A Tipping Point?

Massachusetts Republicans come out of the closet.

This is an excellent demonstration of how much politics is psychological, and band-wagon effect. Just as Obama’s election was. But the spell has been broken on that one. No doubt to the chagrin of the Koolaid drinkers.

Well, actually, they’re still in the tank (as demonstrated by die-hard commenters here), but the rest of the rubes have caught on. It’s going to be a bloody cycle or two for the Donkeys. Along with hope for the salvation of the Republic.

So Let Me Get This Straight

The entire world has been assured that the “science was settled” that the last decade had been the hottest in recorded times, and that it was unprecedented, and it was surely caused by our breathing and SUV driving, and that we had to dramatically increase the cost of energy, reduce our own income, and keep the Third World in poverty (or transfer vast amounts of our own wealth to them), because the head of the Climate Research Unit kept a messy office?

You know, I keep a messy office, too, but then, I’ve never tried to remake the entire world on the basis of my analyses. (Off planet is a different story…)

This really is an amazing story. As I’ve been saying, the people who have been skeptical have been the true scientists, and the warm mongers betrayers of science, for power and politics.

And where is Al Gore? In fact, where is the American press?

[Wee-hour update]

More from The Times:

“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

The doubts of Christy and a number of other researchers focus on the thousands of weather stations around the world, which have been used to collect temperature data over the past 150 years.

These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama.

“The story is the same for each one,” he said. “The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

You don’t say.

And why isn’t anyone reporting on this on this side of the Pond?

[Monday morning update]

The WaPo is finally showing up to the party. Still no sign of the Paper Formerly Known As The Paper Of Record, though.

[Monday evening update — I’m home from Colorado…]

Climaquiddick (I wish that people would quit calling it Climategate…) reminds Instapundit of the Michael Bellesiles scandal. Me too.

Bellesiles, for those who don’t remember, was a historian at Emory who wrote a book making some, er, counterintuitive claims about guns in early America — in short, that they were much rarer than generally thought, and frequently owned and controlled by the government. Constitutional law scholars who expressed doubts about this were told to shut up by historians, who cited the importance of “peer review” as a guarantor of accuracy, and who wrapped themselves in claims of professional expertise.

Unfortunately, it turned out that Bellesiles had made it up. His work was based on probate records, and when people tried to find them, it turned out that many didn’t exist (one data set he claimed to have used turned out, on review, to have been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake). It also turned out that Bellesiles hadn’t even visited some of the archives he claimed to have researched. When challenged to produce his data, he was unable to do so, and offered unpersuasive stories regarding why.

Well, on second thought, there are no parallels at all…

The Battle Is Joined

Those notorious Obamaphiles, Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker, come out with praise for the new direction in space. This just shows how non-partisan an issue is, except to those who are hyperpartisan. If George Bush had come out with this policy, most conservatives (or at least Republicans) would have praised it. Had Barack Obama come up with the VSE and Constellation, he would have been hailed by many (though certainly not all) of the left as JFK redux, and many conservatives would have hated it. I wish that people would actually examine the issue on the merits.

Let’s Stop Pretending

…that we can build human outposts on the moon. Some useful thoughts from Richard Mains.

As he notes, we’re putting the cart before the horse when we insist on an architecture, right now, that can get us back to the moon, or anywhere beyond LEO. We cannot even get into LEO cost effectively (that’s what all the space policy fuss has really been about for the past five years), and until we solve that problem, it is crazy talk to think about lunar bases. Again this mentality is driven by the flawed myths of Apollo, in which we sprinted to the moon, bypassing LEO because we didn’t have time, and then abandoned it because it couldn’t be politically or affordably sustained. (By the way, another bit of historical ignorance on Krauthammer’s part was his worship of JFK as the visionary who led us there, when in fact he had doubts about it early on, was never a big fan of space, and it’s likely that it would have died if he hadn’t). As Richard says, we need to establish a solid foothold in LEO before we can think about the best way to go beyond it, and that means developing truly routine and affordable access to it. That’s the fundamental basis of the Space Access Society, because Henry Vanderbilt and others realized long ago that until we can afford to get into orbit, it’s pointless to dream about points beyond.

Right after the Columbia was lost, I wrote a piece along this theme:

I’ve written before about the fragility and brittleness of our space transportation infrastructure. I was referring to the systems that get us into space, and the ground systems that support them.

But we have an even bigger problem, that was highlighted by the loss of the Columbia on Saturday. Our orbital infrastructure isn’t just fragile–it’s essentially nonexistent, with the exception of a single space station at a high inclination, which was utterly unreachable by the Columbia on that mission.

Imagine the options that Mission Control and the crew would have had if they’d known they had a problem, and there was an emergency rescue hut (or even a Motel 6 for space tourists) in their orbit, with supplies to buy time until a rescue mission could be deployed. Or if we had a responsive launch system that could have gotten cargo up to them quickly.

As it was, even if they’d known that the ship couldn’t safely enter, there was nothing they could do. And in fact, the knowledge that there were no solutions may have subtly influenced their assessment that there wasn’t a problem.

The lesson we must take from the most recent shuttle disaster is that we can no longer rely on a single vehicle for our access to the new frontier, and that we must start to build the needed orbital infrastructure in low earth orbit, and farther out, to the moon, so that, in the words of the late Congressman George Brown, “greater metropolitan earth” is no longer a wilderness in which a technical failure means death or destruction.

NASA’s problem hasn’t been too much vision, even for near-earth activities, but much too little. But it’s a job not just for NASA–to create that infrastructure, we will have to set new policies in place that harness private enterprise, just as we did with the railroads in the 19th Century. That is the policy challenge that will come out of the latest setback–to begin to tame the harsh wilderness only two hundred miles above our heads.

Constellation did nothing toward that end. It in fact completely ignored the requirement, repeating Apollo with another unsustainable sprint across the wilds. The new policy holds some promise, finally, of addressing it.

More Bashing Of Private Enterprise

…by a supposed “conservative.” Charles Krauthammer continues his (unusually, for him) ill-informed hysteria over the new space policy:

…the administration presents the abdication as a great leap forward: Launching humans will be turned over to the private sector, while NASA’s efforts will be directed toward landing on Mars.

This is nonsense. It would be swell for private companies to take over launching astronauts. But they cannot do it. It’s too expensive. It’s too experimental. And the safety standards for getting people up and down reliably are just unreachably high.

Sure, decades from now there will be a robust private space-travel industry. But that is a long time. In the interim, space will be owned by Russia and then China. The president waxes seriously nationalist at the thought of China or India surpassing us in speculative “clean energy.” Yet he is quite prepared to gratuitously give up our spectacular lead in human space exploration.

As for Mars, more nonsense. Mars is just too far away. And how do you get there without the stepping stones of Ares and Orion? If we can’t afford an Ares rocket to get us into orbit and to the moon, how long will it take to develop a revolutionary new propulsion system that will take us not a quarter-million miles but 35 million miles?

I just read that second paragraph, and shake my head in sorrow at the ignorance, not to mention the double standard. NASA has killed fourteen astronauts in the past quarter of a century. On what basis can he claim that private industry (which is highly motivated not to kill people, because it might put them out of business, whereas NASA is rewarded when it fails), will do worse?

And even ignoring their horrific cost, in what way are Ares and Orion “stepping stones” to anywhere, let alone Mars? No one has ever put forth a plausible scenario in which Orion is utilized for a Mars mission.

Meanwhile, a much more sensible piece can be found over at the Asia Times, which points out how ridiculous it is to worry about the Chinese (with quotes from Charles Lurio and Jeff Foust).

[Update a few minutes later]

Keith Cowing points out more historical ignorance on the part of the good doctor:

Um, check your facts next time. We had a 6 year gap between Apollo-Soyuz in 1975 and STS-1 in 1981. We had no way to send humans into space during that time. And, FWIW, between the end of Mercury and the beginning of Gemini, we had no access, and between Gemini 12 and Apollo 7 we had no access to space. Between STS-107 and STS-114 … and so on. Gaps are not a new thing.

And a continuation of the Program of Record would have guaranteed that the upcoming one would be the longest yet.

[Morning update]

Krauthammer link is fixed now, sorry.

[Update a few minutes later]

Jeff Foust has a report on Lori Garver’s speech at the FAA meeting yesterday. It won’t satisfy the die-hard Apollo/Ares huggers of course, but it should appeal to more sensible people, including conservatives.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!