Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Giant Leap in the Right Direction

In NASA's new budget, the Constellation program has been cut in favor of funding for commercial space companies. While I am sad to see this program go, let's compare the near-term products of Constellation vs. one of the leading private companies, SpaceX.

Constellation's first goal was the construction of the Ares I rocket, which would've carried a capsule spaceship to the ISS. At the time of its cancellation, it was planned to launch in 2014, although the Augustine Commission reported that it would have been unlikely to fly until 2017. It would've had the capacity to carry 25,000 kg to lower-earth orbit.

SpaceX is also in the process of building a rocket to carry a capsule spacecraft to the ISS, which is called the Falcon 9. Unlike the Ares I though, its first rocket is already on the launching pad, with a launch scheduled sometime in the next month or so. While the first launch will only be able to carry a payload of 10,450 kg, a "Heavy" version is planned for launch this fall with a capacity of 29,610 kg. SpaceX's capsule spacecraft, the Dragon is expected to launch this year, and CEO Elon Musk has stated that the last remaining barrier to a manned mission is the development of an emergency escape system.

So, with the Falcon 9, we're looking at a slightly more powerful rocket that will be launched 4-7 years sooner than NASA's version and will carry a similar spacecraft to similar orbits. Keep in mind that SpaceX is only one many private companies with achievable near-term goals. Why exactly should we pump any more money in to the Constellation Program?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Police raid, rob critical blogger

Carlos Miller passes on this story of Jeff Pataky, a blogger who has made a name for himself by being critical of the Phoenix police. He has grown to the point where he claims he has "50 to 100 retired and active cops" providing him information. He has exposed many cases of police wrongdoing in Phoenix.

Well, the Phoenix police department responded last month by raiding his home, and stealing all of his computer equipment and records. He says they even broke into his safe and stole the backups to all of his files.

So what were the charges? Petty theft - of police name plates, which Pataky has already proven that he made himself - and, get this; "computer tampering with the intent to harass."

In other words, he was raided for "harassing" the police department.

That's scary stuff.

On a side note, does this guy disprove the notion that blogging can't provide investigative journalism?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Are we heading towards fascism?

Will Wilkinson has an interesting post up, debating whether you can classify the direction the United Stats is taking as "fascist."

It is important because strong words like that can evoke strong reactions. Giving people a concrete historical example to tie our current policies to can certainly be useful.

However, strictly philosophically speaking, this argument is irrelevant. When comparing our government's actions with historical examples of "fascism," it struck me that authoritarian micro-management of a country can take on so many flavors, that giving each a name is futile.

That's why, in the last century alone, we have so many names for authoritarianism - fascism, socialism, nazism, communism.

Each incarnation of authoritarianism gives itself a new name, because it believes that it's trying truly new things. "I know centrally planning an economy has failed every time in history, but my ideas are different."

Of course the real point here isn't that the US government is turning itself into some historical bogeyman. It's that all flavors of authoritarianism are, at their root, the same - no matter what they put the emphasis on or what policies they enact. Socialism, fascism, and whatever-you-want-to-call-what-the-US-government-is-doing-ism are all just instances of bloated state control. And none of them work.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Hair-owing Choice

If you still think that there are parts of your life the government can't interfere in; think again.

New Jersey is drawing the line when it comes to bikini waxing.
The state Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling is moving toward a ban on genital waxing altogether after two women reported being injured in their quest for a smooth bikini line.

That's right - in the entire state of New Jersey, population 8.7 million, two people were injured. Clearly, this is an urgent public health issue. Not to mention the fact that both women chose to get brazilian waxes. No one forced them to do it.

This part really pissed me off, though.

Technically, genital waxing has never been allowed — only the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms are permitted

Not because it was ever banned, but because it isn't included in the list of things that can be legally waxed. This is where we are now. Unless the state explicitly says that something is legal, it is automatically illegal.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Weekend Cartoon

"A veteran Scrabble player will spot the 'OSTRICH' option"


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Violence up in Mexico - Solution: More Violence

President Obama was briefed today on the state of the War on Drugs. Some of the awful statistics;
More than 1,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence this year. In 2008, the toll doubled from the previous year to 6,290.

So, does Obama see this and recognize the epic failure of U.S. drug policy, and the extreme negative affects it has on countries such as Mexico? Nope.
"He was very interested in what kind of military capabilities may be applied."

Because if we've learned anything from prohibition, it's that there's simply not enough violence.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What a way to go out!

Man collapses after Viagra fueled 12-hour threesome.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Speechifier in Chief

Gene Healy takes a look at the incredible increase in the importance of presidential speeches over the years.
When 19th-century candidates spoke publicly, they sometimes felt compelled to apologize, as 1872 Democratic contender Horace Greeley did, for breaking "the unwritten law of our country that a candidate for President may not make speeches."

From Washington to Jackson, presidents gave about three speeches a year on average. In his first year in office, President Clinton gave over 600. Things have changed, but it's not clear they've changed for the better.

He adds that Thomas Jefferson;

disapproved of his two predecessors giving the [State of the Union address] in person before Congress assembled. Jefferson saw that practice as "an English habit, tending to familiarize the public with monarchical ideas," much like the British king's "speech from the throne."

So our third president wrote out his SOTU speeches and had them hand-delivered to Congress. The Jeffersonian custom held for over 100 years, until the power-hungry Woodrow Wilson overthrew it. Of 219 SOTUs, only 71 have been delivered in person.

This, however, is the money quote;
Today's president is a constitutional monstrosity: a national talk-show host with nuclear weapons.