All posts by Rand Simberg

Light Blogging

We woke up this morning to no Internet. The lights on the modem looked fine, but there was no ethernet connection to either my computer or to the mesh router (which was magenta, indicating no Internet). I talked to Frontier, and they agreed that it sounded like a dead LAN port bank. Unfortunately, they won’t get me a new one until tomorrow or Thursday. I’m typing this from my laptop tethered to my phone, but I don’t want to use a lot of bandwidth, so I can’t really scour the web for material as I usually do. The other issue is that I don’t seem to be able to get a wireless connector going on my Fedora desktop, either an old Linksys PCI card or a new Tp-Link USB device; the system doesn’t seem to recognize either one. So I’m stuck on the laptop if I want any Internet at all.

[Wednesday-afternoon update]

Got the new modem early afternoon, and we’re back on the air.

Nancy MacLean

Is she the new Michael Bellesiles?

It’s very important to the Left to try to make the case that conservatives are racist, even with fake history, not only to smear them, but to cover up their own long history of racism, which continues even to this day.

[Wednesday-morning update]

Well, this is brutal, but fair:

Once I realized that this was the approach, the larger point became clear: Democracy in Chains is a work of speculative historical fiction. There is considerable research underpinning the speculation, and since MacLean is careful about footnoting only things that actually did happen she cannot be charged with fabricating facts. But most of the book, and all of its substantive conclusions, are idiosyncratic interpretations of the facts that she selects from a much larger record, as is common in the speculative-history genre. There is nothing wrong about speculation, of course, but there is nothing persuasive about it either, in terms of drawing reliable conclusions about history.

The reason that Democracy in Chains is remarkable is that it is such a great story. The evil mastermind of the secretive “Public Choice” movement, James M. Buchanan, was the winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. MacLean is able to decode the true meaning of his mostly rather bland, academic-ese writings, after which Buchanan achieves the status of a Bond villain. Buchanan sought nothing less than to bring down the America we all love, and replace it with a plutocracy. The account is rendered plausible by MacLean’s excellence as a writer.

The problem with history, of course, is that many narratives about a few cherry-picked events and documents are “plausible.” The task of the historian is to try to distinguish among plausible accounts “through careful sifting of evidence and respectful encounters with opposing points of view.” There is none of that here. Even a casual familiarity with the basic facts of James Buchanan’s life and scholarship, and of the growth and success of the Public Choice movement, reveal far simpler, and more plausible, explanations.

…MacLean’s thesis really does read like a plot line that Ian Fleming rejected for a Bond novel: “No, that’s nuts. Let’s go back to the idea where a nuclear missile blows up the moon and changes the orbit of the Earth, causing earthquakes that allow recovery of hidden oil reserves and diamonds. That’s more plausible.” Nevertheless, the narrative thread connecting the documents and discussions that MacLean has selected from the much larger and more equivocal record does indeed have this structure, and that is what we are evaluating.

It’s long, but worth the read, if you want to actually understand Buchanan, public choice and libertarianism.

Small Modular Reactors

They may finally be on their way. But as the article says, we won’t understand their economics until they’re actually put into operation. And as usual, the Union of Confused “Scientists” will try to throw up roadblocks.

Interestingly we were working with Flour Daniel when I was at Rockwell working the Space Exploration Initiative on ISRU. I wonder how applicable these would be on the moon or Mars? There’s water for cooling in both places.

Washington’s Dysfunction

One sentence explains it:

They didn’t think Trump could, or would, or should win, and so they dropped the health care and tax policy ball. Nor did the president’s mutability help things. It wasn’t clear whether Trump wanted full repeal of Obamacare with a replacement to come later, or repeal-and-replace with no gap, as he told 60 Minutes in November, or which taxes and regulations he wanted to keep, or how much he wanted to reform Medicaid. What matters to this president is the accomplishment, the signing ceremony, the trophy, the result. How he gets there, the details of legislation, are less important to him. That’s what he has Congress for.

A corollary to the widespread belief that Trump would lose was that criticizing him had no cost. Trump might have moved into first place in the national polling within a month of declaring his candidacy, he might have held that position throughout the entire primary with the brief exception of a few days in November 2015, but he was, to say the least, no ordinary frontrunner. Typically, party flacks shy away from offending frontrunners, lest they risk jobs in a possible administration. The party thus presents something like a united front, even if the primary is contested. Think of the Democrats in 2016.

But the Republicans last year were different. Trump was overthrowing both the party and conservative movement establishments, violating norms of discourse and behavior, altering the ideological composition of the GOP, and thriving amidst chaos, polarization, and conflict. Not only did he invite rebuke, he loved it, for it gave him the opportunity to separate himself from the Republican Party of the Bushes, Dole, McCain, and Romney. And since the operative assumption was that he would in no circumstances become president, GOP stalwarts zinged him with abandon, knowing they were not giving up the chance to be, say, assistant secretary for consular affairs.

Well, joke’s on us, because not only did Trump become president, he knows how to hold a grudge. The result is an understaffed administration. Cabinet agencies send the names of potential bureaucrats to the White House, and the names are rejected if they attacked or mocked the president on social media during the campaign. This is within Trump’s rights, of course. I wouldn’t hire someone who disliked me, either. (Let that be a warning to aspiring journalists.) My point is he would have a much larger talent pool to draw from had more people thought he was going to win.

Both the Republican and Democrat parties chose the form of their destructor.

[Update late morning]

The resistance that cried wolf:

CNN’s Jim Acosta is being hyperbolic when he says video of Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been “banned by the USA” and asks if it feels like America when the media is “openly” trashed or other, more conservative outlets get to ask questions instead of his.

It’s enough to make a person who would otherwise like to stand in journalistic solidarity with Acosta on these questions ask, “What about Spiro Agnew?” (Indeed, what about White House press secretaries under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush suggesting there be no live coverage of these briefings at all?)

The criticism some of us have of those who are obsessively anti-Trump isn’t that they are necessarily wrong about the president. I personally share many of their harsh assessments, especially of his fixation on petty feuds at a time of international peril, not to mention his overall temperament.

Yet they can also be almost naive in their evaluations of politicians and government pre-Trump, blind to how the governing class’ failures and character flaws made this presidency possible in the first place. Indeed, they often risk becoming the resistance that cried wolf.

Nothing Trump does wrong can be excused by pointing to the Clintons or others. We don’t want bad precedents to be set by the president or followed by future ones. What we should want is for all politicians to abide by the same set of rules — whether we like them or not.

Yes.

A Trillion People In the Solar System

Jeff Bezos expanded on his space vision at Buzz’s gala in Florida:

Bezos rejects the common ‘Plan B’ argument in favor of human exploration; that one day the Earth is going to be destroyed, so we’d better find somewhere else to live.

“I hate that idea, and I find it very un-motivating,” said Bezos.

“We have sent robotic probes now to every planet in the solar system and, believe me, this is the best one – Earth is a gem, it’s incredible.”

He then went on to quote several Apollo astronauts about what they thought about Earth when they returned form the Moon, notably Apollo 14’s Alan Bean: ‘Since returning I have not complained about the weather one single time – I’m glad there is weather. I’ve not complained about traffic— I’m glad there are people around. Why do people complain about the Earth? We are living in the Garden of Eden.’

…For Bezos, colonising space is a more a simple necessity for continued life on Earth. The compound effect of the incremental increase in energy requirements will mean us having to cover every inch of Earth in solar cells, he said, while the solar system offers virtually unlimited energy resources.

“We can harvest resources from asteroids, from Near-Earth Objects, and harvest solar energy from a much broader surface area – and continue to do amazing things,” he said. The alternative, he said, was an era of stasis and stagnation on Earth, where we are forced to control population and limit energy usage per capita.

“I don’t think stasis is compatible with freedom or liberty, and I sure as hell think it’s going to be a very boring world – I want my grandchildren’s grandchildren to be in a world of pioneering, exploration and expansion throughout the solar system.”

He also suggested that exploration and colonisation of the solar system would make it possible to support one trillion people.

“Then we would have 1,000 Einstein’s and 1,000 Mozarts, how cool would that be?” he said.

“What’s holding us back from making that next step is that space travel is just too darned expensive because we throw the rockets away. We need to build reusable rockets and that’s what Blue Origin is dedicated to.”

Bezos’s vision is much more hopeful and expansive than Elon’s, which is more about fear (i.e., Plan B), and mostly constrained to a single planet (Mars). But I’m glad they’re both out there competing with each other to (finally) drive down the cost of access to space.

But I do criticize one aspect of the report:

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, based at Kennedy Space Centre’s Pad 39A where the Apollo missions launched from, is due to test its 229ft Falcon Heavy (FH) rocket this September. It will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world, though NASA’s Mars-focused SLS, at 365ft rocket, will takeover that mantle in 2028 or so.

The latter is not a reportable fact. I’d have written it as “though NASA hopes that its Mars-focused SLS, at 365ft rocket, will takeover that mantle in 2028 or so.” I think it’s a fantasy, if both Falcon Heavy (and maybe ITS) and New Glenn and New Armstrong are operational by then. The SLS jobs program will not survive that.

Clinton’s Emails

Byron York: What campaign wouldn’t have wanted to get them?

It was, as the New York Times’ Mark Landler said in August 2016, the “original sin” of the Clinton email affair — that Clinton herself, and no independent body, unilaterally decided which emails she would hand over to the State Department and which she would delete.

Still, there were people who did not believe that Clinton’s deleted emails, all 30,000-plus of them, were truly gone. What is ever truly gone on the Internet? And what if Clinton were not telling the truth? What if she deleted emails covering more than just personal matters? In that event, recovering the emails would have rocked the 2016 presidential campaign.

So, if there were an enormous trove of information potentially harmful to a presidential candidate just sitting out there — what opposing campaign wouldn’t want to find it?

I certainly still want to see them. And I still want to see a special prosecutor appointed to do (unlike Comey’s) a proper investigation.

The problem for the Trump defenders (and after last week, I hesitate to bring the issue up again), is that the campaign spent months vociferously denying that they were colluding with the Russians to get this kind of information while simultaneously doing everything possible (other than saying they weren’t) to make it look as though they were, including Trump’s own public request of Putin almost a year ago to hack her and find the emails. His defenders now say there was nothing wrong about going to Russia for oppo research. OK, fine. If there was nothing wrong, why have they spent so much energy denying that they did so?

I hate to say what I would do if I were Trump, because, obviously, if I were Trump, I’d do all the stupid things that Trump does. But if I were someone in Trump’s position here’s what I would have done. I’d have given the following speech:

One of the reasons that I won this election is because my opponent was not only a terrible candidate with awful policies, but recognizably corrupt. And not only was, and is, she corrupt, but so was the previous administration that in addition to siccing the IRS on its political enemies while covering up the crime, refused to properly investigate her, and tied the hands of the FBI director in his investigation.

Because she did all she could to destroy all those emails, we have no idea what was in them that she so feared us finding, but the public still deserves to know. If getting them from the Russians was the only way to get them, then that was the price that had to be paid, to begin to restore the integrity of the American government, and I make no apologies for that.

But I’m not Trump.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of Clinton corruption, I’m sure that this is just a coinkidinky: Haiti official who exposed the Clinton Crime Family Foundation’s criminality and was going to expose much more next week “commits suicide.” Sure he did.

Oh, and a reminder from a year ago. Sad how being associated with the Clintons (and/or investigating them) makes so many people so despondent that they have to take their own lives.

[Update a few minutes later]

For those too young to remember, how the press ignored or helped cover up Clinton corruption two decades ago. Democrat operatives with bylines.

The sprawling fundraising scandal ultimately led to 22 guilty pleas on various violations of election laws. Among the Clinton fundraisers and friends who pleaded guilty were John Huang, Charlie Trie, James Riady, and Michael Brown, son of the late Clinton Commerce secretary Ron Brown. But many questions went unanswered, even after the revelations that Clinton had personally authorized offering donors Oval Office meetings and use of the Lincoln bedroom. A total of 120 participants in the fundraising scandal either fled the country, asserted their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, or otherwise avoided questioning. The stonewalling worked — and probably encouraged Hillary Clinton in her own cover-up of her private e-mail server and her ties with the Clinton Foundation.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/449539/chinese-illegally-donated-bill-clinton-reelection-campaign-media-downplayed

The nineties were when I finally lost any vestige of support for Democrats I’d ever had.

[Update a few more minutes later]

Subpoena Fusion GPS:

Isn’t it interesting that a Russian-born American lobbyist with a Soviet counter-intelligence background just happens to have been tied to Fusion GPS?

The depth of corruption in DC is staggering. Trump was elected in part to drain that swamp, but he seems too incompetent to do it.

[Update a couple minutes later:

Which theory is harder to believe?

That Trump, who had never run for office before and who was panned as a clown by the Democrats and the media right up until Election Night last November, orchestrated a grand coup d’état with the assistance of the Russians to “hack” an American election, and that it was so well hidden that the Don Junior meeting is the only real evidence unearthed so far of the whole thing?

…Or that the Obama administration and the Democratic Party used their immense power to attempt to ensnare the Trumps in a damaging narrative that would either discredit him and the Republican Party as traitors in the event of a Clinton victory or cripple his administration in “scandal” should he pull an upset?

This is going to get very messy for the Democrats, I hope.