Crazy Wolverines

Michael Barone has some advice for his fellow Michiganians:

I think it would be possible to improve Brewer’s proposals, to provide even more aid to beleaguered Michigan. My alternatives:

● Mandating all employers to provide health insurance that covers everything for all employees and dependents or face a penalty of life imprisonment without parole. (Michigan’s Constitution has banned capital punishment since 1855.)

● Raising the minimum wage from $7.40 per hour to $100 an hour and covering all workers or people who apply for a job.

● Increasing unemployment benefits by $1,000 a week, making all workers and job applicants eligible and adding 10 years to the time one can receive benefits.

● Cutting utility rates by 99%.

● Imposing a 100-year moratorium on home foreclosures.

Let the last Michiganian who leaves turn out the lights.

One of the problems that the Republicans have had is that by conceding the principle, they are always playing near their own end zone. They have to start arguing against these things on principle, rather than (as the old joke goes) haggling over the price. This kind of reductio ad absurdam can be effective in waging that battle.

The Last Public Meeting

…of the Augustine panel was today. Clark Lindsey has been keeping an eye on it.

[Update mid afternoon, Pacific time]

I don’t know what Bill White means in comments when he says that Jeff Greason “blew up the meeting,” but there is an old concept from the military (and later from the computer industry) called FUBAR: Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition (though some think that the first word may actually be something else…).

That’s a fair description of the US human spaceflight program, and has been, really, since the end of Apollo, if not before, at least in terms of being effective at getting humans into space in reasonable numbers. My New Atlantis essay was a long-winded way of saying that, with some recommendations for fixing it, which are probably politically unfeasible. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be pointed out.

[Update a few minutes later]

Bobby Block has a real-time report over at the Orlando Sentinel:

“We are on a path right now for a system on a close order of just double the budget to operate,” said panel member Jeff Greason of Constellation, which stemmed from President George W. Bush’s 2005 “vision” to return Americans to the moon by 2020 and then move on to Mars.

Greason added that if Santa Claus gave the program to the country fully developed, NASA would still have to cancel it because the agency could not afford to launch it.

Greason and former astronaut Sally Ride later questioned the utility of the Ares I rocket, which was supposed to launch humans to the international space station by 2015 but which now won’t be ready until well after the station is deorbited in 2016, as NASA currently plans.

Constellation has spent more than $3 billion in the past four years. And while the panel stopped short of recommending that the program be killed, it wasn’t immediately clear what financial solution it might suggest.

Presumably, they’re assuming that the administration is smart enough to draw their own conclusions…

[Update a few minutes later]

Clark has a late update:

Some discussion items that stand out include:
/– Agreed that splashing the ISS in 2015 is not realistic so all program options that include it will be eliminated.
/– The program of record (i.e. Ares I/V/Orion/Altair), which exceeds the expected budget substantially, will no longer be in the options table but kept separately just as a reference.
/– There will be two options that fit the expected budget. Others will assume growth up to $3B more than current annual budget.
/– A lengthy discussion of the Mars First option seems to have led to its removal. Instead the Lunar and Deep Space options will be presented as preparing the technology and in-space infrastructure for Mars missions later. The current baseline is far too expensive and any other scenario would involve too much sci-fi.

Emphasis mine. Bye bye, Constellation.

Here’s the chart of all the options being evaluated. There is no obvious weighting of the criteria, but to first order, all of the options seem to suck. There are a lot more negative numbers than positive ones. None of them are scored as sustainable. It really is an unsolvable Rubik’s cube. I don’t envy the panel members. Or the new NASA administration.

[Late evening update]

Commenters indicate that the numbers in the chart are changing in real time. As I noted above, I don’t envy the panel, or the new administrator and his deputy who have to implement whatever comes out of this process.

Whole Health-Care Reform

Some good advice from the CEO of Whole Foods.

But even if there was the political will for it, how would one go about “repealing all state laws” that prevent insurance companies from selling across state borders? State by state? With a federal mandate (this would seem to oppose federalism, and allowing the states to serve as laboratories, but it would probably be more in line with what the Founders intended that the Commerce Clause be used for)?

Asteroid Impact Craters

Some great pictures from space, which is the best place from which to see them.

But we still don’t seem to be taking the problem seriously:

NASA is charged with seeking out nearly all the asteroids that threaten Earth but doesn’t have the money to do the job, a federal report says.

That’s because even though Congress assigned the space agency this mission four years ago, it never gave NASA money to build the necessary telescopes, the new National Academy of Sciences report says.

Because space isn’t important. Even when it is.

How The VSE Was Derailed

Paul Spudis has a tale of two visions. It’s pretty clear that (as I pointed out in my New Atlantis piece) if the administration had been serious about the VSE, they shouldn’t have given it to NASA as the lead:

Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, man’s future in space is too important to be left to NASA. After President Reagan proposed the creation of a national missile defense system in 1983, it became clear that the U.S. Air Force was not properly organized or motivated—and so a new agency was created to pursue the president’s vision. The new agency, today called the Missile Defense Agency, was very innovative and made great progress because it could focus on its one goal. Along those lines, the Bush administration might have done well to establish an Office of Space Development (with “exploration” being merely a means to an end) that could draw on other federal resources—not just NASA, but the Departments of Defense and Energy—as well as the private sector.

I don’t understand why Mike Griffin was given so much freedom to pervert it by the White House, and if Marburger didn’t complain, or if his complaints were ignored. Unfortunately, as I note throughout the piece, space isn’t important, and once the administration had a new plan and new administrator, they seem to have pretty much ignored it.

[Wednesday morning update]

There’s an interesting discussion on the topic going on in comments between Paul, Frank Sietzen and others over at NASA Watch. I’m inferring from it that Marburger was pretty marginalized within the White House, which would seem to correlate well with an external view of events since the VSE was announced.


Taking His Name In Vain

Senator Isakson isn’t very happy with the president’s invoking him as a supporter of health-care deform.

But actually, the reason I’m posting is for a grammar flame:

“This is what happens when the President and members of Congress don’t read the bills,” says Isakson in a paper statement. “The White House and others are merely attempting to deflect attention from the intense negativity caused by their unpopular policies. I never consulted with the White House in this process and had no role whatsoever in the House Democrats’ bill. I categorically oppose the House bill and find it incredulous that the White House and others would use my amendment as a scapegoat for their misguided policies…”

No, Senator. It is you who is “incredulous,” not what the White House did. What you find about that is “incredible.” This is a common error (like confusing “imply” and “infer”) but that’s no excuse for it in a written press release.

The Holy War On Religion

…by some scientists.

Even though I generally agree with them, I am as put off by atheistic evangelizing as I am by any other kind. This is not a productive strategy to promote either science, or secularism. And I’m interested to read Chris Mooney’s latest book. I enjoyed Storm World, and it looks like his views have evolved somewhat from this book, which I found overly polemical.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!