A Roundup Of Reaction

…to the Augustine summary, over at NASA Watch.

[Early morning/late evening update]

I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve scanned the intro, to take a break from doing triage on my office before packing it up tomorrow. Two things jump out at me. First:

Can we explore with reasonable assurances of human safety? Human space travel has many benefits, but it is an inherently dangerous endeavor. Human safety can never be absolutely ssured, but throughout this report, it is treated as a sine qua non. It is not discussed in extensive detail because any concepts falling short in human safety have simply been eliminated from consideration.

If the sine qua non of the opening of the New World had been human safety, we would still be in Europe, wondering why we couldn’t return to the Caribbean forty years after Columbus’ first voyage. We would never have opened up the western United States, and we would not have settled California and built an aerospace industry that ultimately got us to the moon. This is a major fail on the part of the panel, for politically correct reasons.

Second, in the “five key questions to guide human spaceflight”:

3. On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?

This, to me, is tragic. It is the primary reason that we remain stuck in LEO, forty years after Apollo. Note that the assumption is how should we build, not if we should build, a heavy lifter.

Norm (and I am assuming, based on comments he made in the public hearings, that this was driven by him), you disappoint me. But perhaps I shouldn’t have expected better from the old guard. This flawed assumption lies at the heart of the recommendations. I hope it won’t continue to be a stake in the heart of progress in human spaceflight, but I suspect it will. At least for government human spaceflight. Fortunately, others, who are spending their own money, won’t succumb to this continuing disastrous conventional wisdom.

We’ll see in good time what the administration’s response is.

The F-Word

A useful essay, over at Hot Air:

Modern audiences, raised on a steady diet of movies about World War II, think of fascism as either inhumanly horrifying, or completely absurd, and wonder how anyone in their right minds could have fallen for the fascist sales pitch. In fact, fascism did not seem absurd at all to the intellectuals of the early twentieth century. They thought a wise and all-powerful State, run by the most brilliant minds, would be able to engineer a more advanced society, much as engineers were designing increasingly advanced scientific marvels. The pioneering author of modern science fiction, H.G. Wells, was an outspoken advocate of authoritarian control by a benevolent government of geniuses and academics. His novel The Shape of Things to Come envisions such a government seizing control of the entire world to create a global utopia, called “The Dictatorship of the Air” because the government controls the technology of air travel – which it occasionally uses to drop bombs on those who resist. Here are some excerpts from a famous speech Wells gave to the British Young Liberals Society at Oxford in 1932, reprinted in Jonah Goldberg’s indispensable Liberal Fascism – a phrase Wells actually coins in the speech:

We have seen the Fascisti in Italy and a number of clumsy imitations elsewhere, and we have seen the Russian Communist Party coming into existence to reinforce this idea… I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti, for enlightened Nazis… And do not let me leave you in the slightest doubt as to the scope and ambition of what I am putting before you… These new organizations are not merely organizations for the spread of defined opinions… the days of that sort of amateurism are over-they are organizations to replace the dilatory indecisiveness of democracy. The world is sick of parliamentary politics…

The world is sick of parliamentary politics. This is an idea that occurs in every strand of collectivist thought. Collectivists only revere democracy until it has voted them sufficient power… then democracy becomes a cumbersome inconvenience that allows selfish, ignorant fools and corporate shills to interfere with the brilliant work of great men. The Democrats fleeing from town hall meetings are also sick of parliamentary politics, as is the President who defiles American government with dozens of unelected, unconfirmed, unaccountable “czars.” Parliamentary politics proved very inconvenient for the President’s health-care takeover and cap-and-trade bills, and have been driving global-warming cultists mad with frustration for years.

…Is America sliding into fascism? Not completely, or quickly… but it’s a potent venom, deadly in small doses. We should not dismiss the menace of fascism by reasoning that it always comes dressed in black uniforms and jackboots, patrolling the perimeter of concentration camps – so we’re in good shape as long as those horrors are not in evidence. We shouldn’t be fooling around with such a toxic ideology at all. No matter how noble the stated goals at the beginning of the collectivist journey, it always ends at the same destination. Promoting his latest propaganda film, Michael Moore said that “capitalism is evil, and you cannot regulate evil. You have to replace it with something that is good for all people, and that something is democracy.” This is more than just laughable hypocrisy from a millionaire leftist. Capitalism is the exchange of goods and services between free men and women. In the end, there is only one alternative to it, and it is not “democracy.”

And it is particularly not a Republic.

[Update a few minutes later]

Some related advice from Kevin Hassett:

…if you pursue a radical left-wing agenda, you will inevitably arouse fear of fascism. Obama’s big mistake has been to ignore this dynamic and the fears that his own powerful charisma will inflame in his opponents.

When you think fascism, you think of the evil tyrants of the 20th century. But the first fascist nation in the world was, Goldberg insists, the U.S., and Woodrow Wilson the first fascist dictator.

The case is surprisingly strong. The “progressive” Wilson centralized power, shut down members of the press he didn’t like and pressed his brand of nationalism on American children, who were asked to pledge, “I make a promise that I’ll do my honest, earnest part, in helping my America with all my loyal heart.”

Given Goldberg’s definition of fascism, it makes sense that Americans would be nervous today.

A government that rapidly attempts to consolidate power over everything from automakers to health care will naturally give people pause. Attempting to do so by following the lead of a charismatic politician who rose to power by organizing massive rallies will naturally give people pause. That such a leader would surround himself in the White House with political thugs will naturally give people pause.

Yes. A lot of pause.

Artists In Space

Many have advocated for years that NASA shouldn’t just send the steely-eyed missile men into space, but teachers, journalists, and artists, to properly articulate the experience and make it more accessible to the public. Well, the teacher things didn’t work out so well, and they never got around to a journalist (Miles O’Brien was being considered, IIRC, prior to the Columbia loss). And they’ve never even thought much about an artist, but that’s OK, because one is going to pay his own way. Private enterprise at work.

This is the future of human spaceflight, not government employees.

[Early afternoon update]

Related thoughts from Jeff Foust.

The Green Jobs Illusion

Why Van Jones was the right man for the job:

…let’s not miss the opportunity to point out that Jones’s promotion of “green jobs” was just as dubious, if not as reviled, as his dabblings in 9/11 Trutherism. As James Pethokoukis tweeted: “having a truther in charge of green jobs is a good fit… you need a certain willing suspension of disbelief for both”

To buy into the “green jobs” scam, you must have an unshakeable faith in the ability of the government to create a viable industry from whole cloth, because there is no commercial demand for the services these green-collar workers would provide. We don’t have to guess about the future of green jobs; we can look to the ethanol industry.

They never learn.

The End Of The Soviet Union

…was not the end of communism

It should be apparent by now that Communism never died. The Soviet Union died. Being a Communist, or a neocommunist, is not an intellectual anachronism at all — it is quite the fashion in the academy and our other institutions. Does Charles not realize, for example, that Obama’s friend Bill Ayers — who proudly calls himself “a small ‘c’ communist” — was in 2008 elected vice president for curriculum of the American Education Research Association, the nation’s largest organization of education professors and researchers? (See Sol Stern’s profile of Ayers and education, here). I’m not sure “pathetic” is the right word, but what is a perilous intellectual anachronism is the belief that the communist threat ended 18 years ago.

The Jones incident, moreover, does not indicate that “we had a communist in the U.S. government.” To the contrary, as I argued last night, we have a U.S. government in which Van Jones was quite consciously selected because his views are representative of the president who made him the “green jobs czar.” Van Jones isn’t Alger Hiss. There’s nothing covert about him. He didn’t snooker Obama into bringing him aboard. He is who he is, and that’s why Obama wanted him. Having a Communist in that job was perfect since the “green jobs” initiative is an important part of the hard Left’s agenda to use environmentalism as an additional justification for usurping command of the economy.

In fact, the death of the Soviet Union has actually been a boon for neocommunists. Now, Obama and his fellow travelers like Jones, Ayers, Wright, Klonsky, and ACORN, can spout all the same totalitarian, anti-American, central-planning ideas the hard Left has always pushed, but in the abstract — under such mushy labels as “social justice” and “green jobs.” That is, they are liberated from having to defend the Soviet Empire, which, until 1991, was a living, breathing, concrete example of how horrific these ideas are when put in practice.

Yes, the superficially attractive (to those unfamiliar with human nature or economics) but ultimately disastrous idea lives on in the academy, and now in Washington. And our wonderful media, of course, thinks it’s no big deal, or are even attracted to it, not recognizing it for what it is.

Just In Case You’re Wondering

We’ve been putting the labor into the Labor Day weekend, cleaning out the garage and attic, and culling out stuff that we don’t want to take back to California. It’s typical south Florida weather (hurricane-prep weather) — hot and humid. I start dripping if I’m just standing outside the protection of the air conditioning, without even doing any work. I’ve drunk about ten glasses of water today, and it all goes out through my sweat glands, and never has time to get to my bladder.

A Lie Gets Halfway Around The World

Mark Steyn is the victim of shoddy reporting:

As I understand it, what we’re supposed to miss about US newspapers will be the “layers of fact-checking” and rigorous editing. In reality, a significant percentage of American newspapering is little more than provincial wannabes doing New York Times karaoke – which might have made more sense before young Sulzberger drove his paper to junk stock and into the arms of its unlikely Mexican benefactor. Meanwhile, tens of millions of real people hear Rush’s show, but any similarity between the audio and the version that appears in the “newspaper of record” is entirely coincidental.

As for my former colleague in Dublin, too many overseas “bureaus” in Washington boil down to paying someone to relocate halfway round the world, sit in an office at the National Press Building and transcribe The New York Times and Wolf Blitzer’s “Situation Room” all day long. An expensive business model.

Expensive, with a crappy product.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Related thoughts from Kaus:

I’ve been waiting for the day when a prominent pol resigns and for print MSM readers it appears to be out-of-the-blue, though everyone on the Web knows the whole story. But for WaPo’s Franke-Ruta and Kornblut, this would be that case. … In any case, more evidence that you can’t find out whats going on by reading the Times.

But you can find out things that aren’t going on, like Mark Steyn saying that Obama is like Saddam and the Dear Leader.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!