modestly reduce the costs of one aspect of its program, and then “hijacked” by Elon Musk to radically and fundamentally alter the economics and pace of spaceflight. Every synergy he could find between NASA’s modest objectives and his own radical ones was exploited, driving the evolution of SpaceX technology and the rapid buildup of its infrastructure. No one saw him coming.

SpaceX’s conspicuous achievements only fed energy back into the system, driving NASA to become more ambitious, and the Congressional advocates of COTS to push forward with the commercial crew program. Only now were establishment forces in Congress beginning to raise eyebrows at SpaceX, but still did not yet see it as a threat. After all, transporting cargo was one thing, but surely crew flight was still over their weight class. This program, they assured themselves, would be a gimme for Boeing and/or Lockheed, and SpaceX would perhaps rise to a junior partner role in the system.

That confidence, however, quickly bled away as SpaceX continued to march forward with ever more drastic advances, offering prices far below a merely competitive advantage, and steadily developed hardware not even on the drawing board among the big prime contractors. Before these politicians knew it, and with the large-scale financial and technical assistance of NASA, a company they had barely heard of a few years ago was beginning to threaten the viability of long-established, multi-billion-dollar corporations with rock-solid Congressional relationships.

In a panic, the more powerful among them have repeatedly tried to scale back funding for commercial programs that would feed SpaceX, and sought to convince government agencies to throw roadblocks in its way in seeking additional contracts. But SpaceX’s popularity and political weight have grown even more quickly than its technical capabilities, and appears to be within a few years (at most) of transitioning from being an upstart to becoming simply the Program of Record.

Just as von Braun had originally hijacked a cruel, cynical weapon to pursue a dream of wonder and peace; as Korolev redirected the same dumb, unimaginative weapons program for his own people into achievements that will live in memory long after the name of the Soviet Union is long forgotten; and just as von Braun awakened a timid and pragmatic power to shoot for the Moon “because it is hard”; so it seems that soon — knock on wood — Elon Musk may have grown an afterthought commercial cargo-delivery program, one that sought merely to deliver junk to a space station at a slightly lower cost than before, into a revolution with no end, opening up the cosmos to humankind.

A very interesting, and I think insightful historical and political analysis.

Who The Future Belongs To

It belongs to those of us who mock leftists mercilessly.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s a good start: Leftist politicians continue to slaughter innocent and defenseless animals:

Yet another defenseless creature was slaughtered by a left-wing politician, the New York Post revealed on Thursday. Adorable groundhog Staten Island Chuck was “chucked” to his death during an appearance with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a raging liberal, back in February. Officials sought to cover up the creature’s demise, so as not to fuel public outrage over the disturbing trend of liberal politicians murdering cute animals. They even lied about the true identity of the victim. . . . As horrific as de Blasio’s crime was, it pales in comparison to the carnage President Obama routinely inflicts upon the animal kingdom. His victims include: bald eagles, golden eagles, kit foxes, baby tortoises, and baby bats. Obama’s preferred methods of killing are significantly more brutal, including decapitation via wind turbine and incineration via solar panel heat laser. The mainstream media has done its best to ignore this trend, but it’s only a matter of time before the American people wake up and demand an end to the butchery.

And don’t forget that fly he callously and brutally murdered.

Less than six weeks until an election. You can stop the carnage.

Jerry Pournelle

He’s posted a brief but complimentary review of the book (it’s buried deep in the post, after his lengthy discussion of his computer tech upgrades):

Safe Is Not An Option, by Rand Simberg is a reliability expert’s look at the space program. The book is discussed at length on its own web site. Those interested in the space program should read it: the book is quite critical of current space policies. It has endorsements from both astronauts and space policy analysts.

His general thesis is that NASA’s obsession, born of the days when “ours always blow up” and brought back with a vengeance by the Challenger disaster, is eliminating all human risk from spaceflight. That doesn’t work and the obsession is a huge obstacle to progress. There will always be risks, and we will always have heroes.

Simberg is an aerospace engineer with considerable experience and his analyses of various space incidents such as the Challenger Disaster are spot on, which is to say, I agree with them. Recommended.

Thanks!

“Marching Against Climate Change”

The most futile march ever:

It was the usual post-communist leftie march. That is, it was a petit-bourgeois re-enactment of meaningless ritual that passes for serious politics among those too inexperienced, too emotionally excited or too poorly read and too unpracticed at self-reflection or political analysis to know or perhaps care how futile and tired the conventional march has become. Crazed grouplets of anti-capitalist movements trying to fan the embers of Marxism back to life, gender and transgender groups with their own spin on climate, earnest eco-warriors, publicity-seeking hucksters, adrenalin junkies, college kids wanting a taste of the venerable tradition of public protest, and, as always, a great many people who don’t think that burning marijuana adds to the world’s CO2 load, marched down Manhattan’s streets. The chants echoed through the skyscraper canyons, the drums rolled, participants were caught up in a sense of unity and togetherness that some of them had never known. It was almost like politics, almost like the epochal marches that have toppled governments and changed history ever since the Paris mob stormed the Bastille.

Almost. Except street marches today are to real politics what street mime is to Shakespeare. This was an ersatz event: no laws will change, no political balance will tip, no UN delegate will have a change of heart. The world will roll on as if this march had never happened. And the marchers would have emitted less carbon and done more good for the world if they had all stayed home and studied books on economics, politics, science, religion and law. Marches like this create an illusion of politics and an illusion of meaningful activity to fill the void of postmodern life; the tribal ritual matters more than the political result.