Category Archives: Political Commentary

Getting Humans On Mars

Will SpaceX do it before NASA does?

That would be the way to bet, absent some dramatic change in attitude on the Hill.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Speaking of which, one of a very long series of essays (including a lot of history) on why SpaceX will settle Mars. Because it’s a priority for Elon Musk, but not for the federal government.

Also, more and more people in the media are starting to notice the absurdity of SLS. Plus Garver unchained. Plus, thoughts on the program from a (smart) layman.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here is the Space News op-ed from Lori, with a lot of interesting history of the transition in 2009.

Trump Versus Clinton

The latest Rasmussen. Put me with “someone else” (particularly given that I don’t vote in a swing state).

As I’ve been saying on Twitter for months, my concern with a Trump/Clinton match up isn’t that Clinton will win, but that one of them will, and both are terrible. I’d like to see a poll with some specific names (e.g., Cruz, Ryan, Mattis, Gary Johnson) as “other.”

Losing Weight And Keeping It Off

The amount of unconscious junk science in this NYT article is staggering.

Note the underlying assumption: that calorie counting is useful, that burning calories (i.e., exercise) is useful, and that the type of calories you consume is irrelevant. And it’s all about the weight (they didn’t mention BMI, but I’ll bet they were measuring it). Did any of them do strength training? Because exchanging muscle for fat will increase metabolism.

Why Trump Is Worse

than any previous Republican nominee (discounting the fact that he’s not really a Republican):

We know, from his deeds, words, and even his pronouncements in this campaign, that Trump offers nothing to conservatives – worse than nothing, he would evict us from any position within our own party. He gets his foreign policy ideas from Michael Moore and Code Pink (or worse yet, from Vladimir Putin); his abortion views are grounded in his sympathy with Planned Parenthood; he supports socialized medicine in the form of single-payer healthcare, higher taxes, more government spending, and Herbert Hoover’s trade policy. He’s never met a bailout or a crony-capitalist deal he didn’t like, or a Democrat he wouldn’t donate to. He’s astonishingly ignorant, emotionally unstable, and wholly incapable of saying no to Democrats. Trump is a spoiled, entitled rich kid who shows not the slightest understanding of the American way of up-by-the booststraps striving to better yourself; in Trump’s world, the rich get richer by having the right friends, and everybody else is a serf who needs the government to protect them from foreign competition.

Let’s compare Trump to some of the prior Republican presidential losers, and I’ll throw in Rudy and Newt for good measure since I’ve written on this site in their defense before…


[Update a while later]

In short: yes, you can find an example of many of Trump’s flaws in prior Republican presidential candidates. But not one of those candidates combined the total package of Trump: the unfitness to be Commander-in-Chief; the total lack of accomplishments, sacrifices or even efforts over his lifetime for any cause we believe in, combined with repeated efforts to assist the other team; the manifest lack of political principle, personal character or demonstrated political character; the ignorance; the catnip for white supremacists; the toxic effect on the brand of both the party and its ideas.

A vote for Trump, even in the general election, is a suicide note for the Republican Party and the conservative movement. I will never vote for Hillary Clinton, but I cannot in good conscience ever give aid and comfort to Donald Trump and the poison he represents.

That’s my current attitude. I don’t know whom I’ll vote for — it will depend on what I see on the ballot.

Billionaires And Grandiose Dreams

A nice piece on modern technological philanthropy at The Economist:

History is full of examples of rich men with big ideas. The merchant princes who founded enterprises such as the London Company in the 17th century wanted to build bustling empires across the seas. Howard Hughes spent the 1930s testing innovative aircraft and setting aeronautical records, almost killing himself in the process, and founded a medical clinic whose goals included discovering “the genesis of life itself”. But the closest parallel with what is happening today is the gilded age in America.

The late-19th and early-20th centuries saw gigantic concentrations of wealth in the hands of people who created their own companies. Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller held the majority of shares in their companies just as the founders of Facebook and Google hold controlling shares in theirs. The political system was incapable of dealing with the pace of change: in America it was paralysed by gridlock and complacency, and in Europe it was overwhelmed by animal passions. Entrepreneurs, flush with money from new technologies, felt duty-bound to step in, either to deal with problems that politicians were unable to confront or to clean up after their failures. Today’s state may be much bigger, but its shortcomings are no less glaring.

Back then, numerous industrialists, including William Lever in Britain, J.N. Tata in India and Milton Hershey in America, founded company towns that were intended, at a minimum, to combat the evils of industrial civilisation and, on occasion, to create a new kind of human being. Carnegie, a steel baron, and Alfred Nobel, a dynamite tycoon, both became obsessed by the idea of abolishing war for ever. Henry Ford launched a succession of ambitious schemes for improving the world, including eliminating cows, which he couldn’t abide. In 1915 he took a ship of leading business people and peace activists to Europe to try to end the first world war and “get those boys out of the trenches”. “Great War to end Christmas day,” read a New York Times headline; “Ford to stop it.” In 1928 he tried to recreate an American factory town in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.

Fashions change. None of today’s billionaires spends serious money on universal peace. But the psychology of the very rich seems the same. Reforming billionaires down the ages display the same bizarre mix of good and bad qualities—of grandiosity and problem-solving genius, naivety and fresh thinking, self-importance and altruism.

There is a lot of ego involved—the minted are competing with each other to produce the most eye-catching schemes, much as they vie to run the most successful businesses. That helps to explain why the billionaire space race has escalated from sending rockets into orbit to sending spaceships to Alpha Centauri. There is also a lot of misdirected effort. The gift of $100m by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, has not dramatically improved Newark’s schools. Ford’s Amazonian experiment crumbled into ruins as employees balked at some of his rules, which included serving only American food and compulsory square-dancing. His voyage to end the first world war descended into farce: the press re-christened his vessel “the ship of fools” and the Norwegians diagnosed him as suffering from Stormannsgalskap, or the “madness of great men”. [Emphasis added]

It’s easier to solve technological problems by throwing money at them than sociological ones.

I’d note that, for all of the space accomplishments over the past half century, it’s a tragedy to consider how much more could have been accomplished with the trillion taxpayer dollars spent on it if the primary focus had been to actually open up space, instead of white-collar welfare. That’s whey people spending their own money to do these things is so exciting, and why the future for space is now much brighter than the past.

[Update a while later]

NASA is just a jobs program. It’s nice to see more reporters noticing this, and pointing it out. And it’s always nice to see media people link to my Senate Launch System post. Also, there’s this:

“The critics are right, this isn’t a rational way to run a space program,” political science professor Harry Lambright of Syracuse University told BuzzFeed News. “But that doesn’t matter, because this is the way a space program will inevitably work in a democracy.”

Yes, that’s what the Apolloists don’t understand, and they don’t understand that the only reason we (barely) got to the moon in the sixties was that it wasn’t really about space. That is why the space billionaires are the only hope for the future.

[Update a few minutes later]

Then there’s this:

The real problem, former NASA official Scott Pace of George Washington University told BuzzFeed News, is that the Obama administration’s plans to fly astronauts to an asteroid and then Mars are not very interesting to international or commercial partners, who would rather return to the moon. Building SLS lets NASA keep its options open if the next president decides to look to lunar landings instead, something that Obama seemed to rule out in a 2010 speech.

The problem with that argument is that, as little as we need SLS to get to Mars (not at all), we need it even less to get back to the moon. There is no technical or economic justification for the program, other than as a jobs program.

A Cruz Surge In Indiana

I hope this poll is accurate, but if it is, I wonder what’s the cause? Carly? Pence’s (barely) endorsement? Boehner’s negative endorsement?

By the way, Boehner’s reaction to Cruz, and his talk about being buds with Trump should put paid to the notion of who the real “anti-establishment” candidate is.

[Update a few minutes later]

Allahpundit would like to believe it, too, but is skeptical.