Why “Liberals” Are Still Angry

Frank J. explains:

…with Democrats having complete control of the government, you’d think liberals could be dismissive of conservatives and be calm themselves. But no, they’re still crazy angry. Maybe even angrier than before. Biting-fingers-off angry. They’re screeching about how all the people opposed to Obama are racists and neo-Nazis and stupid, and they’re using sexual slurs against protesters and boycotting everyone who disagrees with them. They’re still nuts, but why?

See things from their point of view. The most fundamental principle liberals have is that they are all very, very smart, and everyone should listen to them. Nothing angers them more than something that challenges them to reexamine that core tenet. And that’s why they were so delighted by the election of President Obama and further wins in the House and Senate. For a moment they thought the American people had recognized liberals as their superiors and said to them: “Please! Smart people! Lead us and tell us what to do!”

Of course, it is quite obvious right now that that’s not at all what the election was about. The Republicans had been screw-ups for a while, and with the failing economy (people tend to vote for the president based on the economy, which is only a tad smarter than voting based on the weather, but whatcha gonna do?), most people just felt they couldn’t reward the Republicans with leadership again. Also, many people were tired of the hostility between conservatives and liberals (though I’m not sure why Republicans got the blame, since we could have had bipartisanship if at any time liberals had decided to stop being a bunch of screeching ninnies who mindlessly opposed whatever Bush was for). Then came along Barack Obama, who promised non-specific hope and change, and everyone was like, “Non-specific hope and change sounds like a great idea!”

There’s more.

I’m angry mainly that they’ve purloined the word “liberals.”

Masten LLC Attempts

Start today. Clark Lindsey has links. Best of luck (and skill) to them.

Another reason to wish that I was already back in CA. I expect to hit the road this morning, but I have to pack the car still, which will be an interesting puzzle.

[Update a few minutes later]

Shutting down the machine now so I can load it. I may check in tonight, if I have wireless in the motel. Be good in comments, and don’t expect anything with links to be approved today.

[Late evening update]

I’m still on Eastern time, but just barely, about 10:30 PM. I’m also still in Florida, in Talahassee, but it hasn’t seemed like it since north of Tampa, when the country went from flat and swampy to rolling with woods and pastures. I drove across from Ocala to here through beautiful horse country. This is a Florida that I could like, but it’s more like southern Georgia.

ULA’s Heresy

I have a piece up at Popular Mechanics about the AIAA conference this week, and ULA’s non-heavy-lift architecture. Hell hath no fury like a rocket company scorned.

Meanwhile, it looks like there may be a battle in Congress to preserve the Ares pork. At some point, though, they’re going to have to confront budgetary and programmatic reality.

[Noon update]

Here is the permalink.

[Another update a few minutes later]

Paul Spudis has a longish essay on the history of the VSE, how NASA mangled it, and what we need to do going forward.

The Former Administrator

Fisked. “Ray” over at Restore the Vision has been going through Mike Griffin’s recent email, point by point (just keep scrolling). A suggestion — “Next” and “Previous” links in each post to allow readers to find them all after finding one. Clark Lindsey (who tipped me off to this) has individual links to points one through five. Here’s the one for point six, which is the most extensive.

[Tuesday morning update]

The fisking is now complete. He’s got eleven posts, and the eleventh one contains links to the previous ones (though it would still be nice to be able to navigate from one to the next and back). The tenth one, on the merits of propellant depots versus heavy lift, seems the most devastating to me:

In fact, heavy lift appears to be a solution in search of a problem. Who needs heavy lift? Apparently not NASA science, the communications satellite industry, DOD, intelligence agencies, NOAA, etc. It seems that the main reason NASA would develop heavy lift is to avoid addressing the real goals of the VSE (science, security, and economic benefits in the context of commercial and international participation).

It is difficult to understand how such an approach can offer an economically favorable alternative. The Ares-5 offers the lowest cost-per-pound for payload to orbit of any presently known heavy-lift launch vehicle design. The mass-specific cost of payload to orbit nearly always improves with increasing launch vehicle scale.

Griffin is saying Ares-5 is the cheapest because it’s the biggest. That’s an absurd law – why not build a rocket 1,000 times bigger at 10,000 times the cost then? The per-kg cost will be miniscule! I think Griffin’s law of scale is easily violated when you consider the possibility of smaller, mass-produced rockets. Exploration, with its serious payload mass requirements, could provide the market for such mass-produced rockets.

Griffin’s scale rule of thumb also ignores development costs. After all, it will be a long time before those tens of billions of dollars of Ares-5 (and related Ares-1) development efforts are amortized, at a maximum flight rate of 2 per year. We already have the EELVs and are already building Falcon 9 and Taurus 2 anyway, so their development cost for a job like fuel launch for exploration is $0. When you consider Ares-5 costs, you also have to consider the possibility that the development effort will fail, and all development costs will be wasted … or the development effort will succeed, but the operations will be so expensive that they are canceled as happened with Apollo, and again the development costs will be wasted.

Is Mike Griffin really as fundamentally ignorant of economics and accounting as his arguments would indicate? This seems to be a prevailing fallacy of heavy-lift proponents — that the only economies of scale come from vehicle size, completely ignoring flight rate, which has a much more profound effect on launch costs, particularly when amortizing a high development cost. As Ray points out, the tens of billions of development cost will never be amortized at the trivial flight rate that a heavy lifter will fly. It makes sense to look at marginal costs for a vehicle whose development costs are sunk, but we are making decisions about how to spend future dollars. And of course, even if the marginal costs are low (as they are with the Shuttle) the average costs remain high, with an expensive fixed infrastructure and low flight rate. Constellation isn’t an improvement over the Shuttle in any significant way other than (possibly) crew safety, and in many ways it’s a step backwards, since it has much less capability.

Mike has it exactly backwards. Depots are not a solution in search of a problem, clever though the phrase might sound. Ray points out the many problems that they solve. It is the costly romance of heavy lift, that some cannot relinquish despite the fact that it has trapped us in LEO for decades, that needs justification.


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