Tag Archives: Washington

The Think Tank Culture of Washington

On Monday I attended and gave a presentation at the one-day annual conference of the Center for New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the space policy paper I am writing for them, Exploring Space in the 21st Century.

CNAS was founded ten years ago by two political Washington insiders, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, with a focus on foreign policy and defense issues and the central goal of encouraging bi-partisan discussion. For this reason their policy papers cover a wide range of foreign policy subjects, written by authors from both political parties. The conference itself probably had about 1,000 attendees from across the political spectrum, most of whom seemed to me to be part of the Washington establishment of policy makers, either working for elected officials, for various executive agencies, or for one of the capital’s many think tanks, including CNAS.

I myself was definitely not a major presenter at this conference, with speakers like Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Senator Joe Reed (D-Rhode Island). I was part of a panel during one of the lunch breakout sessions, where approximately one third of the attendees came to have lunch while we spoke about space. I only had ten minutes to speak, and used that time to outline (1) the influence SpaceX is having on the entire launch industry and (2) the vast differences in cost, development time, and results between the Orion/SLS program and commercial space. Not surprisingly, the aerospace people from the big established companies appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable with what I had to say, though the Airbus people liked it when I made it clear I thought that the U.S. should allow foreign companies to compete for American business, including government launches.

Their discomfort was best illustrated by the one question asked of me following my talk, where the questioner said that I was comparing apples to oranges in comparing a manned capsule like Orion, intended to go beyond Earth orbit, with the unmanned cargo capsules like Dragon and Cygnus, that only go to ISS. I countered that though I recognized these differences, I also recognized that the differences were really not as much as the industry likes to imply, as demonstrated for example by SpaceX’s announcement that they plan to send Dragon capsules to Mars beginning in 2018. After all, a capsule is still only a capsule. The differences simply did not explain the gigantic differences in cost and development time.

I added that Orion compares badly with Apollo as well, noting that Apollo took about a third as long to build and actually cost less. I doubt I satisfied this individual’s objections, but in the end I think future policy will be decided based on results, not the desires of any one industry bigwig. And in this area Orion/SLS has some serious problems. I hope when my policy paper is released in August it will have some influence in determining that future policy.

My overall impression of CNAS, the speakers, and the people who attended was somewhat mixed. Having lived in the Washington, D.C. area from 1998 to 2011, when I attended many such conferences, I found that things haven’t changed much in the last five years. Superficially, everyone was dressed in formal business suits (something you see less and less elsewhere), and they also got to eat some fancy food at lunch.

On a deeper level my impressions were also mixed.
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Indiana pizza parlor to reopen despite violent threats

The owners of the pizza parlor in Indiana whose owners have said they will not cater a homosexual wedding have announced that they are about to reopen.

The article quotes both the father and daughter extensively about this controversy. Read it. It will once again reveal who the real bigots are in this story, and it is not these people.

One detail from the story is very interesting. The owners plan to donate some of the money raised for them to the Washington florist who is under attack for the same reasons.

Americans rally to support persecuted Christians

In less than two days, an independent fund was set up and raised almost $850,000 for the owners of the Christian pizza parlor in Indiana that was forced to close because of death threats from the left wing community.

Friends of the Washington state florist whose entire life savings might be confiscated by the state for refusing to participate in a homosexual wedding have also now created another site to raise money to help her. They have already raised over $50,000.

Both funds are important for many reasons, the most important of which is each fund makes it clear that Christians of good conscience are not alone, that they can stand for their beliefs and not be abandoned and destroyed. There are thousands of people who will rally to help you.

Let me add, as a Jew, this thought on this first night of Passover. Each year on Passover, Jews gather for their Passover Seder to retell the story of their enslavement in Egypt and their escape to freedom. In doing so, you are supposed to imagine yourself as a slave who is freed. As the Haggadah, the book that outlines the Seder ceremony, states, “In every single generation, each individual is obligated to think of himself as one of those who came out of Egypt.”

The Jewish faith also emphasizes that we must thank God each time for bringing us to freedom. I say that God only helps those who help themselves. It appears that in America today, in the 21st century, we are obliged to do the same again.

SpaceX to open satellite-building operation in Washington state

The competition heats up: Within three years SpaceX hopes to establish a new satellite operation in Seattle, Washington, employing 1,000 people and focused on the design of smaller, cheaper satellites.

The key quote from the article perhaps is this: “Musk said the office would focus on developing satellites but could also be a base for rocket-design talent uninterested in moving to SpaceX’s base in the Los Angeles area.” To put it another way, California’s socialist and highly restrictive state government has forced Musk to consider an alternative location for the expansion of his company.

His effort should also strike fear into the established satellite makers, who have done relatively little innovative design changes in the past four decades. As SpaceX has done with the launch industry, I expect SpaceX will do with the satellite industry: force them to lower costs while developing new technologies.

A gun control bill introduced in Washington includes a provision that allows the police to conduct yearly house searches, without a warrant, of any gun owner’s home.

The fascists are out: A gun control bill introduced in the state of Washington includes a provision that allows the police to conduct yearly house searches, without a warrant, of any gun owner’s home.

Such searches would violate the fourth amendment of the Constitution, and in my case, any cop who showed up at my door would be politely told that I do not consent to any searches, without a warrant. They don’t get in my door.

Meanwhile, the Democrats who sponsored this bill, without reading it of course, are now tripping over themselves to disavow it, as if that would somehow make everyone forget that they introduced it.

Thank You, David Gregory

“Thank you, David Gregory.”

Then there’s this: Laws are for little people.

To Howard Kurtz & Co., it’s “obvious” that Gregory didn’t intend to commit a crime. But, in a land choked with laws, “obviousness” is one of the first casualties — and “obviously” innocent citizens have their “obviously” well-intentioned actions criminalized every minute of the day. Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry. Why is it so “obvious” that David Gregory deserves to be treated more leniently than a sixth grader? Because he’s got a TV show and she hasn’t?

A federal judge has struck down a Washington state law that required pharmacists to sell contraceptives

A federal judge has struck down a Washington state law that required pharmacists to sell contraceptives.

In his 48-page opinion, [the judge] noted that Washington permitted pharmacy owners to decide they won’t stock certain medications for any number of “secular reasons” – because they drugs are expensive, for example, or inconvenient to dispense, or because they simply don’t fit into the store’s business plan. Yet the rule did not allow pharmacists to assert a religious reason for keeping certain drugs off their shelves. “A pharmacy is permitted to refuse to stock oxycodone because it fears robbery, but the same pharmacy cannot refuse to stock Plan B because it objects on religious grounds,” the judge wrote. “Why are these reasons treated differently under the rules?” The judge also accused the state of enforcing the mandate selectively, noting that regulators had not opened cases against the many Catholic-affiliated pharmacies in the state that also refuse to dispense Plan B.

I would not be at all surprised if we find that Obama’s contraceptive mandate carries with it the same type of selective enforcement.

Washington union held in contempt for terminal violence

Union civility: A union in Washington state has been held in contempt for the violence that took place during a protest at a grain terminal. Some testimony:

Security guard Charlie Cadwell, employed by Columbia Security for patrols at the Longview grain terminal for the past two months, told the judge of the harrowing experience: Every protester he saw that night was carrying a weapon – baseball bats, lead pipes, garden tools. “I didn’t see a longshoreman who didn’t have something in his hands,” he said.

He was was pulled out of his car by one longshoreman, and another man swung a metal pipe at him, he said. “I told him, ‘You have 50 cameras on you and law enforcement is on its way,'” Cadwell said. “He said, ‘(expletive) you. We’re not here for you, we’re here for the train.'”

In the meantime, someone drove off with his car and eventually ran it into a ditch. Cadwell said about 40 to 50 people were throwing rocks at him, and that he was hit between his eyes and in his knee.

King County, Washington, requires life vests for swimmers

Big Brother rules! King County, Washington, has voted to require life vests for swimmers.

[The law] applies to people intertubing, rafting, using a surfboard, canoe or kayak. Swimmers or people wading more than 5 feet from shore or in water more than 4 feet deep would also have to wear life vests. The new ordinance does not apply to people at designated public beaches or for people who are skin diving.