November 26, 2008

They Must Be Doing It Wrong

The head of the UK "Lap Dancer's Association" says that lap dances are not s3xually stimulating. Well, all right then.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:59 AM
The POR Recession

The unending (and infuriating) irony of this election will be that the Democrats won this election by first tanking the economy and then (with the aid of the MSM) blaming the hapless Republicans for it. Tom Blumer explains:

The recession, once it becomes official, will thus richly deserve designation as the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) recession. Further, Obama's and the Democratic Party's performance on the economy must be benchmarked from June 1, 2008 -- not Election Day, not Inauguration Day, and not, as traditionally has been the case, from October 1 of the new president's first year in office.

Evidence of the POR triumvirate's virtually unilateral damage to the economy began appearing as early as the fourth quarter of 2007, the first quarter of negative growth in six years. The POR recession itself began in June. The historically steep downward revision in second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth from an annualized 3.3% to 2.8% in the government's final September announcement was more than likely due to deterioration that occurred in the final month of the quarter.It's not at all a coincidence that June was the month in which it became crystal clear that despite sky-high oil prices, Pelosi, Obama, and Reid were hostile to the idea of drilling for more oil -- offshore or anywhere else. Pelosi insisted that "we can't drill our way out of our problems." In the speaker's world, this means that you don't drill at all. Reid declared that we have to stop using oil and coal because "it's making us sick." Obama seemed pleased that gas prices were so high, saying only that "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment" instead of the sharp spike. What a guy.

As would be expected, the country's businesses, investors, and consumers, never having witnessed a political party dedicate itself so completely to starving its own national economy, reacted very negatively to all of this. I said at the time that "businesses and investors are responding to their total lack of seriousness by battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst." Subsequent events have validated that observation.

As commenter Carl Pham pointed out recently, the American people bought fire insurance from an arsonist.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:53 AM
The Coming Health-Care Bailout

Paul Hsieh (M.D.) has some thoughts on the inevitable issues with "universal health care."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:14 AM
We Know What We Like

Lileks has a meditation on modern art:

It's not the humanism that ruined art, it was humanism that divorced itself from the possibility of transcendence. Which would be bad enough if it hadn't decided to splash around in the gutters as well.

Ah, but why was it influential? It recontextualized the commonplace and made us see it as Art, a process that continues to this day every time you see a book with a title like "The Art of Bread" or "The Art of Toad Sexing" or whatever else has to be elevated to the status of marble sculpture to make the user feel they're living a rarified life. It played a joke on the Stuffy Academics, which is something the adolescent temperament never tires of doing. This is not encouraged any more, since the Academics are on the side of Truth and Modernity, however defined today. Although I once knew an architecture student who took perverse and boundless glee in shocking his teacher by putting a pointy roof on the house each student had to design. A pointed roof. In other words, a useful roof, a functional roof that didn't collect rain water. Everyone else had a flat roof, of course. Machine for Living and all that. This was just around the time Post-Modernism made it okay to quote history, as long as everyone saw you wink, or could understand that your overscaled grotesque excretions were meant ironically.

An instructor might not know what to make of a house with a point roof, but if you called it "House In The Time of Reagan" he'd understand.

Read all.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:30 AM

November 25, 2008

Change I Can Believe In

It's looking like Gates is going to stay at the Pentagon. I think that's good news from a space perspective, because I've heard that he's been trying to light a fire under the Operationally Responsive Space folks. It would be a shame to replace him with an unknown in that regard. There should (at least in theory) be a lot of synergy between military and civil space transport needs, in both orbital and suborbital. I hope that the new administration will be able to do better coordination on that than the Bush administration did.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:16 PM
Slow Posting

I got up early today and had an eye exam (still have two functional ones). They were dilated in the process, so it will be a while before I spend much time on the computer. Meanwhile, here's an interesting discussion on arming ships against pirates in modern times. We seem to have managed to deal with this a lot better in the past. I think that we should bring back letters of marque, for not just pirates, but lawless terrorists in general.

[Early afternoon update]

A related question: why don't we hang pirates any more?

...the number of attacks keeps rising.

Why? The view of senior U.S. military officials seems to be, in effect, that there is no controlling legal authority. Title 18, Chapter 81 of the United States Code establishes a sentence of life in prison for foreigners captured in the act of piracy. But, crucially, the law is only enforceable against pirates who attack U.S.-flagged vessels, of which today there are few.

What about international law? Article 110 of the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Convention -- ratified by most nations, but not by the U.S. -- enjoins naval ships from simply firing on suspected pirates. Instead, they are required first to send over a boarding party to inquire of the pirates whether they are, in fact, pirates. A recent U.N. Security Council resolution allows foreign navies to pursue pirates into Somali waters -- provided Somalia's tottering government agrees -- but the resolution expires next week. As for the idea of laying waste, Stephen Decatur-like, to the pirate's prospering capital port city of Eyl, this too would require U.N. authorization. Yesterday, a shippers' organization asked NATO to blockade the Somali coast. NATO promptly declined.

As I noted, there seems to be a problem with the modern approach.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:10 AM

November 24, 2008

Can Hillary! Be SECSTATE?

She may be Constitutionally ineligible. Sometimes commenter Jane Bernstein notes via email that Article 1, Section 6 clearly states that:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.

Emphasis mine. Federal salaries, including the schedule for a Level 1 Cabinet officer (such as Secretary of State) were increased at the beginning of the year, by executive order. IANAL, but by the letter of the law, it would seem that she cannot be appointed to that position.

There are two potential outs.

One is trivial--she isn't a "he," she's a "she," so she could amusingly argue that the section doesn't apply to her. I suspect that this would probably fail on Fourteenth Amendment (and perhaps other) grounds, though, as well as common sense.

The other would be to argue that the intent was to keep Congress from creating or increasing salaries of a position in order to provide a new or better job for one of its members, and to eliminate this potential conflict of interest. Since the increase was done by Executive Order under a previously passed law, she could argue that Congress didn't increase the pay in this instance. However, the letter of the law wouldn't allow this interpretation--it doesn't say anything about the emoluments increasing by act of Congress--it just says that if they increase (for whatever reason) she cannot have the position.

If true, the good news is that it would also apply to John Kerry. And it doesn't apply to Barack Obama, since he wasn't appointed--he was elected.

[Update a few minutes later]

Also, if the logic is correct, it would apply to Rahm Emmanuel, as well as any other potential congressperson or Senator angling for an appointment.

[Update on Monday afternoon]

More thoughts from Eugene Volokh.

[Bumped to the stop]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:48 AM
It's Alan Stern Day

First, over at the Gray Lady, he has an editorial on NASA's cost-overrun culture:

...the Mars Science Laboratory is only the latest symptom of a NASA culture that has lost control of spending. The cost of the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the storied Hubble, has increased from initial estimates near $1 billion to almost $5 billion. NASA's next two weather satellites, built for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have now inflated to over $3.5 billion each! The list goes on: N.P.P., S.D.O., LISA Pathfinder, Constellation and more. You don't have to know what the abbreviations and acronyms mean to get it: Our space program is running inefficiently, and without sufficient regard to cost performance. In NASA's science directorate alone, an internal accounting in 2007 found over $5 billion in increases since 2003.

As Allen Thompson points out in comments over at Space Politics, one could simply substitute names and nyms of (black) programs here, and write exactly the same piece about NRO. But I'm not sure that I'd agree with Dr. Stern's characterization that it is a NASA culture that has "lost control of spending." Was there ever any golden age in which the NASA culture had control of spending? After all, the agency was born in the panic of the Cold War, and developed a cost-(plus)-is-no-object mentality from its very beginning. The operative saying during Apollo was "waste anything but time." Sure, there have been occasional instances of programs coming in under schedule and within budget, but as Dr. Stern points out, the managers of those programs are often punished by having their programs slashed to cover overruns.

No, there is not now, and never has been a cost-conscious culture at NASA, for all the reasons that he describes. And this is the biggest one:

Congress should turn from the self-serving protection of local NASA jobs to an ethic of responsible government that delivers results.

Yes, it should. Well said. And with all the hope and change in the air, I'm sure that this will be the year that it finally happens.

OK, you can all stop laughing now. My sides hurt, too.

Unfortunately, that is not going to happen until space accomplishments become much more nationally important than they currently are, from a political standpoint. For most on the Hill, the NASA budget is first and foremost a jobs program for their states or districts. We can't even control this kind of pork barrelery on the Defense budget (including NRO), which is actually a real federal responsibility, with lives at stake if we fail. Why should we think that we can fix it for civil space? Only when we are no longer reliant on federal budgets will we start to make serious progress, and get more efficiency in the program.

Speaking of which, Dr. Stern also has a piece in The Space Review on how NASA can make itself more relevant to the populace and its representatives in DC:

The coming new year presents an opportunity to reemphasize the immediate societal and economic returns NASA generates, so that no one asks, "How do space efforts make a tangible difference in my life?"

The new administration could accomplish this by combining NASA's space exploration portfolio with new and innovative initiatives that address hazards to society, make new applications of space, and foster new industries.

Such new initiatives should include dramatically amplifying our capability to monitor the changing Earth in every form, from climate change to land use to the mitigation of natural disasters. Such an effort should also accelerate much needed innovation in aircraft and airspace system technologies that would save fuel, save travelers time, and regain American leadership in the commercial aerospace sector. And it should take greater responsibility for mitigating the potential hazards associated with solar storms and asteroid impacts.

So, too, a more relevant NASA should be charged to ignite the entrepreneurial human suborbital and orbital spaceflight industry. This nascent commercial enterprise promises to revolutionize how humans use spaceflight and how spaceflight benefits the private sector economy as fundamentally as the advent of satellites affected the communications industry.

As he notes, this needn't mean a larger NASA budget--just a better-spent one. I particularly like the last graf above, obviously. I don't agree, though, that it is NASA's job to monitor the earth. It's an important job, but it's not really in NASA's existing charter, and I fear that if it takes on this responsibility, it will further dilute the efforts on where its focus should be, which is looking outward, not down. It should be left to the agency that is actually responsible for such things (or at least part of them, and expanding its purview wouldn't be as much of a stretch)--NOAA. If, for administrative reasons, NOAA is viewed as incapable of developing earth-sensing birds (though they couldn't do much worse than NASA and NRO have recently), NASA could still manage this activity as a "contractor," but it shouldn't come out of their budget--it should be funded by Commerce.

Anyway, I think that we could do a lot worse than Dr. Stern as the next NASA administrator. We certainly done a lot worse.

[Early afternoon update]

The NYT piece is being discussed at NASAWatch, where John Mankins has a useful comment.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:30 AM
A New New Deal?

Tyler Cowen has some history:

The good New Deal policies, like constructing a basic social safety net, made sense on their own terms and would have been desirable in the boom years of the 1920s as well. The bad policies made things worse. Today, that means we should restrict extraordinary measures to the financial sector as much as possible and resist the temptation to "do something" for its own sake.

In short, expansionary monetary policy and wartime orders from Europe, not the well-known policies of the New Deal, did the most to make the American economy climb out of the Depression. Our current downturn will end as well someday, and, as in the '30s, the recovery will probably come for reasons that have little to do with most policy initiatives.

There was also this little item that caught my eye:

A study of the 1930s by Christina D. Romer, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley ("What Ended the Great Depression?," Journal of Economic History, 1992), confirmed that expansionary monetary policy was the key to the partial recovery of the 1930s. The worst years of the New Deal were 1937 and 1938, right after the Fed increased reserve requirements for banks, thereby curbing lending and moving the economy back to dangerous deflationary pressures.


Because of this news:

ABC News has learned that President-elect Obama had tapped University of California -Berkeley economics professor Christina Romer to be the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, an office within the Executive Office of the President.

It seems like a much better pick than those of us concerned about an FDRophilic president could have expected. Maybe we won't replay the thirties.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:05 AM
The Worst And The Dumbest

Remember that civics test? Well, this should inspire confidence in our political "leadership":

US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

But they did fare better. What does this say about our so-called "elites"? Forget about a literacy test for voters. How about one for candidates?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:14 AM

November 23, 2008

A Sneak Preview

Iowahawk has discovered the most exciting new car model to be premiered by Congressional Motors. Behold, the Pelosi:

Sporty mag-style hubcaps and an all-new aggressive wedge shape designed by CM's Chief Stylist Ted Kennedy slices through the wind like an omnibus spending bill. It even features an airtight undercarriage to keep you and a passenger afloat up to 15 minutes -- even in the choppy waters of a Cape Cod inlet. Available a rainbow of color choices to match any wardrobe, from Harvest Avocado to French Mustard.

Inside, a luxurious all-velour interior designed by Barney Frank features thoughtful appointments like in-dash condom dispenser and detachable vibrating shift knob. A special high capacity hatchback holds up to 300 aluminum cans, meaning fewer trips to the redemption center. And the standard 3 speaker Fairness ActoPhonic FM low-band sound system means you'll never miss a segment of NPR again.

I'm sure there will be a long waiting list.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:03 AM

November 22, 2008

The Great Turkey Massacre

Mark Steyn has the best take yet on the supposed Palin "gaffe":

...that's Sarah Palin's real stroke of genius in these difficult times for the global economy. For, in an age when the government picks which banks to nationalize and which banks to fail, and guarantees mortgages that should never have been issued, and prepares to demand that those taxpayers with responsible and affordable pension plans prop up the lavish and unsustainable pension programs of Detroit, Governor Palin has given us a great teaching moment and a perfect snapshot of what my Brit reader would recognize as pre-Thatcher "industrial policy":

When the government decides it can "pick winners" and spare them from the realities of the market, everyone else gets bled to death.

Thank you, Sarah. It's the first election ad of Campaign '12.

It's a shame we can't do something about the turkeys at MSNBC and the Huffpo.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:45 AM
This Was Inevitable

Talk at NASA about "human rating" an Ares V?

The decision to undertake the study reverses a major decision NASA took after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and subsequent accident investigation, that crew and cargo would be launched on separate vehicles. The Ares I, with its solid rocket booster first-stage and the new upper stage powered by the J-2X engine, was selected to orbit the Orion crew exploration vehicle.

That decision never made as much sense as everyone thought it did. It was one of the false lessons "learned" from Shuttle. And, as always, it raises the issue of what "human rating" really means. Generally, given the way the requirements often end up getting waived for NASA's own vehicles, but not for other players, like the "Visiting Vehicle" rules for ISS, it's simply an arbitrary barrier to entry for commercial providers.

[Monday morning update]

I should clarify that this discussion is about launch only. For in-space operations, it does make sense to separate passengers from cargo, and it probably makes sense to have robotic freighters as well, due to the long trip times and lack of need to handle emergencies with crew.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:33 AM

As Clark notes, this isn't directly related to space transportation regulation, but you can see it coming:

The proposed regulation, titled the Large Aircraft Security Program, would require owners of those aircraft to obtain permission from TSA to operate their own personal aircraft every time they carry passengers. Additionally, all flight crews would be required to undergo fingerprinting and a background check, all passengers would have to be vetted against the government's terrorist watch lists, and numerous security requirements would be imposed on airports serving these "large" aircraft. EAA adamantly opposes this regulation and urges all members to respond to TSA...

"...We thank the TSA for agreeing with the many industry group and EAA members' requests for an extension, providing an additional two months to study and react to the proposal," said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations. "This proposal would be an unprecedented restriction on the freedom of movement for private U.S. citizens. It would also, for the first time, require governmental review and authority before a person could operate his/her own personal transportation conveyance.

First they came after the private aircraft pilots, and I said nothing, because I wasn't a private aircraft pilot.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:13 AM
Talking To Mike

Irene Klotz has an interview with the (hopefully) outgoing NASA administrator:

I would be willing to continue on as administrator under the right circumstances. The circumstances include a recognition of the fact that two successive Congresses -- one Republician and one Democrat -- have strongly endorsed, hugely endorsed, the path NASA is on: Finish the station, retire the shuttle, return to the moon, establish a base on the moon, look outward to the near-Earth asteroids and on to Mars. That's the path we're on. I think it's the right path.

I think for 35 years since the Nixon administration we've been on the wrong path. It took the loss of Columbia and Admiral Gehman's (Columbia Accident Investigation Board) report highlighting the strategic issues to get us on the right path. We're there. I personally will not be party to taking us off that path. Someone else may wish to, but I do not.

What Dr. Griffin doesn't understand is that, in his disastrous architecture choices, and decision to waste money developing a new unneeded launch system, it is he himself who has taken us off that path.

I also have to say that I think that this particular criticism by Keith Cowing is (as is often the case) over the top and ridiculous. It's perfectly clear what he meant--that with all of the other problems facing the country right now, Shuttle retirement per se isn't going to be a top priority. But it is an issue that will no doubt be dealt with by the transition team.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:02 AM

November 21, 2008

I Only Missed One

I scored 32 out of 33 on this test (I missed the last one--Doh!). Unfortunately, most people don't do that well.

I really think that we should bring back literacy tests for voting. They shouldn't have gotten rid of them because they were being used to racially discriminate--they should have just ended the racial discrimination.

[Friday evening update]

I have to say that readers of my blog, even the non-USians (or at least the ones commenting), are way ahead of the curve. Nice to know.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:11 AM
Well, As Long As They're "Reasonable"

Who could be against "reasonable" restrictions on web speech?

Not Eric Holder.

And here's more on his antipathy to the Second Amendment:

After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the D.C. handgun ban and self-defense ban were unconstitutional in 2007, Holder complained that the decision "opens the door to more people having more access to guns and putting guns on the streets."

Holder played a key role in the gunpoint, night-time kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez. The pretext for the paramilitary invasion of the six-year-old's home was that someone in his family might have been licensed to carry a handgun under Florida law. Although a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo showed a federal agent dressed like a soldier and pointing a machine gun at the man who was holding the terrified child, Holder claimed that Gonzalez "was not taken at the point of a gun" and that the federal agents whom Holder had sent to capture Gonzalez had acted "very sensitively." If Mr. Holder believes that breaking down a door with a battering ram, pointing guns at children (not just Elian), and yelling "Get down, get down, we'll shoot" is example of acting "very sensitively," his judgment about the responsible use of firearms is not as acute as would be desirable for a cabinet officer who would be in charge of thousands and thousands of armed federal agents, many of them paramilitary agents with machine guns.

Fighting the confirmation of this man should be the Republicans' first battle against the Obama administration. The last thing we need is the second coming of Janet "Burn Baby Burn" Reno.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:46 AM

November 20, 2008

Who Would Have Thought?

Put this one in the "dog bites man" file:

An interesting piece on changes to police tactics. The traditional response was bring up the SWAT team, plan it out carefully, then go in. As the matter was better understood, this switched to whoever gets there first goes in immediately -- seconds passing means people dying. To my mind, this is a powerful argument for allowing teachers to be armed. The article ends:

"The other statistic that emerged from a study of active killers is that they almost exclusively seek out "gun free" zones for their attacks.

Now why would that possibly be?

They may select schools and shopping malls because of the large number of defenseless victims and the virtual guarantee no on the scene one is armed.

As soon as they're confronted by any armed resistance, the shooters typically turn the gun on themselves."

Unfortunately, too many in the media and the gun-control community are too stupid to recognize it as obvious. You might think that this startling result could be the basis for a more sensible policy, but judging by the election results, I fear not. Particularly if someone like Eric Holder becomes Attorney General.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:23 PM
The Case Against Eric Holder

Geraghty is on the job (several posts--just keep scrolling). He'd be a disaster on guns, drugs (that one is Jacob Sullum), civil liberties, and basic integrity. And here's Larry Tribe's critique on his thuggish behavior and legal opportunism in the Elian Gonzales affair.

[Update late afternoon]

Jim now has all the permalinks in one post.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:52 AM

November 19, 2008

Still Giving Them Hell

Freeman Dyson continues to refuse to be part of the "consensus":

Wearing an effusively-colored tie that set off his gray suit, Mr. Dyson began his talk at the Nassau Club by encouraging the audience to interrupt him as he spoke, since, he declared, "it's much more fun to have an argument than do a monologue."

In the absence of audience interruptions, Mr. Dyson had an argument anyway with the scores of people (like Al Gore) who weren't present to defend their belief in the dire consequences of global warming. ("There's no accounting for human folly," Mr. Dyson said when asked about Mr. Gore's Nobel Prize.) Saying that on a recent trip he and his wife found Greenlanders to be delighted with their warmer climate and increased tourism, Mr. Dyson suggested that representing "local warming by a global average is misleading." In his comments at both the Nassau Club and Labyrinth, he decried the use of computer modeling to make "tremendously dogmatic" predictions about worldwide trends, without acknowledging the "messy, muddy real world" and the non-climatic effects of increased carbon dioxide. "There is no substitute for widely-conducted field operations over a long time," he told the Nassau Club audience, citing the "enormous gaps in knowledge and sparseness of observation" that characterize the work of global warming experts.

Why can't some people get with the program? Thankfully, though, mz will be along any minute to call Professor Dyson "stupid."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:29 AM
More Thoughts On Destinations

From Henry Spencer:

In its early years, the only form of manned space exploration it favoured was an (international) Mars expedition. All other ideas that involved humans in space were counterproductive and undesirable, to hear the Planetary Society tell it.

This obsession with Mars was a bad idea then, and it's a bad idea now. However, some of the reasons advanced against it strike me as poor - sufficiently poor that they weaken attempts to argue for a more systematic and balanced space effort.

An exclusive focus on Mars does have one thing going for it. If you believe that any resumption of manned space exploration will inevitably end the way Apollo did, with follow-on programmes cancelled and flight-ready hardware consigned to museums as soon as the programme's first objective is met, then choosing the most interesting single destination makes sense.

However . . . haven't we learned anything from doing that once? To me, it makes far more sense to try to build a programme that won't crash and burn as soon as it scores its first goal. That means systematically building capabilities and infrastructure, and doing first things first even if they aren't the most exciting parts.

Unfortunately, we don't seem to have the societal patience necessary to do the unexciting parts, at least if the government is paying for it. Which is why we have to get private industry going ASAP.

[Early afternoon update]

I mentioned yesterday that Paul Spudis wasn't impressed with Lou Friedman's thoughts. He's similarly unimpressed with The Planetary Society's new roadmap.

[Another update a few minutes later]

Jeff Plescia has been leaving this message in comments at various places (I've seen it at NASA Watch and Space Politics]

As a participant in the workshop sponsored by the Planetary Society at Stanford University in February, 2008, I feel obliged to make some comments with respect to what is said in portions of the Planetary Society document "Beyond the Moon A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration."

Page 5 contains the statement:
"Among the conclusions of this group is that 'the purpose of sustained human exploration is to go to Mars and beyond,' and that a series of intermediate destinations, each with its own intrinsic value, should be established as steps toward that goal. The consensus statements and viewpoints expressed by this group of experts form the basis for the principles and recommendations contained in this document."

This statement is a blatant and intentionally dishonest misrepresentation of the recommendations and sentiments of the group.

We had extensive discussions about what the conclusion of the workshop might be. While the conclusion reported in the Roadmap was clearly the predisposition of several members of the group, particularly the organizers, it was definitively and clearly not the consensus of the group as a whole. In fact, when these words (or words to the same effect) were suggested, the group clearly indicated to the organizers that they should not be used because they were inaccurate. However, the organizers chose to ignore the group's wishes at the end of the workshop, at the International Astronautical Congress and in the Roadmap in portraying the results of the workshop. This has occurred despite the fact that members of the group pointed out after the workshop press release that such statements were inappropriate and incorrect.

For what it's worth. Thanks, Lou.

Maybe it's like the climate change "consensus," from which many scientists are now running.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:36 AM
"Bold Experimentation"

Jonah Goldberg explains why we should fear that Barack Obama will emulate Franklin Roosevelt:

there can be a chasm between being right and merely appearing to be right. Why anyone stakes greater value on the appearance than reality is a mystery to me.

But as Obama clearly recognizes, that was a big part of the FDR magic. FDR came into office promising "bold, persistent experimentation" -- and delivered. Raymond Moley, an early member of FDR's "brain trust," saw the New Deal for what it was. "To look upon these programs as the result of a unified plan was to believe that the accumulation of stuffed snakes, baseball pictures, school flags, old tennis shoes, carpenter's tools, geometry books and chemistry sets in a boy's bedroom could have been put there by an interior decorator," Moley wrote later.

Yet Americans thought it was all part of a plan, even though experimentation and planning are in fact near opposites. Why? Because FDR always projected such confidence, even as he made things worse. But this isn't another column about how FDR prolonged the Depression. Been there, done that. I'd rather be forward-looking.

In fact, I want to be experimental, too. So here's my idea: Just stop.

Stop talking about bailouts and stimuli. Stop pondering ever more drastic action. Give it a rest. Let it be.

One of the main reasons there's all of this "money on the sidelines" out there among private investors is that Wall Street doesn't know what the government will do next. Will it bail out the auto industry? The insurance companies? Which taxes will go up? How far will interest rates go down? How long will the federal government own stakes in the banks? Will more stimulus checks go out? If so, how big will the deficit get?

Don't just do something--stand there!

One of his readers says that this also explains the current market volatility:

Free market economics involves the application of immutable laws, and it's those laws that allow us to forecast the effect of current events on various companies and the stocks and bonds they've issued. But investors will only play the game if they believe the rules aren't going to change in the middle. When government begins 'experimenting', it makes it harder for investors to generate a long term forecast. This drives long term investors away from the market, or converts them into short term traders. The result is a massive increase in volatility as investors shorten their investment outlook because they can't predict what's going to happen far enough into the future.

Volatility is an indication of instability. It's not a sign of a healthy economy but of an economy which has lost its way. High volatility isn't what you expect from the worlds largest market, but from the emerging economy of a third world country. As you can see from the attached chart, when Roosevelt began his 'bold persistent experimentation' it drove away long term investors and that caused volatility to dramatically increase. It will almost certainly have the same effect when Obama does it.

Since he's so determined not to learn from the mistakes of the past, I would expect him to repeat them. I'm betting that his poking and prodding will add to unemployment, reduce economic growth, and wreak havoc with the federal deficit. There is little doubt that he's the wrong man at the wrong time. I'm just hoping that he is as devoid of principles as the Clintons, and that he finds a way to break his campaign promises or we're in for a long painful recession, and maybe worse.

We can only hope, since we lost an opportunity to do any more than that a couple weeks ago.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:20 AM

November 18, 2008

A Corrective the charlatans like Jim Hansen. Here are two useful books. First, Cool It, by Bjorn Lomborg who, while he doesn't deny the science behind global warming, he doesn't need to, because he has actually prioritized useful government policy actions based on cost and benefit (something that the warm-mongers refuse to do, e.g., Kyoto). Second, from Chris Horner, Red Hot Lies, which is well described by its subtitle: "How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed.

Yup. As many reviewers note, "climate change" isn't really about science--it's just the latest ideology to come along for the collectivists to use in their latest attempt to bend us to their will.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:42 AM
More Religiophobia Thoughts

In response to my previous post on the subject, from Eric Scheie:

If we see the two anti-freedom strains as "your money or your sex," it becomes quite obvious that it's easier -- a hell of a lot easier -- for the government to grab your money than your genitalia.

Yet even though the anti-sex people are by no means a majority in the GOP and cannot possibly implement their schemes, more people fear the Republicans.

A great con job, if you ask me.

Yup. And it continues on.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:21 AM
What Would We Do Without Lou Friedman... be the public's representative for space exploration?

As Paul Spudis (who I recently discovered has a blog or two) notes in comments over there, it's a deadly combination of insufferable arrogance and unsurpassed ignorance. Though I think he gives Lou too much credit when he calls it an accomplishment. It comes naturally to him.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:58 AM
One In Thirty?

Is that really the loss-of-crew probability for an ISS trip with Ares/Orion?

I could buy that number for a lunar mission, but if that's just for a crew changeout, they seem to be managing to spend billions on a new launch vehicle that is less safe than Shuttle.

How could it be? As one of the commenters speculates over there, they may have pulled a lot of redundancy out to save weight when they ran out of margin on both the launcher and the capsule. Also, as I think I've mentioned before, it may be that they've figured out that the Launch Abort System actually adds more risk than it removes, given the dozens of hazards it introduces, over half of which can happen on an otherwise nominal mission.

Anyway, if true, it's just one more reason to abort this monstrosity now, before it wastes any more time or money.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:44 AM
Advice From Across The Pond

Rob Coppinger has some suggestions to the Obama administration for NASA policy. I agree that Ares I should be mercy killed ASAP, but I disagree that we need an Ares anything else. We need to stop focusing on heavy lift and start developing the capability to store propellant on orbit, which will allow us to launch escape missions of arbitrarily large mass.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:51 AM

November 17, 2008

No Bail Out

Here's a fellow Flintite (Flintian) explaining why her former employer shouldn't be bailed out:

The strength of the union and the weakness of management made it impossible to conduct business properly at any level. For instance, I had an employee who punched in his time card and then disappeared. The rules were such that I had to spend hours documenting that this man was not in his three foot by three foot work area. I needed witnesses, timed reports, calls over the intercom and a plant wide search all documented in detail. After this absurdity I decided to go my own route; I called the corner bar and paged him and he came to the phone. I gave him a 30 day unpaid disciplinary lay off because he was a "repeat offender". When he returned he thanked me for the PAID vacation. I scoffed, until he explained: (1) He had tried to get the lay off because it was fishing season; (2) The UAW negotiated with GM Labor Relations Department to give him the time WITH PAY.

I supervised a loading dock and 21 UAW workers who worked approximately five hours per day for eight hours pay. They could easily load one third more rail cars and still maintain their union negotiated break times, but when I tried to make them increase production ever so slightly they sabotaged my ability to make even the current production levels by hiding stock, calling in sick, feigning equipment problems, and even once, as a show of force, used a fork lift truck and pallets and racks to create a car part prison where they trapped me while I was conducting inventory. The reaction of upper management to my request to boost production was that I should "not be naïve".

Another employee in the plant urinated on the feet of his supervisor as a protest to discipline. He was, of course, fired...that is until the union negotiated and got his job back.

Eventually I was promoted to a management position where I supervised salaried employees at HQ. As I left the plant I gave management a blunt message. I told them that I expected the union to act like the union, but I was disappointed that management didn't act like management.

I saw a lot of this in the 1970s when I worked summer jobs in the shop, and my relatives who are still there tell me it goes on to this day. Of course, it's hard to put all the blame on management, when the Wagner Act made it impossible for them to do much about it, because it allowed the UAW to credibly threaten their company with bankruptcy if they didn't knuckle under. This crisis was caused by government, and bailing out the UAW will not solve it.

Also, Jim Manzi explains why we (the taxpayers) can't just buy the three auto companies for their current market value (only seven billion) and save ourselves the many more billions that a bailout would cost. It's kind of amazing that the stock has any value at all (GM's in fact doesn't). Equity in these companies currently has negative value because running them requires putting more cash into them, with no certainty, or even likelihood of return, at least with their current union contracts and cost structure. They are the proverbial white elephants.

This, by the way, is the reason that the notion of selling the Shuttle or the ISS to anyone else is a non-starter. No one could afford them, even if you gave them away.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:07 AM
Some Brief Space Policy Advice To The Obama Team

Which in fact I'll probably be offering in the next days and weeks, since I actually know several of them quite well.

If you want to know how to get the VSE back on track, you could do a lot worse than to simply go back and reread the Aldridge Commission Report. Mike Griffin doesn't seem to have done so, or if he did, he largely ignored its recommendations, with the one exception being developing a heavy lifter (which was the one main thing that the commission got wrong).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:58 AM

Jack Schmitt has resigned from The Planetary Society over their destinational dispute. As I noted the other day, to argue about destinations at all is to miss the point.

I agree with most of his points, other than the need for heavy lift. And I absolutely agree that making it an international venture would be the kiss of death, at least in terms of meeting schedules or making it affordable, other than setting up propellant depots that can take deliveries from a wide range of sources, including international and commercial. But the Mars hardware and expeditions should be national in nature. We need competition, not "cooperation."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:36 AM
The Latest Scientific Fraud

...from the global warm-mongers.

I have nothing to say, other than that James Hansen gets entirely too much respect. And by "too much," I mean more than none.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:05 AM
Who Are The Real Conservatives?

I have thoughts on "Change!" and free markets this morning, over at PJM.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:14 AM

November 16, 2008

The Upcoming Space Policy Debate

Alan Boyle has a good roundup of the current state of play, with lots of links. As I've noted before, people who merely argue about destinations are missing the point.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:47 AM

November 15, 2008

Republican Religiophobia

As long as I'm dredging up golden oldies on space, I might as well do one on politics as well. I've talked to and emailed (and Usenetted) a few "moderate" Republicans who were turned off by McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, because they thought the choice was simply pandering to the religious right, and they bought the caricature of her sold by the MSM. I don't agree with that (I think that there was a confluence of factors, including the desire to pick off some of Hillary! supporters), but I really do think that a) he thought that she would be a reformer like him based on her record and b) he did and does have a high regard for her intelligence and capabilities, because most people who meet her, Democrats and "liberals" included, seem to.

Anyway, I really don't understand this fear of the religious right, though I am neither religious, or "right" (in the social conservative sense). I explained why in a post about six and a half years ago. I think that it's relevant today, and in fact wish that I'd reposted it before the election (not that the fate of the nation hinges in any way on my posts).

Instantman, in reference to an article about women and the sexual revolution, says:
This kind of stuff, by the way, is the reason why a lot of Democrats who are basically in agreement with the Republican party are still afraid to vote for Republicans.

This seems to be a common attitude among many libertarians (and to the degree that labels apply, I think that one fits Glenn about as well as any), particularly the ones who approached that philosophy from the left (i.e., former Democrats). I once had an extended email discussion (back during the election) with another libertarian friend (who's also a blogger, but shall remain nameless) about how as much as he disliked the socialism of the Democrats, he felt more culturally comfortable with them. Again, this is a prevalent attitude of products of the sixties. You know, Republicans were uptight fascists, and Democrats were idealistic, free-living, and hip.

While I'm not a conservative, my own sexual and drug-taking values (and life style) tend to be. I just don't think that the government should be involved in either of these areas. But my voting pattern is that I'll occasionally vote Republican (I voted for Dole over Clinton, the only time I've ever voted for a Republican for President), but I never vote for a Democrat for any office. The last time I did so was in 1976, and I'd like that one back.

There are at least two reasons for this.

First, I've found many Republicans who are sympathetic to libertarian arguments, and in fact are often libertarians at heart, but see the Republican Party as the most practical means of achieving the goals. There may be some Democrats out there like that, but I've never run into them. That's the least important reason (partly because I may be mistaken, and have simply suffered from a limited sample space). But fundamentally, the Democratic Party, at least in its current form, seems to me to be utterly antithetical to free markets.

But the most important reason is this--while I find the anti-freedom strains of both parties equally dismaying, the Democrats are a lot better at implementing their big-government intrusions, and there's good reason to think that this will be the case even if the Republicans get full control of the government.

This is because many of the Democratic Party positions are superficially appealing, if you're ignorant of economics and have never been taught critical thinking.

Who can be against a "living wage"? What's so bad about making sure that everyone, of every skin hue, gets a fair chance at a job? Why shouldn't rich people pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes?--they can afford it. Are you opposed to clean air and water? What's wrong with you? How can you be against social security--do you want old folks to live on Kibbles and Bits?

To fight these kinds of encroachments on liberty requires a lot of effort and argument and, in the end, it often loses anyway. Consider for example, the latest assault on the First Amendment that passed the Senate today, sixty to forty. Many Republicans voted against it. I don't think any Democrats did.

[Thursday morning update: Best of the Web notes that two Democrats did vote against it--John Breaux and Ben Nelson. Good for them. They also have a hall of shame for the Republicans who voted for it.]

On the other hand, the things that libertarians like Glenn and Nameless fear that conservatives will do (e.g., in matters sexual), are so repugnant to most Americans that they'll never get made into law, and if they do, the legislators who do so will quickly get turned out of office. So, you have to ask yourself, even if you dislike the attitude of people who are uncomfortable with the sexual revolution, just what is it, realistically, that you think they'd actually do about it if you voted for them?

The bottom line for me is that Democrats have been slow-boiling the frog for decades now, and they're very good at it. I tend to favor Republicans, not because I necessarily agree with their views on morality, but because I see them as the only force that can turn down the heat on the kettle, and that they're very unlikely to get some of the more extreme policies that they may want, because the public, by and large, views them as extreme.

Nothing has happened in the interim to change my views in this regard. The real disappointment was that the Republicans gave us the worst of all worlds this election--a Democrat (in terms of his populist economic thinking and his own antipathy to the free market, despite his Joe-the-Plumber noises about "spreading the wealth") at the top of their ticket, with a running mate who was perceived (falsely, in my opinion) as being a warrior for the religious right. But that's what happens when you stupidly have open primaries, and allow the media to pick your nominee.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:30 PM
Words Mean Things

In retrospect, you could tell that the American experiment was over back in the eighties, when it became a bi-partisan notion to appoint czars of things. If the Republicans are serious about showing that they're for small government, they'll start opposing this on principle, whether it's for energy or drugs.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:30 AM
The Wrong Lessons From History

Exploding the myths of Clintonomics:

The bull market took off precisely when then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan took his foot off the brakes and hit the gas in 1995. It was also then that Republicans took control of Congress -- further blunting the effects of the Clinton tax torpedo that had taken effect the previous year.

Clinton also benefitted from innovations long in the making, including the Pentium chip released in March 1993 and Microsoft's Windows program released in August 1995. These together made the Internet boom possible.

As for the budget surpluses, they came as a complete surprise to Clinton economic forecasters, whose static models only predicted their tax hikes on the rich would narrow the budget gap, not get it into the black.

Their "deficit-reduction plan" didn't create the surpluses at all. They were a direct result of a tidal wave of capital-gains revenues generated by the GOP-led stock boom.

Relieved that Washington would no longer threaten to take over 14% of the economy by socializing medicine or raise taxes even higher, the market took off like a shot at that point. And capital gains tax receipts exploded, flooding federal coffers.

Clinton's own long-term budgets predicted no surpluses of any kind during his administration and beyond.

Bill Clinton never had a plan to end deficits. The Republicans and economic circumstances did it for him. But I'm sure that this myth that Bill Clinton balanced the budget will prevail in the minds of the media and Democrats, just as the false myth that Roosevelt, and not the war, got us out of the Depression continues to prevail many decades later. They have to rewrite history to justify their continued plunder. And of course, the near-term danger is that President-Elect Obama and the Congressional majority will use this mistaken history as a justification for tax hikes in a recession, which could be economically ruinous.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:20 AM
Get That Man An Irony Detector

Mike Griffin:

"...I know how to fail. Just pick the wrong people, and you are doomed."

Yes, at this point, I'd say you're a poster boy for that bit of acquired wisdom.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM

November 14, 2008

Libertarianism and SF

Katherine Mangu-Ward, in an essay on Tor Books, says that the link remains strong.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:45 PM
Failing At Milton Friedman's Challenge

Peter Robinson explains

Item: Since my dinner with Milton Friedman, a Republican president and Republicans in Congress--I repeat, Republicans--enacted a prescription drug benefit that represents the biggest expansion of the welfare state since the Great Society. They also indulged in a massive increase in discretionary domestic spending and passed the biggest farm bill in history, a massive transfer of resources to the 2% of the population still engaged in agriculture.

Item: In the campaign that just concluded, the GOP--again, I repeat, the GOP--nominated a man whose proudest legislative achievement was a campaign finance reform, the McCain-Feingold bill, that represented a direct assault on freedom of speech.

Item: During the campaign, the Republican nominee--again, the Republican--told voters that the federal government should "give you a mortgage you can afford" while attacking businesspeople as "greedy."

This reminds me of the story of the woman who came up to Franklin after the Constitutional Convention, and asked him what he had given us. His response: "A Republic, madame. If you can keep it."

It would have worked just as well to say "A free-market economy, if you can keep it." We haven't been able to, partly because we have slowly transitioned from a Republic to a democracy, and one in which the people have figured out that they can use their votes to transfer wealth from the productive to themselves.

I'll have more on this topic next week at PJM.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:23 PM
A Vision, Not A Destination

With a new administration coming in, there's a lot of speculation about potential shifts in civil space policy, ranging from whether or not Mike Griffin will stay on as administrator, and if so, who will replace him, to whether or not we have the right architecture to achieve the outgoing president's Vision for Space Exploration, or even whether the VSE itself is still valid. Yesterday, the Planetary Society seemed to convert itself to the Mars Society, with its statement that we should bypass the moon, so now we can't even decide what the goal is.

I'm having a sense of deja vu, because we're rerunning the debate we have every few years over space policy, and as always, we are arguing from a set of assumptions that are assumed to be shared, but in many cases are not. I find that the longer I blog, the harder it is for me to come up with new things to say, particularly about space policy. Almost five years ago (jeez, how the time flies--was it really that long ago that we celebrated the Wright Centenary?), I wrote a piece in frustration on this subject. Sadly, nothing has really changed. A vision isn't a destination. I'll replay the golden oldie, because I think that it might be useful to guide the current debate, assuming anyone of consequence reads it.

Jason Bates has an article on the current state of space policy development. As usual, it shows a space policy establishment mired in old Cold-War myths, blinkered in its view of the possibilities.
NASA needs a vision that includes a specific destination. That much a panel of space advocates who gathered in Washington today to celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight could agree on. There is less consensus about what that destination should be.

Well, if I'd been on that panel, the agreement would have been less than unanimous. I agree that NASA needs a vision, but I think that the focus on destination is distracting us from developing one, if for no other reason than it's probably not going to be possible to get agreement on it.

As the article clearly shows, some, like Paul Spudis, think we should go back to the moon, and others, like Bub Zubrin, will settle for no less than Mars, and consider our sister orb a useless distraction from the true (in his mind) goal. We are never going to resolve this fundamental, irreconciliable difference, as long as the argument is about destinations.

In addition, we need to change the language in which we discuss such things. Dr. Spudis is quoted as saying:

"For the first time in the agency's history there is no new human spaceflight mission in the pipeline. There is nothing beyond" the international space station."

Fred Singer of NOAA says:

The effort will prepare humans for more ambitious missions in the future, Singer said. "We need an overarching goal," he said. "We need something with unique science content, not a publicity stunt."

Gary Martin, NASA's space architect declares:

NASA's new strategy would use Mars, for example, as the first step to future missions rather than as a destination in itself, Martin said. Robotic explorers will be trailblazers that can lay the groundwork for deeper space exploration, he said.

"...human spaceflight mission..."

"...unique science..."

" exploration..."

This is the language of yesteryear. This debate could have occurred, and in fact did occur, in the early 1970s, as Apollo wound down. There's nothing new here, and no reason to think that the output from it will result in affordable or sustainable space activities.

They say that we need a vision with a destination, but it's clear from this window into the process that, to them, the destination is the vision. It's not about why are we doing it (that's taken as a given--for "science" and "exploration"), nor is it about how we're doing it (e.g., giving NASA multi-gigabucks for a "mission" versus putting incentives into place for other agencies or private entities to do whatever "it" is)--it's all seemingly about the narrow topic of where we'll send NASA next with our billions of taxpayer dollars, as the scientists gather data while we sit at home and watch on teevee.

On the other hand, unlike the people quoted in the article, the science writer Timothy Ferris is starting to get it, as is Sir Martin Rees, the British Astronomer Royal, though both individuals are motivated foremost by space science.

At first glance, the Ferris op-ed seems just another plea for a return to the moon, but it goes beyond "missions" and science, and discusses the possibility of practical returns from such a venture. Moreover, this little paragraph indicates a little more "vision," than the one from the usual suspects above:

As such sugarplum visions of potential profits suggest, the long-term success of a lunar habitation will depend on the involvement of private enterprise, or what Harrison H. Schmitt, an Apollo astronaut, calls "a business-and-investor-based approach to a return to the Moon to stay." The important thing about involving entrepreneurs and oil-rig-grade roughnecks is that they can take personal and financial risks that are unacceptable, as a matter of national pride, when all the explorers are astronauts wearing national flags on their sleeves.

One reason aviation progressed so rapidly, going from the Wright brothers to supersonic jets in only 44 years, is that individuals got involved ? it wasn't just governments. Charles A. Lindbergh didn't risk his neck in 1927 purely for personal gratification: he was after the $25,000 Orteig Prize, offered by Raymond Orteig, a New York hotelier, for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. Had Lindbergh failed, his demise, though tragic, would have been viewed as a daredevil's acknowledged jeopardy, not a national catastrophe. Settling the Moon or Mars may at times mean taking greater risks than the 2 percent fatality rate that shuttle astronauts now face.

Sir Martin's comments are similar:

The American public's reaction to the shuttle's safety record - two disasters in 113 flights - suggests that it is unacceptable for tax-funded projects to expose civilians even to a 2% risk. The first explorers venturing towards Mars would confront, and would surely willingly accept, far higher risks than this. But they will never get the chance to go until costs come down to the level when the enterprise could be bankrolled by private consortia.

Future expeditions to the moon and beyond will only be politically and financially feasible if they are cut-price ventures, spearheaded by individuals who accept that they may never return. The Columbia disaster should motivate Nasa to set new goals for manned space flight - to collaborate with private groups to develop a more cost-effective and inspiring programme than we've had for the past 30 years.

Yes, somehow we've got to break out of this national mentality that the loss of astronauts is always unacceptable, or we'll never make any progress in space. The handwringing and inappropriate mourning of the Columbia astronauts, almost eleven months ago, showed that the nation hasn't yet grown up when it comes to space. Had we taken such an attitude with aviation, or seafaring, we wouldn't have an aviation industry today, and in fact, we'd not even have settled the Americas. To venture is to risk, and the first step of a new vision for our nation is the acceptance of that fact. But I think that Mr. Ferris is right--it won't be possible as long as we continue to send national astronauts on a voyeuristic program of "exploration"--it will have to await the emergence of the private sector, and I don't see anything in the "vision" discussions that either recognizes this, or is developing policy to help enable and implement it.

There's really only one way to resolve this disparity of visions, and that's to come up with a vision that can encompass all of them, and more, because the people who are interested in uses of space beside and beyond "science," and "exploration," and "missions," are apparently still being forced to sit on the sidelines, at least to judge by the article.

Here's my vision.

I have a vision of hundreds of flights of privately-operated vehicles going to and from low earth orbit every year, reducing the costs of doing so to tens of dollars per pound. Much of their cargo is people who are visiting orbital resorts, or even cruise ships around the moon, but the important things is that it will be people paying to deliver cargo, or themselves, to space, for their own purposes, regardless of what NASA's "vision" is.

At that price, the Mars Society can raise the money (perhaps jointly with the National Geographic Society and the Planetary Society) to send their own expedition off to Mars. Dr. Spudis and others of like mind can raise the funds to establish lunar bases, or even hotels, and start to learn how to operate there and start tapping its resources. Still others may decide to go off and visit an asteroid, perhaps even take a contract from the government to divert its path, should it be a dangerous one for earthly inhabitants.

My vision for space is a vast array of people doing things there, for a variety of reasons far beyond science and "exploration." The barrier to this is the cost of access, and the barrier to bringing down the cost of access is not, despite pronouncements to the contrary by government officials, a lack of technology. It's a lack of activity. When we come up with a space policy that addresses that, I'll consider it visionary. Until then, it's just more of the same myopia that got us into the current mess, and sending a few astronauts off to the Moon, or Mars, for billions of dollars, isn't going to get us out of it any more than does three astronauts circling the earth in a multi-decabillion space station.

There's no lack of destinations. What we continue to lack is true vision.

All that is old is new again.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:09 PM
"The War Is Over, And We Won"

That's the word from Michael Yon, reporting from Baghdad.

No thanks to the Democrats, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who tried to keep it from happening. I see that they still can't bring themselves to utter the word "win" with respect to the war. They continue to talk about "ending" it. Well, it looks like George Bush did that for them, and he won it as well. But winning wars is bad, you see, because it just encourages the warmongers.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:38 AM
Be Very Afraid

Vice-President-Elect Hairplugs wants to be a hands-on VP:

Biden has said he'd like to use his 36 years of experience in the Senate, including leadership of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, to help push Obama's agenda in Congress. It's longtime insider's experience that Obama lacks and a role that has not been Cheney's focus.

I'm having trouble thinking of a single foreign policy issue in his career on which Joe Biden has been right.

It's also kind of frightening to think of him as responsible for space policy, as veeps have traditionally been. Particularly milspace.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:32 AM

Stephen Green says that President-Elect Obama isn't off to a very good start.

And Brian Doherty is concerned about the cult of personality. Really? He just noticed?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:08 AM
Invading Albion

Iowahawk has become Internationalhawk, perturbing Anglo-American relations with a new column on a British web site:

In the matter of politics you have "Tories" and "Labour" where we have "Republicans" and "Democrats"; just as our "lawyers" must pass the "bar exam," I'm sure your "barristers" must pass some sort of "pub quiz." In America we call our stupid white racists "crackers," where I believe you refer to them as "scones" or "crisps" or something. But these minor language quirks are nothing compared to the many things we have in common. For example, did you know we also have a new Stalinist dictator, and he also turns out to be Brown?

Politically incorrect, as always.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:45 AM

November 13, 2008

The Latest From Inside The Late Not-Great McCain Campaign

Rich Lowry has been talking to Rick Davis:

The split over Palin, of course, poisoned everything at the end. One of the dividing lines was between her communications team and the policy advisers. The communications team seemed to consider her a dolt, while the policy people--like Steve Biegun and Randy Scheunemann--were impressed with her and her potential. As one McCain aide told me, "It's the difference between considering her someone who lacks knowledge and someone who is incompetent, and they [the communications aides] treated her as the latter."

By many accounts, the relationship between Palin and the staff assigned by the campaign to travel with her on her plane was dysfunctional and even hostile from the beginning. "She would have been better served if she had asked a couple of people to be removed from her traveling staff," says one McCain aide.

Some McCain loyalists think the Bushies assigned to Palin let her down and then turned on her. This is a representative quote from someone from McCain world holding that view: "Look, she wasn't ready for this, obviously. Their job was to make her ready for this and they failed. So they unloaded on her. If they had an iota of loyalty to John McCain, they wouldn't have done it."

It was a mistake to bring "Bushies" into the campaign, given the competence level of "Bushies" as a general rule (unfortunately, the president seemed to value loyalty over competence, though there were notable exceptions). Yes, they won a couple previous campaigns, but only barely. Of course, there was something dysfunctional about a McCain campaign that didn't see this happening and do something about it. And then there's this:

On putting Palin out in big, hostile network interviews at the beginning: "Our assumption was people would not let us release her on Fox or local TV."

On the Couric interview, which Davis says Palin thought would be softer because she was being interviewed by a woman: "She was under the impression the Couric thing was going to be easier than it was. Everyone's guard was down for the Couric interview."

On the clothes fiasco: "We flew her out from Alaska to Arizona to Ohio to introduce her to the world and take control of her life. She didn't think 'dress for the convention', because it might have just been a nice day trip to Arizona if she didn't click with John. Very little prep had been done and if it had, we might have gotten picked off by the press. We were under incredible scrutiny. We got her a gal from New York and we thought, 'Let's get some clothes for her and the family.' It was a failure of management not to get better control and track of that. The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing, what it was worth or where it was going. No one knew how much that stuff was worth. It was more our responsibility than hers."

What does that first graf mean? What "people" did they think wouldn't let them release her on Fox or local television? And as to the second, all I can say is...WHERE DID THEY FIND THESE IDIOTS?! They thought that hyperliberal hyperNOWist hyperidiot Katie Couric was going to be "soft" on her? In a taped, easily edited interview that could be dribbled out over days? On what planet have they been living? These are people who are supposed to understand media relations?

They deserved to lose, and as I've said before, I'm not unhappy that they did. But I'm quite unhappy that Senator Obama didn't.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:30 PM
Feeling Upbeat About The Economic Future?

Here's a cure for that. Let's hope he's wrong. Part of the problem is that, because panics like this are to some degree psychological, pieces like this don't help, even if they're valid. It's sort of like the Heisenberg principle--the very act of diagnosing the problem can exacerbate it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:54 AM
Too Much Self Esteem

Never before have so many been so proud of so little:

The findings, published in the November issue of Psychological Science, support the idea that the "self-esteem" movement popular among today's parents and teachers may have gone too far, the study's co-author said.

"What this shows is that confidence has crossed over into overconfidence," said Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

She believes that decades of relentless, uncritical boosterism by parents and school systems may be producing a generation of kids with expectations that are out of sync with the challenges of the real world.

"High school students' responses have crossed over into a really unrealistic realm, with three-fourths of them expecting performance that's effectively in the top 20 percent," Twenge said.

Don't they realize that half of them are below median intelligence? Probably not, because they got an "A" in math, even though they didn't understand it.

One of the perverse and tragic problems with incompetence is that it generally includes an inability to recognize it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:16 AM
America The Illiterate

I don't generally think much of Chris Hedges, and the comments are nutty, but I largely agree with this piece:

The illiterate and semi-literate, once the campaigns are over, remain powerless. They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools. They still cannot understand predatory loan deals, the intricacies of mortgage papers, credit card agreements and equity lines of credit that drive them into foreclosures and bankruptcies. They still struggle with the most basic chores of daily life from reading instructions on medicine bottles to filling out bank forms, car loan documents and unemployment benefit and insurance papers. They watch helplessly and without comprehension as hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed. They are hostages to brands. Brands come with images and slogans. Images and slogans are all they understand. Many eat at fast food restaurants not only because it is cheap but because they can order from pictures rather than menus. And those who serve them, also semi-literate or illiterate, punch in orders on cash registers whose keys are marked with symbols and pictures. This is our brave new world.

Can democracy survive for long, with such an electorate? Of course, he doesn't finger the primary culprit--our fascist public school system which manufactures exactly the sort of people who will keep it in power.

[Late afternoon update]

Are individualists losing the IQ war with the left?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:04 AM
A Frightening Thought

George Abbey as NASA administrator? If that were to happen, it would be one of the worst effects of the Obama win, at least for those who care about our future in space.

[Update early afternoon]

Here was my take on the Abbey/Lane paper at the time it was first published, over three years ago:

I'm reading the space policy paper by (former JSC Director George) Abbey and (former Clinton Science Advisor Neal) Lane.

It gets off on the wrong foot, in my opinion, right in the preface:

Space exploration on the scale envisioned in the president's plan is by necessity a cooperative international venture.

I know that this is an article of faith with many, but simply stating it doesn't make it an incontrovertible fact. In reality, this is a political decision. If it became important to the nation to become spacefaring, and seriously move out into space, there's no reason that we couldn't afford to do it ourselves. The amount of money that we spend on space is a trivially small part of the discretionary budget, and even smaller part of the total federal budget, and a drop in the bucket when looking at the GDP. Even ignoring the fact that we could be getting much more for our money if relieved of political constraints, we could easily double the current budget.

The statement also ignores the fact that international cooperation in fact tends to increase costs, and there's little good evidence that it even saves money. It's something that we tend to do simply for the sake of international cooperation, and we actually pay a price for it.

Neither the president's plan nor the prevailing thrust of existing U.S. space policies encourages the type of international partnerships that are needed. Indeed there is much about U.S. space policy and plans--particularly those pertaining to the possible deployment of weapons in space--that even our closest allies find objectionable.

While I don't favor doing things just because other countries find them objectionable (with the exception of France), this issue should not be driving our space policy, as I pointed out almost exactly three years ago. What the authors think is a bug, I consider a feature.

In the introduction itself, I found this an interesting misdiagnosis:

In January 2004, President George W. Bush announced a plan to return humans to the Moon by 2020, suggesting that this time U.S. astronauts would make the journey as a part of an international partnership. However, the recent history of the U.S. space program--the tragic Columbia accident, a squeezing of the NASA budget over many years, the cancellation of the Hubble Space Telescope upgrade mission, a go-it-alone approach to space activities, the near demise of the U.S. satellite industry due to U.S. policy on export controls, and international concern about U.S. intentions regarding the military use of space--points to serious obstacles that stand in the way of moving forward.

Again, they state this as though it was obviously true (and perhaps it is, to them). But they don't actually explain how any of these things present obstacles to returning to the moon. The loss of Columbia was actually, despite the tragedy to the friends and families of the lost astronauts, a blessing, to the degree that it forced the nation to take a realistic reassessment of the Shuttle program. We aren't going to use Shuttle to go back to the moon, so how can they argue that its loss is an obstacle to that goal?

Similarly, how does squeezing of past NASA budgets prevent future intelligent spending in furtherance of the president's goal? While lamentable if it doesn't occur, repairing Hubble was not going to make any contribution to the Vision for Space Exploration. And while the state of the satellite industry is troubling, again, there's no direct connection between this and human exploration. I've already dealt with the spuriousness of the complaints about international cooperation. In short, this statement is simply a lot of unsubstantiated air, but it probably sounds good to policy makers who haven't given it much thought.

They sum it up here:

U.S. policy makers must confront four looming barriers that threaten continued U.S. leadership in space: export regulations that stifle the growth of the commercial space industry, the projected shortfall in the U.S. science and engineering workforce, inadequate planning for robust scientific advancement in NASA, and an erosion of international cooperation in space.

There are some barriers to carrying out the president's vision, but so far, with the exception of the export-control issue, these aren't them, and they don't seem to have identified any of the other actual ones.

From there, they go on to give a brief history of the space program, with its supposed benefits to the nation. They then go on to laud the international nature of it. When I got to this sentence, I was struck by the irony:

The International Space Station best portrays the international character of space today.

If that's true, it should be taken as a loud and clear warning that we should be running as far, and and as fast, from "international cooperation" as we possibly can.

The largest cooperative scientific and technological program in history, the space station draws on the resources and technical capabilities of nations around the world. It has brought the two Cold War adversaries together to work for a common cause, and arguably has done more to further understanding and cooperation between the two nations than many comparable programs.

What they don't note is that it is years behind schedule, billions over budget, and still accomplishes little of value to actually advancing us in space, other than continuing to keep many people employed at Mr. Abbey's former center, and other places. But, promotes international cooperation, so that's all right. Right?

The piece goes on to describe the four "barriers," of which only one (export control) really is. While it's troubling that not as many native-born are getting advanced science and engineering degrees as there used to be, there will be no shortage of engineers, since the foreign born will more than pick up the slack. It's perhaps a relevant public policy issue, but it's not a "barrier" to our sending people back to the moon.

The most tendentious "barrier" is what the authors claim is inadequate planning and budgets for the vision:

President George W. Bush's NASA Plan, which echoed that of President George H. W. Bush over a decade before, is bold by any measure. It is also incomplete and unrealistic. It is incomplete, in part, because it raises serious questions about the future commitment of the United States to astronomy and to planetary, earth, and space science. It is unrealistic from the perspectives of cost, timetable, and technological capability. It raises expectations that are not matched by the Administration's commitments. Indeed, pursuit of the NASA Plan, as formulated, is likely to result in substantial harm to the U.S. space program.

Even if one buys their premise--that expectations don't match commitments, that all depends on what means by the "U.S. space program," doesn't it? They seem (like many space policy analysts) to be hung up on science, as though that's the raison d'être of the program. Leaving that aside, they (disingenuously, in my opinion) attempt to back up this statement:

The first part of the NASA Plan, as proposed, was to be funded by adding $1 billion to the NASA budget over five years, and reallocating $11 billion from within the NASA budget during the same time frame. These amounts were within the annual 5 percent increase the current Administration planned to add to the NASA base budget (approximately $15 billion) starting in fiscal year 2005. This budget, however, was very small in comparison to the cost of going to the Moon with the Apollo program. The cost of the Apollo program was approximately $25 billion in 1960 dollars or $125 billion in 2004 dollars, and the objectives of the NASA Plan are, in many ways, no less challenging.

This is a very misleading comparison, for two reasons.

First, as the president himself said, this is not a race, but a vision. Apollo was a race. Money was essentially no object, as long as we beat the Soviets to the moon. The vision will be budget constrained. NASA's (and Mike Griffin's) challenge is to accomplish those few milestones that were laid out in the president's plan within those constraints. It will cost that much, and no more, by definition.

Second, simply stating that the goals of the plan are no less challenging than Apollo doesn't make it so. While the goal of establishing a permanent lunar presence is more of a challenge, it's not that much more of one, and we know much more about the moon now than we did in 1961, and we have much more technology in hand, and experience in development than we did then. In short, any comparison between what Apollo cost and what the vision will cost is utterly spurious. The only way to get an estimate for the latter is to define how it will be done, and then do parametric costing, using 21st-century cost-estimating relationships, on the systems so defined (a process which is occurring, and is one not informed in any way by Apollo budgets).

The U.S. Congress has made clear with its NASA appropriation for fiscal year 2005 that it has serious questions about the NASA Plan.

No surprise there. But that's merely a reflection of specific items (i.e., pork for their districts) that were cut, and says nothing in particular about the overall ability of NASA to achieve the plan with the budget. In fact, an annual appropriation is just that--it provides no insight whatsoever into what Congress might think is required in the out years, when the real budgetary issues would emerge, if they do at all.

Overall, this section strikes me as less a serious policy discussion than a political slap at the administration, by one of the first high-level NASA officials to be canned by it, and by a disgruntled physicist (and science advisor from the previous administration) unhappy that science is not the be-all of the program.

I've glanced through the rest of the thing, but I think I've covered the major flaws in it already. What's actually most notable to me is that they completely ignore the potential for private passenger flight, and commercial space in general (other than bemoaning the impact to the satellite industry of export restrictions). Given how badly they've misdiagnosed the problems, their prescriptions have little value. In terms of providing a basis for administration policy, my own recommendation is that it be simply filed away--in a circular receptacle.

I see little reason to revise that review today. George Abbey shouldn't be allowed anywhere near space policy (though perhaps, at seventy six years of age, it's not something that he wants, or could handle at this point). It certainly wouldn't be change we can believe in. Or change at all.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:43 AM

That's how Beldar describes John McCain's post-election behavior:

John McCain has failed this test of his own character.

The would-be commander-in-chief surely still had the clout to summon the top twenty-five or so campaign aides into a room for a "Come to Jesus" meeting, a "we aren't any of us leaving this room until I know who leaked those comments" meeting, a "you aren't any of you ever going to work in politics again until we find out who's to blame for this" meeting.

Instead, he goes on Lenno and shrugs his shoulders, minimizing the whole episode. That didn't make anyone famous. That affirmatively encouraged this crap to continue, not just in this campaign but in future ones.

I practice a profession in which secrets are important. I understand the concept of fiduciary duty. I've employed people, professionals and staff alike, who -- simply by virtue of working for me -- have been made subject to the same bright-line, absolute standards that I'm subject to. Very, very rarely, someone in my employment has breached that trust -- and my reaction has been ruthless and thorough and instantaneous. Yes, there have been a few times when I've enjoyed firing someone, and have gone out of my way to make sure that anyone who cared to make future inquiries about hiring that person would find out exactly why they were fired.

McCain's background as a military officer ought to have acquainted him with high ethical standards and the need for their consistent and vigorous enforcement. He almost flunked out of the Naval Academy at the end of every year he spent there, based on conduct demerits, but he never once had an Honor Code violation.

Senator, this was an Honor Code violation by someone on your staff. And you just blew it off. There was no shame in losing the election. But there is definitely shame in this.

Also, thoughts on the willful gullibility of people who believe the idiotic lies about Sarah Palin:

People joked about "Bush Derangement Syndrome," and about "Palin Derangement Syndrome" as its successor. But at some point this kind of thing stops being a joke and becomes a genuine cognative disability -- an inability to process and deal in a rational fashion with objective data because of a bias that is so intense that it blocks out reality.

I can't explain it. I just hope it's a temporary, acute problem rather than something long-term or possibly organic, like the sort of brain tumors or lesions of which Dr. Oliver Sachs writes in his book, "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." I'm not being at all snarky here. Rather, I'm entirely serious, because I have considered Dr. Joyner a friend, and I am genuinely concerned for his mental health. He, Andrew Sullivan, and others in their camp are completely persuaded that they can see a degree of ignorance in Gov. Palin which is utterly inconsistent with anyone's ability to function as the governor of any state, but to which hundreds of thousands of Alaskans were absolutely blind for many years despite a much better opportunity to assess Gov. Palin first-hand. That kind of thinking represents a break with reality, one that's not funny at all, but genuinely sad.

[Via David Blue, who has a number of other reasons to be glad that John McCain didn't win the election. But they don't, unfortunately, constitute reasons to be happy that Barack Obama did. We were screwed either way, primarily because the media selected both candidates.]

[Update a few minutes later]

I wonder how many people actually voted for John McCain (that is, voted for him because they liked him, and thought he would be a good president)? I suspect that the vast majority of McCain voters were either voting against Obama, or for Palin, or both, but they weren't voting for McCain. It seems to me that those people who actually like McCain, either personally, or on his eclectic policies, probably like Obama even more (e.g., many in the media). So hardly anyone voted for him. And this is also the reason that the Republican turnout was relatively low. The candidate had no attraction to them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:03 AM
Why Libertarianism Matters

Now, more than ever. Self-styled "progressives" seem to continue to be unaware of their own shameful intellectual history.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:50 AM

November 12, 2008

Capitalism, Corporatism, Free Markets

Some useful thoughts from Rod Long, over at Cato Unbound.

As he points out, there is a broad-based mythology that defending capitalism is equivalent to defending "big business" when, by its nature, big business abhors capitalism (at least as understood by true free marketeers). Of course, I agree with Jonah Goldberg that we latter should abjure the term "capitalism," both because it is such a misunderstood word with a wide variance of definitions, and because it is fundamentally a Marxist concept.

A "free-market economy" (something that hasn't existed to a large degree in this country for many decades) is what should be defended and supported, and we should continue to push to get the country to move back in that direction to find our way out of our current travails (which really started back in the Depression Era). Just as one example, there's an interesting discussion over at Megan McArdle's place, here and here, on GM's straits (about which I've also had thoughts over the years, as someone who grew up with it). I think that, as one of the commenters over there notes, the roots of the destruction of the American auto industry lie in the Wagner Act:

GM and the UAW are a perfect illustration of bad government in action.

At some point, a collective decision was made that the unions should be given such expanded powers that they could destroy the company if they wanted (see the above post describing how a strike at a key plant could idle the whole company). What happens here? Well, naturally the union tries to extract as much as they can from the company with the tools available. The union doesn't profit from increasing profits and building a healthy company, it profits from building an overstaffed company that exists to benefit its employees. The union would have been better served if it divvied up the right to collect a union payout from GM among the workers of the time and let them sell the claims. Then the union could simply negotiate the maximum dividend possible for the holders of these claims. This way you have a rationally run company with the benefits going to the larger voting block (the workers) than the shareholders who are all presumably evil capitalists.

What would have been much more honest and worked better would have been outright nationalization of GM when the rules were set up that the UAW could destroy the company. Instead you've got unclear property rights and consequent ill management.

It took a long time to kill the industry, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't the cause. Arsenic or mercury can kill over a long period of time as well, though death might actually occur from some other ailment that the toxin-ridden body is ill equipped to fight.

The toxin in this case may be a lot of things (perhaps even including "capitalism" by some warped fascistic definition) but it is an abomination to a free market, and it has destroyed the American auto industry.

[Update a few minutes later]

IBD says let GM go bankrupt:

Far from vanishing, many of GM's assets would be quickly purchased by competent foreign automakers eager to expand their capacity in what is the world's largest auto market. Happily, the list of well-run car companies, from Toyota to Nissan to Porsche, is long.

How this helps Michigan, the auto sector and smaller firms reliant on the latter's health is pretty clear. With capable auto executives finally overseeing GM's poorly deployed assets, the value and utility of each would rise, thus perpetuating the existence of jobs in the sector, all the while ensuring that other businesses that exist due to GM will enjoy more stable commercial relationships with competent management.

So while the cries of certain Armageddon would be ear splitting in the event of a GM failure, the U.S. auto sector would actually emerge much healthier thanks to a change in ownership that would be the certain result of GM going under.

The problem of course, is that this will be another Enron, in that many people will be thrown out of work, and lose pensions (I should note, for the record, that as a Michigan native, I have close family members who may be in this situation). The political pressure to maintain the status quo will be intense, and unfortunately, given the fact that despite all of the talk about "change," the status-quo-ante types (at least when it comes to static economic circumstances) have just entrenched their power in Washington, that's probably the way it will go. If GM is going to get federal money, it should go toward buyouts of long-term employees, and then let the market work to redeploy its assets toward more useful purposes than maintaining an expensive company-town welfare state, that makes cars on the side.

[Update mid morning]

Matt Welch says to the barricades to defend free markets. Except that he uses the confusing word "capitalism."

I should add, that I consider George Bush's biggest failure not the events leading up to this crisis, but his response to it, in which (as Matt points out) he capitulated to those advocating government solutions to government-caused problems. Of course, it's on a par with "compassionate conservatism" and "comprehensive immigration reform" and "no child left behind" and "prescription drugs" and myriad other issues, large and small, on which he showed himself to be anything but a conservative (let alone a libertarian). Had he been a Democrat, the Dems would have been cheering all of his actions as the greatest thing since LBJ and the Great Society.

Speaking of compassionate conservatism (and the tone deafness of George Bush and Mike Gerson and others to how rightly offensive the phrase was to actual conservatives), imagine how well the Democrats would take to a nominee who ran on a platform of "logical liberalism."

[Early afternoon update]

Iain Murray has more thoughts on free markets and their relationship to liberty: Jonah says, markets are more than this information delivery system. Where the Chicago School has gone wrong is in focusing purely on economic efficiency. As my boss Fred Smith said way back in 1983, "The Chicago School's case for antitrust policy . . . rests solely on economic efficiency, as if rights had nothing to do with the matter -- as if business had no right in principle to dispose of its property as it sees fit, but only a conditional freedom so long as it helps maximize some social utility function. That is to say, no business is entitled to its property if that property can be redeployed so as to expand output. With 'conservative,' 'pro-business' economists taking this view, who needs social democrats." In other words, if we value property rights, the free market is an essential consequence. And that is why market socialism never works, because it devalues property rights. Liberty demands property rights which demand free markets. We only interfere with that chain in defiance of history.

It is not a coincidence that communist nations are the most unfree on earth.

[Early evening update, particularly for Instapundit readers, who might want to look around the site]

I've talked in the past about the fact that my father was a GM exec, but I've never noted what he did there.

Here's a little background, which may be apocryphal, because I only knew it from my mother, but they met after the war in New York (he was from Brooklyn). She was a former WAC who had served in Egypt, and had decided to see a little more of the world before heading back to her home in Flint, Michigan.

He was standing on a soapbox in the Village, haranguing the crowd on the benefits of Marxism. As an economics major, raised on Keynes, she fell in love.

They married, and finished their graduate degrees, at various places (NYU, UCLA, other, his in Psych--Industrial Psych, hers in Econ). In the fifties he tried door-to-door in Lansing after moving to Michigan with his upper Midwest bride, but when he got an offer at A.C. Spark Plug in her home town (as a result of her brother, my uncle, being an engineer there) he took it, and settled into a middle-class lifestyle, during the best years of the company, in which he raised his family.

He moved up though the white-collar world at AC, in "personnel" (these days, it would be HR, which is one of the reasons that he could get me summer jobs there during college), until he got an offer to go to work for corporate in Detroit, a job for which he commuted sixty miles a day each way from Flint, and we never had to move. I know that this is no big deal of a commute in southern Cal, but for me, it was amazing. He died at an age slightly older than me (right now, for those reading in the future) that I can count on one hand, and not half of it, from a heart attack (his second--he had had his first about a decade earlier, in his forties). That was almost three decades ago.

His job?

Head of labor relations, and negotiator (perhaps chief negotiator, though (as Doctor Evil said) I can't vouch for that), with the UAW.

[Bumped to the top, because there's a lot of new stuff]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:40 PM
All For Show

I've no idea whether or not this is true:

Hello everyone, As you know, I am not a very political person. I just wanted to pass along that Senator Obama came to Bagram Afghanistan for about an hour on his visit to "The War Zone." I wanted to share with you what happened. He got off the plane and got into bullet proof vehicle, got to the area to meet with the Major General (2 Star) who is the commander here at Bagram. As the Soldiers lined up to shake his hand, he blew them off and didn't say a word as he went into the conference room to meet the General.

As he finished, the vehicles took him to the Clamshell (pretty much a big top tent that military personnel can play basketball or work out in with weights) so he could take his publicity pictures playing basketball. He again shunned the opportunity to talk to soldiers to thank them for their service. So really he was just here to make a showing for the Americans back home that he is their candidate for president.

It seems as well sourced as the dirt being dished about Sarah Palin. And more credible.

I'll be amused to see what happens the first time someone salutes him as Commander-in-Chief. (Draft dodger) Bill Clinton was an instant joke to military insiders when he ineptly returned his first one. If the Obama campaign is smart, they'll know about that history, and have him practice beforehand. Not that there's any requirement to return it, of course. But Reagan seems to have started a presidential tradition. Obama can end (or at least deviate from) it if he wants. But would it be politically wise?

[Update early evening]

Mea culpa maxima. I should have checked Snopes before posting.

Nonetheless, everything else I wrote stands. It was more credible than the Sarah Palin dirt, and I still await the first salute.

And I also await Snopes' investigation of the Sarah Palin smears.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:39 PM
Buyer's Remorse?

Some thoughts on Obama, Weatherpeople, and Sarah Palin, from Camille Paglia: concern about Ayers has been very slow in developing. The mainstream media should have fully explored the subject early this year and not allowed it to simmer and boil until it flared up ferociously in the last month of the campaign. Obama may not in recent years have been "pallin' around" with Ayers, in Sarah Palin's memorable line, but his past connections with Ayers do seem to have been more frequent and substantive than he has claimed...

...Given that Obama had served on a Chicago board with Ayers and approved funding of a leftist educational project sponsored by Ayers, one might think that the unrepentant Ayers-Dohrn couple might be of some interest to the national media. But no, reporters have been too busy playing mini-badminton with every random spitball about Sarah Palin, who has been subjected to an atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation merely because she has the temerity to hold pro-life views.

How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the State University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don't know their asses from their elbows.

Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.

I think she gives the press too much credit for their ability to wake up.

[Update late morning]

It may have been politically incorrect for Michael Barone to say it, but I think he's right when he points to Palin's greatest sin in the eyes of much of the media and the left:

"The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby," Barone said, according to accounts by attendees. "They wanted her to kill that child. ... I'm talking about my media colleagues with whom I've worked for 35 years."

Barone, a popular speaker on the paid lecture circuit, is a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and principal coauthor of "The Almanac of American Politics."

About 500 people were in the room, and some walked out.

Guess the truth hurts. That was obvious to me at the time as well, with all of the criticism of her for having the baby. She was a huge threat to the pro-abortion (and yes, that's what much of it is) movement.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:15 AM

November 11, 2008

Hoover, Or Reagan?

Which president will Barack Obama want to emulate? He has said that he admires Reagan, but only for his transformational qualities, not for his political beliefs. But if he persists in his apparent desire to implement some combination of Hoover and FDR policies (raising taxes on the productive, protectionism, enforcing high wages), he'll end up making a bad situation much worse, and end up being a one-termer for sure.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:12 AM
An Extinct Species?

Would that it had been so. In honor of Veterans' Day, here's an interesting story of a recording captured to preserve the memory of the war that was to end all wars. Unfortunately, that part didn't work out.

[Update mid morning]

On the ninetieth anniversary of the Armistice, three British veterans are still alive. The oldest is 112, the oldest man in the country. Did he ever imagine, in the midst of the war, that he would survive another nine tenths of a century beyond its end?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:42 AM

November 10, 2008

Space Advice For Obama

Jeff Foust has some thoughts about issues facing the new administration. It may in fact be an opportunity to undo the damage in the 1990s when Congress arbitrarily put space hardware on the munitions list. Duncan Hunter won't be in a position to stop it now, being firmly in the minority.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:20 AM
The Military Space Mess

The other day I pointed out a report on the general military acquisition problems. Today at The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses the military space problem in particular. As he notes, Pentagon space makes NASA look like a model of efficiency. NASA at least has the excuse that what it does isn't really important. The same is not true of our defense systems, but the bureaucracy and porkmeisters act as though it is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:09 AM

November 09, 2008

"When Good Men Did Nothing"

It's the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht.

While many Americans would also claim they were unaware of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, the events of November 9-10 were well documented. The New York Times ran a front-page story on November 11: "A wave of destruction, looting and incendiarism unparalleled in Germany since the Thirty Years War and in Europe generally since the Bolshevist Revolution swept over Great Germany today as National Socialist cohorts took vengeance on Jewish shops, offices and synagogues for the murder by a young Polish Jew of Ernst vom Rath, third secretary of the German Embassy in Paris." Another Times story was headlined, "All Vienna's synagogues attacked."

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT made no immediate comment after Kristallnacht, referring questions about it to the State Department. Only after five days of widespread public outrage did he take any action: recalling the US ambassador from Germany and stating in a press conference, "The news of the past few days from Germany has deeply shocked public opinion in the US. Such news from any part of the world would inevitably produce a similar profound reaction among American people in every part of the nation. I myself could scarcely believe that such things could happen in a 20th century civilization..."

Roosevelt agreed to allow 15,000 German Jews already in the United States to remain, but resisted all calls to increase the overall quota of immigrants from Nazi-occupied countries. Equally significant, his failure to take any action against Germany, or to mobilize an international coalition to challenge Hitler, sent the message that the world would not intervene to save the Jews. How much he could have done given the isolationist and xenophobic mood of the American public at that time is debatable, but the consequences of his inaction were catastrophic.

If President Obama continues to show signs of coddling Ahmajinedad and the Iranian mullahs, he will be sending a similar signal. If this history ever repeats itself, it won't be farce--it will be tragedy anew, because we inexcusably forgot it.

[Update a few minutes later]

Synagogues around the world are being asked to keep their lights on tonight, in remembrance.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:22 AM

November 08, 2008

Chicago-Style Politics

In Minnesota. It looks like this election is being stolen, right before our eyes.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:07 PM
Just Making It Up

This sort of thing is why I'm not inclined to believe any of the Palin smears. It's really astounding how polarized people are about her.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:44 AM

November 07, 2008


Senator Nelson is urging Barack Obama to keep Mike Griffin on:

"He called Lori Garver and said that until they had a surefire choice, they should continue with Griffin. And he thinks Griffin is doing a good job," said Bryan Gulley, a Nelson spokesman. Gulley would not say who Nelson would support if or when Obama picks a new NASA administrator.

Well, obviously, you don't want to leave the post vacant, or put in a loser. But it should be a high priority to find a good replacement for him, not to mention come up with a new policy (the two will no doubt go together). The Ares/Orion debacle is entirely Mike Griffin's baby at this point. I know that if I were named the new administrator, I'd can Ares, ramp up COTS and COTS D, and get started on R&T, and then (not much later) RDT&E for a propellant depot, and let ULA, SpaceX and others worry about earth to orbit. With a prop depot, the weight margins on Orion and Altair become essentially unlimited, so I'd start designs over from there.

But for many reasons, I'm not going to be named administrator. I just hope that whoever is has their head screwed on right.

Oh, and I should also add (as I commented over at Bobby Block's site) that people who should know better (like Senators who have actually flown in space) seem to continue to ignore the reality that extending Shuttle doesn't give us independence from the Russians, because the Shuttle can't act as an ISS lifeboat. All it does is cost billions more while putting crew at high risk. Until they get Dragon or Orion, or something else, we are going to have to continue buying Soyuz if we want to continue to have US astronauts at ISS.

[Saturday morning update]

There's more discussion on this topic over at Space Politics.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:05 PM
Maybe Obama Should Reconsider

The Wall Street Journal likes the Rahm Emanuel pick. I actually agree--he will be a restraining influence on some of the wackier elements of the party (perhaps including the new president himself, who made too many noises about trade restrictions during the campaign for my comfort).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:05 AM
An Absence

One of my ongoing themes is that space is not politically important. Apparently the incoming administration agrees. It isn't mentioned anywhere at the transition web site. I poked around in "Technology," "Energy and the Environment," and couldn't find anything about civil space, or NASA. The only discussion of space that I could find was under "Defense":

Ensure Freedom of Space: An Obama-Biden administration will restore American leadership on space issues, seeking a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites. He will thoroughly assess possible threats to U.S. space assets and the best options, military and diplomatic, for countering them, establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets and accelerating programs to harden U.S. satellites against attack.

A "worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites" would be unenforceable--it's pie in the sky. And there's no way to "harden U.S. satellites against attack" unless we come up with much lower costs to orbit. Does the new administration consider Operationally Responsive Space to be part of the solution? And will they take it seriously?

In any event, space policy in general seems to be a tabula rasa, other than campaign promises, so maybe there's an opportunity to write some and get it added to the site.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:57 AM
Gay Marriage unlibertarian.

I agree. I don't understand why gay couples want to invite the government into their lives to that degree.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:14 AM
Science And Technology Policy an Obama administration. Alan Boyle has a sneak preview. (I actually linked to this yesterday, but only in the context of the suborbital regulation issue.)

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:54 AM
Defense Acquisition Issues

It's a mess:

Right now, the current trends are not good. The US Navy is smaller than it has been in decades, currently has no viable shipbuilding programs for surface combatants, and has credibility issues in Washington. The US Army has a clear modernization strategy, but faces a maintenance overhang, challenges with both program management of its $160 billion Future Combat Systems meta-program and the very premises behind it, and other issues. The USAF has become concerned about its institutional future, even as its aircraft continue to see their average ages rise and respected outside organizations slam its procurement plans as fantasy. A recent Pentagon Defense Business Board report that examined programs from 2000 - 2007 throws the problem into stark relief: cost increases on 5 major weapons programs accounted for $206 billion, or 22%, of the total jump in spending for new arms so far this decade. The Defense Procurement Death Spiral is biting, hard, across the board.

NASA has similar problems. Norm Augustine
saw a lot of these problems coming a couple decades ago. I wish that I could believe that an Obama administration will take defense seriously enough to do something about it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:39 AM
No More JesusLand

For now. Thoughts on red and blue maps, from Lileks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:26 AM
Don't Panic

That's what Jeff Foust says to do about Oberstar.

I agree with everything Jeff wrote, except for the part about his likely interest in this issue. I'm pretty sure that he hasn't forgotten it, even if he has given up on it for now on the Hill.

And as I noted in comments over there, I don't think that it's "panicking" to attempt to nip a problem in the bud. It's a lot easier to put the kibosh on it now than it would be after he was formally selected and announced. Clark Lindsey seems to share my view.

I would also note that I didn't mean to imply that I thought this meant anything at all about an Obama administration's general attitude toward commercial space. I doubt if whoever is considering Oberstar is even aware of the issue.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:17 AM

November 06, 2008

The Washington Male

This was written about Richard Holbrooke, who is likely to be a major player in the new administration (despite the fact that he outed Valerie Plame):

I'm violently opposed to the idea of Richard Holbrooke as Secretary of State and only slightly less set against George Mitchell, and it is entirely personal. I don't care if they're qualified. They represent that which makes life in Washington hell. They are archetypes of the Washington Male...

The Washington Male has absolutely and profoundly no sense of humor... And greater love hath no man than this: that of the Washington Male for the Washington Male. A really pure Washington Male can be wrong about everything he does and says for decades without harboring a single twinge of self-doubt...

But it seems to me to apply even more to Vice-President-Elect Biden. I don't know how familiar with geography Sarah Palin is, but ignorance can be cured. Rampant idiocy cannot.

[Evening update]

A commenter corrects me. It was indeed Richard Armitage (another Democrat) who outed Valerie Plame, not Richard Holbrooke. In my oncoming senility, I confused my Democrat candidate Richards for SECSTATE.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:53 PM
The Healing Begins


Disregarding my sore winner anonymous trolls, many friends of mine no doubt voted for Barack Obama, and I think it's crazy to let something like that affect a friendship. I don't understand the thinking that if someone disagrees with you politically, you must be excommunicated. I lost a friend from high school, because she decided I was evil because I thought that Saddam Hussein should be removed from power in 2002.

We do have to work together to make the new administration successful, but we may just not agree on what constitutes success.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:44 PM
A New Libertarian-Conservative Coalition?

It seems likely. We're going to have to join forces against the fascists who are taking over Washington. Lots of good discussion in comments.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:39 PM
More Election Thoughts

From Iowahawk:

Less than fifty years ago, African-Americans were barred from public universities, restaurants, and even drinking fountains in many parts of the country. On Tuesday we came together and transcended that shameful legacy, electing an African-American to the country's top job -- which, in fact, appears to be his first actual job. Certainly, it doesn't mean that racism has disappeared in America, but it is an undeniable mark of progress that a majority of voters no longer consider skin color nor a dangerously gullible naivete as a barrier to the presidency.

It's also heartening to realize that as president Mr. Obama will soon be working hand-in-hand with a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard like Senator Robert Byrd to craft the incoherent and destructive programs that will plunge the American economy into a nightmare of full-blown sustained depression. As Vice President-Elect Joe Biden has repeatedly warned, there will be difficult times ahead and the programs will not always be popular, or even sane. But as we look out over the wreckage of bankrupt coal companies, nationalized banks, and hyperinflation, we can always look back with sustained pride on the great National Reconciliation of 2008. Call me an optimist, but I like to think when America's breadlines erupt into riots it will be because of our shared starvation, not the differences in our color.

Barack will bring us together.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:32 PM
Uh Oh

More space transition news. This could be a horrific disaster:

Potential Secretary of Transportation: James Oberstar, member of the House of Representatives since 1975.

Oberstar overseeing the FAA would mean safety regulation on the commercial spaceflight industry that would strangle it in the cradle. If they have any influence, Lori, George and Alan need to work as hard as they can to get a different candidate.

[Update early evening]

Clark Lindsey has more thoughts.

[Update a while later]

A commenter suggests that Bill Richardson, who has spent a lot of effort as governor on getting a commercial spaceport in his state, won't be happy about this (at least if he understands the implications). He could be a key leverage point with the incoming administration.

[Late evening update]

Alan Boyle is following up on the story.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:00 AM
This Is Unusual

Normally, the selection of a NASA administrator is low priority in a presidential transition, because (as I point out often) space is not very important, politically. That may be different this year, though. The GAO has identified Shuttle retirement as an urgent transition issue.

Which brings up an interesting point. In addition to the snow princess, who are "Hefferen, Ladwig, Whitesides, and Monje"? I know that "Ladwig" is Alan and "Whitesides" is George, but I've never heard of the other two.

I will also say that I am somewhat reassured by the involvement of Lori, Alan and George in the transition, if they are, because they all understand the importance of commercial solutions. I would also add that if President-elect Obama wants to (at least for bipartisan appearance' sake) appoint some token Republicans, NASA would be a good ostensibly non-political place to do it. I wonder what Alan Stern's political affiliation is?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:45 AM
And They Call Us Gun Nuts?

A man shot up his neighborhood in celebration of the Obama victory.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:53 AM
It's Not Too Early

To start fighting the "Fairness" Doctrine.

Yes, I know that then-Senator Obama said that he didn't support it, but do you think that he'd really veto it if it came to his desk? Really?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:39 AM
I Have To Confess

I have never thought of Lori Garver as a snow princess.

Will she be the next administrator, though?

I also have to say that I found this comment disturbing:

Seems highly likely Orion will become ISS only for now.

Let's sincerely hope not. That would be a major blow to commercial services. Better to just end it, and ramp up COTS.

[Afternoon update]

She's married, with kids. Shouldn't she be the Snow Queen (not to be confused with the Ice Queen)?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:39 AM

November 05, 2008

This Is Frightening

...if true:

It seems that the conspiracy theorist, windpower opponent (at least when it's in his family's backyard), expert climatologist and proto-McCarthyite, RFK Jr., is being considered for the EPA. I guess he must be an example of the pragmatic approach that we keep reading so much about...


Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:07 PM
Food Versus Fuel

Ethiopians are starving because they decided to cash in on biofuels. How much of this was due to government policies?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:55 AM
How Will House Results Affect NASA?

Jeff Foust has a post on some key races, though he talks about how they will affect "space." I think we'll do fine in space, regardless of election outcomes. It's NASA, and NASA human spaceflight supporters who should be worried.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:48 AM
A Bad First Sign

Yuval Levin has some thoughts about Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel as WH Chief of Staff:

The White House chief of staff is not a chief strategist or a chief advocate. He is a manager of people and of process. Above all else, he sets the tone internally, and shapes the president's decision process and the feel of the upper tiers of the administration. Obama is especially in need of someone who will lead him to decisions, because he appears to be intensely averse to making difficult choices--which is the essence of what the president does. His inclination is to step back and conceptualize the choice out of existence, looking reasonable but doing nothing. To overcome this, he will need a chief of staff with a sense of the gravity of the choices the president faces, and one capable of moving the staff to decision, keeping big egos satisfied and calm, and resisting the pressure to be purely reactive to momentary distractions. None of this spells Rahm Emanuel. There is definitely a place for a Rahm Emanuel type of brilliant ruthless shark in a White House staff, but not in the Chief's office.

I think that this is a result of Obama's never having been a real executive, or run anything. He didn't run his campaign--Plouffe and Axelrod did. He was simply the front man. As Yuval notes, it's not a good portent. Get ready for Carter II.

[Update a while later]

Does anyone seriously believe that this pick represents "change" or a "new kind of politics"?

[Mid-afternoon update]

Oh, goodie. More "change" and "new kind of politics." I just heard that John Podesta is leading the selection of the transition team and cabinet.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:42 AM
An Historic Moment

I was too tired last night to attempt to say much of anything intelligent, let alone eloquent. But I'll start by repeating my congratulations to President-elect Obama. From snippets that I've heard this morning, his acceptance speech was appropriately gracious to his opponent, but I have to confess that I didn't hear the whole thing because I had gone to bed. My impression is that it didn't differ a lot from his stump speech, except he left out the lies about his opponents.

As I noted last night, one thing that I am not unhappy about, and is a large silver lining in a larger dark cloud, is that we have elected an African American (in this case, quite literally) to the highest office in the greatest nation on the planet. I always expected the first black president to be a Republican (or at least a conservative of some stripe), because I didn't anticipate a Barack Obama, who between his apparent (not at all to me, but clearly to many) charisma and the aid of a fawning press that refused to discuss his history with any seriousness, managed to transcend not just his skin tone, but his far-left political history. I hope that Michelle is finally proud of America, and that we can finally get past race. But I fear that we're not yet there, for those who are more comfortable continuing to play the easy role of victim. Either way, Barack Obama is the next American president, which means, for better or worse, that he is my president. (As usual) I agree with Lileks:

I'm off to the Mall to sell razor blades so people can scrape off their "Question Authority" bumper stickers. Just remember: Dissent is still the highest form of patriotism. Except now it will be practiced by the lowest form of people.

Seriously, though: congratulations to President-elect Obama. Right or wrong - and I hope for more of the former, obviously - he's my President now, dammit, and I'm not going to spend four years treating him with the contempt the Kos side heaped on Chimpy McPretzelchoker. He could turn out to be a horrible President. He could turn out to be a great one. History pushes people in unexpected directions.

I am on long-standing record as calling him unelectable in this nation. How did I get it wrong?

I don't think that his election was at all inevitable. It was a combination of many factors--the country going crazy in the wake of the financial crisis, the overwhelming amount of money brought to bear (much of it raised illegally) in his support, the truly egregious bias of the press, and an awful campaign by John McCain. I have to confess that I also expected the Clintons to do more than they did to sabotage him. It's surprising, in retrospect, that it was as close as it was.

With regard to McCain's campaign, Jennifer Rubin has a list of the many things that McCain did wrong, though I don't know if he could have won it. But he could have made it a lot closer, and helped staunch the bleeding down ballot even more. The one thing she didn't mention (though she hinted at it with some of her particulars) was that he should have been running against the most unpopular institution--Congress--which makes George Bush look like a rock star in popularity by comparison. He should have pointed out all of the things that have happened in the two years since the Democrats took over the Hill. Indeed, he should have simply pointed out that it was the Democrats who were running Congress, because much of the electorate seemed to be unaware of that fact. He shouldn't have voted for the bailout bill. But he couldn't do it, because he is John McCain. He is a great man, but a mediocre candidate, and would not likely have been a great president.

I'm glad that part of the reason that he lost is because of his own atrocious (and yes, that's the word for it) and unconstitutional McCain-Feingold legislation, and that by completely blowing past it, Barack Obama has rendered it meaningless and irrelevant for future elections, even if it's not actually rescinded. I would also note that while I do think that the Obama campaign violated federal campaign finance laws on a massive scale, by deliberately disabling AVS on their on-line credit-card donations, I also think that they're bad laws. I hope that we can change them to remove contribution limits, but require full disclosure. Frankly, I don't even care if foreigners want to contribute to American political campaigns, as long as we know who is doing it and how much. That is information that the voters deserve to know, and should be a legitimate campaign issue. The Clintons played the same dirty game, with Riady and the Chinese, but the media refused to dig into it and point it out.

And as I've noted before, because the press refused to air Obama's dirty Chicago laundry during the campaign, we're going to have another Clinton-like presidency, in which scandals from the past continue to pop up. Will he pardon Tony Rezko? Why didn't anyone ask him? Will he replace Patrick Fitzgerald (indeed, every US Attorney, as Bill Clinton did)? I also fear that (as with the Clintons) the thuggery displayed in the campaign--against Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, anyone in Missouri who had the temerity to "lie" about the Obama campaign--will continue in the new administration, except this time with the full power of the Justice Department and the FBI behind it. It is going to be an interesting four years.

I'm glad that it wasn't the blowout that many hoped for, and many feared. He won convincingly, but not sufficiently to have a mandate (particularly considering how gauzy his campaign promises were). Neither the House or the Senate had the gains expected by the Dems, and while having Stuart Smalley in the Senate would be entertaining (though not deliberately so on his part), I'm glad to keep one more vote to staunch a Democrat tide. I'm also glad that any changes on SCOTUS are likely to replace leftist squishes, and not true liberals (such as Roberts, Scalia and Alito), thus preserving the status quo rather than shifting it further against freedom.

I don't envy the president elect. I pointed out when he won the nomination that it was almost an accident--he wasn't supposed to win this year; it was just a practice run. Now, he's in another moment of the dog who finally caught the car that he's been chasing--what does he do with it? He's got the choice of going with his leftist instincts (I'm assuming that he really does have these, and isn't as completely cynical as he would have to be in order to have hung out with vile people with whom he completely disagreed politically, such as Ayers, Dorhn and Klonsky) and alienating much of the country (which truly doesn't understand what they just elected), or moving to the center and being more politically successful, but outraging the Kossacks and Moveoners at his betrayal. That, too, will be interesting to watch.

My biggest feeling right now, frankly (and I'm sure that it's one shared by almost everyone), is relief that this ridiculously long campaign is over. It's time for defenders of human freedom to regroup, take stock of the world as it is, rather than as we'd like it to be, and figure out how to move it from the former to the latter. Whether the Republican Party will be the appropriate vehicle for this remains to be seen, but as has been clear to me for most of my adult life, the Democrat Party will never be. They remain children of Rousseau, though they don't realize it, and I will continue to follow Locke.

[Update a while later]

Steven den Beste says it's not the end of the world, and has some predictions, one of which is quite disturbing. I loved this ending line: one will be spinning grand conspiracy theories about this administration's Vice President being an evil, conniving genius who is the true power behind the throne.

If I were a praying man, I'd pray for Senator Obama's health every day. I'm continuously amazed at people who think that Joe the Biden is presidential material, or even of above-average intelligence. Or even average.

[Another update a couple minutes later]

John McWhorter says that it should be the end of racism as a political issue, and makes the same point that Thomas Sowell has been making for years:

The new frontier, however, is apparently people's individual psychologies: Not only must we not legislate racism or socially condone it, but no one is to even privately feel it.

The problem is we can't entirely reach people's feelings. The social proscription has changed a lot of minds, especially of younger people who never knew the old days. But an America where nobody harbors racist sentiment? The very notion goes against everything we know about human hardwiring: Distrust of the other is inherent to our cognition.

Psychology has provided us with no method for rewiring brains to eliminate that. After describing one of countless studies revealing subliminal racial bias, Nicholas Kristof recently intoned "there's evidence that when people become aware of their unconscious biases, they can overcome them."

Oh, really? "Can," OK--but how often do they? How do we reach everybody? Do we mean overcoming bias so thoroughly that a test looking for what's "out there" would not still reveal it? It's a utopian pipe dream.

Now, if this racism of the scattered and subliminal varieties were the obstacle to achievement that Jim Crow and open bigotry were, then we would have a problem. But yesterday, we saw that this "out there" brand of racism cannot keep a black man out of the White House.

Might it not be time to allow that our obsession with how unschooled and usually aging folk feel in their hearts about black people has become a fetish? Sure, there are racists. There are also rust and mosquitoes, and there always will be. Life goes on.

It should be time, but as I said, it's a lot easier to continue to play the victim, and blame white racism rather than community pathologies for your problems. I was glad to hear Barack Obama tell young men to pull up their damn pants, and hope he continues to do so. I hope that he comes up with a job in the administration of some sort for Bill Cosby.

My ongoing fear of the Rousseauians is that they believe that they can remake man. They believe in thought crimes, and will attempt to both detect them, and stamp them out.

[Update a few minutes later]

One other thought on racism. Does anyone imagine that, with his resume, Barack Obama would be president elect if he were Barry O'Toole, a white guy?

[Mid-morning update]

Tim Ferguson has thoughts on the battle for individualism.

[Update a few minutes later]

I (as is often the case) agree with Mark Steyn:

Obama was wrong about the surge, and McCain was right. But, because he was right, Iraq went away, and his rightness and Obama's wrongness didn't matter. And, in his closing address in that final debate, McCain was left using tough, hard words like "honor" and "sacrifice" that seemed utterly ridiculous after an hour and a half in which the candidates had been outcompeting each other to shower federal largesse for those behind with a couple of mortgage payments. But that gets to my basic point: You don't want "issue" candidates. You want candidates who can place whatever the headlines happen to throw at you within an internally consistent worldview.

For what it's worth, I never want to hear the word "maverick" again as long as I live. As I said a while back, that's an attitude, not a philosophy.

I'm not unhappy that John McCain lost. He's an admirable man, but much less so as a politician. I'm just unhappy that the Republicans couldn't come up with someone better, and that the Democrat won.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:42 AM

November 04, 2008

Congratulations To Barack Obama

This is an historic moment for our nation. We have elected an American of African descent president of the nation.

More thoughts in the morning.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:22 PM
Why Should They Have The Power?

I'm watching a rally in DC with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

What has Harry Reid done to justify his increase of the majority of the Senate?

What has Nancy Pelosi done to justify her increase in her House majority?

Why did no one in the MSM ask these questions during the campaign?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:58 PM
I Hope I Don't Need To Tell You

If you haven't, get the heck out there and vote, and don't get bandwagoned. Remember, if everyone who had wanted Fred Thompson, but didn't think he could win, had voted for him in the primaries, he probably would have won.

[Update mid morning]

I already said this earlier, but don't pay too much attention to exit polls. They tend to skew Democrat, and they were pretty far off in 2004 (which is why some moonbats thought that Kerry must have won Ohio--they thought that the exit polls were right, and the actual vote tally was wrong).

[Update at 9:25 PM EST]

Ohio seems to be lost to McCain. I'd say that's the end of the game.

The battle now is to keep the ability to filibuster the Senate.

The nation has gone nuts.

[Note: this post will be at the top until polls close in Hawaii, so scroll down for any new stuff today]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:00 PM
For Those Indulging In Drinking Games

Or for those just drinking. Here are some candidate-appropriate suggestions. I hate to confess that I would prefer the Obama Mama, because I am partial to dark rum (a nasty habit acquired from too many years in the Caribbean).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:55 PM
That Will Teach Her

A thirteen-year-old girl in Somalia was stoned to death for being raped.

Just a reminder of the kind of people with whom we are at war, even if the Democrats don't want to believe that we're at war.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:58 AM
The Box

John Hare has some thoughts on boxes, and thinking in or out of them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:48 AM
Obama's Cruel Tax On The Poor

Orson Scott Card:

It's all in the name of Obama's True Belief in Global Warming. He says it himself -- he'll take coal off the table as an "ideological matter." Even if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, he's opposed to pursuing it.

He wants to put a huge penalty on companies that emit carbon -- which means that starting up new coal-powered electrical plants will be prohibitively expensive. In Obama's own words, "It will bankrupt them."

"Cap and trade" plans have already been tried, and they don't work -- they cost too much, and people find ways to get around them. But Obama promises us that he'll take that failed idea and be "as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else's" plan.

In other words, if it doesn't work, let's do more of it!

This is Obama the New Puritan. We've found his real religion: Political and Environmental Correctness.

It's more important to him to eliminate coal than to find practical solutions. Why? Because coal is "bad." Our groupthinking "intellectual" elite thinks they are post-religious -- but they believe in sin and hate the sinners.

As I said, deeply misguided. But the people get the government they deserve.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:12 AM
Chill Out

Advice from Instapundit on the election outcome:

You don't have to love the "other guy." You don't have to hold back on fighting against policies you don't like. You don't have to pull punches. But once someone is duly and legally elected president, you do owe some respect to the office and the Constitution. And to your fellow Americans.

I'm not an Obama fan, particularly, but a lot of people I like and respect are. To treat Obama as something evil or subhuman would not only be disrespectful toward Obama, but toward them. Instead, I hope that if Obama is elected, their assessment of his strengths will turn out to be right, and mine will turn out to be wrong. Likewise, those who don't like John McCain or Sarah Palin might reflect that by treating Palin and McCain as obviously evil and stupid, they're disrespecting tens of millions of their fellow Americans who feel otherwise. And treating a presidency held by a guy you don't like as presumptively illegitimate suggests that presidents rule not by election, but by divine right, so that whenever the "other guy" wins, he's automatically a usurper.

I concur. I have made no secret of my belief that Barack Obama is a fascist. But unlike most people, I don't believe that fascists are intrinsically evil. I just think that they're deeply misguided. If he wins, I expect to be fighting most of his initiatives, probably unsuccessfully, given the likely new composition of the Congress, but he will be, as every president has been before, my president, for good or ill. In four years, we'll have an opportunity to replace him. It's conceivable that in four years, I won't want to, but it seems extremely unlikely. And the world will go on.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:05 AM
Thoughts On Taxes

From Lileks:

If you are opposed to higher taxes on the rich - well, let's back up. If you start out by questioning the definition of "rich," you're one of them. "Rich" is like "racist" - the surest sign of the guilty is the failure to admit your problem. If there are a lot of people who make less money than you do, you're rich, and it doesn't matter how you got where you are, or whether that poor fellow over there who works for Wal-Mart - and don't worry, we'll belittle him as a three-toothed inbred cousin-marrying NASCAR Oxycontin-popping gun-nut in just a minute - made some life choices that may have affected his earning potential; the existence of disparity is sufficient to prove that something is wrong. Or at least suggest that something must be done. As a wise man said: half the people in the country live below the median income level. Half. In this day and age.

So if you don't want to help them - that's what you mean when you oppose taxes, after all - you're selfish. If you protest that you'll have to spend less, or invest less, or save less, or give less to charity, well, you had better start making more money, then. Go on; out to the woodshed; squat over that straw nest and pop out some more golden eggs, or whatever it is you do. Incidentally, you should spend less, because you spend money on things you don't need, and we don't have to know what they are to know you don't need them, just like we don't have to visit your house or neighborhood to know that the former is too big and the latter too far away. You should invest less - put your money in Main Street, not Wall Street. (This does not include spending money on Main Street on things we think you don't need. It means investing it. Consult a professional; we're not clear on the details.) You shouldn't save less, because saving is a virtue. Also, we can tax the interest.

Charity? Don't worry about it. Taxes have the same moral power as charity. As Sen. Obama said in the parable of the peanut butter sandwich, sharing is called "Socialism" by some wingnuts. He was correct to scoff: It's not whether you give of your own free will or whether you are compelled to give; it's the giving that counts, not the rationale.

Actually, the most important part is the separation of you and your property; that provides a deep glow of inner satisfaction you cannot possibly imagine, unless you have experience at the communion rail handing out the wafers. It's quite astonishing how the self can be so exalted by selflessness.

Plenty more where that came from, over at his new screedblog. And nobody screed like James.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:38 AM
The Audacity Of Fascism

Not that this is anything new:

Denying access to the minority (in this case Republican) poll watchers and inspectors is a violation of Pennsylvania state law. Those who violate the law can be punished with a misdemeanor subject to a fine of $1,000 and prison of between one month and two years.

Those on site as describing it as "pandemonium" and there may be video coming of the chaos.

Some of the precincts where Republicans have been removed are: the 44th Ward, 12th and 13th divisions; 6th Ward, 12th division; 32nd Ward, Division 28.

"Election board officials guard the legitimacy of the election process and the idea that Republicans are being intimidated and banned for partisan purposes does not allow for an honest and open election process," said McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt in a statement to Townhall.

Expect a lot of this kind of thing today. Especially in the Windy City.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:56 AM

November 03, 2008

Beware The Bandwagon

Of all the dumb reasons to vote for Barack Obama (and they are legion, even if there are a few smart ones interspersed), one of the dumbest is simply because the media is telling you he's inevitable. The bandwagon effect is a classical logical fallacy, that many fall for nonetheless (because most people are untrained in logic).

Don't let them herd you like a sheep into voting for someone just because you want to vote for the winner. If you're going to drink the redistributionist koolaid, at least do it because you actually believe it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:27 AM
Why Isn't Detroit A Paradise?

Because long ago, it (and other parts of the upper midwest) embraced Obamanian policies. If things go the wrong way tomorrow, the nation will be Detroit writ large.

[Update a while later]

This reminds me of a post I wrote about the rise and fall of General Motors a while ago. As I noted there, my dad was a GM exec, and I grew up in southeast Michigan (well, to the degree that I've grown up at all...). In 1973, about the time I graduated from high school, we were deep in a recession (a real one--not what the people whining about today's economy are describing, with 20+ percent unemployment in Flint), and the golden era was over, never to really return to what it had been.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:42 AM
It's Getting Harder And Harder To Surprise

The Orion spacecraft program was reviewed with the wrong configuration. There's more here:

So an older, immature design of the Orion capsule is brought up for review and passes muster, when it fact it lacks many of the features a flight worthy capsule would have (e.g., a weight that would be liftable, a means of landing that won't kill the occupants) along with several that a real vehicle wouldn't have (e.g., extra amounts of hot water for BroomHilda's cauldron).

That's not the way the process is supposed to work.

Unfortunately, the IG's office, not known for their brilliance or their ethics, took the ESMD Viceroy's non-concurrence with their findings and said, "ok, so sorry to have bothered you," and moved on.

Can't anyone here play this game? How much longer before this misbegotten program augers in?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:22 AM
What Happens To The Posters After The Election?

Virginia Postrel has some thoughts:

In an interview Fairey assured Smith that his imagery "anti-propaganda propaganda" that, he suggested, is "coming from a position of moral integrity." In other words, he believes it, or at least believes it's in a good cause. The Obama posters were, of course, based on the famous propaganda image of Che Guevara. John McCain may suggest that Obama is a socialist. Fairey, a man of the left, literally paints Obama as a communist--which may involve much wishful projection as the belief in other quarters that the candidate is a secret free-trader.

Although campaign posters are surely a form of propaganda, the Obama imagery is so empty of specific exhortation that we do better to think of it as a manifestation of the candidate's glamour--a seductive illusion in which the audience sees whatever they themselves desire. Glamour is manipulative, but not coercive. It requires the audience to suspend its skepticism and the object to maintain his mystery, a tacit form of cooperation. Give the object the power to compel devotion, and glamour is suddenly neither sustainable nor necessary.

Yes, though there's actually a more accurate, more encompassing word than "socialist" or "communist" for this kind of political iconography (relating back to the thirties). It starts with an "F."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:53 AM

November 01, 2008

We Band Of Brothers

Bill Whittle has some waning-days election thoughts:

If we are mark'd to lose, we are enow
To do our party loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
Let he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not vote in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to vote with us.
This day is call'd the eve of Elect-ian.
He that votes this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Republican
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is the fourth of November'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his hands,
And say 'With these I moved yon levers on election day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What votes he did cast that day.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that shares his vote with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen and lady pundits now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their book deals cheap whilst any speaks
That voted with us upon election day.

As he says, the asteroid is only inevitable if we believe it is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:38 PM
The State Will Wither Away

Under the Obama regime, true followers of the one will tattoo their own arms.

Way to go for the Jewish vote...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:28 PM
Food For Thought

From Robert Heinlein:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded -- here and there, now and then -- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck."

[Via Instapundit]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:25 AM

October 31, 2008

Well, That's Refreshing

Usually, when a politician makes a gaffe, they try to explain it away, or say "what I meant was..."

Lawrence Eagleburger has a novel approach. He just said to Stuart Varney on Cavuto's show that "I was stupid," to explain his gaffe. He made up for it, by 1) pointing out that the Democrat presidential nominee is much less prepared than she is, and wrong on the foreign policy issues and 2) apologizing for to the McCain campaign and governor Palin.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:34 PM

I think that Team Obama may end up regretting that they made fun of Sarah Palin's wink.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:21 PM
The Pied Piper

...of Hyde Park:

The piper from Hyde Park has tougher work, not with rats with sharp teeth but with evil Republicans deserving of a death more painful than drowning. Humorless, self-righteous and immensely proud of himself, he employs his gift of "a unique ability to identify with children" to lure the grown-up children. His success as a spinner of "fairy tales," as Bill Clinton called them in a fit of unexpected candor, is a tale of credulity run amok. Americans who look like grownups swoon like pimpled teenagers at the mention of his name, and brook no criticism however mild or reasoned the reservations. Polite questions are verboten, as Joe the Plumber learned. Scholars will write about this weird delirium in decades to come; the prudent are saving string for their Ph.D. theses. For now it's prudent to hunker down and observe the disciplined march to the river.

Let's hope they stop at the river bank on Tuesday.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:45 AM
Calming Down The Eeyores

Moral support for McCain supporters from Hizzbuzz:

The ONLY way McCain loses this race is if the media, operating as a full-fledged wing of the Obama campaign, breeds enough Eeyores amongst you to keep enough people home for Obama to squeak out wins. Hillary Clinton should have won Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, by larger margins that she did. Ohio should have been a 13-point win, Pennsylvania should have been a 12-point win, and Indiana should have been a 9-point win. Eeyores staying home, saying, "Oh bother, TV say me stay home, me sad, need dydee changed!" is what cost Hillary those extra points.

Don't be Eeyores on Tuesday! Get those Eeyore butts off your couches, away from toxic TV, and GO VOTE. Get everyone you know to vote -- tell them if they don't, then Obama will turn America socialist, and we're going to start with their house and bank account when we begin redistributing wealth. That should motivate them.

I don't know if McCain will pull it out, but it's going to be a lot closer than many have been predicting.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:24 AM
The Libertarian Case For McCain

David Bernstein and Ilya Somin make it.

I agree with Bernstein generally, but this is a key point, I think:

Libertarians have been heavily involved in some of the most important constitutional Supreme Court litigation of the last two decades, either in terms of bringing the case, being among the most important advocates of one side's constitutional theory, or both. Among the cases in this category are Lopez, Morrison, Boy Scouts v. Dale, U.S. Term Limits, Grutter, Gratz, Kelo, Raich, Heller, and probably a few more that I'm not thinking of offhand. With the minor exception of Justice Breyers' vote in Gratz, in each of these cases, the ONLY votes the libertarian side received were from Republican appointees, and all of the Democrat appointees, plus the more liberal Republican appointees, ALWAYS voted against the libertarian side. The latter did so even in cases in which their political preferences were either irrelevant (Term Limits), or should have led them to sympathize with the plaintiff (Lopez, Kelo, Raich).

The only exception to this pattern is Lawrence v. Texas, in which Justice Kennedy seems to have been influenced by the Cato Institute's brief. But if the liberals had been able to muster five votes without Kennedy, I'm sure the opinion would have been quite different, less libertarian and more about "tiers of scrutiny" and whatnot. I'm a law professor, teach constitutional law, and the subject is dear to my heart. I'd much rather have the side that tends to take my ideological compatriots' constitutional arguments seriously on the Court. And Raich and Kelo, respectively, suggest that the liberals on the Court not only don't take libertarian arguments seriously, they don't believe in (a) any limits in federal regulatory power, whatsoever; or in (b) property rights, even when big corporations are using the political process to screw over the little guy.

I also agree with Ilya that it's very important to have divided government right now, at least as much as a pseudo-Democrat in the White House will provide that.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:59 AM
Don't Believe The Exit Polls

McCain supporters are less likely to be willing to be interviewed. That means they'll be significantly overstating the vote for Obama.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:23 AM
Brain Parasites

...and mind control. A suitable scientific topic for All Hallows Eve. I wonder if this could explain the Obama cult?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:47 AM
Alternate Views Of The Future

From Lileks:

The love of chrome-and-glass modern restaurants is probably due to one place, which I've mentioned before - the Erie Jr. in Detroit Lakes, MN. It had a counter, a high ceiling, plastic booths in vivid hues, a roof that looked like it space ships could dock in the back, and it had that space-age vibe that shimmered off so many new things when I was very young. We had a keen sense of the future then; we knew the toys we had today would be the tools of the future. You know how you put your hand out the window when you were going fast, and undulated it up and down like a dolphin, riding the oncoming wind? The future felt like that. The future was a chrome-trimmed triangular window in the front of dad's car, and it had its own knob to open it up. The future was a hamburger under a light fixture that looked like an atom. The future was going to be awesome.

I still get impatient with people who insist that it can't be. Pessimists can be such bores, and it's lazy to believe the worst. What's the line about Scaramouche: he was born with the gift of laughter and the sense that the world was mad. I don't think that's the best modus vivendi, but it beats teaching yourself the curse of scowling and the sense that it's all a grind to be endured until the tomb gapes wide, and the only respectable intellectual pose is a Menckenian disdain for those who refuse to see how shallow, small, vacuous and contemptible they are.

I blame the boomers, of course. ;) If you're going to make a fetish out of the Authentic Values of Adolescence, with its withering critiques of humanity, then you're going to value the slouch and the sneer as signs of a Deep and Serious Person. The Boomers were handed a Utopian ideal - practical, technocratic, rational, with silver wheels in the sky tended over by engineers and scientists - and they abandoned it for a Dionysian version based on wrecking and remaking the world they'd inherited. Their patron saint: Holy St. Caulfield, who identified the greatest sin in the human soul: being a phoney. Better to be an authentic bastard than someone who cannot successfully convince a teenager that some ideas have an importance that transcend the ability of the individual to manifest them 24/7.

Of course they got sour; if you believe a Utopia is possible if we just retinker human behavior to eliminate greed and dress codes and football and anything else that reminds us of Dad, be it the specific one or the unseen National Dad that rules the boardrooms and bedrooms and cloakrooms of DC, then the failure of this world makes it a dystopia, the worst of all possible worlds.

Some suggest that the great disenchantment began with the assassination of JFK, and I see the point. But it's strange that it led to a loss of faith in us, given who shot the President. (Yes, I'm one of those lone-gunman wackos. I'm a freethinker! I refuse to accept concensus!) If Oswald had been a card-carrying Kluxer or a dead-ender Bircher or some sort of far-right-wing nutcase, I wonder if we would have accepted the Warren Commission and moved along. But no, he was a Communist. Well obviously there has to be more to it, then. Same with Sirhan Sirhan: his motivation will forever be a mystery, won't it?

Once you start to believe in the dark shadowy forces, you're done with the world. You're done engaging it, you're done enjoying it. There's no point. It's a sham, a shell, a shiny façade erected by the Jews / Bilderburgers / Trilateral Commission/ Council on Foreign Relations / Project for a New American Century / Masons / Knights Templar / Illuminati / Federal Reserve / Rockefeller-Royal Family Nexus / Bush Crime Syndicate / League of Grim Intent, and all you can do is post on the internet and call talk radio to argue with the hosts who think we're free people.

It's nice to see hope abroad in the land again, but I wonder who will be to blame when human nature asserts itself and the manna shipments fall behind. Someone has to be blamed, after all. It's not the task that's a fool's errand. It's the fools who refuse to believe in the task.

Hope abroad, and change. But not change I have any interest in believing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:06 AM
Electoral Question

I heard yesterday that early voters in Israel went for McCain over Obama three to one. But how do expatriate's votes overseas get translated into electors? Do they have to provide a stateside address?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:45 AM

October 30, 2008

Another Libertarian For The One

Tom Smith capitulates:

Some long time readers may object that this endorsement represents a rejection of every principle I have ever stood for on this blog. This may be true. However, I would ask them to consider that standing up for principles against an enthusiastic mob is a good way to make yourself very unpopular. I'm also not sure I have ever been to a conservative or libertarian party that was not a rather sad affair, with people standing around talking about the money supply or the importance of traditional values. I mean, that gets old. I'm 51 years old and I'm tired of it. It just has to be the case that those redeemed by Obama are going to be having much better parties over the next several years, at least while the dollar holds out. This may be a case for making hay while the sun shines. Apres moi and all that.

I do admit I am a little worried about Ahmedwhatshisname getting nukes and Putin rolling into Europe, with only Obama's charisma to stop them. I had never really thought of let's all play nicely together as a foreign policy since it doesn't even work with kids. But hey, is that really my problem? He has like a zillion brilliant foreign policy advisers and I'm sure they'll figure something clever out. I can no longer afford a trip to Israel anyway and I assume pictures of it will be archived on the internet.

Yes, I have to admit a certain longing for the koolaid myself, industrial strength. Anything to get this damnable election over with.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:03 PM
Not A Financial Crisis

It's a moral crisis:

It was once the West that taught the world how to change its skylines through fast and furious efforts. One of the first examples was the Eiffel Tower, designed by engineering genius Gustave Eiffel (who also created the Statue of Liberty's internal structure). It was the centerpiece of the Paris Exposition of 1889. Using the principles of prefabrication, the 150 to 300 workers on the site put it up in only 26 1TK2 months.

Another example is the Empire State Building, which officially opened on May 1, 1931. Masterpiece of the firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the Empire State Building was completed in only one year and 45 days, a testament to business efficiency and the determination of the dedicated workforce.

We couldn't match those time frames today, despite the advances in technology, because the advances have been outstripped by an even more rapid growth in complex and idiotic planning procedures, bureaucracy, myopic trade unionism and restrictive legislation.

We have grown soft. And a Democrat juggernaut will just make it worse.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:22 PM
Government Space Programs

Clark Lindsey points out the inherent problem:

I've certainly always believed that NASA can get anything to fly with enough time and billions of dollars. The issue is cost-effectiveness. This vehicle, which is obsolete for the 20th century much less the 21st, is simply not going to pay off in terms of making space exploration cheaper or safer.

Ignoring its gigantic price tag for the moment, if Ares I were just one of several competing commercial rocket vehicle projects funded in a COTS type of program, I have no doubt that NASA would have been canceled it long ago just on technical grounds and missed milestones. Unfortunately, when a large project is developed internally, it becomes virtually impossible to stop, especially in a case like this where the top management is so deeply invested in it. The next administration might take another look at Ares but unfortunately the battle for Florida votes has left both candidates committed to it as a jobs program. Such is how a promising vision for space exploration finds itself hung by a boondoggle.

While I agree, I have to say that the last sentence sounds painful. And at least psychically, it is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:09 PM
The Obama Campaign Music Video

McCain should be buying air time for this.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:34 PM
Sharing Toys

[Thursday morning bump]

What a stupid analogy Obama made today.

The McCain campaign's response should be, "No, Senator. If you shared your toys and sandwich in kindergarten, we'd call you generous and selfless. If you forced another child to share his toys, that would make you a communist."

[Update on Thursday morning]

John Hood elaborates: this passage Obama revealed precisely why he is vulnerable to such charges: he can't seem to tell the difference between a gift and a theft. There is nothing remotely socialistic or communistic about sharing. If you have a toy that someone else wants, you have three choices in a free society. You can offer to trade it for something you value that is owned by the other. You can give the toy freely, as a sign of friendship or compassion. Or you can choose to do neither.

Collectivism in all its forms is about taking away your choice. Whether you wish to or not, the government compels you to surrender the toy, which it then redistributes to someone that government officials deem to be a more worthy owner. It won't even be someone you could ever know, in most cases. That's what makes the political philosophy unjust (by stripping you of control over yourself and the fruits of your labor) as well as counterproductive (by failing to give the recipient sufficient incentive to learn and work hard so he can earn his own toys in the future).

Government is not charity. It is not persuasion, or cooperation, or sharing. Government is a fist, a shove, a gun. Obama either doesn't understand this, or doesn't want voters to understand it.

I think he does understand it. He just hopes that we don't, at least long enough to put him in power.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:22 AM
Man Bites Dog


Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was less than upfront in his half-hour commercial Wednesday night about the costs of his programs and the crushing budget pressures he would face in office.

That's not news, of course--he's been doing that since the campaign began. What is news, and shocking news, is that the AP reported it. Better late than never.

[Update early afternoon]

Wow. Has something gotten into (or out of) the MSM water? CBS is criticizing The One's proposals as well.

If he closes every loophole as promised, saves every dime from Iraq, raises taxes on the rich and trims the federal budget as he's promised to do "line by line," he still doesn't pay for his list. If he's elected, the first fact hitting his desk will be the figure projecting how much less of a budget he has to work with - thanks to the recession. He gave us a very compelling vision with his ad buy tonight. What he did not give us was any hint of the cold reality he's facing or a sense of how he might prioritize his promises if voters trust him with the White House.

If he can't do what he promises, what will he do?

Not that McCain is a lot better in that regard, of course. But unlike Obama, who has a consistent leftist philosophy, McCain is ideologically incoherent, so there's at least a chance that he won't screw us over.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:29 AM
Fondling Balls

Iowahawk breaks out the calculator on poll reliability:

So if the sample size is 400, the margin of error is 1/20 = 5%; if the sample size is 625 the margin of error is 1/25 = 4%; if the sample size is 1000, it's about 3%.

Works pretty well if you're interested in hypothetical colored balls in hypothetical giant urns, or survival rates of plants in a controlled experiment, or defects in a batch of factory products. It may even work well if you're interested in blind cola taste tests. But what if the thing you are studying doesn't quite fit the balls & urns template?

If one or more of the above statements are true, then the formula for margin of error simplifies to
Margin of Error = Who the hell knows?

I think that the disparity among the polls is pretty good evidence of this. A lot of it, particularly the weighting is guess work, educated or otherwise. There's only one poll that matters (though with all of the chicanery going on, even that one is going to be in doubt, particularly if it's close on Tuesday). What a mess.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:24 AM
All Sham, No Wow

The One's infomercial last night got panned by infomercial experts. Well, they would know.

No, I had better things to do than watch. I wonder how many others felt the same way?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:19 AM

October 29, 2008

Doing The Math

The Obama campaign has been lying about its donor base:

If, as Obama says, most donations are grassroots and in small amounts, the numbers do not match up. If this many people donated to his campaign he would be polling at well over 50%.

In a grassroots movement, you smell the green. He's raised $600 million, as you say, in small donations. So divide it by ten bucks apiece and there's 60 million donors. If 120 million people vote on Tuesday, and he gets 50% that equals ...60 million voters! Honestly, you cynical rightwing losers, what's so suspicious about that math?

On Fox Newswatch on Saturday, Jane Hall said that many of her (journalism) students couldn't even calculate a percent. Of course, in this case, they're not motivated to figure it out, even if they know how.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:59 AM
Aren't There Any Editors Left?

Sarah Palin is righteously demanding that the LA Times release the tape, but look at this transcript:

...she saved her hardest criticism for the newspaper that currently holds the tape, saying they was refusing to release it to aid Obama.

"It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organizations looking after his best interests like that," Palin said. "In this case, we have a newspaper willing to throw aside even the public's right to know in order to protect a candidate that its own editorial board has endorsed. And if there's a Pulitzer Prize category for excelling in cow-towing, then the L.A. Times, you're winning."

I'm pretty sure that the paper has never towed a cow. And she didn't say that it did. She said that they kowtowed. But I guess neither the writer or editor (if there was one) knew what that word meant or at least how it was spelled.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:55 AM
Meet The New New Deal

Same as the old New Deal.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:26 AM
Another One

Here's another woman Democrat (a speechwriter) whose party has left her.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:37 AM
A Duty To Not Vote

John Stossel says that there are a lot of people who shouldn't be voting:

Economist Bryan Caplan, author of "The Myth of the Rational Voter", points out, "the public's knowledge of politics is shockingly low."

He scoffs at the idea that "it's everyone's civic duty to vote."

"This is very much like saying, it's our civic duty to give surgery advice," Caplan said. "We like to think that political issues are much less complicated than brain surgery, but many of them are pretty hard. If someone doesn't know what he's talking about, it really is better if they say, look, I'm going to leave this in wiser hands."

Isn't it elitist to say only some people should vote?

"Is it elitist to say only some people should do brain surgery? If you don't know what you're doing, you are not doing the country a favor by voting."

Nope. You're only doing the demagogues a favor.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:27 AM
Prove Me Wrong, LA Times

OK, since we're apparently free to use our imagination, here's what I think happened at that party.

There are PLO and Hamas flags decorating the room, along with Che and Mao posters. Khalidi, Ayers and Obama are slapping each others' backs, raising their glasses and toasting the upcoming destruction of the racist Zionist entity, all the while laughing at the thought of the final Final Solution. Obama says, "You know, when I take over, the first thing I'll do is withdraw all aid from those fascist kikes, and I'll give the Palis a couple nukes." Then he turns to Ayers, and asks him if he's come up with any fresh schemes for mass murder of the millions of recalcitrant capitalists, so that they can be implemented in the first one hundred days. After dessert, they get out an American flag, crumple it up on the floor, and jump up and down on it, shouting "Death to Capitalism, Death to America."


That's not how it went down? Well, prove me wrong, LA Times. Show the tape.

[Late morning update]

Doug Ross writes that he has gotten a tip from a person who claims to have viewed it:

Reason we can't release it is because statements Obama said to rile audience up during toast. He congratulates Khalidi for his work saying "Israel has no God-given right to occupy Palestine" plus there's been "genocide against the Palestinian people by Israelis."

It would be really controversial if it got out. Tha's why they will not even let a transcript get out.

Yes, don't want to have a little controversy disturb an upcoming coronation.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:53 AM
An Interesting Thought Experiment

Over at Winds of Change:

Stipulate that there is a small machine that I could put into your home or workplace that with absolute accuracy - I mean 100% accuracy - would send an alarm in the specific case that a person who had the true intent to commit murder was close to it. Yes, it's Minority Report territory. But accept it as true.

Would you - as an American - be comfortable having something like that in your house?

I would need a little clarification: what is "close to it" and what does "murder" mean? Does it merely mean killing someone? Would self defense count?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:47 AM
What Does Barack Obama Have Against Nazis?

In the furor (well, at least as much furor as could be expected, given how in the tank the mainstream media has been for Senator Obama) over his comments about the deficiencies of the Constitution (in regard for its lack of "positive rights") and the frustrating (at least to him) inability of the courts to deal with it, many have missed another snippet of that radio interview from seven years ago. In it, he also said, "There's a lot of change going on outside of the court. The judges have to essentially take judicial notice up, I mean you've got WW II, the doctrines of Nazism that we are fighting against that started looking uncomfortably similar to what's going on back here at home."

"...similar to what's going on back here at home."

What did he mean by that?

Well, most people know the characteristics of the Nazi regime (or at least imagine they do), so it's hard to imagine what he's talking about here, since he gives no specifics.

Was he referring to the fact that it was led by a charismatic man who gave speeches to mesmerized, adoring throngs in front of Teutonic war memorials?

Or is he talking about the Nazi policy of first registering, then confiscating weapons from private citizens, one of its first acts upon taking power?

Perhaps he was referring to the notion that work exhorted by the leader would set us free? That we need to have national service for all? And that the nation will be inspired by youth singing in patriotic uniforms?

Or was it demanding to see the papers of critics of the leader, and using the state apparatus to discover information that might expose him to ridicule?


Well, was it the nationalistic racism? Or the plans to exterminate a large percentage of the citizenry after taking power?

OK, maybe I'm on the wrong track. Was he talking about the Nazi health care system, that so many here want to emulate? Or the need to spread the wealth around? I mean, isn't that what socialism is all about?

I just can't figure it out.

OK, maybe I'm just confused. Maybe this latest slur against Senator Obama of being a "socialist" is wrong. Maybe Senator Obama is something else.

Take away the genocide, and militaristic conquest of neighboring countries. Just what is it about Nazis that Barack Obama doesn't like?

It would certainly be nice if the Obama campaign would expand and elaborate upon his brief comments about Nazism in America a few years ago to the American people. He has another few days to do so before they have to decide who their next president will be.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:03 AM

October 28, 2008

A (Rare) Fit Of Sanity

On the part of Campbell Brown (which I've always thought a strange name):

Without question, Obama has set the bar at new height with a truly staggering sum of cash. And that is why as we approach this November, it is worth reminding ourselves what Barack Obama said last November.

One year ago, he made a promise. He pledged to accept public financing and to work with the Republican nominee to ensure that they both operated within those limits.

Then it became clear to Sen. Obama and his campaign that he was going to be able to raise on his own far more cash than he would get with public financing. So Obama went back on his word.

He broke his promise and he explained it by arguing that the system is broken and that Republicans know how to work the system to their advantage. He argued he would need all that cash to fight the ruthless attacks of 527s, those independent groups like the Swift Boat Veterans. It's funny though, those attacks never really materialized.

Yeah, funny about that.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:33 PM
Win Or Lose

McCain should be firing these people after the election:

McCain aides continue to go viciously negative--on their vice presidential candidate. Mike Allen has a McCain aide calling Palin a "whack job." This is part of the problem with Palin getting assigned aides with no loyalty to her.

There is no excuse for this kind of behavior--dishing dirt on background to a hostile press--in the last week of (or any time during) a campaign.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:52 PM
"One Week Until We Change America"

What if we don't want to "change America"? I agree that this is kind of creepy. I think that someone could make a good campaign ad out of it, juxtaposed with his zeal to spread the wealth around.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:55 PM
Freudian Typo

Michigan Democrats were accidentally given a number for a campaign hotline that was actually a phone s3x line.

Seems appropriate to me. Give the Dems a call to find out how they're going to screw you.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:11 AM

Barack Obama may be a better dancer than John McCain, but neither of them can hold a candle to sister Sarah rockin' out to Red Neck Woman in blue jeans. No more Niemann Marcus for her.

And Elaine Lafferty (yes, the Elaine Lafferty who used to edit Ms. Magazine) thinks that Sarah Palin is a "brainiac." Really:

...these high toned and authoritative dismissals come from people who have never met or spoken with Sarah Palin. Those who know her, love her or hate her, offer no such criticism. They know what I know, and I learned it from spending just a little time traveling on the cramped campaign plane this week: Sarah Palin is very smart.

I'm a Democrat, but I've worked as a consultant with the McCain campaign since shortly after Palin's nomination. Last week, there was the thought that as a former editor-in-chief of Ms. magazine as well as a feminist activist in my pre-journalism days, I might be helpful in contributing to a speech that Palin had long wanted to give on women's rights.

Now by "smart," I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a "quick study"; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her "confidence" is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:35 AM
A Harbinger?

If these micropolling results are valid, Obama's in trouble in Pennsylvania:

These were conducted Oct. 23,24,25

Bucks County: O: 49 M: 43 2004 Results: K: 51 B: 48

Allegheny: O: 52 M: 42 2004 Results: K: 57 B: 42

Erie: O: 50 M: 43 2004 Results: K: 54 B: 45

York: M: 57 O: 39 2004 Results: B: 63 K: 35

Montgomery: O: 51 M: 39 2004 Results: K: 55 B: 44

John Kerry took Pennsylvania in 2004, but only by a narrow margin--51 to Bush's 49 percent. But these polls indicate that Obama isn't doing as well as Kerry did, except in York County (which seems to be going from red to blue). And between Murtha and the NRA, he's probably going to lose big in rural western Pennsylvania. Now maybe he can make it up in Philly, but Rendell might have to bring out the dead voters.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:10 AM
The Gadfly

A few days ago, I wrote that John McCain isn't the right candidate to put John McCain into the White House (i.e., he's an electable candidate, with his history and record, but he's unable to run a winning campaign). If he loses, it will be easy to blame the financial meltdown, but it was his response to it, and his incoherent inability to discuss economics sensibly, and his unwillingness to go after his colleagues in Congress, that will be the ultimate cause. I still think that it's winnable, though. And if he wins, I think that he'll have been saved by Sarah Palin.

In any event, Rich Lowry says much the same thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:42 AM
What's Wrong With The First One?

Does Barack Obama agree with Marcy Kaptur that we need a Second Bill of Rights?

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D. Toledo) whipped the crowd up before Mr. Obama took the stage yesterday telling them that America needed a Second Bill of Rights guaranteeing all Americans a job, health care, homes, an education, and a fair playing field for business and farmers.

Sure he does. He already said in a debate that we all have a "right" to health care. No, I don't think that I, or anyone, has a "right" to stuff that requires taking from others. This is Eurosocialism.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:03 AM
A Threat To Straight Marriages

This sounds like a straw man (and one that I often hear in the gay marriage debate):

The anti-gay-marriage argument that simply makes no sense to me is the one that says allowing gay folks to marry will mess up my marriage - my heterosexual marriage. I don't follow the reasoning that gay married couples will undermine the ability of straight married couples to form and sustain marital partnerships.

Perhaps someone has made that argument somewhere, sometime, but I've never seen or heard it myself. It would be helpful if she would provide a link to support the straw man. Of course it makes no sense to her. It makes no sense at all, which is why few people make such an argument.

I think that this may be a perversion of the real argument, which is that, for those uncertain of their sexual orientation, it will weaken societal pressures to have a heterosexual lifestyle and marriage. If society is no longer heteronormative, then a little boy might grow up thinking that it's OK to marry his friend Joey, instead of Sally. Actual homosexuals are going to grow up to be gay regardless, but it's not necessarily a good idea to encourage wavering where it exists. Now, one can argue whether it's a good or bad thing to do so, but that's the argument to be discussed..

The argument isn't about existing marriages--that's nutty. It's about future ones.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 AM
Not New Ideas

Just bad ones:

Obama plans to resuscitate the welfare policies of the Great Society, but by stealth. It will be the same thing-the dole-but it will be called a "tax credit," which has a more emollient sound than "relief," "public charity," "the dole."

What I find depressing about this-as, indeed, about the whole Obama juggernaut-is the extent to which it represents a return of bad ideas that have already been tried time and again, have failed and made people poorer and less stalwart, and yet seem poised to make a sorry comeback once again. I've written about the "déjà-vu-all-over-again" phenomenon before in this space. Bill Ayers? Haven't we done that? Jeremiah Wright? Haven't we done that, too? Haven't we tried Obama's "soak the rich," anti-business economic policies? Haven't we tried his "can't-we-all-just-get-along" foreign policy? Don't we know that economics is about the creation rather than the redistribution of wealth, and that low taxes and strategies that encourage productivity and investment are best calculated to make the entire society, including the less fortunate, more prosperous? Don't we know where appeasement and capitulation get us in foreign affairs? Don't we remember Jimmy Carter? Haven't we learned anything?

We'll find out on Tuesday.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:33 AM

October 27, 2008

Transcending Race

Gateway Pundit has a 1995 video of Barack Obama blaming white executives in the suburbs for not wanting their taxes to help black children.

I'm sure he's changed his mind since, though, right?

[Late morning update]

Barack Obama's redistributionist obsession:

I suggest henceforth that every time readers hear the word "change" from Team Obama, they insert the work "redistributive" in front of it.

Indeed. He said those words in 2001. Why should we think that he's changed since? Particularly after his Freudian slip with Joe the Plumber?

[Update early afternoon]

Goody. Here's some more race transcendance: white people shouldn't be allowed to vote.

Whenever I hear nutty proposals like this, I always wonder, who will decide who is and isn't "white"? Does Barack Obama get half a vote?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 AM
Worse Than I Thought

And I thought that card check was already pretty bad:

Under EFCA, the terms set by the arbitrator will be the furthest thing from a "contract." It won't be an agreement between management and labor. Rather, wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment will be dictated by a government appointed arbitrator. The mandate will be binding on the parties for two years. Neither the company nor the employees can reject it (At least when the Central Committee set the wages for tractor assembly workers in the Leningradskaya oblast there was always the possibility that the wages might change later that afternoon).

Currently, if employees don't like the tentative agreement negotiated between union leaders and management the employees can vote it down and instruct their leaders to go back to the bargaining table to get a better deal. Not so under EFCA. If the employees don't like the arbitrator's decree of a 2% wage increase, they're stuck. Similarly, if the company can't afford the arbitrator's command to pyramid overtime, the company's stuck. The consequences aren't difficult to imagine.

This is a small business owner's nightmare. As is the health insurance mandate. Obama will be a disaster, economically, at least if the Democrats get enough votes to block filibusters in the Senate.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Here's more on the job-destruction potential of Obama's health-care plans, from that bastion of right wingery, the New York Times:

the penalty in Massachusetts is picayune compared with what some health experts believe Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, might impose as part of his plan to provide affordable coverage for the uninsured. Though Mr. Obama has not released details, economists believe he might require large and medium companies to contribute as much as 6 percent of their payrolls.

That, Mr. Ratner said, would be catastrophic to a low-margin business like his, which has 90 employees, 29 of them full-time workers who are offered health benefits.

"To all of a sudden whack 6 to 7 percent of payroll costs, forget it," he said. "If they do that, prices go up and employment goes down because nobody can absorb that."

Writ large, that is one of the significant concerns about Mr. Obama's health plan, which like this state's landmark 2006 law would subsidize coverage for the uninsured by taxing employers who do not cover their workers. And it is a primary reason that so-called play-or-pay proposals have had an unsteady history for nearly two decades.

This is 180 degrees from the direction that we need to go. Most of the problems of the current health-care system stem from its being tied so much to employment, which is an artifact of wage controls during World War II. The first critical step in fixing it is to decouple it from the job, so that plans are portable, and people are more connected with choosing their provider. McCain's plan isn't perfect, but it's a big step in the right direction, and the demagoguery of the Democrats on this issue (as on most issues) has been shameful.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:04 AM

October 26, 2008

A Devoted Mother

...has passed on.

Firefighters spotted Scarlett, despite burns to her eyes, ears and face, toting each kitten out of the building to safety. Once outside, Scarlett nudged each baby with her nose to make sure she found all five.

The hero cat was taken to the North Shore Animal League with her offspring - and their story soon attracted attention from around the globe.

It's instinct, but it's not just instinct, because there are some mothers who don't make the mark. All species can transcend, to limited degrees. But there are variations within.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:46 PM
Tax Incentives

Greg Mankiw compares the Obama and McCain plans. Neither of them are great, but one is much better than the other.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:23 PM
What Happened To The Contract With America?

Tigerhawk notes that the federal government would flunk Sarbanes-Oxley.

Part of the Contract With America that the 1994 Republicans ran on (and won with) was that any law that was applied to Americans should also apply to Congress. My dim recollection was that this passed, but I can't find any evidence of it on line. So did it, or didn't it? If it did, shouldn't the financial crisis apply? If not, why not, and why shouldn't it be part of John McCain's new contract with America?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:12 PM

I am Bill.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:43 PM
Another Reason To Want To Keep Obama A Senator

Senator Jesse Jackson, Jr..

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:30 PM
A Good Point John McCain on Meet The Press this morning, though he didn't press it home--he only mentioned the name in passing, and didn't point out the connection, apparently assuming that most viewers would get it.

Bernie Sanders is an avowed socialist (I'm not sure about the Senate, but as a member of the House he ran as one, but caucused with the Democrats). McCain pointed out that the number one, two and three senators listed as the most liberal are Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. How far are his votes or views from Barack Obama and Joe Biden?

A suggested McCain campaign ad: "Barack Obama, despite his statement to Joe the Plumber that the wealth should be "spread around," complains when he is therefore called a socialist. But his brief Senate voting record is to the left of that of Bernie Sanders, who proudly calls himself a socialist. So what does that make Barack Obama?"

He did something else that was good. He pointed out that Michigan is a poster child for the kinds of policies that will result from an Obama/Pelosi/Reid regime. High taxes, more power to unions, big-spending Dems in charge, and the state has (in many cases literally) gone south.

Put together an ad describing Michigan's straits and the causes, and point out that this is what the OPR regime has planned for the entire country. It would even help him in Michigan.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:32 PM
Picky, Picky, Picky

Well, here's the latest in the Perils of Ares I--it might sideswipe the gantry as it launches:

The issue is known as "liftoff drift." Ignition of the rocket's solid-fuel motor makes it "jump" sideways on the pad, and a southeast breeze stronger than 12.7 mph would be enough to push the 309-foot-tall ship into its launch tower.

Worst case, the impact would destroy the rocket. But even if that doesn't happen, flames from the rocket would scorch the tower, leading to huge repair costs.

"We were told by a person directly involved [in looking at the problem] that as they incorporate more variables into the liftoff-drift-curve model, the worse the curve becomes," said one NASA contractor, who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to discuss Ares.

"I get the impression that things are quickly going from bad to worse to unrecoverable."

But all is not lost:

NASA says it can solve -- or limit -- the problem by repositioning and redesigning the launchpad.

Sure. No problem. Just reposition and redesign the launch pad. Simple, safe, soon.

NASA officials are now looking at ways to speed up the development of Ares and are reluctant to discuss specific problems. But they insist none is insurmountable.

Of course they do.

"There are always issues that crop up when you are developing a new rocket and many opinions about how to deal with them," said Jeff Hanley, manager of the Constellation program, which includes Ares, the first new U.S. rocket in 35 years.

"We have a lot of data and understanding of what it's going to take to build this."

Yes, they have so much data and understanding that they don't find out about this until after their fake Preliminary Design Review. And (just a guess), I'm betting that if I look at the original budget and development schedule, "repositioning and redesigning the launch pad" isn't even in or on it.

Look, obviously, if you pick a lousy design, you can eventually make it fly, given enough time and money. But in the process, it may end up bearing little resemblance to the original concept, and if it's neither simple (which it won't be with all of the kludges that they'll have to put on it to make up for its deficiencies), safe (no one really knows what the probability of loss of crew is, since they still haven't finally even nailed down the launch abort system design) or soon, then the nation has been sold a pig in a poke. And there's no budget line item for the lipstick either, though NASA has been attempting to tart it up as best they can.

As Einstein once said, a clever man solves a problem--a wise man avoids it. Since Mike Griffin came in, NASA has been too clever by half. Given the budget environment we'll have next year, it's hard to see how this unsustainable schedule and budgetary atrocity survives in anything resembling its current form.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:57 AM
Some Thoughts On Unnamed Sources

Why should we believe CNN?

They, and much of the media, have done much to earn our distrust.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:10 AM

October 25, 2008

What Was Joe Biden Hinting At?

Bill Whittle wonders. So do I. You'd think that the media might spare a couple reporters from the Wasilla Library beat to ask him. At least you'd like to think.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:42 AM
I Would Be, Too

Michael Malone is ashamed to be a journalist.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:14 AM
Ayers And Khalidi

Someone needs to run some ads about the Obama's Khalidi connection in south Florida. Obama was a lot older than eight when Khalidi was expressing support of Hamas. I don't think that the Jews down here understand just what a disaster Obama may be for Israel. Worse than Jimmy Carter.

[Early afternoon update]

Stanley Kurtz has more.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:09 AM

October 24, 2008

No One Tell Leon Kass

Ice cream tastes better licked than spooned. Dr. Kass will be appalled to hear about scientific discrediting of his "yuckometer."

(And yes, before you bother to comment, I know that his point wasn't that licked ice cream doesn't taste good.)

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:31 PM
The Obama Fundraising Fraud

If John McCain were doing this, the press would be crying bloody murder:

He may now be running the biggest underground finance operation since Nixon deployed the plumbers as his key operatives in 1972.

And there seem to be a lot of parallels with the voter registration fraud being perped by ACORN. I don't think that's a coincidence.

And of course, if McCain ends up losing this because he didn't have enough money, it will be justice, because it was his idiotic assault on the First Amendment that got us here.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:27 PM
Spreading THE Wealth

A vanity poster over at Free Republic makes a good point:

Last year I let a family member move in with me. I'll call her my niece. My niece was down on her luck and needed a place to stay while she got on her feet.

As it turns out, she was actually down with drugs and needed a place to lie on the couch while she got on the phone. But anyway. I came home one day and was looking for my iron, so I could iron clothes to wear to work.

("Work is that place you go to," I explained to her, "and they pay you to do things for them. Yes, like that time you took the baggie to some guy named Raoul in the parking lot of the grocery store nearby. Rather like that, only more regular, and legal.")

Anyway, my niece said, "Oh, I loaned the iron to my friend Rachel."

I puzzled over this for a bit. She loaned my iron to some girl I barely knew? She loaned my iron to some girl she barely knew?! Would I loan any of her items to a friend of mine? Let me think. No. I wouldn't.

So why would she?

The clue lies in the wording. "I loaned the iron..." THE iron. Not YOUR iron, Auntie Beth, THE iron. The local iron. The iron that existed here before I came and is therefore part of the landscape. Like the sun, the trees, and the street. Belonging to nobody, or everybody.

So let's really parse what Barack Obama says to plumbers and other people who've done something with their lives besides lecture like a lawyer turned college professor turned professional pied piper: "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

I think the most important word in that sentence really is "the." THE wealth. Not your wealth, says Obama, because it's not yours. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't intend to spread HIS too thin. I have a feeling his daughters will be taken care of before anyone else's kids.

Snide comments aside, Obama said THE wealth because that's how he thinks of it. Community property. Belonging to everyone. Just THERE, like sunlight, a fact of life that we determine how to utilize.

To Obama, it's not something that belongs to anyone. Not something you created, earned, or own. Just something that you somehow managed to get hold of, maybe by picking it off a tree, and now you need to share what came from that tree.

And don't worry. That tree will always bear fruit. It always has, right? Well no, it hasn't, but only the gardener who planted it realizes that. The lawyer who comes along representing the neighbors who've been eying that fruit tree doesn't know, or care, how it got there. It's there now, isn't it?

And it isn't your tree anymore. It's THE tree.

Yup. Some want to spread THE wealth, and others want to create it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:15 AM
What Fred Said

Why can't John McCain make a speech like this?

Obama and the Democrats believe that Americans in a time of crisis will be willing to sacrifice their freedoms, abandon their founding principles and common sense and ease into the mediocrity of the warm embrace of the Washington papa bear who will take care of all of our problems for us.

These are not the ideals of the America that drew brave men and women from all over the world to our shores. In most cases, they were fleeing nations with the heavy hand of government, intolerance and class warfare. They risked everything to experience our Founding Fathers' notion of a limited government with powers that were delineated, checked and balanced, in a land where they could live and prosper in a free, dynamic, upwardly mobile society - the kind that existed no where else in the world. But Obama and his liberal friends don't see things that way.

The liberal agenda is based upon the belief that there are elites among us who know more and know better than the rest of us. And that with the application of their intellect and power ... and our money ... they can impose regulations and establish programs, bureaus and agencies that will solve all the problems of the masses'.

Senator Obama and his supporters essentially see society not as dynamic and changing or full of opportunity. They see one that is divided by economic classes into which every one of us is permanently assigned. In their worldview, those in a lesser economic class are presumably resentful and envious. So it's the government's job to level things out ... or as Senator Obama would say "spread the wealth around." It's about dividing the pie among static classes, not trying to make the pie bigger for everyone or creating opportunity in an upwardly mobile society.

This is the reason why they do not understand Joe the Plumber. Because he doesn't have a higher income today they assume that he never will and that he believes he never will. They expect him to resent anyone whose doing better than he is, instead of planning to do better himself. They don't understand the Joes of the world. Never have. Never will.

There's more. And here's the video.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:37 AM
A Depressing Comment

Over at Samizdata, Jonathan Pearce wonders if freedom seekers will be heading the other way after the election:

Occasionally, whenever one of us Samizdata scribes writes about events in the UK, such as loss of civil liberties, or the latest financial disasters perpetrated by the government, or crime, or whatnot, there is sometimes a comment from an expatriate writer, or US citizen in particular, suggesting that we moaners should pack our bags, cancel the mail and come on over to America. Like Brian Micklethwait of this parish, I occasionally find such comments a bit annoying; it is not as if the situation in Jefferson's Republic is particularly great just now, although a lot depends on where you live (Texas is very different from say, Vermont or for that matter, Colorado).

But considering what might happen if Obama wins the White House and the Dems increase or retain their hold on Congress, I also wonder whether we might encounter the example of enterprising Americans coming to Britain, not the other way round. The dollar is rising against the pound, so any assets that are transferred from the US to Britain go further. Taxes are likely to rise quite a bit if The One gets in, although they are likely to rise in the UK too to pay for the enormous increase in public debt, even if the Tories win the next election in 2010.

For a number of reasons stated over there, it seems unlikely, but this comment stood out:

I think the general message here should be that the whole western world is on the same trajectory, and shopping around for liberty is going to be ultimately futile. In a sense, we all need to be "liberty patriots" and do our best in our own countries to reverse the rot, because wherever you flee to, it's happening there too, if at a different pace or in in slightly different ways. The anti-liberty movement is operating in every nation, and trans and supra-nationally, and everywhere it is winning. There is nowhere to run.

Well, as I've long noted on this blog, that's what space programs are for.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:43 AM

October 23, 2008

Muggers For Obama

Well, I guess now we know what Senator Obama meant when he told his followers to "get in people's faces":

Richard said the robber took $60 from the woman, then became angry when he saw a McCain bumper sticker on the victim's car. The attacker then punched and kicked the victim, before using the knife to scratch the letter "B" into her face, Richard said.

And they accuse McCain and Palin of inciting violence.

Well, it could have been worse (and it may become so if he's elected, and in control of the Justice Department). She should consider herself lucky.

[Update on Friday afternoon]

It turns out to have been a hoax. What a stupid woman. Normally it's leftists who stage things like this.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:24 PM
Fraudulent Credit Card Donations

Why wouldn't the Obama campaign prevent them?

John Galt of Ayn Rand Lane (zip code: a nonexistent 99999) was able to donate with no problem.

Despite the fact that the card holder's name and address do not match the name he provided.

John McCain's website? Rejected the same non-matching-information donation.

I guess when you're gathering up tens of millions from the Saudis and Gazans you have to be a little lenient on matching up credit card donations.

Incidentally-- when I f***ing order cheesesteaks from my local deli, I get dinged when I forget my current zip code and give them my old one.

Again, though: If Obama were demanding that credit card information matched donor information, he couldn't draw in $150 million largely from fraudulent overseas donors.

Oh, such suspicious minds.

Why isn't this as big a story as the Palin family wardrobe?

More at Powerline.

[Update a few minutes later]

Mark Steyn has further thoughts:

I was interested in the subject because I also have an online credit-card operation over at my website (obviously a little smaller than Senator Obama's), and so I looked into what our CC processing requires. In order to accept financial donations from "John Galt" and "Saddam Hussein", whoever runs the Obama website would have to modify the default security checks required by their merchant processor.

Now sometimes you do have to do a bit of modifying. My website has a lot of customers from overseas, and the default security settings can sometimes be a bit too eager to reject credit cards from countries where the "state or province" box is non-applicable or the postal code is in a non-American format. In other words, the default settings on a US online processing operation (with their bias toward US address formats) should be just what a legitimate US political campaign (anxious not to accept illegal foreign donations) is looking for. Instead, the Obama site appear to have intentionally disabled not only all the address checks (thereby facilitating overseas contributions) but the most basic criterion of all: the card name match (thereby enabling entirely fake contributions).

Yes. This doesn't happen by accident.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:05 AM
A Waste Of Time And Money

That's what a bachelors degree has become.

I'd like to see those statistics broken down by major, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 AM
Have PUMAs Gone Extinct?

I don't think so. In any event, this one is still roaring, and connecting the Obama dots in a way that the press refuses to do.

[Update an hour or so later]

The proof continues to pile up that Barack Obama was a member of the New Party in the 1990s. Why should we think that his socialist views have changed?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:21 AM

October 22, 2008

Thoughts On Sarah's Wardrobe

From Lisa Schiffren:

...a few days before Labor Day, lightening hit. The governor of Alaska turned into a vice-presidential candidate, who had to show up in front of the nation for the next 60 days, several times a day, always looking camera-ready, and impeccably turned out. She also had to project that new, somewhat amorphous thing: female power. We, as a nation, have not yet been led by a woman, and we aren't sure what it looks like. It will, of course, vary from woman to woman, depending on her personal needs and style, but not so much. Can't be too sexy, too severe, or too casual. For sure it requires perfectly fitted, constructed jackets, with a serious shoulder line, in good quality fabrics. Nowhere are those cheap. Palin had to look at least as good as the women we see on TV all the time. You may not realize it, but you don't see Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer or any of the on-camera female talent at the networks, CNN or Fox in off-the-rack stuff from Macy's. It is all upscale designer stuff, and at the low end it costs a couple of thousand per outfit. Always. Hair and make-up is done, professionally, any time you see them, at the cost of much time and money. That is the visual standard women at the upper end of politics must meet. Condoleezza Rice, who needed to project power, figured it out. Others have not. If Palin hadn't bothered with any of it, we would have heard about that too.

Had she been a creature of Washington, Palin would have had closet full of suits, unexciting, perhaps, but appropriate. Had she been a former First Lady running for president, whose husband has raked in $109 million in the last 8 years, she could have called Oscar de la Renta, and and had him come for a fitting. He did well with Hillary's jewel-toned pantsuits, (at a few grand a pop?). She might already have collected some of those great Gurhan necklaces, which accentuated Hillary's suits all election season. (Look up for yourself what they cost.) Were she Speaker of the House, and the wealthiest Democratic lawmaker, she could have called Georgio Armani himself -- and worn the Pelosi pearls that cost more than the Palin's house.

I think that this is a stupid and trivial issue. Can you imagine what the press would have made of her had she made campaign appearances in jeans and parkas?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:51 PM
Thoughts On "Himbos'

From Dr. Helen.

I've never been one, but not because I didn't want to be (at least when I wasn't in a relationship). I am, after all, a guy. But other (attractive) women have always governed my urge for promiscuity. It might be because I was never the "bad boy."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:07 PM
Here's A Hillary! Voter

...who won't be voting for Barack Obama. One of the big questions of this campaign is how many others there are out there like her:

Obama is a brand just like any other brand. Obama the Brand has a logo, a tag line, and a song. But Obama the man is not the same as Obama the Brand. Obama the Brand talks about new style politics, while Obama the man used Chicago style politics in every election. Obama the brand is for women's rights while Obama the man pays the women in his office 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. And Joe Biden pays women 73 cents on the dollar. Obama the brand is pro-Israel, Obama the man is not. Obama the brand touts leadership while Obama the man voted present 130 times in the US Senate. Obama the Brand claims change, while Obama the man picks a Washington Insider as his running mate. Obama the Brand is a post-racial candidate while Obama the man plays the race card at every turn, listens for 20 years to the racial teachings of Rev. Wright, and makes contributions exclusively to Trinity United Church of Christ, the NAACP and Care Africa. Obama the man and Obama the brand are not one in the same.

Too bad more Democrat women can't see through him like this.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:55 PM
The Crazy Part Of The Brain

Here's a brief piece on Christopher Hitchens' ignorance about Sarah Palin. Now, I've long admired Hitchens as a writer, and for his integrity in standing up against the Clinton gang in the nineties, but he does seem to have gone off the rails lately, with his jihad against religion (not that it's new, but it seems to have expanded beyond his Mother Theresa bashing). But I found this comment over there interesting:

Everyone has a crazy section in their brain. Andrew Sullivan was all for Bush until Bush came out against Gay Marriage. Andrew will never be happy until he and his partner can be married by the Pope himself. In his case, the craziness has spread throughout his thinking, so he doesn't make sense anymore, although he still retains an ability to write well.

As to Hitchens, another word-centred person, his craziness is centred on religiosity, and specifically, Christian religiosity. He has written a book on atheism and on Mother Theresa. In fact, I would say he is lunatic when it comes to this topic. Sarah Palin is a declared Christian, therefore Hitchens sees her only as a cardboard cutout of 'snake-handling primitive in the woods'. He could read Byron York's column on what Sarah Palin has actually done as Alaska's governor, and why she enjoys 80% approval, but Hitchens, cowering in his corner of craziness will not pay any attention.

I notice that that Maher fella, the TV comedian also hates (really: HATES) Palin and all conservatives, even the Methodist George Bush. His craziness centres around the necessity of sexual liberation is his life and that of all the elite's life.

I wonder if it's true that everyone has a "crazy section in their brain"? And if so, where mine is?

I'm confident that my commenters will inform me shortly.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:40 PM
Is It Just Me?

Watching those video clips of the ACORN organizers giving speeches for Obama, one of them talks and acts like her IQ is about refrigerator temperature. And then there are those weird outfits, including the hats. It's kind of frightening that these people vote at all, let alone register voters.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:15 AM
Lorne Michaels

...on Sarah Palin:

I think Palin will continue to be underestimated for a while. I watched the way she connected with people, and she's powerful. Her politics aren't my politics. But you can see that she's a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to her.

There's also this, on how monolingual so-called liberals are:

...something dawned on me today, and Palin crystallized it. You see, I "get" Palin. And I "get" why my liberal friends don't "get" Palin. But my liberal friends just don't "get" why I "get" Palin -- and they never will.

...John Podhoretz...once said, "All conservatives are bilingual -- we have to be. We speak both liberal and conservative. But liberals are monolingual -- they don't have to be anything else. They speak liberal, and are completely ignorant of the conservative tongue."

I'm not a conservative, but I'm bilingual as well. But I sure get a lot of monolingual commenters at this blog.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:13 AM
Boo Hoo

Mike Griffin says that criticism of NASA hurts its morale:

Griffin said critics in the media and on anonymous Internet blogs can "chip away" at the agency by questioning the motives and ethics of engineers designing the new rockets.

Briefing charts used by NASA managers sometimes show up on Web sites without the proper context, he said, and opponents of the agency's plans to replace the space shuttle with two new rockets have wrongly accused NASA managers of incompetence and worse.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think that I've ever questioned anyone's motives or ethics. I do question their engineering and political judgment, and fortunately (for now) we live in a country in which I am free to do so. Clark Lindsey has more thoughts:

...just thinking about the Ares monstrosities hurts MY morale...I can't think of anything more depressing than seeing a one chance in a generation opportunity to build a practical space transportation infrastructure squandered on a repeat of Apollo that consists of nothing but hyper-expensive throwaway systems.

Ditto. It's a tragedy.

[Update a few minutes later]

There's more over at NASAWatch:

" is incumbent upon us to be able to explain how a decision was reached, why a particular technical approach was chosen, or why a contract was awarded to one bidder instead of another."

It is indeed. You've never really done that with the Ares/ESAS decisions. You just send Steve Cook out to say "we've done the trade study--trust us."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:35 AM
The Polls Are Wrong

D. J. Drummond explains.

Obviously they have to be, since they're all over the map. At most, only one of them can be right. Of course, knowing they're wrong doesn't tell us what's right.

[Mid-morning update]

Michael Barone has further thoughts.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:10 AM

October 21, 2008

Tanned, Rested And Ready

Iowahawk says that Barack Obama is totally ready for his foreign-policy challenge:

"Mark my words," Biden promised at the Seattle fundraiser Sunday. "There will be an international crisis. The world will be looking. They'll say, hey, here is this handsome, clean, ar-ti-cu-late young president, not unlike a very, very tanned John Fitzgerald Kennedy, dancing at his inaugural ball with his beautiful wife who is not unlike a very very very extremely tanned Jackie. And our enemies will think, 'ba ha ha, look at how thees seely new Amerikanski preseedent dances so! Such skeels can only be from many years in zee dancing school, where theys do not teaching the toughness! Launch zee meesiles!' But these enemies are in for a big surprise. America's foes must never confuse Barack Obama's terrific dance floor moves with weakness -- because as an Afro-American African, Barack is a natural dancer."

..."Ching chow pow!" added Biden, demonstrating his point with several pantomime karate chops. He also issued a pointed warning to the government of Spain.

"Let me be blunt: if you think we will sit idly by while you land your mighty galleons at Boca Raton, and unleash your gleaming-helmeted conqustadores to enslave and convert our whiny retired Jewish-Florida-Americans - well, think again, Cortes. Hey mang, say helloo to my leetle fren'!" said Biden, spraying the room with pantomime machine gun fire.

As a current resident of Rat Mouth of Jewish ancestry, I'll be ever confident with him holding the nucular football.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:56 PM
Good News On Global Warming

...but bad news for those determined to use it as an excuse to impoverish ourselves.

Oh. Sorry. I meant "climate change."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:36 PM
Is There Any Word Or Phrase

...that isn't a code word for "black"? Yes, that's right, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was just chock full of black folks.

This is a piece by a stupid, stupid man.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:56 PM
Amazed And Amused all the morons who proclaimed what a great pick Joe Biden was for Barack Obama (particularly moron-in-chief Chuck Hagel). Here, here and here are my own thoughts at the time.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Confusing glibness with intelligence:

The meme that has arisen that Sarah Palin isn't smart enough to be Vice-President (and potentially President) strikes me as quite implausible. Focusing on the big picture: she has been an extraordinarily successful governor with substantial policy accomplishments in a short time, she has an 85% approval rating, and she knocked off an incumbent and former governor to be elected. And, as I've previously discussed, based on my experience working with and in government, being governor of a state is an extremely difficult job, much more difficult than being a Senator (for instance). Sure there are some things that people are picking at, such as the trooper story or what really happened with the Bridge to Nowhere--but none of those things raise any doubt about her intellect or ability. With respect to the issues to which she has set herself to mastering and implementing, and the most important issues for Alaska, by all accounts she has an extremely strong understanding and mastery of the issues. It is simply not plausible to believe that she is dumb any more than it was credible that Ronald Reagan was dumb back when the establishment said the same thing about him.

Put another way, to believe the view that Sarah Palin is unintelligent you would have to have an awfully low opinion of the voters of Alaska and the overwhelming majority of Alaskans who approve of her job as governor. It seems much more plausible to me that when you are dealing with someone who has an impressive record of accomplishment as governor, won a couple of very tough elections, and has hugely high approval ratings, there should be a strong presumption that the person is capable and intelligent. And it is very difficult to hide if you are an incompetent governor (unlike being in the Senate, for instance). Alternatively, you would have to believe that she is simultaneously dumb yet so smart that she can fool the voters of Alaska into not realizing how dumb she is. There are probably some people out there who do believe that Alaskans are that dumb, but that's not who I'm thinking of. And when it comes to the issues that Palin has dedicated herself to mastering and acting on, such as energy policy, there seems to be little doubt that she understands quite well what she is doing.

Emphasis mine.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:15 PM
The Comprehensive Case Against Barack Obama

Over at Hot Air.

The reason to vote for John McCain? He's not Barack Obama. It's sufficient for me.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:32 AM
The Ayers Ad That 527s Should Run

Kathy Shaidle has put one together.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:57 AM
Another Obama Ayers Question

The Obama campaign (and its press enablers--I was particularly disappointed to hear Kristen Powers do this Saturday night) treats us like morons by continually repeating the "I was eight years old" mantra. Well Victor Davis Hanson has a question:

...why would anyone in a post-9/11 climate continue to communicate with such a loathsome character for four years, when it was common knowledge that Ayers had approved (no, was proud) of his past terrorist tactics of bombing buildings?

Someone should ask him at a press conference. They should also ask him if he's going to pardon Tony Rezko.

Oh, wait. He doesn't do press conferences any more. That's Sarah Palin's thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:36 AM
The New New Deal

A warning from Paul Rubin:

Until now, this election has been fought on the margins, over marginal issues. But it is important to understand how much a presidential candidate wants to move the needle on taxes, trade and other issues. Usually there isn't a chance for wholesale change. Now, however, it appears that this election will make more than a marginal difference. It might fundamentally change America.

Unlike FDR, Mr. Obama will not have to create the mechanisms government uses to interfere with the economy before imposing his policies. FDR had to get the Supreme Court to overturn a century's worth of precedents limiting the power of government before he could use the Constitution's commerce clause, among other things, to increase government control of the economy. Mr. Obama will have no such problem.

FDR also had to create agencies to implement regulations. Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Labor Relations Board (both created in the 1930s) as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and others created later are in place. Increasing their power will be easier than creating them from scratch.

Even before the current crisis, there was a great demand for increased government regulation to limit global warming. That gives the next president a ready-made box in which to place more regulation, and a legion of supports eager for it.

But if the coming wave of new regulation from an Obama administration is harmful to the economy, Mr. Obama will take a page from FDR's playbook. He'll blame Republicans for having caused the market crash in the first place, and so escape blame for the consequences of his policies. It worked for FDR and, so far in this campaign, blaming Republicans and George W. Bush has worked for Mr. Obama.

I hope we don't have to end the next government-caused depression the way we ended the last one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:29 AM
Libertarian Beatdown

Jonah Goldberg has a roundup of links criticizing Jacob Weisberg's brainless piece about the death of libertarianism.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:01 AM
Weirdest Republican Endorsement Yet

Attempted page turner Mark Foley backs Barack.

As already noted, this isn't going to affect my thinking at all, but it's mightily strange. Was this guy ever really a conservative?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:56 AM
The State Of Fusion Research post-bailout America.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:23 AM
Kafka In Canada

Ezra Levant could use some financial support in his new battle with the Canadian Human Wrongs Commission:'s where Dagenais becomes a symbol of everything that's wrong with the CHRC and its censorship fetish: she blacked out portions of my defence before passing it on to the commissioners. Seriously -- she censored what I wrote in my own defence, before she passed it along to the people who will sit in judgment of me. She's only allowing me to say things in my defence that she approves in advance. Look at the version of my letter she's passing on: several of my arguments are blacked out.

It's too bad that Harper couldn't get a clear majority. I hope that nonetheless he'll be more confident in doing something about this ongoing travesty of justice. But I fear that with an Obama/Reid/Pelosi administration, this assault on freedom of expression will migrate south. Certainly the behavior of the Obama campaign has done nothing to assuage my fears.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:59 AM
The "New" Obama

Stanley Kurtz has been looking more deeply into Barack Obama's politics and political alliances:

While a small group of bloggers have productively explored Obama's New Party ties, discussion has often turned on the New Party's alleged socialism. Was the New Party actually established by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)? Was the New Party's platform effectively socialist in content? Although these debates are both interesting and important, we needn't resolve them to conclude that the New Party was far to the left of the American mainstream. Whether formally socialist or not, the New Party and its ACORN backers favored policies of economic redistribution. As Obama would say, they wanted to spread the wealth around. Bracketing the socialism question and simply taking the New Party on its own terms is sufficient to raise serious questions about Obama's political commitments -- questions that cry out for attention from a responsible press.

Yes. Well, as (Democrat) Orson Scott Card points out, we haven't had a responsible press in quite a while.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:44 AM

October 20, 2008

Taking Sanctuary Saint Barack.

People, wake up.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:01 PM

I'm getting a little tired of things like this.

Let me state, to attempt to prevent any future comments in this vein, that (apparently) unlike many people, there is no one whose opinion I have sufficient respect for who could convince me that Barack Obama would be a better president than John McCain (not to imply, of course, that I think that John McCain will be a great president). Only those who have no time to evaluate the candidates and the issues rely on endorsements, from anyone, and to do so is a short cut and an intrinsic logical fallacy.

I have abundant information on both candidates at this point, and while (in theory) I could be persuaded to change my mind, this seems unlikely. What I will not be persuaded by is an endorsement by anyone, absent new facts. All that I will be convinced of is that the endorser is either an idiot, ignorant, or on the take (e.g., Colin Powell). I would like to think that this is the case with (at least the intelligent) readers of this blog as well. And (I would like to think that this would go without saying, but apparently it doesn't, because it keeps happening) I will have a similar opinion of the commenter who informs me of the endorser.

I hope I have made myself clear about this, because I have no more to say on the subject.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:43 PM

So, is Obama as inevitable as Hillary! was?

Just a cautionary note for those who don't think the obituaries in the press on the McCain campaign premature.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:55 AM

The real reason for the GM/Chrysler merger? Not because it makes business sense (it doesn't) but because it will make them "too big to fail." So they set themselves up for failure with the merger, then the taxpayer gets to pick up the tab, and they remain uncompetitive.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:44 AM
Gaffe A Minute

Joe Biden helpfully explains why we shouldn't vote for Barack Obama.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:03 AM
A Response To Some Of My Foolish Commenters

Treacher (who has been on fire lately--scroll around the site), in response to the "argument" that the Annenberg Challenge was funded by Republicans:

"Well, how about that. Did you know the planes used on 9/11 weren't built by terrorists?"


[Update a while later]

If the Obama campaign think that the Senator's relationship with Bill Ayers is no big deal, why are they trying to hide the evidence?

[Update at 11:30 AM EDT]

Fact checking (which it's becoming increasingly obvious is badly misnamed). And this seems part of a pattern:

The press seems more interested in attacking Rep. Bachman than in doing its job by asking Obama the many legitimate questions that flow out of his past dealings with Bill Ayers.

Can't disrupt the narrative, particularly two weeks before an election.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:24 AM
Sham Security Theater

This is one of the many reasons that I disapprove of George Bush. Not to say, of course, that I expect either of the "change" candidates on offer to change it.

During one secondary inspection, at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, I was wearing under my shirt a spectacular, only-in-America device called a "Beerbelly," a neoprene sling that holds a polyurethane bladder and drinking tube. The Beerbelly, designed originally to sneak alcohol--up to 80 ounces--into football games, can quite obviously be used to sneak up to 80 ounces of liquid through airport security. (The company that manufactures the Beerbelly also makes something called a "Winerack," a bra that holds up to 25 ounces of booze and is recommended, according to the company's Web site, for PTA meetings.) My Beerbelly, which fit comfortably over my beer belly, contained two cans' worth of Bud Light at the time of the inspection. It went undetected. The eight-ounce bottle of water in my carry-on bag, however, was seized by the federal government.

On another occasion, at LaGuardia, in New York, the transportation-security officer in charge of my secondary screening emptied my carry-on bag of nearly everything it contained, including a yellow, three-foot-by-four-foot Hezbollah flag, purchased at a Hezbollah gift shop in south Lebanon. The flag features, as its charming main image, an upraised fist clutching an AK-47 automatic rifle. Atop the rifle is a line of Arabic writing that reads Then surely the party of God are they who will be triumphant. The officer took the flag and spread it out on the inspection table. She finished her inspection, gave me back my flag, and told me I could go. I said, "That's a Hezbollah flag." She said, "Uh-huh." Not "Uh-huh, I've been trained to recognize the symbols of anti-American terror groups, but after careful inspection of your physical person, your behavior, and your last name, I've come to the conclusion that you are not a Bekaa Valley-trained threat to the United States commercial aviation system," but "Uh-huh, I'm going on break, why are you talking to me?"


Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:21 AM
Shocking News

There was a total lack of accountability at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. And as is point out, this makes Powell's endrsement of Obama particularly clueless:

The mistake in bringing up Ayers was not in doing so per se, but in focusing on his sixties activities, and not paying more attention to their partnership in attempting to radicalize Chicago schoolchildren in the 90s. Not to mention the ongoing dissembling and (yes) lying by Obama about the relationship.

And of course, the biggest mistake with all of this "negative" (i.e., truthful) focus on Obama was not doing it last summer, because now it does have the appearance of desperation.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:00 AM
The Old Scout Gets Older

Lileks has the thankless job of once again deconstructing his fellow ten-thousand-lakes scribe:

It's the usual Keillor twaddle - a humorless, scattershot ramble of run-on sentences and unsourced assertions, and I didn't see anything that set it apart from the dozens of sour broadsides that preceded it. He doesn't like Sarah Palin, although if she was on the Obama ticket he would have found a few nice words before falling silent on the matter, just as the wisdom and august judgment of Biden seems to hover beneath his radar. He is also angry about Republican economics, because, as he stated in a previous column, they deregulated everything and caused the whole mess. In his imagination, sixteen GOP Senators dressed like the fellow from the Monopoly game took a break from playing polo - with slaves dressed up as horses, of course, ha ha, capital idea, Smidley - and somehow did something which was totally unrelated to the sub-prime mortgage issue. I suspect he believes that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd woke nightly from sheet-soaking nightmares in which the loan standards were loosened just a bit too much, and every time they went to the office intent on fixing this mess, gol dang it, John McCain dragged them into a coatroom and administered ether. Amazingly strong fellow.

It doesn't matter what Clinton signed; it doesn't matter that Bush and McCain tried to raise alarms; there's not an jot of responsibility on Keillor's side, because if anything goes wrong it can be traced to the one simple fact that shapes his world: the other side is composed of despicable, cowardly, dishonest, cynical bastards still upset that Jolson's reputation is sullied by his use of blackface. On his side: angels. The man makes a Manichean look like an agnostic Unitarian.

You have to ask yourself how the media would cover a long-standing association between John McCain and a fellow who, in the hurly-burly-mixed-up-folderol of the Civil Rights Era, went a little too far and burned some Black churches, or led a group devoted to blowing up abortion clinics. Mind you, he was never convicted - technicalities, which was ironic, because Conservatives hate those - but he went on to serve on school boards and charity foundations that advocated for States' Rights, an issue dear to conservative hearts. Imagine the deets are the same - cozy fundraisers, serving on the same boards, McCain's name on Bomber Bob's memoir. Add to that some other parallels - say, McCain attended a church that praised a fellow who believed black people were descended from the devil, and believed Jesus was an Aryan.

John McCain wouldn't be the nominee, and if by some chance that happened, this association would be draped around his neck every day.

You may disagree with this, but I don't think I've attempted any deceit here. Deceit would entail lying about what Ayers did, and insisting they had a connection when there was none. You could say it's almost deceitful to say there's nothing there whatsoever, but that's up for debate. But you can imagine Keillor writing 14 pre-election columns that never mentioned the McCain friend who tried to blow up a Planned Parenthood clinic. I think it would matter, and it wouldn't be "desperation" to point it out.

Of course, Keillor's been full of this nonsense for years. What's really appalling is that the so-called "objective" media have given up the pretense this year.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:14 AM

October 19, 2008


An interesting anecdote about leftist hissing.

These people would be an interest case study in mass psychosis if they weren't about to potentially come into power. As it is, it's a little frightening.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:24 PM

October 18, 2008

False Claims By Defeated Slaves Undermine Their Campaign

71 BC*

ROME (Routers) Diligent investigative reporters were shocked to learn today that many, indeed most of the captured slaves in yesterday's battle in Lucania who proclaimed "I am Spartacus" were actually misleading military authorities, and not the famous rebel leader at all.

One of the investigators, Probius Ani, lead chiseler at the Tempora Romae, shared the details. "We looked into their backgrounds, and while they were all slaves at one time or another, few of them had formal gladiator training, nor did they universally use the Thracian style of combat for which he was well known."

After the defeat, when authorities demanded to know which of the defeated was the leader, at first one of them jumped up and declared himself Spartacus**. But the situation quickly grew confused as another, and then another, and then dozens and hundreds of the defeated curs shouted out the same claim. Legitimate demands of proof of identity, gladiators' licenses, and tax and divorce records from them were met with a sullen resistance, making it impossible to tell which to properly punish.

"These slaves have no credibility," noted a proconsul on the scene. "Why should we grant any respect to a campaign based on false pretenses? Why should we not just spread their wealth around, and crucify them all?"

Given their duplicity against the news media and other legitimate authorities, it is increasingly difficult to argue otherwise.

[Hat tip to Mark Hemingway]

*Yes, before you comment to correct me, I know they didn't really have datelines dated BC)
**Yes, before you comment to correct me, I know it was only a movie.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:08 PM
A Rarity

A non-humorous post from Iowahawk: "I am Joe."

There are two Americas: one that is Joe, and one that thinks that Joe should have to show his papers to question the Dear Leader.

[Afternoon update]

"I am Joe. Flush Socialism."

I can see this really taking off.

[Update a while later]

Mark Steyn says that Joe must be punished because he didn't go with the flow.

And McCain used the S-word in his radio address this morning. Why not? When you take money from high earners, and hand it over to low earners, and say that you're doing it to "spread the wealth," in what way does that differ from "to each according to his need, from each according to his ability"?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:30 AM
The Crucial Scrappleface Endorsement

Scott Ott comes out for Barack Obama. I completely concur.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:52 AM
Sharing The Talking Points

Of course there's no relationship between Barack Obama and ACORN.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:45 AM
The Fascist MSM

Treacher nails it:

The whole "He's not a licensed plumber!" non sequitur is really fantastic. So, if you happen to be standing in front of Obama when he publicly reveals his socialism, what does the media do? Demands to see your papers. That's just delicious, is what that is.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:49 AM

October 17, 2008


This is something that I've rarely done, and I'll put it up for a vote.

How many readers think that I should let Jim Harris continue to comment here? Because I've had my fill of his continuing attacks on me, and my integrity, on my own blog.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:17 PM
"Vetting" The Media

Ace has had enough, and thinks that it's time to start.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:33 PM
Great Line

In a comment over at Free Republic: "Joe The Plumber is the only undocumented worker in America that the Democrats dislike."

Of course, you could say the same thing about John McCain, except he likes him. So at least he's consistent.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:14 PM
Stock Tip

If there are any beaten-down plunger companies, they'd probably be a good buy now, with all the campaign rallies coming up in the next two and a half weeks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:38 PM
The Liberal Supermajority

The Journal has a warning of what we're in store for if The Democrats take over both branches.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:58 AM
More Margin Problems

The new littoral ship that Lockheed Martin is building for the Navy is four percent overweight:

The Navy and Lockheed already have a plan to remove nearly all the additional weight from the ship over a period of about six months once the new ship, which is named Freedom, gets to Norfolk, Virginia, in December, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

As I said, margin, margin, margin. If you miss your weight target by that much on a launch system, it's bye-bye payload. In this case, it simply puts the ship at risk in combat.

As the emailer who sent this to me asks, "I wonder if Lockheed will remove excess weight from Orion at no additional cost."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:46 AM
Not Just Registration Fraud

ACORN defenders are tellling us that the fake registrations are no big deal, because they don't result in actual fraudulent votes. Oh, no?

Today, news out of New Mexico, the state GOP looked at information for 92 newly-registered voters in one district, and found 28 had "missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers or birth dates. In some cases, more than one voter was registered using the same Social Security number. In others, people who the Republicans said had no Social Security number on public record were registered." All of these are of individuals who have already cast ballots in the June New Mexico state legislative Democratic primary.

Now, unless A. Serwer thinks that there is actually a registered voter named "Duran Duran" in New Mexico, he ought to refrain from sputtering that those who disagree with him are 'racist' and 'paranoid.'

The person who is "Duran Duran" almost certainly voted under their real name, and thus got two votes in the primary. God knows how many of those 27 others exist; for all we know, one person might have cast all of them. Anybody who voted once had their vote diluted by the guy who cheated to vote two to twenty-seven times.

As usual, the people who project, and accuse Republicans of stealing elections are about to do it on a massive scale.

[Update mid afternoon]

Good line. I heard that Governor Palin just said in Ohio, "Don't let them turn the Buckeye State into the ACORN State."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:17 AM
Let's Hope "Temporary" Isn't Temporary

Jonah Goldberg has thoughts on the financial crisis.

My big concern is that some slopes are very slippery, with nasty things at the bottom of the hill, and that politics can often be like a ratchet. If Obama wins, I fear that it will be very difficult to undo the damage of the most left-wing, "progressive" government since the nineteen thirties.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:52 AM
How Does That Happen?

Sarah Palin says repeatedly on the stump that they'll balance the budget by the end of the first term. Have they actually put forth a plan to do that? I suppose I should actually go over and look at the campaign web site...

I also have to confess that I find her voice and speaking style annoying. It's nothing on which I'd base my vote, of course, but I can see how it might add to the fury of people who don't like her politics.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:06 AM
Joe Isn't The Point

SInce some commenters are too stupid to get it, Betsy Newmark writes that this may have been Barack Obama's "macaca" moment:

For those on the left who think that this whole story is about Joe's personal background, let me put in in terms they should understand. Think of Joe as a symbolic construct whose situation is "fake but accurate." The left always seems to like that sort of approach to what they regard as underlying truths. Think of him as the left thought of Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature with her autobiography of how, as an indigenous Mayan, she and her family had suffered at the hands of the Guatemalan army. Except it turns out that many of the details in her autobiography were fabrications. That didn't matter to the left or the Nobel Prize Committee because they regarded her story, true or not, as an essential expression of suffering that could have been true.

It doesn't matter if Joe is secretly a multimillionaire plumbing magnate or an apprentice plumber with unrealistic dreams. What matters is how Obama answered his question and what it revealed about his approach to redistribution of wealth. We're not about to elect Joe the Plumber.

She has another thought:

I would have thought that Democrats would have learned the dangers of going too far in sliming an opponent or anyone who doesn't support their guy. They helped promote Sarah Palin to a phenomenon by their relentless pursuit of anything that could be used against her. Questioning whether or not she was really the mother of her baby and if she could serve as vice president with a Down Syndrome infant set her up not only for a backlash among ordinary people but helped innoculate her against more substantive criticisms.

Obama suffered some of his biggest setbacks in the primaries after he was taped describing Pennsylvanians as bitterly clinging to their guns and religion. Now John Murtha is having to backtrack after calling his own constituents in western Pennsylvania racists because they might not support Barack Obama. And Obama's followers are now all outraged that a guy asked the senator a question that evoked a revealing answer when Obama popped into his neighborhood for a photo op. It wasn't Joe's question that was so important, but Obama's answer.

Are they trying to demonstrate that they have actually no real care for ordinary people unless those people are falling in line to vote for The One? They really ought to be more careful not to let that mask slip before the election is over.

The thing is, they never learn. Smearing and sliming comes naturally, and is always their first resort. And of course, like their lies and racism and generally fascist tendencies, they project it on their political opponents.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:21 AM
Former Fetus Obama

Ed Whelan makes an interesting point:

Barack Obama may actually believe, as he stated yesterday, that Roe v. Wade "was rightly decided." But it may be very lucky for him, as the son born of that woman, that it hadn't been decided a dozen or so years earlier.

It's been noted in the past that legal abortion may in fact be reducing the ranks of people who believe in it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:49 AM
"Senator Government"

That didn't take long. Go get your teeshirt.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:08 AM
OK, They're Officially Insane

I'm listening to Fox, on which an Obama spokeshole is claiming that the McCain campaign "didn't vet Joe the Plumber."

They must be terrified.

[Late morning update]

Jeff Medcalf visualizes the vetting process in comments:

McCain Rep: Excuse me, sir, but I need to ask you a few questions.

Joe the Plumber:: Why? Are you the police?

MR: No, sir, I'm with the McCain campaign. I need to ask you a few questions, on the off chance that you are playing football in your front yard when Senator Obama decides to make an unscheduled stop to try to talk you into voting for him.

JTP: Oh, that's not a problem: I won't be voting for him, anyway, because I'm afraid he would raise my taxes.

MR: That's not the point, sir. The point is, if he were to stop by and ask for your vote, you might ask him questions.

JTP: So?

MR: He might answer them.

JTP: So?

MR: If he answers a question that he isn't expecting, and without a TelePrompTer to fall back on, he might accidentally tell the truth. And that could embarrass him. And that means that you need to be vetted just in case.

JTP: <dumbfounded look>

MR: So I have this twenty page form for you to fill out, listing your background, education, financial details, professional affiliations, friends, family, voting history, embarrassing incidents from elementary school. You know, standard stuff.

JTP: <slams door>

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:57 AM
"A Star On The Fridge"

This, coming from Jim Abrahamson, is pretty disappointing:

James A. Abrahamson, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and the chairman of the NAC's Exploration Committee, praised the Constellation program to the Council at its quarterly meeting in Cocoa Beach, calling it the best program for the agency given its tight budget and schedule.

"The NAC is confident that the current plan is viable and represents a well-considered approach given the constraints on budget, schedule and achievable technology," he said.

I agree with this comment (and I have a pretty good guess as to who made it):

One Washington-based space policy consultant said: "The NAC's endorsement of Ares I reminds me of the so-called independent rating firms that kept saying that Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, and AIG were just fine."

Yeah, I don't think that the NAC is all that "independent." By its nature, it tends to consist of space industry insiders drinking their own bathwater. Looking over the Exploration Committee, it doesn't strike me that any of the members are space transportation experts (and no, you don't become one by being an astronaut, as proven by Horowitz...). But I thought that Abrahamson was smarter than that.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:27 AM

October 16, 2008

The Press And The Plumber


They've done more investigations into Joe the Plumber in 24 hours than they've done on Barack Obama in two years...

They've also had more interviewers with him lately than they have with Bill Ayers. Aren't they curious at all as to what he thinks? I mean, he was brought up in the debate, too...

[Friday morning update]

Is Joe the Plumber the forgotten man?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:14 PM
I'm Drooling

Amazon is having a power tool sale. Stock up now, before the apocalypse.

Not that great for a survivalist, though, unless you can generate a lot of power. Let's hope we're not going back to hand tools soon.

Actually, I already have most of this stuff. I continue to be amazed at the cost, quality and innovativeness of tools since I was a kid. It has to have been a great contributor to national productivity, both professionally, and for the DIYers. And it wouldn't have happened without China. Another reason to hope that the (newly isolationist) Dems don't get full control of the government.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:49 PM
Better Late Than Never

Listening to a McCain stump speech, he just used the line "...we didn't become a great nation by spreading the wealth, we became a great nation by creating new wealth."

Where has that John McCain been all fall? Or his whole previous life?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:17 AM
What We Should Really Be Angry About

I fully agree with Iain Murray:

While conservatives are angry about a number of things at the moment, they should be at least as angry that the Congressional Democrats who helped stoke the mortgage crisis are getting away with blaming everyone else for it. Today, Senator Chris Dodd, the prime recipient of GSE lobbying funds and proud holder of a sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide, is holding hearings where the witnesses will blame everyone but Dodd, Barney Frank and their cronies. Republicans asked to invite witnesses but were barred from doing so.

The notion that this mess is the fault of Republicans, and "deregulation" and the free market, is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the American people. And as a result, we could be heading toward both electoral and economic disaster.

[Update early afternoon]

Peter Schiff says don't blame capitalism:

Just as prices in a free market are set by supply and demand, financial and real estate markets are governed by the opposing tension between greed and fear. Everyone wants to make money, but everyone is also afraid of losing what he has. Although few would ascribe their desire for prosperity to greed, it is simply a rose by another name. Greed is the elemental motivation for the economic risk-taking and hard work that are essential to a vibrant economy.

But over the past generation, government has removed the necessary counterbalance of fear from the equation. Policies enacted by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (which were always government entities in disguise), and others created advantages for home-buying and selling and removed disincentives for lending and borrowing. The result was a credit and real estate bubble that could only grow -- until it could grow no more.

Prominent among these wrongheaded advantages are the mortgage interest tax deduction and the exemption of real estate capital gains from taxable income. These policies create unnatural demand for home purchases and a (tax-free) incentive to speculate in real estate.

Similarly, the FHA, Fannie and Freddie were created to encourage lending by allowing primary lenders to turn their long-term risk over to the government. Absent this implicit guarantee, lenders would probably have been much more conservative in approving borrowers and setting interest terms, and in requiring documentation of incomes and higher down payments. Market forces would have kept out unqualified buyers and prevented home-price appreciation from exceeding the growth in household income.

Read the whole thing.

I disagree, though that the solution is to take away the home-mortgage interest deduction and the capital gains break. It would be much better to restore the deduction for all interest (as it is for business, and was for individuals until the tax "reform" in 1986). It's not fair to have to pay tax on interest earned as income, but not be able to deduct interest paid.

Also, rather than treating houses preferentially, peg all capital gains taxes to inflation, to eliminate having to pay a tax when the actual value hadn't increased.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:48 AM

October 15, 2008

Frustrated At McCain

How many times is he going to let Obama get away with this bullshit that he's going to cut taxes for people who don't pay income taxes? He's done it twice now. It's a frickin' handout and redistribution. As I said, John McCain could win this election if he weren't John McCain.

Sounding a little better on spending cuts. Talking about ending ethanol subsidies and tariffs on sugar (writing off Iowa...). He should have point out how he was going to veto spending bills that Bush wouldn't (another missed opportunity). Another missed opportunity was to point out that while earmarks are small, it's how Congress logrolls other members on big spending bills.


McCain is actually doing much better now. But he really should stop talking about the "overhead projector in Chicago." People like planetariums, and it makes him look clueless about science.


McCain just pointed out that Obama's solution (increase taxes, restrict trade) was Hooverlike. This is good in two ways: it helps separate him from Republicans and it's true.


McCain is on fire on health care. Obama seems to think that having an employer providing health care is a wonderful thing, and that everyone agrees on that. But McCain had a great (non?)-Freudian slip. He called his opponent "Senator Government."


The discussion on Roe almost veered into a discussion on federalism. But not quite. But McCain went after him on his vote on the bill to allow failed aborted babies to die. And Obama is obfuscating on his vote.

[Final update]

Not a great debate for McCain, but it was his best. And he's not out of it.

What was missing? Gun control. It would have been a big issue in key states.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:31 PM
Good Question

Would anyone care to explain to me why Sarah Palin is less qualified to be vice president than John Edwards was four years ago?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:11 PM
"Liberals" Against Libertarians

Of course, there was a time when the two words meant pretty much the same thing. But that was before the "progressives" came along and hijacked the word "liberal."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:31 PM
Did Somali Pirates Save Israel?

Here's a new theory on that hijacked Iranian vessel:

At this writing, the MV Iran Deyanat is at anchor, watched closely by American, French and Russian naval units.

[Russian sources claim she] was an enormous floating dirty bomb, intended to detonate after exiting the Suez Canal at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in proximity to the coastal cities of Israel. The entire cargo of radioactive sand, obtained by Iran from China (the latter buys desperately needed oil from the former) and sealed in containers which, when the charges on the ship are set off after the crew took to the boats, will be blasted high into the air where prevailing winds will push the highly dangerous and radioactive cloud ashore.

Is this what Ahmadinejad has been ranting about?

Maybe Barack can ask him when he sits down to talk to him with no preconditions.

Oh, wait. I guess there will be preconditions:

Vice President for Media Affairs Mehdi Kalhor said on Saturday that Iran has set two preconditions for holding talks with the United States of America.

In an exclusive interview with IRNA, he said as long as U.S. forces have not left the Middle East region and continues its support for the Zionist regime, talks between Iran and U.S. is off the agenda.

Well, if they get their preferred candidate, he'll probably hop right to it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:56 AM
Remembering A Sixties Terrorist

Here's an Ayers story from Ann Arbor that I'd never heard before, but it shocks me not at all:

Bill Ayers' apartment was around the corner and a half a block away from the sorority house. The more time I spent there, the more out of place I felt with my sisters. Sometimes I would stop by just to keep from having to go back to a place I had begun to think of as boring. I guess it was one of those evenings -- maybe on the way back from the library, maybe just to get out of the sorority house, I don't remember exactly. What I do recall is that when I was getting ready to leave Ayers told me I couldn't go until I slept with his roommate and his brother. At this point Bill and I had slept together just once. I was sexually inexperienced, having had only one serious boyfriend with whom I had recently broken up.

At first I thought Ayers was joking. I got up; and went to the door. He moved quickly to block me at the doorway. He locked the door and put the chain on it. I went to the couch and sat down and told him that I had no intention of having sex with his roommate and his brother or him. He said that I had no choice but to do as he said if I wanted to get out of there. He claimed that I wouldn't sleep with his married roommate because he was black -- that I was a bigot. I had gone to school with black kids and had them as friends all my life. I couldn't believe he was saying that to me.

I felt trapped. I had to get out of the situation I was in and because he was so effective a guilt-tripper, I also felt I had to prove to him that I wasn't a bigot. I got up from the couch and walked over to the black roommate's bed and put myself on it and he f***ed me. I went totally out of my body. I floated beside myself on the outside and above the bed looking at this black stranger f*** me angrily while I hated myself.

I'm sure that he's rehabilitated, though.

Barack Obama allied himself with a sociopath.

It's also worth noting, for those unaware, that a large part of the feminist movement in the seventies was driven by the fact that the sixties campus radical men were famous for being prototypical male chauvinist pigs. They would busily write their manifestos, and expect the women to cook, clean and service them sexually.

[Update a few minutes later]

It just occurs to me that this was depicted very clearly in Forrest Gump.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:18 AM
A Vote For Civility

Winning over the undecideds:

Think about it. With Barack Obama in office, assholes like us will fade into a distant unpleasant memory. Don't get us wrong, we'll still be hanging around, probably as junior staffers in some federal arts agency. But you have our word on it -- we'll be practically invisible. No more C-word t shirts, no more intersection blockades, no more vandalism until the next election cycle. Nosirree, we'll be timid and well-behaved and quiet as church mice, working away on grant proposals. We think you will also be pleased to know that under Obama, negative news stories and the steady flow of shitty anti-American war movies will virtually disappear overnight.

We know what you're thinking -- "that sounds awesome, but what about the angry right wingers? Won't they suddenly start storming congressional hearings and vandalizing military recruiting stations? Won't they start producing Obama assassination fantasy plays at the local college?" Don't worry, as members of the incoming Administration, we will identify any potential troublemakers and prosecute them to the full extent of President Obama's new civility laws. And with the re-establishment of the Fairness Doctrine, you won't have to worry about accidentally tuning into right wing hate radio.

I can't wait.

Plus, true Grit.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:04 AM
She's Come Undone

Katherine Manju Ward says that Naomi Wolf has been driven completely around the bend.

She could have walked. Based on her previous writings, it was always bound to be a short trip.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:39 AM

October 14, 2008

Obama And Odinga

OK, are we allowed to talk about this? Or is that racist?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:35 AM
What Kind Of Shirts

...are the ACORN thugs (and thuggettes)? Some suggestions.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:28 AM
Connecting The Dots

Between Obama, Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright:

Given the precedent of his earlier responses on Ayers and Wright, Obama might be inclined to deny personal knowledge of the educational philosophy he was so generously funding. Such a denial would not be convincing. For one thing, we have evidence that in 1995, the same year Obama assumed control of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, he publicly rejected "the unrealistic politics of integrationist assimilation," a stance that clearly resonates with both Wright and Carruthers. (See "No Liberation.")

And as noted, Wright had invited Carruthers, Hilliard, and like-minded thinkers to address his Trinity congregants. Wright likes to tick off his connections to these prominent Afrocentrists in sermons, and Obama would surely have heard of them. Reading over SSAVC's Annenberg proposals, Obama could hardly be ignorant of what they were about. And if by some chance Obama overlooked Hilliard's or Carruthers's names, SSAVC's proposals are filled with references to "rites of passage" and "Ptahhotep," dead giveaways for the anti-American and separatist ideological concoction favored by SSAVC.

We know that Obama did read the proposals. Annenberg documents show him commenting on proposal quality. And especially after 1995, when concerns over self-dealing and conflicts of interest forced the Ayers-headed "Collaborative" to distance itself from monetary issues, all funding decisions fell to Obama and the board. Significantly, there was dissent within the board. One business leader and experienced grant-smith characterized the quality of most Annenberg proposals as "awful." (See "The Chicago Annenberg Challenge: The First Three Years," p. 19.) Yet Obama and his very small and divided board kept the money flowing to ideologically extremist groups like the South Shore African Village Collaborative, instead of organizations focused on traditional educational achievement.

If McCain won't go after this, some 527s need to.

John McCain could win this election if he weren't John McCain. By that, I mean that some candidate with John McCain's history and record could win it if he were really willing to take the gloves off. But he's constitutionally incapable of it. Too many years "reaching across the aisle." Which is one of the reasons in general that Senators have a tough time being elected president. Unfortunately, we have no choice this year.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:49 AM
To Know It Is To Hate It

Michael Totten, on why the UN deservedly gets no respect.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:12 AM

October 13, 2008

Without A Shot Being Fired

Scott Ott has a depressing satire.

We're all fascists now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:21 PM
"Spread The Wealth Around"

It's too bad that Senator Obama seems indifferent to actually creating wealth. This is the critical distinction between collectivists and classical liberals. The former think that it's a fixed (or growing, but according to supernatural forces unaffectable by human intervention) pie to be justly distributed, whereas the latter think that it's something to be created by maximizing freedom and minimizing how much of it is confiscated by those who want to "spread it around."

And don't expect many in the MSM to criticize him for it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:02 PM
The Coming Counterrevolution

What we have to look forward to under an Obama/Pelosi/Reid administration:

A Democrat-controlled Washington will use sweeping new rules to shush conservative political speech. For starters, expect a real push to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

True, Obama says he isn't in favor of re-imposing this regulation, which, until Ronald Reagan's FCC junked it in the '80s, required broadcasters to give airtime to opposing viewpoints or face fines or even loss of license. But most top Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, are revved up about the idea, and it's hard to imagine Obama vetoing a new doctrine if Congress delivers him one.

Make no mistake: a new Fairness Doctrine would vaporize political talk radio, the one major medium dominated by the right. If a station ran a successful conservative program like, say, Mark Levin's, it would also have to run a left-leaning alternative, even if -- as with Air America and all other liberal efforts in the medium to date -- it can't find any listeners or sponsors.

There's certainly nothing in Obama's current behavior to indicate otherwise, as the editorial points out.

Even ignoring the First Amendment issues (which are sufficient reason in themselves to fight it), it would be a nightmare for broadcasters to enforce. What is "balance," and who would decide? The model here is for the issue ad. If there's a proposition on the ballot, and you run an editorial on it (say) in favor, then it's fairly straightforward to say that it could be balanced by an editorial against it. But even there, who gets the opportunity? There might be multiple people or groups against it for different reasons, some more articulate than others. How would it be decided which of them got to "balance" it?

And once we get outside that narrow focus, into talk radio itself, it becomes a real nightmare, and a litigator's delight. Consider Larry Elder, who is mostly a libertarian. Who "balances" him? A socialist who disagrees with his economics? A "conservative" who disagrees with his views on pornography and drugs?

What single blog is the antithesis of this one, or Instapundit? I sure as hell wouldn't want to be the television or radio program director who had to decide. All of this, of course, is predicated on the simpleton's assumption that political views and issues can be expressed on a unidimensional "left-right" scale. And even if that were the case, and political issues didn't fall into a hypercube of multiple dimensions coming from all points on the hyperspherical compass, it wouldn't be that simple, because the magnitude has to be calibrated as well. Is Rush Limbaugh as far "right" as Randi Rhodes is far "left"? Where is the pivot on the scale? Who determines what is "mainstream"? Ted Kennedy?

The First Amendment should have put a stake through the heart of this pernicious and anti-freedom nonsense years ago, but the fascist proponents of things like it have long abandoned principles like that.

[Afternoon update]

Treacher has some thoughts on the "Deathbed Media."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:14 AM
An End To Redundant Inefficiency

John Jurist writes (or at least implies) that there's just too much competition in the suborbital market:

An approach I favor is forming a university consortium analogous to those that design, build, and operate large cooperative research assets, such as telescopes and particle colliders. That consortium could develop a suborbital RLV or even a nanosat launcher to be used by consortium members for academic projects. Since the consortium would design and develop the vehicles, participating universities would be more likely to use them for student research under some type of cost-sharing arrangement with federal granting agencies.

Dr. Steve Harrington proposed something a bit different recently:

If you took all the money invested in projects in the last 20 years, and invested in one project, it could succeed. More underfunded projects are not what we need. The solution is for an investment and industry group to develop a business plan and get a consortium to build a vehicle. There is a lot of talent, and many people willing to work for reduced wages and invest some of their own company's capital. Whether it is a sounding rocket, suborbital tourist vehicle or an orbit capable rocket, the final concept and go/no go decision should be made by accountants, not engineers or dreamers (Ref. 8).

I would concur with Dr. Harrington's final remark except I would expand the decision making group to include management and business experts nominated by the consortium members with whatever technical input they needed.

Yes, good idea. After all, we all know that it's a waste of resources to have (for example) two grocery stores within a few blocks of each other. They could dramatically reduce overhead and reduce costs and prices if they would just close one of the stores and combine forces. In order to assure continued premium customer service, they could just assemble a board of accountants, and finest management and business experts to ensure that the needs of the people are met.

In the case of the RLV development, the consortium could hire the best technical experts, and spend the appropriate amount of money up front, on trade studies and analyses, to make sure that they are designing just the right vehicle for the market, since it will be a significant investment, and the consortium will only have enough money to do one vehicle development. They will also have to make sure that it satisfies the requirements of all the users, since it will be the only available vehicle. This will further increase the up-front analysis and development costs, and it may possibly result in higher operational costs as well, but what can be done? It's too inefficient to have more than one competing system. As John's analysis points out, we simply can't afford it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:49 AM

October 12, 2008

The Hate And Rage From The McCain Campaign


John McCain's bid for the Oval Office suffered another stunning blow yesterday when the Arizona senator referred to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, as "my opponent." The campaign-shattering remark came during a vicious, Hitlerian speech before an audience of drooling right-wing drones in one of those states in the middle, possibly rectangular.

"I believe that we should do things one way," McSame sneered, his shrunken, twisted body and hideous visage producing overwhelming revulsion in all sane people who beheld him. "But my opponent feels we should do things a different way."

Yes, Treacher's ahead of the curve. My hat is off to him, because these people continue to get ever harder to satirize.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:37 PM
Irony Meter Meltdown

Joe Biden stood next to Hillary Clinton in Scranton, PA today, and said with a perfectly straight face that she never abused her power.

Tell it to Billy Dale. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:18 PM
Hope, Change

...and Molotov cocktails. Will this get as much news coverage as the phantom cries of "kill him" at MCain/Palin rallies (of which there has only been one reported)?

[Update a couple minutes later]

Michelle Malkin has more leftist rage and hatred. Feel the love of the left.

As the first commenter notes, this is typical projection. They accuse others of doing what they are actually doing (lying, racemongering, hating).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:56 AM

October 11, 2008


How it evolved?

Note that just because something is natural doesn't make it moral.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:01 PM
Is There Enough Makeup In The World?

I thought it was a gag (in multiple senses of the word) when I heard that Annette Bening was going to play Helen Thomas in a movie. But it's twue, it's twue.

On the other hand, it's probably a lot easier to make Annette Bening look like Helen Thomas than vicey versy.

[Via Driscoll]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:12 PM
Rezko Is Singing

Is Obama sweating?

Probably not. Whatever happens won't happen until after the election, and at that point, he'll be untouchable, with the Dems in control of both houses. This is part of the point that I was making in my PJM piece yesterday. Because the media is covering for him, we're about to unwittingly (at least to much of the electorate--much of the rest, sadly, doesn't care) put another crooked but charismatic politician in the White House, just as we did in 1992.

And it goes without saying, of course, that if this were the Republican candidate, it would be headline news every day for the next three weeks. But it's not.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:01 PM
The Coming Thugocracy

If the potential economic disaster of a Democrat regime doesn't concern you, consider the implications for free speech.

As Mark Steyn comments, don't be surprised to see an effort to establish "human rights" commissions, a la Canada.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:51 AM
The Enigma Continues

Part of the Kennedy myth that propelled him into the White House was that he wrote a Pulitzer-winning book. Only many years later was it revealed that the actual author, or at least ghost writer, was Ted Sorenson.

Well, now we have an interesting question.

Who wrote Dreams of My Father?

A 1990 New York Times profile on Obama's election as Harvard's first black president caught the eye of agent Jane Dystel. She persuaded Poseidon, a small imprint of Simon & Schuster, to authorize a roughly $125,000 advance for Obama's proposed memoir.

With advance in hand, Obama repaired to Chicago where he dithered. At one point, in order to finish without interruption, he and wife Michelle decamped to Bali. Obama was supposed to have finished the book within a year. Bali or not, advance or no, he could not. He was surely in way over his head.

According to a surprisingly harsh 2006 article by liberal publisher Peter Osnos, which detailed the "ruthlessness" of Obama's literary ascent, Simon & Schuster canceled the contract. Dystel did not give up. She solicited Times Book, the division of Random House at which Osnos was publisher. He met with Obama, took his word that he could finish the book, and authorized a new advance of $40,000.

Then suddenly, somehow, the muse descended on Obama and transformed him from a struggling, unschooled amateur, with no paper trail beyond an unremarkable legal note and a poem about fig-stomping apes, into a literary superstar.

...In 1997, Obama was an obscure state senator, a lawyer, and a law school instructor with one book under his belt that had debuted two years earlier to little acclaim and lesser sales. In terms of identity, he had more in common with mayor Sawyer than poet Brooks. The "writer" identification seems forced and purposefully so, a signal perhaps to those in the know of a persona in the making that Ayers had himself helped forge.

None of this, of course, proves Ayers' authorship conclusively, but the evidence makes him a much more likely candidate than Obama to have written the best parts of Dreams.

The Obama camp could put all such speculation to rest by producing some intermediary sign of impending greatness -- a school paper, an article, a notebook, his Columbia thesis, his LSAT scores -- but Obama guards these more zealously than Saddam did his nuclear secrets. And I suspect, at the end of the day, we will pay an equally high price for Obama's concealment as Saddam's.

An interesting, and very plausible thesis. Much more so, in fact, than the official story. And if true, one more bit of evidence that Bill Ayers was more, much more, than "a guy in his neighborhood." It is also one more bit of continually accumulating evidence that Barack Obama is a fraud.

And as Andy McCarthy notes, given that Chris Buckley's insouciance about an Obama presidency is predicated on the intellectual brilliance evidenced by his books, he might want to reconsider, if his books are in fact those of someone else.

And no, don't expect the press to cover this.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:19 AM

October 10, 2008

Concerned About An Obama Victory

Ilya Somin explains. I share them.

Needless to say, there is much dissension (from many who think themselves libertarians) in comments.

[Saturday morning update]

Well, IBD certainly thinks that the prospect of an Obama presidency has the market spooked.

What is that agenda? It starts with a tax system right out of Marx: A massive redistribution of income -- from each according to his ability, to each according to his need -- all in the name of "neighborliness," "patriotism," "fairness" and "justice."

It continues with a call for a new world order that turns its back on free trade, has no problem with government controlling the means of production, imposes global taxes to support continents where our interests are negligible, signs on to climate treaties that will sap billions more in U.S. productivity and wealth, and institutes an authoritarian health care system that will strip Americans' freedoms and run up costs.

All the while, it ensures that nothing -- absolutely nothing -- will be done to secure a sufficient, terror-proof supply of our economic lifeblood -- oil -- a resource we'll need much more of in the years ahead.

The businesses that create jobs and generate wealth are already discounting the future based on what they know about Obama's plans to raise income, capital gains, dividend and payroll taxes, and his various other economy-crippling policies. Which helps explain why world stock markets have been so topsy-turvy.

But don't take our word for it. One hundred economists, five Nobel winners among them, have signed a letter noting just that:

"The prospect of such tax-rate increases in 2010 is already a drag on the economy," they wrote, noting that the potential of higher taxes in the next year or two is reducing hiring and investment.

It was "misguided tax hikes and protectionism, enacted when the U.S. economy was weak in the early 1930s," the economists remind us, that "greatly increased the severity of the Great Depression."

We can't afford to repeat these grave errors.

Yet much of the electorate is determined to vote for the candidate most likely to make them. If he wins, what we consider to be a crisis in today's economy will be a routine affair in tomorrow's.

Someone needs to run some ads showing the similarities between Obama's proposed economic policy and that of Herbert Hoover.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:49 PM
A Shorter Christopher Buckley

Via Mark Steyn:

If we view Obama's past political alliances as mere cynical manipulation to advance his career and if we view his election policy proposals as just pandering to the electorate, then we can feel good about voting for him for President because of, ah , oh yes, his character.

The mental contortions one must put oneself through in order to justify voting for Barack Obama are truly amazing. It must be quite painful.

[Early evening update]

Jonah Goldberg expands:

Christopher invokes Oliver Wendell Holmes' famous line that FDR had a "first-class temperament" and so too Obama. Indeed, he suggests that Obama is a man of great character because he's a man of great temperament. Conceding for the sake of argument that Obama's temperament is first rate, are the two really the same thing? I don't think so (indeed, that would be a hard case to make about FDR himself, who could be deceitful, vindictive, petty -- even to his own son -- and adulterous. And let us note that Holmes himself was not a man many of us should be invoking as an authority on political virtue or general decency).

The story Christopher tells of McCain's great character has no real analogue in Obama. He may be in private a deeply honorable man, but his public record is one of accommodation, shortcuts, dishonest equivocations, serious leftwing sympathies and fellow-traveling with some awful people. Obama, let us recall, threw his own grandmother under the rhetorical bus in order to defend his relationship with Jeremiah Wright. That he sounded dignified doing it does not confer dignity on the act itself or the man behind it. That is surely not all there is to say about Obama, many of his friends and fans speak very well of him. But the scales Christopher uses to weigh one man against the other seem awfully rigged to me.

Everything in Barack Obama's public life (other than his campaign speeches and publications) indicate that he's a dedicated leftist (or else a very cynical man with no principles whatsoever). John McCain is, at worst, ideologically confused.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:52 PM
Did The Chinese Fake Their EVA?

I don't know, and haven't watched the video myself, but some Chinese bloggers think so:

Two seconds into the video from CCTV, bubble-like objects rose from the hatch as it sprung open. At 5 min 49 second, a bubble attached to the astronaut's helmet. At 6 min 42 seconds, bubbles swiftly came out of the cabin. On the left corner of the video, bubbles gushed out at an angle at 7 min 17 seconds into the video.

A blogger, who is a physicist, commented in a Chinese Epoch Times article that, assuming the operation was conducted in the water, the bubbles rose faster than they would have if the water was not propelled using a wave-blower. Wave blowers are commonly used in underwater space-training exercises to simulate the weightlessness of space.

It wouldn't shock me.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:03 AM
I Agree With The WSJ

Chris Dodd should be the one on the stand, under oath.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:13 AM
The Enigma Of Obama

I have a piece today at Pajamas media, on the lies and spin of the Obama campaign, and his enablers in the media.

[Update late morning]

I should note, of course (though shouldn't it go without saying?) that because I wrote this piece, like Roger Simon, I am a racist.

[Afternoon update]

I have to confess that I'm perplexed by the foolish comments that I, or John McCain, should be "going after" Walter Annenberg, or the Annenberg Foundation, or "charging them" with...something. What does that mean?

There is nothing illegal about funding leftist activities with philanthropy. I don't even think that it should be. But I do think that the voters are entitled to know when one of their presidential candidates is involved with it. If Walter Annenberg were running for president, and doing the same things that Barack Obama is, and has done, I'd be saying exactly the same things about him. But he's not.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:20 AM

October 09, 2008

Just For The Record

I made a crack in comments the other day that the market was tanking in anticipation of an Obama election. Some may have taken it seriously, but it was a joke.

I do think that markets react to potential election outcomes in general, but in this case, I suspect that there are much deeper issues going on, and given that John McCain has shown himself to be (as he has confessed in the past) as clueless on the economy and economics as Barack Obama, there's probably not much street preference one way or the other. The folks in the pits are probably not even thinking about the election at this point.

While I'm not a conservative, I sure wish that there was at least one in the race, in terms of the economy.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:29 PM
An Idle Question

How widespread is the voter registration fraud that ACORN has been responsible for? How much has it artificially boosted Democrat registration numbers this year?

There are two factors that have increased Dem registration this year. One is the efforts by ACORN and similar groups. The other is the significant numbers of Republicans who switched to Democrat so that they could vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. The first group isn't going to vote for Obama because they don't exist, to a large extent. The second group is going to vote for John McCain.

All of the likely (and even registered) voter polls are skewed to sample Dems more because of this perceived increase in Democrat voters. But if much of that increase is illusory, due to the factors described above, are the polls overstating support for Obama?

[Update late evening]

Iowahawk is on the case in defense of a truly defenseless minority: ACORN files suit on behalf of the voting rights of Imaginary-Americans:

"Whether we are obituary notices, hallucinatory giant rabbits, or strings of random keyboard strokes, it's time for the chimera community to stand up and claim our rights as citizens," said ASDFG. "We will no longer be silent and invisible. Okay, maybe invisible."

In addition to $3.2 jubajillion in damages and free federal mortgages for homeless spectres, the suit also seeks enforcement of the Americans with Dimensional Disabilities Act. The Act requires voting places to make accommodations for existentially-challenged voters who have trouble completing ballots written in standard 3-dimensional reality. The accommodations include multiple site registration, time travel, and allowances for alcoholics to cast ballots for dependent D.T. phantasms.

"Many of our community inhabit the Tapioca subluster of the 11th Dimension, and it's hard for them to find a convenient spacehole to make it to the local elementary school," explained ASDFG.

Classic. And one that I wish that I'd thought of. Though as always, Burge does a much better job with the concept than I would have, anyway.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:06 PM

I don't know what the penalties under the law are, but with the stories about people being hounded to register multiple times, I'd like to not only see their funding cut off, but a lot of people do jail time.

[Update mid afternoon]

Geraghty has more:

So we have an organization that has been joined at the hip with Obama from the beginning of his career, whose members have been convicted in Washington state, Wisconsin and Colorado, and had various forms of reprimand, investigation, indictment, and other run-ins with the law and state election authorities in Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, Arkansas. Perhaps most disturbingly, the organization has repeatedly entrusted convicted felons with voters' most sensitive personal information, sort of a small business assistance program for aspiring identity thieves.

Is it time for Americans to tell ACORN to get out of their faces? Or perhaps for law enforcement to get into their faces? Or perhaps some media entity should get in Obama's face about why one of his longtime allies keeps coming up in investigations of vote fraud?

If people don't care about Bill Ayers, they should certainly care about this. It's happening right now, less than a month before the election, not when Barack Obama was eight years old.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:45 AM

October 08, 2008

Serve Them Right

Some tips to prevent campaign sign stealing.

Funny, but I haven't heard of any stories about Obama/Biden signs being stolen.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:08 PM
Say It Ain't So, "O" (Part Three)

Is/was Barack Obama a member of Democratic Socialists of America? It sure looks like it.

No worries--they were probably just guys in his neighborhood.

Between these folks and Ayers and Dorhn (who are no doubt members as well, unless it wasn't radical enough for them), it sounds like a pretty bad neighborhood.

[Update a few minutes later]

Jonah Goldberg wonders if Senator Obama ever read his home-town newspaper.

And then of course there was Ayers' own autobiography, the profile in the NY Times in which Ayers casually said he'd wished he'd made more bombs etc.

I don't know Chicago well. But my sense of the place is that they take politics pretty seriously there. Young, very smart and hyper ambitious politicians like Obama tend to read the local paper (never mind the New York Times, which ran a couple dozen stories mentioning Ayers and his terrorist ties between 1990 and 2004). The political class in Chicago knows who everybody is, where they came from, what they believe. They tend to learn about people who give them jobs, money and political opportunities. And, people like Ayers don't exactly keep their views or radical past a closely guarded secret, particularly when they remain unreprentant.

In short, I think it's a lie -- and a pretty stupid one -- to say that Obama didn't know about any of this. The obvious answer is he just didn't care.

Yes, just like Reverend Wright's rantings. It was no problem. Until, that is,it became politically inconvenient to him. He is lying about his relationship with Ayers, which means that he was also almost certainly lying about not knowing what was being preached in his church of twenty years. Why should we believe anything he says?

[Update late morning]

It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood, with advice columns from Barack's and Michelle's neighbors:

Dear Mary Ellen: Your question is borne of bourgeois ignorance and manufactured consent. A violent revolution is coming, and the workers will throw off the chains of their oppression and rise up in a bloody revolt against AmeriKKKa's legacy of racism, genocide, and hegemonic corporatist empire. In the coming revolution, the state and its propagandist education apparatus will wither away, thus ushering in a new age of proletarian enlightenment. All education will be free, and all children, including yours, will be rescued from their bourgeois shackles and freed to join the vanguard for permanent revolution.

Bernadine has legal advice as well. Also, grooming tips from Rod.

[Afternoon update]

The memory hole doesn't work so well any more, what with web archives. Politically Drunk has found some pages that had been previously scrubbed that confirm Senator Obama's membership in the New Party:

From the October 1996 Update of the DSA 'New Party': "New Party members are busy knocking on doors, hammering down lawn signs, and phoning voters to support NP candidates this fall. Here are some of our key races...

Illinois: Three NP-members won Democratic primaries last Spring and face off against Republican opponents on election day: Danny Davis (U.S. House), Barack Obama (State Senate) and Patricia Martin (Cook County Judiciary)."

Beyond the archived web page from the Socialist New Party is the recognition by the "Progressive Populist" magazine in November 1996 that Obama was indeed an acknowledged member of the Socialist Party.

"New Party members and supported candidates won 16 of 23 races, including an at-large race for the Little Rock, Ark., City Council, a seat on the county board for Little Rock and the school board for Prince George's County, Md. Chicago is sending the first New Party member to Congress, as Danny Davis, who ran as a Democrat, won an overwhelming 85% victory. New Party member Barack Obama was uncontested for a State Senate seat from Chicago."

Is there any record of Senator Obama demanding a correction to the publications?

Next, I expect him to say "that's not the Democratic Socialist Party that I knew..."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:21 AM
Obama Stock up 2 to 72

As of press time, Obama is trading at $0.72 on Intrade up 2 from yesterday (stock pays $1.00 if Obama wins). It dipped as low as $0.66 last night.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 04:10 AM

October 07, 2008

McCain Is Losing The Debate

Because he's an idiot. Which is why I didn't support him as the Republican nominee.

[After the end of the debate]

Well, if McCain is going to win the election, it sure didn't happen tonight.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 PM

Should American writers secede from the Nobel Prize for literature?

There was a brief moment, after World War II, when the Nobel Committee allowed that America might produce more sophisticated writers. No one on either side of the Atlantic would quarrel with the awards to William Faulkner in 1949 or Ernest Hemingway in 1954. But in the 32 years since Bellow won the Nobel, there has been exactly one American laureate, Toni Morrison, whose critical reputation in America is by no means secure. To judge by the Nobel roster, you would think that the last three decades have been a time of American cultural drought rather than the era when American culture and language conquered the globe.

But that, of course, is exactly the problem for the Swedes. As long as America could still be regarded as Europe's backwater--as long as a poet like T.S. Eliot had to leave America for England in order to become famous enough to win the Nobel--it was easy to give American literature the occasional pat on the head. But now that the situation is reversed, and it is Europe that looks culturally, economically, and politically dependent on the United States, European pride can be assuaged only by pretending that American literature doesn't exist. When Engdahl declares, "You can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world," there is a poignant echo of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard insisting that she is still big, it's the pictures that got smaller.

Nothing gives the lie to Engdahl's claim of European superiority more effectively than a glance at the Nobel Prize winners of the last decade or so. Even Austrians and Italians didn't think Elfriede Jelinek and Dario Fo deserved their prizes; Harold Pinter won the prize about 40 years after his significant work was done. To suggest that these writers are more talented or accomplished than the best Americans of the last 30 years is preposterous.

Other than that I think Hemingway is vastly overrated, and ample fodder for parody, I agree. The Peace prizes have been a joke since Arafat and Rigoberto Menchu (not to mention Jimmy Carter), and I think that the literature prizes have gone the same way, decades ago.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:10 PM
Pants On Fire

CNN (of all places) essentially calls Barack Obama a liar:

Griffin also tells a somewhat nonplussed Cooper that Obama has lied about his "coming out party" at the home of William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn in 1995. Obama has said that Alice Palmer arranged the fundraiser and the venue, but Griffin spoke to two people who attended the event, who claim Obama lied. Palmer had nothing to do with that event outside of being invited to it. Obama and Ayers planned the event themselves.

The story never made much sense. Why would Ayers and Dohrn allow their house to be used for an event in which they had no role? I wonder how long he's been falsely fingering Palmer for it? I'm betting that he never told this fairy tale until recently, when it suddenly (and inexplicably, to him) became a potential campaign issue.

And of course, the next question is, if he's lying about this, what else is he lying to us about? After all, as Senator McCain pointed out yesterday, for a guy who has written two books about himself, his life hasn't been anything close to an open book.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:46 AM
SF For Voters

I've long thought that people who don't read, or haven't read science fiction are much more ill-prepared for the future. Well, in the near future, we have a presidential election coming up. Here are some suggestions for SF to read in preparation from some notable web pundits.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:19 AM
The Bankruptcy Of Iceland

Thomas James has some space-related thoughts.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:57 AM
More Ayers Thoughts

From Mark Steyn:

The point is not that President-designate Obama is a "close friend" of the unrepentant Ayers, or that he was only eight when his patron was building bombs to kill the women of New Jersey. As Joe Biden would no doubt point out on his entertaining "This Day In History" segment, McCain was only six when Czogolsz killed President McKinley. But I doubt he'd let the guy host a fundraiser for him.

But, in the world in which Obama moves, it would seem absurd and provincial to object to partying with an "unrepentant terrorist." The senator advanced and prospered in a milieu in which men like Ayers are not just accepted but admired for their "passionate participation", and function as power-brokers and path-smoothers. This is a great country, and most of us (as Peter Kirsanow notes below) make it without having to kiss up to America-haters like Ayers and Wright. But not Obama.

Who is this man on course to be 44th president? Apparently, it's not just impolite but racist to ask.

Speaking of which, Sarah Palin apparently handled the racism nonsense from CNN pretty well yesterday.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Jonah Goldberg has some more thoughts on the terrorists"passionate anti-war and civil rights movement" and the contradictions of the fascist left.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:38 AM
Clueless Space Commentary

Jeff Foust has a roundup.

And as I note over there in comments, the Kennedy myth persists:

"Not since John F. Kennedy, has a president truly understood the incalculable value of space..."

Not even then...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:11 AM

Alan Boyle has a story on the latest thinking about Lucy, with a cool artist's rendering. And of course, no post like this is complete without the usual clueless comments by the creationists.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:06 AM

Mickey Kaus points out the foolishness of the press, in imagining that there was ever any possibliity that the media would be supporting McCain.

It's one thing to have pro-Democratic, pro-Obama media favoritism: That's just the way it is. Political reporters have opinions. Better blatant than latent.

It's another to have that very favoritism used as evidence that McCain is blowing it, losing his reputation for "integrity" and his "gold plated brand."

Yes, they only like McCain when he's running against Republicans. The NYT endorsed him in the primary. Does anyone imagine they'll endorse him in the general?

He also has a warning:

It might seem as if the MSM reaction against McCain's shift to negativism has "driven the final nail into his coffin," as Heilemann suggests. The Feiler Faster Thesis says no--given the speed with which the country now processes information, there's plenty of time for several dramatic twists and turns, including lead changes. Obamaphiles (in the press and elsewhere) are deluding themselves, I think, if they think they can ride the economic crisis and the reaction against negativity to victory in a month. Plus Obama's not that far ahead.


Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:51 AM
About Time

UCLA economists have calculated how long FDR extended the Great Depression. Seven years.

Roosevelt's role in lifting the nation out of the Great Depression has been so revered that Time magazine readers cited it in 1999 when naming him the 20th century's second-most influential figure.

"This is exciting and valuable research," said Robert E. Lucas Jr., the 1995 Nobel Laureate in economics, and the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. "The prevention and cure of depressions is a central mission of macroeconomics, and if we can't understand what happened in the 1930s, how can we be sure it won't happen again?"

..."The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes," Cole said. "Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened."

Remember this the next time someone talks about a new "New Deal." The myth of Roosevelt is akin with the current idiotic nonsense being promulgated by Democrats that the financial crisis was a result of "deregulation."

[Update about 9 AM EDT]

Sebastian Mallaby has a nice corrective to the "deregulation" nonsense:

The key financiers in this game were not the mortgage lenders, the ratings agencies or the investment banks that created those now infamous mortgage securities. In different ways, these players were all peddling financial snake oil, but as Columbia University's Charles Calomiris observes, there will always be snake-oil salesmen. Rather, the key financiers were the ones who bought the toxic mortgage products. If they hadn't been willing to buy snake oil, nobody would have been peddling it.

Who were the purchasers? They were by no means unregulated. U.S. investment banks, regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, bought piles of toxic waste. U.S. commercial banks, regulated by several agencies, including the Fed, also devoured large quantities. European banks, which faced a different and supposedly more up-to-date supervisory scheme, turn out to have been just as rash. By contrast, lightly regulated hedge funds resisted buying toxic waste for the most part -- though they are now vulnerable to the broader credit crunch because they operate with borrowed money.

If that doesn't convince you that deregulation is the wrong scapegoat, consider this: The appetite for toxic mortgages was fueled by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the super-regulated housing finance companies. Calomiris calculates that Fannie and Freddie bought more than a third of the $3 trillion in junk mortgages created during the bubble and that they did so because heavy government oversight obliged them to push money toward marginal home purchasers. There's a vigorous argument about whether Calomiris's number is too high. But everyone concedes that Fannie and Freddie poured fuel on the fire to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

As he points out, it's important to understand the actual cause, because if we misdiagnose the disease, we're likely to come up with nostrums that make it worse, just as FDR's "brain trust" did. And that's exactly the path we're on with Obama. McCain may make similar mistakes, but with him, at least it's not a sure thing.

[Mid-morning update]

Glenn Reynolds has some thoughts on the upcoming speculative bubble in regulation. I agree that we need to design the system to be much more fault tolerant.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:43 AM
Playing The Rubes

Jen Rubin:

...more than hypocrisy is at work here. It is not just far Left, American-hating radicals he now disowns. You get the sense that he believes everyone can be played. Rashid Khalidi can believe that Obama finds no one suffers more than the Palestinians. Jews can buy that he was moved by the Holocaust from a summer camp experience. Voters in his Congressional race in 1990 can be told that there is no difference ideologically between him and 100% ADA-rated Bobby Rush, but the rest of the state in 2004 (and eventually the country) can buy that he's a post-partisan reformer. Terrorists come to believe he shares their scorn for America, but Iowa voters hear him talk about his appreciation that only in America could his story have happened. Primary voters in Ohio are coddled with protectionist promises - and then privately scorned while he is talking to San Fransciso liberal donors.

There is no end to it -- everyone gets the version of Obama that perfectly fits his own world view. It is not hypocrisy. It's fraud. Whatever he told or shared with Ayers, Dohrn, Wright, or Pfleger counts for no more that what he told or shared with other now inconvenient groups and individuals. He's sold the same piece of political real estate to multiple buyers for multiple, conflicting uses.

Unfortunately, so far, he's been right, taking a page from P. T. Barnum, and the sucker production rate has increased quite a bit with the population increase over the past century. You can't fool all of the people all of the time, but unfortunately, you can fool enough of them to get elected.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:55 AM
As If We Needed One

Radley Balko has another reason to fear an Obama/Biden presidency--increasing federalization of crime:

Since the vice-presidential pick, Obama and Biden have embraced criminal justice policies geared toward a larger federal presence in law enforcement, a trend that started in the Nixon administration and that has skewed local police priorities toward the slogan-based crime policies of Congress, like "more arrests" and "stop coddling criminals."


Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:52 AM

October 06, 2008

Space Weather

We're going to be hit by an asteroid tonight. The angle is such that it will just be a spectacular fireball. But it's nice that we're finally getting to a position from which we can predict these things. The next step is to be able to prevent them, if necessary. Too bad that almost nothing that NASA is doing is contributing to that, at least with the manned spaceflight program.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:21 PM
Democrats Against Obama

I suspect that there are a lot more of these folks than there are Republicans against McCain. And they've connected the ACORN dots between Obama, the Dems in Congress and the housing meltdown.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:49 AM
Don't Forget Bernadine

Bob Owens notes that it's not just Bill Ayers. And he also points out the absurdity of thinking that one could be a member of the Weatherman at all, let alone a founder, and not have murderous intent:, the campaign's official website, offers up a "fact check" that Obama was just eight years old when the Weathermen were active in 1969. The Obama campaign has tried to use the founding date of the Weathermen as a touchstone, claiming that the acts of the group were something that happened "40 years ago" when Obama was a child. Far closer to the truth is the December 6, 1990, sentencing date of Weathermen Susan Rosenberg and Linda Sue Evans, when the last of the Weathermen were sentenced for their role in a string of bombings in the mid-1980s, including bombs that detonated at the National War College, the Washington Navy Yard Computing Center, the Washington Navy Yard Officers' Club, New York City's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Israeli Aircraft Industries Building, New York City's South African Consulate, and the United States Capitol Building.

Barack Obama's ties to the Weathermen aren't ties that were 40 years removed from a child's experiences, but the conscious decision of a young radical to establish a relationship to an infamous terrorist because of shared ideology and interests.

Barack Obama never set any bombs. But he's never had problems with associating with those who did.

This talking point that Obama was "only eight years old" is stupid, as is anyone who buys it.

[Afternoon update]

Abe Greenwald has more:

Okay, let's go with that judgment thing, shall we. Barack Obama served on the board of an educational organization headed by a terrorist bomber. He launched his political career in said bomber's home. He then went on to serve two years alongside said bomber on the board of a "charitable" organization. Not quite done, Obama gave the bomber the gift of an enthusiastic blurb for the bomber's book jacket. Even if Obama's preposterous new claim about not knowing who Bill Ayers was was true in 1995, was it true in 1997 when Obama, then state senator, endorsed Ayers's book? Had he not yet found out the identity of his buddy by 2000, when he took the position serving with Ayers on the board of the Woods Fund? Did no one slip him a note over the next two years reading, "Don't indicate that you're reading this note, but the guy next to you is a terrorist"? Frankly, if Obama didn't find out that Bill Ayers is a terrorist until it came up during the primary, then there's more to worry about than the candidate's political leanings.

No kidding.

[Early evening update]

Here's a flash from the past. A 2001 piece by David Horowitz about the terrorist couple:

This is the banal excuse of common criminals - the devil made me do it. "I don't think you can understand a single thing we did," explains the pampered Weatherman bomber Bill Ayers "without understanding the violence of the Vietnam War."

I interviewed Ayers ten years ago, in a kindergarten classroom in uptown Manhattan where he was employed to shape the minds of inner city children. Dressed in bib overalls with golden curls rolling below his ears, Ayers reviewed his activities as a terrorist for my tape recorder. When he was done, he broke into a broad, Jack Horner grin and summed up his experience: "Guilty as hell. Free as a bird. America is a great country."

That would have been 1991. This was a man who would later be put in charge of millions of dollars, with Barack Obama, to propagandize and radicalize Chicago schoolchildren. Either Obama had no problem with his past, or he was unaware of it. I don't believe the latter. But either way, I don't want him to be running the country. For all we know, he'll appoint Ayers to be head of the Department of Education.

[Evening update]

"Bill Ayers has never hidden the fact that he was part of the Weather Underground, part of this radical group. In some ways it has made him somewhat famous in the South Side, Hyde Park, Chicago neighborhood where he lives."

I guess we're supposed to believe that he somehow only hid it from Barack Obama.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:07 AM
More Connecting The Dots

Steve Diamond (no Republican he, I'm guessing) has been doing an excellent job in pulling together the story of Barack Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers and other sixties neo-Stalinist radicals, and the shared agendas, particularly in the area of education. Just keep reading and scrolling.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:37 AM
The War On The Second Amendment

By Barack Obama. Unfortunately, the story doesn't lend itself well to a thirty-second ad.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:47 AM
Off To The Movies

I very rarely see a movie in a theater. I'd say it averages once or twice a year (though we did see Dark Knight a couple months ago--the last one before that was The Astronaut Farmer). But tonight Patricia and I are going out to see American Carol to boost its opening weekend ratings (plus, it looks like it should be pretty funny, and I think we can all use a good laugh right now, given current events). At this point, I'm all about promoting and encouraging alternate media/viewpoints, particularly from Hollywood. I may or may not review it tomorrow.

[Monday morning update]


It was entertaining, and a good story, but not roll-in-the-aisles funny, at least for us. Of course, I've never been that big a Zucker/slapstick fan (e.g., I've never even seen any of the Naked Gun series). It's not the sort of flick that I would normally want to see in a theater, but I was happy to help boost the first weekend ratings. Of course, unlike the previous ones, there are some emotionally affecting moments in this one (quickly broken up, of course, by more crude slapstick).

So if you want to support this sort of politically incorrect movie (always a noble goal, in my opinion), spend a couple hours and spend the ten bucks. You'll have a good time, but don't expect too much.

[Note: this post has been bumped to the top, new stuff below]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:42 AM
Obama's Space Pro-Activity

The Obama campaign seems to have gotten way out front of the McCain campaign on space. The problem is that, like its domestic policy in general, McCain doesn't seem to have a coherent policy with regard to civil space. He's going to freeze discretionary, which includes NASA, and whether NASA will be exempt seems to depend on which campaign aide you ask. And regardless of how much money is spent, the campaign is equally vague on how it is spent, and what the near-term and long-term goals of the expenditure are. On top of that, the McCain campaign has lumped in the new Obama proposal to increase the NASA budget by two billion with a lot of so-called liberal spending proposals. As Jeff Foust notes, it's a little mind blowing, politically.

Obama, after having gotten off on the wrong foot with the initial idiotic proposal to delay Constellation to provide funds for education, seems to have actually gotten inside McCain's OODA loop on this issue. The McCain campaign really needs a smart political adviser in this area (as Obama apparently has now with Lori Garver, who seems to successfully jumped ship from Hillary's campaign), but there's no evidence that they've come up with one yet.

Of course, it's not an issue on which the election will hang, probably not even in Florida.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here's a little more at NASA Watch. It seems to be a disconnect between the McCain campaign and the RNC. Which, of course, doesn't make it any better, or excuse it.

[Another update a few minutes later]

Well, this would seem to clarify the McCain position:

Perhaps more important were McCain's remarks on Wednesday that only the Pentagon and veterans would see a budget increase in his administration because of the high price the proposed economic bail out. Everything else - including, presumably, NASA -- will be frozen or cut. Several space advocates in Florida and Washington DC expect the worst.

As I said, it isn't clear that space will be a key issue, even in Florida. But if the McCain campaign position is that the budget is going to be frozen, they should at least put forth a description of how they expect, and will require, NASA's priorities to change to accommodate it. So far, there's zero evidence that they've even given the matter any thought.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:38 AM
Seven Apollos

Alan Boyle has come up with a new set of science-project-based monetary units to get our heads around the costs of the bailout.

This sort of thing provides support for the politically naive argument for more money for one's pet project, e.g., "we could do seven Apollos for the cost of one Iraq war--surely we can afford at least one." But federal budget dollars aren't fungible, and the political importance of various choices isn't necessarily consistent, either, due to the vagaries of how these decisions are made. Note also that, at the time, getting to the moon in a hurry was important for reasons having little or nothing do to with space. It's unreasonable to expect those particular political stars to align again.

Not to mention the fact that because we were in a hurry, we chose an architecture and path that was economically and politically unsustainable. Just as NASA's current path is, which is no surprise, considering that they chose to recapitulate Apollo, rather than building an incremental affordable infrastructure that would provide the basis for true spacefaring.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:28 AM

October 05, 2008

Dear Leader

There's a new Obama music video up.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:10 PM
Say It Ain't So, "O" (Part Two)

Illegal fundraising by the Obama campaign? Who would have thought?

I wonder how much of that foreign money comes from oil wealth.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:33 AM
Mrs. Grievance

I guess that being overambitious, and impatient with your current position isn't confined to Barack Obama. He and Michelle were made for each other:

At big firms, much of the work that falls to young associates involves detail and tedium. There were all sorts of arcane but important rules about what could and could not be said or done in product advertisements, and in the marketing group, all the associates, not just the new ones, reviewed scripts for TV commercials to make sure they conformed. As far as associate work goes, it could have been worse -- "Advertising is a little sexier than spending a full year reading depositions in an antitrust law suit or reviewing documents for a big merger," says White -- but it was monotonous and relatively low-level.

Too monotonous for Michelle, who, White says, complained that the work he gave her was unsatisfactory. He says he gave her the Coors beer ads, which he considered one of the more glamorous assignments they had. Even then, he says, "she at one point went over my head and complained [to human resources] that I wasn't giving her enough interesting stuff, and the person came down to my office and said, 'Basically she's complaining that she's being treated like she's a second-year associate,' and we agreed that she was a second-year associate. I had eight or nine other associates, and I couldn't start treating one of them a lot better."

White says he talked to Michelle about her expectations, but the problem could not be resolved because the work was what it was. He is not sure any work he had would have satisfied her. "I couldn't give her something that would meet her sense of ambition to change the world."

She and Barack are going to make us work. Arbeit macht frei.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:03 AM

October 04, 2008

Even Deeper In The Tank

The New York Times continues to act as the propaganda arm of the Obama campaign:

Steve Diamond has made a powerful case that, whoever first suggested Obama's name, Ayers must surely have had a major role in his final selection. Diamond has now revealed that the Times consulted him extensively for this article and has seen his important documentary evidence. Yet we get no inkling in the piece of Diamond's key points, or the documents that back it up. (I've made a similar argument myself, based largely on my viewing of many of the same documents presented by Diamond.) How can an article that gives only one side of the story be fair? Instead of offering both sides of the argument and letting readers decide, the Times simply spoon-feeds its readers the Obama camp line.

The Times also ignores the fact that I've published a detailed statement from the Obama camp on the relationship between Ayers and Obama at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. (See "Obama's Challenge.") Maybe that's because attention to that statement would force them to acknowledge and report on my detailed reply.

Yup. Wouldn't fit the narrative.

[Mid afternoon update]

Instapundit has a roundup of links discussing this.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:07 AM
The Chinese Space Program Has Come A Long Way


[From Bruce Webster, via email]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:56 AM

October 03, 2008

Presidential Stock Market Response to VP Debate

Obama is still trading as a 2-1 favorite on Intrade after the debate and has even moved up a point since yesterday's close to 66 cents (for a security that pays one dollar if he wins) as of press time. But Palin has earned her stripes. The "Palin to be withdrawn from the ticket" security has dropped from ten cents yesterday to 4 which is a penny less than "Biden to be withdrawn from the ticket". My opinion? Palin's the best of the four and should have been thrown to the media wolves so they could patronize her and have it backfire, so she could continue framing the debate, and so she could dominate the late-night talk shows and comedy shows. It's not too late for her to make a circuit of the late night TV shows. Parody is a high form of praise. CNN reported that she did less than five interviews to Biden's 100+. I don't see McCain changing that now. I hope she runs in 2012 and if necessary 2016.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 08:27 AM

October 02, 2008

Missed Opportunity

I'm watching the debate, but not attempting to live blog it. But I have to say that while Palin is doing fine in general, she missed a huge opportunity. When Biden kept going on about how he and The One were going to "end" the war, she should have said, "Senator, you, Senator Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry all keep talking about ending the war. But Americans don't want to just end a war. They want to win the war. Why can you not let the word "victory" pass your lips when it comes America and the Iraq war?"

[Update a few minutes later]

Well, she keeps saying "win the war" and he keeps saying "end the war," so maybe the point will come across subtly, but it would have been a big blow had she pointed it out.

I have to say that Biden has been surprisingly gaffe free. He's told lots of whoppers, but no big gaffes.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 PM
Sarah Biden's Gaffes

McCain should have dropped this idiot from the ticket weeks ago.

By the way, sorry for the light live blogging of the workshop, but I had some side meetings this afternoon. More in the morning.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:04 PM

October 01, 2008

It Can't Be A Real Crisis

The latest version of the bailout bill has new earmarks in it. As Mark Steyn explains:

I suppose sophisticated insiders would assure me that regrettably there's no possibility of earmark reform; this is just the price of doing business in Washington. But that's why non-sophisticated non-insiders hold the political class in contempt. The same blowhards who run for office on a platform of lowering ocean levels and healing the planet then turn around and insist they're unable to do anything about the one small area of human endeavor for which they bear sole responsibility.

If this is an emergency, hold the wool research. If it's an emergency that's got time for wool research, let's chew it over for another few months.

And they wonder why their approval rating is even lower than Bush's?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:22 AM
Half A Century Of NASA

I have some fiftieth birthday thoughts over at Pajamas Media.

[Early afternoon update]

Well, this is annoying. A screwed-up history from Time magazine:

NASA was actually founded in 1915 and at the time was known as the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics -- or NACA. Its job was to keep the nation abreast of the latest developments in the then-nascent technology of powered flight. NACA was established with good intentions but operated mostly as a bureaucratic backwater, a government body that couldn't hope to keep up with a rapidly evolving private industry. In 1957, however, all that changed. That was the year the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik, the first Earth satellite -- and in the process, scared the daylights out of the U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower acted quickly, dusting off NACA and renaming it NASA -- for National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On October 1, 1958, the new agency officially went into business.

No, NASA was not NACA, or "founded in 1915." NACA was a completely different kind of animal. It had nothing to do with space, and it was not an operational organization. It was a basic research outfit, and viewed the aviation industry as its customer, providing data and resources that allowed them to build better airplanes.

Sadly, once it was absorbed into the borg of the new space and aeronautics agency fifty years ago, it lost that focus, and the new entity largely saw itself as the customer, and the space industry as its contractors. Many argue that we need to return to a NACA philosophy for space, but it's extremely misleading and confusing to state that NASA is NACA, and that its history goes back over ninety years. In fact, it is false.

He also doesn't really explain why JSC is in Houston. Yes, Johnson was happy to have the mission control center in Texas, but Texas is a big state, and there are no particular geographical requirements for mission control (unlike, e.g., a launch site). It could as easily have been in Dallas or elsewhere. It was established in Houston because Rice University donated a lot of land for it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:19 AM
Getting The UN Involved

Plans to set up international efforts to deal with the asteroid threat continue.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:17 AM

September 30, 2008

That Many?

Rasmussen says that a quarter of the public thinks that lawmakers know what they're doing in an economic crisis. He says it is "only" that much, but it seems way too high for my comfort. What are they, idiots?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:56 AM
No Fascism Here

Nothing to see at all. Move along, move along.

As Jonah says:

All I need to know about your politics is whether you find this creepy or not.

Get out the crayolas and color me creeped out.

[Update mid afternoon]

Die Obamajugend Singt.

Roger Simon (who knows his fascists) has more thoughts.

[Update a few minutes later]

Some great comments at the Hit'n'Run link.:

[Olympics flashback]

The worst part is that the original singers were all replaced by much cuter kids.

[/Olympics flashback]

[Update about 3:15 PM EDT]

Exurban League has more, as does Confederate Yankee. It turns out to be astroturf:

Here's a partial list of those who helped produce this "grassroots" effort:

Jeff Zucker. This generation's Leni Riefenstahl. Except without the talent.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:48 AM
Connecting The Dots

A long, detailed piece on Barack Obama, his associations, and the long-term plans to radicalize the nation through manufactured crises. And it's a story that we continue not to hear from the press, as they have reporters up in Alaska going through the Palin family trash cans.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:25 AM
Hot Kinky IMacs

Barack's teleprompter is very demanding

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 AM
It Must Have Been A Real Emergency

As I noted yesterday, Speaker Pelosi's partisan lies were a clear sign to members on both sides of the aisle that she didn't take this crisis seriously. Or, to be fair, the alternative explanation: that she is an abject moron (a proposition for which abundant evidence is available from over the years). Now here is more evidence of at least the former notion:

...considering that only a dozen votes needed to switch in order to provide a different outcome, and 95 Democrats in the House voted against it, critics are now wondering why couldn't House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have assured a different outcome considering how important she said its passage was?

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., told me yesterday that he felt no pressure at all to vote for the bill.

Some leader.

In other words, it had nothing to do with saving the financial markets. It was for raw partisan advantage. The tragic and infuriating thing is that, even though Congress has an even lower rating than George Bush (and if it's possible for an approval rating to go negative, it probably did so after yesterday's clown show), many of these creatures will probably be reelected, due both to gerrymandered districts, and the unfortunate psychological notion that people hate Congress, but unaccountably think that their own Congressperson is great.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:52 AM
What Went Wrong

Tom Sowell explains, as only he can:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not deserve to be bailed out, but neither do workers, families and businesses deserve to be put through the economic wringer by a collapse of credit markets, such as occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Neither do the voters deserve to be deceived on the eve of an election by the idea this is a failure of free markets that should be replaced by political micro-managing.

Nothing about this makes me more angry than the continued lies by the collectivists that this was a failure of the free market.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:49 AM

September 29, 2008

Please, Get Well

And live a thousand years.

Only P.J. O'Rourke could write an hilarious column about his cancer diagnosis:

Why can't death -- if we must have it -- be always glorious, as in "The Iliad"? Of course death continues to be so, sometimes, with heroes in Fallouja and Kandahar. But nowadays, death more often comes drooling on the toilet seat in the nursing home, or bleeding under the crushed roof of a teen-driven SUV, or breathless in a deluxe hotel suite filled with empty drug bottles and a minor public figure whose celebrity expiration date has passed.

I have, of all the inglorious things, a malignant hemorrhoid. What color bracelet does one wear for that? And where does one wear it? And what slogan is apropos? Perhaps that slogan can be sewn in needlepoint around the ruffle on a cover for my embarrassing little doughnut buttocks pillow.

Furthermore, I am a logical, sensible, pragmatic Republican, and my diagnosis came just weeks after Teddy Kennedy's. That he should have cancer of the brain, and I should have cancer of the ass ... well, I'll say a rosary for him and hope he has a laugh at me. After all, what would I do, ask God for a more dignified cancer? Pancreatic? Liver? Lung?

I don't believe in God, but it he's there, please bless him.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:49 PM
The "Obama Effect"

I think that this isn't going to be an isolated case:

My husband's business is a canary in the coalmine. When tax policies are favorable to business, he hires more guys, buys more goods, etc. When he is taxed more heavily, he fires people, doesn't buy anything new, etc. Well, duh. So, at the mere thought of a President Obama, he has paid off his debt, canceled new spending, and jotted a list of whom to "let go."

The first of the guys will get the news tomorrow. And these are not minimum-wage earners. These are "rich" guys, making between $200,000 and $250,000 a year.

My husband will make sure that we're okay, money-wise, but he won't give himself a paycheck that will just be sent to Washington. He'll make sure that he's not in "rich guy" tax territory. So, he will not spend his money, not show a profit, and scale his workforce down to the bare minimum.

Multiply this scenario across the country and you'll see the Obama effect: unemployment, recession, etc. No business owner will vote for this man, but many a "middle-class worker" will vote himself out of a job. Sad the Republican can't articulate this.

Unfortunately, the Republicans nominated the wrong candidate for that. Maybe the vice-presidential nominee can.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:40 PM
Pelosi Question

Is she (and Harry Reid) so stupid and partisan that she imagines that after that press conference last night, that she opened up by blaming George Bush and the Republicans for the mess, that she was going to get bi-partisan support for the bailout today?

That was a rhetorical question, of course.

[Update about 3:25 PM EDT]

Note that I didn't post this with the knowledge that the bill would fail, or that it would fail for exactly that reason. It was just a thought that I had last night while listening to her presser that I didn't get around to blogging until this afternoon. But only an idiot would have thought that this wouldn't have a negative effect on the proceedings. That's our Nancy, third in line for the presidency.

[Update late afternoon]

Roger Kimball explains how we got here, and who caused it. Don't expect to hear it from CBSNBCABCCNN. Or NYT.

[Evening update]

David Bernstein has further thoughts:

Speaker Pelosi's speech before the House today was remarkable, but not in a good way. She was trying to round up votes for a bailout package that shes claims to believe is essential for the stability of the American economy. She can't, and doesn't want to, pass the bill without a substantial number of Republican votes. So what does she do? You would think she would say, "let's pass this emergency measure now, in the best interests of the country, and talk about who is to blame later." Instead, Pelosi began her speech with a highly partisan tirade against "Bush" and "Republican" economic policies, which were allegedly to blame for this situation. She focused on an attack on the growth of federal deficits, which clearly are at best tangential to the current crisis. That, to me, is the sort of irresponsible thing you do when (a) you're not claiming there is a vast emergency; and (b) you are in the minority, and not claiming to exercise leadership. [Commenters point out that Republican Housemember were acting equally irresponsibly to the extent they rose to Pelosi's bait and voted against the bailout out of pique at Pelosi. True. But the Speaker of the House is a leader, not just a random member of the House, and her actions inevitably and justifiably get more scrutiny than those of her colleagues.]

That's right. Of course, the problem is that she doesn't see herself as the leader of the House, or a leader of the country. She sees herself as a leader of the Democrat Party, first and foremost, and it shows in her every action.

I sure wish that the historically low approval rating of Congress would translate into a new job title for her in a few weeks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:58 AM
What Wasn't Discussed On Friday Night

Shubber Ali noticed an omission, that surprises neither of us.

As I continue to point out, space isn't important. Unless it somehow gets kids to study their math and science.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:52 AM
"Slippery Slope To Socialism"

According to Congressmen Hensarling.

Yes, it's one that we started sliding down over seventy years ago. Unfortunately, though, many of his colleagues (including many in the media) see that as a feature, not a bug. As does at least one of the presidential candidates.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:56 AM
A Tale Of Two Candidates

Mark Hemingway notes the ongoing double standard of the press:

Not that these things are to be excused out of hand, but Palin bends zoning rules -- which I'm sure are stringent and a high stakes matter in Wasilla, Alaska -- and gets a free facial. Obama gets a freakin' house with help from someone indicted for money laundering, wire fraud, extortion and corrupt solicitation; has someone raising money for his campaign with well-publicized ties to organized crime; and the Illinois attorney general is currently looking into how Obama earmarked $100,000 for a former campaign volunteer who never spent the money for its intended purpose -- and yet, I don't see too many "investigations" decrying Obama's transparently false claims he practices a "new" kind of politics.

I guess that my thesis is going to be tested. We're seeing exactly the same behavior from the Fourth Estate regarding the Democrat candidate as we saw in 1992--completely ignoring the candidate's unsavory history, and hoping that no one else exposes it, while acting as an adjunct part of his campaign in maintaining the anti-Republican narrative. Will they get away with it again?

We'll see if the blogosphere can make a difference this time.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Well, now we know what a community organizer does. He strong arms banks into making high-risk loans to customers with poor credit.

And he has the audacity of hope that the media won't call him on his hypocrisy in blaming George Bush and the Republicans, and "deregulation" for the current crisis. Unfortunately, his audacity seems to be justified.

Someone should put together an ad, and ask which regulatory agency should have reined in organizer Obama.

[Update mid morning]

Victor Davis Hanson has more on the media double standards:

As I recall Raines was the one who, following the Enron scandals, gave public lectures about corporate responsibility and CEO honesty. And as one begins to read about Raines, James Johnson, Jamie Gorelick, and Leland Brendsel at Freddie Mac, one begins to understand their modus operandi. Freddie and Fannie were landing pads for former Democratic insiders, who milked the agencies for millions in bonuses as they covered their tracks by donations to Congressional candiates and pseudo-racial-populism of helping minorities buy homes with little down. Their careers are every bit as nauseating as anything at Enron -- and yet the press strangely does not go after them in the manner we learned of Ken Lay's deceit. God help us all.

It goes beyond nauseating. It makes me incandescently angry.

[Early afternoon update[

Geraghty has some related thoughts on the Missouri issue:

Think about it, the local television station summarized the story on their web site, "The Barack Obama campaign is asking Missouri law enforcement to target anyone who lies or runs a misleading TV ad during the presidential campaign," and it seems no one at the station blinked; there was nothing in the report that indicated that this might be controversial.

I hate to be glum heading into October, but to a certain extent, an electorate gets the leaders it deserves. If the journalism institutions in a given area nod and smile as they're given information like this -- if it never crosses their mind to object -- then the Fourth Estate, for all extents and purposes, ceases to exist. When Ben Franklin responded to the query about the government that would manage the young nation, "A Republic, if you can keep it," moments like this make you wonder if we're in the process of losing it.

These "reporters" are a product of their environment--public schools and (often) schools of journalism. Is the problem that they don't understand the Bill of Rights, or is it that they don't care about it, if it gets in the way of their preferred candidate? Do they not understand that it is precisely the right being potentially violated here that allows them the freedom to pursue their supposed profession? Either way, it is very dismaying.

"First, they came for the McCain supporters, and I did nothing, because I was not a McCain supporter."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:27 AM

September 28, 2008

Here's The Kind Of Ad Campaign

...that John McCain should have kicked off on Friday by properly responding to Senator Obama's lies and demagoguery on the financial crisis. It's exactly what Fred Thompson would have done, but I fear that out of a misplaced sense of collegiality, McCain won't do it.

The problem is, that in his heart, McCain doesn't really believe in free markets, any more than his opponents do. He has an emotional stake in "honor" and "service" over profit, and it makes it tough for him (as Glenn said) to go for the jugular against the corrupt rent seekers and collectivists in Washington, of both parties. Instead, he placidly and pallidly aims for the capillary.

He really needs to read this. As he notes, the problem isn't capitalism. It's politicians.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:46 PM
The Latest In Libel Tourism

You don't have to go overseas any more.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:31 PM
Debate Thoughts

My brief take: Senator Obama won, because he didn't lose. Senator McCain had many, many missed opportunities to hammer him and show him for the fraud that he is.

I also think that Senator Obama did as well as he possibly could have, given his temperament, past actions and positions. But Senator McCain could (and should) have done much better, and if he had, it could have been a knockout, or at least a major blow. I'm glad that there are two more.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:45 AM
More Cost-Plus Contracting Thoughts

In comments at the previous post on this subject, Karl Hallowell comments:

It's not government's job to suck up risk for a contractor. As I see it, if contractors really were giving their best cost estimates, then they're regularly overestimate prices not consistently underestimate them.

The other commenters who seem to think that designing a brand new UAV, or the first successful hit to kill missile (SRHIT/ERINT/PAC-3, not the dead end HOE), or an autonomous helicopter (all things I've been heavily involved with) is something that can and should be done on a fixed-price contract (after all, one bridge is like any other, right?) . . . it can maybe be done, but only if you're willing to let system development take a lot longer.

I don't know who posted this, but it's unrealistic.

Let's give an example of how the real world works in salvaging ships on the high seas:

Salvage work has long been viewed as a form of legal piracy. The insurers of a disabled ship with valuable cargo will offer from 10 to 70 percent of the value of the ship and its cargo to anyone who can save it. If the salvage effort fails, they don't pay a dime. It's a risky business: As ships have gotten bigger and cargo more valuable, the expertise and resources required to mount a salvage effort have steadily increased. When a job went bad in 2004, Titan ended up with little more than the ship's bell as a souvenir. Around the company's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it's known as the $11.6 million bell.

Exactly the scenario where it is claimed that fixed price contracts can't work. Huge risk, lots of uncertainty, time pressure. A similar example is oil well firefighters. As I see it, there's almost no circumstances when government needs to help the contractor with risk. The money, paid when the job is done right, does that. If it's not enough, then nobody takes the contract. Simple as that.

Yes. The reason that cost-plus contracts are preferred by government is that government, by its nature, has an aversion to profit. It's the same sort of economic ignorance that drives things like idiotic "anti-gouging" laws, and it results in the same false economy for the citizens and taxpayers.

The problem isn't that companies are unwilling to bid fixed price on high-tech ventures. The problem is that, in order to do so, they have to build enough profit into the bid to make it worth the risk. But the government views any profit over the standard one in cost-plus contracts (generally less than ten percent) as "obscene," and to allow a company to make more profit than that from a taxpayer-funded project is a "ripoff." So instead, they cap the profit, and reimburse costs, while also having to put into place an onerous oversight process, in terms of cost accounting and periodic customer reviews, that dramatically increases cost to the taxpayer, probably far beyond what they would be if they simply let it out fixed price and ignored the profit. I would argue that instead of the current model of cost-plus, lowest bidder, an acceptance of bid based on the technical merits of the proposal, history and quality of the bidding team, even if the bid cost is higher, will ultimately result in lower costs to the government (and taxpayer).

As I understand it, this is the battle that XCOR (hardly a risk-averse company, at least from a business standpoint) has been waging with NASA for years. XCOR wants to bid fixed price, and accept the risk (and the profits if they can hit their internal cost targets), while NASA wants them to be a cost-plus contractor, with all of the attendant increases in costs, and changes in corporate culture implied by that status.

This is the debate that will have to occur if John McCain wants to make any headway in his stated desire Friday night to get rid of cost-plus contracts. Unfortunately, he's not in a very good philosophical position to argue his case, because he's one of those economic simpletons in Washington who think that making money is ignoble, and that profits are evil, particularly when they're so high as to be "obscene."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:34 AM
Probably Just Scurvy

So, what is the cargo of this Iranian ship headed for Somalia?

Somali pirates suffered skin burns, lost hair and fell gravely ill "within days" of boarding the MV Iran Deyanat. Some of them died...

...This was also confirmed by Hassan Allore Osman, minister of minerals and oil in Puntland, an autonomous region of Somalia.

He headed a delegation sent to Eyl when news of the toxic cargo and illnesses surfaced.

He told one news publication, The Long War Journal, that during the six days he had negotiated with the pirates, a number of them had become sick and died.

"That ship is unusual," he was quoted as saying. "It is not carrying a normal shipment."

The pirates did reveal that they had tried to inspect the ship's cargo containers when some of them fell sick -- but the containers were locked.

Osman's delegation spoke to the ship's captain and its engineer by cellphone, demanding to know more about the cargo.

Initially it was claimed the cargo contained "crude oil"; later it was said to be "minerals".

And Mwangura has added: "Our sources say it contains chemicals, dangerous chemicals."

The symptoms described could be possibly caused by chemical weapons, but the pirates claimed that they didn't open the locked holds (though the holds could have leaked as well). But the symptoms also match radiation poisoning.

But why would the Iranians be shipping WMD of any kind to Somalia? For transhipment elsewhere overland? And if it is radioactive, is it the material for a nuclear weapon, or a dirty bomb?

It will be ironic if it turns out that pirates caught what the CIA didn't (assuming, of course, that they haven't been tracking it).

[Late afternoon update]

Marlon McAvoy emails:

'm a Radiation Protection tech at ORNL. Was formerly a member of the DOE's RAP (Radiological Assistance Program) team, originally tasked and trained mostly for transport incidences, but which was reprioritized after 9-11. Just wanted to offer an observation, which might be old news to you two science geeks.

Skin burns were also reported in this incident. These are normally more associated with beta than the far more penetrating gamma radiation, but there's no way these guys could have gotten beta burns without close exposure to actual, unshielded radioactive material. Gamma can certainly burn the skin, but in which case the victim has sustained an enormous dose and will absolutely die from it, unless the exposure was tightly collimated over a small area.

So, my guess, this seems much more likely to be of chemical rather than radiological origin. But if multiple guys did receive 500+ rem (Roentgen equivalent man) of gamma radiation, our spooks will have no difficulty determining it. We have civilian instrument packages that can map minute fluctuations in background radiation levels; a poorly shielded gamma WMD would look like a magnesium flare to whatever is used by the intelligence community.

Whether they can or should let us civvies know is, of course, another question.

It is indeed.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:18 AM

September 27, 2008

If Only (Part Two)

Andrew Sullivan's dementia is now apparently affecting his hearing.

I wish that he actually had said "horsesh!t." There is never a shortage of worthy opportunities when The One speaks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:10 AM

September 26, 2008

Well, That's New

At least the first time I've heard it.

McCain just called for an end to cost-plus contracts in the debate.

I don't know if they can be eliminated, but they should sure be cut way back. But good luck with that.

I have to say that so far, McCain is not doing very well. He's letting Obama get away with a lot of lies and sophistry, calling him on very little of it.

[Update on Saturday afternoon]

I'm pretty sure that this is the first time that cost-plus contracting has come up in a presidential debate. It was really quite bizarre. I can't imagine that it's an issue on which the election will turn, and I suspect that 90%+ of the listeners had no idea what he was talking about. I'm not even sure that I know what he is talking about (in terms of what the basis of his objection is, and what specific examples in his experience prompted this strange utterance). I doubt that it had much to do with NASA, though--I'm sure that he was thinking of Pentagon contracts, where much larger budgets are at stake, and there have been some recent notable expensive procurement failures.

The good thing is that it's clearly something that he takes seriously, and may try to do something about as president. But I suspect that it would require either an overhaul of A109, or at least a major reinterpretation of it by whoever the new SecDef, NASA administrator, and OMB directors are (not to mention GAO). It would constitute an unimaginably major cultural change in the federal procurement community, in a culture that has developed over several decades.

Which is why I first said, "good luck with that."

[Sunday afternoon update]

Based on some comments, I have a follow-up post to this one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:47 PM
Obama And Gun Rights

Jonathan Gewirtz has some thoughts:

If Obama supported gun rights, many pro-gun people, even Republicans, would support him, because many pro-gun people are single-issue voters on this topic and Obama's opponent has a spotty record on gun rights. (The NRA and pro-gun rights voters have supported pro-gun Democrats in many elections.) Also, if Obama really supported the right to arms, it's likely that many additional Republican, libertarian and independent voters would support him because conservatives and libertarians often interpret a politician's support for the right to arms as a reliable proxy for that politician's support of other individual rights. This point seems especially strong now, since many Republican voters distrust Obama's opponent on free speech, business regulation and other big-govt-vs-individual-rights issues.

So on the one hand we have single-issue pro-gun people opposing Obama on guns, and on the other hand we have people who are primarily Obama partisans, not gun people, arguing that pro-gun people should trust Obama on guns. Who should we believe?

I know who I believe.

I'd also point out that this is one more area (like being post racial, and moderate) where the real Obama is being airbrushed by his supporters to appear to be something he is not.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:21 PM
A History Of Thuggery

Patterico has the story:

...the DNC threatened Sinclair Broadcasting's broadcast license over an anti-Kerry documentary called 'Stolen Honor.' Kerry spokesthug Chad Clanton was quoted as saying: 'I think they're going to regret doing this, and they better hope we don't win.' He hastened to add that it wasn't a threat."

Do you Obamaphiles really want these people in charge of the Justice Department? That doesn't scare you just a little bit?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:03 PM
Gas Lines

I keep hearing about shortages and lines in the south. The last time we had gas lines on any major scale was in the seventies, when oil prices were kept artificially low by federal fiat. Is that what's happening here? Are the "anti-gouging" laws keeping prices too low, and discouraging new supply? For instance, if you can't get any more for it in North Carolina than you can in Ohio, where's the incentive to spend the money to ship it in from there?

Can anyone in the areas where the lines are tell me?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:26 PM

Bill Whittle has some recent experience with it, and resulting thoughts.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:44 PM
Anything Is Possible, I Guess

Is Bill Clinton actually concerned about the country?

...we must remember that Clinton is a centrist (like Bush and, even more, McCain). No one knows, perhaps even Obama himself, what Obama is. Maybe, like many of us, Bill Clinton is genuinely worried. He would know, wouldn't he?

People will look back on this year as they did 1972, and wonder how Obama got the nomination, and why the superdelegates didn't do their jobs.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:02 AM
So What's Stopping Her?

Nancy Pelosi says that the bailout bill has to pass.

OK, Madame Speaker, if you believe that, if it's such a great idea, then why not pass it? Your party controls the House. There is no filibuster as there is in the Senate. There's nothing the House Republicans can do to stop you. So where is the bill?

Obviously, she just wants keister upholstery in case it doesn't work. She wants to get buy-in from the Republicans so that they can share the blame for the taxpayer ripoff. I don't see why they should give it to her. And I also don't see why this isn't pointed out in news stories like this.

Oh, right.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:52 AM
Voter Fraud?

In Ohio.

You'll be as shocked as I was to learn that ACORN is involved.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:35 AM

September 25, 2008

Barack, Constitution Defender


Glenn Reynolds has a link roundup.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:35 PM
Suing A Scumbag

Jack Murtha is going to be sued for slander. Here's hoping that he loses big. It would be great if he'd actually lose his seat in a few weeks, but that's probably too much to hope for.

And I guess my title libels actual bags of scum. Hope they don't sue.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:18 AM
Assault On Entrepreneurs

Obama's plans would be pretty hard on us.

It's not surprising. He's never displayed any knowledge of, or interest in business. If anything, his attitude (and unfortunately, John McCain's as well) is that there is something ignoble about profits (hence his self-righteous preening about his choice of becoming a community organizer instead of "going to Wall Street").

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:46 AM
Defining Rape Down

Jeeeeez. Hint, ladies. Persuasion is not force.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:41 AM
Say It Ain't So, "O"

Corruption in Chicago? Who could imagine such a thing?

Madigan's office has notified Obama's presidential campaign of the probe, which was launched this week. But Obama's actions in awarding the money are not a focus of the investigation, Smith said.

Questions about the grant, though, come as spending on local pet projects has become an issue in Obama's campaign against John McCain.

Obama and Kenny Smith announced the "Englewood Botanic Garden Project" at a January 2000 news conference at Englewood High School. Obama was in the midst of a failed bid to oust South Side Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush for a seat in Congress. The garden -- planned near and under L tracks between 59th Place and 62nd Place -- fell outside of Obama's Illinois Senate district but within the congressional district's borders.

Obama vowed to "work tirelessly" to raise $1.1 million to help Smith's organization turn the City of Chicago-owned lot into an oasis of trees and paths. But Obama lost the congressional race, no more money was raised, and today the garden site is a mess of weeds, chunks of concrete and garbage. The only noticeable improvement is a gazebo.

Guess he got too busy running for the next office.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:34 AM
Make Mine Chartreuse

Judging by the comments here, the natives are growing ever more restless at NASA, over the sham PDR they just held:

Is NASA trying to put lipstick on a pig? This one, highly-visible decision on how to report status says more than enough. It is a political gimmick if ever we have seen one. And being an election year, I guess it is de rigeur. How terribly sad...

...I think NASA should get rid of the red category all together, because if anything gets put in that category, it doesn't look good. They might want to get rid of orange also, because that's too close to red. Here is how I think the categories should be arranged.


Now, don't these colors make you feel good?

It kind of reminds me of Tom Ridge's terror alerts.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:07 AM
The Continuing Coverup

Clarice Feldman notes that Bill Ayers was a lot more than a "guy in Barack's neighborhood."

How is it possible that Obama in writing two autobiographies could ignore his 13 year-long association with Ayers if he were not purposely trying to hide or downplay it? How is it possible that the media could continue to ignore the CAC story? How is it possible that American voters, who regularly indicate such enormous concern over educational issues, could be so long kept in the dark by the Fourth Estate about the educational project Obama ran into the ground while he aided his revolutionary pals in recruiting Chicago kids to their extreme left wing mission?

It's clear that Obama and his friends, including those in the press, are trying to keep this all bottled up at least until after the election.

Then, I suppose, like the Clinton peccadilloes in Arkansas, this story will be free to unfold, too late to inform the voters.

Except unlike 1992, we have alternate media today.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:55 AM
Joe Biden's Memory

It's so good, that he remembers things that didn't happen:

...I think Joe Biden's constant flights of fancy indicate he's not a terribly precise thinker or speaker, and he's certainly not used to being called out on these, or being corrected. He takes in data and remembers what he wants to remember, not the facts as they actually are.

(More on this list - he keeps insisting that his wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver when the driver in question was sober; he keeps saying he was a coal miner when his grandfather was; he says the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said we're losing the war in Iraq (he said we were "not winning" in Afghanistan)... )

I know we're supposed to be worried about whether Sarah Palin is ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, but I really wonder what kind of diplomatic crises could be triggered by a globetrotting vice president who kept talking about events that didn't happen...

I don't think that Biden's IQ is as high as he thinks it is.

And I agree that this is one gaffe that's really going to hurt him. I expect it will be featured in a lot of McCain ads in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

[Update a few minutes later]

Victor Davis Hanson makes a good point:

In short, the problem is not whether we think the affable Biden's latest slip/goof/outrage is important, but whether we think anything he says any more is important. The next time he tries to offer something serious, from the AIG matter and coal power to campaign ads and Sarah Palin, I think we are at the point where most will smile, ignore him, and think 'That's just Biden being Biden.' He could give the Gettyburg Address tomorrow, and the public wouldn't know whether he wrote it, whether he was going to retract it, whether it was true, or whether he was serious.

I haven't taken Joe Biden seriously in years. Actually, I can't recall a time that I ever did.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:46 AM
Let McCain Be McCain

Jen Rubin applies Occam's Razor:

I think those postulating a "McCain panic" theory to explain his campaign suspension don't understand, or they pretend not to understand, John McCain. This is what he does. He elevates matters he considers higher national priorities above politics, which he finds at some level disasteful. Lots of people differ with his priorities, but that's not at issue. If you look back over McCain's career, he does this again and again: campaign finance reform, immigration reform, the surge and now this. He junks his party and the immediate short term political consequences when he thinks there's something else at play. That in large part is what drive his GOP base nuts. And they likely won't be thrilled here.

One can attribute nefarious motive ( "Ah! He's just feigning love of country and putting his political career at risk!") or you can take the more mundane explanation : this is how he operates and what he honestly believes. This performance with Katie Couric is plainly him at his best.

As for Barack Obama, I agree with this take that his initial effort to avoid involvement with brokering a deal didn't come off all that well. ("It's shocking that someone who believes himself ready to lead the free world would so brazenly try to dodge any participation in what could be a defining moment in our history.') What was striking about Obama's comment was his remark that if "the Congressional leadership" needed him, he'd be available. It's an odd way to put it -- he is the leader of his party now and he seemed utterly disinterested in doing anything that involved active problem-solving/deal-making. He does after all have a current job -- in the Senate.

And this time, he's not even voting "present."

It's a sterling example of his general career path--accomplishing little in his current job because he always views it as little more than a rung on the ladder to the next one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:32 AM

September 24, 2008

Well, I'll Bet That Caught Them By Surprise

The McCain campaign just announced that it's suspending the campaign to go back to DC and work on the bailout, and calling for a postponement of Friday night's debate.

That puts the Obama campaign in a tough position. He can't show up on Friday and debate an empty chair, and McCain has just once again demonstrated that there are things more important to him than winning elections. It also demonstrates his record of working on bi-partisan efforts.

It's hard for Obama to do anything but a "me too," which will burnish McCain's leadership credentials as well. This could end up being a very good move, politically, for the McCain camp, which has been off its game ever since the Wall Street panic started. In terms of the polls, though, while it's true that Obama has opened up a gap, interestingly, he didn't seem to take any away from McCain. The gap seems to be a result of recent new McCain supporters going undecided again (probably because of the response of the campaign to the panic). Obama still can't close the deal and get a majority of support.

[Update a while later]

Apparently Senator Obama is willing to go to Oxford and debate an empty chair. If I were the McCain campaign, I'd send Sarah as a replacement.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:36 PM
Getting To The Real Bailout Issues

Iowahawk has an interview with some of the key players.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:12 PM

September 23, 2008

We Knew This Was Coming

There are more and more stories appearing in the media with the template that we're a racist nation. This is preparing the groundwork to blame Obama's upcoming loss on the evil right-wing bigots, of both parties. And of course, poor Michelle won't be able to feel proud of America any more.

No, it won't have anything to do with the fact that he's Michael Dukakis with more melanin. It will have nothing to do with the fact that he has the most liberal voting record in the Senate and his running mate comes in third, that one needs a scanning tunneling microscope to measure the thickness of his resume, that he sat in the pew of an America-hating bigot for twenty years and had his children baptized by him, that he partnered with an unrepentent domestic terrorist to radicalize Chicago schoolchildren. No, it will be our fault, because we are racist, and don't deserve the blessings of having The One preside over our unworthy nation.

Anyway, here's the latest example, from US News.

[Wednesday morning update]

Jonah Goldberg has related thoughts today:

This spectacle is grotesque. It reveals how little the supposedly objective press corps thinks of the American people -- and how highly they think of themselves ... and Obama. Obama's lack of experience, his doctrinaire liberalism, his record, his known associations with Weatherman radical William Ayers and the hate-mongering Rev. Jeremiah Wright: These cannot possibly be legitimate motivations to vote against Obama, in this view.

Similarly, McCain's experience, his record of bipartisanship, his heroism: These too count for nothing.

Nope. It's got to be the racism.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:33 PM
Tell Them What You Really Think

Christopher Hitchens wonders why Barack Obama is so vapid, hesitant, and gutless:

By the end of that grueling campaign season, a lot of us had got the idea that Dukakis actually wanted to lose--or was at the very least scared of winning. Why do I sometimes get the same idea about Obama? To put it a touch more precisely, what I suspect in his case is that he had no idea of winning this time around. He was running in Iowa and New Hampshire to seed the ground for 2012, not 2008, and then the enthusiasm of his supporters (and the weird coincidence of a strong John Edwards showing in Iowa) put him at the front of the pack. Yet, having suddenly got the leadership position, he hadn't the faintest idea what to do with it or what to do about it.

I've noted this in the past. Obama wasn't prepared, either mentally or in terms of experience, to be a candidate this time around, and had no expectations of it happening--it was just for practice and name recognition. To repeat, he's like the dog that chases cars, but doesn't know what to do with when when he catches it.

And calling him a "dusky Dukakis" has to sting. Particularly because it's true.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:13 PM
Send In The Clowns

Have to agree with this:

...reader Stan Brown emails: "I'm watching the Senate hearing and listening to the senators question Paulson, Cox and Bernanke. The markets continue to fall as investors also listen. Clearly, if experience in the Senate leads to the performance we are watching today, experience is seriously overrated. These senators are frightening." I feel that way every time I watch a Senate hearing. Where do we get these people?

The last time a Senator was elected president was almost fifty years ago. There's a reason for that. The only time it will happen this year is that both parties were foolish enough to make one the nominee. It's almost like the process of becoming a senator selects for mediocrity.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:13 AM
Separated At Birth?

I just noted something amusing when I was reading this post about how maybe George Bush really is a fascist (they make a good case), though not Hitler reincarnate.

Just a coincidence, I'm sure.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:47 AM
The Real History Of America

A very interesting essay by Roderick Long:

There's a popular historical legend that goes like this: Once upon a time (for this is how stories of this kind should begin), back in the 19th century, the United States economy was almost completely unregulated and laissez-faire. But then there arose a movement to subject business to regulatory restraint in the interests of workers and consumers, a movement that culminated in the presidencies of Wilson and the two Roosevelts.

This story comes in both left-wing and right-wing versions, depending on whether the government is seen as heroically rescuing the poor and weak from the rapacious clutches of unrestrained corporate power, or as unfairly imposing burdensome socialistic fetters on peaceful and productive enterprise. But both versions agree on the central narrative: a century of laissez-faire, followed by a flurry of anti-business legislation.

Every part of this story is false.

Observant libertarians have long noted that in general, captains of industry are not capitalists (or to use Jonah Goldberg's (via whom I found his link) more accurate phrase, "free-market economists"--"capitalism" is a Marxist term), and never have been.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:05 AM
This Made Me Laff


We have been hearing, and will hear, a great deal about Palin's approval/disapproval rating, questions about whether voters think she has the right experience, etc. I wonder if the right question about the Democratic vice presidential candidate -- "Do you think Joe Biden knows what he is saying when he speaks, or does his mouth operate completely independently of any central nervous system?" -- would generate some interesting results.

Joe Biden is the gift that's going to keep giving right up until election day. Thank you, Senator Obama, thank you.

[Update early afternoon]

As I said, the gift that keeps on giving. Senator Biden was for coal, before he was against it. He likes (on odd days of the week, anyway) coal gasification. But with gasbags like him around, we won't have to mine any coal at all.

[Another update]

Man, the hits just keep on coming:

When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, "look, here's what happened."

It was probably one of those steam-powered televisions. And as Jesse Walker notes, "...if you owned an experimental TV set in 1929, you would have seen him. And you would have said to yourself, "Who is that guy? What happened to President Hoover?"

Maybe he was helping Barack's uncle liberate Auschwitz.

[Mid-afternoon update]

I did not know that. Felix the Cat was the very first television star. As Ed Driscoll notes, they wouldn't have been asking what happened to President Hoover; they would have been asking what happened to Felix.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:50 AM
The Obama-Ayers Connection

It's finally starting to get some play in the MSM, but only at the Wall Street Journal:

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Don't hold your breath waiting for the Gray Lady to cover it. And unfortunately, it doesn't lend itself to a ten-second explanation or sound bite, other than "Barack Obama worked to radicalize Chicago school children." But someone should ask him just what there was to show for the hundred million, since it's the only thing that he's ever actually run (other than, as the Reverend Jesse Jackson amusingly noted, his mouth).

More thoughts over at Hot Air.

[Update a while later]

Dr. Kurtz has more over at NRO:

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge stands as Barack Obama's most important executive experience to date. By its own account, CAC was a largely a failure. And a series of critical evaluations point to reasons for that failure, including a poor strategy, to which the foundation over-committed in 1995, and over-reliance on community organizers with insufficient education expertise. The failure of CAC thus raises entirely legitimate questions, both about Obama's competence, his alliances with radical community organizers, and about Ayers's continuing influence over CAC and its board, headed by Obama. Above all, by continuing to fund Ayers's personal projects, and those of his political-educational allies, Obama was lending moral and material support to Ayers's profoundly radical efforts. Ayers's terrorist history aside, that makes the Ayers-Obama relationship a perfectly legitimate issue in this campaign.

"Most important"? More like "only," unless one counts running his campaign (which is really done by Axelrod).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:02 AM

September 22, 2008

Time To Leave The Guy

I noted the other day that the Democrat Party and American Jews are like a wife beater and the wife. Roger Simon says it's time to take the kids and move out.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:15 AM
Who Smeared Sarah Palin?

Rusty Shackleford has been doing a lot of research. If this can be traced to the Obama campaign, the FEC should be interested. But they probably won't be. And neither will the MSM.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Dan Riehl has more. And like roaches fleeing when the lights come on, the perps have pulled down the sites. Not in time, though--they've been cached.

You know, this could be a really big story for an enterprising investigative reporter at someplace like the New York Times. Unfortunately, when it comes to Barack Obama, such creatures don't seem to exist.

[Update mid morning]

Ace has more:

Tomorrow they will claim this was all inadvertent, etc. They'll say they did produce the ad, and sent it to Winner and Associates to, um, focus-group or something, then decided not to run it, but that dirty Winner family and its employees attempted to get it to go viral without their authorization.


If this is all so innocent, why are the videos being yanked even as we speak?

Just about one hour after the post went up, "cnwinner," "eswinner" and the rest of the winner gang are yanking their videos.

Almost as if... I don't know, some kind of major campaign organization was patrolling the internet 24/7.

Can we believe "cnwinner," "eswinner," and etc. just all suddenly were monitoring the internet and decided to take their videos down simultaneously?

No, we cannot.

Can we believe Winner & Associates scours the internet 24 hours a day for derogatory stories about them?

No, we cannot.

But -- can we believe the Obama campaign has people watching the internet 24/7 and just sent out the call to Winner & Associates to bury the evidence?

Yes we can, friends.

Yes we can, even if the Gray Lady can't.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:44 AM
Andrew Cuomo?

Andrew Cuomo?!

Let's hope that this is just an empty campaign promise to get into the White House, and that he'll come to his senses once he's actually elected.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:23 AM

September 21, 2008

The Vivisection Of A Lunatic

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy.

For those in the know, it's Mark Morford...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:18 PM
Thoughts On Wisdom

And whether Sarah Palin or Barack Obama have it, from Victor Davis Hanson:

For most of you readers, all this is trite and self-evident. But apparently not for hundreds in politics, the media, the universities, Hollywood, and the foundations who seem to think that a fumbling nervous Obama in interviews, who grasps for a word and utters vacuous platitudes is "really" contemplative, like his Harvard Law professors; but when a Sarah Palin seems nervous under scrutiny from a pseudo-professorial, glasses-on-the-lower-nose Charlie Gibson, she is clearly an empty head with an Idaho BA.

A Ronald Reagan knew more about human nature, and thus what drives the Soviet Union than did all the Ivy-League Soviet specialists that surrounded Jimmy Carter-much less the Sally Quins and Maureen Dowds of that age. We in America, unlike the Europeans, know this intuitively, grasp that a Harry Truman figured out the Russian communists far better than did the Harvard-educated aristocrat FDR.

And the inevitable comparisons between the top of the Democrat ticket and bottom of the Republican one continue, which is part of the genius in picking her on McCain's part.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:16 PM
Four Questions

Newt Gingrich says not so fast to Paulson's bailout plan. I particularly agree with this:

Four reform steps will have capital flowing with no government bureaucracy and no taxpayer burden.

First, suspend the mark-to-market rule which is insanely driving companies to unnecessary bankruptcy. If short selling can be suspended on 799 stocks (an arbitrary number and a warning of the rule by bureaucrats which is coming under the Paulson plan), the mark-to-market rule can be suspended for six months and then replaced with a more accurate three year rolling average mark-to-market.

Second, repeal Sarbanes-Oxley. It failed with Freddy Mac. It failed with Fannie Mae. It failed with Bear Stearns. It failed with Lehman Brothers. It failed with AIG. It is crippling our entrepreneurial economy. I spent three days this week in Silicon Valley. Everyone agreed Sarbanes-Oxley was crippling the economy. One firm told me they would bring more than 20 companies public in the next year if the law was repealed. Its Sarbanes-Oxley's $3 million per startup annual accounting fee that is keeping these companies private.

Third, match our competitors in China and Singapore by going to a zero capital gains tax. Private capital will flood into Wall Street with zero capital gains and it will come at no cost to the taxpayer. Even if you believe in a static analytical model in which lower capital gains taxes mean lower revenues for the Treasury, a zero capital gains tax costs much less than the Paulson plan. And if you believe in a historic model (as I do), a zero capital gains tax would lead to a dramatic increase in federal revenue through a larger, more competitive and more prosperous economy.

Fourth, immediately pass an "all of the above" energy plan designed to bring home $500 billion of the $700 billion a year we are sending overseas. With that much energy income the American economy would boom and government revenues would grow.

Also, SOX was the disastrous result of the last time Congress decided that it had to "do something."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:28 PM
If Only

The latest lie from the Obama campaign:

He tells Social Security recipients their money would now be in the stock market under McCain's plan. False.

The amusing thing is that he says it as though it would be a bad thing. I'd a lot rather have my retirement funds in the market (which is where most of them are) than in a demographically collapsing Ponzi scheme.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:30 PM
You Say You Want A Revolution?

Well, you know...

I love the pith of Gerard van der Leun's comment at Connecticut Yankee:

Given the Huffpos lack of training, weapons, ammunition, and general knowledge of when to duck, I say bring it on.

It will be a short revolution but a merry one for those left standing.

Yes, the idiot leftists always forget that (at least for now) we still have most of the guns. Which is why they hate the Second Amendment so much.

Well, there is at least one exception. But if Joe Biden shoots off his Beretta with the same uncontrolled abandon with which he shoots off his mouth, we don't have much to worry about.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:39 AM
A Blast From The Past

Ben Bova has a piece in the Naples News that could have been written thirty years ago. In fact, it's exactly like stuff that he (and I) wrote thirty years ago. The only difference is that I have experienced the past thirty years, whereas he seems to be stuck in a seventies time warp, and I've gotten a lot more sober about the prospects for a lot of the orbital activities that were always just around the corner, and probably always will be:

An orbital habitat needn't be a retirement center, though. Space offers some interesting advantages for manufacturing metal alloys, pharmaceuticals, electronics components and other products. For example, in zero-gravity it's much easier to mix liquids.

Think of mixing a salad dressing. On Earth, no matter how hard you stir, the heavier elements sink to the bottom of the bowl. In zero G there are no heavier elements: they're all weightless. And you don't even need a bowl! Liquids form spherical shapes, whether they're droplets of water or industrial-sized balls of molten metals.

Metallurgists have predicted that it should be possible in orbit to produce steel alloys that are much stronger, yet much lighter, than any alloys produced on Earth. This is because the molten elements can mix much more thoroughly, and gaseous impurities in the mix can percolate out and into space.

Imagine automobiles built of orbital steel. They'd be much stronger than ordinary cars, yet lighter and more fuel-efficient. There's a market to aim for.

Moreover, in space you get energy practically for free. Sunlight can be focused with mirrors to produce furnace-hot temperatures. Or electricity, from solarvoltaic cells. Without spending a penny for fuel.

The clean, "containerless" environment of orbital space could allow production of ultrapure pharmaceuticals and electronics components, among other things.

Orbital facilities, then, would probably consist of zero-G sections where manufacturing work is done, and low-G areas where people live.

There would also be a good deal of scientific research done in orbital facilities. For one thing, an orbiting habitat would be an ideal place to conduct long-term studies of how the human body reacts to prolonged living in low gravity. Industrial researchers will seek new ways to utilize the low gravity, clean environment and free energy to produce new products, preferably products that cannot be manufactured on Earth, with its heavy gravity, germ-laden environment and high energy costs.

Cars made of "orbital steel"?


But I guess there's always a fresh market for this kind of overhyped boosterism. I think that it actively hurts the cause of space activism, because people in the know know how unrealistic a lot of it is, and it just hurts the credibility of proponents like Ben Bova.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:29 AM

What is it with the left and its hatred of cowboys?

And they wonder why they can't pull a majority of the vote.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:26 AM

September 20, 2008

The New Hollywood Blacklist

Here's an interesting extended look at the secret lives of conservatives in tinsel town:

Zucker gave Farley the script and, concerned that Farley's agent would advise him against accepting the role because of the film's politics, told the actor not to show it to anyone. Farley, best known for his recurring role in a series of Hertz commercials, read the script and called back the next day to accept.

When he met Zucker and Sokoloff on the set as shooting on the film began, he told them that he, too, had long considered himself a conservative. "I couldn't believe it," says Sokoloff. "We were afraid that he would not want to be involved in something that was so directly taking on the left and that he would not want to play the Michael Moore character."

Farley told me this story during a break in filming at the Daniel Webster Elementary School in Pasadena, last April, with Steve McEveety, the film's producer, listening in.

"I thought that the minute we started talking about politics that would be the end," Farley recalls. "There was this dance that we did--a dance familiar to conservative actors in Hollywood. Lots of actors have done it."

"All three of you," said McEveety.

"Yeah, all three of us."

...On one of the days I was on set, McEveety had invited Vivendi Entertainment president Tom O'Malley to meet Zucker. Vivendi had just agreed to distribute the film and had promised wide release--news that had the cast and crew of An American Carol in particularly good spirits.

O'Malley and Zucker chatted about the fact that O'Malley is the nephew of Candid Camera's Tom O'Malley and that they are both from the Midwest, among other things. Zucker thanked him for picking up the movie, which will be one of the first for Vivendi's new distribution arm. O'Malley told Zucker that he was particularly interested in this film in part because he, too, leans right.

Such revelations are common occurrences at the periodic meetings of the secret society of Hollywood conservatives known as the "Friends of Abe." The group, with no official membership list and no formal mission, has been meeting under the leadership of Gary Sinise (CSI New York, Forrest Gump) for four years. Zucker had spent a year working on a film with Christopher McDonald without learning anything about his politics. Shortly after the film wrapped, he ran into McDonald, best known as Shooter McGavin from Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore, at one of these informal meetings.

"It's almost like people who are gay, show up at the baths and say, 'Oh, I didn't know you were gay!' " Zucker says...

Let's hope that they can come out of the closet some day.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:48 AM

Here's the full story of how Sarah Palin was forced out of the anti-Ahmadinejad rally:

Make no mistake that this was an Obama op and that it was Obama operatives directing the screenplay. Upon news of Palin's invitation, it was assured that the event would garner a higher level of attention than it already commanded. And the images and footage of Palin speaking in protest (popular protest, it should be added) of Iran and the messianic Ahmadinejad upon the backdrop of the common perception of Obama's weakness in foreign policy and national security simply could not stand. Furthermore, it would have provided endless campaign fodder with Palin shown standing against the world's foremost state sponsor of international terrorism amid the audio-visual bites of Obama stating he would hold talks with Iran without preconditions. The effects would potentially be more than just stinging.

It had to be derailed at all costs. And the first step in the mission was to characterize it as a politicized event. Getting Clinton to step away from the invitation was easy enough - her own vanity played against her as noted above. Having her spokesmen give a 'politicizing' reason for withdrawing from the rally planted the seed. And the trap was laid expertly.

All that remained was Palin and the media hyper-focus on her. If she remained, the meme of a 'politicization' of an otherwise honorable event would be hung around her neck - and Malcolm Hoenlein's - like an albatross. Yet she refused to rescind her acceptance as Hillary Clinton had.

Here's where it gets a bit dirty. The Obama campaign could not publicly cajole her to stay away, yet they needed her away. Desperately. So the pressure was then applied to Malcolm Hoenlein and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

Meryl Yourish is appropriately disgusted:

The thing that I hate the most about this? It won't stop my liberal Jewish friends from voting Democrat in any way. It won't even make them think twice about the tactics used by the Democrats. And it's far, far worse than Soccer Dad wrote about the other day. CBS didn't have the story about Jewish organizations having their tax-exempt status revoked for having Palin speak at the rally.

That's not a political party pressuring groups to do something. That's outright break-your-kneecap, Mafia-style blackmail threats.

In fact, those are precisely the kinds of tactics that the Jewish groups will be protesting on Monday. We just never expected them from the Democrats.

You should have. They've been doing it for decades. Many American Jews seem to have the same relationship with the Democrats as a woman with a wife beater that she keeps going back to.

And I wonder why the media lets them continue to promulgate the absurd notion that if Hillary! had attended by herself, it would have been non-partisan, but that if she shared the stage with Sarah, that would make it partisan.

Well, actually I don't.

[Late morning update]

Speaking of thuggery, Iowahawk has the latest on the Obama voter outreach program.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:19 AM
John McCain's Secret Weapon

Lefty trolls.

And the amusing thing is that even when you tell them this, they don't believe it, and keep doing it anyway.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:26 AM

September 19, 2008

"Welcome To History"

Jim Manzi has a good, albeit depressing, description of the financial crisis and its likely outcomes.

[Saturday morning update]

One bit in the piece that I found amusing (and a little depressing):

[They] Promulgated a temporary ban on naked shortselling for about 800 financial stocks (in related news, the new recommended medical practice when you discover that you have a fever is to smash the thermometer against the wall, since this makes the problem go away).

Yes, I don't think this was necessary, and it will probably have bad consequences.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:30 PM
The Undefended City

This NRO thing seems to be becoming a regular thing for Bill Whittle. He has some thoughts on confidence in our own culture and nation in the face of those who think it unworthy of defense or preservation:

...most of what I learned about Vietnam I learned from men like Oliver Stone. This self-loathing narcissist has repeatedly tried to inculcate in me a sense of despair and outrage at my own government, my own culture, my own people and ultimately myself. He tried to convince me -- and he is a skillfull man -- that my own government murdered my own President for political gain. I am told daily in those darkened temples that rogue CIA elements run a puppet government, that the real threat to the nation comes from the generals that defend it, or from the businessmen that provide the prosperity we take for granted.

I sit with others in darkened rooms, watching films like Redacted, Stop-Loss, and In the Valley of Elah, and see our brave young soldiers depicted as murderers, rapists, broken psychotics or ignorant dupes -visions foisted upon me by bitter and isolated millionaires such as Brian de Palma and Paul Haggis and all the rest.

I've been told this story in some form or another, every day of every week of the past 30 years of my life. It wasn't always so.

But it is certainly so today. And standing against all this hypnotic power -- the power of the mythmakers in Hollywood, the power of the information peddlers in the media, the corrosive power of America-hating professors on every campus in America... against all that we find an old warrior -- a paladin if ever there was one -- an old, beat-up warhorse standing up in defense of his city one last time. And beside him: a wonder. A common person... just a regular mom who goes to work, does a difficult job with intelligence and energy and grace and every-day competence and then puts it away to go home and have dinner with the family.

Against all of that stand these two.

No wonder they must be destroyed. Because -- Sarah Palin especially -- presents a mortal threat to these people who have determined over cocktails who the next President should be and who now clearly mean to grind into metal shards the transaxle of their credibility in order to get the result they must have. Truly, they are before our eyes destroying the machine they have built in order to get their victory.

We'll see.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:18 PM
"Could Have Been Better Documented"

The NASA OIG says that NASA hasn't provided a good basis of estimate for its costs for its Constellation budget requests.

I'm sure that this is nothing new, given what a perennial mess the agency's books are always in, with incompatible accounting systems, different and arcane ways of bookkeeping at different centers/directorates, etc.

But here's what's interesting to me. This story is about justifying the costs of building Ares/Orion et al so that they can get their requested budget from OMB and Congress. But that's not the only reason that we need to have a good basis of estimate.

Ever since Mike Griffin came in, he, Steve Cook and others have told us that they (meaning Doug Stanley) did a trade study, comparing EELVs and other options to developing Ares in order to accomplish the Vision for Space Exploration. A key, in fact crucial element of any such trade would have to include...estimated costs.

We have been told over and over again that they did the trade, but as far as I know, we've never been provided with the actual study--only its "results." We have no information on the basis of estimate, the assumptions that went into it, etc. If NASA can't come up with them now that's it's an ongoing program, why should we trust the results of the earlier study that determined the direction of that program when it was much less mature, with its implications for many billions of dollars in the future, and the effectiveness in carrying out the national goals? Why haven't we been allowed to see the numbers?

I think that the new resident of the White House, regardless of party, should set up an independent assessment of the situation, complete with a demand for the data.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:27 AM
Full-Blown PDS

Man, do these "women" (assuming they really are women--obviously, since the advent of Sarah Palin, apparently gender has become a lifestyle choice) have "issues". This almost reads like something out of The Onion. These people are becoming parodies of themselves:

"When I see people crowing about her 'acceptable' speech last Wednesday ... I literally want to vomit with rage," a comment from Anibundel said.

"I am shocked by the depths of my hatred for this woman," another commenter, CJWeimar, wrote.

"It is impossible for me not to read about her in the newspaper in the subway every morning on my way to work and not come into the office angry and wanting to kick things," a commenter using the name ChampagneofBeers wrote. "My boxing class definitely helps."

Even some prominent figures admitted to being overcome by anti-Palin feelings. "I am having Sarah Palin nightmares," an acclaimed playwright and writer, Eve Ensler, wrote on the Huffington Post. She said she was disturbed by the chants about oil and gas drilling during Mrs. Palin's speech to the Republican convention. "I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination," Ms. Ensler wrote.

And people (OK, well, not people, trolls) accuse me of "hating" Barack Obama.

I'm always amused by the stereotype of the "hateful," "angry" white man. From where I sit, I see more, and a lot more hatred and rage on the left. I can understand, though. They thought that the Messiah would arise by universal acclamation, and now they're having panic attacks that he might actually lose. Which also explains all the angry anonymous moron trolls that I get here.

[Update a couple minutes later]'s a Sandra who really hates Sarah:

When Sandra warns Sarah Palin not to come into Manhattan lest she get gang-raped by some of Sandra's big black brothers, she's being provocative, combative, humorous, and yes, let's allow, disgusting.

Yes, please. Let's allow.

Somehow, I fail to see the humor in a woman being gang raped, but then, I've never been a big Bernhard fan.

Between Sandra Bernhard and Michael Moore, it makes one ashamed to be from the Flint area.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:11 AM
Race Baiting

Limbaugh has had enough, and calls out Obama on it.

The malignant aspect of this is that Mr. Obama and his advisers know exactly what they are doing. They had to listen to both monologues or read the transcripts. They then had to pick the particular excerpts they used in order to create a commercial of distortions. Their hoped-for result is to inflame racial tensions. In doing this, Mr. Obama and his advisers have demonstrated a pernicious contempt for American society.

I'm sickened by the self righteousness and hypocrisy of the so-called compassionate left.

How long will it take for the rest of the country to see what a fraud this notion of Jerome Wright's most famous long-time parishioner being a "post-racial" candidate is?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:15 AM

September 18, 2008


Jim Albrecht is tired of having his home state slandered.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:17 PM
Not Getting It

No, Michelle, if I vote for Sarah Palin, it won't be "because she's cute."

That's just a bonus.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:31 PM
Changing The Rules

Jim Treacher: We are the vermin we've been waiting for.

As far as I know, the only precedent in presidential politics is the buffoonish antics of Lyndon LaRouche followers. And I don't think even he ever put out a "LaRouche Action Wire." Probably because he didn't think of it first. Not to mention that he's never had a chance in hell of winning.

Where is the outrage?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:10 AM

September 17, 2008

Is There Anything They Can't Do?

Joe Biden says that the financial crisis was caused by the Bush tax (rate) cuts.

Does someone besides Joe Biden want to explain that one to me?

At least he didn't blame Global Warming.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:13 PM
Hockey Moms For Truth

This is great. I love the accents, but I think they're Minnesota, not Alaska (though they're closely related).

Of course, the anonymous wanker in comments who is always crying "Pants On Fire" will take it seriously.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:10 PM
Turnabout Is Fair Play, Part Two

The McCain campaign should get with some of the Abe's List folks in Hollywood (like Dennis Miller) and work up some material. Then get SNL to have Palin as a guest where she can do impressions of Tina Fey.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:39 AM
Extending Shuttle Study

NASA Spaceflight has an interesting report on the status of the study.

It sounds about right to me. Retire Atlantis and make it a parts queen or a launch-on-need vehicle, and fly the other two vehicles once each per year. But at that low a flight rate, I wonder if the processing teams lose their "edge" and start to screw up? There's an optimal flight rate for both cost and safety. Too fast and you make mistakes because of the rush, but too slow, and you get out of practice. And of course each flight would cost over two billion bucks, assuming that it costs four billion a year to keep the program going.

And as noted numerous times in the past, this doesn't solve the problem of leaving US crew on the station. They still need a lifeboat of some sort. They discuss this as a "COTS-D Minus":

...several companies have noted the ability to make available a lifeboat vehicle from 2012 (names and details currently embargoed due to ongoing discussions).

Clearly, one of those companies has to be SpaceX.

But this idea seems to never die:

'There is some interest now in developing this (RCO) into a full mission capability, thus enabling unmanned shuttles to launch, dock to ISS, undock and land in 2011 and beyond.'

'While that's an interesting idea and would be a fun development project, we are working to understand the level of effort the program desires for this study.'

It's not an "interesting idea." It's a monumentally dumb idea. There is little point in flying Shuttle without crew. The ability to fly crew is its primary feature. It's far too expensive to operate to act as a cargo vehicle. If the point of the idea is to not risk crew, then we have no business in space.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:41 AM
Don't Hate Him Because He's An Intellectual

That was the essence of an inadvertently hilarious (anonymous, natch) comment about Obama in this post.

To me, that's like Helen Thomas saying "don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:06 AM

Crude has fallen below $90/barrel. That's from a peak of almost a hundred fifty.

Of course, this will be no surprise to regular readers.

[Afternoon update]

Apropo some of the comments, here's a promising new technology for getting oil from shale and tar sands. I don't see a price per barrel, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:03 AM
No Free Marketeer

That's what John McCain is. One of the reasons it's hard to get enthused about him. I suspect that Palin might be a little better.

[Update a while later]

Both presidential candidates are completely economically incoherent.

No surprise, since they're both economic ignorami. Though in Obama's case it's worse, because he thinks that he understands economics, and much of what he knows for damned sure is wrong.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:57 AM
Compare And Contrast

Two energy proposals.

This is the Beltway/MSM definition of a "compromise": giving the Dems everything they want.

I hope that John McCain (or even Sarah Palin) urge Bush to veto the sham energy bill, and explain why.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:54 AM
Can We All At Least Agree?

That Nancy Pelosi is an ignorant, arrogant moron?

She's going to let the anchor that is Charlie Rangell drag her party to defeat this fall, and she'll lose her job.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:39 AM
Why Obama Will Lose Pennsylvania

Ads like this.

There are actually a lot of reasons. The only thing that could save him will be ACORN vote fraud in Philly. And that will depend on who Ed Rendell really wants to win. He is a Hillary! supporter, after all...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:57 AM
A New McCain Demographic

Gays for Palin? Why not? As the article notes, Alaska is a pretty libertarian, live-and-let-live place. I wonder if a lot of lesbians think that she's hot?

And of course, this goes against the hysterical stereotype of her in the minds of the left as an extreme "right-wing" social conservative.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:21 AM
We're Unworthy

Donna Brazile says that if The One doesn't win, it will be because we didn't deserve him:

"He has had some moments where he seems unsure of his own voice," Brazile said, "but I still think he can pull this off."

And if he doesn't?

"If he doesn't, then Obama didn't lose," she said. "The country just wasn't ready."

Well, she's right, in a way. And we should be thankful that we haven't deteriorated as a nation to the point at which we were.

I'd put it a little differently, though. It won't be Obama losing so much as the nation winning.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:26 AM

September 16, 2008

More On The Space Civil War

It's not just between Mike Griffin and OMB (and the White House?). Now (not that it's anything new) there is a lot of infighting between JSC and Marshall over Orion and Ares:

Design issues for any new vehicle are to be expected, and correctly represented by the often-used comment of 'if there weren't problems, we wouldn't need engineers.' However, Orion's short life on the drawing board has been an unhappy childhood.

The vast majority of Orion's design changes have been driven by Ares I's shortcomings - via performance and mass issues - to ably inject the vehicle into orbit. The fact that the Ares I now has several thousand pounds of reserve mass properties negates the suffering it has brought on the vehicle it is designed to serve.

Those penalties Orion had to endure could be seen at the very start of its design process, when the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) reduced in size by 0.5 meters in diameter, soon followed by Orion having its Service Module stripped down in size and mass by around 50 percent.

'Mass savings' would become one of the most repeated terms surrounding the Orion project.

One of the problems that the program had (like many) were caused by the intrinsic concept of the Shaft itself. If you're designing an all-new rocket, it is a "rubber" vehicle in that one can size stages to whatever is necessary to optimize it. But in their determination to use an SRB as a first stage, they put an artificial constraint on vehicle performance. When it was discovered that the four-segment motor wouldn't work, they went to a different upper stage engine. When this didn't work, they went to five segments (which meant that it was a whole new engine).

During Apollo, von Braun took requirements from the people designing the mission hardware, and then added a huge margin to it (fifty percent, IIRC), because he didn't believe them. As it turned out, they ended up needing almost all of the vehicle performance to get to the moon.

This program never had anything like that kind of margin, and now, at PDR 0.5, it's already almost gone. So now they're rolling the requirements back on to the Orion, demanding that the payload make up for performance loss by cutting weight, while also (probably, next year) requiring that it add systems to mitigate the fact that the vehicle is going to shake them like a Sherwin Williams machine. This will result in further loss of margin, redundancy and safety.

This is not a typical development path of a successful program. It is emblematic of one about to augur in.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:04 PM
There Are Lies

...damned lies, and campaign hyperbole:

...we've all heard the self-serving myth that pits helpless, meek, high-minded, issue-oriented Democrats against mendacious and mean Republicans, who not only detest America -- especially children and small vulnerable creatures -- but will lie and cheat to keep all oppressed.

The facts betray a more equitable story. And it starts with Sarah Palin's assertion that she said "thanks, but no thanks" to the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" and opposed earmarks. This is an elastic political truth.

Technically, she did stop the project after initially supporting it. She has taken earmarks -- even lobbied for them while mayor of Wasilla. As governor, though, Palin also vetoed over 300 wasteful projects and made an attempt to reform the process. Her record on earmarks is mixed, but by any measure, it's far superior to either Democratic candidate.

Moreover, if this Palin claim can be classified as an untruth, Obama can be called a "liar" just as easily.

Take, if you will, the foundational assertion of Obama's entire campaign that he is the candidate of post-partisan change. Obama, meanwhile, voted with fellow Democrats 96 percent of the time in Washington. And the bipartisan achievement he most often cites, an ethics reform bill, was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.

Unanimous: ". . . being in complete harmony or accord."

So, then, "Unity" should be referred to as a poetic truth.

And when much of the media acts as if it is personally offended by a questionable McCain ad accusing Obama of voting for a bill that would have provided sex education to kindergartners, you feel the pain. It was, indeed, a massive stretch.

It reminds me of the Obama ad that accuses McCain of having "voted to cut education funding" and "proposed" the abolishment of the Department of Education despite neither being true. Not much anger at that one. Just a lot of talk about the media's responsibility to keep candidates honest. And absolutely, journalists have a responsibility to put every single candidate through the wringer.

Every candidate.

Something for the latest desperate anonymous moron that continues to drive by in comments with its pathetic shrieks of "Liar, liar!" to keep in mind.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:20 AM
Why I Have A Blog

To get past the gatekeepers.

I put up a(n admittedly semi-snarky) comment at Keith Cowing's place yesterday, and he chose not to publish it (his comments section is moderated) for whatever reason. His blog, his call.

It was in response to "NASAAstronomer's" comment that:

...if McCain and Palin win, we'll be teaching creationism in our science classes, so how likely is it that space science will get funded?

My (unpublished until now) response:


Right. I'm sure that will be one of their first acts, to mandate the teaching of creationism in science classes.

Can you explain to me how that works exactly? Will it be an executive order, or what?

This kind of Palin derangement is amazing. Lileks noticed it, too:

Here's your Sarah Palin overreaction of the day. Presumably she took out the entrails, dried them, and used them to lynch librarians. It's really obvious, isn't it? She wants to kill Lady Liberty and all she represents. The plane is included in the picture because she personally shoots polar bears from above, like she's GOD OR SOMETHING. The comments have the usual reasoned evaluations - she's a PSYCHO, a LUNATIC. That picture is so sad and so true.

I don't know if anyone's stated the obvious yet, but this might be the first time people have become unhinged in advance over a vice-presidential candidate. Not to say some aren't painting McCain as something the devil blurted out in a distracted moment during his daily conference call with Cheney, but a Veep? It took a while for people to believe that Cheney commissioned private snuff films with runaways dressed up to resemble a portion of the Bill of Rights, but Palin is She-Wolf of the Tundra right off the bat. And god help us she can use email, which means she will control the government. The most Spy ever did with Quayle was stick him in a dunce hat. By the time we reach the election Oliphant will probably draw Palin sodomizing by an oil derrick with guns for arms. I have to confess: I think Palin is an interesting politician, but the people she's driving batty are much more fascinating.

Imagine twelve years of this.


Well, we've survived eight years of BDS. I suspect that we'll pull through a swamp of PDS.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:07 AM

September 15, 2008

More Media Bias

The press refuses to cover Biden's potential gaffes: Air Joe flew from Wilmington to Charlotte Sunday, the only reporters onboard were off-air reporters from the five television networks and correspondents from NBC and Politico. There was only one camera crew. The back of the plane, reserved for press, sat totally deserted.

Heh. As Geraghty notes, the McCain campaign should complain.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:17 AM
Not That The Analogy Isn't Still Stupid

But I'm reminded that Jesus was a preacher. Barabbas was the community organizer. And a freedom fighter, like Bill Ayers. Also like Ayers, he got off on a technicality.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:29 AM
The Sky Isn't Falling

So says First Trust, about the current financial problems on the Street. For what it's worth.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:40 AM
Bureaucratic War?

Is NASA fighting with OMB?

Lots of great comments here, including the fact that Mike Griffin's fear mongering about China is at odds with administration policy. Including this great comment from "red""

it would be a good idea for Griffin to consider what kind of response by NASA would be useful to the U.S. in countering the real military and economic space threats from China. It seems to me that ESAS doesn't help counter these real threats at all.

The kinds of capabilities that NASA could encourage, invent, or improve to counter China's ASATs, launchers, and satellites are things like:

- operationally responsive space
- small satellites
- Earth observation satellites
- telecommunications satellites
- economical commercial launch vehicles
- commercial suborbital rockets
- improved education in space-related fields
- space infrastructure (e.g.: commercial space stations, tugs, refueling)

It's possible that, if NASA were contributing more in areas like these (through incentives to U.S. commercial space, research, demos, etc), it would find the budget battles easier to win.

No kidding. Especially the last. And Apollo On Steroids makes no contributions to any of these things.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of comments, "" has a description of what NASA's "pat on the back" PDR really means:

This past week, Constellation patted itself on the back for getting Ares I through its first preliminary design review (PDR) but glossed over the fact that Ares I still has to conduct a second PDR next summer to address the unresolved mitigation systems for the first stage thrust oscillation issue, with unknown consequences for the rest of the design. See the asterisk on the pre-board recommendation at the bottom of the last page of this presentation.

The Constellation press release and briefing also made no mention of the recent year-long slip in the Orion PDR to next summer. See NASA Watch, NASA Spaceflight, and Flight Global.

So neither the Ares I nor the Orion preliminary design is complete, and one could argue that the Constellation program has been held back a year more than it's been allowed to pass to the next grade.

More worrisome than the PDR slips are the grades that Ares I received in this partial PDR. The pre-board used a green, yellow/green, yellow, yellow/red, and red grading scheme, which can also be depicted as the more familiar A (4.0), B (3.0), C (2.0), D (1.0), and F (0.0) grading scheme. The pre-board provided ten grades against ten different success criteria from NASA's program management handbook. The ten grades had the following distribution:

One "Green" (A, 4.0) grade
Two "Yellow/Green" (B, 3.0) grades
Four "Yellow" (C, 2.0) grades
Three "Yellow/Red" (D, 1.0) grades
No "Red" (F, 0.0) grades

So seven of Ares I's ten grades were a C or a D. Ares I is NASA's planned primary means of crew launch over the next couple of decades and should define technical excellence. But instead, the project earned a grade point average of 2.1, barely a "gentleman's C" (or a "gentleman's yellow"). See the pre-board grades on pages 3-7 of this presentation.

And even more worrisome than the PDR slips and grades are the areas in which the project is earning its lowest grades. Among areas in which Ares I earned a yellow/red (or D) grade and the accompanying technical problems were:

The preliminary design meets the requirements at an acceptable level of risk:
- Induced environments are high and cause challenges, including pyro shock to avionics and acoustic environments on reaction and roll control systems.

- No formal process for control of models and analysis.

- Areas of known failure still need to be worked, including liftoff clearances.

Definition of the technical interfaces is consistent with the overall level of technical maturity and provides an acceptable level of risk:

- Process for producing and resolving issues between Level 2 and Level 3 interface requirement documents and interface control documents is unclear, including the roles and responsibilities of managers and integrators and the approval process for identifying the baseline and making changes to it.

- Numerous known disconnects and "TBDs" in the interface requirement documents, including an eight inch difference between the first stage and ground system and assumption of extended nozzle performance not incorporated in actual first and ground system designs.

See the pre-board grades on pages 4-5 of this presentation.

So, in addition to the unknowns associated with the unresolved thrust oscillation system for Ares I:

- the vehicle's electronics can't survive the shocks induced during stage separation;

- the vehicle's control systems will be shaken apart and unable to keep the rocket flying straight;

- the vehicle is going to hit the ground support structure on liftoff;

- the project is assuming performance from advanced rocket nozzles that don't fit within the vehicle's dimensions;

- the project can't even get the height of the rocket and its ground support to match; and

- there's no good modeling, analytical, or requirements control necessary to resolve any of these issues.

And the real kicker from the press conference was the revelation that Constellation manager Jeff Hanley only has 2,000-3,000 pounds of performance reserve left at the program level and that Ares I manager Steve Cook has no margin left to contribute to unresolved future problems like thrust oscillation impacts to Orion. See, again, NASA Watch.

We know from prior presentations that Orion's mass margin is down to practically zero (286 kilograms or 572 pounds) for ISS missions and is negative (-859 kilograms or -1,718 pounds) for lunar missions. See p. 25, 33, and 37 in this presentation.

When added to Hanley's margins, that means that the entire Ares I/Orion system is down to ~2,500-3,500 pounds of mass margin for the ISS mission and ~300-1,300 pounds of mass margin for the lunar mission. That's between seven and less than one percent mass margin against Orion's 48,000 pound total mass. Typical mass margin at the PDR stage should be on the order of 20-25 percent, about triple the best-case assessment here. Ares I/Orion still has seven years of design and development to go and at best has only one-third of the mass margin it should have at this stage.

Even worse, those Orion mass margins don't account for the mass threats still to be allocated in next year's Orion PDR. In the presentation above, the 90th percentile mass threats for the ISS and lunar missions are separately about 900 kilograms or 2,000 pounds. That reduces the total Ares I/Orion mass margin to between -1,700 and 1,500 pounds. That's a negative (negative!) three percent mass margin on the lunar mission and only a positive three percent mass margin on the ISS mission, at least seven times less margin than what the program needs at this point in time.

Instead of worrying about $60 million Soyuz purchases and extending existing Shuttle jobs, Weldon and his staff need to be worrying about the $20 billion Ares I/Orion program and whether it can ever technically close and replace some of those Shuttle jobs.

Some have attempted to excuse this by saying, "well, every big space program has teething issues." True. Two responses.

First, many of them die from them (e.g., X-33).

Second, I don't know of any comparable program that had essentially zero margin at PDR (and I'm not aware of any that required multiple PDRs or "PDR do-overs") that survived them. Perhaps someone more familiar with history can enlighten me.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:00 AM

September 14, 2008

Where Is The Pencil Czar?

George Will has more on economic ignorance:

The indignant student, who had first gone to Home Depot for a flashlight, says it "didn't try to rip us off." It was, however, out of flashlights. Ruth suggests that the reason Big Box had flashlights was that its prices were high. If prices were left at regular levels, the people who would have got the flashlights would have been those who got to the store first. With the higher prices, "someone who had candles at home decided to do without the flashlight and left it there for you on the shelf." Neither Home Depot nor the student who was angry at Big Box had benefited from Home Depot's price restraint.

Capitalism, Ruth reminds him, is a profit and loss system.Corfam--Du Pont's fake leather that made awful shoes in the 1960s--and the Edsel quickly vanished. But, Ruth notes, "the post office and ethanol subsidies and agricultural price supports and mediocre public schools live forever." They are insulated from market forces; they are created, in defiance of those forces, by government, which can disregard prices, which means disregarding the rational allocation of resources. To disrupt markets is to tamper with the unseen source of the harmony that is all around us.

The spontaneous emergence of social cooperation--the emergence of a system vastly more complex, responsive and efficient than any government could organize--is not universally acknowledged or appreciated. It discomforts a certain political sensibility, the one that exaggerates the importance of government and the competence of the political class.

Yes, an exaggeration that is reinforced by the propaganda inculcated into people by government schools.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:08 PM
Meet The New Change

...same as the old change.

I've been amused, or at least bemused, for many months that Barack Obama has gotten away with pretending that his stale, failed collectivist policies represent something "new." So has Michael Ledeen:

Once upon a time, Obama's vision of "change"-which is based on class structure and top-down collective enterprises-was not only contemporary but exciting. It inspired a generation of Americans to create the welfare state. But then the welfare state aged, and now, in the wild-west world of globalization, instant communication, the blogosphere and so forth, it is very old hat. The ideas are still hanging around, however.

Bill Clinton understood that, and since he wasn't really committed to any particular political agenda aside from his own success, he was able to grab many of his opponents' ideas and use them. I remember poor Bob Dole complaining that Clinton was stealing his ideas, and he was right.

Obama doesn't get that, I suspect because he really believes those old, now-failed ideas. He can't bring himself to say that the collectivist projects of the sort he promoted in Chicago are bad for the poor, although when pressed he ootches toward more sensible positions (as when, in Saddleback, he confessed that he had probably been a bit too negative about welfare reform). We've all noticed that Obama keeps moving toward McCain's positions on many issues, even on the basic one: the war.

If you hold ideas that no longer work (and indeed don't even explain anything contemporary), it's hard to conduct an inspirational political campaign, and Obama, like almost all the other Democrats, is stuck with the knowledge that he's going to lose most of the policy debates. But he still wants to win. And the only way he CAN win is to destroy his opponents, which is the strategy the left is pursuing, ever more frantically.

Of course, I would be more amused if so many people didn't seem to fall for the schtick. But fortunately, it looks like a sufficient number are on to him that he won't get to implement his "change." As Bill Whittle wrote, Sarah took away his glamour, and now John McCain is purloining his "change" mantra, which was never much, but it was all that he had left.

[Update a few minutes later]

It occurs to me that one of the reasons that young people are susceptible to Barack Obama's "change" hokum is that they have no sense of history. To them, all is new, and only George Bush's policies are old.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:43 AM
A New Vote For Palin/McCain

You know that Tina Fey has to be hoping for a Republican victory. It's a guaranteed gig for at least four, and maybe a dozen years.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:33 AM

September 13, 2008

How Screwed Up Is Milspace?

This screwed up:

After trying unsuccessfully for years to build its own radar satellite, the Pentagon is now turning to its allies for help and has been presented with a plan that would see it buy a clone of Canada's highly successful Radarsat-2 spacecraft.

The U.S. Defence Department asked for and received information this week from a number of foreign satellite consortiums on how they could help the Pentagon meet its surveillance needs for the future.

Isn't there anybody here who knows how to play this game?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:30 PM
Turnabout Is Fair Play

Heh. Instant Godwin:

"Hitler was a community organizer, FDR was a governor." Makes as much sense as the Jeebus/Pilate meme.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:07 AM
What A Mess

I'm looking at reporting from what looks like the Sheraton in Clear Lake, and there are reports of furniture with NASA logos floating in the bay. Gotta think that some of the JSC facilities were flooded.

If space were important, we wouldn't have mission control in an area susceptible to floods and hurricanes. The Cape has some geographical reasons for its location, but the only reason that JSC is in Houston is because Johnson wanted it there, and the land was free.

[Update in the afternoon]

Here's more on NASA's fragile infrastructure. The agency's ground facilities are just as non-robust as its space transportation system.

Here is how it seems to work: a hurricane threatens JSC - so NASA shuts off email and other services to a large chunk of the agency. Why? Because NASA deliberately set the system up such that other NASA centers - some of which are thousands of miles away and poised to offer assistance and keep the rest of the agency operating - have their email and other services routed out of JSC - and only JSC (or so it would seem). A few critical users have some service, but everyone else is out of luck for at least 48 hours. Would any self-respecting, profitable, commercial communications company do something as silly as this? No. They'd never stay in business. Only NASA would come up with such a flawed and stupid plan.

That's too harsh. I can imagine the FAA, or DHS doing exactly the same thing.

It's just more of that wise, foresightful government thing.

[Update about 1:30 PM EDT]

Jeff Masters says that Galveston lucked out:

Although Ike caused heavy damage by flooding Galveston with a 12-foot storm surge, the city escaped destruction thanks to its 15.6-foot sea wall (the wall was built 17 feet high, but has since subsided about 2 feet). The surge was able to flow into Galveston Bay and flood the city from behind, but the wall prevented a head-on battering by the surge from the ocean side. Galveston was fortunate that Ike hit the city head-on, rather than just to the south. Ike's highest storm surge occurred about 50 miles to the northeast of Galveston, over a lightly-populated stretch of coast. Galveston was also lucky that Ike did not have another 12-24 hours over water. In the 12 hours prior to landfall, Ike's central pressure dropped 6 mb, and the storm began to rapidly organize and form a new eyewall. If Ike had had another 12-24 hours to complete this process, it would have been a Category 4 hurricane with 135-145 mph winds that likely would have destroyed Galveston. The GFDL model was consistently advertising this possibility, and it wasn't far off the mark. It was not clear to me until late last night that Ike would not destroy Galveston and kill thousands of people. Other hurricane scientists I conversed with yesterday were of the same opinion.

And of course, the lesson that the people who stayed behind will take is not that they were lucky and foolhardy, but that the weather forecasters overhyped the storm, and they'll be even less likely to evacuate the next time. And one of these times their luck will run out, as it did for their ancestors a few generations ago, when thousands were killed by a hurricane in Galveston.

[Update mid afternoon]

Sounds like things could have been a lot worse at NASA, too.

NASA had feared that a storm surge from Galveston Bay would flood some buildings on the 1,600-acre Space Center. Its southeast boundary is near Clear Lake, which is connected to Galveston Bay. However, the water did not rise that high.

Apparently the Guppy hangar at Ellington was destroyed, but it was never much of a hangar--more like a big tent.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:03 AM
Economic Ignorami

George Bush's announcement this morning that the administration was concerned about "gouging" reminded me of why I wish that we'd had better options in the last two elections (and still do). I expect that kind of nonsense from Democrats, but you'd think that someone who was supposedly a businessman would know better. Or perhaps he does, and is just pandering. I'm not sure which is worse.

Every time we have a natural disaster like this, this idiotic topic comes up, and we once again have to explain Econ 101 to the products of our public school system, probably in futility. This time, it's Rich Hailey's turn.

Here's what I wrote about it a three years ago, in the wake of Katrina.

[Update late morning]

Jeez, I thought that David Asman was smarter than that. Now he's telling Fox viewers to take pictures of stations with high gas prices so that they can be reported to authorities. It's hard for me to believe that Neal Cavuto would do that.

[Another update a minute or so later]

You know, I think that this is an explanation for socialism and collectivism's continuing grip on the public mind, despite its long history of unending failure. There's just something in human psychology to which it naturally appeals, and rationality just can't break through. It just "feels" unfair for prices to go up in an emergency, regardless of the demonstrably bad consequences of attempting to legislate them.

[Late afternoon update]

Shannon Love explains how the gas station business works:

I'll say it one more time for those who can't be bothered to actually ask someone who owns a gas station. Gas stations set prices for the gas they sell today based on the wholesale price of the gas they will have to buy to replace it. Get it? The price you pay for a gallon today is the cost of the gallon the station will have buy to replace the one you just bought.

Gas stations sell gas at or near cost, so if they did not use replacement pricing any sudden spike in gas prices would shut them down and you couldn't get any gas. I simply do not know why our public and private talking heads cannot understand and communicate this simple fact.

Because either they don't know it, or they think that people don't want to hear it. They operate on razor-thin margins, and can't afford to hand out subsidized gas as charity, even if that wouldn't screw up the market. And note, for those who say it's "big oil" that is "maximizing profits" in the face of a national emergency, even if that were true (it's not) "big oil" isn't threatened with jail for "gouging." It's the gas station owner, who has no control over his wholesale gas costs. So people who demand that we crack down on gougers are essentially demanding that the station operators either operate at a loss, or pay fines, or go to jail. I don't know why anyone would want to be in that business in the face of so much public ignorance about it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:47 AM

September 12, 2008

Wile E. Obama


OK, so you're running against a guy who for recreation (though not his) used to have his arms tied together at the wrists behind his back, and hang from them for hours, a result of which is that he can no longer raise them above his head. Or other things:

McCain gets emotional at the mention of military families needing food stamps or veterans lacking health care. The outrage comes from inside: McCain's severe war injuries prevent him from combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes.

And the Obama campaign is making fun of him for not knowing how to email?

When these guys lose, there will be many reasons why.

[Update late Friday evening]

Glenn has a more. A lot more, with lots of links. This one may have legs.

[Late night update]

One more update from Jonah.

As he says, bogus as it gets.

[Late evening update]

Iowahawk (who else!) picks up on the theme. Hilarity ensues.

[Saturday morning update]

Roger Kimball wonders who is sabotaging the Obama campaign?

Hey, as I say in comments, the guy has problems finding good help. Just who we want for president.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:59 PM
NASA Infighting

An interview with Tom Jones on the subject, over at Popular Mechanics. Note that he doesn't point out that no one ordered Mike Griffin to develop Ares, which is the biggest reason that Orion is delayed and that NASA doesn't have enough funding. He also has too much faith in Orion flying before something else (particularly given the Ares problems). I'm sure we could put up a capsule on an Atlas long before 2014, whether Dragon or something else, if we made it a priority.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:11 AM

Glenn has some good advice for presidential candidates:

Take your own camera to every interview, and post the raw video online. The news folks won't like that, but, really, what principled basis is there for objection?

I think that a "principled" basis would be too much to expect from them. It would be amusing to see what their response is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:18 AM
Staying Together For The Kids

As I've noted in the past, we're going to have to decide how much ISS is worth to us. Chair Force Engineer thinks that we're going to bite the bullet and buy more Soyuzs from the Russians:

Besides the reliance on Soyuz, there are myriad other ways in which ISS cannot survive unless the US and Russia cooperate. The various modules are too interconnected, and neither country can operate their contributions to the station without the other country playing along. It's conceivable that Russia could afford to build Soyuz without American money, by selling the American slots to space tourists. But a Russian-led ISS would still require use of American space modules.

America and Russia are left in a situation where it's unlikely that either will abandon the ISS, even though both nations are mired in growing mistrust. If I had to make a bet, I would say that the US and Russia will learn to grin and bear it, operating ISS jointly until 2017. When Congress looks rationally at its options, it will realize that it will have to begrudgingly buy more Soyuz if it still wants to participate in ISS.

Sometimes, I think that expecting Congress to "look rationally at its options" is asking too much. Particularly when it's robbing money from the NASA budget to provide foreign aid to Ethiopia. Sure, why not? It's not like NASA's spending the money very usefully, anyway. It just proves my oft-made point that space isn't politically important.

Anyway, as I said in my Pajamas piece, this is a policy disaster long in the making, and the chickens are finally coming home to roost. It was naive in the extreme at the end of the Cold War to assume that we and Russia would be BFFs and enter into such an inextricable long-term relationship. Now it's like a very dysfunctional marriage that is being held together only out of concern for the children. Without ISS, the divorce would be swift, I suspect.

[Update a while later]

Speaking of apt metaphors, Clark Lindsey has one for the Ares program:

Yellow and red grades notwithstanding, it has always seemed extremely unlikely to me that Ares I would fail to fly when NASA has so many billions of dollars available to spend on it. However, since I believe the whole Ares I/V program to be a stupendous waste, if technical problems did arise that led to its cancellation, I'd consider it a boon for US space development. If the brakes fail and a huge truck starts to careen down a hill, it's a blessing if the thing blows a tire instead and flops over into a ditch with relatively little damage to people and property. Unfortunately, it appears that Ares will keep rolling no matter what.

Actually, I wouldn't necessarily bet on that. There may be "change" coming to NASA next year, regardless of who wins the election.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 AM
The Media Meltdown

Mark Steyn comments:

Howie [Kurtz] feels the press is being "manipulated" by the McCain campaign.

Maybe it is. A conventional launch strategy for a little-known vice-presidential nominee might have involved "manipulating" the media into running umpteen front-pagers on Sarah Palin's amazing primary challenge of a sitting governor and getting the sob-sisters to slough off a ton of heartwarming stories about her son shipping out to Iraq.

But, if you were really savvy, you'd "manipulate" the media into a stampede of lurid drivel deriding her as a Stepford wife and a dominatrix, comparing her to Islamic fundamentalists, Pontius Pilate and porn stars, and dismissing her as a dysfunctional brood mare who can't possibly be the biological mother of the kid she was too dumb to abort. Who knows? It's a long shot, but if you could pull it off, a really cunning media manipulator might succeed in manipulating Howie's buddies into spending the month after Labor Day outbidding each other in some insane Who Wants To Be An Effete Condescending Media Snob? death-match. You'd not only make the press look like bozos, but that in turn might tarnish just a little the fellow these geniuses have chosen to anoint.

I suspect that it's just going to get worse for them, particularly when they see the generic poll for Congress.

[Update a few minutes later]

John Hinderaker has more on Howie's anger:

I'm not sure what Obama had in mind, but I find it odd that in pages of outrage devoted to the supposed excesses of the McCain campaign, Kurtz finds no room to mention the fact that prominent Democrats (not anonymous emailers, who are much worse) have said that Governor Palin is Pontius Pilate and that her primary qualification seems to be that she hasn't had an abortion.

The truth is that Sarah Palin has been the object of the most vicious and concerted smear campaign in modern American history. But that fact doesn't cause the media (or Howard Kurtz) to get mad.

It's not too hard to diagnose why, as Kurtz correctly says, "the media are getting mad." They're getting mad because their candidate is losing. They've spent years building him up and covering for his mistakes and shortcomings, and he is such a stiff that he can't coast across the finish line. I'd be mad too, I guess, but I think I'd have the decency not to take it out on Sarah Palin.

Not just the decency. Also the intelligence, given how badly it continues to backfire on them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:56 AM
Who Would Have Imagined?

Just a month ago, many Republicans were resigned to hoping at best for the possibility of John McCain eking out a win against Obama, and not losing too much ground on the Hill. Now it looks like regaining Congress is within the realm of possibility:

The issues raised by today's low approval ratings of Congress are reinforced by recent Gallup Poll findings that relatively few voters generally believe "most members" of Congress deserve re-election. That figure was only 36% in July, much lower than the 51% or better reading found in recent election years when the party of the sitting majority in Congress maintained power.

When the generic preference is only 3% among registered voters (not likely voters), the Donkeys are in big trouble, because registered voters almost always overstate actual support for Democrats at the polls.

McCain needs to start running hard against Pelosi and Reid. With all the nasty things that Reid has been saying about him lately, he shouldn't have to work hard to motivate himself to do so.

It would help, of course, if Boehner and McConnell could make some noises to demonstrate that they learned their lesson from two years ago, and that they're no longer going to be the party of pork and privilege. It's a real shame that it looks like Stephens is going to win his primary in Alaska.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:25 AM
Palin Turnaround

My father, Dr. Dinkin Sr. author of Election Day: a Documentary History says that there has never been a VP who had this big an effect on the election--the most is about 5%. Further, that the last time a Party won that was behind in the polls after the second convention is 1964. Pressed he said 60-40 McCain. At intrade, McCain is trading at $0.52 for a security that pays $1 if he wins. Here's what he's trading at now (GMT):

If you smear lipstick on a pig, perhaps you have too much on.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 04:05 AM

September 11, 2008

Poor Word Choice

Did Mark Murray think about what he was writing?

Palin could be heard nearly squealing with delight in the front of the plane at the sight of three of her children at the foot of the stairs, and according to several aides, refused to stay inside the plane.

Emphasis mine.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:57 AM
Not Just The White House

These numbers over at Gallup should have the donkeys very worried.

Democrats have held a large advantage on party identification for much of 2007 and 2008. But the GOP convention -- and the exposure it gave to John McCain and Sarah Palin as the Republican ticket -- has encouraged a greater number of Americans to identify as Republicans, thus narrowing the Democratic advantage for the moment.

Republicans saw an even larger increase in "leaned" party identification, which is computed by adding the percentage of Americans who initially identify themselves as independents but then say they "lean" to a party to the percentage who identify with that party. Before the GOP convention, 39% of Americans said they identified with or leaned to the Republican Party, but that number has increased to 47%. Forty-eight percent now identify with or lean to the Democratic Party, down from 53% prior to the GOP convention.

This is the Palin effect, and I think that it's undone a lot of the damage that was done to the Republican brand that resulted in the 2006 losses. I wonder if a lot of the Republican legislators who decided to retire this year are having second thoughts?

These numbers also explain why Gallup has McCain leading, while Rasmussen has the race tied. Rasmussen hasn't adjusted his mix yet--I think that it's based on a three-month rolling average, and the recent shift in the political tide isn't showing up yet, and won't until just before the election.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:41 AM

Pork maven Iowahawk has some fun facts. Be sure to follow the links.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:35 AM
Good Advice

From one Democrat to others: lay off Palin.

They won't take it, though. They can't help themselves. They're too arrogant, and think that they're smarter than their political opponents. They also think that they understand conservatives and Republicans, when they're completely clueless, as Mr. Sapp points out. So they'll continue to dig themselves a deeper hole.

[Update a few minutes later]

See? They can't stop: they're equating Sarah Palin with Osama bin Laden.

[Update a while later]

Jeeeez. Now Sarah Palin isn't a woman.

Who knew? Sure fooled me.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:58 AM

September 10, 2008

Has Obama's Bubble Popped?

James Pethokoukis thinks so. So do I.

And as he notes, if there's a Palin bubble, it's unlikely to pop before the election, given that it took a year and a half for Obama's to do so...

This is why I've never thought Obama electable, though I hadn't accounted for Sarah. But she just means that there will be coatskirt-tails...

Which will be a good thing in the Senate.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:31 PM
Scopes of Evolution

Republicans are stereotyped for not endorsing evolution, endangering children.

Democrats are stereotyped for not endorsing evolution of endangered species.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 02:33 PM
Reagan Versus McCain

Jim Manzi isn't impressed with John McCain's energy policy. The best that can be said of it is that it's slightly better than Obama's.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:27 PM
Moose Killer, Maverick

Moose Killer...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:40 AM
A Hot House Plant

That's what I called Barack Obama yesterday. Here are more thoughts on that subject.

He's not that savvy. He's lucky -- which, as they say, ain't nothin'. But he's like a guy who got called up for the World Series after winning the high school championship: now, suddenly, the fields are bigger, the crowds are enormous and more discerning, and the other team is accomplished, professional and comes to beat your brains in -- not to provide an exhibition in good sportsmanship.

Obama must react to this drastic change, but he is not as smooth as advertised, he simply does not have a well of experience to draw on, and, importantly, the Democrat nomination campaign did not prepare him. He has always had very obvious weaknesses, but the Democrat candidates could not exploit them because their nomination cannot be won without appealing to a hard-Left base which is night-and-day different from the vast majority of the country. They play a hardcore identity politics and they would crucify anyone who so much as hinted that a young, black community organizer with movement-activist (i.e., terrorist) friends and a record of protecting a woman's right to choose even into the 4th trimester was not an ideal candidate.

Hillary, who would otherwise have been acceptable to the base, could not exploit Obama's biggest vulnerabilities. She couldn't go after him on terrorism because of the Clinton record of feckless counterterrorism and the pardons of Weather Underground and FALN terrorists (FWIW, that was my point in this piece). And she couldn't go after him on his rise from the seamy world of Chicago politics because of, well, see 1992-2000. But realize that, even with her hands tied behind her back in this way, Hillary would still have beaten him had the race gone on another month or so.

The Dems have been in denial for months about how weak their candidate is. The only thing propping him up has been the favorable environment for their party. But I think a new wind blew in from Alaska a week and a half ago.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:52 AM
We've All Been Wondering

Well, I have, anyway. What does Camille think about Sarah (both women for whom no last name is necessary, at least now)? Here it is. I think she sort of has the hots for her.

[Update a few minutes later]

For contrast, here's what a Hollywood nitwit thinks. If that's the right word...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:29 AM
What Does It Really Take? be fired from the Obama campaign?

A lot, apparently.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:52 AM
Organize This

(Democrat) Sandra Tsing Lo writes that the Obamas should have been more supportive of their local school system:

it is with huge grief-filled disappointment that I discovered that the Obamas send their children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School (by 5th grade, tuition equals $20,286 a year). The school's Web site quotes all that ridiculous John Dewey nonsense about developing character while, of course, isolating your children from the poor. A pox on them and, while we're at it, a pox on John Dewey! I'm sick to death of those inspirational Dewey quotes littering the Web sites of $20,000-plus-a-year private schools, all those gentle duo-tone-photographed murmurings about "building critical thinking and fostering democratic citizenship" in their cherished students, living large on their $20,000-a-year island.

Meanwhile, Joseph Biden, the Amtrak senator, standing up boldly for the right to be a Roman Catholic, appears to have sent all three children to the lovely looking Archmere Academy in Delaware. Archmere's Web site notes some public school districts allow Archmere students to use public school buses. Well, isn't that great -- your tax dollars at work in the great state of Delaware because with $18,000 a year in tuition, they can't afford their own buses.

Public schools are for the little people, to be run as the teachers' unions desire, and according to John Dewey's toxic design.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:30 AM
I Have Not Been Dreaming About Sarah Palin

Just for the record. These folks have, though, which would indicate that she's really gotten into their heads. I think that there's going to be a huge therapy bill come mid-November.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Has The Atlantic finally leashed its rabid pit bull? I've often wondered the last few years if the HIV has finally caught up with Andrew's mind. Dementia, sadly, is one of the potential consequences.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:44 AM
A Dime's Worth Of Difference?

Dale Amon explains why (at least pre-Palin) it was hard to be very enthusiastic about John McCain. But he leaves out a couple key areas: taxes and spending. And of course, the war.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:26 AM
Hammering Heather

It's been a few years since I last heard from Heather Mallick, but not enough. I could have waited several more with no regrets, but it was not to be.

Fortunately, Lileks has the antidote:

I don't think that Obama meant to call Sarah Palin a pig. Many in the audience may have been heartened by the stray implication, since they already regard her as a hootenanny mama who drinks corn likker from a jug with 3 Xs and smokes a corn-cob pipe after the media leaves, but Obama was just being Folksy and Colloquial in that um-you-know style he reverts to when he's in Authentic Mode. In short, I don't believe a line that stupid was delivered with full knowledge of its implications. I'm in a generous mood.

Or was, until I read this piece by a Canadian writer; it sums up with such delightful perfection what so many believe. So. Let's have a look.

...At least she's honest about the idea of female solidarity - it matters only if the ideological stars have aligned - no, if the ideological cycles have synced, to use terms she'd probably employ. Or has already. It's not about whether Sarah Palin is a woman, it's whether she's the right kind. She's supposed to restrict snow machines, not ride them or for God's sake get knocked up by some slopey-brow dullard who rides them. (Competitively! Gawd) Nationalize oil companies, don't make deals. Have one or two children, not five - Good Gaia, woman, are you trying to make overstuffed congested Alaska top the one-million-citizen mark all by yourself?

As for guys being irresponsible with their precious bodily essences, who cares? Aren't you using protection? Or are they using vagina-confusing Man-Beams to cloud your mind? As for putting off home repairs, here's a hint: either learn how to do it yourself, or admit there might be yet in this enlightened age a strange vague hangover that divides labor based on innate gender-influenced personality traits. If you expect him to fix things, and you roll your eyes when he tries, and you accuse him of using spit and matches, his motivation will be diminished - and even then he'll probably wait until you're out of earshot before he mutters "what a fishwife." If your man can't fix anything it but whines that he can make a really good white sauce, don't blame him when you have an affair with the electrician.

I know this: Mr. Palin probably doesn't postpone household repairs, or use glue, or old matches. He can probably change the oil in the car, too. There are guys like that. Not every wife has to sit in a cold Jiffy Lube waiting room leafing through Field and Stream, wishing the weirdo in the other chair would stop looking at her legs.

As usual, read all. I really should add a "Sarcasm" post category to complement my "Humor" and "Satire" ones.

Further fisking over at Tizona.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, can't resist. I have to provide one more snippet:

It's a joy to see someone who flung around "white trash" noting that she finds racism "so appalling." All is forgiven; BFF? I don't know what "violently rich" means, except that it certain sounds bad - like you walked up to Tony Rezco and punched him until a nice house deal fell out of his pockets - but yes, most Americans want to be rich, at least as rich as Obama, and there is nothing wrong with this. Most don't have the book-deal / Chicago machine option, so they either play the lottery and plug away at their jobs, or they try to improve their station by the usual means. It is a dearly held American notion that you can do better than you're doing. Even in broken Kansas.

As I said, hie thyself over there. It's all delicious.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:11 AM

September 09, 2008

The Gaffe Machine Continues To Churn

Will this be the the gaffe of the campaign?

Given the gaffe potential for both sides of the Donkey ticket, it seem unlikely, but maybe...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:33 PM
The New Season

An interview with the creator of the Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:27 PM
Obama's Executive Experience

Is this really someone you want in charge of the federal budget?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:30 PM
No Small-Town Girl

Jim Bennett writes that Sarah Palin is a much more savvy political operator than people are giving her credit for:

Far from being a reprise of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Palin was a clear-eyed politician who, from the day she took office, knew exactly what she had to do and whose toes she would step on to do it.

The surprise is not that she has been in office for such a short time but that she has succeeded in each of her objectives. She has exposed corruption; given the state a bigger share in Alaska's energy wealth; and negotiated a deal involving big corporate players, the US and Canadian governments, Canadian provincial governments, and native tribes - the result of which was a £13 billion deal to launch the pipeline and increase the amount of domestic energy available to consumers. This deal makes the charge of having "no international experience" particularly absurd.

In short, far from being a small-town mayor concerned with little more than traffic signs, she has been a major player in state politics for a decade, one who formulated an ambitious agenda and deftly implemented it against great odds.

Her sudden elevation to the vice-presidential slot on the Republican ticket shocked no one more than her enemies in Alaska, who have broken out into a cold sweat at the thought of Palin in Washington, guiding the Justice Department's anti-corruption teams through the labyrinths of Alaska's old-boy network.

It is no surprise that many of the charges laid against her have come from Alaska, as her enemies become more and more desperate to bring her down. John McCain was familiar with this track record and it is no doubt the principal reason that he chose her.

"In office for such a short time, but succeeded in each of her objectives." Sound like Barack Obama? Not really, unless you consider "attaining the next office" his "objective." Here's hoping that he fails in the current one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:10 PM
Look In The Mirror

That's Jennifer Rubin's advice to Obama if he wants to know how he's losing the election. I disagree with this bit of (what is now) conventional wisdom, though:

The obvious blunder was in bypassing Hillary Clinton as VP. With Clinton, the frenzy of excitement would have been for the Democrats and Sarah Palin would be back in Alaska.

Admittedly, having Hillary! on the ticket would have made the Palin pick more difficult--it would have looked too much like "me too." But Obama had good (as well as no doubt bad) reasons to not want to share the ticket with her. The Dems might have thought it was a "dream ticket," but not everyone would agree. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have high negatives, and they're not necessarily with the same group of voters. That ticket would lose votes to both the voters who won't vote for Barack Obama and those would would never vote for Hillary!, and that conjoined set would very likely been more than half the electorate. Her choice would also have fired up the Republican base against her.

And that's ignoring having to share the stage and power with her, and the Bill problem (not to mention having to hire a food taster and have someone else start his car for him every morning). No, I don't think that failing to put her on the ticket was a mistake.

What was a mistake, though was dissing her and her supporters by making it clear that he had never even considered doing so. If he'd been smarter, he'd have at least gone through the motions of vetting her and making it looks as though she was on the list. As it was, it was just one more finger in their collective face.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:52 AM
Obama's Biggest Problem

Pointed out by VDH:

...don't count on a Palin implosion: if one examines Obama's failed House race, and the weird pull-outs of both his primary and general election Illinois Senatorial opponents, then we sense that he has never really waged a knock-out campaign fight until this past year--and that may not be true of Palin's past scrappy and contested rise to the top.

Barack Obama is a hot house plant. He only beat Hillary! because of his early success in caucuses, and because of the Clinton campaign's early complacency and overconfidence. He lost the last half of the primary seasons.

He wasn't supposed to win the nomination this year--it was just a practice run. But now he's like a dog who chases cars, and has finally caught one. He doesn't know what to do with it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:58 AM
Of Course It Does

Restricting the top speed on automobiles "seems reasonably sensible" to Matthew Yglesias:

...of course the reason you're not allowed to go super-fast is that it isn't safe. A large proportion of car accidents are related to people driving too quickly. Thus, via Ezra Klein comes Kent Sepkowitz's suggestion that we design cars so as to make it impossible for them to drive over, say, 75 miles per hour.

Clearly spoken as someone woefully ignorant of the cause of accidents, and who probably doesn't drive much, at least outside a city, or in the west, or in mountains, or on curvy roads where rapid passing is occasionally necessary. Or someone to whom time (at least other peoples' time) has no value. I suspect that he agrees with Al Gore that cars are intrinsically evil, and wishes that everyone would ride a train, like those enlightened Europeans. It's similar to the idiocy (and yes, there's no other word for it) of a double nickel speed limit (something to which even Charles Krauthammer, who doesn't drive at all) has fallen prey.

Fortunately, most of his commenters take him to school.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:20 AM
Who Is Overpaid?

Not engineers.

Engineer's salaries, taking into consideration education and responsibilities, the stress of accelerated delivery schedules and their direct impact on corporate profits and overall success of the company, seem absolutely inadequate.

Well, I've known a few who were. But no, not in general.

In many of these overpaid professions, there's some kind of government-induced market failure going on (e.g., longshoremen), but in a lot of cases, it's just the occasional irrationality of the market place.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:10 AM
Mike Griffin's Frustration

I was going to have some comments about the administrator's leaked email, but haven't had the time. Fortunately, over in comments at Space politics, "" picks up my slack:

He didn't mean for it to be shown to the outside world, but the revisionism, hypocrisy, and self-adulation in Griffin's email is pretty shocking, even this late into the ESAS/Constellation debacle. It's either that, or he's been lying about his real positions for a long time. Griffin wrote:

"Exactly as I predicted, events have unfolded in a way that makes it clear how unwise it was for the US to adopt a policy of deliberate dependence on another power for access to the ISS."

Griffin never predicted this. Instead, Griffin repeatedly stated that the VSE -- including its 2010 date for Shuttle retirement -- and the accompanying NASA Authorization Act of 2005 provide the nation with its best civil space policy in decades. In fact, Griffin said so as recently as January 2008 in an STA speech:

"I consider this to be the best civil space policy to be enunciated by a president, and the best Authorization Act to be approved by the Congress, since the 1960s."

See here.

In fact, just before becoming NASA Administrator, Griffin even _led_ a study that argued as one of its central conclusions/recommendations that the Space Shuttle could and should be retired after ISS assembly reached the stage of "U.S. Core Complete", certainly no later than 2010.

See here.

If Griffin was really so prescient as to predict the situation that NASA's human space flight programs are in now, then he should have spoken up years ago instead of repeatedly signing onto studies and policies that are flawed according to the argument in his email. In fact, it would have been wrong for him to have lobbied for the job of NASA Administrator to begin with if he really thought that the President's policy was so compromised.

Griffin should resign immediately and apologize if his email reflects what he's actually believed all these years. If not, and his email represents how Griffin has recently changed his views, then Griffin should admit that he was wrong to sign onto the policy, argue that the policy needs to be revised, and resign if it is not revised in a manner that he can support.

Griffin also wrote:

"In a rational world, we would have been allowed to pick a Shuttle retirement date to be consistent with Ares/Orion availability"

Griffin is confused about both chronology and causality in this statement. The Shuttle retirement date came first -- as a recommendation about Shuttle operability and certification in the CAIB report and then as policy in the VSE. The replacement for Shuttle (originally CEV in the VSE and then Ares/Orion in ESAS) came second and was supposed to have a schedule that was responsive to that Shuttle retirement date.

In a rational world, a rational NASA Administrator would have picked a rational Shuttle replacement that could be developed rapidly and fielded soon after the 2010 deadline for Shuttle retirement using the available budgetary and technical resources. Instead, Griffin chose an Ares/Orion system that is so technically compromised that it can't complete even its preliminary design review before the end of the Bush II Administration and is so costly that it can't be flown operationally within the available budget until 2015 (and even that date has only a limited chance of being met).

Gemini took less than four years to develop and fly. In the same amount of time, Ares I/Orion will not complete its preliminary design review. That is not rational.

Apollo took seven years to develop and fly (to the Moon). In the same amount of time, Ares I/Orion will still be (at least) three years from flying (to the ISS). That is not rational.

Griffin also wrote:

"We would have been asked to deploy Ares/Orion as early as possible (rather than "not later than 2014″) and we would have been provided the necessary budget to make it so."

Griffin is just making up history with this statement. NASA was never asked to "deploy Ares/Orion" at all. Rather, the VSE directed NASA to develop a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV, which eventually becameOrion), and provided a budget that supported CEV development. The VSE never directed NASA to develop a new launch vehicle that duplicated the nation's military and commercial capabilities with yet another medium- to intermediate-lift launcher (Ares), and the budget never supported such a development. Ares I needlessly busted the VSE budget box from day one, requiring the termination of billions of dollars of ISS research and exploration technology development just to start its design activities.

And why does anyone have to ask Griffin to deploy a Shuttle replacement as early as possible when the VSE gives him the flexibility to develop a replacement anytime before 2014? Is the NASA Administrator really so unambitious and lacking in initiative that, instead of being given a deadline (which he's blown by a year anyway), he also has to be told by the White House to execute a critical replacement program as rapidly as possible?

And then Griffin wrote:

"... for OSTP and OMB, retiring the Shuttle is a jihad rather than an engineering and program management decision."

First, for the head of any federal agency to use the term "jihad" in written reference to the White House offices that set policy for and fund their agency - especially when the same White House has been leading a seven-year war against Islamic extremism - demonstrates such extremely poor judgement that it brings into question whether that agency head is still fit to serve.

Second, the 2010 date for Shuttle retirement was effectively set by the CAIB's expert judgment about and extensive investigation into the vehicle's operational and certification issues. OSTP and OMB (and NASA under the prior Administrator) simply reiterated the 2010 date in the VSE. If Griffin wants to challenge the 2010 Shuttle retirement date, then he needs to challenge the engineering and program management analysis and expertise of the 13-member CAIB and its 32 staff, not OSTP and OMB. OSTP and OMB read and followed the CAIB report on this issue. Apparently Griffin did not and has not.

The only things OSTP and OMB are guilty of is not fulfilling all of the White House's funding commitments to the VSE and not stopping Ares I/Orion at the outset when those projects busted the budget, or later when they ran into insurmountable technical issues and schedule delays that made them programmatically and politically useless.

Griffin also wrote:

"Further, they [OSTP and OMB] actively do not want the ISS to be sustained, and have done everything possible to ensure that it would not be."

For the same NASA Administrator who wiped out billions of dollars of ISS research and who referred to the ISS as a "mistake" in the press to criticize White House offices about their lack of support for the ISS is the height of hypocrisy. See (add http://www):

Griffin needs to stop flailing in the political winds, make up his mind, and stick with a consistent position on the value (or lack thereof) of the ISS.

Finally, and this is a technical nit compared to the issues above, but towards the end, Griffin also wrote:

"The argument that we need to get Shuttle out of the way so that conversion of the VAB/MAF for Constellation can proceed is similarly specious."

This totally misses the point. The VAB and MAF are just really huge shells that NASA can build anything in. It's the launch and rocket test infrastructure (the pads, the mobile launcher platform, and test stands) that the Shuttle and Constellation system share, and which Constellation has to make modifications to, that will interminably slow Constellation development if Shuttle continues to make use of those facilities.

My kingdom for a rational NASA Administrator who reads and follows policy direction, develops programs within their allotted budgets, encourages and listens to independent technical advice, and has the capacity to admit when the current plan is fubar and adjust course in a timely manner.

Maybe in the next administration, regardless of who wins. But don't bet on it. The only area in which I disagree with these comments concerns the Shuttle retirement date. As I noted in a later comment over there:

"...why did they pick 2010? What is magic about that date (particularly when no one really knows what 'certification' means)?

I had always assumed that the CAIB thought that the Shuttle should be retired ASAP, and that if it wasn't, it would have to be 'recertified' for longer life (ignoring the issue that the term was undefined). But ASAP meant no sooner than ISS completion, which (I think even then) was scheduled for 2010 (at least after the Columbia loss and standown). Hence the date (it doesn't hurt that it's a round number).

The Shuttle doesn't suddenly become less safe to fly in 2011, or even 2012. If there is a degradation, it is a gradual one, not a binary condition, and there is no obvious 'knee in the curve.' The date was driven by non-Shuttle considerations, IMO. If someone on the CAIB (e.g., Dr. Day) knows otherwise, I'd be interested to know that."

And if Mike Griffin is now frustrated, and wants to know who to blame, he'll see him the next time he shaves.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:36 AM

Ann Althouse writes that Bill O'Reilly "spouts right-wing economic theories."

What does that mean?

I've heard Bill O'Reilly rant against free trade, complain about "fat cats," whine about "obscene" profits from oil companies, price gougers, etc., but in that, he seems to be more attuned to Democrats than "right wingers." Say what you want about O'Reilly, but he's no "right winger" (at least if, by that, one means a classical liberal who believes in free markets). He's a populist, who is just "looking out for the folks" (at least to hear him tell it--never mind the actual effects of his anti-market nostrums). Just another example of the meaninglessness (and uselessness) of the labels (e.g., "neocon," "conservative," "fascist") that get pointlessly thrown around the arena.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:47 AM
Don't Give Up Your Day Job

The day job, that is, which seems to primarily consist of running for the next office. Senator Obama tries to bring the funny.

"I mean, mother, governor, moose shooter?! I mean I think that's cool, that's cool stuff," Obama said about Palin's biography.

When discussing McCain's energy plan, Obama poked fun at his line on drilling. "What were the Republicans hollerin', 'drill baby drill'? What kind of slogan is that?! They were getting all excited about drilling!"

Maybe you had to be there.

And how politically stupid is it to make fun of hunters in Michigan (which in fact does have moose in the western UP)?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM

September 08, 2008

More Community Organizer Thoughts

Byron York has an actual history of what Obama did. Jim Geraghty has some related thoughts:

...note that Obama and his supporters speak a great deal about Obama's choice to be a community organizer, and not so much on what he actually did. We're continually expected to applaud the decision to try instead of asking about the results. We never hear, "because of his work, Factory X reopened," or "because of Obama's creation of job retraining program Y, the community's unemployment rate reduced from A to B."

Yes, with so-called "liberals," it's always about the good intentions, and we're not supposed to pay any attention to actual results.

Lileks has some thoughts as well:

We're having a block party tonight - yes, another block party; damned community can't stop organizing itself (if I may repeat something I said over at Tim Blair's place - successful communities, or those on track to becoming successful, organize themselves; if you need someone to come in and do your organizing for you, he might as well call himself Mollusk Wrangler or Sloth Herder. I say this as a former community organizer myself, but that's another story) so we'll all stand outside and chat and eat pot luck.

If your community needs an "organizer" it's probably not much of a community. It's just a lot of people living in close proximity.

And just a hint for some in comments: given Obama's image problem with his messiah complex, it's probably not politically helpful to compare him to Jesus...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:43 AM
Building Character

Jessica Gavora, native Alaskan (and aka better half of Jonah Goldberg) has some thoughts on basketball and Sarah Palin:

We didn't play basketball to pad our college applications or fulfill some bureaucrat's notion of "gender equity." We played because the winters were long and cold and dark. There was nothing else to do. Maybe as a result, basketball was deadly serious business. Away games were played at the end of eight-hour bus rides or harrowing plane landings in frozen, remote villages. Our opponents were tough, and the fans were unforgiving. And even though the law that feminists like to credit with all female athletic success, Title IX, was then unenforced in high school sports, we girls wouldn't have dreamed of taking second place to the boys--nor did we.

Palin earned her now-famous nickname on the hardcourt--"Sarah Barracuda." Her enemies have tried to belittle her by pointing to her stint as a beauty queen, but it is clear that Palin's background in sports, more than any other experience, is what has made her the existential threat to liberal feminism (and possibly the Democratic ticket) that she is today.

I wonder how she'd do one on one with Senator Obama? Did he ever win a state championship for his team? Perhaps it's another comparison that his campaign should avoid.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:17 AM
Fact From Fiction

Charlie Martin sorts through all the Palin rumors.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 AM
Well, That's Reassuring

Senator Obama says he's not going to take our guns away, because he doesn't have the votes in Congress. What a politically brilliant thing to say in Pennsylvania. And he says that he's not going to take them out of our house. What he doesn't say is that he doesn't want us to take them out of our house, either.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:25 AM

September 06, 2008

Defending "Community Organizers"

Iowahawk is on the job.

By the way, I'm about to get on an airplane to go back to get blown away by a hurricane, so no posting until this evening, if then.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:58 AM

September 05, 2008

Another Electoral Concern

Obama's supporters don't seem to believe in the Constitution:

While 82% of voters who support McCain believe the justices should rule on what is in the Constitution, just 29% of Barack Obama's supporters agree. Just 11% of McCain supporters say judges should rule based on the judge's sense of fairness, while nearly half (49%) of Obama supporters agree.

This by itself is reason to vote for McCain.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:19 PM
Fool's Paradise

People who go to work for the government with the expectation that it will provide them with retirement security are kidding themselves.

Getting local politicians *and* local unions to think more than a year or two is all but impossible. Do you realize that practically no local jurisdictions even have a Liabilities Budget?

It's just part of that visionary and long-range thinking on the part of governments.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:47 PM
Off Guard

Here's a Time article on how the Obama campaign plans to deal with Sarah. I was struck by the very first graf.

Nobody was more surprised by John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate than the people who run Barack Obama's campaign. "I can honestly say that we weren't prepared for that," says David Axelrod, Obama's top strategist. "I mean, her name wasn't on anybody's list. It was a surprise to a lot of Republicans as well."

Well, why weren't they prepared for it? A lot of the non-left blogs have been speculating about her for months. Rush reportedly was talking her up months ago, and there have been threads at Free Republic about her. She had come to Arizona to visit McCain's house there. It was no big intellectual challenge to figure out that she was on the list, if not the short one.

Is this kind of intelligence cluelessness the way they plan to run the country?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:01 PM
Won Over

Bill Whittle is now sold on John McCain:

I had heard before that John McCain had been beaten in prison, and I admired him for it. But when he said he had been broken . . . I gasped. When this sometimes cocky, arrogant old man told me he had once been a cocky, arrogant young man until he was "blessed by hardship," until he had been broken and remade -- and in that remaking discovered a love of country so fierce and pure that even as a patriot myself I will never approach it -- well, in that moment John McCain won my heart, to add to the respect and admiration he had already had.

When John McCain told me what I and untold millions of Americans have always believed, what others tell me to be ashamed of and mock me for -- that I live in the greatest country in the world, a force of goodness and justice in dark places, a land of heroism and sacrifice and opportunity and joy -- to me that went right to the mystic chords of memory that ultimately binds this country together. Some people don't know what it is, but there is such a thing as patriotism -- pure, unrefined, unapologetic, unconditional, non-nuanced, non-cosmopolitan, white-hot-burning patriotism. John McCain loves this country. I love it too. Not what it might be made into someday -- not its promise, always and only its promise -- but what it was and what it is, a nation and an idea worth fighting and dying for.

He also points out that Sarah has stolen Barack's mojo. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:00 PM
Just How Stupid all the people who were predicting that Sarah Palin would drop out within a couple days look now?

[Update a few minutes later]

More thoughts from Ann Althouse, on foolish Eagleton comparisons.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:23 PM

September 04, 2008

An Interesting Interview

...with Mike Griffin.

Not a lot new here for people who have been following it. And I would have a lot bolder vision for a "perfect world" than simply enough money to fly Shuttle while developing the Paintshaker. And he seems to be ignoring the issue that they share facilities and that mods have to occur (unless he was asking for enough money for new facilities for the new launcher).

And this is a useful point:

Q: When I tell non space people about the gap, the response is almost universally "you're kidding." Why is that?

Griffin: The 'you're kidding' part and the lack of notice, for several years it was something fairly far off in the future. The actual circumstance doesn't even occur in the next president's administration unless that president gets two terms. It certainly wasn't occurring in this president's administration and it doesn't occur in any of the next couple of Congresses, right? Nobody around today was certain to be on scene when the actual consequence occurs. Moreover, I don't think anybody reading about it in the papers ... thought really that it was going to be allowed to come to pass.

A lot of people argue that we need governments to fund things like this because private industry is too short sighted.

Give me a break.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:52 PM

This is just one poll, but it indicates that either Obama didn't get a convention bounce, or it was negated by events since (and the Republican convention didn't really get going until last night). If it's valid, it's hard to see anything other than the Palin selection as the cause. And note the difference between this poll and the one on the weekend (eight points). As I noted previously, weekend polls are notorious for favoring Democrats.

Also, if valid, it's bad news for Obama. If McCain gets a convention bounce, he'll be well in the lead.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:12 PM
A Roundup Of Palin Reax

From Iowahawk.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:03 PM
Oh, By The Way

You just know the Obama campaign is going to try to scare you out of voting for her. They're gonna say she can't manage her family. And that she kills innocent helpless animals. And did we mention that she's a woman?

If you don't vote for McCain/Palin, you're a sexist. And probably a secret misogynist.

What a delicious trap for the identity politics crowd.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:10 AM
Senator Obama's Legislative Accomplishments

Alex Knapp points out that he gets a bad rap, at least in his Senate career. I think that a lot of people tend to focus on all his "present" votes in the IL legislature.

But I don't necessarily judge a legislator by the quantity of laws generated. The quality matters much more to me. In fact, I'd prefer an effective legislator who did nothing other than preventing bad legislation, even if (s)he never originated any. I don't think that the country suffers from a shortage of laws, particularly federal ones. And I'd really go for someone who would work to overturn much of the bad law currently on the books.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:34 AM

I should state up front that I'm not easily influenced by speechifying. I never got what people thought was so great about Bill Clinton's speeches--I had trouble stomaching them myself, because they always seemed so fake and disingenuous. And I never understood why Reagan was called "the Great Communicator." Most of his speeches left me pretty cold as well. I mean, I was fine with the content, but I just never got the all the adulation.

Same thing with Governor Palin. She gave a good speech, had a lot of nice swipes at The One, and I liked most of what she said, as far as it goes. It's probably too much to expect a lot of policy, given that she'd just come through several days of one of the most vicious media assaults in history, and had to just get the audience to know her. Her voice doesn't seem as strong as I'd like, but I think that for most people, it must increase her likability factor. It's also impressive that she managed to give it with teleprompter problems, with no obvious flubs. She either had good notes as a backup, or she really knew that speech. Had Obama been in a similar situation it could have been disastrous (which makes one think of the potential for a very dirty campaign trick if one could breach the security and get control of his prompter during a big speech).

I think that she's going to be a very good debater, and show people that she's much more knowledgable than the stereotype so far.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:22 AM

September 03, 2008

Sarah Shrugged

Irene Klotz has been won over by Sarah Palin and Ayn Rand. And the former Democrat is going to be following the campaign from a space perspective. Not sure how much she's going to have to report. I doubt that it will be a big issue outside of Florida.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:44 PM
A Suggestion For Sarah

She should slip this line into her speech:

"Being a mayor is kind of like being a community organizer, except mayors have to get results and are held accountable if they don't."


Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:11 PM

Victor Davis Hanson defines a new word, sure to go down with "borking." Or "swiftboating," except that what that means depends on who you ask.

The liberal left buys into the Gore notion of offsets--that by backing ever more entitlements, and public assistance, the caring liberal is allowed to feel a little tsk, tsk about Alaska moose-hunters, teenage white girls getting pregnant, and small-town mayorships, without incurring the charge of elitism. Writing a story about a struggling family or an illegal alien wrongly deported, introducing a bill to help working moms, announcing that an Obama speech is the equivalent of the Gettysburg Address, all that lets you unload on the Palin's teenage daughter or Palin herself in ways that any unbiased observer would consider sexist, snobbish, and condescendingly cruel.

Being a mother of a Down syndrome child, raising five children, rising, without money or family influence, to the governorship on an anti-corruption and commonsense platform, in addition to trying to run the largest-sized state in the union, critical to both the energy and defense security of the nation, all that should have made liberals and feminists, if reluctantly, nevertheless appreciative of her success in a mostly male political world.

Not this week, perhaps--but soon there will be a backlash against all this creepiness. Just watch...

Here's a thought experiment. Imagine a charismatic senator, with Obama's resume, except that it's a woman (even make it a black woman if you want, but it shouldn't really matter that much). Imagine also an equally charismatic governor of Alaska, a rugged outdoorsman who hunts moose and plays hockey with a philosophy of individualism and self reliance, who has started and run successful businesses, risen through politics and vanquished corrupt politicians in his own party. Make him a Democrat if you want.

Which of them would be perceived to be more ready to lead the nation?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:31 PM
More On Palin The Libertarian

Matt Welch has an interesting interview with an Alaskan Democrat:

Q: So libertarian-minded people should be fine with that, right?

A: Let me tell you all the nice things about Sarah Palin: Sarah Palin has been a pretty freaking awesome governor. She came in saying that the entire system was corrupt, and that Republicans were evil, and she was going to just mix everything up and get us a gas pipeline and end of story. And she got to power, she was elected overwhelmingly by independents, beat Tony Knowles, who had been governor before.

The Republicans hate her. If you go and talk to the Alaska delegation here, they despise her.

Q: Really?

A: Hate her. Oh my god! This whole thing about her retarded son really being her daughter's was started by Lyda Green, who is president of the senate, a Republican...

Q: I was just talking to someone who claimed to have knowledge of Alaska to some degree, and they say where Sarah Palin comes from it's the equivalent of Humboldt or Chico in California, like, of course, you know, she'd have a Girls Gone Wild phase, and smoking pot. Is this just wishcasting, or what can you tell us about her geographical background?

A: So the Mat-Su Valley, you know, Matanuska-Susitna Valley, otherwise known as Upper Wingnuttia, is full of right-wing libertarian militia fundamendalist Christian gun-toting, pot-growing dope-heads.

Q: Awesome.

Like totally cool, man.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:03 AM

September 02, 2008

Who Do You Want To See?

I just heard that Fox News reported that they had a poll that indicated that people were more interested in the vice-presidential debate than the presidential one by about two to one. But they left out the most interesting debates (unlikely as they would be). What do you think?

Which debate would you most like to see?
McCain versus Obama
Palin Versus Biden
McCain Versus Biden
Palin Versus Obama free polls

I'll tell you my vote late tomorrow.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:19 PM

Ramesh Ponnuru, on Fred Thompson's description of John McCain's POW experiences:

He makes it sound almost as impressive as turning down a Wall Street job.

Or the hard life of being a "community organizer."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:00 PM
She's The New Fred Thompson


Some Sarah Palin facts. With all the lies and misconceptions out there, somebody had to pull this together. I particularly liked this one:

Death once had a near-Sarah-Palin experience.


Jesus wears a bracelet that says WWSPD?
Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:20 PM
Well, Now He's Got My Vote

The latest from the fever swamps:

If McCain wins, look for a full-fledged race and class war, fueled by a deflated and depressed country, soaring crime, homelessness - and hopelessness!

The frightening thing is that these people probably really believe this stuff.

[Update a while later]

The ends justify the means:

If health insurance for all, an end to the Iraq War, an end to torture and illegal wiretapping, and a sane energy policy can be obtained at the price of destroying one teenage girl, her family, and the surrendering our self-respect I see that as a cheap trade.

And to think that these creatures consider themselves our moral betters.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:05 PM
Impact Of New Space

There's an interesting discussion in comments between Clark Lindsey and Dwayne Day (and others, though those are less interesting) on how much progress we have made in achieving the goals of the new private space industry over at Space Transport News.

Clark tends to be a glass-half-full kind of guy. Dr. Day thinks there are a few drops in the bottom, and they're poisoned.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:57 PM
"Materially False"

That's how the McCain campaign describes stories about their not properly vetting Governor Palin. Surely the media, with all its vaunted layers of fact checkers and editors, would never do such a thing?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:34 PM
A Libertarian Governor

Well, it's what one might expect from an Alaskan. It also explains why the press and the left are so completely wrecking themselves in attempting to derail her. They don't understand libertarians, only able to think in simple minded terms of "liberal" and "conservative." And I have to say that if this is what John McCain means by "maverick" I'm all for it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:11 AM

I want to say that I appreciate both Senators Obama and Biden strongly declaring that candidates' children should be off limits. Of course, they know that this stuff is poison, and can severely damage their campaigns with the non-nutroots.

I hope that their campaign staff (and surrogates) are listening. They can't be held responsible for what Kos and TalkLeft and their ilk (including, sadly, Andrew Sullivan) do (and I expect the vile behavior from those quarters to continue, and I also expect a big backlash against it from McCain supporters, both current and future). But I also hope that if evidence does come to light that a staffer has been feeding this stuff to the bottom feeders that Senator Obama follows through on his pledge and has him or her (or them) shown the door.

No, she's not going to step down. This is only going to make her and her supporters more determined to stay in and defeat these digital brownshirts (and their enablers in the press).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:00 AM
Sea Versus Space

Dwayne Day has an interesting history comparing undersea exploration technology with space exploration technology.

One other point of coming convergence--the increasing use of underwater suit concepts for space suits (particularly for high-pressure suits that can eliminate the need to prebreathe). Historically, NASA has generally ignored the undersea folks, though there has been a lot of private interaction (Phil Nuytten of Can-Dive has been developing hard suit concepts for decades). It looked like that might be changing with the selection of Oceaneering for the new EMU program, until NASA cancelled the contract and reopened the competition. We'll see what the future holds, and if Hamilton Sunstrand retains their grip on the agency space-suit budget.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:48 AM
Has He Been Vetted?

When will Barack Obama drop out?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:40 AM

Is the mainstream media like the World Wrestling Federation?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:15 AM

September 01, 2008

For Our Own Good

The government doesn't want you to have access to your own genome data.

Sorry, I outgrew my nanny many decades ago.

[Via Geekpress]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:15 PM

August 31, 2008


Does John Kerry have any idea how pathetic and stupid he sounds trying to paint Sarah Palin as another Dick Cheney? Apparently not.

How epic is the fail, on so many levels, of such a comparison? Of course, it also assumes that if he can get people to make such an association, that it's politically helpful to him. This kind of idiotic projection of their own derangement and hatred on the American public is one of the reasons that the Dems haven't been able to get a majority of the popular vote in over thirty years.

Hilarious. I just wish that Stephanopolous had asked him to elaborate.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:31 AM
Not Simple, Not Soon

...and not safe. Nice catch by Jon Goff that no one else seems to have picked up on:

Basically, unless this source is bogus, or I'm completely misreading things, it's saying that even NASA admits that their odds of losing a crew or a mission using the Constellation architecture are far worse then they had originally claimed. In fact, at least for ISS missions, we're talking almost an order of magnitude worse. For ISS, they're claiming a LOC (probability of losing the crew on any given flight) of 1 in 231, with a LOM (loss of mission) of 1 in 19! If I'm reading this right, that means they expect right now that about 5% of missions to the space station will end up not making it to the station. For lunar missions, the LOC number is 1 in 170, and the LOM number is 1 in 9! That means of every multi-billion dollar mission, they've got an almost 11% chance of it being a failure. While some of these numbers have been improving, others have been getting worse.

In other words, it appears that NASA is admitting that the Ares-1 is not going to be any safer than an EELV/EELV derived launcher would've been, and in fact may be less reliable.

I've never drunk the koolaid that Ares/Orion was going to be more safe than Shuttle (or any previous system). Part of the problem is that (particularly with all of the vibration issues) they're being forced to put systems in that introduce new failure modes. The other is that in their determination to have a crew escape system (as I've mentioned before), they are adding hazards on a nominal mission.

There is only one way to get a safe launch system. We have to build vehicles that we can fly repeatedly, develop operational experience, and wring the bugs out of, just as we've done with every other type of transportation to date. When every flight is a first flight that has to fully perform, you're always going to have a high risk of problems. Unfortunately, NASA decided to do Apollo again instead of solve the space transportation problem.

And along those lines, I should say that I fully agree with Jon:

Quite frankly, I'd almost rather see a gap than try filling it with a kludge like keeping the shuttle flying. The fundamental problem is that even though "commercial" companies like Boeing and LM and Orbital (and hopefully SpaceX if they can get their act together) have been providing the majority of US spacelift for the past two decades, there is no commercial supplier of manned orbital spaceflight in the US. That's the bigger problem, IMO than the fact that NASA can't access a space station that it really doesn't have much use for.

I'd rather see more focus on how NASA and DoD can help encourage and grow a strong and thriving commercial spaceflight (manned and unmanned) sector than how NASA can fix its broken internal spaceflight problems. Once the US actually gets to the point where it has a thriving manned orbital spaceflight sector, there won't be any gaps again in the future. A strong commercial spaceflight sector with a weak NASA is still a lot better than a strong NASA and a weak commercial spaceflight sector.

Unfortunately, absent a real crisis, the politics seem determined to not encourage that to happen. And the ISS crisis, if it is perceived as one, is likely to cause a panic that still won't cause it to happen, though it may still result in something better than ESAS (not that we could do much worse).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:11 AM

August 30, 2008

The Idiossey

Iowahawk has dredged up a previously unfound work of Homer:

Speak to me, O Muse, of this resourceful man
who strides so boldly upon the golden shrine at Invescos,
Between Ionic plywood columns, to the kleig light altar.
Fair Obamacles, favored of the gods, ascends to Olympus
Amidst lusty tributes and the strumming lyres of Media;
Their mounted skyboxes echo with the singing of his name
While Olbermos and Mattheus in their greasy togas wrassle
For first honor of basking in their hero's reflected glory.
Who is this man, so bronzed in countenance,
So skilled of TelePropter, clean and articulate
whose ears like a stately urn's protrude?
So now, daughter of Zeus, tell us his story.
And just the Cliff Notes if you don't mind,
We don't have all day.

Read all.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:50 AM
Mark Steyn On Palin
First, Governor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, "all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.

Second, it can't be in Senator Obama's interest for the punditocracy to spends its time arguing about whether the Republicans' vice-presidential pick is "even more" inexperienced than the Democrats' presidential one.

Third, real people don't define "experience" as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain't run nothin' but his mouth. She's done the stuff he's merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party's corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign's thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).

Fourth, Governor Palin has what the British Labour Party politician Denis Healy likes to call a "hinterland" - a life beyond politics. Whenever Senator Obama attempts anything non-political (such as bowling), he comes over like a visiting dignitary to a foreign country getting shanghaied into some impenetrable local folk ritual. Sarah Palin isn't just on the right side of the issues intellectually. She won't need the usual stage-managed "hunting" trip to reassure gun owners: she's lived the Second Amendment all her life. Likewise, on abortion, we're often told it's easy to be against it in principle but what if you were a woman facing a difficult birth or a handicapped child? Been there, done that.

Fifth, she complicates all the laziest Democrat pieties. Energy? Unlike Biden and Obama, she's been to ANWR and, like most Alaskans, supports drilling there.

Sixth (see Kathleen's link to Craig Ferguson below), I kinda like the whole naughty librarian vibe.

[Over at The Corner]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:45 AM

August 29, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles


It's Sarah and John!

New campaign motto: "Come with us, if you want to live."

This just keeps getting better.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:25 PM
Land For Sale

John Tierney on lunar and martian property rights.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:57 PM
Reading The Writing On The Wall?

Mike Griffin has kicked off a study to consider Shuttle extension for five years.

The problem, not mentioned by the article, is that this doesn't close the gap, unless Ares is abandoned. Shuttle and Ares use the same launch infrastructure, and as long as Shuttle flies, pads and crawler cannot be modified for it. Nor does it allow us to permanently crew the station without Soyuz.

The only real solution (assuming that we want to pay the high costs of continuing Shuttle) is to put a capsule on something else (e.g., Atlas, or Falcon 9 if it ever flies), soon. Maybe Orion, maybe Dragon, maybe something else, but it looks like the Stick is on life support. In fact, as "" says over at Space Politics, it's already dead. It's just that Griffin and others have been doing CPR on the body to keep the coroner from getting to it.

What a fiasco.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:40 PM
Buyers' Remorse

Boy, you really have to think that the Dems would like to have a do-over. They will be wondering for years how they managed to screw up this election so royally. The answer is their identity politics, and arrogance. But that's not the lesson they'll take. Which is fine with me.

[Update a couple minutes later]

A good point over at The Corner. This won't just help with women--it will help with men. Who would you rather look at for four years: Joe Biden, or Sarah Palin?

[Update a while later]

Not that they've been high, but watch Bob Barr's poll numbers drop. McCain just brought a lot of libertarian Republican home, judging from what I read at Free Republic. Hell, I might even vote for him now.

[Update a little later]

A prediction. Sarah Palin, not Hillary Clinton, will be the first woman president. And the first black president will be a Republican as well (of course, I've always thought that the first black and women presidents would be Republicans).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:05 AM
So What About Space Policy?

Traditionally, the veep has had responsibility for space policy, as something to do besides waiting for the president to die and break ties in the Senate.

When it comes to space, she's got no track record at all, but an Alaskan would bring an interesting perspective to free enterprise and entrepreneurship.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:55 AM
That Will Wrap Up Those Key AK Electoral Votes

We'll see if Governor Palin can close the deal with the PUMAs (assuming that the rumor is true--she's reportedly still in Alaska, with no way to get to Dayton by 11 AM--could be another head fake).

People will say that she's not ready to be CinC. Well, she's only running for Vice CinC. And she's at least as ready (with actual executive experience) as the Democrats' nominee.

[Update a while later]

It's looking more certain now, but we won't know for sure for another half hour or so. I wonder if she'll take Senator McCain on a tour of ANWR?

Bob Beckel looked very depressed on Fox and Friends this morning. He knows how badly the Donkeys screwed up a free lunch this year, even if many others are in denial.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Carl Cameron is reporting that it's official.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:34 AM

August 28, 2008

Hilarious And Sad

I'm watching the Tavis Smiley show on KCET before I go to bed on the west coast. He has Julianne Malveaux and Cornell West on, whining that "brother" (and they used that word many times) Obama's speech was too white.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:27 PM
Not Pawlenty

It's Batboy! Hey, we could do worse, and probably will.

The comments are great.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:09 PM
Who Would You Rather Have?

Here is an interesting poll.

I'd have to go with Reagan (as long as it was the pre-Alzheimers version). Not that there's much to choose from. Second place would probably be Ike.

But it's hard to take presidents out of their historical milieu and have a good idea how they'd respond. For instance, what if we'd had a Reagan with a Newt-led Republican Congress? We'll never know.

[Later afternoon update]

I just went and actually took the poll. Reagan first, Ike a distant second, with everyone else in the noise. I always get suspicious when large numbers of people agree with me. It's so rare...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:46 PM
Too Late?

Wayne Hale explains why we should shut down the Shuttle.

Everything he says is true--much of the infrastructure and support contractors for the system are already gone. That's why it will be very expensive to resurrect them to the degree necessary to fly past 2010. That doesn't mean it's impossible, but as I wrote in my PJM piece, we have to decide how much ISS is worth to us. And if we want to keep the option open, and as least costly as possible, we need to stop terminating those suppliers and destroying tooling immediately. It's probably a prudent thing to do, until the next president can make a decision.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:52 AM

August 27, 2008

Bonnie And Clyde?

Over at MSNBC. Actually it's more like Bonnie and Clod.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:24 PM
They Never Learn

They really are setting up a replica of a Greek temple from which The One will give his speech tomorrow. I've heard the excuse that they're just trying to make it like the White House (as though that's a good more time--you're not president yet). But even if true, it doesn't fly. Yes, the White House is of Palladian style, but it's neoclassical, and only the porticos have columns. It looks more like the Parthenon (at least as far as one can tell from the grainy camera photo).

And you know who lives in Greek temples?


It will be amusing to see what the McCain campaign does with this one.

[Update a few minutes later]

It's already started. The Temple of Obama.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here's another one, from Pethokoukis--Illinois Obama and the Temple of Gloom

[One more, late afternoon PDT]

The Temple of Obama.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:55 PM
Shuttle Is Not Enough

It just occurs to me that even if we continue to fly the Shuttle through "the gap" that doesn't really solve the problem of actually utilizing the station. We are currently planning on relying on dual Soyuzs (what's the plural of "Soyuz"?) for "lifeboat" capability to allow a six-person crew after completion. If the US is not purchasing Soyuz, we wouldn't be able to leave Americans on board permanently, unless we wanted to risk losing them in emergency. It seems unlikely that this would actually play out politically, but if there were only one Soyuz there while the Shuttle wasn't, it would be a Titanic situation, with only enough escape craft for half the crew. Would the Russians just say, "dos vedanya..."? The OSP was supposed to serve in that function, but it was cancelled when the VSE came along.

What a policy Charlie Foxtrot.

I'll bet that you could find volunteers in the astronaut office, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:04 PM
Getting Their Heads Screwed On Straight?

Is ESA getting serious about reusable vehicles? Too bad NASA can't find a clue.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:54 AM

August 26, 2008

Appropriately Shod

Check out James "Lizardhead" Carville's footwear. Subtle.

I'm actually a little surprised that he wears shoes at all. I've never seen him below the waist before.

[Via Mike Puckett]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:11 PM
More On The "CAD Problem"

Jeff Finckenor responds to some of his critics in the comments section:

"He's a whiner who didn't get his way and went to the IG"

Not a terribly polite way to put things, but I suppose it is somewhat accurate. Of course "my way" which I was always advocating was a call to do a technical evaluation to determine what we really needed to do. You know, things like writing requirements, then making selections based on those requirements. Some people would call that good engineering. Some would call it federal law. It never happened. Had it happened then I wouldn't have had any arguments to make and would have been shut down a long time ago. Had it happened and there were real reasons for MSFC and Constellation making the decisions they did, then I could have supported them even if I was less then thrilled. You go to the IG to report waste, fraud and abuse. I was duty bound to report what I saw as both a taxpayer and a government employee. If there wasn't any meat to what I was saying, then the IG would have sent me away. They didn't. Those who want to do the search may also want to look up a letter from Senator Grassley to NASA. It was a very powerful letter and appears to have been soundly ignored. It takes a lot of chutzpah to blow off the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but NASA got away with it.

Those who argue with me will trot out an "evaluation" that was done in 2002, except that that evaluation was based on a CM tool ONLY (not CAD management), and it was fatally flawed in how it was performed. And yes, all you're getting here is an opinion, and again my information has been documented and given to the appropriate authorities.

Was I asked to "stop working against management"? I guess that's one way to put it, if I was willing to ignore reality, give up on the vision of what NASA needs to succeed, and toe the party line.

It was wrenching deciding 3 years ago that my job wasn't worth the mess that I was seeing. I had basically decided that a NASA that could make a decision so badly (which is not quite the same thing as a bad decision, though in this case I believe it is the same), and not be able to correct itself was not a good place to work. So I committed to supporting good engineering practice and federal law, knowing that I might be forced out. 3 years later, I have given up, which was again wrenching for me. The politics are too overwhelming, and it is indeed not a good place for me to work.

Go read the whole thing.

All of the comments have to be very disquieting to fans of business as usual at NASA. It's not about CAD. It's about whether this is an institution that, despite the many talented people working for it, is capable of getting us into space in any serious way.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:22 PM
And So It Begins

As I noted in my recent PJM piece, if we are going to continue to fly the Shuttle, decisions must be made almost immediately to keep key infrastructure in place, that is due to be dismantled. Several legislators, including the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, have sent a letter to the White House urging just such an action. It will be interesting to see the administration response.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:18 PM
The Healing Continues (Part 12,435)

Bill Clinton continues to be helpful:

He said: "Suppose you're a voter, and you've got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don't think that candidate can deliver on anything at all. Candidate Y you agree with on about half the issues, but he can deliver. Which candidate are you going to vote for?"

Then, perhaps mindful of how his off-the-cuff remarks might be taken, Clinton added after a pause: "This has nothing to do with what's going on now."

No, of course not. Just an irrelevant hypothetical.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:30 PM
Talk About Straw Man

I also thought that this was a very strange pronouncement by Senator Kennedy last night:

"We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor. . ." Yeah, I know that's my critique of him.

Like Ramesh, I'd like to see an example of just who it was that was telling this to Ted.

[Update a few minutes later]

I should add that I wish Senator Kennedy a long life. As an ex-Senator.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:13 PM
So Much For That

Senator Obama got no bounce in the polls from the Biden announcement:

Gallup Poll Daily tracking from Aug. 23-25, the first three-day period falling entirely after Obama's Saturday morning vice presidential announcement, shows 46% of national registered voters backing John McCain and 44% supporting Obama, not appreciably different from the previous week's standing for both candidates. This is the first time since Obama clinched the nomination in early June, though, that McCain has held any kind of advantage over Obama in Gallup Poll Daily tracking.

The real bad news for the Big O is that this isn't even "likely" voters. It's only registered voters, which generally overstate support for the Democrats (because Republicans tend to be more likely to vote than Democrat leaners). If it's tied among registered, t will be interesting to see what the likely voter numbers are.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:17 AM
Harrison Bergeron, Call Your Office

A nine-year-old boy has been banned from Little League for being too good a pitcher.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:01 AM
Who Started The War?

The one in Georgia. Michael Totten reports an interesting press briefing.

And apparently, some people aren't very happy about his reporting.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:21 AM
Batten Down The Hatches In Creole Country

Gustav is looking like it's going to be bad news for the upper Gulf Coast:

As long as Gustav is over water, it will intensify. Gustav is currently under moderate wind shear (15 knots) . This shear is expected to remain in the low to moderate range (0-15 knots) for the remainder of the week. Gustav is over the highest heat content waters in the Atlantic. Given these two factors, intensification is likely whenever the storm is over water, at least 50 miles from land. Expect the high mountains of Hispaniola to take a toll on Gustav. Recall in 2006 that Hurricane Ernesto hit the southwest tip of Haiti as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Haiti's mountains knocked Ernesto down to a tropical storm with 50 mph winds, which decreased further to 40 mph when the storm crossed over into Cuba. Expect at least a 25 mph decrease in Gustav's winds by Wednesday, after it encounters Haiti. Further weakening is likely if the storm passes close to or over Cuba. By Wednesday, Gustav will be underneath an upper-level anticyclone. These upper atmosphere high pressure systems can greatly intensify a tropical storm, since the clockwise flow of air at the top of the storm acts to efficiently vent away air pulled aloft by the storm's heavy thunderstorms. With high oceanic heat content also present in the waters off western Cuba, the potential for rapid intensification exists should the center stay more than 50 miles from the Cuban coast. Once in the Gulf of Mexico, Gustav is likely to intensify into a major Category 3 or higher storm. I give a 60% chance that Gustav will cause significant disruption to the oil and gas industry in the Gulf.

This will roil the energy markets (it may be doing so already). It may also be a test, and an opportunity, for Governor Jindal to show that the people of Louisiana were wise to replace his predecessor with him after her Katrina fiasco, which was largely overlooked by the media in their lust to bash George Bush.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:17 AM
The Problem With ITAR

There's little new in this piece at the Economist to people who have been following the issue. Well, there is one thing: some signs that the people who have been destroying the industry with this foolish policy may be starting to pay attention.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:59 AM
A Story About Joe Biden

...that I hadn't heard:

At the Tuesday-morning meeting with committee staffers, Biden launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about what his committee should be doing, before he finally admits the obvious: "I'm groping here." Then he hits on an idea: America needs to show the Arab world that we're not bent on its destruction. "Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran," Biden declares. He surveys the table with raised eyebrows, a How do ya like that? look on his face.

The staffers sit in silence. Finally somebody ventures a response: "I think they'd send it back." Then another aide speaks up delicately: "The thing I would worry about is that it would almost look like a publicity stunt." Still another reminds Biden that an Iranian delegation is in Moscow that very day to discuss a $300 million arms deal with Vladimir Putin that the United States has strongly condemned. But Joe Biden is barely listening anymore. He's already moved on to something else.

Didn't anyone point out to him that Iran is not part of the "Arab world"?

And we want to put this guy a heartbeat away from the presidency?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:53 AM
A Brief History

...and a depressing one, of the Vision for Space Exploration. There's a piece missing in the chronology, though. "Safe, Simple, Soon" was not part of the original vision. That was a sales slogan that ATK came up with to promote their particular means of implementing it. As noted, though, it seems to be failing on all three counts.

Note the comment that PDR has slipped into next year.

[Update mid morning PDT]

More on the PDR slip. It's all the way out to next spring.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:31 AM

August 25, 2008

Being Back In LaLa Land

...I really appreciate reading about the seven most retardedmentally-challenged ways that celebrities attempt to go green.

These were all funny at the time, but it's nice to see a well-annotated compendium.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:34 PM
Feel The Love

The healing continues, as the convention starts:

A handful of Clinton supporters also dogged MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, calling him a "sexist pig" and booing him as he walked onto the network's set.

Was his leg tingling?

A group of about ten protestors joined the fray, holding up signs saying, "Clintons 4 McCain."

One woman holding a sign said, "We've been big Hillary Clinton supporters, we've been told to get over it... We want our party back."

Gonna be one heckuva show.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:51 PM
Remembering DC-X

Jeff Foust reports on last week's anniversary get together.

When we finally start flying affordable space transports, future historians will look back in amazement that policy could have been so screwed up for so many decades, and so stubbornly unamenable to being fixed.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:40 PM

August 24, 2008

It's Not Over Until It's Over

On the eve of the upcoming donkey fight, I just want to remind people again that Senator Obama is not the nominee until the delegates vote, and that the Clintons remain the Clintons. Don't think that there aren't a lot of delegates (and nervous superdelegates particularly) passing around recent polls showing Hillary outpolling Obama against McCain.

One could in fact speculate that the selection of Biden was an attempt by a desperate Obama campaign to hang on to the old guard of the party. I suspect that the coming week will be quite entertaining. It's good that McCain can wait until the end of the week to announce his own running mate.

[Update a few minutes later]

It strikes me that if the superdelegates vote to make Senator Obama the nominee, they will have failed in their intended purpose, which was to prevent candidates who were too far left, in the wake of McGovern. But as I've been saying for months now, they're in a no-win situation. They can anoint The One, and have him lose (and probably with negative coattails down ticket) or they can elevate Hillary! and tear the party apart, probably with race riots. Sux to be them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:50 PM
Failure To Launch

Arthur Silber has some belated advice for the Obama campaign: might be best if you took some time to study dramaturgy in addition to...well, everything else. One of the keys to a certain kind of dramatic structure is that the climax occurs at the moment of maximum suspense. The arrival and duration of that particular moment are determined by the ways in which the preceding conflicts have been developed until the opposing forces have reached the point where the conflicts must be resolved, at least in significant part. The climactic moment cannot be prolonged beyond what the accumulated weight of the dramatic structure will bear. If it is prolonged too much, drama and suspense begin to ebb. When it is prolonged far too much, then what had been rigid goes slack; what had been stiff hopes, if you will, begin to droop.

In such lamentable circumstances (which all of us have experienced; yes, you have too, don't deny it), instead of an ecstatic explosion, we are sometimes left with only a pathetic dribble. In this case, the pathetic dribble goes by the name Joseph Biden.

A Biden dribble just before the Democratic convention is a shocking failure of dramatic imagination. This exercise in digital manipulation was certainly not good for me, and I can't imagine it was good for anyone, probably including Obama. I very much doubt that even Barack wants a cigarette after this failure to achieve satisfactory completion.

I know I don't.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:27 PM
Still Fighting The Last Anti-War

I commented a few months ago about this tendency of anti-war protestors. Well, they're at it again in Denver:

If you want a real invasion over oil to protest, you could march against the Russian invasion of Georgia, but that's not happening. What's next -- protests against Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba?

Hell, some of them are still upset that we didn't lose fast enough in Vietnam to suit them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:38 AM
More On Biden

Andrew Ferguson wrote a review of his book last year, as part of a longer piece. John McCormack pulls out the nut grafs:

What does a discerning reader learn from Biden's book that we didn't already know? Perhaps not much, if you're a regular watcher of C-SPAN or a longtime resident of Delaware. But there is something unforgettable about watching the man emerge on the page. His legendary self-regard becomes more impressive when the reader sees it in typescript, undistracted by the smile and the hair plugs. Biden quotes at great length from letters of recommendation he received as a young man, when far-sighted professors wrote movingly of his "sharp and incisive intellect" and his "highly developed sense of responsibility." These qualities have proved to be more of a burden than you might think, Biden admits. "I've made life difficult for myself," he writes, "by putting intellectual consistency and personal principle above expediency."

Yes, many Biden fans might tag these as the greatest of his gifts. Biden himself isn't so sure. After a little hemming and hawing--is it his intelligence that he most admires, or his commitment to principle, or his insistence on calling 'em as he sees 'em, or what?--he decides that his greatest personal and political virtue is probably his integrity. Tough call. But his wife seems to agree. He recounts one difficult episode in which she said as much. "Of all the things to attack you on," she said, almost in tears. "Your integrity?"

This lachrymose moment came during Biden's aborted presidential campaign in 1988, when reporters discovered several instances of plagiarism in his campaign speeches and in his law school record. Biden rehearses the episode in tormenting, if selective, detail, and true to campaign-book form, his account serves as the emotional center of the book. The memoir of every presidential candidate must describe a Political Time of Testing, some point at which, if the narrative arc is to prove satisfying, the hero encounters criticism, most of it unjust, but then rallies, overcomes hardship and misfortune and the petty, self-serving attacks of enemies, and emerges chastened but wiser--and, come to think of it, more qualified to lead the greatest nation on earth.

Is there something about pompous windbags that somehow makes them more electable? If so, then maybe an Obama/Biden ticket has a chance.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:06 AM
The Biden Pick Unifies The Party


The healing continues.

If I were a Dem, they'd have to put me on suicide watch. At least, if I weren't in denial.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:38 AM

August 23, 2008


Was Obama hoping that Biden's past (and future) gaffes would overshadow and distract from his own?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:56 PM
Pompously Hilarious

And to think that just a few days ago one of my trolls was trying to convince me that Chuck Hagel isn't an idiot:

"Joe Biden is the right partner for Barack Obama. His many years of distinguished service to America, his seasoned judgment and his vast experience in foreign policy and national security will match up well with the unique challenges of the 21st Century. An Obama-Biden ticket is a very impressive and strong team. Biden's selection is good news for Obama and America."

I don't understand why the guy even bothers to call himself a Republican.

[Late afternoon update]


Maybe when I get to Denver I'll find someone who'll explain to me why Biden is an inspired choice. He doesn't have gravitas. He has seniority. We've been waiting for him to mature for decades. Only Chuck Hagel (his chief competitor as Sunday morning gasbag) could make him look wise...
Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:03 PM
What Was He Thinking?

There are a lot of people Obama could have picked that would have helped him with the south and west. But gun control remains a big issue in those regions. Obama has a problem because he professes support for the Second Amendment, as long as it doesn't actually nullify any gun laws. So you'd think he'd not have picked a running mate who gets an "F" from the NRA. This isn't going to help him with the bitter gun clingers.

[Late afternoon update]

A golden oldie from the primaries: Biden disses a gun owner. Well, the guy was probably bitter anyway.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:56 AM

Iowahawk has an in-depth report on the Obama campaign's new winning tactics.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:12 AM
I Wonder If They Considered This

What do you think of when you hear the phrase "Obama Joe Biden"? It could have a subliminal effect.

Anyway, I think that Jonah has the best take on the veep pick:

He says interesting things, from time to time. I think he makes a fair point here and there. He was correct, for example, that Congress needed to have a real debate over the war. I think he has some obvious verbal intelligence. But, again, what's fascinating -- and what might be distracting some folks from seeing his underlying-yet-occassional smarts -- is that he lets his ego and vanity get in the way. The man loves his voice so much, you'd expect him to be following it around in a gray Buick, in defiance of restraining order, as it walks home from school. He seems to think his teeth are some kind of hypnotic punctuation marks which can momentarily disorient the listener and absolve him from any of Western civilization's usual imperatives to stop talking. Listening to him speechify is like playing an intellectual game of whack-a-mole where every now and then the fuzzy head of a good point pops up from the tundra but before you can pin it down, he starts talking about how he went to the store and saw a squirrel on the way and it was brown which brings to mind Brown V. Board of Ed which most people don't understand because [TEETH FLASH] he taught Brown in his law school course and [TEETH FLASH] Mr. Chairman I'm going to get right to it and besides these aren't the droids you're looking for...

This is going to be a very entertaining election. I think that they're going to be a double-barrelled gaffe machine.

[Update a few minutes later]

Jay Nordlinger:

All politicians have sizable egos, but this may be the most self-loving ticket ever. There's an old saying, "He'll die in his own arms" -- that can apply to both of them. (I've thought of it in connection with McCain, too.) And Obama and Biden are two of the gassiest politicians in all the land -- they are rhetorically impossible.

I suspect that after a couple non-stop months of the Joebama Show, not that many are going to look forward to four years of it.

And the McCain campaign was ready to go with the ad.

[Update at noon]

Hey we not only have a messiah, but a veep who's a certified genius. Just ask him.

[Update half an hour later]

PJM has a link roundup of reax.

[Update in the afternoon]

Man, Limbaugh must think he died and went to heaven. I'll bet he has a huge library of Biden audio gaffes, enough for fresh material every week from here to November.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:51 AM

August 22, 2008


I've never heard of Chet Edwards. And it strikes me that having a running mate with the last name "Edwards" is a little impolitic right now, given the current problems with the one named "John."

At least he seems to have a lot more experience than Obama. But then, he'd have had trouble coming up with someone who doesn't. More signs of an attempt to appear to be moving to the center, and perhaps pick up Texas and do better in the south (though that still seems unlikely).

[Update a couple minutes later]

Actually, in reading his bio, I'd think that this would be an unbeatable ticket if he was at the top, instead of veep. But he's not, and it won't be. All of this presumes, of course, that he actually is the pick. We'll find out soon enough.

[Update in the afternoon]

There are a lot of reasons to think that this is just a head fake. He's a very conservative Democrat, and it would probably push the nutroots over the edge to vote for Nader.

[Another one a couple minutes later]

More thoughts from Geraghty:

Sure, he's very pro-choice, rated F by the NRA, and manages to hang on to a central Texas House district. And Pelosi recommended him. But the debate would consist almost entirely of the GOP vice-presidential candidate saying, "I agree with Chet's old position, the one he had before he put his manhood in a blind trust and flip-flopped to agree with Obama's liberal position." Edwards would constantly be in the awkward position of defending positions he doesn't agree with. Add that to the fact that 90+ percent of Americans know nothing about him, it's a formula for disaster.

Let's hope he does it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:53 AM
More Thoughts On The Tether Permits

Paul Breed notes in comments that the decision to require permits or waivers for tethered testing didn't originate with AST (though I never claimed it did), but with the FAA chief counsel's office. To me, this is just one more argument for making the office independent of the FAA and report directly to the SecDot, as it did from its inception until the Clinton administration "streamlined" it into the FAA.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:48 AM
Keeping An Eye On The Moonbats

Here's a new blog devoted (at least for now) to covering the DNC next week and events leading up to it.

[Via former Traverse Citian and current Denverite Thomas James]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:29 AM
Prius Liberal

A lot has been made (appropriately) of the hypocrisy of the warm mongers, and particularly Saint Al himself, and John Edwards. But John McCain is pretty much just as bad on that score:

Like any limousine liberal, McCain prefers the symbolic gesture to walking the walk. In our News interview, he was asked what kind of car he drove. As with Politico's question about home ownership, he didn't know and had to ask a nearby aide. "A Cadillac CTS," she told him. But then the senator was quick to point out that he had bought his daughter a Prius -- the prefect halo symbol for his green pretensions.

Though it should be noted that he almost certainly actually did know how many houses he had, if not what kind of car.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:23 AM

August 21, 2008


Alan's a great science and tech reporter, but I wish that he'd asked George Nield about this:

We have poured a pad for tethered hover testing at our new location, but there was a recent FAA re-interpretation of the law that absurdly states that testing under a tether, as we have been doing for over eight years, is now considered a suborbital launch, and requires a permit or waiver just as a free flight would. This is retarded and counterproductive in so many ways, and the entire industry is lashing back over it, but it is an issue we have to deal with in the next couple months.

Maybe I will.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:40 PM
The One Returns To Denver

If Tim Kaine is the Veep pick, this will be a particularly devastating ad.

Not that that's a bad thing...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:06 PM
An Interesting Contrast

I won't claim to know Juliette Ochieng, but I had a wonderful dinner with her (and several others, but I sat next to) a couple years ago in LA's Chinatown, and I've read many of her blog posts and opinion pieces. I'm neither religious, or conservative, and I'm sure that there are many issues on which we'd disagree, but if I had a choice between her and Barack Obama for president, I'd vote for her in a Chicago minute. And not just because I had dinner with her.

The black-on-black bigotry displayed in the link against a true African-American woman who criticizes the messiah is disappointing, but by no means surprising.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:27 PM

OK, this new (527, not McCain campaign) ad is going to leave a mark. There are still many voters who have never heard of Bil Ayers, and the coverup going on at UIC is just going to make it look worse.

Of course, the Obama camp also started another spork fight with the McCain campaign, and is getting hammered again.

Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses? Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people "cling" to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who's in touch with regular Americans?

The reality is that Barack Obama's plans to raise taxes and opposition to producing more energy here at home as gas prices skyrocket show he's completely out of touch with the concerns of average Americans.

The problem with their strategy, as is often the case, is that they project their own class envy on the voters (just as they project many of their other personal issues).

But by and large, Americans don't envy the rich--they want to be rich. Let's leave aside the amusing fact that by the new Democrat standard that white guys who marry rich women and end up with several houses are to be demonized as out of touch, that John Kerry shouldn't have had a prayer of getting their nomination.

So-called progressives are envious of the wealthy in the classical sense--they not only want what others have, but they want the others not to have it. In fact, the latter is more important to them than the former, so they promote policies that equally distribute poverty, in effect if not intent.

But the American people don't want to take John McCain's houses from him. They just want more house of their own. It's very hard for me to believe that the number of domiciles that John McCain has, or whether or not he knows how many, is going to be an issue on which the election will turn. And as already noted by the McCain campaign, Barack Obama isn't the best messenger in that regard. Nor were John Edwards or John Kerry. I think they'd certainly prefer a guy who came by his houses honestly--by marrying them--to one who acquired his with the help of a convicted felon for favors still unknown.

But what I don't really understand is the McCain strategy at this point. Less than a week before the convention, Senator Obama's polls aren't looking very good, but there's real dynamite in some of the internals of them, in which one poll showed Hillary! ahead of McCain by several points. So who do they want to run against?

If they weaken him too much this week, the Donkeys may come to their senses and come up with another nominee next week. On the other hand, in doing so, they'd shred the party. Of course, the optimal situation is for Obama to come out the nominee, but one badly bloodied by a huge obstreperous floor fight, so maybe they're betting that the Dems won't be able to jettison their flawed messiah without even more damage to the party. So it's in the Republican's interest for them to finally nominate Obama, but in the weakest possible state, and the worse things look for him going into the convention, the more likely that there will be a movement to oust him. But they should hope that it's not successful.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Here's more on Senator Obama and Tony Rezko.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:46 PM
The Russians Play Chess

...and the Americans play monopoly. A disturbing and depressing essay from Spengler.

Is there an enlightened solution for Russia's problems?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:27 AM
"...Only Enemies Or Vassals"

Michael Totten reports from Tbilisi.

On Monday, I visited one of the schools transformed into refugee housing in the center of Tbilisi and spoke to four women--Lia, Nana, Diana, and Maya--who had fled with their children from a cluster of small villages just outside the city of Gori. "We left the cattle," Lia said. "We left the house. We left everything and came on foot because to stay there was impossible." Diana's account: "They are burning the houses. From most of the houses they are taking everything. They are stealing everything, even such things as toothbrushes and toilets. They are taking the toilets. Imagine. They are taking broken refrigerators." And Nana: "We are so heartbroken. I don't know what to say or even think. Our whole lives we were working to save something, and one day we lost everything. Now I have to start everything from the very beginning."

Maybe they exist, but I haven't seen any eyewitness accounts of the supposed atrocities by the Georgians that Russia claims started this.

And be sure to hit his tip jar. It's how he affords to do this reporting.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:36 AM

August 20, 2008

Who I Wish McCain Would Pick

If he did, I'd actually vote for him, as opposed to against Obama.

Fred Thompson. He'd mop up the floor with almost anyone in a debate (particularly Obama's rumored finalists) and he'd only have to campaign for two months. And in the unfortunate circumstance that something happened to McCain, we'd have him for a president.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:27 PM
Not The Chicago Way

Apparently the Obama campaign forgot their new philosophy today. They brought a plastic spork to the fight, and the McCain campaign leveled a howitzer at them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:46 PM
Interesting Rumor

Lieberman may switch parties at the Republican convention. If he caucuses with Republicans, that would make it tied in the Senate, which means that Dick Cheney would be the tie breaker, and the Republicans would take over, at least until January. Bye, bye, Majority (non)Leader Reid...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:10 PM
Buyer's Remorse

Victor Davis Hanson previews what's sure to burst forth among many in Denver next week:

Democrats wanted a bison and got Obambi, whose new 'take no prisoners' rhetoric in front of the VFW sounds like the Italian army in North Africa not the Desert Rats. Just imagine had Obama written "Dreams From My Grandmother" about a working-class white woman who moved to Hawaii sacrificing her all, stressing integration, conciliation, character, and hard work (all true), rather than future career-in-mind idealization and myth-making about a polygamist, alcoholic and absentee Marxist father? Had he done the former, he would have gotten a small advance, few sales--and now bankable proof of his character, rather than money, sales--and an embarrassing revelation of his PC credentials. Harvard Law Review is as essential to wowing a tiny irrelevant Eastern elite as it is meaningless to proving to mid-America that you can easily size up a thug like Putin, see through Euro-trash nonsense, or get some energy leverage back from the mullahs and House of Saud.

The Democrats expected an in-the-tank liberal press to publish charts and graphs of how the "progressive" FDR Obama was better for the blue-collar-worker than the Tom Dewey Republican. Instead they got the last gasp of the 1960s spoiled-brat loudmouths, ranting and frothing how an Obama could at last reify their own narcissistic, guilt-ridden pretensions. The amen-stable at Newsweek, for example, would not have been hired there as copy-editors in the 1960s. If Chris Matthews thinks his tingle up the leg giddiness helps Obama, or Sen. Obama's race speech is the new Gettysburg Address, he doesn't know Bakersfield or Dayton. A Keith Olbermann rant is a veritable McCain campaign ad.


Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:58 PM
There Goes One Of Hillary!'s Votes

Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who would have been a potential big superdelegate for Hillary! in the event of an insurrection, has reportedly died from an aneurysm. Condolences to friends and family.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:24 AM
Cover Up

What is the University of Illinois trying to hide?

Has there ever been a presidential candidate with such a sparse paper trail? And as usual, the media assists in the cover up.

[Update in the afternoon]

Here's a lot more.

[Late afternoon update]

Fishier and fishier. To repeat: what are they hiding? What are they afraid of?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:50 AM
Good Advice For McCain

From George Will. I'm kind of intrigued by the idea of capping the pay of fascist CEOs (Lee Iacocca comes to mind as a poster boy).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:24 AM
Burning Food

Food is a fuel, of course, though we don't think of it that way. But now that transportation is competing for it, it's having dire effects on everyone, but particularly the poor, largely as a result of idiotic government policies. This should be a good issue for John McCain, if he only understood economics.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:57 AM
Why Obama's Polls Are Cratering

He's a flake:

I'm using the term in its generally accepted sense. A flake is not only a screwup, but someone who truly excels in making bizarre errors and creating incredibly convoluted disasters. A flake is a "fool with energy", as the Russian proverb puts it. ("A fool is a terrible thing to have around, but a fool with energy is a nightmare".)

I've long been on record as believing that Obama cannot win (nor, at this point, could Hillary). Nothing has happened to cause me to alter that view.

[Update late morning]

Here's the latest tea leaf that the vice-president pick will be Evan Bayh. If they were smart, they'd put him at the top of the ticket--it would give them a lot better shot.

[Another update a few minutes later]

Some folks over at DU are starting to get worried: "What is Obama doing wrong?"

Nothing, of course. It's our fault, because we're racists. It couldn't have anything to do with his left-wing politics, inexperience and flakiness.

A lot of the commenters are whistling past the graveyard.

[Update a few minutes later]

A leftist sees the future:

All that Obama audacity of arrogance from the smiling, glib politician finally died the death it so richly deserved. Too many pundits will blame his loss on his blackness and racist voters. But the larger truth is that sufficient voters saw through the many lies and deceptions. Obama always had a hard time giving a simple, short straight answer to tough questions. He was always mentally calculating exactly how to game his answers so that he would achieve all the benefits he had his eyes on. He was simply too damn presumptuous and too smart for his own good. In the end, Americans do not want the smartest person in the presidency or endless nuancing. They want someone they can easily understand and trust, despite their skepticism. There were many reasons not to trust the calculating Obama to do anything he promised to do or, for some people, to fear he might.

As Lincoln said, some of the people, some of the time, but not all of them all of the time.

[Update just before noon]

How low do the polls have to go before the superdelegates have second thoughts? Keep the popcorn handy for next week, when Hillary!'s name is put in nomination, and the demonstrations begin.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:52 AM

August 19, 2008

Good News

Tom Ridge won't be McCain's pick for VP candidate.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:40 PM
Punitive Liberalism

Roger Kimball, on Barack Obama's politics of envy and "fairness."

[Update a while later]

Like father, like son:

How high should the tax rates be? "Theoretically," he wrote, "there is nothing that can stop the government from taxing 100% of income so long as the people get benefits from the government commensurate with their income which is taxed." Yes, you read it: a 100% tax rate is fine. Obama Sr. continued, " It is a fallacy to say there is a limit (to tax rates), and it is a fallacy to rely mainly on individual free enterprise to get the savings." Free enterprise -- bad. (He was discussing future government economic development.)

This is one of the things that I find most disturbing about Obama. He doesn't believe that tax policy should be based on revenue. He thinks it should be based on "fairness." As he said in that debate, he's fine with less revenue as long as he can punish success.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:58 AM
Our Screwed-Up Space Policy

You know, the more I think about this, the more I think it should always have been a no brainer.

The first rule of wing walking is to not let go of the airplane with one hand until you have a firm new grip with the other. It's pretty simple: don't shut down the Shuttle until you have a replacement in place (and preferably redundantly).

The only reason we're undertaking such a dumb policy is because of the panic after the loss of Columbia causing a desire to end the program ASAP, and an unwillingness to pay what it cost to fund the new development at the same time we were continuing to spend billions annually on keeping the Shuttle going. The notion that we can take the savings from ending the Shuttle to develop the new systems seems appealing, but it essentially guarantees a "gap."

And it's all a result of the fact that space isn't important. Is there any other government activity where we arbitrarily assign a budget number to it, and then demand that its endeavors fit within that budget? But that's the way Congress has always viewed NASA--that there's a certain level of spending that's politically acceptable, and no more. If space were important, we'd do what we did in Apollo--establish a goal, and then provide the funding necessary to achieve it. But it's not, other than for pork and prestige. It's important that we have a space program, but it's not at all important that it accomplish anything of value. Until that attitude changes, we're unlikely to get sensible policy.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:35 AM
McCain's Space Advice

Well, now we know what the "space experts" told John McCain yesterday up in Titusville.

As I noted in my piece at PJM, the options aren't very pretty. The lowest risk course is to continue Shuttle past 2010, but to keep this option open, they have to take some immediate actions to keep production open on consumables, such as ETs. As I've noted before, it's ironic that they're shutting the system down just as they've finally wrung most of the bugs out of it. It still remains horrifically expensive, of course, but no more so than Ares/Orion, and it has a lot more capability. I think that the "recertification" issue is a red herring. Just because the CAIB recommended it doesn't mean that it makes any sense, since no one knows what it really means. Nothing magical happens in 2010 that makes it suddenly unsafe to fly. That date was chosen as the earliest one that they could retire and still complete ISS, not on the basis that anything was worn or wearing out. They could just continue to fly, and do periodic inspections.

I found it interesting, but not surprising, that Lafitte recommended an acceleration of Ares. It would be more in his company's interest to just give up on it and use Atlas, but I suspect that would be too politically incorrect to say with reporters around. He has to live with Mike Griffin for at least another few months.

What would I do if I were king? I'd stop buying Soyuz, and keep the Shuttle flying, I'd abandon Ares/Orion, and provide huge incentives to the private sector by establishing prop depots and paying good money for prop delivery. That would require more money than people want to spend, but we'd get a lot more robust transportation infrastructure, ready to go to either the moon or Mars (or other destinations) at a lot lower mission cost than NASA's current plans. It's what we would do if space were really important. But of course, it's not, so we won't.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:06 AM

August 18, 2008

McCain's Space Response?

I'd like to know who those "twenty hand-picked space experts" are. Unfortunately, I'll bet that one of them is Walt Cunningham. But at least he won't be the only one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:01 AM
It's That Time Of The Week Again

Lileks takes on Keillor. Again.

Every column now ends with on-marching truth. But what's this thing about the rich and privileged saying it's not a great country? I hear more distaste and dismay about America from one Senator than the other; I hear more disdain from cosseted movie stars than I hear from ordinary folk; I hear more grumpy, costive old burbling about the dark hole into which America has fallen from a rich and privileged Old Scout than I hear from, say, middle-class bloggers who get 40 hits a day but happen to love the actual country we have as opposed to the theoretical variant which Keillor believes is right around the corner. Next week: an attack, probably, on the smug, self-righteous rich and privileged, who think America's just great. At least we know how that one will end: truth, marching, et cetera.

I think that Keillor has attained that unblessed state that no one dare edit him. Thankfully, we have Lileks.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:37 AM
Ignorance Of America

By the Brits.

Frequent commenter "Fletcher Christian" is a poster child for this phenomenon. And as one of the commenters at Glenn's post notes, the BBC is largely responsible.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:06 AM
An Attack By The Real Fascists

Over at Amy Alkon's place.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:01 AM

Everyone (including Joe Biden, who also thinks he's "clean") says that Barack Obama is articulate. I've never seen any evidence of it, and there was apparently plenty of counterevidence at the Rick Warren thing. Being good at reading a teleprompter is not the same thing as being "articulate."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:54 AM
Casualty Of War?

I have a piece up at Pajamas Media this morning on the potential effect of Russia's renewed belligerence on the US space program.

I should note that I may have been a little too sanguine about the situation for the current ISS crew. While the RSA astronauts in Expedition 17 weren't born in Russia, it's possible that they are Russians, and sympathetic to Russia, given the way that Russia had colonized the Ukraine and Turkmen Republic and moved populations of Russians in there. It's all really speculation. Only the crew really know what the atmosphere is up there.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:21 AM

August 17, 2008


...and hope!

Well, not really. The Obama campaign has released its new space policy, and there's not much breaking with the status quo in it. It's basically sticking with the current plan, at least in civil space, but promising (as in all areas) to spend more money. While one suspects that Lori Garver must have played a major role in it, it also reads as though it was written by a committee, or different people wrote different sections, and then it was stitched together, like Frankenstein's monster.

For instance, in one section, it says:

Obama will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities. NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is a good model of government/industry collaboration.

But later on, in a different section, it says:

Obama will evaluate whether the private sector can safely and effectively fulfill some of NASA's need for lower earth orbit cargo transport.

If COTS is a "good model," why is such an "evaluation" necessary? Isn't it already a given? I also like the notion that Obama himself would do the "evaluation." As if.

It's got the usual kumbaya about international cooperation, of course, which I think has been disastrous on the ISS. There are also implied digs at the Bush administration, about not "politicizing" science (as though Jim Hansen hasn't done that himself) and opposing "weapons" in space. It also discusses more cooperation between NASA and NRO, ignoring the recent rumblings about getting rid of the latter, and the problems with security that would arise in such "cooperation."

Also, interestingly, after Senator Obama called McCain's proposed automotive prize a "gimmick," the new policy now explicitly supports them. So are they no longer "gimmicks"? Or is it just that McCain's idea was (for some unexplained reasons) but Obama's are not?

Overall, my biggest concerns with it are more on the defense side than on the civil space side. This is utopian:

Barack Obama opposes the stationing of weapons in space and the development of anti-satellite weapons. He believes the United States must show leadership by engaging other nations in discussions of how best to stop the slow slide towards a new battlefield.

Sorry, but that horse is out of the barn, and there's no way to get it back in. No anti-satellite weapons treaty would be verifiable. It is good to note, though, that the policy recognizes ORS as a means to mitigate the problem. That's the real solution, not agreements and paper.

In any event, it's a big improvement over his previous space policy, which was not a policy at all, but rather an adjunct to his education policy. Now it's time for the McCain campaign to come up with one. I hope that he gets Newt to help him with it, and not Walt Cunningham.

[Mid-morning update]

One of the commenters over at NASA Watch picks up on something that I had missed:

Sen. Obama names COTS and several other programs by name, but not Ares or Constellation. He mentions "the Shuttle's successor systems" without specifying what they might be.

That does give him some options for real change. I also agree that a revival of the space council would be a good idea. I hope that the McCain campaign doesn't oppose this purely because the Obama campaign has picked it up.

[Afternoon update]

One other problem. While it talks about COTS, it has no mention of CATS (or CRATS, or CARATS, or whatever acronym they're using this week for cheap and reliable access to space). It hints at it with COTS and ORS, but it's not set out as an explicit goal. I hope that McCain's policy does.

[Update a few minutes later]

Bobby Block has a report at the Orlando Sentinel space blog.

This part struck me (and didn't surprise me):

Lori Garver, an Obama policy adviser, said last week during a space debate in Colorado that Obama and his staff first thought that the push to go to the moon was "a Bush program and didn't make a lot of sense." But after hearing from people in both the space and education communities, "they recognized the importance of space." Now, she said, Obama truly supports space exploration as an issue and not just as a tool to win votes in Florida.

I'm not sure that Lori helped the campaign here. What does that tell us about the quality and cynicism of policy making in the Obama camp? They opposed it before they were for it because it was George Bush's idea? And does that mean that space policy was just about votes in Florida before this new policy? I know that there are a lot of BDS sufferers who oppose VSE for this reason, and this reason alone, but it's a little disturbing that such (non)thinking was actually driving policy in a major presidential campaign.

George Bush greatly expanded federal involvement in education and expanded Medicare. Are they going to shrink them accordingly? I'd like to think so, but I suspect not.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:36 AM

August 16, 2008

Must Be Getting Crowded Under That Bus

That wasn't the Wes Clark that I knew.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:52 PM

Do Democrats hate men?

It sure seems like it sometimes. And of course, if we object, we're misogynists (and probably racists as well).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:07 AM
Space Politics

It's hard to think of any sitting (or past, for that matter) member of Congress who has done more for commercial space efforts than Dana Rohrabacher. He's been representing his southern California district for many years, so I was a little surprised to hear that he's in a potentially tough reelection battle. But his opponent is currently out-fund-raising him, and it's going to be a generally tough year for Republicans, even those whose seats had previously been secure. So for those of you who want to keep him in Washington for his space efforts (or for other reasons), a fund has been set up to help make that happen.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:57 AM

August 15, 2008

The Latest On The Space Debate

Jeff Foust has a report on the debate in Boulder between Lori Garver and Walt Cunningham. As I note in comments, if Senator Obama is now interested in prizes, that would be a change of position from when he criticized Senator McCain's proposal for an automotive prize.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:19 AM

August 14, 2008

A New Home For The Sixth Fleet?

In Sevastopol? And I don't mean the similar-sounding one in California.

We do need to recognize that we're in a new Cold War with Russia, though many of the former "Republics" in the Soviet Union will now be (in fact have been) on our side, which will make it more manageable, but also more dangerous, with more trip wires.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:25 PM
Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered

When I read this piece by Walter Shapiro, I had much the same reaction as John Weidner did:

You were besotted with Edwards because he was (or was pretending to be) a liberal Democrat. And Edwards almost certainly paid flattering attention to the guy who was writing a book about his campaign. You dolt, Edwards and his wife almost certainly coldly planned how to woo you, and knew what your weaknesses are. That's what trial lawyers do with a jury. They study every scrap of information available on each juryman, and, like chameleons, tailor the message, and paint their very selves, to fit them. (I know about this stuff; my dear wife's on the other side, the good side, fighting scoundrels like Edwards every day.)

Everybody who retained any objectivity could see that he was a phony, and were not surprised by this. When a guy talks populism and green-ism while building the biggest mansion in the county, there's a 99% chance that he's a sham. When a guy spends minutes in front of a mirror fluffing his hairdo, there's a 99% chance that he will not resist the sexual temptations available to a celebrity.

These media love affairs with (liberal) politicians constitute journalistic malpractice. They gave us the corrupt Bill Clinton, from whom, had any of them had done their job and looked into Arkansas history back in 1992, the nation could have been spared. Glenn Reynolds has asked, after the obvious biased non-reporting in the John Edwards case, what else are they deliberately hiding from us? And at least Walter Shapiro, if not the rest of the swooners, should now be asking himself, "by what other politicians am I letting myself be fooled and beguiled?" For instance, how about the inexperienced phony about to be nominated in Denver that is this season's "it" girl for the media?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:46 AM
Politics, Not Geology

Why the oil "shortage" is made in Washington.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:25 AM
I'll Bet They Are

"Senator Obama and Senator Clinton are looking forward to a convention unified behind Barack Obama as the Party's nominee and to victory this fall for America."

Well, at least one of them is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:02 AM

August 13, 2008

You're Not The Only One, Glenn

I'm not paying any attention to the Olympics, either. I haven't seen a single competition, and didn't watch the opening ceremonies. I don't think I've watched any channel showing it for more than a few seconds.

It's not political--I'm just thoroughly uninterested. I also think that it's highly overrated as a kumbaya enhancer, and I'm more interested in people for their intellectual prowess than physical abilities. I was amused a few years ago when one of my trolls (this one from Norway, but not HH) "warned" me that if the US didn't behave better internationally, we might not be selected for future Olympics. I told him that wasn't a bug--it was a feature.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:07 PM
A Foreign Policy Failure

A former Clinton official critiques the US' (and EU's) mismanaging of Georgia.

I've been pretty unimpressed by the Bush state department (one of the reasons that I've been pretty unimpressed by the Bush administration in general). It's not clear whether that's because both Powell and Rice were captured by the bureaucracy and "went native" or because they were squishy by nature, but either way, it's unimpressive. One of the legacies of this administration will probably be its complete inability to win the guerilla wars in the bureaucratic trenches.

Of course, it didn't help that the president imagined that he saw Putin's "soul" through his eyes. We now have a much better idea of the nature of his soul through his subsequent actions than George Bush got from his ocular examination.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:22 AM
Momentous Political News

Chuck Hagel won't endorse.

The post title was intended to be ironic, in case anyone had trouble guessing.

Is there anyone who cares what that pompous unprincipled idiot thinks about anything? If so, I sure hope that they don't vote.

[Update mid morning]

Exposing the myth of "Republicans for Obama."

Obama may count prominent GOPers like Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, presidential granddaughter Susan Eisenhower, Fairbanks, Alaska Mayor Jim Whitaker, former Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chaffee and former White House intelligence adviser Rita E. Hauser--all of them namechecked on today's call--among his announced (or likely) endorsers. But are there enough rank-and-file Republicans whispering their support at Obama rallies to actually make a difference on Election Day?

The answer, as noted in the article, is "no." And Democrats who believe this fantasy are fooling themselves, and setting themselves up for a huge disappointment in November. I hope that the taxpayer doesn't get stuck with the massive group therapy bill.

[Update late morning]

Hey, I told you that Chafee is a moron:

Former Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, who left the GOP last year and later endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, has signed on with Republicans for Obama, saying that the Illinois senator embodies "my kind of traditional conservatism."


Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:41 AM

August 12, 2008

On-The-Job Training

If you want to know why Constellation is such a godawful mess, here's one reason:

NASA JSC Center Director's Systems Engineering Forum Planned Aug. 21

There actually are people out in private industry (like me) who do this stuff for a living, or at least would, if NASA would give them a contract. But instead of putting out a SETA or some other support contract for systems engineering, as Steidle had planned to do, Dr. Griffin simply decided that NASA would do it. This is where it's gotten him. Had he hired a good SE contractor (and listened) the program would likely not be in the kind of trouble it is, either technically or politically. Of course, it would probably look much different, because a proper systems-engineering approach would never have resulted in the Shaft. That was the danger inherent in putting a rocket scientist in charge of the agency. He thought he was smarter than everyone else.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:03 PM
Brawn, Not Brain

And now, idiots:

Byers called Castro a "great guy.''

Maybe he could move to Cuba, and wrestle for Fidel instead. Of course, there's no reason to expect a wrestler to be a deep thinker.

[Update a few minutes later]

Speaking of idiots, here we have Republicans for Obama:

This morning, former Iowa Republican Congressman Jim Leach, former Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee, and prominent lawyer and former White House intelligence advisor Rita E. Hauser will host a conference call to endorse Senator Barack Obama and announce the formation of Republicans for Obama. Across the country Democrats, independents, and Republicans are coming together in support of Senator Obama to bring change to Washington. Obama has a strong record of bringing people together from the left and the right to solve problems, leading with superior judgment on foreign policy issues, and demonstrating fiscal responsibility.

What "strong record" is that? What "superior judgment" is that?

Lincoln Chafee hasn't been a Republican in years, but he's always been a moron. If this is the best that Obama can do in terms of "Republican" endorsements, it's pretty pathetic.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:32 AM
Are You Better Off?

...than you were three years ago?

The official IOC for an Ares I crew launch vehicle able to send a crew of six to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Orion crew exploration vehicle is March 2015.

And now that the Russians have shown themselves for what they are in Georgia, isn't it great to be dependent on them for crewed access?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:38 AM
Earmarks You Can Believe In

This must be that new politics we've heard so much about.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:19 AM

August 11, 2008

Any Minute Now

James Lileks awaits the war protesters. In vain.

The anarchists aren't up on it. Nothing from the central Green party. But it's possible they're just getting their blast emails out, alerting everyone to the upcoming World Can't Wait / Protest Imperialistic Imperialism Protest, complete with giant mocking paper-mache puppets of Putin with black oil dripping from his fangs. Who here can do a Putin? C'mon people, I need a big Putin. This international cabal isn't going to collapse on its own! It needs the sort of humiliating defeat only a large, three-dimensional effigy borne on the streets of a Western city in full view of bored policemen can bring.Yes, any day now: the streets will be filled with protestors.

Mao is denounced as well.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:19 AM

August 08, 2008

Nearing The End?

Robert Block is wondering if the Stick is dying. I liked this bit:

In the face of the latest reports of trouble, sources say that NASA leaders are looking at a possible replacement design, including one that would use the shuttle's two four-segment solid rocket boosters, and a liquid engine with four RS-68 engines and no upper stage. While it sounds similar to a rocket called the Jupiter 120 or the Direct 2.0 concept which is being proposed by moonlighting NASA engineers, the sources insist it is not the same.

Yes. I have a literary theory that the Iliad and the Odyssey weren't written by Homer, but by another blind poet with the same name.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:48 AM
The New Brown Shirts

Glenn explains:

No doubt they all go around exchanging Obama Salutes and clicking their heels...

But don't call them a cult!

I guess that it really is all about the "O." Sabine Ehrenfeld is still a lot hotter, though. At this point, given the other choices on the menu, I'm ready to sign up for a Sabine/Paris ticket. Too bad she was born in Germany.

I suspect that Senator Obama's fans may prove to be his worst enemies.

[Update a while later]

Ace has more.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:02 AM

August 07, 2008

An Idle Thought

I wonder how many of the people who are giving Congress single-digit approval ratings know which party is in charge?

I think that it's foolish for John McCain to be running against George Bush. He shouldn't be asking whether or not you're better off than eight or four years ago. That's Obama's line.

He needs to ask whether or not you're better off than you were two years ago, when the Dems started mismanaging Congress. Point out not how much gas prices have gone up in eight years, but in how much they've gone up in two years (probably the biggest percentage jump in history). Never use the word "Congress" without prepending it with "Democratic."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:23 AM
The Latest Buzz

Alan Boyle interviews the first man to relieve his bladder on the moon, about the Moon, Mars and the Gap. And it's great to see him (and Lois) still going strong. And as he points out, there are a lot of fortieth and fiftieth anniversary news hooks coming up. I hope to take advantage of them as well.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:54 AM

August 06, 2008

Peaked Too Soon?

Amid the fact that Obama's having a bad week, and not jumping ahead in the polls as conventional "wisdom" dictated, it's useful to note that he's not only not president yet (despite his play acting at it with the seal and the overseas visits), but that he's not even the Democrat nominee. I will continue to remind people that regardless of what Hillary! says about supporting him, actions shout where words whisper.

She did not withdraw from the race, and she did not release her delegates. Obama does not have enough "pledged" (i.e., derived from primary victories) delegates to get the nomination--he needs the votes of superdelegates who had previously committed to him in June, but they are still free to vote however they wish in Denver.

If he continues to make gaffes, and look weak, and lose support of the yout' who were supposed to be his big ace in the hole, and Obama fatigue sets in, there may be a lot of buyers' remorse among the once-enthusiastic Democrats. The stage is once again set for a very exciting convention in Denver, in which die-hard Hillary! supporters, despite her demurrals, will put her name in nomination and demand a roll-call vote. And those superdelegates will once again, and finally, be faced with a very ugly choice--go with a demonstrably weak candidate, and mollify the black constituency, or go with the winner of the latter part of the primary, and risk tearing the party apart (not to mention putting up a candidate with continuing high negatives), perhaps complete with mile-high riots. And the worse he seems to be doing, the harder the choice will be.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:22 PM
Dumbing Down

Peter Wood has an essay on the effects of our culture on science education.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:00 PM

August 05, 2008

You Just May Be A Racist

Twenty-five reasons. You're probably full of hate, too.

And obviously, when Obama loses, it will be because we're all racists. What other reasons could we possible have to vote against him?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:51 PM
Reporting The Edwards Scandal

Mickey Kaus makes the case:

The only legitimate reason not to cover this scandal, it seems to me, is simple sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards--and I've gotten enough emails from anguished and angry members of the MSM to conclude, with Estrich, that it's the prime reason for the MSM blackout. True, I also suspect that if Mrs. Edwards were a conservative Republican, or even an unbeloved Democrat, the MSM might somehow find a way to overcome this compassionate sentiment. But that doesn't make it wrong. Reporters don't have to print everything. You could conclude that the need to protect Mrs. Edwards her children is so great, the karma of Enquiring so bad, that all of the obvious, public-interesty reasons for covering the story should be thrown out the window. And if John Edwards were already so damaged that in practice he'd never get a significant public office even if he wants one, I might agree (even if that meant sacrificing the deterrent effect of full exposure).

But that's a point that clearly hasn't been reached yet, at least not while most Americans are being kept in the dark about what, exactly, has led to Edwards' mysterious disappearance from the political oddsmakers' charts. A man arrogant and ambitious enough to think he can run for president posing as a loyal husband while keeping his second family secret, even as he visits his mistress in a famous hotel that is hosting a convention of journalists, will be arrogant and ambitious enough to keep hiding under the shield of his wife's illness until he can attempt a comeback-- if given the chance.

The alternative, it seems to me, is to let affection for Mrs. Edwards suck journalists into a Print-the-Legend world where they must spend their time burnishing--or at least accepting--the story powerful people and institutions want them to tell, the story of the wonderful Edwards marriage, rather than figuring out and telling readers the truth. If I wanted to be in that business I'd be a publicist.

That's certainly what the "journalists" have been when it came to Barack Obama. Does anyone doubt that if Edwards were a Republican in similar circumstances, that there would have been a NYT story about it? The question answers itself.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:43 AM
It's That Time Of The Week Again

Lileks examines the train wreck that is Garrison Keillor's latest:

I'm sorry, but I'm just fascinated by his column. Each is nearly identical in formlessness, subject and general pointlessness. To be fair: we all write at haste and repent at leisure, unless we can somehow get it out of the Google cache. We all make inelegant remarks that seemed wonderfully writerly at the moment but curdle when exposed to another pair of eyes. It's the perils of blogging. But he has an entire week to write these things. Never does he attempt to make an argument or explore a line of thought - it's just flat assertions ladled out with nuance or shading. The sun rises, Bush is bad, life is long but also short and so you should sit outside and drink lemonade and think of the people who came before you and sat outside and drank lemonade and there is a comfort in that continuity and we need all the comfort we can get in these days when nihilists in golf pants are everywhere and the Republic lies in ruins. Also, he is given to run-on sentences. This week has perhaps the finest example yet.

If that's not enough, there is some cereal blogging, too.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:06 AM
A Farewell To Straw Men?

Probably not, but we can always hope. I have a piece over at Pajamas today about fallacious and demagogic debating tactics.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:46 AM

August 04, 2008

The Whining Children

...of capitalism:

Leaving religion out of it, no idea has given more to humanity. The average working-class person today is richer, in real terms, than the average prince or potentate of 300 years ago. His food is better, his life longer, his health better, his menu of entertainments vastly more diverse, his toilette infinitely more civilized. And yet we constantly hear how cruel capitalism is while this collectivism or that is more loving because, unlike capitalism, collectivism is about the group, not the individual.

These complaints grow loudest at times like this: when the loom of capitalism momentarily stutters in spinning its gold. Suddenly, the people ask: What have you done for me lately? Politicians croon about how we need to give in to Causes Larger than Ourselves and peck about like hungry chickens for a New Way to replace dying capitalism.

As Mark Twain once wrote, "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

Most people in this country have little appreciation how good they've got it. It's a shame that we no longer teach history in school.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:06 PM
Hell Hath No Fury

Like a woman's supporters scorned:

And what will the Puma members do after the Convention? Murphy concedes, "We're realists. ... We know the DNC is committed to the path of nominating their chosen candidate." In November she explains, "We are protesting the election." Members will sit home, write in Hillary's name or vote for John McCain. She explains, "That up to them. That's part of our whole philosophy."

Kronert says that he won't be voting for Obama and thinks "Obama is running his campaign on the 'Change, Hope, a new kind of Politics' marketing gimmick." He also is one voter who thinks experience matters ("Obama is a two year senator with one year of that being on the campaign trail.")

Shanon from Maryland, another Puma member who donated to Hillary and voted Democratic in five straight past elections won't vote for Obama, listing his lack of experience, qualifications and track record among her concerns. She says, "I will vote McCain, third-party, stay home or write Hillary Clinton in. At this point, Ichabod Crane is looking better than the choices I have. But make no mistake, I have a choice." Eli, a self-described "Clinton Democrat" from Massachusetts, says he's not voting for Obama because "Quite simply, he is not qualified."

The healing continues.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:11 PM
The Fighter Pilot

...versus the community organizer. John Boyd would be pleased.

And yes, there are a lot of similarities between the tactics of Adolf Hitler and Saul Alinsky. This is not a coincidence.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:08 PM
Saving The Planet

That's what Nancy Pelosi claims to be doing. Well, good. She seems to consider it more important than her political career:

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken July 25-27 found that Americans by numbers approaching 2-1 would be more likely to support a candidate who backs expanded offshore drilling.

Well, I hope that she really does consider it so. I certainly do. Of course, it's hard for me to think of anything less important than Nancy Pelosi's political career. Let us hope for a rapid end to it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:52 AM
More SpaceX Perspective

Clark has a round up of links.

It was a little strange, and sad, descending into the LA basin yesterday. I had a left window seat, and I looked down at the old Rockwell/North American (and back during the war, Vultee) plant in Downey, which had been abandoned back in the nineties, and saw that Building 6 appeared to be no longer there. A lot of history in manned spaceflight took place there, but now there's almost no manned space activities left in southern California at all. Not in Downey, not in Huntington Beach, not in Seal Beach. It's all been moved to Houston, and Huntsville.

Except, except. A minute or two later, on final descent into LAX, I saw Hawthorne Airport just off the left wing, and quite prominent was the new SpaceX facility, which had previously been used to build jumbo jet wings.

So perhaps, despite the indifference of local and state politicians, the era of manned spaceflight in LA isn't quite yet over. And of course, Mojave remains ascendant.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:42 AM
Remembering The Gulag

Lileks reminisces:

I got all three volumes from the drugstore - which should have told me something about the land in which I lived, that one could buy this work from a creaky wire rack at the drugstore - and it taught me much about the Soviet Union and the era of Stalin. After that I could never quite understand the people who viewed the US and the USSR as moral equals, or regarded our history as not only indelibly stained but uniquely so. Reading Solzhenitsyn makes it difficult to take seriously the people in this culture who insist that Dissent has been squelched. Brother, you have no idea.


Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:30 AM

August 03, 2008

Arrived Safely

Sort of.

When I had the privilege of paying American an extra fifteen bucks to check my bag today, I had no idea how much extra service they'd be rendering. Apparently, with this new program, they've come up with an innovative new luggage-handling process that enables them to expeditiously lose your suitcase on a non-stop. And it only took me an hour and a half after the wheels touched down to discover this new capability.

When I got to the carousel that was supposed to be for my flight, it was full of luggage from not one, not two, not three, but four different Dallas flights, as evidenced by inspection of the tags. Apparently, another innovation that the airline has come up with is to get the luggage to the airport before the passengers arrive, and then helpfully leave it all on the carousel, so that the few bags from your own flight from Fort Lauderdale won't feel lonely and ostracized, and can fit in better with the crowd. Or perhaps the aircraft simply arrived in LAX sans occupants, the latter having somehow been spirited away en route by Bushco to be shipped off to Gitmo for the ritual waterboarding and holy book defilation, with the airline complicit in both the act and the cover up.

I reported the miscreant item to the baggage service.

"Did you look at the bags we have outside the door here"?

No, that hadn't occurred to me, because I lacked the imagination to conceive that a bag would be removed from the carousel by the authorities with hundreds still milling around seeking their luggage.

"Let's go over and look."

We go back over to the carousel.

"Sometimes it might have a Dallas tag on it, because it might have gotten rerouted."

This, as there remained hundreds of Dallas arrivals on the swirling machine, whose contents I had now seen several dozen times.

I marveled at an airline that could get a bag rerouted through Dallas and somehow end up there at the same time as I, who took a non-stop from Florida. Does the luggage get to skip the layover?

Bottom line: I am now the proud owner of a receipt that informs me that in the event they locate the missing suitcase, it will be delivered to my room. So I am here for a business meeting in the morning with no clothing except that on my back. Well, OK, and my keister. And, yeah, my feet. But still.

I have to say that I agree with the sentiment.

[Update on early Monday morning]

Well, when I check the web site to track it, it seems to have shown up overnight. It's supposed to be delivered sometime this morning to my hotel. No word on where it had been sequestered. I was kind of wondering if someone else took it off the carousel. They're not bothering to verify tags any more at LAX, as they did in the olden days.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:34 PM

August 02, 2008

How High Taxes Kill Jobs

Jim Manzi explains it to Barack Obama. Unfortunately, both presidential candidates are economic ignorami.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:31 AM

August 01, 2008

We Knew This Was Coming (Part Two)

Is climate change racist?

Sometimes these people become parodies of themselves (as in the old gag New York Times headline: "World Ends--Women, Minorities Hit Hardest").

I'm sure glad that this issue hasn't been politicized.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:55 PM

July 31, 2008

The Audacity Of Arrogance

The conventional wisdom is that this election is Senator Obama's to lose. Andrew Malcolm explains why he probably will:

Several strategists of both parties sense that Americans want to vote for Obama, but something is holding them back. Or several somethings, as we suggested up top.

Maybe Obama's flips -- his outspoken opposition to denouncing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright until he did; his promise to take public campaign financing, since broken; his eagerness to debate McCain in town halls, now abandoned; his apparent unwillingness to see progress in the Iraq troop surge, which he opposed and predicted would worsen sectarian violence?

Is there a simmering concern over arrogance by the Ivy League lawyer and mere candidate who so blithely patted the French president on the back for a well-done news conference? Asked the other day if he ever doubted himself, Obama replied smartly, "Never!" And grinned broadly. Sounded more like a 20-year-old than someone about to turn 47 next week.

I don't pay much attention to polls before the conventions, but the fact that it is so close in the summer, when Dems are usually far ahead, has to be very worrisome to the Obama campaign.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:20 PM
Science As A Religion

And a fundamentalist one, at that:

When Salon interviewed me about my new book, "Saving Darwin," I suggested that science doesn't know everything, that there might be a reality beyond science, and that religion might be about God and not merely about the human quest for a nonexistent God. These remarks got me condemned to whatever hell Myers believes in.

Myers accused me of having "fantastic personal delusions" that could actually lead people astray. "I will have no truck with the perpetuation of fallacious illusions, whether honeyed or bitter," Myers wrote, "and consider the Gibersons of this world to be corruptors of a better truth. That's harsh, I know ... but he is undermining the core of rationalism we ought to be building, and I find his beliefs pernicious."

Myers' confident condemnations put me in mind of that great American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who waxed eloquent in his famous 1741 speech, "Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God," about the miserable delusions that lead humans to reject the truth and spend eternity in hell. We still have preachers like Edwards today, of course; they can be found on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. But now we also have a new type of preacher, the Rev. PZ Myers.

And they don't even recognize it in themselves. Dawkins and Myers and Hitchens are doing more harm than good for science in their evangelizing, I think.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:35 PM
We Knew This Was Coming

John Glenn is arguing for an extension of the Shuttle program. I don't really give a rip what he thinks, but a lot of people on the Hill (particularly on the Democrat side) will take him seriously. The problem is that it's not just a matter of coming up with more money. NASA has to do pad modifications at 39 A and B to accommodate the new vehicles, and they can't do that if they continue to fly Shuttle. I suspect that it will also start to get pretty crowded in the VAB if they're doing Ares and Shuttle simultaneously.

Sometimes, I think that the best thing that could happen to American space policy would be a Cat 5 hurricane hitting the Cape, and scraping it clean.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here's more from Robert Block at the Orlando Sentinel. Note the comment about there being no appetite on the Hill for a Shuttle extension.

[Update a few more minutes later]

Mark Whittington once again demonstrates his legendary prowess at reading miscomprehension. I agree with Jon (though I'm not going to vote for Bob Barr). As I said, probably the most effective (and perhaps necessary) step toward a revitalization of NASA would be a Cat 5 at the Cape. I don't think that anything less can shake the space industrial complex up sufficiently to get any kind of new thinking or direction.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:50 AM
Swashbucklers In Space

Alan Boyle has another report from Oshkosh (some people get the best gigs).

Griffin downplayed media reports about vibration problems with the Ares 1 rocket, saying that there were "half a dozen means to mitigate that" and that two top strategies would be selected for further study next month. "Let me put it this way: I hope this is the worst problem we have in developing a new system," he said.

Of course he did. That doesn't mean they aren't true. I haven't seen any ways to mitigate it that don't involve a lot more weight and performance penalty on a vehicle that's already out of margins. I too hope that it's the worst problem they have, because if they have any that are worse, the program is in deep, deep kimchi.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:16 AM

Is this really as big a deal as NASA is making of it?

Data from recent missions to Mars has been building toward a confirmation of the presence of water ice. However, "this would be the first time we held it in our hands, so to speak," says Bryan DeBates, a senior aerospace education specialist at the Space Foundation. Evidence from other locations in the solar system, including Earth's moon, Saturn's Enceladus moon and Jupiter's Europa moon, have strongly hinted at the presence of water--NASA confirmed a liquid lake on Saturn's Titan moon on Wednesday--but no direct observation of water has been made.

Haven't we been pretty certain for years that there was ice on Mars (and outer planet moons, and comets)? What's the big deal here? If there's a story at all, it seems to me that it's about the amount of water available, not the fact that we have "direct confirmation."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:43 AM

July 30, 2008

Speaking Of General Zod

At least one will be saved from the coming carbon apocalypse:

Al Gore--or, as he is known in his own language, Gore-Al--placed his son, Kal-Al, gently in the one-passenger rocket ship, his brow furrowed by the great weight he carried in preserving the sole survivor of humanity's hubristic folly.

"There is nothing left now but to ensure that my infant son does not meet the same fate as the rest of my doomed race," Gore said. "I will send him to a new planet, where he will, I hope, be raised by simple but kindly country folk and grow up to be a hero and protector to his adopted home."

Hope the poles aren't so warm there that he can't build an arctic fortress of pomposity.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:17 PM

July 29, 2008

The People Of Berlin

...have spoken.

I particularly liked the Che comparison, and the hope that the messiah will make Americans less "superficial."

[Update a few minutes later]

Is Obama channelling General Zod?

I am General Zod! Listen to me, people of the Earth! Today I bring a New Order to your planet! One which shall last until the end of time!

Each of you... each man, each woman, each child - all will march proudly together in this New Order! Your lands, your homes, your possessions, your very lives... All of this and more you will gladly give to me!

There is no longer a need for separate nations in this world, no need for petty squabbles between one group and another. All of you will work together, strive, produce, and sacrifice together - and all for a common goal!

Michelle and Barack will make the humans of planet Earth work, and shed their cynicism.

Actually, Michelle can have my cynicism when she pries it from my cold, dead cynical typing fingers.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:56 PM
The Era Of Carbon Craziness

Is it almost over? Let's hope so.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:30 AM
Potemkin Rocket Test

More on the "flight test" of Ares 1-X, which seems to be mostly for show. Though if it's as risky as indicated here, it may be a more spectacular performance than they count on.

Unfortunately, the same folks who think a flight dynamics test of a four segment SRB with a different propellant, old-style grain design, and inert (that is to say, non-sloshing and stiff) upper pieces is a good idea also thought they could grab a bunch of used equipment (Atlas avionics software, Peacekeeper hardware, etc.), chewing gum, and duct tape (perhaps FEMA is helping the minions) and use it to demonstrate how something "like" ARES-1X might get off the ground after "the gap" has widened to its furthest extent.

And, like all of the shortcuts the Emperor's minions have taken to date, this approach, too, is soon to come back and bite them. The list of critical components going into ARES-1X that are either beyond shelf life or being put to work in an environment for which they were not intended is astounding. And the risks that are being accepted, because of schedule and budget pressures, are equally marvelous.

Hey, it's OK. That's what waivers are for.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:38 AM
The Arabization Of Macedonia

A report from Michael Totten.

It's a shame that we can't wave a wand and make oil worthless. Perhaps the only other solution is to take it away from them. There's something wrong with a system that gives people so much wealth who have done absolutely nothing to earn it or create it, and use it to subvert the rest of the world.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:08 AM

July 28, 2008

The Surge That Should Worry Obama

The one within the Democrat Party:

...if the opposition to Obama reaches the match point and ignites, Obama could be embarrassed in Denver. After Clinton suspended her campaign, Obama thought he had a green light to run roughshod over her supporters. That has proven to be a mistaken view. Clinton supporters want to be heard in Denver. I was surprised a couple of weeks ago to see an advertisement in the Chicago Tribune demanding that Clinton's name be placed in nomination.

My guess is that a very strenuous effort is going to be made to place Clinton's name in nomination in Denver, forcing Obama into a roll-call vote.

I continue to think that people who believe that Hillary! has given up on the nomination are fooling themselves. I think that it's going to be a hot time in the old town of Denver.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:29 AM
Some Questions For Senator Obama

...that no reporter is likely to ask:

Does Obama believe equal treatment is inherently divisive? What benefits does Sen. Obama believe have been derived throughout history by allowing states to discriminate on the basis of race? Does he favor repeal of California's Prop. 209 and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative?
Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:03 AM
It's OK To Laugh At Obama

So writes Byron York:

Television comedy writers fretted that audiences didn't want to hear anything even slightly negative about the Democratic nominee. The political press corps went nuts over a satirical New Yorker cover that wasn't even directed at Obama.

And this was about a man who made up his own pretend presidential seal and motto, Vero Possumus; a man who, upon securing the Democratic nomination, said, "I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"; a man who has on a number of occasions seemed to forget that he is not, or at least not yet, the President of the United States, who has misstated the number of states in his own country, who has forgotten on which committees he serves in the U.S. Senate. Professional comedians -- and their audiences -- couldn't find anything funny about any of that?

The fact that the press corps doesn't seem to be able to recognize Senator Obama for the pompous buffoon that he is, is the biggest indicator how deep in the tank they are for him.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:33 AM

July 27, 2008

Compound Interest

Some interesting thoughts on the insane notion of banning it to save the planet. Also, comments about law students' economic literacy.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:08 AM

July 25, 2008

Was Barbie Wrong?

Girls have caught up with boys at math.

Does this vindicate all of the mature, liberated women who had to hie to their fainting couches at Larry Summers' comments a few years ago?

Not really. He never said that boys were better, on average, than girls. His comment was that there was a much higher standard deviation for boys, which was why there were more brilliant mathematicians among them (it also means that there are more innumerates among them). This was posited as a possible explanation for the disparity in math PhDs and faculty between men and women, a conservative proposition for which he was hounded from the presidency of Harvard (though it was really just the last straw, and excuse).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:17 PM
Israeli Thoughts On The Messiah Visit

From Carolyn Glick:

I generally try to stay as far away as I possibly can from people who say they can make oceans recede. Our paths didn't cross. In fact, I managed to be out of the country on Wednesday.

...Obama acts like a European leader in his treatment of Israel. On the one hand, he professes this profound respect for Israel and the Jews, and goes on and on about how our security is important to him. On the other hand, he espouses policies that undermine Israeli security and threaten its survival, and demands that the Jewish state become the only state that turns its other cheek towards our enemies as they try to kill us. This is the same sort of message that we hear from all Europeans leaders. And it is tiresome and insulting.

Beyond that, Obama is in a unique situation because of the adulation he enjoys from the U.S. and Western media. The media is willing to ignore all of the substantive contradictions inherent in his policy pronouncements and to base their support for him on a quasi-religious faith. I don't remember this ever happening before in an American election -- at least not to the same extent. It is an interesting sociological phenomenon that is worthy of academic research. On a political level, it makes debate very difficult since Obama is treated more as a symbol than a politician. And it is hard to debate a symbol.

How long before this bubble pops? Robert Bidinotto thinks it may have already started.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:53 PM
The Runaway Ego Of Barack Obama

The presidency as therapy?

That was a big problem with Bill Clinton.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:24 AM
The Fat Fight Continues

John Tierney has the latest:

What we have to keep in mind here is that nutrition is a science (or at least should be) and science is about generating hypotheses, making predictions from our hypotheses, and then seeing if they hold true. The relevant hypothesis here -- i.e., what we've believed for the past 30-odd years -- is that saturated fat causes heart disease by elevating either total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol, specifically. So our prediction is that the diet with the higher saturated fat content will have a relatively deleterious effect on cholesterol. We do the test; we repeat it a half dozen times in different populations. Each time it fails to confirm our prediction. So maybe the hypothesis is wrong. That seems like a reasonable conclusion. No one is proving anything here -- as some of your respondents like to decry -- we're just looking at the evidence and trying to decide which hypotheses it supports and which it tends to refute.

...These latest trials just happen to be the best data we have on the long-term effects of saturated fat in the diet, and the best data we have says that more saturated fat is better than less. It may be true that if we lowered saturated fat further -- say to 7 % of all calories as the American Heart Association is now recommending -- or total fat down to 10 percent, as Dean Ornish argues, or raised saturated fat to 20 percent of calories, as Keys did, that we'd see a different result, but that's just another hypothesis. The trials haven't been done to test it. It's also hard to imagine why a small decrease in saturated fat would be deleterious, but a larger decrease would be beneficial.

I think that what the nutrition industry and the FDA have done over the past decades with their pseudoscience war on dietary fat borders on the criminal. I'm pretty much convinced at this point that the biggest culprit in both our health and weight is starch and refined sugars, and that the FDA "food pyramid" has been, and remains (despite recent improvements) quackery, not science.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:58 AM
He Brought Light Unto The World

Gerard Baker finally sees the light himself:

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And the polar bears rejoiced.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:39 AM
Thank Gore


...thank Gore that the ice is melting just as we need the oil. It's like divine Providence at work.

This from someone who worked on his 1988 presidential campaign.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:44 AM
We Are The World

Lileks reviews Obama's empty speechifying in Berlin. It's not a pretty sight:

He also called for an end to nuclear weapons. (This was also Reagan's dream, but he had a different way of going about it.) Of course, this isn't going to happen, but it sounds nice. Who wouldn't want a world in which everyone decommissions the nukes, and Iran says "wait, what? We thought these were cool. Well, then, we'll give them up. Geez, next thing you'll tell us, Izod shirts with popped collars are out." We will never poke the Genie back in the bottle, and Obama knows this. But the words loft well on the breath of the assembled. The problem, however, is that he didn't just set forth ideas humanity would be wise to make manifest - he made them moral imperatives that must be done now, because the THIS IS THE MOMENT, and NOW IS THE MOMENT THAT THIS IS, and the moment to come in a few moments is also the moment, but it's a few moments past the previous moment, which was also now. THIS IS THE MOMENT to do something about Darfur. Fine. What? THIS IS THE MOMENT to do something about Burmese dissidents. Fine. What?

Nothing will be done about either; they are, unfortunately, matters inconsequential to the general order of things. This is not to say that they are not obscene, or horrific, or more evidence of human perfidy both general and specific, but just as the world summed the strength to turn away from Rwanda and Cambodia, it will manage to struggle with the daunting task of doing nothing about Darfur or Burma. The drone of a jet engine outside your window, bearing you to another international conference, does an admirable job of masking the sound of a machete striking bone down below.

As always, read the whole thing.

[Update a while later]

I have to also say that the unexplained image of the Magritte painting in response to the Obama campaign claim that the campaign speech was not a campaign speech was brilliant. One of the things that's great about Lileks is that he respects his readers' intelligence.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:36 AM

July 24, 2008

Manning Submarines

...with women.

Somehow, it reminds me of this classic Martin Mull (and Steve Martin) sea shanty.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:45 PM
Fact Checking Al Gore

It's a busy job, but someone has to do it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:08 PM
Not This Again

The "rocks have rights" crowd are worried again about vandalizing space:

Edward O Wilson has suggested that biophilia, our appreciation of Earth's biosphere, is a by-product of evolving in this environment. If he's right, we might find we don't care about other worlds in the same way. This raises the alarming prospect of rapacious lunar mining altering the view from Earth.

Maybe our biophilia will kick in here: after all, our view of the Moon is one of Earth's natural vistas. Surely we can agree that we don't want that changed? It is an awesome thing to look up and remember that human footprints once marked the Moon's surface. It's quite another to imagine the moon looking like an abandoned quarry.

No, we can't agree. Note that this was in the context of a discussion on "eco issues" on the moon.

Here's the "eco issue" on the moon (and in the rest of the universe, as far as we know right now). There is no "eco" there. There is also no "bio" for our "biophilia" to kick in about. Ecology and biology are about life, something that exists only on earth. It's one thing to want to preserve an ecosystem, but when one simply wants to preserve the entire universe in its current "pristine" state, there's something unsettling and misanthropic going on.

Why is it all right for a meteroid to slam into the lunar surface and leave a crater (which has happened billions of times throughout history, and continues today) which is how the moon got to look the way it is, but a pit for mining is verboten? Would he object to seeing the lights of a lunar city up there? Does he have any idea how far away it is and how much mining one would have to do to see it from earth, even with a telescope?

What is this worship of entropy? What is this loathing of humanity? What is this apparent loathing of life itself?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:47 AM
Double Speak

Jim Lindgren on compulsory volunteerism. This is the kind of thing that we're in for in an Obama administration. It's the new New Deal. As some commenters note, I wonder if we get to wear arm bands.

[Mid-morning update]

Princess Obama?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:53 AM

July 23, 2008

Is Obama A Fibber?

Or does he just not know what committees he's on? And not on?

And which is worse? Not to mention his inability to keep his story straight about Jerusalem.

Get the man a teleprompter, quick!

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:27 PM
Can Women Be Explorers?

Of course they can, despite this misreading of my exploration piece on Monday. History is replete with them, though there are far fewer of them than men (more now, with more opportunities for them). For instance, the "mountain men" who explored much of the west were, pretty much to, men.

I recently received an email from someone who made an analogy between what I wrote and saying that a "white" boy could be an explorer as long as the school system didn't "blacken" him. I find the analogy completely spurious. Briefly, race is not gender.

This was my point, and one that will no doubt set off a crowd of angry blank slaters who think that gender is purely a social construct charging up the hill to my mansion with pitchforks and torches.

There are such things as masculine and feminine traits. All people have some of both--they are androgynous to one degree or another. We define the two by noting that most men are (by definition) more masculine, and most women are more feminine, and viva la difference. So things that most men do, and few women do, are called masculine, and vice versa for feminine (and of course there is a wide range of things that are neither). When men cook, garden, sew, etc., (as I do, though I don't sew much) they are indulging in their feminine side, and when women explore, go shooting, chainsaw trees, drive Indy cars (among other things) they are being sort of manly. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with either doing either. There's plenty of femininity to Danica Patrick, from what I can see.

There are a number of evolutionary psychological reasons to think that an urge for exploration is more of a male trait, and the Economist piece gives one more. If such an urge is an attention-deficit issue, it's indisputable that (at least as it's currently diagnosed) the preponderance of occurrence of it is in boys. At least, it is they who are being medicated the most for it in the schools. There may be some girls who are being similarly abused who would also be good explorers, but girls can be good explorers even when they act like girls in the classroom, because it's a lot easier for them to act like girls in the classroom (even if they have some male characteristics) because they are, well...girls. They still learn, but aren't having their exploratory urges browbeaten out of them. So to the degree that we are inhibiting budding explorers with a misguided educational system which defines good behavior as feminized behavior, the boys are taking the brunt of it. I could have, when referring to the future Neil Armstrong, said "her," instead of "him," but it would have seemed a little strained in political correctness, not because Neil was a man, but because not that many girls are being diagnosed ADHD and getting Ritalin.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:49 AM

Victor Davis Hanson:

The distinction again is that Obama appeals to the gullible and puerile as a sort of James Dean candidate. And thus he is not to be cross-examined, but instead free to shun interviews and clarifications, and prone to avoid reporters who might be less than adulatory -- the normal stuff that so irritates the supposedly sensitive press that has now gone brain-dead.

What is fascinating about the tingly-leg press is that they are exhibiting the very symptoms of arrested development and star-struck immaturity that they always accuse America in toto of suffering. The usual critique of the elite media is that we are a nation of mindless followers, who go from one fad to another, and value looks, youth, and pizzazz over substance.

But the current spectacle suggests something worse -- that the press who claims they know better and are more sophisticated are, in fact, far more infantile than most Americans, and essentially Access Hollywood, People Magazine, and the National Enquirer dressed up with network logos and NY-DC bylines.

I think that's been clear since Katie Couric was given the anchor at the CBS Evening News.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:27 AM
Somebody Had To Do It

Charlie Rangel has filed an ethics complaint against himself.

Will he lead the investigation, as well?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:24 AM
The Cause Of The Ares 1 Problem

Well, actually there are multiple causes, but this is one of them. The launch escape system is very heavy. And it's heavier than it needs to be because of the inherent inefficiency of the engines resulting from the cant outward (necessary to avoid blasting the capsule with the exhaust). Note that each opposed pair are fighting each other with the horizontal components of their thrust, contributing nothing whatsoever to the mission. This is called a cosine loss because the effective amount of vertical thrust is the total thrust times the cosine of the angle they're canted at. Since the lost thrust is the sine of the angle, you need more thrust overall (and hence a heavier engine) to compensate, making a bad problem worse.

People have considered putting the escape motor underneath the capsule for this reason (I think that Mike Griffin even drew a napkin sketch of it--we looked at it in OSP as well), but that complicates jettisoning, since it goes between the capsule and the service module. That would mean that you'd have to carry it all the way to orbit on each mission, and then separate, jettison, and redock with the SM, which carries performance and safety risks in itself. Or if it goes under the service module, then the motor has to be a lot bigger, and then you have to do a CM/SM separation after motor burnout but before rotation for entry. So they stuck with the Apollo tractor configuration, in which the capsule is pulled away in an abort.

The other solution, which would give them a ton (actually, literally tons) of margin would be to get rid of the damned thing. It's only there as a backup in case something goes wrong with the launch vehicle, and then only if specific things go wrong (for instance, a loss of thrust wouldn't require it). The weight and design is driven by the extreme case in which the upper stage is exploding beneath you and you have to try to outrun the flying debris. This is an extremely unlikely failure mode, but politically, they have to have the system there, because no one wants to take the chance that they'll have to testify before Congress that they killed astronauts because they didn't have it. With it, the estimate is a one in five hundred chance of losing a crew. Without it, it's much higher (though there are no doubt many astronauts who would accept the risk regardless, since they're already doing so now on the Shuttle).

Also, as Jon Goff has pointed out in the past, they're putting a lot of effort into safety during ascent, when this is actually one of the lesser hazards of a total lunar mission.

But that's the way that politics drives a government space program, and why it is so horrifically expensive.

[Update a while later]

It just occurs to me that the other case where you need it is an on-pad, or shortly-after-liftoff abort, when there is insufficient altitude for safe chute deployment.

But the thing to keep in mind is that it made a lot more sense in Apollo, because in the early sixties, "our rockets always blew up." The technology is much more mature now, and the failure modes for which it would be needed are much less likely, even in an expendable.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:18 AM
The New Blacklist

Maybe in an Obama administration, the House will set up a Pro-American Activity Committee, and properly investigate these subversives out in Hollywood:

David Horowitz, another Hollywood conservative and founder of the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture, said the group is serving a good purpose but he worries its members won't be aggressive enough.

"There's a kind of ... intellectual terror in this town. People are terrorized; they're afraid to say what they think. So what Gary is doing to provide aid and comfort to its victims is admirable, and I applaud him for it," he said. "But my concern is it's not going to be much more than that."

They told me that if George Bush was elected, that brave artists would live in fear of losing their livelihoods for their freedom of expression. They were right!

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the National Rifle Association?"

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:55 AM
The Stupidest Ruling In History

This probably isn't it, but in the immortal words of Marlon Brando, it has to be "a contendah." Particularly at the level of the court from which it was excreted. Of course, the real problem is the ADA, which opened the doors to such nonsense.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:25 AM
Filet Of Keillor

Lileks practices his fine art on his fellow Minnesota scribe, once again:

",,,I want to see my man excited by the prospect of victory and not shrink from it as so many Democrats do. They've read too many books about heroic dissenters and it makes them nervous about being in too big a crowd."

I have no idea what he's talking about. Seriously. Perhaps in Pasedena there's some alternate-universe Barnes and Noble where the shelves are stacked high with books praising the administration and shouting the myriad & infinite glories of America the Perfect, but I was at B&L today and there was a table six feet long heaped with books about how we're screwed and broke and lied to and misled and all the other merry sentiments that abound in the land these days. I don't think any of the authors are worried about selling too many books, and ending up in too big a crowd. If he's saying that the Modern Brave Soul automatically questions his principles if they're accepted by the masses - the loutish, stupid, cat-strangling masses - then he seems to have missed that portion of the internet that practices Heroic Dissent on a daily basis. Or maybe he spends all day reading the Daily Kos and wonders why these people are so timid and gunshy.

Let's keep going with that crowd idea:

"The huge crowds that Barack draws are stunned by the fact that someone like him, with that interesting name, is - hang on now - a mainstream candidate for President of the United States, and that he is, on close examination, One of Us."

That's the line that pinged out at me, and made me file away the column for future fiskery. One of us. Never mind the gabba-gabba-hey connotations, or the "mainstream" line - I'd love to hear a Woebegon ep in which Rev. Wright brings his race-based rhetoric to a small Lutheran church. ("Think twice about who you put your arm around, Senator McCain," the Scout cautioned in another column, back in the olden times when associations were relevant..) No, by "one of us" Keillor, I suspect, means the "us" of the smart set, the people who read the New Yorker even if one out 52 covers offends, the people who went to college for real instead of floating by with frat-boy grins, the people who protested the war instead of fighting it, the people who grapple, you know, with issues, seriously, and express a certain soulful anguish at the complexity of it all, and file away the details about zoning disputes with neighbors to be worked into a novel six years hence, when the whole incident has ripened into a metaphor.

Lots more where that came from.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:18 AM

July 22, 2008

The Living Constitution

Is Barack Obama too young to be president?

Sure seems that way to me.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:44 AM
Good News On The Life Extension Front

From Instapundit.

I think that this stuff is going to sneak up on us, and the political establishment is going to not have any idea how to respond to it. But it will be a disaster for social security in its current form, as well as pension plans, though a boon for those of us who have never counted on it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:10 AM
An Alternate History

...for Senator Obama.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:11 AM

July 21, 2008

Polar Bears

...are delicious.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:01 PM
And Get It Right This Time

The New York Times sends John McCain's op ed back for a rewrite.

Words fail.

Can we call them biased yet?

And just what does he means when he'd like to see McCain's piece "mirror" Obama? Does he mean that as in a reverse counterpoint? Or does he mean (as in servers) an exact copy?

Thoughts from Rick Moran, as the Times continues, unwittingly, to write its own obituary.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:09 PM
Nuclear Phobia

Time to end it. It's a technology we need in space, too.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:48 AM
I Feel Much Safer Now

If true, this has to be a Secret Service nightmare:

According to security officials coordinating deployments of forces with the PA for Obama's Ramallah visit, members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's declared military wing, have been called upon by the PA to participate in the protection of Obama, particularly in securing the perimeter during a scheduled meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas...

Hey, maybe Obama could also get Khaddafi's female ninja bodyguards to help out.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:31 AM
Do We Have An Urge To Explore?

I explore the proposition, over at The Space Review today. Also, editor Jeff Foust has a good writeup on a recent panel discussion on the prospects for government and private spaceflight.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:58 AM

July 20, 2008

"'The Godfather' Of Superhero Movies"

That's the briefest review of the new Batman flick that I've seen.

I'll probably wait untll the DVD. I'm not that big a fan of dark movies.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:13 PM
Now That's Intelligence

Did the Mossad help free the Columbian hostages?

Vanguardia's Tel Aviv correspondent said the Mossad operation consisted of two agents unknown to each other separately infiltrating FARC.

The pair managed to penetrate the Marxist guerrilla group so effectively that they ultimately controlled what FARC did or didn't know, the Catalan newspaper said.

All the more reason, of course, for the left to hate the "Zionists."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:33 PM
Ich Bin Ein Dummkopf

Obama's three hundred foreign policy advisors apparently weren't enough. His new choice of location for his German sermon from the mount, to win over valuable electoral votes of the German people, seems to have backfired as badly as the attempt to emulate Kennedy and Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate:

Andreas Schockenhoff, deputy leader of the conservative bloc in Parliament, said Sunday that the choice of the Victory Column, also known as the Golden Angel, was an "unhappy symbol" since it represented so much of Germany's militaristic past.

Rainer Brüderle, deputy leader of the opposition Free Democrats, said Obama's advisers had little idea of the historical significance of the Victory Column. "It was the symbol of German superiority over Denmark, Austria and France," Brüderle told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

The monument was built in 1864 to commemorate Prussia's victory over Denmark. When it was inaugurated, Prussia had defeated Austria during the Austro-Prussian war in 1866 and the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

The column has been originally located near the Reichstag, now the Bundestag, or German Parliament, which is close to the Brandenburg Gate. But Adolf Hitler relocated it about two kilometers, or one mile, toward the western part of the city to the Grosser Stern, or Great Star.

Too bad Leni Riefenstahl isn't around any more to film the event for him. Then later, he could reenact his grandfather's liberation of Auschwitz.

Maybe if he gets a couple hundred more advisors, he can find one with a clue. I've never seen anyone have so much trouble getting good help. It must be tough being a messiah.

I do have to say, though, that watching this kind of thing for four years would be entertaining. I just wish that he wouldn't be in charge of anything important during the show.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:28 AM

Some thoughts from a German on Obama's grandiosity:

...apart from questions of sensitivity and protocol, the proposal was also politically short-sighted. A German government cannot and will not intervene in foreign power struggles. It is simply a matter of political common sense for democratic countries to refrain from getting involved in the elections of other countries. This is a matter of respect, but also of calculated self-interest. Since you never know who will win, it is more advisable to stay neutral. As consequence, the German government cannot show preference to Obama: whatever Obama is permitted, McCain must also be permitted. Even before becoming American President, Obama has thus managed to embarrass one of his most important allies. Hardly an intelligent move. But he evidently does not think in terms of the long-term categories of real politics, but rather in terms of the short-term effects of political spectacle.

Yup. It's very hard to take him seriously.

He's not a "lighworker." He's a lightweight.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:51 AM
If We Can Put A Man On The Moon...

...why can't we kick the fossil fuel habit? Well, we can, but not the way we put a man on the moon, and certainly not within a decade. On the thirty-ninth anniversary of the first landing, I explain.

[Afternoon update]

It's interesting to note that the original landing was on a Sunday as well. I don't know how many of the anniversaries have fallen on a Sunday, but I would guess five or so. It's not too late to plan to commemorate the event with a ceremony at dinner tonight, with friends and family. Also, a collection of remembrances here. If you're old enough to remember it yourself, you might want to add one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:38 AM
Has The Oil Bubble Burst?

Maybe. These were clearly unsustainable prices--the only question was how long it would take them to drop. And what do you know? The market works:

Gas may be getting just a bit cheaper, but major changes in how Americans live and drive are already in motion.

Car buyers have been fleeing to more fuel-efficient models. U.S. sales of pickups and sport utility vehicles are down nearly 18 percent this year through June, while sales of small cars are up more than 10 percent.

While slashing production of more-profitable trucks and SUVs, automakers have been scurrying to build their most fuel-efficient models faster.

Toyota Motor Corp., which hasn't been able to keep up with demand for its 46-miles-per-gallon Prius hybrid, said last week it will start producing the Prius in the U.S. and suspend truck and SUV production to meet changing consumer demands.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. also have announced plans to increase small car production, and GM has said 18 of the 19 vehicles it is launching between now and 2010 are cars or crossovers.

And what do you know, they didn't do it because their intellectual superiors in Congress passed a law making them. They did it because gas was four bucks a gallon. Maybe people aren't the stupid sheep that technocrats think they are.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:24 AM

July 19, 2008

Netroots And Space

Chris Bowers: on why "progressives" should support space programs. There's a lot of typical mythology in the comments section about NASA and the military, and spin-off. We would have had PCs without Apollo, honest. We needed microchips for the missiles, which was at least as big a driver.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:04 PM
The APS Plot Thickens

The heretic Lord Monckton has a request today of the president of the American Physical Society:

The paper was duly published, immediately after a paper by other authors setting out the IPCC's viewpoint. Some days later, however, without my knowledge or consent, the following appeared, in red, above the text of my paper as published on the website of Physics and Society:

"The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article's conclusions."

This seems discourteous. I had been invited to submit the paper; I had submitted it; an eminent Professor of Physics had then scientifically reviewed it in meticulous detail; I had revised it at all points requested, and in the manner requested; the editors had accepted and published the reviewed and revised draft (some 3000 words longer than the original) and I had expended considerable labor, without having been offered or having requested any honorarium.

Please either remove the offending red-flag text at once or let me have the name and qualifications of the member of the Council or advisor to it who considered my paper before the Council ordered the offending text to be posted above my paper; a copy of this rapporteur's findings and ratio decidendi; the date of the Council meeting at which the findings were presented; a copy of the minutes of the discussion; and a copy of the text of the Council's decision, together with the names of those present at the meeting. If the Council has not scientifically evaluated or formally considered my paper, may I ask with what credible scientific justification, and on whose authority, the offending text asserts primo, that the paper had not been scientifically reviewed when it had; secundo, that its conclusions disagree with what is said (on no evidence) to be the "overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community"; and, tertio, that "The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article's conclusions"? Which of my conclusions does the Council disagree with, and on what scientific grounds (if any)?

It will be interesting to see the response.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:40 AM
Constructing Sovereignty

...on the high seas. Though he doesn't discuss it explicitly, Chris Borgen makes another case for why we need to get off the planet.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:35 AM

July 18, 2008

The End Of The World

Ron Bailey reports.

Well, OK, it's just a conference on the subject. Which isn't as interesting, but a lot less scary.

[Saturday morning update]

We have met the enemy, and he is us:

"All of the biggest risks, the existential risks are seen to be anthropogenic, that is, they originate from human beings."

All the more reason to get some eggs into baskets other than this one. Also, the rise (again) of the neo-Malthusians. It's hard to keep them down for long, even though so far, they've predicted about five out of the last zero world overpopulation crises.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:49 PM
Who Does He Think He Is?

Charles Krauthammer, on Senator Obama's overinflated self regard:

Who is Obama representing? And what exactly has he done in his lifetime to merit appropriating the Brandenburg Gate as a campaign prop? What was his role in the fight against communism, the liberation of Eastern Europe, the creation of what George Bush 41 -- who presided over the fall of the Berlin Wall but modestly declined to go there for a victory lap -- called "a Europe whole and free"?

Does Obama not see the incongruity? It's as if a German pol took a campaign trip to America and demanded the Statue of Liberty as a venue for a campaign speech. (The Germans have now gently nudged Obama into looking at other venues.)

Americans are beginning to notice Obama's elevated opinion of himself. There's nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted "present" nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work I a biography of his favorite subject: himself.

It is a subject upon which he can dilate effortlessly. In his victory speech upon winning the nomination, Obama declared it a great turning point in history -- "generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment" -- when, among other wonders, "the rise of the oceans began to slow." As economist Irwin Stelzer noted in his London Daily Telegraph column, "Moses made the waters recede, but he had help." Obama apparently works alone.

I suspect that the American people are going to get pretty tired of this as it goes on for another three months, and not be looking forward to four years of it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:21 AM
Is John McCain A Complete Economic Idiot?

Sometimes it seems like it:

In front of a roomful of 500 General Motors employees -- of all places -- John McCain paraded his radical Green credentials this morning. McCain embraced California's lawsuit against the EPA demanding that states be allowed to set their own auto mileage standards.

"I guess at the end of the day, I support the states being able to do that," he said at the town hall meeting at GM's Technical Center in Warren, Mich.

California's policy is strongly opposed by the auto industry because of the nightmare patchwork of regulatory standards such a proposal would set. The industry prefers national standards -- a position that McCain had supported until this morning. McCain's flip-flop on the issue (assuming he meant what he said, and his campaign doesn't quickly move to correct the gaffe) would put him at odds with the Bush administration and longstanding Republican policy.

No way he has a prayer of winning Michigan (and probably not Ohio, either) if he persists in this stupidity. And it's not going to give him California, either.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:04 AM
Three Hundred?

Jennifer Rubin wonders why Senator Obama has so many foreign policy advisors. And why he still gets such lousy advice. Be sure to follow the link to Kondracke's piece, too.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:18 AM

July 17, 2008

Power Corrupts

Lord Acton seems to have gotten it right:

...when recently denied free coffee from new management, Garvin allegedly told managers that he could change the police department's response time if they refuse to give him complimentary drinks.

Garvin is accused of saying, "If something happens, either we can respond really fast or we could respond really slow. I've been coming here for years and I've been getting whatever I want. I'm the difference between you getting a two-minute response time, if you needed a little help, or a 15 minutes response time."

Some have more resistance than others, but this should be cautionary for people who want bigger government. Unfortunately, it's the new problem we have in Iraq, now that the war seems to be over.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:38 PM
An Interview With Elon Musk

"I wasn't born in America - but I got here as fast as I could."

That's an American.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:24 PM
Another Nail In The Coffin

...of the low-fat diet myth:

Although participants actually decreased their total daily calories consumed by a similar amount, net weight loss from the low-fat diet after two years was only 6.5 lbs. (2.9 kg) compared to 10 lbs. (4.4 kg) on the Mediterranean diet, and 10.3 lbs. (4.7 kg) on the low-carbohydrate diet. "These weight reduction rates are comparable to results from physician-prescribed weight loss medications," explains Dr. Iris Shai, the lead researcher.

The low-fat diet reduced the total cholesterol to HDL ratio by only 12 percent, while the low-carbohydrate diet improved the same ratio by 20 percent. Lipids improved the most in the low-carbohydrate, with a 20% increase in the HDL ("good") cholesterol and, 14% decrease in triglycerides. In all three diets, inflammatory and liver function biomarkers was equally improved. However, among diabetic participants, the standard low-fat diet actually increased the fasting glucose levels by 12mg/dL, while the Mediterranean diet induced a decrease in fasting glucose levels by 33mg/dL.

I've blogged about this before, but I continue to be amazed and frustrated at the ongoing ignorance in the medical and dietetic community about this. They persist in thinking that it is a simple thermodynamics problem--all calories are equal--and will not accept the notion that what we eat can affect our metabolism (how fast we burn energy, and how much it influences how we burn body fat).

It's why I pay no attention to either physicians, or nutritionists (or the FDA), when it comes to dietary advice. As Glenn says, it's fortunate that I also like a Mediterranean diet.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:34 PM
Thanks, Joe!

Is Senator Biden a secret operative for John McCain?

Biden's letter brought attention to the fact that Obama did not attend two of those three hearings -- and for the third, on March 8, 2007, Obama only asked one question, one unrelated to Afghanistan.

Don't worry. Unlike Jake Tapper, most of the press won't mention it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:05 PM
A Faux Pas

Defined, of course, as a politician accidentally blurting out the truth.

Shocked, shocked I was to read that Sen. Boxer, in complaints about possible Democratic defections on the question of opening up California waters for drilling to help alleviate the nation's energy crunch, complained "This is our ethanol!"

Of course, Senator Boxer, being one of the dimmest bulbs in the upper house (quite an achievement, considering the competition), has no idea how revealing her comment is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:51 AM
A Democratic Year?

Susan Estrich is worried about Obama's chances. All of his supporters should be.

I'll be eagerly watching Fox on election night to see if she shows up hammered, like she did when Kerry lost in '04.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:45 AM

Who said he wasn't funny? Here are a bunch of Obama light-bulb jokes.

[Update a while later]

And now, knock-knock jokes.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:32 AM

Some follow-up thoughts on Lileks' bleat today. If people aren't aware, this is what Kuntar did, as described by the remaining family member, the wife and mother:

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

But the next part is the most tragic, and it illustrates the point I made the other day with regard to shouting out to the universe:

By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.

In any event, had an Israeli, soldier or civilian, deliberately shot an Arab parent to death in front of his young child, and then smashed in her skull with a rifle butt, in front of eyewitnesses, he would have been arrested, tried, and probably sentenced to life in prison, by the Israeli government. He would have also been condemned by Israeli society as a vicious monster. In contrast, this bloodthirsty psychopath was welcomed as a hero in Lebanon.

As long as this asymmetry of attitude toward wanton and deliberate murder, and worship of death and those who brutally bring it persists in the Arab world, there will be no peace in the Middle East, regardless of how much we appease them, even if we allow them their only true goal, which is the destruction of the state of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. As someone once said, Arabia has always had bloody borders.

[Update in the afternoon]

"Bodies' abuse made ID difficult."

Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF, who was present during the transfer of the fallen soldiers yesterday, said that "the verification process yesterday was very slow, because, if we thought the enemy was cruel to the living and the dead, we were surprised, when we opened the caskets, to discover just how cruel. And I'll leave it at that."

What is he complaining about? It's not like they had women's panties on their heads, or a Torah was flushed down a toilet.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:58 AM
What Happened To The Consensus?

The American Physical Society admits that a significant number of its membership are heretics:

In a posting to the APS forum, editor Jeffrey Marque explains,"There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution."

The APS is opening its debate with the publication of a paper by Lord Monckton of Brenchley, which concludes that climate sensitivity -- the rate of temperature change a given amount of greenhouse gas will cause -- has been grossly overstated by IPCC modeling. A low sensitivity implies additional atmospheric CO2 will have little effect on global climate.

Larry Gould, Professor of Physics at the University of Hartford and Chairman of the New England Section of the APS, called Monckton's paper an "expose of the IPCC that details numerous exaggerations and "extensive errors."

Have the deniers arrested, tried and punished. They must confess their sins.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:38 AM
Rewriting History

Rick Moran, on the Obama campaign's counterfactuals. It's hard to imagine the press letting a Republican get away with this kind of thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:33 AM
The Land Of Inversion

Lileks is on a roll today:

I heard more interviews with learned politicians informing me that "drilling for oil" will not affect anything, least of all the quantity of oil. We must apparently wait until 2015, when a magic engine that runs on unicorn flatulence is invented. I have to ask: why is anyone investing in unicorn flatulence today, when it won't make any difference for several years? The answer's simple: the engine will Appear at the chosen moment, borne from the clouds by starlings, but only if we have repented of our foul ways, and the last of the sinners has left the cul-de-sac to reside in a home located a sustainable distance from his or her place of employment. When the last suburban outlying development is empty, when the homes of whose size we disapprove has been abandoned, when the last citizen has been gathered unto the bosom of the urban center, where his profligate ways are sneered upon and the measure of his yard shall be no greater than the standard lot size decreed in 1902, then shall the magic engine appear. Until then, the wind and the sun will bear us onward.

Honestly, it's like FDR coming into power promising "bold, persistent experimentation - except for any sort of government involvement in the economy. That's off the table."

No, in the Land of Inversion, we've decided to do things that run completely counter to human nature - at least to the nature we perceive in our domestic opponents. Don't give an inch to your domestic foes; they'll read it as weakness! To everyone else, though, it's olive branches strewn like ticker-tape at an astronaut parade. In Israel, for example, this horrible prisoner swap - child-killer exchanged for murdered soldiers. The fellow is welcomed home as a hero by Hezbollah and Lebanon's Prime Minister and President, because in the Land of Inversion, heads of state clear their calendar when child-killers breathe the sweet air of freedom again. It's all relative, really. One man's child-killer is another man's freedom fighter, and if you point out that the "another man" is a Jew-hating idiot fanatic who'd be proud to blow up the Holocaust Museum in DC and take out a busload of Iowa tourists, you're ignoring the significant impact this exchange had on the Climate of Trust that will lead to peace. I mean, it's not like the entire cabinet turned out to meet the guy. In the delicate calculations of the region, that counts for something.

There are some tart words about the Archbishop of Canterbury as well.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:01 AM

July 16, 2008

Defending Milton Friedman

...against leftist idiots. This always seemed like a strange thesis to me:

Perhaps even more bizarrely, a few people in the comments are citing China as an example of how capitalism undermined democracy. Apparently I missed the section in history class where we covered the vibrant democracy that existed in China prior to pro-market reforms. Because in the history I learned, the openness and transparency required to support the market reforms have enabled what little movement towards liberalization China has had.

I think that a lot stronger case can be made that democracy undermines capitalism than the reverse. Once people get the ability to vote to take wealth from one and give to another, capitalism, which consists of voluntary exchange, is severely weakened and diminished.

Not to imply, of course, that either thesis is an argument against either democracy or capitalism.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:10 AM
Not That It's The Only Reason

But I agree with Instapundit that it's a good one:

Obama is humorless, and full of himself. That would make him a great target for satire, except that his followers take the position that any mockery or criticism is racist. The prospect of four years of that sort of thing is the best reason I can think of not to vote for him.

I don't think that the Obama worshipers have any sense of what a turn-off he is to the rest of us.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:57 AM
The Finance Crisis

Explained, by Iowahawk:

I know what you're saying -- "who invited the fat chick to the Twister party?" Certainly, all of us (with the possible exception of Randy) wish she wasn't here. But it's important to remember that fat chicks are often an important source of party supplies, and we must take the good with the bad. In the same way, Fannie Mae supplies the critical financial weed and beer to keep our national economic party going.

The numbers are complex, but let me boil it down for the economic layperson. Fannie Mae is a government company type thing that has a large pile of money, which I will call "A". The first thing it does is create $20 million bonuses for high performance executives like Franklin Raines, James Johnson and Jamie Gorelick, which I will call "B." Next, it allocates an amount "C" to lobbyists to make sure important Congressmen always get a thoughtful holiday card from Fannie Mae. After subtracting B and C from A, they are left with D, which is lent to homebuyers. These homebuyers then pay back the amount E, which, when subtracted from D, leaves F, the amount Congress has to come up with. In order to keep this important financial system humming along at peak efficiency, it is necessary that you, the taxpayer, are F'ed.

RTWT, and save the Dave!

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:37 AM

July 15, 2008

I Agree With Tigerhawk

I would love an Obama presidency with a Republican-controlled Congress.

Unfortunately, that's not a choice realistically on offer. The best we'll probably be able to do, absent some political earthquake, is a McCain in the White House, with Dems continuing to misrule the Hill. That's not a good thing, but it's better than the donkeys running the whole show (despite the fact that McCain isn't much of a Republican, either).

On the other hand, a Democrat monopoly on power would have salutary effects on the elections in 2010. But I fear the SCOTUS replacements that would almost certainly ensue in the interim, which are much harder to undo. That's really the bottom line to want to keep Obama out of the White House.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:24 PM

Life is rough in Michelle Obama's America, in which all six hundred bucks buys is a pair of ear rings. As for the fresh fruit, she can't afford a refrigerator for the mansion?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:33 PM
More Fear Mongering

Mike Griffin again disquisites on the Yellow Peril.

Well, actually he doesn't. Here's all he says (unless there's some elaboration to which the BBC is privy, but we are not):

Speaking to the BBC News website during a visit to London, Dr Griffin said: "Certainly it is possible that if China wants to put people on the Moon, and if it wishes to do so before the United States, it certainly can. As a matter of technical capability, it absolutely can."

What does that mean? If he means that if China made it as much of a priority as we did during Apollo, and if we continue on our own disastrous plans, that they could reverse engineer what we did and put some Taikonauts on the moon before NASA lands astronauts, sure.

But how likely is that? And even if it happened, what's the big deal? We were first on the moon, they were second. Big whoop. There's no way on their current technological trajectory to do it in any sustainable way, and even if they did, there's nothing they could realistically do there that would constitute a threat to us, either in terms of national security, or our own ability to do things there on our own pace.

My take?

It is extremely unlikely--the Chinese are not fools. They know how much it will cost to do a manned lunar mission, and it's not a high priority, particularly when their economy is potentially a house of cards (something not made better by the current energy prices, which will result in either a curtailing of their fuel subsidies, or a decline in economic growth, or both). If and when they are serious about going to the moon, it will be quite obvious, and we'll have plenty of time to do something about it if we think that it's actually a problem.

But Mike apparently thinks that he'll have a better chance of getting increased funding for Apollo on Steroids if he can frighten uninformed people about the Chinese taking over the moon.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:19 PM
Down The Memory Hole

Airbrushing Obama's web site.

Hey, he said he was about change!

As Glenn notes, this could be a hint of how an Obama administration would behave.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:59 AM

July 14, 2008

It's No Excuse

You know, we lowly, benighted citizens are always told that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Well, considering the size of the federal code, and that of all the states in which we live, and occasionally move to, often on short notice, how does one justify this?

It's not just about the ability for citizens to take pictures of police officers in public places (though that's important too; see: King, Rodney). It's about the officer's behavior -- specifically his attempt to bully this man into compliance with an illegal demand, using his power as an officer of the law in the service of his personal pique, at the expense of the citizenry that he is supposed to "serve and protect." It is absolutely, totally and completely unacceptable for police officers to use the authority conferred by their badges to violate people's rights in this manner, and society needs to send that message loud and clear.

Should ignorance of the law be an excuse for this man? Call me crazy, but it seems to me that those enforcing the law should be much more responsible for knowing it than those who are being oppressed by ignorance of it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:57 PM
I'm Shocked

Orion, already overweight, just got heavier:

"Preliminary estimates show that if this 30-40% [turbulence] heating augmentation heating is applied to the aerothermodynamic database the heat shield mass may increase up to 20%," says an internal NASA report obtained by Flightglobal.

I wonder if, instead of using an ablator, a tile system would be lighter? It would be more maintenance intensive (particularly with water landings), but it wouldn't be as bad as the Shuttle, because many of the tiles would be symmetrical and more mass producible. We were never really allowed to do this trade in Phase B at Northrop Grumman--NASA just told us they were going to supply the TPS.

I'm actually quite surprised at this--I would have thought that they'd have modeling an ablative shield down to a science by now. Apollo was way overdesigned, because they didn't have any experience or good analytical tools to indicate how much shielding they needed. If you look at the heat shield on an Apollo capsule, you can see that it is just slightly charred, with most of it unburned; it could have done a couple more missions without refurbishment or replacement. But based on that experience, we should have been able to predict the optimal weight of an ablator designed to come back from the moon pretty well, and years ago. How did this come up just before PDR?

Anyway, now they have unexpected weight growth in the program at the same time that they have weight and performance problems with the Ares 1. And apparently there are budget problems at LM, as well, if this report is true:

The ORION contractor is overrunning. The minions are out of money. Where can 20-30% more funds be dredged up to cover this miscarriage? You guessed it...the little man.

The minions have let the contractor off the hook for meeting its small business obligations this year. The same obligations that were bid as part of the winning proposal, ostensibly offering a better package than the opposing team, are now null and void. As a result, some of those little companies will start disappearing, lacking jobs and income.

They seem to be achieving the trifecta--failing on performance, schedule and budget. It's a program manager's nightmare.

[Update a few minutes later]

Some further thoughts over at Gravity Loss:

What will the payload landed on the moon be? What propellants are used? What is the Altair's or Orion's mass? And work back from there to TLI mass and ultimately to launch from Earth, all with generous margins. And it has seemed that a certain cycle has formed. First a solution on Ares I is based on some logic linking it to Shuttle hardware, infrastructure or Ares V with common elements, which should save a lot of money and time and keep the workforce etc etc. Somewhat later, rumors about a severe performance shortfall on either launcher start circulating. Then after a while NASA announces a new configuration where the commonality is disrupted. And again forward we go.

Unfortunately, the concepts seemed to be driven more by politics than engineering. That was often the case in Apollo, too. The Manned Spaceflight Center could have remained at Langley, but there were political reasons to move it to Texas. Marshall didn't have to be in Huntsville--they could have moved the rocket team at Redstone to somewhere else (e.g., the Cape, whose location really was driven by geography and not politics). But there were two differences in Apollo. It had essentially unlimited budget, and its success was politically important. Neither applies to the VSE, yet NASA, by Mike Griffin's own admission when he announced the architecture, not only chose to do Apollo over again, but to do it "on steroids."

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:28 PM
Resume Padding

Jennifer Rubin makes a pretty good point:

Obama claims that experience is not as important as "judgment" or "change." By manufacturing or existing accomplishments, however, he suggests that he does not buy his own pitch.

Rather, his repeated attempts to bolster his resume indicate that he may be nervous about his non-existent record of achievement. Not trusting that voters will buy his disparagement of experience, Obama is now resorting to a common, but risking tactic of under-qualified job-seekers: fudge the resume.

Resume fraud carries grave risks. If the employer finds out you are lying, you are unlikely to get the job, even if the competition is weak. And for Obama, who is already belaboring under an avalanche of tough press about his many policy flip-flops, he hardly needs another storyline which sheds doubt on his credibility and character.

I think that it's things like this that are the reason the polls now seem to be even, even with the media love affair continuing.

[Update a while later]

Victor Davis Hanson lists some of Senator Obama's other problems:

Obama has a poor grasp of history, geography, American culture, and common sense -- whether the number or location of states in the Union, basic facts about WWII or where Arabic is spoken, or his sociological take on Pennsylvania, etc. His advisors realize this, and are playing 4th-quarter defense by keeping him out of ex tempore, non tele-prompted hope and change venues, where his shallowness can manifest itself in astonishing ways.

I was just listening to NPR in the car, and Terry Gross was interviewing Ryan Lizza on Fresh Air. He just had a long piece in the New Yorker about Obama's Chicago history. He was talking about the Rezko housing project problems, and he said that Obama didn't seem to be involved in the corruption, that the worst you could say about him was that exercised bad judgment.

Well, that in itself is saying something pretty bad, given that his claim to the presidency is that, while he may not have as much experience as his opponents, he has good judgment. But was his Rezko involvement good judgment? Was his attending a bigoted church for twenty years good judgment? Was it good judgment to pre-declare the surge a failure before it even began? So now it's hard to make a case for either his experience or his judgment.

I know that the Senator believes that to know him is to love him, but I think he may find out that as the campaign actually engages after the conventions, the more people learn about him, the less inclined they'll be to make him the next commander-in-chief.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:50 AM
How Much Did He Raise?

Did the Obama campaign have a bad June? Geraghty asks:

Is it possible that Obama's decision to forsake public financing was a mistake? Between the Denver convention running low on funds, Hillary's demands for help in retiring her debt, the RNC outraising the DNC five to one, and a steady decline in Obama's donations month-to-month (a tough economy hitting Obama's small donors? The buzz and hype have passed?), is Obama the candidate with the campaign that has to watch its pennies?

It will be deliciously ironic if, after having flipped on the issue, and turning down federal campaign bucks, Obama ends up without enough funds.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:23 AM
Good Move

The president has lifted the executive order banning offshore drilling.

This puts Congress in a political fix. He's calling on them to lift the Congressional ban now, but that would require Congressional action. They can simply ignore it (though at their political peril). The neat thing is that they can't ignore the issue forever. There is a default position not to their liking. It will expire at the end of September anyway (as it does every fiscal year) and will have to be renewed with a Congressional vote. Usually, this is uncontroversial, but not this year. We'll see if they're willing to do it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:35 AM
Why Am I Not Surprised?

Al Gore thinks (or at least thought at one time, and there's no reason to think that he's changed his opinion) that Rousseau is worth quoting.

You know, if I were going back in history and assassinating someone to prevent great harm to the world, my first choice would not be Hitler. It would be Jean Jacques Rousseau, the father of totalitarianism in all its forms. Though probably someone else would have come up with his vile notions independently.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Somehow, this seems related. An excellent essay on Obama's charisma, and messianic campaign.

The danger of Obama's charismatic healer-redeemer fable lies in the hubris it encourages, the belief that gifted politicians can engender a selfless communitarian solidarity. Such a renovation of our national life would require not only a change in constitutional structure--the current system having been geared to conflict by the Founders, who believed that the clash of private interests helps preserve liberty--but also a change in human nature. Obama's conviction that it is possible to create a beautiful politics, one in which Americans will selflessly pursue a shared vision of the common good, recalls the belief that Dostoyevsky attributed to the nineteenth-century Russian revolutionists: that, come the revolution, "all men will become righteous in one instant." The perfection would begin.

The Founders were Lockean. Obama seems more an heir of Rousseau, though perhaps an unwitting one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:40 AM
More TSA Stupidity

When people ask me if there's anything I don't like about the Bush administration, while there are many things, this is close to the top of the list:

"It's serrated." He is talking about the little row of teeth along the edge. Truth be told, the knife in question, which I've had for years, is actually smaller and less sharp than the knives currently handed out by my airline to its first- and business-class customers. You'd be hard-pressed to cut a slice of toast with it.

"Oh, come on. It is not."

"What do you call these?" He runs his finger along the minuscule serrations.

"Those ... but ... they ... it ..."

"No serrated knives. You can't take this."

"But sir, how can it not be allowed when it's the same knife they give you on the plane!"

"Those are the rules."

"That's impossible. Can I please speak to a supervisor?"

"I am the supervisor."

Admittedly, it's a job that's probably hard to find smart help for. What person with a brain would want to do that all day?

Anyway, as the author points out, and has been obvious for years, ever since 911, it's security theater. Unfortunately, too many people fall for it, and actually believe that it makes them safer. Just one more reason that flying sux, and why the industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:39 AM
Energy Versus Space?

Jeff Foust wonders if new government energy initiatives will crowd out space budgets.

Maybe. His piece reminds me of an idea I've had for an essay on why energy independence isn't like landing a man on the moon.

In fact, I had a related comment over at Space Politics this morning, in response to a comment from someone named...Someone...that cost-plus contracts are a proven means of success in space:

I know alt.spacers see cost-plus as some sort of ultimate evil. But recognize its been successful in the past, from the Saturn V to the Pegasus. And the X-33 would likely have been finished and test flown if NASA had used its traditional cost-plus approach instead of the fixed price model they used. If NASA had funded the X-33/VentureStar under the same procurement model as the Shuttle it would be flying today.

To which I responded:

But recognize its been successful in the past, from the Saturn V to the Pegasus.

Only if by "successful," you mean it eventually results in very expensive working hardware. Not to mention that Pegasus was not developed on a cost-plus contract.

And the X-33 would likely have been finished and test flown if NASA had used its traditional cost-plus approach instead of the fixed price model they used.

Perhaps. At a cost to the taxpayer of billions. And probably a radically different vehicle than the one originally proposed.

If NASA had funded the X-33/VentureStar under the same procurement model as the Shuttle it would be flying today.

Perhaps. And likely just as big an economic disaster (and perhaps safety one as well) as the Shuttle.

We don't like that form of procurement because historically, in terms of affordable access to space, it has repeatedly been proven not to work.

Anyway, I do need to write that essay. We're not going to get energy independence from government crash programs (though prizes may be useful).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:09 AM
Telling It Like It Is

Ezra Levant says that Congress should put Canada on the human rights watch list. I wonder if that would get Ottawa's attention?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:30 AM

July 12, 2008

Don't Shout

David Brin has a warning for irresponsible astronomers.

When in danger, most people in a group recognize the responsibility to be quiet, and not give themselves away to an enemy by making noise, sometimes to the point that a crying baby will be stifled, and even suffocated. I think that this is a similar case where people should be enjoined, by force if necessary, because we cannot know the consequences. I see very little potential benefit to this, and a great deal of risk. The apparent insularity of the SETI folks cannot continue--we are all on this planet, not just them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:07 AM

July 11, 2008

Resurrect The Space Council

That's what Ferris Valyn wants Barack Obama to do.

It's good advice for John McCain, too. I don't think that it will have any political effect on the election if he does it now, though. Space simply isn't a voting issue for very many people.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:31 PM
Al Qality

Iowahawk has gotten a hold of the latest hirabi recruitment brochure:

As you have possibly heard by now, Team Satan and their subsidiary Iraqi Security Forces have made several key market acquisitions in the last few months. In order to meet Q3 Return-on-Mayhem targets and maximize stakeholder value, we need to refocus our client-facing resource model. As we are currently seeking a 17th round of venture funding, budgets are extremely tight, and this will require reducing our internal work team payroll load through adaptive right-sizing on a go-forward basis. Accounting estimates indicate that much of this will be achieved via natural attrition and Apache Hellfire missiles. Still, in order to achieve costing targets, we will need to engage in involuntary outboarding.

The Communications department will be most directly effected by this initiative, as we continue transitioning of our day-to-day public relations efforts to low-cost offshore service providers like Huffington Post, DailyKos, and Democratic Underground.

Hey, you get what you pay for.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:01 PM
To Mark Steyn Fans

If you're near an EIB station, he's subbing for Rush today.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:27 AM
A New Toy

Can we do word substitutions in php by passing a variable to the URL?

Yes, we can!

This works, too, and it even fits within the box.

Have fun in comments.

[Via the non-liberal non-fascist]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:53 AM
Potemkin Rocket

Some ruminations on the upcoming Ares 1-X test.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:32 AM
Too Young To Be President

Some thoughts on Barack Obama's junior moments.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:19 AM

July 10, 2008

Glenn Reynolds Discusses Space Law

Over at Res Communis.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:00 PM
What Would The Media Reaction Be?

...if, say, a white man expressed the desire to castrate a black man? Particularly the first black man to be a major-party presidential nominee?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:31 AM
Good Point

I've often made this argument, but never as concisely:

The Right believes in biology, but not in evolution; the Left believes in evolution, but not in biology.

It's a little oversimplified (as is any statement about the "Right" or the "Left"), but a good generalization. Of course, when it comes to sexual orientation, the Right doesn't believe in biology, either. But I think that the Left is much more prone to a belief in the Blank Slate myth.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:09 AM
Economic Idiocy

The Dems are finally starting to come to their senses about energy production, but not quite:

One idea floated by Reid would require that whatever oil is drilled in newly opened areas would need to be sold in the United States.

This is pure, unadulterated economic ignorance. Senator Reid, go to the board and write one hundred times, "OIL IS FUNGIBLE." WTF difference does it make where the oil is sold? The important thing is to get it on the market. If we are pulling new oil off the north slope, it might make sense to ship it to Japan, improving our balance of trade with them, and relieving them of the cost of shipping it all the way from the Persian Gulf. It might in fact make sense to simply ship new oil from the Gulf of Mexico to Gulf refineries, but that should be a market decision, not an arbitrary and idiotic political one. "Energy independence" is an economic myth.

And then, we have this:

Democrats also want any compromise plan to include investments in clean and renewable energies, a crackdown on oil speculators and proof that the oil and gas companies are fully utilizing land that is already leased for exploration.

What does a "crackdown on oil speculators" mean? It's called a futures market, and a lot of people play. It serves a function of reducing risk for many in the industry. "Speculation" is simply a dirty word for "investment." This new scheme where people can buy gasoline ahead of time at a fixed price? That's speculation, folks.

And this:

"If they were showing in good faith that they were drilling on some of the 68 million acres they have now, it might change some of our attitudes," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

So, in order to get access to leases with high potential, they have to waste their money drilling on leases with low potential? Brilliant.

The only way to change the attitudes of people like this is Economics 101. And I doubt if even that would help.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:44 AM
What Do They Want?

A rainbow hole? An African-American hole?

This is as ignorant and stupid as the complaints about the use of the word "niggardly."

Actually, now that I think about it, it's also as dumb as complaints about my proper use of the word "fascist." A subject on which Jonah Goldberg has some further thoughts today:

People say fascism means brutality, therefore liberalism isn't remotely fascist. It works as a debater's trick, and it's certainly a source of real opposition to some of my arguments, but it doesn't work as an actual argument in the true sense of the word.

One can use the same "argument" about Communism. "Communism is about brutality. Liberals aren't brutal. Therefore liberalism has nothing to do with Communism." The only difference here is that for reasons discussed at length in this space and in my book, the man in the street doesn't equate Communism with brutality to the same extent he equates fascism with brutality, even though Communism is just as brutal as Fascism. I think that's a problem that needs to be combated rather than surrendered to.

I simply don't think the woeful state of popular ignorance should be considered a powerful argument against the accuracy of historical truth.

Nope. As he says, if that makes the job harder, so be it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:57 AM

Eric Raymond coins a useful word.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:30 AM
The Next NASA Administrator?

Ferris Valyn has some candidates. Most of them seem implausible to me. The only ones that I can imagine are at all realistic are Patti Grace Smith, Lori Garver and Pete Worden (the latter would certainly shake things up, which is one reason that he almost certainly won't get the job). Certainly Hansen has nothing in his resume that would qualify him--he's a scientist.

Of course, much depends on who the next president is. One likely name not on the list, assuming that McCain wins: Craig Steidle.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:51 AM

July 09, 2008


...and change. It looks like John McCain may have come to his senses, and dropped cap and trade. Let's just hope that he doesn't attempt to revive it after he wins.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:16 PM
The New Space Race

There's a piece over at the WaPo today by Marc Kaufman that lays out pretty well the problems that we face in civil space policy, though I think that the international competition aspects are overstated. The pace of all these other activities remains almost as glacial as our own, and until someone develops a transportation breakthrough (and by that I mean a high-flight-rate reusable system, not warp drive or space elevators) none of it presents a serious threat to us. But it points out that the policy apparatus, as I always says, doesn't view space as very important. The beginning of the article, and first two pages, are all about budget constraints, and I was wondering if he would ever get around to mentioning ITAR. Toward the end of the piece, finally, he did. In terms of our losing our dominance in commercial space, this is the number one reasons. It's really been a disaster, and a bi-partisan one.

It's a little out of date, since it mentions that Mike Griffin claims that additional funding could accelerate Constellation by two years, to 2013, because Griffin's own program manager now says that it probably wouldn't.

I disagree with Mike Griffin's comment here:

"We spent many tens of billions of dollars during the Apollo era to purchase a commanding lead in space over all nations on Earth," said NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, who said his agency's budget is down by 20 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 1992.

"We've been living off the fruit of that purchase for 40 years and have not . . . chosen to invest at a level that would preserve that commanding lead."

We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on human spaceflight over the past four decades, more than enough to have developed a robust transportation and in-space infrastructure that would have kept us well in the lead. The problem was not how much was spent, but in how it was spent. Jobs were more important than progress. That sadly remains the case today.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:05 AM

July 08, 2008


Iowahawk has found a draft of an Obama speech explaining the refinement of his positions:

Let me be crystal clear: if elected president, my first act will be to call for the immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq. I have always been consistent and forthright in this position, and I want to reassure my supporters that my recent statement backtracking from it was just some bullshit my staff came up with to tack to the center for the general election. To win this election, it will be critical to appeal to the dwindling but stubborn group of idiots who cling to fantasies of American "victory" in this tragic disaster. It's an unfortunate part of the complicated game of presidential politics, but let's face it: I can't stop this war if I'm not in the White House. However, you should know by now that whatever I may say from now until November, once elected I will immediately pull the rug from these gullible pro-war rubes.

Or will I? As is obvious to all but the most deluded HuffPo retard, the surge in Iraq has produced dramatic improvements in security throughout Iraq, and the roots of a stable pro-American democracy. We have the terrorists on the run, and it would obviously be crazy for us to pull our troops from the region just as we are on the verge of victory. And it is equally obvious that everything I said in the previous paragraph was designed to placate the naive hipster moonbats I brilliantly exploited to destroy the Clintons. (You're welcome.) Now that the nomination is in the bag, I am finally free to stake out my genuine pro-victory Iraq position, and have a good laugh while the dKos morons screech like a bunch of apoplectic howler monkeys. Let's face it: at the rate I'm heading right on national security, I'll be raining nukes on Tehran by February.

Well, that should settle the issue.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:15 AM
Lileks On Keillor

James takes on, once again, his fellow Minnesota scribe:

Mr. Keillor feels he has done okay in the last eight years but has a hot collar and ground-up teeth thinking about what the Current Occupant has done to the country the little girl will inherit. He's mad about spending - I'm with him there, although a bit perplexed to find Keillor coming down on the side of spending less - and he doesn't approve of the war. It ruined his Rockwell moment.

Being unable to watch a kid play baseball because you are mad at George Bush does not necessarily mean you are a better person or a person more attuned to truth and the future.It might mean, at best, you are a person who writes run-on sentences stringing together predictable assertions; at worst, it might mean you're anhedonic, and looking for scapegoats. I look at my daughter and consider her future, and I see possibility and peril as well. But that's up to us, and while I'm sure Mr. Keillor anticipates the day where he is legally required to pay the taxes he heretofore feels he is morally required to pay, we can do fine without him. We've done fine without his money so far, and I think we can keep that up. Unless he's been paying in at the pre-tax-cut level, of course. In which case: hats off! A principled man is rare in any era.

You know, I actually greatly enjoy Keillor's books, but when you let him loose on an editorial page, he seems to go completely nuts. Bush derangement is a very real thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:14 AM
Rules For Thee

...not for me:

The lavish dining arrangements - disclosed by the Japanese Government which is hosting the summit in Hokkaido - come amid growing concern over rising food prices triggered by a shortage of many basic necessities.

On the flight to the summit, Mr Brown urged Britons to cut food waste as part of a global drive to help avert the food crisis.

Maybe they could start by cutting the PM's rations.

You couldn't make this stuff up.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:53 AM

July 07, 2008

In His Own Words

That's not the Barack Obama that I knew:

In one excerpt from the audio book that Hewitt played on his show in March, Obama alters his voice to mimic Wright's and repeats passages from a sermon decrying a society "where white folks' greed runs a world in need." Later Obama says of Wright's preaching, "I found the tears running down my cheeks."

If the Dems don't think that this will be powerful stuff this fall, they're deluding themselves.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time. They actually thought that Senator Kerry's war record was a feature, rather than a bug.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:18 PM
War And Indecision

I think that this is a legitimate criticism of George Bush and his management style, though it's unclear how much the problem is of Bush's vacillation, and how much is guerrilla warfare within the bureaucracy. But even for the latter, I fault Bush for doing too little about it, starting with leaving George Tenet in place. While I never had high hopes for his administration, I was disappointed nonetheless (particularly by Cheney, for whom I did have higher hopes). About the best that can be said is that he was still far better than either of his opponents would have been.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:08 PM

To Tyson Homosexual.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:52 PM
It's Like They're Trying To Sell Jonah's Book

Jim Geraghty:

So, the recent news out of the Obama camp is that they're planning a huge rally with thousands of people in a stadium, want to create a mandatory youth corps for national service, and are thinking about a big dramatic speech in Berlin.

Ein Volk, Ein Reich...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:21 PM
That's How I'd Have To Do It

Get drunk and vote for McCain.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:04 AM
Hofstadter's Law

That's the recursive bit of wisdom that Douglas Hofstadter came up with, that goes "It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law."

Jeff Foust has a good example of it today, as he examines the state of the suborbital industry. It looks now like no one is likely to enter commercial service prior to 2010, unless Armadillo can make it. Which brings up a little problem.

When the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) was passed in 2004, the industry got regulatory relief for eight years--until 2012--in which FAA-AST would not regulate the vehicles with respect to passenger safety, as long as there were no accidents involving passenger loss. This was in recognition of the fact that a) the agency didn't really know how to do that and b) if it attempted to do so, the industry might be still born as a result of a costly and time-consuming regulatory overburden. The eight-year period was provided to allow the companies time to develop and test vehicle design and operational concepts, with informed consent of the passengers, that would provide a basis for the development of such regulations as the industry matured (as occurred in the aviation industry in the twenties and thirties). In light of the SS1 flight in fall of that year, there was an expectation that there would be other vehicles flying in another two or three years (as Jeff notes--Virgin was predicting revenue service in 2007), which would have provided a five-year period for this purpose.

But if few, or none are flying until 2010, that leaves only two years before the FAA's regulatory power kicks in, which will be an insufficient amount of time to meet the intended objectives of the original maturing period.

Assuming that the logic still holds (and it certainly does for me, and I assume most of the industry and the Personal Spaceflight Federation) the most sensible thing to do would be to simply extend the period out to, say, 2018. Unfortunately (at least in regard to this issue), the most sensible thing is unlikely to happen.

In 2006, control of the Congress passed to the Democrats, which means that Jim Oberstar of Wisconsin took over as chairman of the relevant committee. He was opposed to the regulatory relief, railing against it as a "tombstone mentality" (whatever that means). He was unmoved by the argument that overregulating now would save passengers, but only at the cost of none of them ever getting to fly. Being in the minority at the time, he lost the battle, but now that he's in charge, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get an extension from him. In fact, even an attempt to do so might result in losing it altogether if the issue is revisited under his jurisdiction.

For those hoping for what would seem to require a miracle--Republicans regaining control of at least the House, this would be one more reason to wish for that, if they're fans of this nascent industry. Either that, or at least hope that Oberstar (and his partner in dumbness, Vic Fazio) moves to a different committee.

[Afternoon update]

Not that it affects the point in any way, but as a commenter points out, I goofed above. Oberstar is from Minnesota. I could have sworn he was a Badger.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:32 AM

July 06, 2008

If It Wasn't For The Seriousness

..."of running the country, the Dems would be the comedy hit of all time."

Quote from comments. I have to agree.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:50 PM

July 04, 2008


I don't know how many major American politicians have died on Independence Day. The most famous examples, of course, are Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who both died on July 4th, within a few hours of each other, half a century after the signing. But whatever the number is, there's now one more. Here are some more thoughts on the man, written in February, in the context of a review of a biography that came out several months ago.

I was never a big fan--while I think that the complaints about the affirmative action campaign ad were overblown, I do agree with John Hood's assessment: mixing a defense of property rights with less-savory references to "Negro agitators," out-of-state provocateurs, and Martin Luther King's subversive friends, Helms and other Southern commentators ended up weakening the very limited-government principles they espoused, with unfortunate and lasting consequences for American liberty. To make a truly persuasive libertarian case against federal regulation of private business decisions, it would have been necessary to marry every criticism of government overreaching with calls for the South's social and moral transformation and clear denunciations of racist business owners. Given that the segregation syndrome was largely the work of decades of intrusive laws and electoral abuses by state and local governments, there was at least a plausible conservative case to be made not just for federal intervention, but also for anti-discrimination laws to dismantle white supremacy and remedy the social and economic consequences of past state coercion.


But he was also, by all accounts a kind and personable man, and a tireless fighter for human freedom as well, as the Solzhenitsyn story reveals. As one of those who helped win the Cold War, that part of his legacy shouldn't be overlooked by those who can only blindly (and probably unfairly, given all the caricatures) perceive a racist.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:41 PM

July 03, 2008

Is Correlation...


Maybe. The problem is, McCain is likely to be as bad in some ways, with all of his stupid talk about "obscene" profits.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:08 AM
More Space Fascism Commentary

Thomas James notes some irony in Dwayne Day's piece:

...when one follows the Google search link he does provide, a good number of the results have to do with James Hansen calling for trials of oil executives and others who question the political orthodoxy of global warming...trials whose political nature and predetermined outcome would no doubt have pleased the arguably fascist Roland Freisler.

Not exactly the point that Dr. Day was trying to make, I suspect.

[Previous post here]

[Update a couple minutes later]

Speaking of fascists, Thomas also offers a preview of August in Denver:

...come on..."Students for a Democratic Society"? As if the hippie nostalgia of Recreate 68 wasn't bad enough, we now have someone reanimating that corpse? I thought it was the right that supposedly clung to the faded glories of a distant golden age.

OK, so I guess it won't be another Summer of Love.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:47 AM
Never Again

Eric Raymond sees the same disturbing things I do in Senator Obama:

I am absolutely not accusing Barack Obama of being a fascist or of having the goals of a fascist demagogue. I am saying that the psychological dynamic between him and his fans resembles the way fascist leaders and their people relate. The famous tingle that ran up Chris Matthew's leg. the swooning chanting crowds, the speeches full of grand we-can-do-it rhetoric, the vagueness about policy in favor of reinforcing that intoxicating sense of emotional can anyone fail to notice where this points?

There are hints of grandiosity and arrogance in Obama's behavior now. As the bond between him and his followers become more intense, though, it is quite possible they will not remain mere traces. I'm not panicked yet, because Obama is still a long way off from behaving like a megalomaniacal nut-job. But if the lives of people like Napoleon, Mussolini, or Hitler show us anything it's that the road from Obama's flavor of charismatic leader to tyrant is open, and dangerously seductive to the leader himself.

There is one more historical detail that worries me, in this connection. There is a pattern in the lives of the really dangerous charismatic tyrants that they tend to have originated on the geographical and cultural fringes of the societies they came to dominate, outsiders seeking ultimate insiderhood by remaking the "inside" in their own image. Hitler, the border Austrian who ruled Germany; Napoleon, the Corsican who seized France; and Stalin, the Georgian who tyrannized Sovet Russia. And, could it be...Obama, the half-black kid from Hawaii?

Again, I am not accusing Barack Obama of being a monster. But when I watch videos of his campaign, I see a potential monster in embryo. Most especially do I see that potential monster in the shining faces of his supporters, who may yet seduce Obama into believing that he is as special and godlike as they think he is.

I don't know if the McCain campaign has the savvy or moxie to properly go after Obama, but I think that there will be a lot of 527s who will, once the campaign really starts in the fall.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:25 AM

July 02, 2008

Cultural Suicide?

That was Glenn's title for this post by Eric Raymond. I couldn't think of a better one.

This is a real problem and one that is dramatically underreported.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:24 PM
Obama's "Freedom From Faith"

Jim Geraghty has some observations.

But I found this interesting (not that I hadn't seen it before):

...many religious believers probably couldn't imagine anything worse than not having their relationship with God. They don't see their relationship with their Creator, by whatever name they call the divine, as something they could be "free" from, and in fact a fairly common definition of Hell is in fact "complete separation from God."

This is one of those intellectual gulfs that separates me from believers. I not only can imagine not having a relationship with God, but I live the dream. Yeah, if I really believed in the fire and brimstone thing, and the imps <VOICE="Professor Frink">and the poking and the burning and the eternal tooooorment...glavin...</VOICE>, then I might decide that sinning wasn't worth it. But if hell be "complete separation from God," something that I've had all of my life, bring it on. All it gets from me is a shrug.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:23 PM
Liberals and Conservatives

...and civil rights:

The Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, upholding the Second Amendment right of individuals to own firearms, should finally lay to rest the widespread myth that the defining difference between liberal and conservative justices is that the former support "individual rights" and "civil liberties," while the latter routinely defer to government assertions of authority. The Heller dissent presents the remarkable spectacle of four liberal Supreme Court justices tying themselves into an intellectual knot to narrow the protections the Bill of Rights provides.

I think that this is also an excellent example of how confusing and misleading, and useless really, the two labels are.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:51 AM
More Thoughts On Weasely Clark

From Powerline:

So Kerry's military experience was better than McCain's because after serving for four months in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. and falsely accused his fellow servicemen of being war criminals. I think it's time for Wesley Clark to be ushered quietly off the stage.

Well, he was certainly quietly ushered out of Europe.

But it would appear that the man has neither brains nor shame.

I should add that I don't think that what he said on Face the Nation was reprehensible. I didn't hear it as denigrating McCain's service so much as simply pointing out that it didn't necessarily give him the experience needed to be president, which is a reasonable position. It would be even more reasonable if it weren't a straw man, since as far as I know no one, including McCain himself has ever claimed that it did.

But it was a stupid thing to say, considering the experience level of his own candidate.

[Afternoon update]


Obama wants to get us out of Iraq, but he can't even get us out of Vietnam.

I think that what's happening is a result of the Democrats delusions about "swift boating." They think that John Kerry lost because people denigrated his military record, so they're hoping that they can neutralize McCain the same way.

And it might work if there were any parallels to the situation other than that both spent time in Vietnam during the war.

But unfortunately for the donkeys, McCain didn't:

  1. Serve the shortest tour of duty on record by getting three minor injuries, none of which resulted in any hospitalization or time off duty
  2. Tell tall tales about being in Cambodia at Christmas time in 1968, with Nixon as president
  3. Have numerous fellow prisoners come forward and say that his stories were nonsense
  4. Have those same prisoners contribute to a book documenting that what McCain said was nonsense
  5. Come back and testify before Congress, on hearsay evidence from suspect sources, that his fellow servicemen were wanton, vicious war criminals
  6. Keep his service records hidden while pretending that he hadn't
  7. Make his service the prime justification for his candidacy

But other than all that, all of this denigration of his service just might work.

There's a lot more over at Instapundit.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:52 AM
More On Space Fascism

Like me, Chair Force Engineer isn't backing down, either.

[Update in the late afternoon]

What a pompous ego.

What "job" does Mark Whittington imagine that he has that he fantasizes is being made more difficult by his imaginary "Internet Rocketeers Club"?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:48 AM
Buckeyes And Wolverines

Patrick Ruffini says they're the key to a McCain win.

I wonder how much a Bradley effect (people telling pollsters they'll vote for a black man when they don't behave that way in the booth) is going on in the polls? In any event, pre-convention polls don't have much value.

[Late morning update]

If Patrick is right, this would be a good pick--Kasich for Veep.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:09 AM
Obama's Toothless Amendment

Jacob Sullum writes that Barack Obama believes in an individual right to arms, except when he doesn't think they should have them.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:21 AM

It's been a hundred and fifty years since Darwin first presented his thesis. Charles Johnson has some thoughts. I may have some as well, later. Or not.

[A minute or so later]

Well, actually, I do now, in light of Lileks' comments this morning, in which he pointed out the simplistic, stilted views of many across the political spectrum. I'll repeat:

Really, if one wants to cling, bitterly, to the notion that a believe [sic] in lower taxes and strong foreign policy and greater individual freedom re: speech and property automatically translates to a crimpled, reductive, censorious view of pop culture, go right ahead.

Similarly, if one wants to cling, bitterly, to the notion that a concern about Islamism, and an inability to realize what an evil stupid fascist criminal George Bush is translates to a belief that the world was created by Jehovah six thousand some years ago, complete with dinosaur bones, go right ahead.

Before 911, Charles Johnson was a Democrat, and a jazz musician. Almost seven years ago, he got mugged by reality. That, combined with some scary things that were happening at a mosque near his home in Culver City resulted in a change in emphasis at his web site. Now many of the left wingnuts who read LGF stupidly assume that he's a "right" wingnut. Yet here he is, defending science from places like the Discovery Institute, on a semi-daily basis.

I get the same idiotic treatment, much of the time. I've often had discussions on Usenet whereupon, when I argue that maybe it wasn't necessarily a bad idea to remove Saddam Hussein's boot from the neck of the Iraqi people, and that I don't believe that George Bush personally planted the charges in the Twin Towers, I am told to go back to whatever holler I came from and play with my snakes, and am informed that my belief in a Christian God, and my lack of belief in evolution is just more evidence of my irredeemable stupidity, despite the fact neither religion or science had been on the discussion table.

I then take pleasure in informing them that I am an agnostic and for practical purposes an atheist, and that I am a firm believer in evolutionary theory, it being the best one available to explain the existing body of evidence. Whereupon, I am sometimes called a liar. Really. It's projection, I think.

Same thing often happens here, in fact. I tell people that I'm not a Republican, and have never been, nor am I a conservative, and I'm accused of lying about my true beliefs and political affiliation.

C'est la vie. There's no reasoning with some folks.

In any event, happy birthday to a controversial but powerful (as Dennett says, absolutely corrosive, cutting through centuries of ignorance) scientific theory. Expect me to continue to defend it here, and Charles to defend it there.

[Late evening update]

Well, Iowahawk has the comment du jour:

I'm a dope-smoking atheist writer for a San Francisco lowbrow culture mag; I also enjoy seeing 7th century genocidal terrorist shitbags getting waterboarded. I really don't see the contradiction.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:09 AM
More WALL-E Thoughts

Lileks discusses the grief that he's gotten over the fact that he enjoyed the movie:

Shannen Coffin at the Corner notes that you never know how much hate mail you'll get until you take on a Pixar film. I'd add that the opposite is oddly true as well: I got a lot of very negative email about the review, some of which had to do with "shilling" (as one writer put it) for Disney, but most of which had to do with buying an eco-scary / anti-capitalist agenda because the characters were cute. Apparently I can write for years and demonstrate skepticism towards catastrophic doom-mongering, and it counts for nil. Ah well. Look, I think "JFK" is a pretty good piece of filmmaking. Its ideas are rubbish and its effect pernicious, but I still think it's a compelling work. Doesn't mean I believe a single frame.

Sometimes you separate the ideas from the movie, sometimes you can't, sometimes you shouldn't, and sometimes you don't want to because you approve of the ideas. Asking me to reject Wall-E because its unrealistic premise has contemporary overtones is like asking me to swear off Star Trek because Roddenberry wanted a post-religious collectivist one-world government that eschewed money and property.

He also chides Andrew Sullivan for stereotyping:

Apparently Andrew Sullivan took note of the review, and while I appreciate the patronage, this rankles a bit:

"Well Lileks loved it. Not all conservatives are stupid ideologues."

And not all liberals are stupid anti-consumerists who spaz out when someone praises the Works of Walt! Who'd have thunk it. Really, if one wants to cling, bitterly, to the notion that a believe in lower taxes and strong foreign policy and greater individual freedom re: speech and property automatically translates to a crimpled, reductive, censorious view of pop culture, go right ahead.

Last night, I watched the end of Ratatouille, and afterward was a history of Pixar. Interesting stuff. It was a great example of the powerful synergy you can get when you successfully meld C. P. Snow's two cultures and combine traditional animators with computer geeks.

As good as they're getting at this stuff, though, I don't think that it's the death of 2-D animation. I suspect that as the 3-D stuff continues to asymptotically approach verisimilitude, there will be rebellious young turks who want to draw cartoons, and so the cycle will begin anew.

In any event, the foofaraw makes me want to see the movie in the theater, something I haven't done with a Pixar movie since Toy Story (though I wanted to with Ratatouille).

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:56 AM

July 01, 2008

The Purges Begin

"You supported Clinton"!

Maybe they'll set up a gulag in flyover country.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:13 PM
How We Regained Our Rights

Steve Chapman explains:

Gun control didn't work...Laws allowing concealed weapons proliferated--with no ill effects...The Second Amendment got a second look.

Yes, it was pretty much that simple. Of course, a lot of people (like Juan Williams) will persist in the delusion, in the face of all the counter evidence, that gun control works, and that increasing availability will result in a blood bath. But at least now, they won't be able any more to enact their delusions into laws that affect the rest of us.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:40 AM
The View From Obamaland

Who dare call it fascism? Jeffrey Lord does:

...when faced with a disagreeable problem (in this case the lack of jobs) the answer for Obama always seems to get back to the manipulation of the political process to achieve the desired result.

Are Obamalanders uncomfortable with the free-market driven success of talk radio? Then they will "figure out ways to use the political process" to shut it down. In the case of talk radio, how else to explain the threatening Reid-Obama letter to Rush Limbaugh's business partner? How else does one explain the attempt to retrieve the "Fairness Doctrine" from the dustbin of history? These are nothing more or less than the "use of the political process" to subvert someone else's freedom. Period.

Are Obamaland followers hostile to oil? Do they hate SUVs? Do they think you have no right to heat or cool your own home beyond what they consider politically correct? Do they think you should pay $5 -- or $6 or $7 or $8 or more -- for gas at the pump to ensure you conform to the Obamaland world-view? Yes, they do think all of this and their Obamaland answer is inevitable. They will "use the political process" to stop drilling off shore in its tracks. So too with stopping the use of oil shale or ANWR or anything else that even hints at allowing average Americans their basic freedom to drive whatever vehicle wherever they damn well please whenever they damn well please. In Obamaland it is not only perfectly acceptable, it is gospel from the secular bible that they must use the political process to stop refineries from being built, to keep nuclear power plants from being built, to keep coal from being burned. Use the political process to forcibly mandate the temperature inside every single American home. As a matter of fact, why not just go all the way and nationalize the oil companies -- this actually being suggested by Obamaland's New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey.

He also has the full quote from Obama that I'd missed part of the first time around:

"We can't drive our SUVs and, you know, eat as much as we want and keep our homes on, you know, 72 degrees at all times, whether we're living in the desert or we're living in the tundra, and then just expect every other country is going to say OK, you know, you guys go ahead keep on using 25 percent of the world's energy, even though you only account for 3 percent of the population, and we'll be fine. Don't worry about us. That's not leadership."

This is economic idiocy. Why in the world would energy consumption be expected to correlate with population? Yes, we have much higher per-capita energy usage than much of the world (e.g., Africa). But we also produce much greater wealth per capita than much of the world, and much of that wealth goes to make the world wealthier, in many ways. The notion that we should only use energy in proportion to our population is economic ignorance of the first rank. In other words, it's exactly what I would expect from a Democrat, and particularly Obama. Though to be fair, there are a lot of economically ignorant Republicans as well, including their current standard bearer, by his own admission. But unlike Obama, he at least admits it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:22 AM
The Economics Of Longevity

Some thoughts, over at Fight Aging.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:16 AM
Truth In Advertising

"By Any Means Necessary"--

"The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place. That's the only way we're going to win." The Left, as you know, favors democracy, power to the people, and nondiscrimination, except when it doesn't.

Indeed. Which is all too often.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:09 AM

June 30, 2008

A Tri-Cameral Legislature?

Has the Supreme Court abandoned its role as a third branch of government?

It often seems that way.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:36 PM
The Thirties Again?

Arthur Silber has concerns about the Obama cult:

People had better wake the hell up, and they had better study some history very damned fast. I have sometimes remarked, and I repeat the warning here, that the twentieth century was a nonstop train of horrors -- yet in one sense, the most terrible and horrifying aspect of the twentieth century is that we learned absolutely nothing from it.

Among the horrors of the twentieth century were several notable leaders who initiated events that led to slaughter and destruction on an ungraspably monumental scale. These charismatic leaders evoked a response from their followers almost identical to that called forth by Obama. These leaders specialized in "personal stories of political conversion." Doesn't anyone see the connection? Doesn't anyone remember any of this?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:56 PM
We're Not Ready

It's been a hundred years since Tonguska, but we're still not taking the threat seriously.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:00 PM
Practice What You Preach

Hillary!'s supporters are going to love this bit of hypocrisy:

The average pay for the 33 men on Obama's staff (who earned more than $23,000, the lowest annual salary paid for non-intern employees) was $59,207. The average pay for the 31 women on Obama's staff who earned more than $23,000 per year was $48,729.91. (The average pay for all 36 male employees on Obama's staff was $55,962; and the average pay for all 31 female employees was $48,729. The report indicated that Obama had only one paid intern during the period, who was a male.)

McCain, an Arizona senator, employed a total of 69 people during the reporting period ending in the fall of 2007, but 23 of them were interns. Of his non-intern employees, 30 were women and 16 were men. After excluding interns, the average pay for the 30 women on McCain's staff was $59,104.51. The 16 non-intern males in McCain's office, by comparison, were paid an average of $56,628.83.

The Obama campaign did not respond to written questions submitted on the matter Thursday by Cybercast News Service .

No, I imagine not.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 01:32 PM
Jaw Dropping

I heard the interview with Wesley Clark on Face The Nation yesterday, and was awestruck by how stupid the former General came off as in his pathetic attempt to defend Barack Obama on foreign policy. So was Ed Morrissey. And I have to say, good for Bob Schieffer in calling him on his inane comments.

[Update at noon]

Here's more on Clark and his slander of McCain. I liked this excerpt:

"Interviews with a wide variety of current and retired military officials reveal that Clark was disliked by only three groups: Those whom ranked above him in the chain of command whom he ignored, his peers at the same rank whom he lied to, and those serving beneath him whom he micromanaged. Other than that, everyone liked him."

Also note that he's not the only Democrat denigrating McCain's war record.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Vets For Freedom have a response for General Clark.

[Early afternoon update]

"You stay classy, Democrats."

[Another update a couple minutes later]

That's not the Wesley Clark I knew.

Man, it's got to be getting crowded under that bus.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:33 AM
Apollo Uber Alles

Dwayne Day is complaining today at The Space Review about my and others' use of the word fascism to describe NASA's human spaceflight program, though he doesn't call me out by name (interestingly, when you do the Google search he suggests, this post doesn't even come up in the top ten, though it's only a link away from some of them).

I'll make two points. First, if he actually read Jonah's "screed" (his word), it isn't obvious from this review. For example, he says that Jonah doesn't criticize conservatives for their own fascist tendencies in the book, but that's patently false. And he seems to fall back on the old leftist paradigm that the epitome, almost definition of fascism were the Nazis and Mussolini's Black Shirts:

Fascist governments do not allow other competitors to exist. The first thing they do when they gain power is to eliminate their opposition at the point of a gun. Usually they started with the primary threat, the communists, then the fascists turned their weapons on less organized and non-political groups, like the Jews and the gypsies. Fascist groups have also reveled in their militaristic attributes such as discipline and uniforms and strength and weaponry. The groups most identified with fascism--the Nazis and the Italian fascists--were paramilitary organizations that sought to enact their goals through force. It is impossible to separate fascist ideology from the methods used to implement it.

Take out the words "communists," "Jews," and "gypsies," and in what way does this not describe Stalin's USSR? Did they not eliminate their opposition at the point of a gun? Did they not have "discipline and uniforms and strength and weaponry" (recall all those May Day parades with the missiles and tanks rolling down the streets, and goose-stepping Soviet troops)? Did they not "enact their goals through force"? Is not the same true of North Korea? Or Cuba?

What Dr. Day is talking about is what fascists do when they actually gain power, but fascism is not just the use of force. It is a set of ideas, to be implemented by whatever means necessary.

My second point, as I wrote in the previous post, is that those ideas are described in Jonah's book, particularly in reference to Apollo.

From the first edition, pages 210-211 (my annotations are in square brackets, and red), "Even Kennedy's nondefense policies were sold as the moral analogue of war...His intimidation of the steel industry was a rip-off of Truman's similar effort during the Korean War, itself a maneuver from the playbooks of FDR and Wilson. Likewise, the Peace Corps and its various domestic equivalents were throwbacks to FDR's martial CCC. Even Kennedy's most ambitious idea, putting a man on the moon, was sold to the public as a response to the fact that the Soviet Union was overtaking America in science..."

He went on. Again, the red text is my annotation of his words.

"What made [Kennedy's administration] so popular? What made it so effective? What has given it its lasting appeal? On almost every front, the answers are those elements that fit the fascist playbook: the creation of crises [We're losing the race to the Soviets! We can't go to sleep by a Russian moon!], national appeals to unity [They are our astronauts! Our nation shall beat the Soviets to the moon!], the celebration of martial values [The astronauts were all military, the best of the best], the blurring of lines between public and private sectors [SETA contracts, anyone? Cost plus? Our version of Soviet design bureaus?], the utilization of the mass media to glamorize the state and its programs [The Life Magazine deal for chronicling a bowdlerized version of the astronauts' lives], invocation of a "post-partisan" spirit that places the important decisions in the hands of experts and intellectual supermen, and a cult of personality for the national leader [von Braun..."Rocket scientists"...not just Kennedy Space Center, but (briefly) Cape Kennedy]."

Obviously, this can go overboard, and Dr. Day has some legitimate complaints. While certainly leftists use the term (as Dr. Day describes) to simply insult anyone who disagrees with them and shut down discussion, and have done so for years, that is not the way that it is being used here, at least not by me. I don't think that it's an insult to call something fascist (though I've certainly been called that enough times myself when that was the clear intent). I am not merely being Seinfeldian when I always append the phrase "not that there's anything wrong with that" to my usage of the word. I really mean it. Hitler gave fascism a bad name. Not to imply, of course, that I think that these are good ideas. Just that they're not intrinsically evil, and many millions of people in this country apparently buy into them, as demonstrated by Obama's campaign success.

In any event, I do think that it is a useful prism through which to view the program for the purposes of analyzing it, and trying to develop a more useful space policy. If we can recognize it for what it is, we stand a much better chance of moving things in a more useful direction, and one more in keeping with traditional American values, and classical liberalism.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:42 AM
Two Movie Reviews

Kyle Smith isn't impressed with WALL-E. Lileks loved it (though he's an admitted Disney/Pixarphile).

Guess I'll have to see for myself now.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:36 AM

June 29, 2008

WASP Nation?

I've always thought that Allan Lichtman is an idiot. His book, per its title, and as reviewed by David Frum confirms my beliefs. One doesn't have to be a conservative to think that much leftist criticism of conservatism is completely clueless, and brainless.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 04:28 PM
More Stuff White People Like

Changing their middle name to "Hussein." As Glenn notes:

Our own lives are weak and meaningless. Only through identification with a great leader can they achieve substance and purpose. Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:03 AM
That About Sums It Up

Eric Raymond and I are on the same wavelength:

Gun owners who are (like me) libertarians and swing voters are in the same fix as SayUncle. Many of us have good reasons to loathe McCain; mine, as I've previously mentioned, is that I think BCRA (the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" act) was an atrocious assault on First Amendment liberties. Others can't stand McCain's position on immigration, or the idiotic blather he tends to spew on economics-related subjects. But for those of us who think Second Amendment rights are fundamentally important, voting for anyone who would appoint more anti-firearms judges (a certainty from Obama given his past views) is just not an option.

That translates into votes for McCain. Probably including (though I shudder and retch at the thought) my vote. It's not like there's any chance Obama's going to push for the repeal of BCRA. So I'm left with a choice between a candidate hostile to both my First and Second Amendment rights and one that supports the Second Amendment. (Normally I'd vote Libertarian, but the LP's isolationist foreign-policy stance seems so batty after 9/11 that I can't stomach that option in this cycle.)

Yup. One of the arguments that McCain will make with the bitter gun clingers is that he will be able to provide a Supreme Court that strongly, not narrowly supports gun rights. That's going to be very important now as the various cases work their way through the courts to define the limits of the "newly found" (that is, one that has been there since the Founding, but which many have attempted to pretend didn't exist for the past several decades) right.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:52 AM

June 28, 2008

Wonder How Many There Are?

I'll bet that the Obama campaign does, too and worries about it. Hillary! supporters for John McCain:

I believe strongly that all of us should now unite for McCain because he needs all of badly...I am sure all of us won't vote for Obama and then all of us want Hillary badly to return 2012.....

The only way to make sure that Hillary will be our President 2012 is to make sure that McCain will win 08....

You know that's what Hillary! is thinking, regardless of the "Unity" speech.

[Afternoon update]

Here's someone else who is bitter, though it's not clear if he's clinging to God and guns:

A senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton has revealed that he recently told friends Mr Obama could "kiss my ass" in return for his support.

A second source said that the former president has kept his distance because he still does not believe Mr Obama can win the election.

Whatever else you want to say about Bill Clinton, he's not politically stupid. Though perhaps his judgment is slipping, based on the behavior in the campaign (which could in fact be a result of his heart surgeries). Either way, this isn't going to help heal the rift.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:55 AM
Thanks, Florida!

Florida just bought 300 square miles of cane fields in the everglades to return them to wetlands. They paid $1.75 billion. That buys out US Sugar that was responsible for 10% of the US sugar lobby. In April, in response to one of Rand's posts, I wrote that we needed to find a way to buy out big sugar. For 6 MT times $0.10 implicit subsidy/lb, that's $1.2 billion/year. US Sugar's share of that is $120 million per year. So $1.75B is a pretty good price for their concession.

Sweet deal, Rand! Thanks for taking one for the team as a Floridian to lower sugar prices nationwide.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at 07:24 AM

June 27, 2008

Has North Korea Been Defanged?

Wretchard says perhaps:

Time will tell whether the Six Party talks will succeed in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula or whether it will founder, as did the Agreed Framework before it, on some new difficulty. But two factors make the new agreement more robust than the 1994 agreement. First, the multilateral format means that any North Korean double-cross would alienate not only the United States, but South Korea, Japan, Russia and most importantly, Pyongyang's patron China. North Korea has a lot more to lose by welshing on the Six Party Talks than it did on the Agreed Framework.

Secondly, because their fissile production line will effectively be dismantled -- the Yongbon cooling will be demolished -- North Korea's remaining blackmail leverage consists of a mere handful of low-yield nuclear material. And with the United States positioned to watch Pakistan and Iran, the future of any clandestine program is in serious doubt.

Expect complaints from the Bush deranged in the peanut gallery, though.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:11 AM
The Better Part Of Valor

The Canadian Human WrongsRights Commission has dropped the charges against MacLeans and Mark Steyn.

In a sense, it's too bad. They were probably starting to feel the political heat. Now they will be free to go on and continue to abuse the free-speech rights of less prominent people, rather than being reined in as they should be.

[Update a few minutes later]

Ah, no worries. They can move right on to the next heretic:

Earle says Canadians are too politically correct.

"They pissed me off so I said some rude things. Does that mean I should go to court because ... they were based on some kind of minority or discrimination or something-something?"

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will decide whether Earle's comments, which the complainant Lorna Pardy claims were "homophobic," violated the Human Rights Code on the basis of her "sex and sexual orientation."

Earle is now looking for a lawyer and he's hoping his newfound fame might help pay his legal bills. He's planning a comedy fundraiser for next month.

The complainants, of course, will have their legal bills paid by the province. Not that the lawyer will do him any good. It is foreordained that he will lose.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:36 AM
Obama's Accomplishments

Jim Geraghty has some observations:

It's easy to wonder whether the candidate who talks about "real change" and pledges a government that will "heal the sick" and "stop the oceans from rising" actually knows how to get big things done - or whether he had the patience. Obama would seem to have the skills and brains to be a legendary community organizer, or state legislator, or U.S. senator. But momentous accomplishments in each of those positions take time, and at each level, Obama hit a wall, and turned his attention to a position of greater power.

This election will be about form (and glamour) over substance.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:59 AM
Impeach Bush

I agree with Jonah Goldberg that George Bush did commit an impeachable offense when he signed McCain-Feingold. He took an oath of office to defend and uphold the Constitution, yet when confronted with legislation that he himself declared to be unconstitutional, he signed it anyway, and punted to the Supreme Court which (as has been the case much of late, though fortunately not yesterday) flubbed it as well. I wish that someone, like Karl Rove, had said, "You know, Mr. President, that's a violation of your oath of office. It's an impeachable offense." But Karl Rove was never going to do that--the bill was perceived to be too popular.

I don't think that he should have been removed from office for it, but he should have been impeached. It might have wonderfully concentrated his mind for future signings. And that of future presidents as well.

Of course, that was never going to happen, because the grounds of impeachment would have been that he signed an unconstitutional bill that Congress had passed, so why would they complain? It would have required that the Congress itself take the Constitution seriously, something that, as Jonah points out, hasn't happened in decades. And of course, if they did, they never would have passed the abominable legislation in the first place and given the president an opportunity to violate his oath of office.

[Update a few minutes later]

Here's a useful follow-up post on how disastrous the 17th Amendment has been:

The reason why Congress debated whether proposed legislation violated the U.S. Constitution in the 19th century is that U.S. Senators were elected by the state legislatures at that time. The U.S. Senate was a check on the power of the federal government by giving the states as a group a collective veto over proposed federal action. Any time a state governor or a powerful state legislator was unhappy about the federal government trampling on the prerogatives of a state, they could call their man in Washington and have him do something about this problem. A U.S. Senator knew he had to keep the governor and majority leaders in his state legislature happy or he was out of office. This meant keeping the federal government small and not going beyond the enumerated powers listed out in the U.S. Constitution. Also, it meant being able to explain the constitutionality of proposed legislation to a small number of very sophisticated constituents back home at the various state capitals.

The tragedy of the Civil War was that, in order to rectify the (perhaps unavoidable at the time) toxic nature of the founding, and grant universal freedom, it ended up significantly enhancing the power of the central government far beyond what the Founders ever envisioned.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:14 AM
Is Philanthropy In Our Future?

Some thoughts at The Speculist.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:29 AM

June 26, 2008

They're Entitled To Their Opinion

...but are Supreme Court justices entitled to their own facts?

The call for impeachment in comments is a little harsh, but shouldn't there at least be a call for extreme embarrassment and apology? I mean, this was a fundamental plank in the foundation of the dissent, and none of the justices, or their clerks, caught it?

It makes one wonder how unfactually based many of their other opinions are. And it really emphasizes that "opinions" are all they are, which is a pretty sad commentary on the state of the SCOTUS. Unfortunately, an Obama would appoint more just like them.

[Update a few minutes later]

Jim Lindgren writes that Breyer's dissent is self refuting.

If you're waiting for me to be surprised, don't hold your breath. This court is an embarrassment. Or at least a minority of it is.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:53 PM
The Civil Disobedience


I explained to Chief McCann my history as a freedom activist. Notably, my role in helping defeat the Communication Decency Act back in 1996.

I told him that I had been intending to speak with him for several weeks, to inform him that I intend to begin exercising my right to open carry of a firearm (quite legal in Pennsylvania and in most other states as well). I explained that I thought it best he and the local police knew of this in advance in order to avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings. See for background on this fast-growing form of civil-rights activism.

I also told him that, in the wake of the Heller ruling, I intend at some future point to deliberately violate the Pennsylvania state law forbidding concealed carry without a state-issued permit. The Heller ruling does not enumerate those among permissible restrictions, and I would be happy to be PA's test case on this point. As a citizen of the United States (I explained) I believe I have not only the right but the affirmative duty to challenge unjust and unconstitutional laws; and that since the founders of the U.S. pledged their lives and fortunes and sacred honor to sign the Declaration of Independence, merely risking imprisonment to challenge this law seems to me no more than my duty.

And by a tested and true freedom fighter.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:28 PM
Comparing People To Hitler

It's just one of those things that white people like to do. This part is a little off, though:

It's also critical that you avoid the fatal mistake of getting creative and comparing people you don't like to other evil dictators, such as Joseph Stalin or Fidel Castro. With few exceptions, white people are actually fond of almost any dictator not named Hitler, and your remark that "this is just like something Mao Zedong would do" will be met with blank stares and possible social alienation. This is because, with the exception of Hitler, oppressive dictators share a passion for many of the things white people love- such as universal health care, conspiracy theories, caring about poor people while being filthy rich, and cool hats. Stick to the script and compare things you don't like to Hitler, and Hitler alone.

While it's good advice, actually, being the National Socialist Party, the Nazis did in fact have universal health care. Well, for the people they didn't exterminate, anyway. But that was true for Stalin, Castro and Mao as well. I think that the problem here is that the white people who like to do this don't really understand how much else Hitler had in common with their other socialist dictator heroes.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:56 PM
A Wider Majority Than Reported?

I haven't read the dissents on this morning's ruling (and don't know if or when I will, given time constraints), but is it possible that the majority isn't as narrow as it looks? Four justices ruled that the DC ban was Constitutional, but they didn't necessarily do so on the basis that the right to keep and bear isn't individual. For instance, as Ed Whelan notes:

Stevens doesn't dispute that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, but he finds the scope of that right limited to using weapons for certain military purposes. He argues that the text of the Second Amendment (5-17), its drafting history (17-27), and the Court's precedents--especially its 1939 ruling in United States v. Miller (42-45)--support his reading.

Breyer argues that even if the Second Amendment does protect a right of personal self-defense, D.C.'s law is constitutional because the burdens it imposes are not disproportionate in light of the law's legitimate objectives. (That sure sounds like a meaningful test, doesn't it?)

So now we have at least six justices who agree that it is an individual right (Whelan doesn't say what Breyer's opinion on that score is, since Breyer doesn't accept that the ban would be Constitutional under that interpretation). And since Ginsburg and Souter joined the Stevens dissent, and didn't write one of their own disputing the individual right interpretation, doesn't it really make it at least eight to one?

I think that it's going to be pretty untenable at this point to argue that the right is a collective one in light of both the ruling and the dissents.

[Evening update]

Dale Carpenter agrees with me, and confirms that the acknowledgment of it as an individual right was in fact unanimous:

Chief Justice Roberts came in with the hope of producing more unanimous decisions from the Court. While today's decision was 5-4, it was actually unanimous on one point: there is an individual right protected by the Second Amendment. The split came over the important question of the scope of the right and whether the D.C. law itself was constitutional, but the underlying individual-right theory prevailed over a collective- or states-right interpretation that would give no single person the ability to challenge any type of arms regulation. Thus, an idea that not so long ago seemed radical and even frivolous to many academics and judges now has the assent of all of the Justices, representing a wide range of views about constitutional law and theory.

Emphasis mine. It was a huge victory when Bellesilles' propaganda was shown to be fraudulent. I think that it was the beginning of the end for the nonsensical notion that the right only applied to members of the National Guard, partly because the proponents had so overreached with his nonsense about few people having or using guns in colonial times. He has a lot of other good comments about the ruling as well.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:05 PM
Senators Lecture George Bush

...about space policy

The three say they don't know for certain why the White House has failed to provide the appropriate guidance and funding needed to implement the Vision, "though we suspect it can be explained by Bush not knowing all the facts about what the real impact of NASA's annual budgets has been since the loss of the Columbia in 2003."

I think the problem is less in the funding, and more in the lack of guidance. Once Griffin was hired, the White House apparently decided that it was mission accomplished, and refocused to much more pressing issues, despite the fact that NASA's implementation seems to fly in the face of the original vision and the recommendations of the Aldridge Commission.

And Clark Lindsey gives them a lecture of their own:

These Senators don't seem to know that NASA could have chosen to pursue an innovative low cost approach to space development and lunar exploration rather than choosing a very long and very expensive path to two new vehicles, both of which will be very costly to operate. These Senators apparently don't even know about COTS, the one modest effort taken by the agency towards lower costs for space hardware development and operations.

Well, what most Senators don't know, particularly about space, could fill a small library. Maybe even a large one.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:18 AM
Gun Ban Down

I'm disappointed that it was such a narrow majority:

District of Columbia v. Heller (Second Amendment challenge to D.C. handgun ban): Scalia majority opinion striking down ban. 5-4 ruling. Breyer dissent, joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg. (No concurring opinions.)

If Obama does somehow get into the Oval Office, I'm glad that this case was handled this year. Almost certainly whoever his choice of nominees would be would have gone the other way. Of course, for the Dems, it will only be maintaining status quo, since it's the "liberal" justices that are most likely to step down soonest, I think.

Souter in particular was a disastrous pick for a supposedly Republican president.

Anyway, now on to the next case, depending on who brings it (I'm guessing someone in Chicago), which will bring in the Fourteenth Amendment and incorporation. But at least the court is now on record as having declared the right an individual one (again, I'm saddened, but no longer shocked, that four justices bizarrely think otherwise).

[Update a few minutes later]

I'll add that, based on what I've seen so far, it looks like the majority got it right. It's an individual right having nothing to do with state militias, but not an unlimited one. A gun ban in shopping malls or campuses is stupid, but not unconstitutional.

[Update a little after 11 AM EDT]

Eugene Volokh already has some initial thoughts, with more surely to come later, after the opinion is read. This is an interesting political point:

This split should be useful to either of the Presidential candidates who wants to make either gun control or gun rights into an election issue -- my guess is that this is more likely to be McCain. Expect McCain ads in states where there are likely many pro-gun swing voters stressing, "your constitutional right to keep and bear arms hangs by one vote." Also expect fundraising letters to likely pro-gun contributors stressing this at length.

Also expect questions of Obama whether he continues to support the gun ban in Chicago. And whether he still thinks that gun sales should be banned within five miles of a school (i.e., almost everywhere).

[Afternoon update]

I haven't read the dissents (and don't know if or when I will, given time constraints), but is it possible that the majority isn't as narrow as it looks? Four justices ruled that the DC ban was Constitutional, but they didn't necessarily do so on the basis that the right to keep and bear isn't individual. For instance, as Ed Whelan notes:

Stevens doesn't dispute that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, but he finds the scope of that right limited to using weapons for certain military purposes. He argues that the text of the Second Amendment (5-17), its drafting history (17-27), and the Court's precedents--especially its 1939 ruling in United States v. Miller (42-45)--support his reading.

Breyer argues that even if the Second Amendment does protect a right of personal self-defense, D.C.'s law is constitutional because the burdens it imposes are not disproportionate in light of the law's legitimate objectives. (That sure sounds like a meaningful test, doesn't it?)

So now we have at least six justices who agree that it is an individual right (Whelan doesn't say what Breyer's opinion on that score is, since Breyer doesn't accept that the ban would be Constitutional under that interpretation). And since Ginsburg and Souter joined Stephens dissent, and didn't write one of their own, doesn't it really make it at least eight to one?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:50 AM
Is Big Government A Mac?

Or a PC?

[Update in the afternoon]

Why we should want big government to be a PC:

You know I love the products, but Apple is a fascist company. I should know -- I worked there. Even got personally cussed out by Steve Jobs (may his name be praised forever).

Apple products are based on centralized command-and-control. Apple makes the hardware, software, and -- increasingly -- many key applications ("everything inside the state, nothing outside the state"). The Apple faithful believe that the computing world dominated by Microsoft is bad (if not outright evil) and must be redeemed. If only everyone changed to their way of computing, we would reach computing nirvana. And society would be changed for the better, too. If only.

The analogy may be getting a little strained.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:47 AM
An Engineering Manpower Crisis

There's an interesting article over at the NYT about the Pentagon's difficulty in getting good engineers, particularly systems engineers.

In short, the pay is too low, it's not seen as exciting as a lot of the other opportunities for new grads (e.g., Google, or other fields such as finance), programs take too long and are technologically obsolescent, and there's too much bureaucracy. Sounds kind of like the reasons I left fifteen years ago.

This was amazing to me, but I guess that after almost three decades in the business, it shouldn't be:

Their report scolded the Air Force as haphazardly handling, or simply ignoring, several basic systems-engineering steps: considering alternative concepts before plunging ahead with a program, setting clear performance goals for a new system and analyzing interactions between technologies. The task force identified several programs that, hobbled by poor engineering management, had run up billions of dollars in overruns while falling behind schedule.

I've seen this happen at NASA many times over the years, but that doesn't surprise me because space isn't important. National defense is, or at least should be. One wonders how to change the incentives in the system to get better performance. Part of the problem is that the services themselves, particularly the Air Force (with which I have the most experience) don't value procurement highly enough as a career path. It's a lot easier to become a general via the cockpit than it is through logistics or development. The other problem is that you often having young lieutenants and captains given responsibility for programs of a size far beyond what they'd be managing at a similar experience level in private industry. This is good from the standpoint of encouraging recruitment, but it often means that they lack the experience to handle the job, and even (or especially) when they're good, they may be promoted up and out of the program. That's one of the Aerospace Corporation's primary functions--to provide program support to the blue suits, and maintain an institutional memory to make up for the fluidity of personnel changes of the AF staff.

In theory, it's a big opportunity for people like me (I actually have a masters degree in aerospace program management), but it's hard to get consulting work as an individual due to arcane procurement rules. Also (though the article didn't mention it) it's a hassle to deal with a clearance, and I'm not in any rush to renew mine, though I'm starting to consider it, because I really do need the income. Blogging just isn't paying the bills.

Oh, one other thing. The description of the problems above bears a strong resemblance to a certain controversial large NASA project, where maintenance of the job base and pinching pennies seems to take precedence over actually accomplishing the goal. Or "closing the gap."

[Via Chicago Boyz]

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:24 AM
More "Change!"

Though not necessarily change you can believe in. That's not the Mike Klonsky I knew.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:28 AM
When The Power Went Out Lileks' place:

It happened when it usually happens, too - every gets home, flips on the air conditioner and turns on the TV, and the brittle infrastructure, held together at the moment with masking tape and some alligator clips, spazzes out completely. This will continue - there's a controversy going on here about some new power lines and generating plants. A judge blocked the latter, because the utility hadn't invested enough in wind power, as per the law. That's the sort of sentence that makes your heart very heavy: a judge ruled that they can't build the power plant. I'm all for trying everything - wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, switchgrass, algae, hydrogen, steroidally enhanced gerbils running in cages attached to generators, steam, hydro, shale, and installing small pedals in movie theaters people can push to power the projector, but DO SOMETHING. NOW.

The world has gone nuts. People complain about high energy costs, and the Democrats' response is to fight every sensible attempt to increase supply, and tell us that the price isn't high enough. And so far, they seem to be paying no penalty at the polls for it. It would help, at least a little, if we didn't have a faux Democrat (at least when it comes to economics) at the top of the Republican ticket.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:45 AM
Obama's Ethanol

If ethanol is so great, why doesn't he support its importation from Brazil? Surely it's not because he's in the pocket of ADM?

ADM is based in Illinois, the second-largest corn-producing state. Not long after arriving in the U.S. Senate, Obama flew twice on corporate jets owned by the nation's largest ethanol producer. Imagine if McCain flew on the corporate jets of Exxon Mobil.

Corn-based ethanol gets a 51-cents-a-gallon tax subsidy that will cost taxpayers $4.5 billion this year. McCain opposes ethanol subsidies while Obama supports them. McCain opposed them even though Iowa is the first caucus state. Obama, touted by Caroline Kennedy as another JFK, was no profile in courage in Iowa.

...Last year, as President Bush was about to sign an energy cooperation agreement with Brazil, Obama said the move would hurt "our country's drive toward energy independence."

Really? The only thing it might hurt is Obama's drive to the White House.

Must be that new politics. You know, "change"?

And it's also amusing to note that the Democrats don't want to wait for drilling to pay off, but they're perfectly happy to wait for switch grass.

[Mid-morning update]

Further thoughts:

If it's intended to cut the nation's energy bill, Obama's ethanol policy makes no sense, if it's intended to secure the nation's energy supplies, Obama's ethanol policy makes no sense, if it's designed to improve the nation's relationship with a major Latin American trading partner, Obama's ethanol policy makes no sense, but, if, on the other hand, it's just another example of good old porkbarrel politics, Obama's ethanol policy makes a great deal of sense.
Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:11 AM

June 25, 2008


"Obama's positions are like diapers: they are discovered to be full of carp, and then they are changed."

Not clear whether the misspelling was deliberate or not, but we get the point.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 11:13 AM
The Return Of Tammany Hall

...and its senior senator, Chris Dodd. Luckily, he's a Democrat, so it's no big deal. They're never corrupt, and never do anything without the best interests of the people in mind.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:56 AM
Blogtalking Space

Sorry I didn't mention it yesterday so you could listen live, but hey, the ability to download and listen at your own convenience is one of the features of the Interweb. Last night I did a one-hour interview with Rick Moran on space stuff. Download it here.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 07:47 AM

June 24, 2008

Criminal Against Humanity, Part Two

More thoughts on James Hansen's demand of an auto de fe by those in the pay of Big Oil (further cementing the notion that this isn't science--it's a religion). No one expects the WARM MONGER'S INQUISITION...

Read the comments.

I do wonder if this is a violation of the Hatch Act.

[Wednesday morning update]

Four heresies.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:56 PM
"Not Silent"

As usual, Doug Cooke defends ESAS:

The "direct" variation fails to meet NASA's needs on several grounds. It is vastly over-capacity and too costly to service the International Space Station, but worse, its lift capacity would not be enough for NASA to maintain a sustained presence on the moon.

Advocates for the "direct" variation are touting unrealistic development costs and schedules. A fundamental difference is that the Ares I and Orion probability of crew survival is at least two times better than all of the other concepts evaluated, including "direct"-like concepts.

Also as usual, he provides no evidence for his assertions. We are simply supposed to accept them because Doug Cooke says so. Have we ever seen the actual report that came out of the sixty-day study, with a description of methodology and assumptions? I haven't.

I'm not necessarily a big fan of "Direct," but his statement raises more issues than it answers. Why doesn't the "lift capacity allow a sustained presence on the moon" in a way that ESAS does? Why should it be assumed that NASA's new launch system will service space station? I thought that this was what COTS was for? What are the marginal costs of an additional Jupiter launch versus Ares 1?

Give us some numbers, and provide a basis for them, and we might take this seriously.

[Wednesday morning update]

More thoughts and comments at NASA Watch, and from Chair Force Engineer.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 03:02 PM

Rich Lowry is feeling sorry for Senators Dodd and Conrad.

You know, people who don't know what a kind-hearted and sensitive soul Rich is might think that he's being sarcastic.

Seriously, if these were Republican Senators, you know that the media would be howling about it, with demands for hearings and Justice Department investigations. But they're not.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 09:09 AM

June 23, 2008

"Criminal Against Humanity"

That's what Barack Obama, and anyone who supports US ethanol price supports and tariffs against Brazilian imports is.

I agree.

By the way, so are Algore and James Hansen...

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:13 PM
An Ally In The War?

This would be an interesting development:

As Father Dall'Oglio warns darkly, Muslims are in dialogue with a pope who evidently does not merely want to exchange pleasantries about coexistence, but to convert them. This no doubt will offend Muslim sensibilities, but Muslim leaders are well-advised to remain on good terms with Benedict XVI. Worse things await them. There are 100 million new Chinese Christians, and some of them speak of marching to Jerusalem - from the East.

As Spengler notes, the Muslims should be worried. That truly would be the first real challenge to them, if not since the founding of the religion, at least since the Crusades.

Whose side do you think that the left will take? How many guesses do you want?

[Evening update]

In comments, Carl Pham asks:

What's to be appalled about in the Crusades, eh? Is this just regurgitating some politically-correct pap y'all were fed in public school?

I'm only appalled by the Crusades in the same sense that I'm appalled by the Middle Ages in general (I don't actually recall learning about them in public school, which in itself, regardless of the learning content, is an interesting commentary about public school in the sixties and early seventies. It's no doubt worse now, since it's better to know nothing of the Crusades than to be mistaught them).

And in being appalled, I'm judging it by modern sensibilities. As I said, Islam was more (much more) appalling in its behavior.

Then. And more importantly (and even more), now.

But I'm sure I'll get more Anonymous Morons in comments, whom I'll take great pleasure in appropriately naming, unwittingly making my point about which side the leftists will take.


If you want to look for unpleasant proselytizing by Christian nations, take a look at South and Central American under the Spanish in the 1500s and 1600s. The Crusades do not quality. Islam is only pissed about them because they coincided with the high-water mark of Islam's own effort to conquer the world.

Agreed. Latin American's dismal state is a consequence of having been colonized by Spain (and it was a Christian Spain). It continues to be mired in a feudal culture, which has only transmogrified into a socialist/fascist one, as exemplified by "liberation theology." Which is (unfortunately) not that far off from the "black liberation theology" of Senator Obama's former church.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:21 PM
The Seal Is Dead

Or is it a sleeping possum?

Am I the only one to think that this was a misfired strategy by Obama to be all things to all people? The latte drinkers would be impressed by the Latin, and the possum would appeal to the bitter guns'n'God clingers. You know, the ones with the bumper stickers that say "Eat More Possum"?

Nahhh, the campaign is clever, but it's not that clever. Or maybe it's too clever by half.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 12:08 PM
"New Deal Narcissism"

Amity Shlaes, on Barack Obama:

The New Deal exists principally on an emotional plane for Obama. To him the New Deal is something you play like a song, to make you or your constituents feel better. Let me be clear: It's too early to judge Obama on economics. But he does seem unaware of the economic consequences of government expansion that happens under the New Deal name.

Politicians generally act as if there is no cost to reconnecting with voters by building new New Deals. But the whole exercise of writing law out of New Deal nostalgia is a form of national narcissism. Call it New Deal narcissism.

We could afford to burnish our social contracts if there were no competition from abroad. But there is.

Which is one reason why the so-called progressives hate globalization. And ironically, one of the primary reasons for the Great Depression, and certainly for its length and depth, was economic isolationism in the form of Smoot-Hawley. The New Deal was a flawed, fascist attempt to make up for our economic disengagement from the world. The war ended the depression. Unfortunately, much of the New Deal, and the mentality that led to it, remains in place. Obama is simply the latest Great Man, a man of Change, and Action, to want to preserve and expand it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 10:31 AM
Resume Padding?

In Obama's campaign ad:

Even under the most generous reading imaginable could any of that count as passing legislation that extended health care for wounded troops? The Chicago Tribune noted the problem on its blog last week but defended Obama by pointing out that John McCain didn't vote for the bill either. That would be an interesting piece of information if John McCain had cited this bill as among his chief legislative accomplishments.

The Obama team's desire to pad the resume is understandable -- it's awfully slim after all. But this kind of dishonesty will catch up with them...or at least it should.

Yes, it should, but maybe it won't. Bill Clinton's supporters didn't seem to mind that he was an inveterate liar. But Obama's supporters (which includes much of the media) not only don't mind, but actually hope he is.

[Afternoon update]

Is he finally losing his teflon?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 08:06 AM
Hate Crime

I'm sure that Ian McEwan will be arrested presently:

'As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist.

"This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist.

'And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on - we know it well.

It will be interesting to see if the authorities come after him for this bit of politically incorrect truth telling. He's lucky he doesn't live in the police state of Canada.

Speaking of which, Professor Reynolds has a pithy comment:

When the stormtroopers wear clown shoes instead of jackboots, it's easy to forget that they're still stormtroopers.

And so far, the circus up there continues.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:49 AM
Not Ready For Prime Time

More historical ignorance from Senator Obama:

Obama's unfavorable comparison of the legal treatment at Gitmo with that at Nuremberg suggests either that he doesn't know what he's talking about - or that he feels free to exploit the ignorance of audiences that don't know the truth of the matter.

Hey, it's all about fooling the rubes. The sad thing is that the press never questions him on this kind of thing.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:14 AM
Media-Induced Malaise

Lileks has more thoughts on the subject:

It is amusing, really - after sticking people's heads in the muck every day for years, promoting every faddish scare, fluffing the pillow beneath every yuppie worry, swapping the straight-forward adult approach to news with presenters who emote the copy with the sad face of a day-care worker telling the children that Barney is dead - in short, after decades of presenting the world through the peculiar prism that finds in every day more evidence of our rot and our failures, they wonder why people are depressed. Hang the banner, guys: Mission Accomplished.

Of course, not everyone feels this way; I'd guess that people who watch television news are more inclined to pessimism. But there's another side to this: the pessimism among some may not stem from some impotent feeling that one is a cork toss'd in a sea of cruel destiny, that you can't do anything, that nothing will get better - no, the pessimism may arise from the suspicion that there's something abroad in the land that's had a good hardy larf about "Horatio Alger" and all the other manifestations of individual initiative for 30 years. The cool kids and the clever set have always smirked at that sort of stuff. You can get them going if you make a speech about our ability to solve things, but you'd better phrase it in the form of a government initiative, or brows furrow: well, then, how do you propose to do it?

Posted by Rand Simberg at 06:04 AM
Cognitive Dissonance

It looks like Virginia Postrel's thesis is starting to be borne out:

It is weird how so many who claim to like Obama hope he is lying.

Or maybe it's not weird at all.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:39 AM

June 22, 2008

Why Wait For The Election?

Mickey Kaus:

If you wanted to emphasize to voters that the Democrats' nominee is a bit stuck up, it would be hard to do better. I suppose he could start requiring reporters to stand when he enters the room. ... The seal probably started out as a bit of fun. But unless David Axelrod is insane, the thing will never be seen again.

Let us ponder the possibility that Axelrod is insane. After all, he let this thing happen in the first place...

Anyway, the next step to me would be to have a band strike up "Hail the Messiah" (only a slight variation on "Hail to the Chief") and project a holographic halo over his head whenever he enters the room.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 02:34 PM
Post Election Selection Trauma

I'm with "Demosophist":

Obama is formidable, ruthless, smart, charming and probably unbeatable. I see a landslide brewing. If it happens, we will see a first 100 days comparable only to Reagan's, when the country made a 180 degree turn.

I just want to make clear that I don't think the US taxpayer should be liable for the massive psychotherapy costs should things not work out this way.

Hey, as that compassionate "conservative" George W. Bush once said, when someone is hurting, the government's gotta move!

More seriously, on the general theme of the post, I think that AL has far too much faith in Obama.

[Evening update]

For those who don't understand the reference of the post title, here it is, from three and a half years ago. I remember it well, because south Palm Beach County seemed to be one of the epicenters of the phenomenon.

Posted by Rand Simberg at 05:29 AM
The Chicago Way

...with handguns:

Politicians are not violent by disposition. They live in some of the safest neighborhoods, with wrought iron fences, automatic garage doors, cameras on light poles and armed police bodyguards.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers, who live without bodyguards, are told that