Category Archives: History

Bailout Questions

Here are some good ones. I suspect that the socialists will have a response to this one, though:

President-elect Obama claims that spending approximately $800 billion will create 3.675 million new jobs. That comes to $217,000 per job. This doesn’t sound like a very good value, especially with the national average salary around $40,000. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just mail each of these workers a $40,000 check?

The response will be that the jobs will last more than a year. But of course, they’d have to last at least five years to be equivalent.

A Nice Space History Find

After I mentioned the story about Bob Frosch wanting to run NOAA instead of NASA (something that I’d heard at the time, but had never really verified, even after meeting and spending quite a bit of time with Frosch in the early nineties), I decided to dig into it to see if it was true or apocryphal. Which resulted in finding this transcript of a very long but interesting interview with him, that contains a lot of interesting Carter-era NASA history.

It confirms that NOAA was his first pick, and he expected to get it, but was edged out by someone more politically connected (I didn’t bother to find out who it was — the NOAA history site didn’t make it very easy to figure it out). The first question on the table for the incoming Carter administration was whether or not to cancel Shuttle, which they didn’t seem to understand, and Frosch’s first task was to figure it out, because they were looking for places to cut for the president’s own programs. In the end (obviously) it wasn’t cancelled, but the planned fleet was cut from seven to five (and really four, because Enterprise never flew). Had they built the full seven, it would have cost a couple billion more at the time, and we’d have five (or possibly four, because we might not have replaced Challenger) now instead of three, and eking another few years out of it might look a lot more attractive.

But this part struck me as kind of funny, given the rumors that have been flying about Obama’s plans:

Frosch:…there was another question that came, not so much from the President, but began to come from OMB and Frank Press, which is important to reorganization. It is: why does NASA have so many centers? Why don’t you close a few centers? You know, it’s a perpetual question. It tended always to focus on Huntsville, largely because they were the engine place, and the mentality of a lot of OMB and political types is a very short-term mentality; and so, they were saying, “Gee, we’re almost through with the development of the Shuttle engines. Obviously, you don’t need Huntsville. After you finish the engines, you dispose of Huntsville.” You can decrease the number of people. And remember, the President came in saying there were too many bureaucrats; you’ve got to decrease the number of bureaucrats. There was a lot of pressure — “What are you going to close?” In fact, there was a rumor around NASA that the reason I had been selected was because, as I told you, in the Navy job I actually closed something. Okay, so that was mixed up in this whole organizational guestion.
That rumor wasn’t well founded, was it?
No, no: as far as I know, it had nothing to do with it. Nobody was thinking about that at all. Oh, there were funny rumors, that since Lovelace and Frosch had both had experience in the Pentagon, the whole place was going to be swallowed up by the Pentagon. In fact, there were people running around at one stage, saying we were brought in to militarize NASA. It was very peculiar, but the only thing you do about these things is you ignore them (laughs), very straightforward. So, we launched, among other things, into “what are we going to do about reorganization?”

The more things change…


We’ve lost another of the so-called Greatest Generation — General Harry Kinnard has died:

he was perhaps best remembered for what happened in December 1944 at the Belgian town of Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne Division, short on clothing and boots in a snowstorm and bitter cold, was surrounded by German troops.

Bastogne, at the intersection of important roads, was a crucial objective for the Germans in their surprise attack in the Ardennes region of Belgium, an offensive that had created a “bulge” in Allied lines.

On Dec. 22, two German officers approached the American lines in Bastogne carrying a demand that the American commander surrender his troops within two hours or face annihilation from an artillery barrage.

The message was passed on to Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, acting as division commander while Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor was in Washington.

Kinnard, a lieutenant colonel at the time and the division’s operations officer, would recall that McAuliffe “laughed and said: ‘Us surrender? Aw, nuts.'”

As Kinnard related it long afterward in an interview with Patrick O’Donnell, a military historian: “He pondered for a few minutes and then told the staff, ‘Well, I don’t know what to tell them.’ He then asked the staff what they thought, and I spoke up, saying, ‘That first remark of yours would be hard to beat.’

Though I’ve also heard that this is the bowdlerized version for the press, and the actual response to von Lüttwitz’s was…errrrr…an invitation to have sexual relations forced upon him.

Also, I hadn’t realized that he had commanded the First Cav in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley.

In any event, resquiescat in pacem to a warrior for freedom.

“Anything But Cole”

Martin Kramer explains why you shouldn’t vote for Juan Cole’s blog (assuming that you were even considering doing so). The professor really is a piece of work, and makes me ashamed to be a Michigan alumnus.

[Afternoon update]

The problem with the “ABC” strategy is that it dilutes the anti-Cole vote, perhaps giving him the victory. As I noted in comments over at Michael Totten’s post on the subject:

Michael, the only problem is that by not encouraging people to coalesce around one of the non-Juan blogs, he’s likely to win by vote dilution of the “neocons” (yes, scare quotes deliberate). Perhaps you and the other competitors should go check out the poll at some predesignated time, see which of you is leading, and then “give up your delegates” to that blog via an endorsement for any remaining voters to prevent such dilution.

In The Beginning…

Here’s a Youtube video (via Rob Coppinger) of the Apollo VIII Christmas-Eve broadcast from the moon, forty years ago tonight. I expect to have a piece up about that mission some time this evening, over at Pajamas Media.

[Evening update]

Don’t bother looking for it tonight — it won’t go up until early tomorrow morning (probably about midnight Pacific). Like a gift from Santa…

[One more thought]

I wonder if astronauts read from the Bible today to the world on Christmas Eve, if the ACLU would sue NASA for violating separation of church and state? It’s a lot different world today than it was forty years ago.

[Christmas morning update]

The piece is up now.

Forty Years Ago

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Apollo VIII. Paul Spudis has some thoughts. As he notes, though we didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, that was probably when we won the moon race, in that it resulted in the Soviets dropping out and pretending they had never been racing. Of course, Johnson had already canceled the program even before the flight, though we hadn’t yet achieved Kennedy’s goal. That would happen seven months later, in July of 1969.

Depressing Aerial Photography

At least to me.

Here’s a before and after of the demolition of the old AC Spark Plug plant this year on Dort Highway in Flint. The view is toward the southeast.

I didn’t work there. I worked in the oil filter plant farther east on Davison Road, that isn’t in this picture. But I lived just a few blocks from there for the first decade or so of my life. That road that bisects the plant is Averill, and I lived two blocks north and two blocks east of the intersection of Davison Road and Averill.. If you follow Davison Road a few miles east, you end up in Michael Moore’s home town of the same name. The engineering building, where my uncle worked, can be seen in the top picture, on the corner of Averill and Davison (and the Red Rooster, one of the best restaurants in town, that I only ate at once, was across Averill). My father worked in the HQ building on Dort Highway (which was also called Dixie Highway — it came down from Bay City and Saginaw, and continued south to Detroit, and thence all the way to Florida), in personnel.

Anyway, it’s all history now. It’s hard to imagine the town without that facility — it was there all my life until now.