Just In Case You Were Still Under The Delusion

…that Ezra Klein is intelligent, I present Exhibit A:

By the way, in case it isn’t clear, the reason these two liberals want people to believe the constitution is impossible to decipher is because they despise the constitution. Liberals want the government to have limitless power and that is in direct contrast with what the founders designed the constitution to do. Of course the constitution allows for its own amendment but liberal policies simply aren’t popular enough to garner constitutional amendments thus simply ignoring the constitution is the next best step.

This is even stupider than when John Conyers said that there was no point in reading the bill, because he wouldn’t be able to understand it. Conyers isn’t competent to legislate, and Klein isn’t competent to pontificate or at least, no one should be giving him such a big soapbox. As Glenn says, he’s credentialed, but not educated.

[Update a while later]

Well, that was quick. But it is Iowahawk, after all.

What the Constitution means to me:

The next part of the Constitution, the middle, is considered by many people to be the main most important part. However, there are other people who disagree with this interpretation, which has led to controversy and conflict. I have to say that I personally side with the people who think it is the most important, because the middle is where the main crux of the Constitution happens. For example, e.g., the middle is the part where we find the Woman’s Right to Choose and the Miranda part, which is a critical issue still today. In the middle you will also various parts about African-Americans, and especially journalism.

Finally there is the last part of the Constitution, which, as many people have noted, can be juxtaposed with the earlier parts. For people who haven’t read the Constitution, I recommend reading it all the way too the end to see how it is juxtaposed in a very important way. I don’t want to give out any “spoilers,” because it’s really amazing.

Because the Constitution is so old, it is written in the “old-timey” language of people of more than one century ago, which leads many modern people to get confused and frustrated by it. “What is this stupid boring thing?” they will ask, then go back to playing Super Mario Cart. These modern people could not be any more wrong, because hidden underneath all the “so-called” confusing words is an exciting story with twists and turns everywhere. Fortunately, and most importantly, the Founding Fathers also invented the Supreme Court which does a good job of translating the Constitution into modern words and juxtaposing them for all of us, the American people of the United States.

Oh, to aspire to be as wise as Ezra Klein. Actually, it sort of reminds me of Anne Elk’s theory about brontosauruses. Which was hers.

[Update on Friday morning]

Heh. Why is it called a Klein bottle?

That’s not really fair, though. I know other Kleins, who are probably embarrassed by Ezra.

More People Are Noticing The NASA Problem

Fox News has picked up the story on the rocket to nowhere:

Stifled by legislative bottlenecks, NASA will be forced to continue an already defunct rocket program until March, costing the agency half a billion dollars while adding more hurdles to the imminent task of replacing the space shuttle.

It’s always useful to note that half a billion dollars is about what SpaceX has spent to date on: creating a company, purchasing/leasing/modifying test, manufacturing and launch facilities, developing from scratch and demonstrating engines, two orbital launch systems, and a pressurized return capsule. This is the difference between NASA doing a traditional cost-plus procurement versus a fixed-price one. And it’s not just SpaceX — we’ve seen similar rapid, cost-effective progress from Boeing on their fixed-price commercial crew contract.

And of course, Shelby’s spokesman says that it’s NASA’s fault:

Shelby’s office says that there is no reason NASA can’t move forward.

“NASA is just making excuses and continuing to drag its feet, just as it has done for the past two years under the Obama administration,” Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo said Wednesday.

As I note here, this isn’t NASA’s fault — it’s the fault of a Congress that has set them up to fail. They have two contradictory laws, and they can’t obey one without disobeying the other, so it’s inevitable that they will be acting illegally until Congress fixes it.

Gee, Thanks, Merle

Merle Haggard helps out the president:

When asked about Obama’s biggest misconception, Haggard, 73, said, “He’s not conceited. He’s very humble about being the president of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we’ve had who come across like they don’t need anybody’s help. I think he knows he’s in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.”

And as we all know, Barack Obama is no idiot. Though Merle Haggard may be.

The Reality-Based Community

“Liberals” are more likely than conservatives to believe in ET.

One of the annoying things about being a space policy and technology expert is that many assume that you are knowledgeable about, and have in interest it, this topic. If you’re doing a call-in show on space, it’s inevitable that someone will call in about it.

How Many NASA Engineers…

…does it take to screw in a bolt? From comments here:

Take a generic piece of Criticality 2 hardware:

1) First there needs to be a released, CM-controlled drawing signed off by (among others) a stress analyst who does calculations to ensure that the bolt is not being over- or under-torqued. The drawing must be referenced later by the technician to verify the proper torque range of the bolt.

2) Then a project engineer needs to write a Task Performance Sheet (TPS) that is no fewer than 4 pages long that documents, in excruciating detail, which bolt to tighten, what tools to use, the exact locations of every piece of hardware involved throughout the entire process. The part numbers, serial numbers, and lot numbers of every part involved are recorded on the TPS. (The work instruction document defining the TPS process is 55 pages)

3) The TPS needs to be signed by the Project Engineer, his/her manager, and two Quality Engineers (who designate “Mandatory Inspection Points – MIPs – where a Quality Assurance Specialist needs to monitor the process); additional signatures (e.g. stress or materials experts) may be needed depending on the job. Then a Quality Assurance Specialist looks over the paper, approves it, and sends it to the Quality Assurance Records Center (QARC) where it is scanned, copied, and then placed in a basket to be worked.

4) Oh, we need the bolt, too. The bolt has to meet certain quality and reliability specifications, so it is purchased from an approved vendor and is most likely a MIL-spec part. When the vendor ships the part, it must be traceable by lot or serial number and accompanied by a Certificate of Conformance (CoC). The Receiving department will open the package, inspect the parts and make sure the CoC is present. Then some percentage of bolts from that lot of bolts will go to the Receiving Inspection and Test Facility (RITF) and be tested to ensure that the bolts actually meet the MIL Specs (in spite of the CoC being present). Then the RITF report is attached to the lot of bolts, with the CoC, and they all go to bonded storage.

5) The Project Engineer takes the TPS to the bond room, and someone pulls the bolt off the shelf, then a QAS makes sure that the proper part was pulled and that the CoC and RITF report are indeed attached. The parts are labeled and bagged and the Project Engineer is called to pick up the paper and part.

6) These get walked to the work area, then the Project Engineer rounds up two QASs and a union technician who has received special training on how to tighten bolts (no joke). The technician gathers the calibrated tools.

7) The technician tightens the bolt and records the tightening torque on the TPS. The QAS and NT QAS stamp the TPS to verify that they witnessed the bolt being torqued. (While the bolt is actually being tightened, 3-4 people are present watching.)

8) The Project Engineer and one of the QASs will take the hardware back to the bond room or wherever it needs to go. If the hardware is going back to the bond room, it has to be cleaned and sealed in a bag first.

9) The Project Engineer takes the TPS back to the quality office, where one or two QASs will go through the document and make sure that all of the required information was recorded and each step in the process was stamped or signed by all of the required people. Then the QAS will stamp the TPS “closed” and send it back to the QARC office, who will scan and copy it again.

I’m not going to debate the wisdom of any of these steps; any one of them are defensible in some instance. But I count around a dozen people immediately involved in the process and in general I’d say it takes a couple of days, assuming none of the required people find something they view as amiss. I’ll also point out that this is the process, as I understand it, as of today; every few weeks someone will get a wild hair up their ass and add another requirement.

In all fairness, though: I’m fairly confident that most of these people don’t make $100k a year. If they do, I need to have a talk with 4 of my managers about my salary 🙂

Every one of those procedures evolved as a response to some kind of mishappening, and they’ve accreted over decades, but if you want to know why NASA programs cost so much and take so long, there you go. And despite all of that, they destroyed two orbiters that cost a couple billion each to build, and shut down the program for years. So even when failure isn’t an option, failures occur. What is needed is an attitude that failures must be allowed for the program to succeed. The other related attitude that’s required is that what we’re doing is important, which allows the taking of risk.

[Update a couple minutes later]

I would note that one of the reasons that SpaceX can avoid a lot of this quality acceptance stuff is that they manufacture so much in house, and are vertically integrated, as a result of the fact that they couldn’t find contractors who were responsive to their needs in terms of price and schedule. The traditional NASA/AF way has bred a culture among the lower subcontractor tiers that isn’t useful for those trying to lower costs. We need to replace the existing infrastructure with more nimble players. The growing new space industry will help make that happen, but it won’t happen overnight.

How Bad Is Chris Christie On The Second Amendment?

Pretty awful. If he had any presidential ambitions, this by itself would shoot them down, unless he runs as a Democrat. And maybe even then. He’s swimming against the tide of public opinion in general.

[Update a while later]

Thoughts on President Obama’s awful choice for the head of BATF:

Mr. Traver’s forked-tongue performance in that sloppy NBC story was typical: The popular-disarmament gang has long attempted to conflate semiautomatic weapons and machine guns in the public mind, though it was unusual, almost refreshing, to see a federal law-enforcement agent engaged in so flagrant and undisguised a display of dishonesty. Most of the so-called assault weapons are the ballistic equivalent of sheep in wolves’ clothing; they’re basically scary-looking squirrel guns. The greatest part of them are .223-caliber semiautomatic rifles, which is to say that they are largely indistinguishable from the little .22-caliber plinkers boys have been knocking cans off of fence posts with for generations. The .223 is too small to be used legally for deer hunting in most of the country — these paramilitary terrors being insufficient to bring down Bambi cleanly. Notable, that: The gun-grabbers always insist that they do not want to restrict hunters’ access to legitimate sporting guns, but a North American hunter stalking grizzly bears or moose frequently will be armed with a rifle packing a far more powerful pop than that of those carried by most of the world’s infantrymen.

All of which is rather beside the point, since rifles as a category, from Granddad’s deerslayer to Uncle Nasty’s assault rifle, are used only rarely in crimes. Even for a gangster in sagging jeans, it’s hard to walk around casually with Elmer Fudd’s blunderbuss in your shenanigans, and those .50-caliber competition-grade rifles they’re soiling themselves over in California go for about 15 grand, putting them out of the financial range of Joe Crackhead. Rifles just aren’t where the action usually is, crime-wise.

Which is not beside the point. What Traver and those philosophically aligned with him are engaged in is the opposite of law enforcement. We might call their business anti-policing, inasmuch as they seek to restrict the actions of law-abiding citizens — lawful gun owners, licensed firearms dealers — while largely leaving actual criminals untouched.

I agree that the agency should be disbanded.

Bloomberg’s War

on the First Amendment:

As long as Mayor Mike is in the dock, let us also note that when it comes to building a mosque near Ground Zero, he has from the start stood behind the First Amendment — sort of.

That is, he likes the part that gives Muslims the right to build a house of worship just about anywhere they want.

But the part guaranteeing a separation between religion and government?

Not so much.

That much became obvious last week with the release of e-mails demonstrating that City Hall did much more than offer the mosque’s organizers routine help.

In fact, it turns out that Team Bloomberg was heavily involved in operating the political machinery needed to ensure that various regulatory agencies approved the controversial project — which has rightly drawn the ire of many 9/11 survivors and victims’ families.

It’s OK. I mean, it’s not like it was a Christian church or something. That would be wrong.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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