Obama’s Immigration Speech

It was blatherskite:

As an act of rare semantic derring-do, this was a towering achievement. As a political speech, I don’t think it was very effective. It puts one in mind of the debate in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which ends when one side manages to prove that black is white — and gets themselves killed at the next pedestrian crosswalk.

To be honest, it’s not clear to me that the president was trying to be persuasive. He seemed, rather, to be triple-dog-daring Republicans to jump off the bridge with him, and if history is any guide, they will probably oblige. But there’s a real risk that Democrats will come to regret having the president jump first.

Reportedly some of them already are. He may have created a wedge issue for his own party.

Gruber The Grifter

Why you don’t want to let “intellectuals” anywhere near power:

Unfortunately, contemporary Washington is calibrated to defer to experts who defer to politicians, providing an intellectual Praetorian Guard for the constant growth of a leviathan. As Denver University professor David Ciepley noted, “Starting in the First World War, and much more so during the New Deal and World War II, American social scientists became part of the autonomous state themselves, helping staff the mushrooming government agencies.” The closer that intellectuals get to politicians, the more weaselly they usually become.

Playing off Mr. Gruber’s derision of average Americans, one wag suggested a new acronym — L.I.E. — for Low Information Experts. Mr. Gruber and many other professors have gotten rich by pretending that government is far more competent than it actually is. Economist Robert Skidelsky, writing about the history of modern socialism, observed that “the collectivist belief system existed independently of the facts of modern life.” The same is true of the academic cadre who profit by vindicating endless government interventions that breed chaos and dependency.

I’d like to think that people will take a lesson from this (particularly with regard to climate models), but history doesn’t make me hopeful.

SLS Engines

They still have no idea what they’re going to do after thye run out of SSMEs.

As I noted on Twitter:

[Afternoon update]

The Obstruction Of Justice At Justice

It was the administration that hacked Sharyl Atkisson’s computer:

How’s that grab you, champions of the fourth estate? The White House teamed up with the Attorney General to take out a troublesome reporter and gin up some dirty coverage for congressional investigators. A patently bogus claim of executive privilege was used to keep politically-damaging documents under wraps until the President was safely beyond the reach of irate voters. You’d have been totally cool with Richard Nixon doing something like this, right?

Sure, if he’d been a Democrat.

The Eric Cartman Presidency

Welcome to it:

In his attempt to troll the hard right, Obama has actually handed them a wonderful gift by killing comprehensive immigration reform dead. Legislative amnesty is finished, it’s done, it’s pining for the fjords. Conservative Republicans get to finally advance border and enforcement reforms without even dealing with those here illegally! It’s just what the Bob Goodlattes of the world have wanted to do all along: ditch the clunky amnesty tradeoffs and deal with citizenship issues last, only after securing the border. It’s the Republican establishment, consultant and donor classes, and the Chamber who are closest to the blast radius on this, turning anyone viewed as pro-amnesty toxic overnight. They will be viewed by the GOP base as supportive of the president’s overreach despite all denials (“I was in favor of what he did but not how he did it” is always a weak position), which will make for some very awkward defenses in the 2016 stakes.



An interesting milestone:

Mojave, CA, November 20, 2014 – XCOR Aerospace today announced it has completed the latest test series for the liquid hydrogen engine it is developing for United Launch Alliance (ULA). This is an important milestone in the long-running LH2 (liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen) program. It is also a step toward running the engine in a fully closed cycle mode.

In its most recent milestone, XCOR successfully performed hot fire testing of the XR-5H25 engine’s regeneratively cooled thrust chamber,with both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants supplied inpump-fed mode, using XCOR’s proprietary piston pump technology.

“This test marks the first time liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen have been supplied to a rocket engine with a piston pump,” says XCOR Chief Executive Officer Jeff Greason. “It is also the first time an American LH2 engine of this size has successfully fired liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen together in pump-fed mode. We are happy to be making solid progress on the engines. This will also bring us to a new phase in our plans for orbital flight.

“ULA has an ongoing effort to develop rocket engines for our next generation upper stage, and we are thrilled to see that progress continuing with XCOR,” added ULA Vice President George Sowers.

Upcoming test series will fully integrate the nozzle with the engine and piston pumps. Fully closed cycle testing will follow soon afterwards and will complete the sub-scale demonstration engine program.

The XR-5H25 engines are being developed under contract to ULA as potential successors to the Delta and Atlas series upper stage engines currently used. These engines will also help power orbital launches.

I suspect they’ll find it useful for their own launchers as well.

The Grubergate Insider Problem

A long but useful essay from Megan McArdle.

We have a similar issue in the space industry. I see all the hype about the upcoming Orion flight, and as an industry analyst (though not quite an insider) I know that it’s nonsense, but it’s hard to get people to realize that NASA officials are often forced to dish nonsense to placate rent-seeking congresspeople; as outsiders, they are still in awe of the government agency that put men on the moon four-and-a-half decades ago.

There is also this:

…when I see journalists saying that Gruber’s revelations don’t matter because he’s just kind of awkwardly saying something that everyone knew, I get a little jittery. I am not “everyone,” and neither are any of those journalists. We’re a tiny group of people with strange preoccupations who get paid to spend our time understanding and explaining this stuff. The fact that we may have mentioned it once to our readers, in the 18th paragraph, does not mean that readers read it and understood what it meant. (In fact, if you actually interact with your readers, you’ll be astonished at how little they remember of what you told them, especially if you didn’t go out of your way to headline it. Their minds are already crammed full of information that they need to, you know, live their lives. So they tend to take away a few big bullet points, not the piddling details.)

I see the same thing when I argue with people on Twitter, or in comments — we often go around in circles because they seem to have forgotten some previous point I’d already made, or read what they wanted to read instead of what I actually wrote. The dismaying thing is that these are often people who love space, but they end up being cheerleaders for things (like SLS/Orion) that are roadblocks rather than enablers.

Those Back-To-Back Commercial Space Disasters

Frank Morring says they were coincidence, and that failure is inevitable. I made the same point at PJMedia last week:

…it is important to understand that there was absolutely no relationship between OSC’s and VG’s accidents, other than they were both commercial activities. It was pure coincidence that they happened within a span of three days. But in both cases, response was rapid.

Nonetheless, a lot of ignorant people will try to use these events to shut down commercial spaceflight.

Jonathan Turley

A rare thing: a Democrat with integrity:

It is a great honor to represent the House of Representatives. We are prepared to litigate this matter as far as necessary. The question presented by this lawsuit is whether we will live in a system of shared and equal powers, as required by our Constitution, or whether we will continue to see the rise of a dominant Executive with sweeping unilateral powers. That is a question worthy of review and resolution in our federal courts.


Time To Euthanize The Lame Duck

Over at Bloomberg View, Stephen Carter writes that it’s time for Congress to go home. I agree. As he notes, lame-duck sessions are an artifact of of transportation technology.

When the Constitution was first ratified, no one could travel faster than the pace of a horse, and it could take weeks to travel from the farthest reaches of the young nation to its capital. Even in 1932, the last time the end date of a session of congress was stipulated, in the 20th Amendment, the fastest safe means of travel was by train. It still took days to travel across the country.

But in the 21st century, with the jet age over half a century old, it is possible to get all the way from all the way even from Anchorage or Honolulu to Washington DC in a single day. There is no longer any excuse for Congress to last more than a week past an election. In fact, I would propose that it be dissolved on the Friday following.

Whether the new Congress was sworn in the following week, or waited until the current January date would be of little moment, as far as I’m concerned. The Founders didn’t require or expect Congress to be in permanent session, and the Republic would survive (and even benefit from) a couple of months without one, absent a national emergency such as the need for a declaration of war. But to maintain the current situation, in which people who had just been repudiated at the polls are allowed to continue to vote, is abhorrent to the very notion of representative democracy, and (as history has shown) a recipe for profound and damaging mischief.

Because the current dates are now established in the Constitution, changing them will require another amendment, and historically, amending the Constitution is difficult. But with Republicans controlling both houses of the Congress and so many state houses (and the president having no say in the matter), the time hasn’t been better in a while for doing amendments in general. Many will be difficult to get past the requisite number of states, but I’ve never heard any good argument for why a Congressional session should long survive an election, so I think amending the 20th Amendment may have good prospects. But if there is one, let’s hear it.

NASA’s Mission To Nowhere

Francis seems to suffer from a lack of imagination:

Space analysts said planning and executing a manned mission to Mars would take years and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

French wants NASA to head in that direction, and he sees next month’s Orion launch as the inaugural milestone in a long journey.

Still, he’s circumspect.

“Unless we build the rockets and test the spacecraft needed to get into deep space, sending humans to Mars will remain a dream for centuries to come,” French said. “Whether Orion will be the vehicle, and whether it will survive the brutal budgetary cycles of Washington politics for the many years ahead that it will need to be funded, is impossible to say. It’s hard to imagine any other method succeeding.

Space historians often suffer from this malady.

Feminist Bullies

Mollie Hemingway says it’s time to fight back.

[Update a while later]

No space for sewing circles.

[Update late morning]

Thoughts from Ken White.

I think the shirt was a poor choice for the occasion, and that a lot of people overreacted to it, and then a lot of people overreacted to the overreaction. That’s what happens with Social Justice Warriors.