Category Archives: Business

Robert Redford And Cate Blanchett

Do you really want to make a movie in which you unwittingly depict people who are fools?

…let me put my own cards on the table: I voted for Bush in 2004. If I were a character in Mapes’s book, this would mean you should ignore me, because she repeatedly disqualifies statements that hurt her case by pointing out that the person speaking is a Republican or a Bush supporter. However, I should note that I also supported Al Gore in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008, and I do not view either liberals or conservatives as presumptive liars.

Nor do I view Mapes as a presumptive liar. That would require implausible levels of evil and stupidity: evil, because she’d be trying to alter an election result with a massive lie; stupid, because the odds of getting away with such a scheme are vanishingly small. We’re talking a supervillain-who-leaves-hero-in-a-remote-quarry-to-be-devoured-by-carnivorous-GMO-squirrels level of evil and stupid. Too evil and stupid to get as far as Mapes did in the cutthroat world of television production.

I do think she made a very bad mistake, which could have been averted had she been more skeptical about the documents she received from Bill Burkett, a disgruntled National Guard retiree who reportedly had it in for Bush. I think that she has become unable to recognize that mistake, for the same reasons that we all cling to our own self-serving narratives rather than admit that we have screwed up. After reading through all the contemporary reports, the report from CBS’s independent panel and Mapes’s book, I think Mapes fell prey to the journalist’s two worst enemies: confirmation bias and motivated cognition.

There is no way to make this flick without it being either truthful (in which case they won’t want to do it) or embarrassing:

Well, some of them (unlike you, apparently) were smart enough to call the fax number on the memo, and determine that it came from a Kinko’s in Texas. And though there was in fact analysis of what the documents actually said, which also helped torpedo them, it was in fact enough, Mary. It’s hard (perhaps impossible) to prove that a document is authentic, but it only takes one solid strike against its validity to show it to be inauthentic. And the fact that you still don’t understand that, or understand basic logic at all, is why you are now out of a job, and should never have had that job to begin with.

Ah, the best and the brightest.

The Latest Take-Down Of Piketty

It’s long, and too much there to pick out a quote, but worth the read.

As I’ve noted before, Marxism is not a discipline, or even an ideology, really. It’s an attitude founded in envy and a grasping for power. Simply put, if you believe your judgment of someone else’s need to be superior to their own, and are willing to enforce it at the point of a gun, you are a Marxist. And that attitude describes a large majority of Democrats, and far too many Republicans.

The List Of ObamaCare Disasters

Add fraud:

It sounds like the systems that are supposed to check identity, immigration status and income simply aren’t working at all; the system just assumes that you are who you say you are.

Gosh, it’s almost like they don’t care.

Of course, I’m not sure that “add” is the right word. The whole thing has always been pretty much fraud all the way down.

Infinity Aerospace

Announcing tools to utilize ISS. Ardulab, is an Arduino modified with features to work on the station. Developed with NASA and Nanoracks. Enabled an 8th-grade class to do a plant-growth experiment for different light conditions in space, ready to fly. Takes up only ten percent of allowed volume, leaving remainder for experiments. Completely open source, hardware and software. Will be opening web site right after talk today.

Jurvetson

Need competition in space industry, and known prices, to allow non-insiders to enter and put together business plans. #NewSpaceCon

Citing Arthur Clarke’s suggestion that vehicles need to be reusable fo make space affordable, from 45 years ago as Apollo 11 went to the moon.

Skeptics in the industry have scoffed at SpaceX goal of retroburning, entering, flying back to site and reflying. Both attempts would have been fine if they’d been on land, instead of in the ocean. Most amazing things was that it worked the first time, demonstrating the power of modern simulations.

When you start with a founding vision so far beyond the industry you have to invent a lot of new things (e.g., vertical landing on a planet, manufacturing propellant on another planet). Challenge is to see what is necessary to achieve vision, but come up with intermediate solutions that generate revenue. If you’re an incumbent not being disrupted, you’ll just incrementally improve, not go after revolutionary solution.

[Update a few minutes later]

For other info on the talk, follow @jeff_foust.

The Heinlein Technology Prize

Art Dula just made some news at the New Space 2014 Conference. The Heinlein Prize committee hasn’t been able to come up with a winner this year, but they just announced a new prize, called the Heinlein Technology Prize. It’s a $10,000 award for a technology that has been tested in space, and shows significant promise to help commercial space activities. Winner will be announced in September.

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.

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.

Complexity

Frustration with the leftist fools who don’t understand the knowledge problem:

Mr. Bouie insists that he is not simply trying to make an excuse for the president’s revealed incompetence in sundry matters, but of course that is precisely what he and other apologists for the administration are doing. If they were really interested in complexity as such, then they would bring it up on the front end of the policy debate, rather than on the back end.

I’ve seen this happen so many times that every other policy debate looks to me like an ancient rerun of Three’s Company: Do you think there’ll be a comic misunderstanding in this episode, too? It unfolds like this: Politicians on the Barack Obama model promise that they will muster their native intelligence and empirical evidence to bring order to, e.g., the health-care industry, through the judicious application of regulation. People like me tell them that the effects of such regulation are almost certainly going to be other than what was intended, because such markets are too complex to be understandable, predictable, or steerable, even in principle. Even if every bureaucrat who touches health care or the labor market has the brain of an Einstein and the soul of a St. Thomas Becket, it will not turn out the way it is intended. And then, when it doesn’t turn out as intended, Jamelle Bouie et al. protest that the toldya-so chorus “betrays an ignorance of the size and complexity of the federal bureaucracy.”

And they never even consider the question: If the federal bureaucracy is so vast and complex that its behavior cannot be adequately managed, how is it that the phenomena that the bureaucracies are tasked with managing—orders of magnitude more complex than the bureaucracies themselves—are supposed to be manageable? To consider the question with any intellectual rigor is to accept real, meaningful, epistemic limits on what government can do.

Can’t have that. It doesn’t allow them to run other peoples’ lives.

NASA Adrift

Eric Berger has Part 3 of his series up now:

Working with engineers at Johnson Space Center, as well as five other field centers, and using same tools NASA uses to estimate costs, Miller says, “We found we could put astronauts on the moon within a decade, inside the existing budget.”

The plan used the commercially available Delta IV Heavy rocket to conduct a steady stream of missions to the lunar surface, allowing humans to begin tapping into the moon’s resources.

“We briefed it to all the key NASA human spaceflight centers, giving them a chance to challenge the conclusion,” Miller said. “I thought it was a tremendous result for human spaceflight. We could have a plan that flies early and flies often.”

NASA never published the study and Miller’s contract wasn’t renewed.

Not enough opportunities for graft.

The Apollo Cargo Cult

Over at USA Today, I say that after four lost decades, it’s time to end it:

After over four decades, it is time to stop awaiting a repeat of a glorious but limited and improbable past. We must, finally, return to and embrace the true future, in which the solar system and ultimately the universe is opened up to all, with affordable, competing commercial transportation systems, in the way that only Americans can do it.

I’ll have some other stuff up later, in other venues.