Category Archives: Business

Obama’s Immigration Speech

It was blatherskite:

As an act of rare semantic derring-do, this was a towering achievement. As a political speech, I don’t think it was very effective. It puts one in mind of the debate in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which ends when one side manages to prove that black is white — and gets themselves killed at the next pedestrian crosswalk.

To be honest, it’s not clear to me that the president was trying to be persuasive. He seemed, rather, to be triple-dog-daring Republicans to jump off the bridge with him, and if history is any guide, they will probably oblige. But there’s a real risk that Democrats will come to regret having the president jump first.

Reportedly some of them already are. He may have created a wedge issue for his own party.

Gruber The Grifter

Why you don’t want to let “intellectuals” anywhere near power:

Unfortunately, contemporary Washington is calibrated to defer to experts who defer to politicians, providing an intellectual Praetorian Guard for the constant growth of a leviathan. As Denver University professor David Ciepley noted, “Starting in the First World War, and much more so during the New Deal and World War II, American social scientists became part of the autonomous state themselves, helping staff the mushrooming government agencies.” The closer that intellectuals get to politicians, the more weaselly they usually become.

Playing off Mr. Gruber’s derision of average Americans, one wag suggested a new acronym — L.I.E. — for Low Information Experts. Mr. Gruber and many other professors have gotten rich by pretending that government is far more competent than it actually is. Economist Robert Skidelsky, writing about the history of modern socialism, observed that “the collectivist belief system existed independently of the facts of modern life.” The same is true of the academic cadre who profit by vindicating endless government interventions that breed chaos and dependency.

I’d like to think that people will take a lesson from this (particularly with regard to climate models), but history doesn’t make me hopeful.

SLS Engines

They still have no idea what they’re going to do after thye run out of SSMEs.

As I noted on Twitter:

[Afternoon update]

XCOR/ULA

An interesting milestone:

Mojave, CA, November 20, 2014 – XCOR Aerospace today announced it has completed the latest test series for the liquid hydrogen engine it is developing for United Launch Alliance (ULA). This is an important milestone in the long-running LH2 (liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen) program. It is also a step toward running the engine in a fully closed cycle mode.

In its most recent milestone, XCOR successfully performed hot fire testing of the XR-5H25 engine’s regeneratively cooled thrust chamber,with both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants supplied inpump-fed mode, using XCOR’s proprietary piston pump technology.

“This test marks the first time liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen have been supplied to a rocket engine with a piston pump,” says XCOR Chief Executive Officer Jeff Greason. “It is also the first time an American LH2 engine of this size has successfully fired liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen together in pump-fed mode. We are happy to be making solid progress on the engines. This will also bring us to a new phase in our plans for orbital flight.

“ULA has an ongoing effort to develop rocket engines for our next generation upper stage, and we are thrilled to see that progress continuing with XCOR,” added ULA Vice President George Sowers.

Upcoming test series will fully integrate the nozzle with the engine and piston pumps. Fully closed cycle testing will follow soon afterwards and will complete the sub-scale demonstration engine program.

The XR-5H25 engines are being developed under contract to ULA as potential successors to the Delta and Atlas series upper stage engines currently used. These engines will also help power orbital launches.

I suspect they’ll find it useful for their own launchers as well.

The Grubergate Insider Problem

A long but useful essay from Megan McArdle.

We have a similar issue in the space industry. I see all the hype about the upcoming Orion flight, and as an industry analyst (though not quite an insider) I know that it’s nonsense, but it’s hard to get people to realize that NASA officials are often forced to dish nonsense to placate rent-seeking congresspeople; as outsiders, they are still in awe of the government agency that put men on the moon four-and-a-half decades ago.

There is also this:

…when I see journalists saying that Gruber’s revelations don’t matter because he’s just kind of awkwardly saying something that everyone knew, I get a little jittery. I am not “everyone,” and neither are any of those journalists. We’re a tiny group of people with strange preoccupations who get paid to spend our time understanding and explaining this stuff. The fact that we may have mentioned it once to our readers, in the 18th paragraph, does not mean that readers read it and understood what it meant. (In fact, if you actually interact with your readers, you’ll be astonished at how little they remember of what you told them, especially if you didn’t go out of your way to headline it. Their minds are already crammed full of information that they need to, you know, live their lives. So they tend to take away a few big bullet points, not the piddling details.)

I see the same thing when I argue with people on Twitter, or in comments — we often go around in circles because they seem to have forgotten some previous point I’d already made, or read what they wanted to read instead of what I actually wrote. The dismaying thing is that these are often people who love space, but they end up being cheerleaders for things (like SLS/Orion) that are roadblocks rather than enablers.

Those Back-To-Back Commercial Space Disasters

Frank Morring says they were coincidence, and that failure is inevitable. I made the same point at PJMedia last week:

…it is important to understand that there was absolutely no relationship between OSC’s and VG’s accidents, other than they were both commercial activities. It was pure coincidence that they happened within a span of three days. But in both cases, response was rapid.

Nonetheless, a lot of ignorant people will try to use these events to shut down commercial spaceflight.

NASA’s Mission To Nowhere

Francis seems to suffer from a lack of imagination:

Space analysts said planning and executing a manned mission to Mars would take years and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

French wants NASA to head in that direction, and he sees next month’s Orion launch as the inaugural milestone in a long journey.

Still, he’s circumspect.

“Unless we build the rockets and test the spacecraft needed to get into deep space, sending humans to Mars will remain a dream for centuries to come,” French said. “Whether Orion will be the vehicle, and whether it will survive the brutal budgetary cycles of Washington politics for the many years ahead that it will need to be funded, is impossible to say. It’s hard to imagine any other method succeeding.

Space historians often suffer from this malady.

Gruber

Dear Democrats, don’t even think about trying to run away from him.

[Afternoon update]

The epic search of Diogenes for an honest man is over.

[Update a few minutes later]

It gets worse:

I think we’d probably like to get rid of the tax exempt status for health care benefits.

Note that McCain proposed doing just that in the 2008 election. His idea was that we would get rid of this exemption and instead give people an additional tax credit valued at the average cost of health insurance. Thus, people would be held harmless by the change, but we’d get rid of this government-made distortion in how employers pay their employees.

Barack Obama, get this, demagogued that plan and accused McCain of wanting to increase taxes on people.

And meanwhile, he schemed to achieve the same thing, except without that part about giving people an additional tax credit which would offset increased taxes, and, get this, without telling people he was getting rid of the tax exemption.

Once again — subverting democracy by completely destroying the concept of Consent of the Governed.

All in a day’s work.

[Update a while later]

Obama himself was leading the discussion of how to take away the tax benefits.

A Simpler Cheaper Health-Care Policy

It would be a huge improvement over the current mess:

I think that from the libertarian perspective, either of these proposals should be preferable to Obamacare. I’d even argue that they should both be more appealing to progressives. But the administration didn’t want simple, modest and stable; it wanted a massive, transformational legacy. Which is why, four years later, we’re still fighting about it.

Yup.

Siebold’s Testimony

Sounds like he didn’t have any new information for the NTSB, but I’d still like to hear his description of the engine burn and vibration environment. Note, it doesn’t say he doesn’t remember the feathers being unlocked, but that he was unaware of it (i.e., cognizant of his experience right up until breakup).

[Update a few minutes later]

Andy Pasztor has the problematic history of the program. I haven’t read it yet.

[Update a while later]

OK, the WSJ piece seems to line up pretty well with my own understanding of the history. I talked to Jon Ostrower last week to give him some background, and he seems to have incorporated some of what I told him, though he didn’t quote me. Which is fine.

Changing Junkyards

It’s not the way it used to be.

Longer ago than I care to think about (OK, four decades or so), I regularly visited a place out in Holly, MI to scrounge parts for my British sports cars. Every other time or so, when I’d go out, and come back with the part I needed, the owner (or manager) would ask me if I wanted a job. The last time I did it was in the nineties, when I went to a place on Hawthorne Blvd in Hawthorne to get a distributor for my Honda Accord, whose shaft had sheared off on the 405 in Orange County.