Category Archives: Law

Planetary Protection

There may be some useful changes coming to NASA:

JPL has butted heads with the office over the next big mission, the Mars 2020 rover, which will gather rock samples for later retrieval to Earth. JPL is interesting in having the rover target areas with subsurface brines, an activity that would not be allowed with its planned level of cleanliness. Moreover, the planetary protection office has not yet agreed on the efficacy of the techniques JPL will use to sterilize the tubes in which the rover will cache rock cores. If the issues aren’t resolved, Rummel says, the rover could be headed for a bureaucratic “train wreck”.

The office, which has always been limited by a small budget and staff, continues to gauge a spacecraft’s “bioburden” based on a classic measure—the number of cultivable microbial spores it carries. “Some of the numbers we’ve been operating on date back decades, and it’d be great to revisit them,” says Sarah Johnson, a planetary scientist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She thinks the office should take advantage of two innovations: chemicals that can separate DNA from dead and living cells, and genomic sequencers that can classify the living ones by type. Scientists could then, for example, assess their individual likelihoods of surviving on Mars.

As a member of the Curiosity team, Johnson would like to see a change in policy that would allow the rover to sidle up to the wet streaks to give them a close look, even if the drill itself—currently on the fritz since December 2016—could not be used. In their op-ed, Fairén and his colleagues go further, saying NASA should slightly lower its sterilization standards so that robots as clean as Curiosity could explore special regions. Fairén says there is growing evidence that the harsh environment on the martian surface—a combination of frigid temperatures, caustic chemicals and deadly cosmic radiation—would kill Earth’s microbes quickly, especially in the limited numbers that ride along with robots. Even if some survive, he adds, future missions could distinguish between earthly and martian microbes by sequencing their genomes.

As the article notes, it’s inevitable that humans are going to go there. If they want to look for non-terrestrial life, they need to start doing it now.

The Value Of Trump

George Will finds a silver lining:

Executive power expanded, with only occasional pauses (thank you, Presidents Taft and Coolidge, of blessed memory), throughout the 20th century and has surged in the 21st. After 2001, “The Decider” decided to start a preventive war and to countenance torture prohibited by treaty and statute. His successor had “a pen and a phone,” an indifference to the Constitution’s take care clause (the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed”) and disdain for the separation of powers, for which he was repeatedly rebuked by the Supreme Court.

Fortunately, today’s president is so innocent of information that Congress cannot continue deferring to executive policymaking. And because this president has neither a history of party identification nor an understanding of reciprocal loyalty, congressional Republicans are reacquiring a constitutional — a Madisonian — ethic. It mandates a prickly defense of institutional interests, placing those interests above devotion to parties that allow themselves to be defined episodically by their presidents.

Furthermore, today’s president is doing invaluable damage to Americans’ infantilizing assumption that the presidency magically envelops its occupant with a nimbus of seriousness. After the president went to West Virginia to harangue some (probably mystified) Boy Scouts about his magnificence and persecutions, he confessed to Ohioans that Lincoln, but only Lincoln, was more “presidential” than he. So much for the austere and reticent first president who, when the office was soft wax, tried to fashion a style of dignity compatible with republican simplicity.

Fastidious people who worry that the president’s West Virginia and Ohio performances — the alpha male as crybaby — diminished the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. Diminution drains this office of the sacerdotal pomposities that have encrusted it. There will be 42 more months of this president’s increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire apotheosis of himself, leavened by his incessant whining about his tribulations (“What dunce saddled me with this silly attorney general who takes my policy expostulations seriously?”). This protracted learning experience, which the public chose to have and which should not be truncated, might whet the public’s appetite for an adult president confident enough to wince at, and disdain, the adoration of his most comically groveling hirelings.

Anything we can do to reduce the power and overreach of the presidency, and restores Congress’s sense of its own prerogatives and diminishes party, is to be lauded, even if it results from the behavior of an ignorant narcissistic lout.

The Administrative State

declares independence.

The federal government seems to have accumulated a lot of parasites who are indifferent, or hostile to the Constitution. It may be necessary to hire some outside people to properly prosecute the criminals from the previous administration. It’s time to clean house in general, but if Trump was the man to do it, he would have started a long time ago. He’s too busy getting involved in Twitter wars to care, apparently.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of the Constitution, no Mr. President, the Senate doesn’t report to you, and neither do Republicans. I had this crazy idea last year that the Republicans should have nominated someone who’s read the Constitution, but they had different ideas, apparently. But it will be nice if one effect of Trump is to restore Congress’s will to enforce its own prerogatives.

I do like this idea, though: “On my short-list for potential constitutional amendments is a ban on Senators becoming President. It would probably improve the presidency, and it would definitely improve the Senate.”

It would have saved us from Barack Obama, John McCain, John Kerry, and Bob Dole, among others.


Why should it work in only one direction?

I’d ban “qualified immunity” — a creature of judicial activism with no basis in the Constitution — entirely. But short of that, it should never be available when police have failed to knock, announce themselves, and wait for the homeowner to answer the door.

And in the case of anyone who breaks down your door — whether in a police uniform or not — the presumption should be that you did the right thing by shooting them. Door-breakers should bear that risk. Likewise, if they shoot someone in the house, the presumption should be that they acted improperly.

Homeowners whose doors are broken down without good reason should be able to proceed against the assets of the law enforcement agency involved.

Yes. That’s the only way to end this lawless behavior.

The Imran Awan Case

It needs a special counsel a thousand times more than Russiagate:

There are a lot of shoelaces to be tied up here. Among them:

Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz keep this man in her employ right up until he was arrested Tuesday night when he has been under suspicion for months. Does he have something on her or other people?

Why did Nancy Pelosi lie when she said she never heard of Awan? Email revealed by Wikileaks says Awan had access to Pelosi’s iPad. (Wiklileaks has never been shown to be inaccurate.)

What is on the smashed hard drives Awan is trying to retrieve from the FBI? (Oh, those Democrats and their hard drives.)

Why is Awan suddenly being legally represented at the highest level by Clinton ultra-loyalist Chris Gowan — a fact-checker for Bill Clinton’s memoir of all things? (They are already using the same right-wing conspiracy baloney they used in the Lewinski case.) Does this make sense if Awan’s just a low-life fraudster? Why not let him dangle?

Just what is the relationship, if any, between the Awan case and the unsolved Seth Rich murder? Is it entirely an accident that Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s brother Steven is accused of blocking the investigation? Denials from Debbie aren’t worth much anymore.

Where did the Wikileaks come from anyway? Was it really Russia?

Funny thing, though, the alphabet news organizations don’t even seem to think this is a story.

[Update a few minutes later]

More links from Glenn.

[Update a few more minutes later]

Understanding the Awan connection:

Hezbollah aside, the danger posed by scandal-plagued, debt-ridden IT professionals on Capitol Hill is obvious, especially when (1) they have access to national security information and (2), if I may say so, when they are connected to Pakistan. It’s impossible not to wonder who may have received data the Awans had access to, especially given Pakistan’s history of collaborating with a various foreign countries and entities — including both friends and foes of America.

Finally, according to Raisley, Imran Awan had access to Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s iPad password. This probably means the brothers had direct access to DNC emails. Might they have sold them to Russians? Might they have sold them to non-Russians?

Clearly, I’ve entered the realm of speculation. But if the mainstream media is going to speculate endlessly about President Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia, shouldn’t it also be speculating about the Awan connection? And if Trump is to be investigated endlessly by the government, shouldn’t the Awan connection be investigated, as well?

So what’s keeping Sessions from assigning a special prosecutor? He hasn’t recused himself from this.

[Update a few more minutes later]

Total MSNBC and CNN blackout of the story continues.

[Sunday-morning update]

This is about a lot more than bank fraud. As Mark Steyn says, want to see real collusion with a hostile power? Because this is what it looks like. And just how bad is the rot at the FBI that they let all this go on for so long?


[Update a few minutes later]

Roger Simon reviews all of the scandals:

Quite a litany, huh? Are all six connected? It’s hard to say at this time. Maybe all are or none are. I would imagine it’s some, if not all. But they’re all connected morally — plus beneath all this are the endless leaks, which I suppose could constitute a scandal of their own.

Now let’s play that game from Sesame Street — “One of these things is not like the others.” Yes, you got it. It’s number one. In that case, Republicans are under suspicion. In the other five, it’s the Democrats. And yet the only one under official investigation by Robert Mueller and crew is one. Something rotten in the state of…? You bet!

Yup. If Republicans were smart, they’d be screaming for investigation into all of this, beyond what Jim Jordan and a few others have been doing. But if Republican were smart, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

[Monday-morning update]

Let’s investigate all the scandals:

The House Republicans identify no fewer than 14 additional scandals or potential scandals that they want investigated by a second special counsel, Robert Mueller having shown himself to be a tool of the Democratic Party (my characterization, not theirs).

…At a time when the corruption of the Democratic Party stinks to high heaven, it is absurd that the “investigation” garnering nearly all the headlines relates to something that didn’t happen. It is time to fight fire with fire.

The House Republicans addressed their letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Sessions may or may not have been correct in recusing himself with regard to the investigation into the Trump campaign, but he certainly has no need to defer with regard to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the fourteen additional subjects raised by the House Judiciary Committee members. He should appoint one or more additional special counsels to go after the Democrats. They should all be loyal Republican attack dogs. And when the dust has settled, the special counsel law should be repealed.

The Democrats have gotten away with (in some cases, literally) murder for decades, thanks to the Democrat operatives with bylines in the media.

[Bumped again]

[Update a while later]

Yes, Congress can, and should censure Debbie Wasserman Schultz. At a minimum.

Health Care

Yes, access to it is limited by overregulation:

The problem is that healthcare consumers have limited options. At the two ends of the spectrum, they can see a licensed doctor, or they can do it themselves. One option is extremely expensive, time-consuming, and reliable, and the other is free and still time-consuming but not as reliable. In between, there are few other choices. It’s possible to use a service like Teladoc or visit a drugstore clinic in some areas for minor issues like strep throat, an earache, or a sprained ankle, but in the absence of the current system of occupational licensing, there’d be a much broader continuum of possibilities between my unlettered amateur visits to Dr. Google and visits to an actual doctor’s office.

The problem is compounded by the fact that we pay for health-care via “insurance” coverage, which isn’t really insurance but just prepaid health-care. This system requires lots and lots of rules about what can and can’t be covered and what constitutes medicine. The entire healthcare market would function much more efficiently if there were more options. For treating a lot of conditions, you don’t need someone who went to four years of medical school and worked through a grueling residency. Better to save that talent for more challenging stuff and allow people to seek marginal improvements over DIY diagnosis.

But instead, we’re forced to buy “insurance” that isn’t really insurance, and they’ve totally destroyed the concept of insurance.