Greg Orman, “Mystery Businessman”

Really? Only if you’re an idiot, or a Democrat partisan hack (both of which descriptions, often simultaneously, describe many in the media).

As Glenn says, there’s no mystery. He’s a Democrat pretending to not be one until after the election, at which point he’ll happily caucus with Harry Reid. And the media will help carry him across the finish line.

There Oughtta Be Fewer Laws

Some thoughts on the potential (and often actual) tyranny of prosecutorial discretion:

“If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows he can choose his defendants. This method results in “the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.” Prosecutors could easily fall prey to the temptation of ‘picking the man, and then searching the law books …to pin some offense on him.’ In short, prosecutors’ discretion to charge — or not to charge — individuals with crimes is a tremendous power, amplified by the large number of laws on the books.

As Glenn often says, we need to take away sovereign immunity from these people.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of the injustice of law enforcement, some thoughts on civil forfeiture, in which someone can be deprived of their property without a trial.

Firefox

Great. Now not only is it refusing to restore tabs after it crashes (even though that’s what my preferences tell it to do), but this morning it came to with total amnesia of every page I’ve ever visited.

[Update Monday morning]

OK, I’ve installed Pale Moon 24.6.0, which seems to be the most recent version for which there’s a Linux tarball. It seems to run quickly so far, but I haven’t done much with it, or opened many tabs.

North California

Just to the south of Jefferson, the new state of North California (shown as purple on the map) would be much larger, with a population of almost four million, comparable to Oregon or Oklahoma.

There is no other state that would really be comparable to North California, in terms of geography and climate. Unlike any of the other new states, it would have very little desert. It would have some of the best wine country in the world, in Napa and Sonoma counties. It would have the coastal beauty of Marin as well, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and the rest of the new state of Silicon Valley to its immediate south. Like Silicon Valley, it will have ocean access via the Golden Gate, from San Pablo and other northern bays, so it would have the option of building its own new ports.

As it is now, western North California would be a bedroom community for the industry of Silicon Valley to the south. With towns like Vallejo, Sausalito, Benicia, Santa Rosa and others along the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay system and Sacramento Delta, access between the two states would continue to be via ferries and toll bridges to San Francisco and Oakland, and Concord in Contra Costa County. One point of contention in a breakup will be which state gets both responsibility for, and revenue from, which bridges.

The eastern part of the new state would be much more rural, with the northern Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, and Gold Country in the western foothills of the mountains, and its own wine region centered in Amador County. The foothills and mountains will offer recreational opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, and horseback, with skiing in the winter in south Tahoe. Gold Country, with its historical towns and sites, will continue to be a tourist draw. While not as high as the Sierras further south, there will be some snow pack in the northern mountains to feed the northern part of the delta, and provide water for the new state.

As with the current California, Sacramento would be a good candidate for state capital. The current Sacramento State would likely become the flagship of North California’s higher educational system, the University of North California. The campus of the University of California in Davis would probably have its focus broadened and strengthened from its current one of agricultural research, perhaps becoming North California State.

It will inherit a number of prisons, in Sacramento, Folsom, Vacaville, Mule Creek in Ione, and of course the infamous San Quentin, just over the Silicon Valley state line from San Francisco. As with Jefferson, it is possible that these will provide excess capacity for its own criminal needs (particularly if it, like Jefferson, were to legalize drugs), given that the majority of prisoners are likely generated by the big cities of Silicon Valley, and West and South California. So there may be opportunities for revenue from those states to continue to house their prisoners. Again, the new state may offer an opportunity for reform with an end to the guards’ unions.

With its current voters, North California will have a twelve-point voting edge for Democrats, 43% to a little over 31% for Republicans and almost 3% for the American Independent Party. But as with Jefferson, about twenty percent of those registered are unpartied, so the right Republican candidate and policies could potentially win the votes of the state for governor, senators and electors. A more libertarian Republican might do well there.

Next up, the city-state of Silicon Valley.

The Disintegrating Obama Presidency

Steve Hayes has a long piece (necessarily, because it’s such a target rich environment) on how it is chock full of fail.

[Update a couple minutes later]

This isn’t from the essay, but rather from Jonah Goldberg’s latest “newsletter” (so no link), but it seems apt:

Islamic State took Fallujah and Mosul months ago and he kept calling it the “jayvee team.” As recently as August, he was telling Tom Friedman that it was ridiculous to arm the Syrian rebels. In September, he was wistfully complaining that the Islamic State made a mistake in beheading those Americans because it aroused U.S. public opinion for war. In other words, doing nothing about the Islamic State was Obama’s foreign policy until the domestic political situation made his foreign policy untenable. Chess Masters think many moves ahead, novices respond to whatever their opponent’s latest move is. Total amateurs just move pieces based on shouts from the crowd watching the game. Obama’s like a kid looking for approval every time he touches a piece.

It’s sad because it’s true.

What If Republicans Win?

Roger Simon is concerned about what Barack Obama will do, or at least attempt to do:

Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.

When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace. They are rarely able to admit fault, as if even a crack in their pristine facades could lead to extreme personality disintegration. We have already seen manifestations of this in Obama’s refusal to acknowledge something so obvious as his own inability to foresee the dangers of ISIS, aka the JV team. Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.

This man is angry but highly unlikely to go into an anger management program. Imagine what will happen after November. We could be looking at behavior that would fit the very definition of “acting out,” anti-social but on a global scale. And he still has two more years in office.

I share his concern.

Global Warming

The statistical meltdown:

The sensitivity of the climate to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide is a central question in the debate on the appropriate policy response to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Climate sensitivity and estimates of its uncertainty are key inputs into the economic models that drive cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon.

Continuing to rely on climate-model warming projections based on high, model-derived values of climate sensitivity skews the cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon. This can bias policy decisions. The implications of the lower values of climate sensitivity in our paper, as well as similar other recent studies, is that human-caused warming near the end of the 21st century should be less than the 2-degrees-Celsius “danger” level for all but the IPCC’s most extreme emission scenario.

That’s the wrong answer. It doesn’t justify ending capitalism.

About That Mars One MIT Study

Some thoughts from Stewart Money, with which I agree:

While presented as a legitimate concern, $4.5 billion is after all a large sum of money, and a very tall hurdle to overcome, it still leads to an interesting counterpoint which the authors of the NASA funded study do not address. NASA is well on the way to spending $16 billion to get the Orion capsule alone through one crewed flight, a number which excludes the development costs of the Space Launch System as well as its ground infrastructure. The agency cannot even begin to put a price tag on gong to Mars. It would be interesting to see the same team run the numbers on that.

There is no doubt that Mars One is [a] risky concept, and if it is to ever gain real traction, it will have to endure a lot more scrutiny than presented in the MIT study. It should probably begin with a clear statement that Mars One is meant as an evolving concept, in which the final product may differ considerable [sic] from what has initially been put forward on a time frame which like all space projects, is subject to change. At the same time, its many critics might want to at least consider how much of the risk to any future Mars mission, whether one way of with a return ticket, could be reduced through advancing the Technological Readiness Level (TRL) of some of the core technologies the MIT team identifies.

Finally, they might want to ask why the U.S. is committed to a very different, but perhaps even more financially implausible plan.

Yes.

[Update a few minutes later]

By the way, Bas Lansdorp has responded in comments over at Marcia Smith’s place.

What Else Have They Been Covering Up?

Peter Suderman asks an excellent question:

The administration had evidence indicating that a young advance team member, who was also the child of a lobbyist-and-donor-turned-administration-staffer, was involved in a potentially embarrassing incident with a prostitute while serving as a member of the presidential advance team—and yet explicitly denied that this was the case, and also appears to have pressured independent investigators to delay and withhold evidence until after the election was over.

And the question the story raises is: If the White House was so determined to cover up this embarassing but relatively minor incident, what larger stories has the White House suppressed or covered up that we don’t know about?

Yes. And that doesn’t even count the ones that we do know about.

It’s in fact similar to the question I asked about Penn State that resulted in Michael Mann suing me.

[Update a few minutes later]

Why the Columbia prostitute scandal matters:

More than sex, the story is about nepotism, favoritism, credibility, and the president’s safety.

Yes, it sort of encapsulates the depths of hypocrisy, criminality and corruption of “the most transparent administration in history.”

#GnuCash

Is there a doctor in the house?

I have one set of books for my personal expenses, and another for the business. It seems obvious that it would be useful to have them both open simultaneously to coordinate entries, but despite the theoretical capability to have multiple windows, it doesn’t seem to actually allow that. When you open one book it closes the other. Any suggestions?

[Friday update]

OK, problem solved. All I had to do was control-N to create a new instance.

[Bumped]

Six Flags Over California

Is the idea dead? I’ve started a series over at @Ricochet to analyze what the six new states would really look like:

In my view, in making his case for breaking up the now-unwieldy state, Draper was really reiterating the argument for federalism itself, that goes back to the Founding and the creation of a republic of thirteen states from the original colonies. Part of the idea was as an integral aspect of the general idea of separation of powers, but a very large part of it was that they would be incubators for new ideas of governance; in Brandeis’s famous words, the states would be “laboratories of democracy.” Based on what I’ve seen of his explanation for it, Draper sees a need for the various regions of California to be given a much broader range to experiment than currently availed them by rule from the Bay area and Los Angeles, via Sacramento.

I suspect that if you scratch many of those who object to a breakup of California, you’d find underneath someone who would like to get rid of the Electoral College and directly elect the president. Such a person, in fact would likely not grieve the loss of the entire concept of a state, a level of government they find archaic and redundant, and a hindrance to beneficent majority rule from Washington itself. To put it another way, if you are a federalist, the argument for a California split is pretty much the same as that for having states in general. If you oppose it, it’s because you see it as a camel’s nose under the tent for more, rather than fewer states, as others (e.g., Illinois) decide that they are too large as well. For them, this is an idea that goes the wrong direction, “against the tide of history,” the Progressive project that has been going on for a century to dismantle the precepts of the original republican Constitution, starting with the direct election of senators.

I hope you’ll find it interesting.

[Update a while later]

I’ve started the series with Jefferson.

Von Braun And Elon Musk

Is Elon Wernher’s heir?

Regardless of what NASA envisioned for COTS—indeed, regardless of what it had ever envisioned or accomplished under any program—the sum total of Congressional interest in NASA was always just ensuring a maximum of federal money goes into their district or state (and thereby, into their own campaign funds). So to their ears, COTS was simply another revenue stream that could go to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or other established players under a slightly different operating scheme.

But a program that meant barely anything to Congress was taken up with enthusiasm by NASA as a way to modestly reduce the costs of one aspect of its program, and then “hijacked” by Elon Musk to radically and fundamentally alter the economics and pace of spaceflight. Every synergy he could find between NASA’s modest objectives and his own radical ones was exploited, driving the evolution of SpaceX technology and the rapid buildup of its infrastructure. No one saw him coming.

SpaceX’s conspicuous achievements only fed energy back into the system, driving NASA to become more ambitious, and the Congressional advocates of COTS to push forward with the commercial crew program. Only now were establishment forces in Congress beginning to raise eyebrows at SpaceX, but still did not yet see it as a threat. After all, transporting cargo was one thing, but surely crew flight was still over their weight class. This program, they assured themselves, would be a gimme for Boeing and/or Lockheed, and SpaceX would perhaps rise to a junior partner role in the system.

That confidence, however, quickly bled away as SpaceX continued to march forward with ever more drastic advances, offering prices far below a merely competitive advantage, and steadily developed hardware not even on the drawing board among the big prime contractors. Before these politicians knew it, and with the large-scale financial and technical assistance of NASA, a company they had barely heard of a few years ago was beginning to threaten the viability of long-established, multi-billion-dollar corporations with rock-solid Congressional relationships.

In a panic, the more powerful among them have repeatedly tried to scale back funding for commercial programs that would feed SpaceX, and sought to convince government agencies to throw roadblocks in its way in seeking additional contracts. But SpaceX’s popularity and political weight have grown even more quickly than its technical capabilities, and appears to be within a few years (at most) of transitioning from being an upstart to becoming simply the Program of Record.

Just as von Braun had originally hijacked a cruel, cynical weapon to pursue a dream of wonder and peace; as Korolev redirected the same dumb, unimaginative weapons program for his own people into achievements that will live in memory long after the name of the Soviet Union is long forgotten; and just as von Braun awakened a timid and pragmatic power to shoot for the Moon “because it is hard”; so it seems that soon — knock on wood — Elon Musk may have grown an afterthought commercial cargo-delivery program, one that sought merely to deliver junk to a space station at a slightly lower cost than before, into a revolution with no end, opening up the cosmos to humankind.

A very interesting, and I think insightful historical and political analysis.