Category Archives: Business

The Ideology That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Who owns socialism?

As Confucius said, “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.”

One of the insidious tactics of the left over the decades has been to debase the currency of the language, calling themselves “liberals” and “progressives,” and accusing those who disagree with them as “racists,” and “haters.” I refuse to bow to their politically corrosive sophistry. What we are seeing in Washington today is socialism, and fascism, and the two are not opposites, but are in fact closely related.

[Update a few minutes later]

Jonah Goldberg has similar thoughts today at USA Today:

The whole spectacle was just too funny for liberal observers. Robert Schlesinger, U.S. News & World Report’s opinion editor, was a typical giggler. He chortled, “What’s really both funny and scary about all of this is how seriously the fringe-nuts in the GOP take it.”

Putting aside the funny and scary notion that it’s “funny and scary” for political professionals to take weighty political issues seriously, there are some fundamental problems with all of this disdain. For starters, why do liberals routinely suggest, even hope, that Obama and the Democrats are leading us into an age of socialism, or social democracy or democratic socialism? (One source of confusion is that these terms are routinely used interchangeably.)

For instance, in (another) fawning interview with President Obama, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham mocks Obama’s critics for considering Obama to be a “crypto-socialist.” This, of course, would be the same Jon Meacham who last February co-authored a cover story with Newsweek’s editor at large (and grandson of the six-time presidential candidate for the American Socialist Part) Evan Thomas titled — wait for it — “We Are All Socialists Now,” in which they argued that the growth of government was making us like a “European,” i.e. socialist, country.

Washington Post columnists Jim Hoagland (a centrist), E.J. Dionne (a liberal) and Harold Meyerson (very, very liberal) have all suggested that Obama intentionally or otherwise is putting us on the path to “social democracy.” Left-wing blogger and Democratic activist Matthew Yglesias last fall hoped that the financial crisis offered a “real opportunity” for “massive socialism.” Polling done by Rasmussen — and touted by Meyerson — shows that while Republicans favor “capitalism” over “socialism” by 11 to 1, Democrats favor capitalism by a mere 39% to 30%. So, again: Is it really crazy to think that there is a constituency for some flavor of socialism in the Democratic Party?

No, it’s not crazy talk. Except when “right wingers” talk about it, of course.

But as he notes, “corporatism” (the economic philosophy of fascism) is the best term for it.

An Interesting Quote

On the economics of fascism, from self-declared fascist Lawrence Dennis:

Thus we shall see what fascism has to do to make a system of private ownership and management workable, so far as arrangements involving capital income or reward are concerned. The ruling principle must be that capital and management reward must be kept in continuous and flexible adjustment with economic possibilities, and that legal and institutional arrangements—like loan contracts, bonds, legal concepts of just compensation, due process of law, and confiscation—must not obstruct executive action of government to maintain this adjustment otherwise than by the present devices of bankruptcy, foreclosures, reorganization, and cycles of booms and depressions. [Lawrence Dennis, The Coming American Fascism (New York: Harper & Bros., 1936 ), Ch. V. “Can We Reorganize the Present System?”]

Emphasis mine. As Jonah notes, it seems very familiar, somehow.

The Other Michigan

Amid all the talk of bankruptcy of the auto companies, it’s easy to forget that there is another, very desirable part of the Great Lake State. The family of a friend of mine in high school had a cabin on the Au Sable River, and I remember how peaceful it was myself, in both summer and winter.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of bankrupt auto companies, Kaus has some good questions:

How many of the UAW’s members are skilled workers? I thought one of the big virtues [of] assembly line work is that it can be done by unskilled workers. Even with all the fancy computer-assisted quality control systems, does most auto assembly work really require skills that can’t be learned fairly quickly?

The unnamed “task force official” implies that Chrysler’s work force (and GM’s) is so precious that it must be protected from sharing in the sacrifice of bankruptcy. Is it? If UAW workers are so distinctly productive then why do virtually all auto manufacturers starting production in the U.S. try to get as far away from the union as possible? Is there any doubt that if all Chrysler’s workers quit tomorrow they could fairly quickly be replaced by workers–from local communities–who were a) cheaper and b) just as good or better?…

Gee, you’d almost think that they were just favoring a Democrat political constituency that gives them lots of campaign donations. Here’s another one:

Why should the government tax unskilled workers making $18 an hour, who haven’t bankrupted their employers, in order to protect unskilled workers making $28 an hour, and who have bankrupted their employers, from having to take a pay cut?

Why indeed? Someone should ask that question of Bob Gibbs. It would be amusing to watch the logical somersaults, to the limited degree that he’s capable of logic at all.

The Cruelty Of The Marketplace

This is one tough recession. Hookers’ rates are down in Amsterdam:

‘Some of the girls are now doing it for 30 euros (S$60). My price is still 50 euros, but the men are playing us off against each other. Some want to pay only 20 euros,’ she told AFP.

Guess they need a bail out. Of course, it’s particularly tough in Europe, where there’s so much competition from women who are giving it away…

How The “Stimulus” Is Working

It isn’t:

As we know, most of the stimulus spending does not take place until next year and beyond, so the short-run gains are puny. On the other hand, the big increase in the projected deficit creates the expectation of higher interest rates, which raises interest rates now. These higher interest rates serve to weaken the economy.

According to this standard analysis, the stimulus is going to hurt GDP now, when we could use the most help. Much of the spending will kick in a year or more from now, with multiplier effects following afterward, when the economy will need little, if any, stimulus.

This is the flaw with using spending rather than tax cuts as a stimulus. The lags are longer when you use spending.

Of course, if the real goal is to promote government at the expense of civil society and to create a one-party state in which business success is based on political favoritism, then the stimulus is working exactly as intended.

Yup. But it’s a misnomer to call it “stimulus.”

[Update mid afternoon]

The “reality-based community” has a collision with reality:

Cohn reports how former CBO director and current OMB chief Peter Orszag pressured careerists to assume sizable savings due to proposed reforms. The problem is the bean counters did not believe the alleged savings were justified according to the available evidence…it is interesting that the reality-based Obama crowd, which promised to roll back the “Republican War on Science” is now arguing against what Cohn calls “a super-strict reading of the evidence.”

Well, there’s science, and then there’s, you know, “scientific socialism.” Or maybe they’re just waging a war on math.

[Update late afternoon]

Wishful thinking, not a plan:

Congress is working on a health-care bill to expand coverage mainly by subsidizing insurance for tens of millions of households. This new entitlement is likely to cost $150 billion per year initially and grow, on a per capita basis, at a rate that is about 2 percentage points above GDP growth each year going forward. In other words, the cost of this new program will rise just as rapidly as Medicare and Medicaid spending has for decades now.

Orszag and others are saying, don’t worry, health-information technology, comparative-effectiveness research, more attention to prevention and wellness, and some very modest provider payment reforms in Medicare will make all of this governmental spending — on Medicare, Medicaid, and the new subsidy program — grow much more slowly in the future than it has in the past.

But this is an assertion — not a fact. Where’s the evidence to back it up?

“Wishful thinking” is a pretty good summary of Democrat policies in general, both domestic and foreign.

Rocketplane Resurrection?

I talked to George French briefly last night at the bar. He hasn’t given up on raising funds not only for Rocketplane XP, but is still hoping to revive Kistler itself. It wasn’t clear whether or not this was contingent on another bite at the COTS apple, but he’s hoping to have money reraised by August. Good luck with that in this economy. It would be nice, though, to see at least one reusable system going to orbit, after all these years.

COTS Panel

Here are the notes I took an hour or so again, when I had power and could see the show, but no Internet.

Alan Lindenmoyer of NASA speaks first. Established program three years ago: Invest to get safe reliable access to LEO and to create a market environment in which the providers were available for both government and commercial customers. SpaceX has achieved 14 of 22 objectives and NASA has paid out $234M, next milestone is to demonstrate rendezvous with a system to be launched on a Shuttle mission. Looking to first Falcon 9 demo launch later this year (Elon said at lunch that the launch had been delayed from August to late 2009).

Orbital is valued up to $170, they’ve completed eight milestones to date, and a hundred million has been paid out. Next milestone is CDR for pressurized cargo module in July. Important transition year for administration (White House) and NASA. Showing video of progress on COTS program. NASA not dictating design solutions, just program objectives. “Have need, seed money, technical expertise, and put together with capable providers, have the basis for a successful program.” Includes a PR segment from Orbital (“98% success rate in space missions over the last seven years” — I wonder what happened before that…?). Using components from existing vehicles to build COTS system. Now another one from SpaceX.

Do not confuse current COTS and additional funding from stimulus with COTS D. That will require much more money. Initial goals are just to ensure safety of ISS and of crew members. Working to best communicate crew safety requirements from NASA to new players.

OSC speaker: Head of COTS demonstration and follow-on phase for cargo resupply, and working both in parallel. Orbiter not stranger to development of commercial space systems, build satellites but also uses data buying approaches. Developing Taurus II with their own funds and leveraging money from COTS to provide end-to-end system, from ground through ISS delivery. Giving an overview of Taurus launch vehicle, and now discussing the Cygnus “visiting vehicle.” Has to have high reliability avionics, and essentially as reliable as an airliner to come into proximity of the station. It berths using the ISS arm. Describing standardized cargo bags that NASA has developed for ISS logistics. They have hired Carl Walz, ISS veteran, to help them with the program. Need for cargo supplies expanding with crew of six. They hope to help to support that need.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX: Praising NASA program office for ease of working with them. Proposed three demo flight: Dragon into orbit and back, Dragon approach ISS, Dragon dock with ISS. Showing pictures of new Hawthorne CA facility, current manifest. Describing Falcon 9, with its propulsion redundancy. First vehicle with this capability since Saturn, and it was used on Saturn to save crew. Think that it’s a valuable feature. They expect to be building more engines than any other entity in history shortly. Showing “tic tack toe” back end of the Falcon 9. NASA saw these multiple engines as the biggest risk. They have snuck up on engine testing incrementally, and did a full nine-engine test in November 2008. Using Launch Complex 40, former Titan IV pad at the Cape. They have tested ground support by erecting and taking down the vehicle on the pad. Still working range integration issues. Dragon undergoing structural qualification (pushed and pulled on it). Hadn’t anticipated building their own heat shield but that’s how it ended up. Developed material with NASA Ames. Propulsion uses “Draco” thrusters, using MMH/N204. Designed, built and qualified thrusters in less than two years.

They’re designing Dragon to be reusable and recoverable, but NASA wants new ones each time, so they’re looking for customers for used ones, called “Dragonlab.” Useful for orbital research.

Question: Why does NASA not turn on COTS D. Lindenmoyer: no funding appropriated. Option negotiated with SpaceX for $380M, but don’t have the money.

Question: Once COTS D is operational, is there a need for Orion and Ares 1 to support ISS? Lindenmoyer: They are complementary capabilities, and Ares and Orion are designed for lunar missions. It is designed for ISS capability, but they’d prefer to divert resources needed for LEO system to the moon.

Kosmas And ITAR

“Bob-1” asked in comments whether I talked to Congresswoman Kosmas yesterday about ITAR. In fact I did. She seemed aware of the issue, or at least the word. I pointed out (in light of her praise of entrepreneurship) that it was actually a much bigger problem for the smaller companies and startups, because the big ones have staff dedicated to deal with it, and can factor it into their costs for government reimbursement, but for those small companies without such in-house expertise and not on the government cost-plus dole, it represents a formidable barrier to entry, and one that the big players don’t necessarily mind. I don’t think that she had heard this argument before, and seemed interested. She told me to talk to her staffer (who was with her) next time I was in DC. Of course, I don’t know when that will be, but if anyone else out there wants to talk to the staffer, the Congresswoman seemed supportive.

ISDC

There’s no wireless in the meeting rooms, so I can’t do anything real time. I’m typing this from the patio, eating a ten-dollar pastrami sandwich (didn’t pay for the luncheon where Elon Musk is speaking, and getting a von Braun award).

What was interesting about the morning plenary session was the emphasis. In past meetings, they might have led with the wonderful things that NASA has in store for us. This year, the lead speaker was George Nield, head of the FAA-AST office, followed by Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace, and then Will Whitehorn, head of Virgin Galactic, so clearly, the conference programming committee considered suborbital tourism to be the headliner at this event. NASA’s plans (soon to likely be dramatically altered) will be presented tomorrow morning.

Both the Greason and Whitehorn talks were good. Jeff made his usual points, but he started to show a little gam on orbital, saying that he has started thinking about it, and dropping a couple hints. They have seriously depleted their bin of technology problems in suborbital, and are moving forward with the Lynx, but orbital promises to replenish it, so they’re thinking about how to get someone to pay them to solve the new issues, as they did with suborbital. He is clearly aiming toward a two-stage reusable system, with a flyback first stage, horizontal takeoff and land. This implies a very large first stage, or a very expensive first stage, or some combination, and he didn’t want to show us any pictures, because he wasn’t sure what direction it would go. Also no discussion of whether or not it would be an airbreather or rocket.

He also made some comments about flight test, and not to panic when something goes wrong, which is why it’s called flight test. In the days of blogs and texting, it’s easy to gin up a lot of speculation and doomsday warnings that are unwarranted, compared to the old days when no one paid any attention to what was going on at Edwards until the results were released. This was undoubtedly in reference to the recent kerfuffle over White Knight Two tail dragging. He said a lot more good stuff, but I suspect that others will have posts up. Jeff Foust has probably been twittering.

Will Whitehorn, refreshingly, didn’t bash Lynx (perhaps because he was grateful to Jeff for his flight test comments? Or perhaps he’s just realized that it’s not good marketing). He actually praised parts of Jeff’s speech. He says that there will be a flyover of Spaceport America with WK2 at the dedication this June, and captive carry of SS2 by the end of the year, perhaps with a drop and glide test. Engine integration will occur next year. He also showed video of hybrid engine tests at Capistrano. More later.