Blow To British Sovereignty

Iain Murray has already briefly commented on this, but the British grocers who were accused of violating the EU laws on food labeling (they used imperial units instead of, or as well as, metric) lost a court appeal today. The judges ruled that EU law (made by unelected Continental bureaucrats) essentially supercedes Parliament.

It will be interesting to see the public reaction in Britain to this ruling, and whether or not the British (and particularly the English) people are transmogrifying into sheep.

Only Outlaws Will Be Clones, Part Deux

In my post about the Fox All Star cloning debate, in which I bemoan the fact that no one seems to think that they even have to offer a reason why human cloning is a Bad Thing, reader “Joe” writes:

The reason to be against human cloning is quite clear, which may be why some people don’t think they need to state. What do you do with failures?

If that’s your argument, it’s an argument against allowing procreation at all, since every pregnancy attempt has the potential for defects. As Professor Reynolds has correctly pointed out (probably on numerous occasions), that’s an argument against doing cloning badly–not against cloning per se. We had exactly the same issue with in-vitro fertilization, but somehow the world didn’t come to an end, ethically or otherwise, and there are many happy people in the universe who wouldn’t exist today if we had banned it.

Certainly it would be irresponsible to attempt to clone a human until we understand much more about the process, and have done it reliably and successfully on something similarly complex (e.g., chimps, which share about 98% of our DNA). And outlawing it will not prevent it–it will simply send it underground where it’s even more difficult to monitor or regulate it.

But I’m still awaiting an argument against cloning per se, other than the Leon Kass “ick” factor.

Faster Better Cheaper…From The Pentagon

According to an article over at today’s Spaceref, the Administration’s space transport policy is slowly starting to come into focus. What’s been going on in this area for the past year is mostly inertial activity from the Clinton/Goldin era, and it was pretty much business-as-usual, with the space industrial complex (NASA, Air Force, Congress and industry) going through the usual charade of faux requirements analysis and “convergence of interests” via “One Team” to determine what the “Next Space Transportation System” should look like. (i.e., a continued monopoly on launch system development. Can’t have any competition–it’s too inefficient. We commissars know what’s best…).

But a realization is starting to coalesce that the military, particularly in light of Secretary Rumsfeld’s forceful new doctrine of space control, truly has radically different space access requirements than NASA. And of equal (if not greater) interest is the fact that those requirements are much more congruent with commercial needs than NASA’s. That’s because NASA, as an agency, has very few ambitions in space (though there are no doubt many individuals within NASA who are very frustrated about this). They’ve been basically content to fly the Shuttle a few times a year, and this has resulted in the outrageously and unjustifiably high costs of manned space access, as I’ve discussed previously.

This was one of the many reasons that the X-33 program was such a massive failure. Although it had a veneer of commercial intent, the reality was that Lockheed Martin sized it as a Shuttle replacement, with a nod to the existing geosynchronous launch market as the commercial fig leaf, because they knew that was what the customer wanted, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated in the contract. This resulted in requirements that didn’t require a high flight rate (at least not a high enough flight rate to seriously reduce launch costs).

But the DoD, particularly the post-911 DoD, wants to be able to do routine sorties into orbit. This is going to require responsiveness and turnaround times orders of magnitude better than Shuttle can offer, and even better than anything NASA has seriously considered for their Space Launch Initiative. And of course, such a vehicle will be much lower cost (assuming that such a capability is utilized), for the reasons discussed previously. So ironically, unlike previous NASA activities, in which only the usual government-contractor suspects were willing to invest, the commercial markets may actually be interested in new vehicle concepts coming from the Department of Defense.

The best policy change to come out of this will be a reversal of the disastrous Clinton Administration decision, in the interest of state-socialist efficiency, to grant a monopoly to NASA in reusable launch systems, while putting the Pentagon in charge of expendables.

O’Keefe has said that the Clinton administration policy wherein reusable vehicle primacy was lead by NASA, and expendable vehicle development led by DoD was “in need of a complete review-a lot has changed since that policy was created.”

The new Administrator is being diplomatic. The policy was brainless at the time, and it makes absolutely no sense now.

One other comment worth noting:

Some industry skeptics suggest that the true cost of a fully reusable 2-stage launcher than would be capable of replacing the space shuttle in payload capability and onorbit operations is more in the range of $10-20 billion.

For “industry skeptics” read “usual suspects who have been bilking the taxpayer out of billions for years on programs like the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) and the X-33, while keeping launch costs unaffordably high.” Let’s ignore, for the moment, the disingenuousness of the false assumption that we need a single Shuttle replacement vehicle that does everything that Shuttle does. The real point is that the “industry skeptics” are doing quite well from the current modus operandi, and have no interest in seeing it change.

Do not look for innovation from people who are benefitting from the status quo. There are some refreshing signs that the Administration is starting to recognize the applicability of that ancient dictum to the problem of space access.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!