Tag Archives: policy

The Obama administration versus the lumber industry

Lumber and regulation: First, the Obama administration is about to release its spotted owl recovery plan for the northwest United States, and no one knows what’s in it. Second, a timber industry group has sued the Obama administration for not selling “at least 502 million board feet each year, the amount provided for under the resource management plans for the agency’s districts in Western Oregon.”

With the first story, I wonder what happened to the “most transparent administration in history.” With the second, the Obama administration continues its pattern of ignoring the law in favor of its own preferences.

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Sunspots and the danger of crying wolf

It’s that time of year again, buckos. Every June, like clockwork, stories and op-eds like these start to flood the media:

Not surprisingly, these stories always happen about the same time our federal bureaucracy puts together a one day June propaganda event called the Space Weather Enterprise Forum, designed to sell to journalists the idea that we are all gonna die if we don’t spend gazillions of dollars building satellites for tracking the sun’s behavior. Along with this conference come numerous press releases, written by the conference’s backers. Here for example is a quote from a press release emailed to me and many journalists:

Recent activity on the Sun, captured in stunning imagery from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the resulting threat of significant radiation storms and radio blackouts here on Earth are vivid reminders of our need to better understand the science, improve our forecasts and warnings, and better prepare ourselves for severe space weather storms as the next solar maximum approaches.

The problem for these fear-mongers, however, is that shortly before their forum the scientists who actually study the sun held another press conference, where they laid out in exquisite detail the sun’s astonishing recent decline in activity, and how the next solar maximum will likely be the weakest in centuries and might very well be the last maximum we will see for decades to come.

In other words, the annual effort by government bureaucrats to drum up funding for more space weather facilities has collided head on with the facts.

That there are science journalists from so many major news organization so easily conned into buying this fear-mongering is pitiful enough. More significant, however, is the fact that this annual effort at crying wolf has not been very successful. For years Congress has not funded any new space weather satellites, and doesn’t appear ready to do so in the future, especially with the present budget crisis.
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NASA faces subpoena on heavy-lift rocket work

The space war continues: Several senators are threatening to subpoena NASA over what they perceive as the agency’s foot-dragging in building a heavy-lift rocket.

Idiots. They give NASA less money and less time to build the program-formerly-called-Constellation, and then are surprised when things don’t go well. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Obama administration is trying to sabotage the project anyway.

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Senate Republicans pull out of Biden debt limit negotiations

The Senate Republicans have pulled out of Biden’s debt limit negotiations.

This article strongly suggests to me that the Democrats, who hold a majority in this negotiating group, have refused to take seriously the Republicans’ demand to cut spending, instead focusing on tax increases as a solution. The problem is that you could raise our taxes to 100 percent and you wouldn’t solve the debt problem. The government has got to reduce its spending.

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NASA about to decide on its shuttle heavy-lift replacement

NASA is about to decide on its shuttle heavy-lift replacement, and it looks like it will be almost entirely shuttle-derived.

As I have said previously, this rocket will almost certainly never fly. NASA has to start over after spending billions and years developing Constellation, and is being given less money and time to do it.

And even if I am wrong and this rocket does fly, I bet it will do only one flight and then be retired as too costly.

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The costs of space cargo

This week there was a bit of a political kerfuffle during House hearings over a House report [pdf] that stated that the cost per pound for launching cargo to ISS was much cheaper using the shuttle versus the new commercial companies under the COTS program. This is shown in this table from page 5 of the report:

House charter graph

The problem is that these numbers are a complete lie, as they are based on a yearly cost of $3 billion to operate the shuttle (highlighted in yellow). I have been following NASA budget battles now for decades, and the shuttle operational budget has never, ever been that low. Routinely, NASA figures the cost to operate the shuttle per year, regardless of number of flights, to be about $4 billion per year.
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Rep. Ryan agrees that his plan played a role in Democrats’ special-election win

Rep. Ryan agreed today that his budget plan played a role in Democrats’ special-election win in New York yesterday.

If Ryan is right, we are in big trouble. His plan might not be the solution, but the Democrats refuse to offer any alternatives. And if it is this Democratic non-plan that the public is choosing, it means that the public remains unwilling to deal with the debt in any way at all.

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“We stand for freedom.”

Kennedy's speech

Fifty years ago today, John Kennedy stood before Congress and the nation and declared that the United States was going to the Moon. Amazingly, though this is by far the most remembered speech Kennedy ever gave, very few people remember why he gave the speech, and what he was actually trying to achieve by making it.

Above all, going to the Moon and exploring space was not his primary goal.

The Context

For Kennedy — whose presidential campaign included an aggressive anti-communist stance against the Soviet Union — the months before the speech had not gone well. Five weeks earlier, for instance, the CIA-led attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow Castro’s communist government had ended in total failure. When Kennedy refused to lend direct military support to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the 1,200 man rebel force was quickly overcome. “How could I have been so stupid as to let them go ahead?” Kennedy complained privately to his advisors.

In Berlin, the tensions between the East and the West were continuing to escalate, and would lead in only a few short months to Khrushchev’s decision to build the Berlin Wall, sealing off East Berlin and the citizens of East Germany from the rest of the world.

In the race to beat the Soviets in space, things were going badly as well. NASA had announced the United States’ intention to put the first man into space sometime in the spring of 1961. The agency hoped that this flight would prove that the leader of the capitalist world still dominated the fields of technology, science, and exploration.

Originally scheduled for a March 6, 1961 launch, the short fifteen minute sub-orbital flight was repeatedly delayed. The Mercury capsule’s first test flight in January, with a chimpanzee as test pilot, rose forty miles higher than intended, overshot its landing by a hundred and thirty miles, and when the capsule was recovered three hours later it had begun leaking and was actually sinking. Then in March another test of the Mercury capsule included the premature firing of the escape rocket on top of the capsule, the unplanned release of the backup parachutes during descent, and the discovery of dents on the capsule itself.

These difficulties caused NASA to postpone repeatedly its first manned mission. First the agency rescheduled the launch to late March. Then early April. Then mid-April. And then it was too late.
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NASA announces Orion program will continue

NASA announces that the Orion program will continue, though under a different name.

This is a non-announcement, made to appease those in Congress who are requiring NASA to build the program-formerly-called-Constellation. NASA will do as Congress demands, and in the process will build nothing while spending a lot of money for a rocket and space capsule that can’t be built for the amount budgeted.

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