The Non-Voters Support Me

Obama’s presser today reminds me of this Usenet classic:

To the tune of “My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean”.

The lurkers support me in email
They all think I’m great don’t you know.
You posters just don’t understand me
But soon you will reap what you sow.

Lurkers, lurkers, lurkers support me, you’ll see, you’ll see
off in e-mail the lurkers support me, you’ll see.

Oh it’s true, and you know they support me.
There’s thousands of lurkers out there!
They all understand my intentions
you posters are not being fair!

Lurkers, lurkers, lurkers support me, you’ll see, you’ll see
off in e-mail the lurkers support me, you’ll see

The lurkers support me in email
“So why don’t they post?” you all cry
They’re scared of your hostile intentions
they’re not as courageous as I.

Lurkers, lurkers, lurkers support me, you’ll see, you’ll see
off in e-mail the lurkers support me, you’ll see

One day I’ll round up all my lurkers
we’ll have a newsgroup of our own
without all this flak from you morons
my lurkers will post round my throne.

Lurkers, lurkers, lurkers support me, you’ll see, you’ll see
off in e-mail the lurkers support me, you’ll see.

Good times, good times.

Obama The Day After

I think Rick Wilson has his number:

First, you’ll see his barely-contained contempt for the voters. After the briefest nod to their unhappiness, they’ll be described as angry, disaffected, and easily fooled by dark money and deceptive television ads. If only America was smart enough to understand his vision. If only they had his advantages of godlike wisdom and preternatural intelligence they’d understand what a terrible mistake they’ve just made. He’ll be very sad for them, really.

Next, he’ll punch the Washington media’s buttons with his usual phony construct of “I’m willing to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, to get things done for this country.” Anyone, that is, except those mouth-breathing, cousin-marrying, snake-handling, slack-jawed, red-state yokels with bad suits and state-college educations. He’ll listen to good ideas, as long as they precisely match his own faculty-lounge vision of technocratic government uber alles. He’ll be open to reforms, except anything to do with the unsullied perfection of Obamacare or any other part of his regulatory overstate. He’ll certainly be willing to talk about the conduct of our foreign and military operations, as long as we remain constrained by his minimalist vision of American interests in the world, and continue to dishearten our allies and comfort our enemies.

What you won’t see in Barack Obama’s eyes or language is real understanding. He’ll say the words the Acela Media expects, and go through the motions at the press conference, but it will be empty of any true realization that this election was a brutal national referendum on his policies and his leadership. This President lacks the fundamental self-awareness of his how his actions (and inaction) brought this day upon him. Obama has always been the student with the gold-star sticker. He’s been told he was brilliant, special, and historic at every inflection point in his life. As a candidate — and as president — he was given every gift, extended every latitude, and cradled in the loving embrace of a media simultaneously enraptured by his charisma and terrified of criticizing the first black President in even the mildest terms.

We were never worthy of him.

In Defense Of Daring

I respond to Jeffrey Kluger’s Branson bashing, over at The New Atlantis.

[Update a few minutes later]

Meghan McArdle says that of course space tourism will continue. The notion that a fatality in a flight test would destroy an industry is pretty stupid.

Also, nothing has changed in the past decade: Alex Tabarrok still doesn’t understand the difference between orbital and suborbital flight, or between flight test and operations.

Branson And Refunds

I’m sure that you’re as shocked as I am that Sir Richard’s statement on Saturday is at variance with reality. I think the technical business term for this is “fiasco.” And I’m angry that it has so tainted the industry, not to mention given the FAA an excuse to regulate, if they wish to.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The real problem is “bad business.”

A Wounded Obama


We may be in for a rough ride.

And then there’s this:

The article, which includes a senior administration official gloating that Obama successfully pressured Netanyahu to avoid launching a military strike on Iran back when it could still have stopped the radical Islamic regime’s nuclear program, signaled that Obama has Iran’s back.

It continues to amaze me that any American Jews continue to support this man. Or Americans who care at all about our national security.

Pilot Error?

That’s not a statement, but clearly is a legitimate question. If so, he paid with his life.

Also if so, it’s a pretty easy thing to fix. But it still doesn’t explain why they deployed without the command to do so. And we still don’t really know how well the engine performed, or what kind of vibration environment it will provide the vehicle and passengers. At least publicly.

[Update a few minutes later]

It strikes me as ironic, and a demonstration of one of the major points of my book, that the two main features of the vehicle implemented in the name of safety (hybrid motor, and feathering wings) may have actually made the vehicle more dangerous and less operable. Lynx will be a much simpler system.

In Which I’m Quoted In The Times Of London

This comment was made in the weekend context, when most reasonably assumed that the engine had caused the disaster:

The decision to change the fuel may have been behind the crash. Experts questioned whether pressure from investors might have been a factor in decisions by Sir Richard Branson and Scaled Composites, the spacecraft’s designers, to pursue what many considered to be a flawed design.

“If Sir Richard wants to move forward with his business, he needs to go back to the drawing board,” said Mr Simberg, the author of Safe is Not an Option. “Many in the industry, including me, have been concerned about Virgin’s propellant system for years.”

Obviously, I expect them to continue down the current path now, absent some new engine concern. But my warnings were never that much about safety (though as I wrote on Saturday, the safety of hybrids has been dramatically overhyped), but whether or not it was a good engine from a business standpoint, in terms of performance, operability, turnaround, cost, and getting the vehicle to market soon. Those concerns have not gone away.

[Update a while later]

A pretty comprehensive story, including history, over at Popular Mechanics. He’s not sanguine about the prospects for the vehicle, though (like me) doesn’t see it as a setback for the industry itself.

[Update a while later]

What does this mean for New Mexico? A long but useful backgrounder.

[Update early afternoon]

Someone over at Arocket found a video of a previous SS2 flight in which feathers were unlocked ten seconds into the burn (as opposed to nine seconds on Friday). So if it was early, it wasn’t very. Not obvious pilot error yet.

The Antares Problem

A piece at Forbes, quoting Dennis Wingo. I love this:

When contacted for comment, Orbital Sciences spokesperson Sean Wilson refused to be drawn into a discussion of the malfunctioning launcher’s problems.

“Until the investigation is complete, we can’t speculate on what caused the failure,” Wilson told Forbes.

Of course you can. You’re not under a gag order. You’re just using that as an excuse to not do so.

What Happened To SpaceShipTwo?

My thoughts, over at PJMedia.

I should note that I since I wrote it yesterday, I’m starting to think that perhaps a chunk of nylon at cold temperatures aloft broke off and blocked the nozzle, because I’m hearing that the oxidizer tank itself was intact, meaning that it was a combustion-chamber explosion (which would be consistent with the pictures). So perhaps it was a problem with the new fuel. Either way, we won’t know until the NTSB completes its investigation, but either way, I think they have to (finally) take a new approach.

[Evening update]

This article
at The Telegraph is pretty devastating.

I think that the biggest issue at this point is how to stave off demands that the FAA start regulating, and to somehow still extend the learning period.

Disasters, And Time

Some thoughts from space anthropologist David Valentine on the different perspective of the space community:

Space Is Hard” is a line I have heard from the beginning of my fieldwork in 2009, as is the acknowledgment that at some point, a disaster will strike, that someone will lose a life, and that the industry (and the social movement that I think it is) needs to prepare for its consequences. Starting yesterday, we began to see people doing just that. But it would be missing the point entirely to see this only as industry “damage control” or “spin.” At yesterday’s post-crash press conference in Mojave, Virgin Galactic’s CEO George Whitesides, visibly shaken and grief-struck, repeated this line—space is hard—and gave the usual corporate assurances one often hears in these kinds of press conferences. But he and Stu Witt—the outgoing CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port—said other things in that press conference that only makes sense if you understand how time and history appear to Newspacers. “The future rests in many ways on hard, hard days like this,” said Whitesides. Witt, a central figure in making Mojave a center for Newspace industries, went further in responding to a young reporter’s question: “We’re doing this for you and your generation, it’s worthy, good business, it’s a cause greater than any of us. I see this as being like the Magellan mission.” For Whitesides the distant future and for Witt, the historical past make sense of the terrible loss they were enduring (and yes, I will be writing more about such colonial analogies at some future point, but not today).

If you hear these statements as pablum, as inappropriate, or as covers for corporate malfeasance, then I think you’re missing the point. I’d challenge you to find any other post-industrial-disaster press conference where people talk about the distant future or past in these ways, under duress, under the pressure of grief. The point is that Whitesides, Witt, and a host of other women and men have a deep commitment to a particular view of history and the future which—whether you find it compelling or not—helps them make sense of a death and the fracturing of daily life that have resulted from this crash. For them, the loss of this pilot’s life—a friend and colleague—is a sacrifice to a larger, historical goal. (For the best characterization of this view, see Rand Simberg’s Safe Is Not an Option). While questions abound about Virgin Galactic’s safety culture and the advisability of sending SpaceShip2 on this flight, for the myriad space settlement advocates who see history as coming back in alignment with its true course, this disaster should not spell the end of the Newspace mission because it is, in Witt’s words, worthy.


The NTSB Briefing

It’s supposed to start at 9 AM PDT. Reportedly it will be live streamed by ABC-TV in Bakersfield.

[Post-briefing update]

OK, not much info. Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the NTSB said they’d just arrived, didn’t have any substantive info, would have another presser this afternoon after initial data gathering. Lead investigator will be a Lorenda Ward, with a team of 13-15 people. Didn’t know if vehicle had a black box, what altitude it occurred, but expects to get lots of telemetry/video because it was a test flight. That’s it until next presser. Follow @ntsb or go to for schedule of future press conferences.

[Update at 09:32 PDT]

Channel 23 is still streaming from the Witt Center, Branson may be about to make a statement.

[Update a while later]

Leonard David has a transcript of Branson’s statement. As Miles O’Brien noted on Twitter, he seems to have lost some of his swagger.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Michael Belfiore: SpaceShipTwo and why space matters.

The Phony War On Women

The Democrats have lost it:

What happened? For one thing, Republican candidates had better message discipline in 2014, depriving Democrats of opportunities for their demagoguery.

The incessant harping on contraception may have finally repelled women who have other concerns, such as the economy and national security, just like the millennials. But perhaps the desperation of Democrats to play this card with the same effectiveness as two years ago finally opened their eyes to the paternalistic attitude that Democrats took in positioning themselves as protectors, which implies that women can’t act on their own behalf.

Couldn’t have happened to a more vile bunch of demagogues.

[Update a couple minutes later]


Took off a few minutes ago in Mojave. Looks like a powered flight attempt, if the weather cooperates (there’s a front coming in, that’s supposed to bring us some much-needed Halloween rain this evening).

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s the story from Alan Boyle.

[Update at 10:26]

[Update a few minutes later]

Alan Stern just tweeted, after I asked if they had chutes, that they are (or were) on chute.

[Update a few minutes later]

Still no update, but as Charles Lurio just emailed, “Statement forthcoming” is always a bad sign.

[Update at 11 AM]

OK, some confusion about whether or not pilots bailed, but reports on police scanner of a downed aircraft, and Bakersfield reports sending Kern County fire equipment north of Mojave.

[Update at 11:23]

One pilot reported dead, news conference at 2 PM PDT. They’re covering it at NASASpaceflight.

[Update a few minutes later]

Doug Messier is back in Internet range, and reporting that he saw it light, then stop, then relight, then got lost in clouds. Saw it blow up in the air, came down in pieces. Went to crash site with debris field, saw a body in a seat.

[Update, just before press conference in Mojave]

Streaming at NBC.