Tag Archives: government

Obama’s traffic jam

The charade in Los Angeles on Monday when President Obama arrived for a fundraiser and shut down traffic during rush hour — causing a storm of angry protest — is another very obvious illustration of the great disconnect between today’s ruling class and the general public.

It’s not just that Obama seemed oblivious to the traffic chaos he created. It is that he, as well as most politicians today (from both parties), truly expect large areas of a city to be closed down for their convenience, and don’t seem to give a damn that by doing so they make life miserable for everyone else.

To paraphrase what Glenn Reynolds likes to say, traffic jams are for “the little people.”

Obama’s actions here are far from new and have actually been deeply institutionalized since the 1960s, following Kennedy’s assassination. Originally designed to protect a president from attack, the shutting down of highways quickly became a tool to make the president’s life as easy as possible while demonstrating to all his lordly superiority.

For example, I personally experienced this kingly arrogance back in 1979. I needed to get from my house in Astoria, Queens, to LaGuardia Airport, normally a very short 10 minute drive. But as I pulled into the ramp for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway I found myself being waved to a stop by a policeman. The expressway was being closed so that President Jimmy Carter could use it. I, along with hundreds of others, was forced to sit there for thirty minutes, waiting for his entourage of approximately thirty limousines finally go by. To say that this infuriated me is to put it mildly.

Nor do I think this behavior is reserved to Democrats. I am sure that my readers could easily cite similar events during past Republican administrations.

Nor is it limited to American political leaders. The ruling class of the defunct Soviet Union made it offical policy. There, those in power built many urban roadways with special lanes reserved exclusively for communist party officials. Moreover, when they used those lanes the street lights could be commandeered, turning them all green so that anyone on a cross street had to wait.

In the U.S. we have not yet come that far. Yet, that presidents feel it their right to shut down entire transportation systems for their mere convenience suggests that sadly we don’t have that far to travel.

Unless of course the public, which still has the vote, does something about it.

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Beck told he can’t pray at Kennedy Center

Freedom of speech alert: Before they backed down, Glen Beck was told by attorneys at the Kennedy Center that he was forbidden to pray during an event he was hosting there. To quote Beck:

GLENN BECK: They have told people on the steps of the Supreme Court that they cannot pray there. They have told students on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial they can’t sing the National Anthem there. And last week I was told by the Kennedy Center that we could not pray there. We were told by the Kennedy Center in no uncertain terms that we could hold our event there, sure we had a contract. But they weren’t told that we were going to have an opening prayer. The program is has the word divine in it, our divine destiny. We couldn’t pray at the Kennedy Center. So my attorneys came to me and said, Glenn, are you willing to compromise on it? And I said, I sure am. You tell them that not only will I do an opening prayer, I’ll do a closing prayer, and the entire program may be a prayer. In fact, take this down. It is a night of prayer. You’ll see if you are lucky enough to get a ticket to the Kennedy Center, and they are not for sale. You will see in the program how I described it. I described it that way. So they could print that in their program at the Kennedy Center which they insisted on having after they told us we couldn’t pray. I said, let me dictate this one. Friday night I was supposed to have a meeting today at 1:00 with their attorneys and I had already talked to my attorneys. Zero compromise. We asked them, where is that in your I didn’t see that in your rules and regulations. “It’s not written down.” No prayer at a federally funded building.

Friday night I think they got a hold of Common Sense. They alerted me Friday night that they will allow prayer to happen on the stage of the Kennedy Center. I told them, thank you so much for your graciousness. I appreciate the scrap from the table. America, our religion and our faith is under attack and whether people care to realize it or not, it is.

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Ray Bradbury tells it like it is

In this Los Angeles Times profile just before his 90th birthday on August 22, Ray Bradbury tells it like it is. Some key quotes:

We should never have left [the Moon]. We should go to the moon and prepare a base to fire a rocket off to Mars and then go to Mars and colonize Mars. Then when we do that, we will live forever.

I think our country is in need of a revolution. There is too much government today. We’ve got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.

We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.

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Reporter arrested for discussing politics

Freedom of speech alert. In this post, I noted that though it seemed as if the arrest of four protesters on the University of Texas campus during a visit by President Obama seemed a violation of their rights, there wasn’t enough information in the reports to know for sure. We now have more information. Read this report also. And watch this video of the arrest of one protester, while wearing a press badge, and tell me if this isn’t an abuse of power.

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Rebuilding the American space program — the right way

In reading my post, Both for and against the Obama plan, reader Trent Waddington emailed me to say that this “is so fatalistic that it seems you don’t think it is worthwhile even spending a few minutes explaining why the policy is good. It’s easy to dismiss something a politician says as the stopped clock that is right twice a day. It’s harder to set aside your skepticism and explain why something is good policy.”

Trent is absolutely correct. What I wrote was very depressing and fatalistic. However, I think it very important to be coldly honest about things, no matter how bad they look. Once you’ve done that, you then have the right information necessary for fixing the situation.

My problem with most of the debate about the future space policy of the United States, — as well as innumerable other modern issues faced by our government — is that people don’t seem to want to face up to the reality of the problem. In the case of space and Obama, I doubt any advice, gentle or otherwise, is going to move him into putting forth a plan for NASA that has any realistic chance of getting passed by Congress. As I noted in a different post, he doesn’t play the game. He acts like the worst sort of autocrat, convinced that if he simply says what he wants to do, everyone must agree.

The reason the good part of his plan (commercial space) is not passing Congress is not because people think it is a bad idea. It is being rejected because » Read more

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PG police kill another dog

Yesterday a sheriff’s deputy from Prince George’s County, Maryland, shot and killed a family dog while trying to serve an eviction notice. This comes two years after a mistaken raid by Prince George’s police of the home of the mayor of Berwyn Heights killed his two dogs. Key quote:

[Mayor] Calvo, who is suing Sheriff Michael A. Jackson, alleging his deputies engaged in excessive force when they killed his dogs, said deputies have shown a disturbing propensity to kill family pets. “This is part of a pattern,” Calvo said. From 2005 to 2008, deputies shot at least nine dogs in eight incidents, according to sheriff’s department records.

The real horror of this story for those of us who live in Prince George’s County and own dogs (as I do) is that Michael Jackson is running for county executive, and in some polls, is leading the pack.

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Texas responds to EPA’s effort to regulate CO2

In a letter response to the EPA’s effort to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, Texas has essentially told the EPA to go to hell. Three key quotes from the letter:

In order to deter challenges to your plan for centralized control of industrialized development through the issuance of permits for greenhouse gases, you have called upon each state to declare its allegiance to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently enacated greenhouse gas regulations — regulations that are plainly contrary to United State law. ….. To encourage acquiesence with your unsupported findings you threaten to usurp state enforcment authority and to federalize the permitting program of any state that fails to pledge their fealty to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [emphasis mine]

The State of Texas does not believe the EPA’s “suggested” approach comports with the rule of law.

Texas will not facilitate EPA’s apparent attempt to thwart these established procedures and ignore the law.

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The great disconnect

The recent history of NASA illustrates a fundamental problem with how our political class thinks.

In 2004 George Bush announced that NASA would have a new goal, that of the exploration of the solar system. The shuttle would complete construction of the International Space Station and then be retired in 2010. NASA would meanwhile build a replacement for the shuttle, designed to return to the Moon and beyond, and have it flying by 2014.

Notice the gap? The shuttle retires in 2010, four years before its replacement is available. Notice also that the plan insisted that ISS would be finished, fully occupied, and in need of significant resupply and maintenance during this entire time, when neither the shuttle or its replacement would be on hand.

Yet, as obvious as this seems, no one at NASA, in the Bush administration, or in Congress, seemed to notice this gap. The Bush plan was implemented exactly as described, so that today we are about to be left with a space station in orbit and no way to reach it for at least four years. (That other countries can reach the station changes nothing: the United States has been left hanging, lacking a method for transporting its crews to its own space station.)

It was as if, among the political and elite class that runs the government, there was great disconnect between the fantasy of the intended plan and the reality of its implementation. » Read more

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The failure of the past and a hint of the future

The coolant system failure on the International Space Station this weekend and the upcoming spacewalks being planned to fix it is a dramatic and fascinating story, capturing the interest of the general public while causing some news pundits to express fear and dread about science fiction scenerios of disasters in space.

The situation is hardly that death-defying. The station’s cooling systems have a lot of redundancy, all of which are being used to good effect. Moreover, the spacewalk repair to install a replacement pump module, though challenging, is exactly the kind of thing the astronauts have been trained to do. I expect them to do it with few problems. I would be far more surprised if they have serious difficulties and fail to get it done.

What this failure foreshadows, however, is the future on ISS. As the years pass and systems age, » Read more

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Burt Rutan on future of space

At an airshow on Thursday, July 29, in Oskosh, Wisconsin, Burt Rutan, designer of SpaceShipOne, made some interesting remarks about the past and future of private space flight. Key quote:

Rutan said NASA should give 10 to 15 percent of its budget to new space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX without regulating how to spend the money. “That would allow them to not (have to) beg for commercial investment, while still working in an entrepreneurial mode.”

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An update on the Dept of Energy’s hold on monies to East Anglia

This story about the Department of Energy’s decision in May to suspend payments to the University of East Anglia because of the climategate scandal might very well be a Potemkin village. The story notes that they are placing a hold on $200k. However, Anthony Watts notes that DOE has probably provided East Anglia significantly more funds, in the millions. The suspension in funds then is only about one specific and not very large contract, with nothing said about the other funding. Note also that the hold was placed in May, pending the results of East Anglia’s own investigation. Since that investigation was a whitewash, I expect DOE to release these funds in near future.

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NAACP leader arrested trying to attend school board meeting

Freedom of speech alert: the head of a local North Carolina NAACP chapter was arrested when he tried to attend a local school board meeting to protest its actions. He had been arrested for trespassing at a previous board meeting, and it is unclear if his attempted appearance this time was a trespass as well.

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House releases their text of NASA budget

The House Committee on Science and Technology has released the text [pdf] of its NASA reauthorization bill. The committee’s short thumbnail description of the language suggests it is similar to the Senate language. A quick scan of the text also suggests this as well. I hope to take a closer look at both the Senate and House bills later this week and then give my take on both.

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