Category Archives: History

My Home-Town Newspaper

…is cutting back to three days a week, with a lot of layoffs and pay reductions. Same thing with Saginaw and Bay City. The Flint Journal has been around for many decades, going back to the nineteenth century, before the auto industry existed, but it looks like it’s on its last legs, as Michigan’s economy continues to swirl down the drain. A good friend of mine from college is an editor there. Hope she has a parachute.

Wanting Presidents To Fail

A little previously unreported history:

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just minutes before learning of the terrorist attacks on America, Democratic strategist James Carville was hoping for President Bush to fail, telling a group of Washington reporters: “I certainly hope he doesn’t succeed.”

Carville was joined by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who seemed encouraged by a survey he had just completed that revealed public misgivings about the newly minted president.

“We rush into these focus groups with these doubts that people have about him, and I’m wanting them to turn against him,” Greenberg admitted.

The pollster added with a chuckle of disbelief: “They don’t want him to fail. I mean, they think it matters if the president of the United States fails.”

But see, it’s all right to want a president to fail as long as that president is George Bush, and not The Messiah.

Is Space The Next Frontier?

Nader Elhefnawy remains skeptical. But I think he misses one of the strongest drivers, only mentioning it once, almost in passing:

Such miseries as famine, war, and persecution cannot be ruled out in the future, of course, but they are hardly a likely driver of space development. In fact, given the extraordinary economic demands that any space development effort will make, it may be much more practical for a prospering world than one suffering through such disasters to undertake such efforts in any foreseeable future.

Emphasis mine. One of these things is not like the other. One can have persecution in the midst of prosperity, and that combination may well result in emigration, just as it did from England to the Americas in the seventeenth century, and from the American east to Utah in the nineteenth. I think that a combination of a desire for freedom in concert with evolving technology is the most likely driver for human migration into space. Unless we’ve all uploaded ourselves first.

[Late morning update]

Clark Lindsey doesn’t buy Elhefnawy’s thesis:

If there existed large O’Neill habitats today, there would be no problem in attracting tens of thousands or even a few million people to move to them. The number will depend on the cost of getting there but when talking about a fraction of a percent of the world’s population, you can find that many people to do virtually anything. The excitement of building a new world in the new environment of space will be charm enough to attract large numbers of people.

Of course, the trick is finding a way of getting from where we are today to a point where building large habitats becomes feasible. I agree that such progress will not be attained by individuals heading out into the last frontier in their own spaceships. But that does not mean that individual action is not the essential element in making it happen. Even if one buys the revisionist view that the expansion into the American West was primarily due to “railroads and speculators, [] logging companies and mining concerns”, one should remember the fact that these organizations were made up of individuals who took huge personal risks. Many, if not most, of those companies and concerns failed and took down all the individuals involved with them. Similarly today the individuals involved in a private entrepreneurial space start-up are taking huge risks with their careers and investments. Many, if not most, of those firms will fail. The people involved know the risks but they make the effort anyway. That is the nature of tough endeavors on earth and it is the same for space.

Of course, perhaps the biggest question is whether modern culture and government will allow, let alone encourage, such risk taking.

No New Thing Under The Sun

A lesson from Plato, on how Republics die.

[Update a while later]

Here I come to save the day:

Unfortunately, some politicians see the current crisis as an “opportunity” to push an agenda. They haven’t stopped to consider to what extent that agenda may exacerbate the very problems they are trying to solve. The WSJ captured the philosophy of the present administration in White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel’s remarks that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.” Emmanuel subsequently proceeded to enumerate a list of social spending items some of which arguably sound like new versions of the same community housing spending which may have been one of the original “political risks” to start with. When asked whether the stimulus package had turned into a spending spree, President Obama acknowledged it with pride. “That’s the point. Seriously, that’s the point.”

But that’s not the point; not the point at all. And it’s a shame BHO doesn’t realize it and a greater shame if he does. The real question is whether current government solutions to the crisis contribute to political risk or reduce it. That means knowing what’s broke before applying the screwdriver to the screw.

Well, it’s what politicians do. Too bad we have politicians, and not statesmen.