June 30, 2012

Latest anti-Romney talking point--projection...

Shiny object of the week - Jennifer Rubin - The Washington Post:

...The newest talking point: Mitt Romney is vague or has no ideas. When he gives an answer they don't like (he's opposed to gay marriage), he's accused of ducking the issue. The most egregious variation is insisting Romney doesn't have anything with which to replace Obamacare. He certainly does.

Let's remind everyone: Romney has a tax plan with specified corporate and individual rates, a commitment to keep current progressivity, and territoriality for international businesses. On health care, he wants a premium-support Medicare plan, block-granting Medicaid, uniform tax treatment for individual- and employer-purchased insurance plans, interstate insurance sales, permission for small businesses to group together for insurance purchases, greater transparency and disclosure by insurance companies, and tort reform. On immigration, he has plans for family unification, legalization for those who serve in the military, expansion of visas for highly educated foreign students, employer verification and increased border control. He's got tons of other policies -- an outline for Social Security reform, expanded domestic energy development, reduction in the federal workforce and removal of Big Labor giveaways.

I could go on and on. So what accounts for the blatantly false assertion that has become the latest anti-Romney talking point?

It is a simple game of distraction or, if you prefer, a classic case of projection....
Posted by John Weidner at 10:40 AM

June 28, 2012

Regarding the Supreme Court decision...

It's so frustrating to me, because, at least in one aspect, I think I see this issue of the "Affordable Care Act" more clearly than anybody else is doing. But I've never managed to arouse the least interest in this.

And that is, that the ACA is an Industrial Age solution to our health care problems. That's how things worked in the late Industrial Age—think 1940's. Big slow-changing organizations were organized into interlocking convoys by government. A great achievement of the Roosevelt/Truman years was making the unions into peaceful members of the convoys.

And it worked fairly well. But that stuff doesn't work in the Information Age. Nothing is stable anymore. Government as ring master assembling a parade of docile slow-moving elephants has turned into government organizing a parade of thousands of monkeys. It doesn't matter how many bureaucrats are cracking whips. It doesn't matter how many rules and taxes are promulgated. Making an orderly parade out of thousands of scampering mischievous monkeys is an insane idea.

It is literally insane. It will fail even if both parties try to make it work.

And I'm like Cassandra, with the gift to see into the future, and the curse of never being listened to.

UPDATE; This picture is too perfect! Found here.

Circus elephants parade capitol hill

UPDATE: Best comment I've seen, from InstaPundit: Reader Barry Johnson emails, cruelly: "Second look at Harriet Miers?" Yeah, baby. I want to spit now thinking about all those pomposos who said we can't possibly have a Supreme Courtt justice who is not a high-powered scholard type.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 AM

June 27, 2012

What's the matter with Kansas?

Jonathan V. Last, Sore losers:

...But not surprising. Democrats and Republicans respond very differently to defeat. When Republicans lose — either at the ballot box or in the courts — they tend to have one of two reactions. Sometimes they set their teeth and moan about how the stars are aligned against them as the world rockets toward ruin and they stand athwart history shouting, “Stop!”  

Other times, they just blame each other. Republicans will tell you that John McCain, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush all would have won if they had just been more conservative. Or more moderate. Or stronger on abortion. Or not as tied to the evangelical nuts. You get the idea: Republicans are happy to pin their failures on other parts of their coalition.  

When Democrats lose, however, they tend to place the blame a little higher. The Supreme Court is rigged. The election was stolen by Diebold voting machines. After John Kerry lost in 2004, Democrats snickered about an electoral map showing the “real America” being composed of the West Coast and Northeast. The rest of the map — the red states Bush carried — was dubbed “Jesusland.” The inference being that the real problem was with the American people.

All of which is why, facing the prospect of losing the Obamacare case, the left’s first instinct hasn’t been to blame a bad law. Or bad lawyering. Or even just bad luck. No, to the liberal mind there are no bad outcomes; only broken systems. (In the Washington Post, Jonathan Turley claimed the very possibility Obamacare might be struck down suggested we should rethink the structure of the high court. He proposes we start by installing 10 more justices.)

And so, later this week liberal Democrats will condemn the high court as a body no longer fit to adjudicate our nation’s laws. It will have to be reformed and remade before any American, anywhere, can sleep soundly.

Unless, of course, the court gives them the verdict they want. In that case, as Gilda Radner’s classic “Saturday Night Live” character Emily Litella used to say, “Never mind.”...

We are already seeing the return of the Carter-days line, "Is America Ungovernable?"

Posted by John Weidner at 1:33 PM | Comments (3)

June 20, 2012

Growth = Life. Being "Sensible" = Death

Gian posted a quote here, and this post grew out of one of my replies...

"Western civilization has made its peace with the Devil, in return for which it has been granted hitherto unimaginable resources of knowledge, power, and pleasure. This is, of course, the grand theme of the Faust legend, immortalized by Goethe."

"Opposition to the growth juggernaut has gathered pace in recent years. Growth, say critics, is not only failing to make us happier; it is also environmentally disastrous. Both claims may well be true, but they fail to capture our deeper objection to endless growth, which is that it is senseless."

By Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky,
The Chronicle of Higher Education

"they fail to capture our deeper objection to endless growth, which is that it is senseless"

Growth is life. It is equivalent to youth and vitality in a person. And the different flowerings of life are not separable. You can't say, "Let's stop economic growth, but still have vigor in other areas of life." That doesn't work.

The real problem is that these guys are like adults who only want children around if they are subdued and quiet and orderly. That's really saying they don't want children around, period. Youth is both creative and self-destructive. It is noisy, messy, dangerous....and tons of fun for everyone who is still "alive."

Youth is, precisely, "senseless."

Saying you don't want economic growth is like a couple getting married and planning on having one child. Or like drinking half a bottle of champagne, and putting the rest in the refrigerator! Unreal. Prissy.

It's the attitude I see all around me, in "liberal" San Francisco. Which is like a bunch of old people who are comfortable in their little homes, and never change anything, and want most of all to be safe and secure. They are really already dead.

Life is change. Which means turmoil and upheaval and danger and risk. Life isn't supposed to "make you happy." Life is life, you just do it. You just live, whether happy or unhappy. And when you start to look at it like a critical outsider, then you are effectively dead.

I know nothing about these Skidelsky people, but I'd be willing to bet they sniff in disapproval at big families, space colonies (except maybe safe government ones), hot-gospel religion, military action, guns, Tea Partiers, free enterprise, and, of course, America and Israel.

NOTE: if Faust had been 17 years old, then his bargain would not have been a "Faustian" one. Still wrong, of course, but basically the sort of stupid thing teenage boys do.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:14 AM

June 19, 2012

Sums it up...

Why Japan prefers pets to parenthood | Life and style | guardian.co.uk:

...In many parts of Tokyo, it is easier to buy clothes for dogs than for children....

Bet on America and Israel. The only countries of the "developed" world still alive and growing. (The jury is still out on places like China and India. We will see what happens as they really enter modernity. China is aging fast, but on the other hand there are a huge number of Christians there. They may be the leaven needed in that dull lump of socialist dough.)

The future belongs to those who show up for it.—Mark Steyn

Posted by John Weidner at 11:38 AM

June 14, 2012

for Flag Day...

Last verse. Starts at about :44...

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Posted by John Weidner at 9:46 PM

June 9, 2012

My dislike of astronauts, part three...

[NOTE: Speaking of space, Rand Simberg writes: Only seven shopping days left until my Kickstarter project on space safety must be funded. I still need about $2800 by next Friday afternoon. Pass the word, via Twitter or whatever....

This is a worthy project. Part of the stagnation of our space efforts is due to an extreme emphasis on safety by cautious bureaucrats. He's asking for $10 (or more) contributions, and I'll do one. (With a twinge of bitterness, 'cause no one will ever kickstart my book.) Rand inspired my space thoughts long ago, and I owe him a debt. Here's a sample I saved from 2002. Read!]

UPDATE: This project is funded! Cool

Now, to the post...

Again, I don't really dislike astronauts. Just their symbolism. And for this yet another disjointed post, I start yet again with a quote from Terry. If he didn't exist I'd have to invent him! Terry wrote:

"Four reasons a nation might make this investment [in space] are national defense, scientific advancement, practical applications, and national prestige."

So, for which of those reasons did the federal government subsidize the building of the transcontinental railroads? Hmm? None of them, really. The reason, the goal, was to settle the west. And part of the same package was the Homestead Act, which subsidized settlers with free land. And the goal was further subsidized by the US Army, which fought the Indians who impeded settlement.

And underlying this goal of settlement was faith in the American people. Give the people opportunities, says the theory, and they will do great things. That's what Americans have traditionally thought.

But over the course of the 20th century a new idea slowly wormed its way into control. And that was the idea that elites, embodied in government, can do great things. That's how European nations have always worked, and it is a very congenial idea if you happen to fancy yourself as a member of the elite. You could also say it was the turning of America from a country into a nation, a development I despise. [Do kindly read my piece: I'm not a "nationalist".]

And it was an insidious idea, one that often produced attractive results, and often mimicked traditional American thinking, so it was able to infiltrate its way into our minds. That is, I suggest, the underlying problem with Terry's comments. He may be right, and I may be wrong, about the economics of space. Perhaps space will be up to government for the next century. But I'm seeing more clearly as I write about this, that the real issue to me is, is America a sort of "collective entity?" Or is she an assemblage of free men?

If the first theory is true, then when NASA sent astronauts to the Moon, "WE" had done something great. If the second theory is true, then Apollo, cool as it was, was just a precursor. A curtain-raiser. And the real story will begin when Americans start homesteading the Moon, or doing similar things.

Astronauts are for me a symbol of the first theory. They are a symbol of the idea that government accomplishes things, and us ordinary couch-potato Americans are spectators, basking in reflected glory.

I'm perfectly happy with government doing most of the spending for space at this point, if it's necessary. The real question is, where are we going? The GOAL should be for government to gradually get out of the way, as Americans find more ways to live in space, and make money off of space. And cheaper ways to get into space.

In Rick Pearlstein's excellent book about the Goldwater movement, Before the Storm, he enjoys pointing out that the Goldwater family fortune originally came from selling supplies to the Army in Arizona. With the implication that this somehow undercut Goldwater's message of small government and free markets. I would reply, "So what?" Arizona could not have been settled without long tough military campaigns. That's the proper job of government. The difference was that everyone looked forward to the day when the Army could mostly leave, and the people get on with building a state.

Today's fake-liberals would look at the Army as a wedge, to start gathering more and more federal control of everything in Arizona. They look at everything as a wedge. "Never let a crisis go to waste."

[The picture has nothing to do with current happenings. It's an illustration by John Schoenherr, for the book Mission Of Gravity, by Hal Clement. Found here.]

Posted by John Weidner at 3:10 PM

June 8, 2012

Bravo 308, or, Why I Hate Astronauts, Part Two...

Of course I don't really hate them. How silly of you to think so. I'm just trying to make a point and get your attention... (Again with thanks to Terry, at the previous post. I create pearls because of such gritty commenters.)

Anyway, I think people get muddled in their thinking about space, because they imagine that going to places like Mars or the Moon must be giant one-swoop affairs, where a huge rocket takes off from Canaveral, sheds several stages, and then proceeds on to Mars or Venus. Then heroic cosmonauts pick up some rocks, and reverse the process to get back home. Voila, a great moment in human history. Worthless little rabbits like us are awestruck that we are can witness such heroics on our TV's.

But there's a different way such explorings and what-nots might work out. Think about Antarctic exploration and science. Imagine that SF State University (next door to me) wants to do research in Antarctica. Do they build a ship? Stuff it with all necessities? Train some heroic Antarctic-nauts in simulators, to prepare them for the severe conditions? And do they then set sail for the antipodes all on their own?

Of course not. They pack a few boxes of gear and fly to New Zealand in comfort. Then, in a bit less comfort, they take take a C-17 to... Tah dah! MacMurdo Station, our Antarctic base. Where they will find bunkhouses and chow-halls, gyms, a bowling alley, and even a chapel. Plus helicopters and crawly-machines galore. And, especially, they find expert staff who will assist them in whatever crazy things they are doing.

I think that's what future space doings will be like. IF (the big if, the cosmic if...) IF we can get the cost of getting stuff up into orbit to maybe a tenth of what the Space Shuttle costs. Then we will soon see bases in orbit. How will that happen? Who knows. But there will space hotels for sure, and they will need permanent staff. There will be lots more satellites and space telescopes, needing servicing from time to time. Cripples who can afford it will want to move to space, where they can be fully mobile in zero gravity. There will develop a population. Things will start to percolate, and the result will be somethings like MacMurdo. The starting point for a thousand-and-one different projects. The base camp.

Think about all the fools who climb Mt Everest. (There were lines recently, leading to some deaths. Lunacy.) Well, that is very expensive. Comparable to what I suspect a trip to space will cost soon. Think of all the fools who buy huge yachts. They will be able soon to go to space soon, for comparable expenditure, and more prestige. All of these things will lead to people living in space to facilitate this stuff. Living in space-shacks and shanty-towns. Making homes out of empty fuel tanks and cargo containers.

How do I know about what happens in the Antarctic? Because an old family friend, Sandwich Girl, works at MacMurdo every winter (which is the Antarctic summer). Pictures here. Here's a bit from her blog...

sandwichgirl.com » Blog Archive » i'm back!:

...oh hi antarctica. It's me, sandwich.

i came down to the ice this season for winfly,* an early deployment that comes in august to help open the station for mainbody*. for 6 weeks, i worked in the BFC* getting gear ready and together for science groups. the night sky has been spectacular, the nacreous clouds incredible, the temperatures colder than i ever remember (-80F windchill? really!?), and the work has been busy and fun.

winfly has been mellow, but not boring. i've been working on some silly things for the craft fair, went on some walks, visited the pressure ridges*, took a nodwell* to castle rock, blew bubbles in -40F (they turn to a shredded papery substance), organized a balsa man antarctic regional event, re-created the bowling alley, chainsawed holes in the ice, watched the movie "the room" (wow. just wow), and saw a face-melting concert by colorful and talented local folk. mcmurdo, you are an excellent village full of wonderful people.

now is the time when winterovers leave, and the rest of the summer crew arrives in droves. this year is interesting, since there is a lack of bedspace in christchurch nz due to the massive quake last february. passenger flights come south only twice a week, instead of every other day. my science team, Bravo 308, arrived a couple days ago, so i have since moved from the BFC to the lab to help things get ready for our fishing season. [The scientists are studying fish.] i'll be here until mid-december. looking forward to more fun and fish, but until then, trainings....

Here's our friend...

Allie in Antartica
Posted by John Weidner at 8:23 PM

June 3, 2012

Why I hate astronauts...

(This grew out of my response to a comment by Terry in the previous post. Thanks Terry!!) I hate astronauts. Not, I hasten to add, personally—they seem to all be fine men and women. But the idea of the astronaut is one of the biggest scams ever invented.

The current project of liberalism is about turning people into rabbits. (This is not intrinsic to liberalism; it's just how liberalism has evolved. Regular readers of Random Jottings will understand why.) Passive, conformist rabbits. Dependent on big government, and always agreeing with the current liberal fads. And in this task they are making splendid progress. Humans are shrinking all around us. But there is always the problem that some rabbits are going to dimly remember that men should aspire to higher things than mere comfort and security. So the astronaut was invented, to be a sort of proxy human being, and to look like what all of us should be--strong, brave, visionary.

The astronaut has carefully scripted pseudo-adventures, with every "bold" move planned by bureaucrats. After which we are hit with propaganda about how these are daring human adventures that "enlarge the human spirit." Bullshit. And are leading somewhere, although this is always vague and undefined. My guess is that they are by design never going to go anywhere, because that would raise too many questions about what we humans are, and where WE are going. And as an extra absurdity, NASA and the various bureaucracies have a mania for safety. They are terrified of anything going wrong, and generating bad publicity. So the bold adventures "to infinity and beyond" are almost paralyzed with timidity! Crazycakes.

The current policy of paying entrepreneurial companies like SpaceX to get stuff into space are due to the usual reason. Socialism has run out of other people's money. That and, I suspect, that the reality of the Information Age is seeping in. The big government/NASA/astronaut paradigm is pure Industrial Age thinking, and has got to be just looking silly to a lot of younger people.

I despise everything about this. My heart is with the raggedy-assed guys who used to light out for the territories with a rifle, an ax, a bag of corn meal and a scalping knife. They've been kept out of space so far, but the walls are starting to crumble. Those tourist hotels in space, for instance, are going to need staff. I imagine they will be like the people who staff our Antarctic bases. (the Weidners happen to know one of those. Check this out. To enlarge your spirit.) They won't be rabbits. And they will be living in space.

But the thing is, you can be a brave adventurer just living your own humble life. It's a matter of attitude. And you can live your life with the attitudes that could make you ready for some wild adventure, should one present itself to you. (I think I have a bit of this attitude, though I can often be quite timid. For instance, Charlene and I both dream of being colonizers on Mars. And we both had the same reaction of keen envy when a friend was offered a job with the American occupation in Iraq. "Not fair! I want to go!")

So why, you may be asking, have I put these rambling disjointed space thoughts under "Sunday Thoughts?" Am I crazy? It's because this is really a religious question. To be "strong, brave, visionary" is much the same as the Christian concept of "attaining the full stature of Christ." That's what we are here for. That's what Christian faith is about. It's not about "going to Heaven;" it's about becoming adopted sons and daughters of God. Which is to say, awesomely brave and strong and bold. Sexy!

Today's Epistle reading... Paul's Letter ("epistle" is another word for letter) to the Romans, 8; 14-17

Brothers and sisters:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!"
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

So, "A spirit of slavery." A "liberal rabbit." Much the same, I think. N'est pas? So, amigo, are you ready? Or are you a rabbit? Are you ready to move to a tunnel on the Moon? If the need arises? Hmm? Or to die in the defense of Truth? If the need arises?

Are you ready? Or should the bold deeds be left to "astronauts?"

[Note: My space thoughts mostly derive from Rand Simberg, who is the go-to guy on this.] A recent example of his thinking...

Transterrestrial Musings - Fending Off A Space-Alien Invasion:

Does the U.S. have the needed weaponry?
Obviously, it depends on the nature of their technology, but I'd say no.
As long as we avoid becoming a spacefaring civilization (as we have been for decades, de facto, with our insane space policy) we will always be on the defense. We need to be able to take the offensive against a space-borne attack, and we don't even have proper picket lines up in the solar system, which means that there's a good chance that by the time we find out about them, they'll be at our front door, and it will be too late....

So who mans "picket lines" out past Jupiter? Astronauts? Ha. Too expensive. Bureaucrats? Rabbits? No way. Too soft. Probably it will be some wacky Jacksonian Protestant cult monkeys. They'll do it for free.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:17 PM

June 2, 2012

Socialistic Republicans may find it hard to reverse Obama's free-market policy...

Credit where it's due, Obama has gotten one thing right.

SpaceX Dragon returns to Earth:

...Musk, the billionaire behind PayPal and Tesla Motors, aims to launch the next supply mission in September under a steady contract with NASA, and insists astronauts can be riding Dragons to and from the space station in as little as three or four years. The next version of the Dragon, for crews, will land on terra firma with "helicopter precision" from propulsive thrusters, he noted. Initial testing is planned for later this year.

President Barack Obama is leading this charge to commercial spaceflight. He wants routine orbital flights turned over to private business so the space agency can work on getting astronauts to asteroids and Mars. Toward that effort, NASA has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in seed money to vying companies.

NASA astronauts are now forced to hitch rides on Russian rockets from Kazakhstan, an expensive and embarrassing outsourcing, especially after a half-century of manned launches from U.S. soil. It will be up to SpaceX or another U.S. enterprise to pick up the reins. Several companies are jockeying for first place....

One of the tortures for us conservatives for all my life has been the need to work within the Republican Party. Nice chaps and all, but trapped in the Blue Model. This during decades when we sensed a need to get beyond that, to start working with the new Information Age world that was emerging. This wasn't really conscious, mind you. But I'm theorizin' that this was what was happening under the surface. What we call "conservatism" is very much a new product of the new age. As Rick Pearlstein put it, "the most successful youth movement of the 60's was Youth for Goldwater."

And there is hardly any area where Republican obtuseness shows better than in their support of the "State Socialist" model of space exploitation. Giant companies symbiotically joined with giant bureaucracies. Well, the failures of the Space Shuttle program have taught us a lesson about how well that works. And if it's Obama who get it, rather than the supposed party of free markets, well, more power to him.

(This picture has nothing to do with SpaceX; it's the old Delta Clipper. Symbol to me of lost opportunities and squandered decades.)

From the memoirs of Fanny Kemble...

...While we were acting at Liverpool an experimental trip was proposed upon the line of railway which was being constructed between Liverpool and Manchester, the first mesh of that amazing iron net which now covers the whole surface of England and all the civilized portions of the earth. The Liverpool merchants, whose far-sighted self-interest prompted them to wise liberality, had accepted the risk of George Stephenson's magnificent experiment, which the committee of inquiry of the House of Commons had rejected for the government. These men, of less intellectual culture than the Parliament members, had the adventurous imagination proper to great speculators, which is the poetry of the counting-house and wharf, and were better able to receive the enthusiastic infection of the great projector's sanguine hope that the Westminster committee...[Thanks to David Foster at Chicagoboyz]
Posted by John Weidner at 9:12 AM

June 1, 2012

"The motto of the liberal"

Althouse, on NYC Mayor Bloomberg's plan to ban large sugared drinks...

...Elsewhere, "all over the United States," they "are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’” but not in New York. In New York, they are doing something.

Do something — what a wonderful concept, often heard in the old cry for help: "Don't just stand there; do something."

It's the the motto of the liberal. The corresponding motto of the conservative is: First, do no harm. Or to put it in the form that I thought up (in another context) and have adopted as a kind of a personal motto: Better than nothing is a high standard...

"Do something." Or, "First, do no harm." Well, the second one is a bit wiser in general. But it isn't really asking the right question. Because, paradoxically, for conservatism to conserve things, it has to change them—that is, keep adapting them to changing times. You have to keep thinking and working on the things you want to preserve. For instance, "Freedom of speech" means something different now than when I was a boy. Then I was in a culture that had many traditional norms on the limits of speech. Now we have torrents of high-octane porn available at a mouse-click. Even words, like "freedom," have changed their meanings.

So liberals and conservatives are both changing things. So both face the problem of "Inertial Navigation." (Which I wrote abut here.)

...When I ascribe this double phenomenon in Church history, of resistance and subsequent assimilation, to the conservative principle of the Church, I may at first appear to maintain a paradox. It may be urged that the first attitude—of opposition to aggressive novelty—is an exhibition of the conservative principle; but that the second—the subsequent assimilation of portions of what was rejected—is not. To this I would reply that to identify Conservatism simply with the rejection of what is extraneous and new in form is to identify it with a principle of decay. To preserve a building we must indeed resist those who would pull it down; but we must also repair it, replace what is worn out by what is new, and fit it to last in the varying conditions of life. True conservatism involves constructive activity as well as resistance to destructive activity. Periodical reform and reconstruction belong to its very essence...
    -- Wilfrid Ward, From his essay The Conservative Genius of the Church

I like, by the way, Ann's line, Better than nothing is a high standard.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 PM | Comments (0)