But At Least He’s Not A Christianist

Instapundit has some links on President Obama’s bizarre new-found religion. If George Bush had done this, the howls from the left would have been deafening.

[Update late morning]

Just how stupid do they think we are?

Stupid enough to think that a new $1 trillion health-care entitlement is just the thing to restore the country to fiscal health.

Stupid enough not to know that almost every entitlement known to man has cost more than originally estimated, with a congressional committee in 1967 underestimating by a factor of ten Medicare’s cost by 1990.

Stupid enough not to realize that it is through budget trickery — the taxes begin immediately, the spending is put off for a few years — that the program in the House shows “only” a $239 billion deficit over the first ten years.

Stupid enough not to focus on how the gap between the House plan’s revenue and spending steadily grows after the first ten years, making it a long-term budget buster.

Stupid enough to think increased preventive care will save the government money, just because Pres. Barack Obama constantly repeats it, despite all the independent studies to the contrary.

Stupid enough to believe that a program with no cost controls that can be discerned by the Congressional Budget Office will control costs.

Stupid enough not to worry that Obama’s proposed superteam of technocrats operating outside normal political controls — the so-called Independent Medicare Advisory Council — will resort to rationing when costs continue to spiral upward.

Stupid enough to consider it wise to use several billion dollars in cuts from Medicare to create a new entitlement rather than to forestall Medicare’s own looming insolvency, currently projected for 2017.

Stupid enough not to notice that the “public option” was explicitly designed by the Left as a stealthy path to single-payer, even as liberals continue to talk and write about its ultimate purpose openly.

There’s a lot more.

[Early afternoon update]

Barack Obama’s twisted faith.

Conflict Of Interest

There’s an interesting story over at Wired about the need for more commercial involvement in human spaceflight. And it asks the obvious question about the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) coming from Lockheed Martin:

Stevens raises some valid points, but he’s also got a clear agenda — SpaceX and other firms like it are competitors and ultimately could do the job faster, cheaper and better than NASA. The Orion program is unlikely to make it to the moon any time soon based on current budgets projected in the future. The review committee says the goal of getting back to the moon by 2020 is currently about $30 billion short. And unless an extra $3 billion a year is put back in to the NASA manned space budget, the International Space Station is likely to be the only destination in space for the United States for the foreseeable future.

Naturally Musk, Burt Rutan and many others think otherwise. If they can do it, why shouldn’t they?

And what Stevens says is nonsensical, really:

“We know how difficult it is to transport to the station and we don’t want people to cut corners, and downstream having NASA pay the penalty of the time and cost of doing this,” John Stevens, of Lockheed Martin’s human spaceflight division, told Aviation Week.

That issue aside, Stevens wonders how the government is supposed to finance NASA and a contract with someone like SpaceX. “If we can’t afford one program, how can we afford two?” he asks.

We obviously can’t afford two of the way NASA wants to do it. We can’t even afford one. But NASA plans to spend tens of billions of dollars on Ares and Orion. To date, SpaceX has developed Falcon 1, mostly developed Falcon 9 and Dragon, for something south of half a billion. Based on that history, there’s no reason to think that it will cost even a full billion to get the final ingredient of a launch escape system. We could afford dozens of programs like that, not just two, for the same money that Lockheed Martin proposes to spend on its one.

Is it because SpaceX has “cut corners”? I don’t know, but you know what? If they can save that much money by “cutting corners” and have something that people are willing to fly, I say let’s cut a lot more corners. The reality, of course, is that the “corners” they are “cutting” is not using the standing development army at Marshall and Johnson that are driving the high costs of the current NASA way of doing business. I don’t believe that such corner cutting makes it less safe than Shuttle, or Ares/Orion.

But even if it is less safe, so what? Here is the director’s cut on that topic from my New Atlantis piece:

But will it be safe to trust our precious astronauts to private launchers?

There is no such thing as safe. Despite the fantasies of Safety and Mission Assurance (S&MA) types at NASA, “safe” and “unsafe” are not binary conditions. There is no ultimate safety, this side of the grave. All we can do is to make things as safe as reasonable, and that includes reasonable expense. NASA has spent untold billions in an attempt to make things “safe” over the decades, and they killed seventeen astronauts. Maybe they could have spent a lot less money, and perhaps killed a few more astronauts, but made a lot more progress. Burt Rutan said a few years ago that if we’re not killing people, we’re not pushing hard enough. If our attitude toward the space frontier is that we must strive to never ever lose anyone, it will remain closed. If our ancestors who opened the west, or who came from Europe, had had such an attitude, we would still be over there, and there would have been no California space industry to get us to the moon forty years ago. It has never been “safe” to open a frontier, and this frontier is the harshest one that we’ve ever faced, but fortunately, we have sufficiently advanced technology to allow us to do it anyway, and probably with much less loss of life than any previous one. But people die every day doing a lot less worthwhile things than opening a frontier.

Before Mercury, the test pilots who flew in that program used to attend funerals of their colleagues, who had made smoking craters in the desert, on a frequent basis. But no one else knew about them, or cared much. They were just doing their job—developing the technologies and weapons that we needed to win an existential war. When they got out of their test aircraft and climbed into a Mercury capsule, they knew it was risky, but it was a lot less so than their previous job.

A frequent commenter on my blog has suggested that to avoid future national sob parties, such as occurred after Challenger and Columbia, we should set aside a special cemetery like Arlington, in a well-publicized ceremony, and declare that this was where all those who would lose their lives in our planned opening of the solar system would be laid to rest. And to make it big, just to make the point. There is in fact an astronaut memorial mirror at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, with the names of those lost so far, and plenty of squares for more. A visionary president would point that out with the announcement of the new policy.

SpaceX is going to fly people on its Dragon, and it’s going to make it as safe as it can afford to and still have a market for it, but I doubt that they will “human rate” it, and I see no need for ULA to do so with its launcher, either. No one, after all, “human rates” an airplane. What ULA needs to do is to modify the design to make them reasonably safe, and contra the recent Aerospace Corporation report I’m confident that they can do that for a lot less than thirty-five billion dollars and in less than seven years, which is a pretty low bar to beat Ares I. If private individuals willingly climb Mount Everest every year (and many die in the attempt), and if private individuals are willing to pay their own money to fly on a private vehicle into space, what does it say about us as a nation, that the astronauts who are supposed to be super humans, willing to risk their lives, won’t do the same thing? At the risk of repetition, it says, as all of our space policy has said for the past forty years since Tranquility Base, that space is not important. It says that we are not serious about it.

This talk about “cutting corners” and safety is nothing but continued rent seeking by a government cost-plus contractor.

[Update mid morning]

It sounds like the new administrator has already made a major decision:

An honest question from the audience set the tone. “We’ve got a rocket assembled in the VAB ready for launch. Are we going to launch it?” came the inquiry from a veteran space worker.

“Well, that’s a good question,” said the Band Leader. “Since the program of record will not be recommended by the Augustine commission, I don’t see any point in continuing with the launch.”

What will Rob Coppinger say?

Warm Welcome

What does it say when someone who engineered the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians in an American airliner is given one in Libya?

What it says to me is that we, and the West (even if we and they don’t recognize it) are in a de facto war with that nation. Of course, that’s really been the case for over two-hundred years — it’s just been a prolonged (and often faked) truce.

Facebook Etiquette Question

OK, I’m an antique. I’ve got a Facebook account, but I still haven’t figured out why, other than as another phone book for contacts with people that I want to contact. I was told by Burton Lee that I had to have an account to be in the 21st century but (again) he never quite explained why.

I can understand that it’s sort of a way to blog and have your own on-line community if you don’t have a real…you know…blog. And because I do have a real blog, and one fairly highly rated on Technorati, among other places, I don’t have time to build Facebook pages.

Anyway. What is the protocol for having Facebook Friends? What is a Facebook “Friend”? Because I get a lot of requests from people I haven’t met, and have never heard of, and don’t even have friends in common with, to become their Facebook Friends. I have several pending “friends” both with and without mutual Facebook Friends, and I just don’t know what to do with them.

I may be old fashioned, but in my day, the word “friend” meant something. Has it lost that meaning?

[Update a few minutes later]

You know, if someone of whom I had no previous knowledge requested to be my Facebook “Friend” with an explanation of who they were, and why, I’d be more inclined to at least consider it, but when it’s just a response from a click on a button that says, “Become a friend,” I’m not very inclined to say, “Great!” “More Facebook Friends.”

Is collecting FFs some kind of weird status symbol?

In Government…

we don’t trust:

Oblivious to manifest failure, the liberal-progressive idea keeps itself afloat on intellectual water wings—insisting that most people still believe that if government commits itself to accomplishing a public good, it will more or less succeed despite the difficulties and inefficiencies of these great projects. Needed good gets done.

That civics-book faith in the good intentions of government has been on the bubble with a broad swath of the American people who don’t know left from right but only public performance. The Obama health-care proposal arrived at a particularly bad moment to be asking voters to “trust us.”

By the time Barack Obama entered the White House, the exploding of the housing bubble had covered the landscape with the bodies of bankers, brokers and politicians who’d promised people a yellow-brick road lined with houses sold with fairy-tale down payments. Then the gods delivered a final lesson in misplaced trust: the Madoff Ponzi scheme.

I believe Madoff’s massive and destructive breach of trust had an effect on the public mind that carried beyond the tragedy of its immediate victims. After Madoff, John Q. Public set the bar really high for anyone seeking a big commitment of trust with money. But that’s exactly what the ambitious Obama health plan did.

President Obama in his public pleas for the plan appears to be truly upset that his benign view of it isn’t obvious to all. In his op-ed Sunday for the New York Times he said, “We’ll cut hundreds of billions in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid.” Hundreds of billions? Just like that? This is nothing but an assertion by one man. It’s close to Peter Pan telling the children that thinking lovely thoughts will make them fly.

I think that when history records what happened, the straw that broke the camel’s back, after the disastrous stimulus that was rammed through, the cap’n’tax bill, the GM and Chrysler takeovers and handovers to the UAW, the inability of the administration to predict the economy and the failed unemployment promises, was cash for clunkers. The government couldn’t even write checks to car dealers, and they want to take over a sixth of the economy and our very physical well being?

Thanks, but no thanks. That could end up being Obama’s Katrina

[Update a couple minutes later]

Related thoughts from Chris Muir.

[Update a couple minutes later still]

“Questions of competence start to dog Obama team.” Gee, ya think?

It’s been 177 days since Obama made his initial pitch for a health care overhaul to a joint session of Congress. That the president’s team is still spending so much time stroking the Democratic base is evidence of how dire the situation is for this young administration.

Two decisions on health care have rattled Democrats.

First, the president chose to not sell his own plan but instead tried to get Congress to rush something through before lawmakers — and the public — fully understood what was in the bill. Second, the administration attempted an ungainly flip-flop on the issue of government-run insurance.

Many Democrats think that the stars were aligned for health care but increasingly see the administration as having squandered the moment.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took a beating Tuesday for an outright evasion on whether Obama has changed his position on the public option. Down the hall, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel snarled to the New York Times that the White House is finally done with bipartisanship … again.

Democrats can’t be blamed for wondering if these guys know what they’re doing.

And it’s pretty hard to dispel them when you have a boob like Robert Gibbs as your spokeshole. But particularly when the questions seem to be being answered, every day. There was never any reason to think that the guy would have any competence at running the country. He had never run anything so much as a lemonade stand before running for president, other than campaigns (and he didn’t really even do that), or if he did, it was probably subsidized by his mother. You hire someone with no experience, and this is what you get. I think that buyer’s remorse has to be setting in even among Democrats, even if they won’t admit it. This sums up their cluelessness (and that of the conventional wisdom in the fellating media all last year):

The way Obama brushed off the challenges of both Hillary Clinton and John McCain last year made Democrats believe he had infallible political instincts and was a forceful leader.

But what if Obama was lucky in the adversaries he drew and in the timing of the economic collapse? What if Democrats confused serendipity and ego for keen judgment and executive ability?

What if, indeed?

Plus, we’re getting tired of being demonized by our own government because we see through the fraud:

I do have all the hallmarks of the cynic. “In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain,” President Barack Obama wrote in The New York Times on Sunday, after gazing into the near future of the health care debate and seeing a dystopia full of “scare tactics.” And it’s true. I am “exploiting” “concerns.” By expressing them. In print. In conversation. My 30 to 60 percent fearmongering brethren and I, cynics that we are, just keep having concerns.

We fearmongers and our “concerns” wield an unholy power over the political process. How else to explain what happened? A plan—noble in reason, infinite in faculties, in form admirable—was presented to the American people. The obvious genius of the plan failed to carry it through intact. As more details were revealed, more and more people got antsy about the whole endeavor. They mentioned their concerns to their congressmen, sometimes loudly. Congress got cold feet, and now everyone is sitting in time out, thinking about what they did wrong.

When Obama, the man of hope, tells this story, it sounds like a failure of the democratic process, corrupted by special interests who somehow forced all those people to holler at town meetings and forced me to write this article. Again, though, without the actual writing of checks. But someone of a non-cynical nature might equally see this story as a great success of participatory democracy, with representatives accountable to the people.

Let’s hope that accounting comes next year.

[Afternoon update]

Public-relations nitwits:

The problem for Obama is deep and not easily fixable. The hallmark of good public relations is to stay on message. Everyone knows that. But in order to do that you have to have a message. Some people seem to think his message is “socialism.” Maybe some days. I don’t even think he’s that consistent. I think this man is flying blind. Not surprising, really. All he ever did was run for office. No wonder he has had no time to formulate policy.

As I’ve said previously, it’s not enough to have a better dog-food commercial if the dog thinks the food tastes like crap.

And Victor Davis Hanson analyzes the meltdown:

Cap-and-trade, the mega-deficits, the apology tours, and the sleaze of some appointments and congressional grandees (cf. Rangel, Dodd, Murtha, etc.) were stimulants, but not in themselves enough to awaken the somnolent American people from their collective trance. Yet health care was like a shot of adrenaline that jolted the patient out of his slumber. Suddenly hope and change no longer worked like the swinging watch and “you’re getting sleepy” lingo. Voters are feeling they’ve been “had” and were mesmerized into being used for an extremist agenda.

Who made the following decisions? 1) to propose a 1,000 page bill that no one had read, much less could explain?; 2) to ram down the greatest change in the US economy in fifty years by the August recess?; 3) to talk loosely of the “uninsured” without knowing why they were not insured, how much it would cost to insure them, or whether they currently in fact find some sort of care?; 4) to reference Rahm Emanuel’s doctor brother as a source of wisdom? 5) to demonize the health-care industry as greedy?

(NB: Does Obama really believe that illegal aliens do not possess 200-300 dollars a month to buy catastrophic health coverage, when they send on average at least that amount back to Mexico on the assumption the emergency room here is free, for everything from injuries to natal care? Does he believe that a 25-year old does not gamble that his robust health means he prefers his I-pod, DVDs, and nights out to squirreling away cash each month for health insurance? There are flaws in our system that must be corrected, but the notion of conspirators in black hats who plot to prevent health care for the “uninsured” is fallacious.

He also has some good advice, that the president almost certainly won’t take, because it simply isn’t in his nature.

The Landline Problem

I’ll give up my landline when they pry the receiver from my cold dead hands, but many people are just fine going cell-only, which could cause big problems down the road for the telecom industry.

I think that we have a generation of people who have no experience with quality phone service, and think that when calls get dropped, or you have trouble hearing the other person, that’s just the way it is, so they don’t know what they’re giving up. It’s going to be interesting to see how we continue to improve broadband if there is no cross subsidization from voice.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!