About That “Missile” Off The Coast

I’ve gotten requests in comments and email for my thoughts, but I really don’t know much more than anyone else. I didn’t see it myself, but this explanation looks like the most likely one to me. Fortunately, it’s also the most benign one. I do think it’s a good reminder, though, that we need to get serious about missile defense.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Here’s a lengthy disquisition on the contrail theory.

A One-Paragraph Spec

Thoughts on NASA procurement problems over at Space News:

To an outsider, it seems self-evident that NASA’s procurement process is the thing that is broken, or we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Look at Falcon 9, from drawing board to successful first flight in much less than 10 years, and an expenditure on the order of half a billion dollars, and compare that with Ares 1, and tell me NASA still knows how to run programs. Compare it further with the program requirements documents for Mercury and Gemini, highly successful programs back when we knew a lot less about spaceflight than we do today.

There’s no way Ares 1 and the Orion crew capsule should have cost anywhere near what they were costing, or take anything like as much time as they were taking, to get up and fly. Whether the problem lies within NASA, or with the government procurement rules within which NASA is constrained to operate, is a question that needs answering. But the end result is the same: another decade lost, and American astronauts sitting by the side of the road with their thumbs out, waiting for the next Soyuz launch.

Arguably our most successful manned program, the Gemini program, was conducted from start to finish in less than five years. It cost (including 10 crewed flights) somewhere between $5 billion and $7 billion adjusted for inflation — less than we have spent on Constellation/Ares without even making it to our first orbital test flight. Gemini did everything we need from a crewed spacecraft, at least until we get out of cislunar space. Put a beefed-up heat shield on it and it could have gone to the Moon, and there were some studies for that. That’s what we did when the U.S. had a cumulative total experience in manned spaceflight of three man-days — not man-years, not even man-months.

I am not an engineer. My degrees are in history and business. If I am anything, I am a historian. So, as a historian, I ask: What’s so hard about replicating this level of capability, with technology that’s 40 years more mature?

Well, as another (amateur) historian, I’ll answer the question. That was then, this is now. In the sixties, actually accomplishing things in space was important, because we were in a race with the Soviets. Today, developing useful space hardware isn’t important. Maintaining jobs in certain congressional districts is.

Another Media Suspension Over Ethics

Who knew that Iowahawk had ethics?

Dear Me:

Effective 8 am this morning, you have been relieved from your duties as Chief Executive Senior Anchor at Iowahawk. The Iowahawk Code of Ethics clearly states (Section 3c[11.05]) that:

Employees of Iowahawk shall, during critical election seasons, remain at their assigned posts and think of cheap blog stunts to suck in the big internet traffic. During the seven days immediately preceding and seven days immediately following a national election, prohibited employee activities include, but are not limited to:

1. Partying with Tim Blair.
2. Driving about aimlessly in a hot rod.
3. Flying to the coast and getting drunk.
4. Moonlighting as a fire insurance ‘consultant’

It has been brought to my attention that during the recent election season you were engaged in at least three of these prohibited activities. Therefore I have no other recourse but to suspend me indefinitely pending my thorough investigation and review into this matter.

As someone partially involved in one of his recent ethical breaches on the coast, I feel some responsibility for this horrific turn in his fate, though I think that Blair should bear the brunt of it. He needs to find a more reasonable employer. And a smarter one. What kind of idiot would suspend Iowahawk? We should start a protest, and a legal defense fund.

A Feature, Not A Bug

Privatizing liquor would increase revenue and decrease consumer costs, but it would result in government layoffs:

As I noted in August, privatization advocates also have been known to argue, with a logic familiar to fans and foes of President Obama’s stimulus package, that the business of distributing alcoholic beverages should be designed to maximize jobs—i.e., to be as inefficient as possible.

Why do we have to be ruled by economic ignorami? And why is it that only places like Reason point things like this out? Why can’t the lame-stream media think, just a little, when they report this stuff?

Gentlemen! You Can’t Fight In Here!

It’s the War Room:

Possibly the most important event of the vice president’s day Tuesday is to meet at 2:15 with Earl Devaney. Everyone knows him as chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the top guy monitoring the gazillion-dollar stimulus and the overdue economic recovery, and ensuring that the taxpayers financing same know all about it.

However, no one outside the room will know what goes on in that Biden-Devaney meeting. That’s because the government meeting on government transparency has been closed.

I have to admit that I’ll miss Joe Biden for the entertainment value. I just wish that he didn’t have as much power as he does (not that he has much, but however much, it’s too much). He does remain great impeachment/assassination insurance for the president, though.

On Conservative Skepticism Of Climate Policy

I’m pretty much on the same page as Jonathan Adler:

Hendricks’ effort to scare conservatives into supporting big government now to avoid bigger government later rings particularly hollow. Why is it that everything requires bigger government? Climate change is a threat? Extend government tentacles throughout the economy. Climate change is already happening? Ditto. Adaptation is necessary? More of the same. Were climate change not happening at all, I suspect Hendricks would still endorse a substantial expansion in government power.

Admittedly some on the right are equally reflexive, assert government is never the answer, and go to lengths to deny climate change poses any threat whatsoever. Yet there are also plenty of conservatives and libertarians who are deeply skeptical of government intervention, but are nonetheless willing to believe global warming might be a problem. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions does not require the enactment of monstrous, pork-laden, regulatory statutes like Waxman-Markey. And it’s not at all clear that climate adaptation necessitates a massive expansion of government power. In many areas, such as water, climate adaptation requires more reliance on markets, not less. Climatopolis author Matthew Kahn also blogged here about how successful climate adaptation will be driven by market forces, not government planners.

I share Hendricks’ and Farber’s frustration that more conservatives don’t take climate change or other environmental concerns seriously. But I also believe some of this is the environmentalist movement’s own doing. If everything calls for the same big government solution, why does it matter what the problem is?

Concern about the environment has always been hijacked by socialists, going all the way back to the early “progressive” movement, and the trend just got worse with the end of the Cold War, and socialism discredited, after which they changed brands and became watermelons. Policy has to be based on a rational calculation of the costs and benefits, rather than simply using every perceived crisis as an excuse for further accumulation of government power.

Obama In Asia

Thoughts from Walter Russell Mead.

I haven’t had much to say about the India trip, but I do think that it’s one of the few things (particularly in foreign policy) that the president has (finally) gotten right, after dissing the Indians early on. One of the few things that I thought the Clinton administration got right was free trade, in which it had to fight its own party, and only passed NAFTA with Republican help (kind of like civil rights in the sixties). I hope that similar good comes from this trip (despite Robert Gibbs’ bizarre meltdown and power grab — a press secretary can unilaterally remove a president from a summit? Really?).

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!