Category Archives: Business

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.

Statins

More junk science, pushed by the drug companies:

History will judge the American Heart Association guidelines by their effect. We currently have a statin epidemic with 25 percent of adults over the age of 45 taking the pills, a large majority of whom do not have heart disease and have not seen the numbers. But they are simple, and available. No doctor should be prescribing a statin and no person should be taking one, unless they have seen them. If more people without heart disease take statins it will be a victory of misinformation.

I try to convince my brother to get off them, but he takes the advice of his doctor.

A New Attack On SpaceX

Well, well…

I wonder who is putting them up to this? Basically, he’s the Congressman from eastern Colorado, not including the cities and burbs in the Front Range. But he may have some constituents who work for Lockmart or ULA. He’s not on any of the space committees. Also, note that he’s running against Mark Udall for Senate (likely to be one of the tighter races). Coffman, of course, is the congressman from Lockmart/ULA (Littleton). I wonder what SpaceX’s Space Act Agreement says about release of this kind of data? It looks like they want to do a smear job.

[Update a little while later]

Gee, look at the URL that came with the email. I’m sure that, like Lois Lerner’s missing emails, it has no significance.

[Wednesday-morning update]

Jeff Fooust analyzes at Space News.

Press
Release from Representative Cory
Gardner


Congressman Cory Gardner




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2014
Contact: Emily Hytha, 202-225-4676



Gardner Presses NASA for Transparency on SpaceX

Gardner and Coffman Send Letter Expressing Concern over Lack of Disclosure and Repeated Anomalies on Launch Vehicles

Washington, DC

Today, Congressman Coy Gardner (CO-04) and Congressman Mike Coffman (CO-06) sent a letter to the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) expressing strong concerns over anomalies that have occurred on taxpayer-funded space launch vehicles, and the lack of public disclosure or transparency of these anomalies. The letter expresses concern over an epidemic of anomalies that have occurred during SpaceX launches or launch attempts, and communicates frustrations with NASA’s refusal to provide insight into those mishaps.

"In the interest of full disclosure and accountability to the American taxpayer, we request that NASA publicly release all anomalies and mishap information, un-redacted, so that Congress can gain a better understanding of what has occurred and ensure full transparency. Because the development of the vehicles and capsule in question were funded by NASA dollars, we request that you provide Congress with the information you have on the various aspects of risk and reliability from these programs, including contractual, management, technical, manufacturing, cost, schedule and safety," wrote Coffman and Gardner.

According to recent news reports, SpaceX launch attempts have resulted in wide ranging problems, including multiple helium leaks, loss of capsule control, multiple thruster issues, avionics issues, capsule contamination issues, and three consecutive seawater intrusions on ISS Cargo Resupply (CRS) missions. SpaceX contracted or planned 24 Falcon 9 flights for its NASA, DOD and commercial customers through 2013 and flew seven. They list approximately 30 flights for this year and next, yet have only flown three times.

"Because the vehicles in question were funded by American taxpayer dollars, there should be no issue making this report publicly available. This information is critical to Congress’ understanding of these programs and the associated risks," wrote Coffman and Gardner.

The letter to NASA can be found here.

###

Congressman Gardner is a member in the U.S. House of Representatives serving Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee and is a member of the following Subcommittees: Communications and Technology, Energy and Power, and Oversight and Investigations.


CONGRESSMAN CORY GARDNER

Spaceplanes

DARPA has announced the winning teams for XS-1. I’m not surprised by Masten/XCOR. They’ve been collaborating for years. I have no inside info, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s an acquisition or merger at some point. The NG/Virgin alliance is no surprise, either, given that Northrop owns Scaled. The Boeing/Blue team is more interesting to me. I wonder if it’s away for Boeing to try to become more entrepreneurial?

The Border Tsunami

Have the Republicans forgotten how to play offense?

The first step to leading is understanding what you are up against. This border crisis isn’t incompetence. It isn’t bungling.

It is a calculated effort to crash the immigration system and fundamentally transform the nation. It is an effort to accelerate demographic trends and forever alter the nation’s culture. Until the GOP comprehends the full measure of Obama’s purpose, the GOP will be trapped in a prevent defense, never moving past complaints about Obama’s incompetence.

To the Obama administration and open borders groups, the tidal wave across the border is not an accident, and it is not a crisis. It is not even limited to unaccompanied children.

To be fair, they haven’t forgotten — they’ve never known how to go on offense.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The lie at the heart of immigration “reform” is exposed:

…does anyone think the people attending Obama’s White House meeting will accept any other new security measures that might actually succeed in blocking their co-ethnics from moving to El Norte – even as part of a “comprehensive” reform bill? They won’t. Once today’s illegals get their immediate “provisional” (i.e. permanent) legal status, security measures like E-verify (computerized checks of new hires), the border fence, and exit-entry visa controls will be subject to the same sort of counterattack as Obama’s request for more deportation “flexibility.”

Overcoming those attacks will only get more difficult as the Latino population grows — and it will grow even faster once a reform bill legalizes millions more eventual voters. It’s not hard to imagine that we’re at a tipping point: Implement border security measures now, or else they will never be implemented.

And the only way to implement them is to require they be done first, before any legalization — before the activists are free to attack them with full force (lest they jeopardize the eventual amnesty prize). The other way around, the McCain-Schumer-Obama way — ‘Legalization First, Security Later’ — is a swindle in the classic tradition. Just give us our amnesty. We’ll be there for you when it’s time to appropriate for the border fence. Really we will. You can trust us! You just have to wire the money to the Nigerian prince give us what we want first.

If we didn’t spot the fraud before, we do now.

Well, some of us do, anyway. Let’s hope it’s enough.

SpaceX And Orbcomm

This morning’s flight seems to have been a complete mission primary success. No word, though, on recovering the stage. No status updates on relighting engines, entry, etc. Reports of Elon’s and other plane circling the recovery zone. Sea state seems to be good, less than three-foot waves.

[Update a few minutes later]

My response: