Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Count is Now: 90

Nothing torques me more than being treating as an inferior. So Hillary Clinton, maybe for the second time, adds to the Count with this little bit of wit:

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you," Sen. Clinton said. "We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Of course, we should ensure that the wisest among us are the ones who do go to Washington to see to the common good. The wisest should be those who understand that they aren't wise enough to enforce plans that will serve the common good.

Here's another metaphor for statist vs. dynamic (I love ya, Virginia) thinking. Government spending on programs is like using a sledgehammer, great if you have one problem, like a rock, sitting in one place that you can swing at. Most problems, however, are spread out, they are more like jagged edges and smooth surfaces. Hitting them with a sledgehammer may obliterate the old imperfections quickly, but at the cost of making new imperfections. Let people keep the power of their earned wealth to themselves, applying it in small (compared to the government, even Bill Gates is small) increments. This method is like sandpaper. You can never really see what each grain is doing, but with patience the imperfections are smoothed away without making new problems that are as big or bigger than what came before.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

I would like to stop down for a moment and wish my parents, Larry and Eleanor, a very happy 35th wedding anniversary. Life has been far from perfect throughout my life (for my readers: I am 31 and the eldest child, so you can see they got it done in the right order) but that just serves to highlight why this marriage is such an amazing thing.

Among my friends it is a rare thing to find anyone whose parents are still together. My friends Dave and Teala, after meeting my parents for the first time, have expressed wonder to me over how a pair of people like my parents could manage to produce a square such as myself. I can only shrug and point to a good upbringing, but then you can see who is responsible for that.

I would like to invite whomever is reading today to lift up their beverage of choice and join me in a toast (it is 10:30 am here in California, so its Diet Pepsi currently) to Larry and Eleanor. Thanks for always being there with either the hand up or boot to the rear as apporpriate.


With Love,

Federalism for an Analog World

Andrew Sullivan's latest article takes a pragmatic view of marriage rights and how a federalist system allows for social change without he jarring shock of an all-or-nothing decision. The best that I can say is right-on, I haven't had any coffee yet this morning and the wheels have yet to start spinning.

Like everything else in the world, rights can be included in a cost/benefit check. Would you value a given right enough to move to another place that offers it to you? You would have to weigh it against all of the other factors involved in moving: would your carreer take a hit? Would you leave family and friends behind? Would you tolerate the weather where you are going? Essentially, it all comes down to how much you are willing to pay for that right.

This is not to say that if one chooses not to pay by moving that one should forever surrender the hope for that right. One could pay for the chance of having the right by continuing to be active in bringing it about in their locality. The cost there is time spent lobbying and probably the hostility of those who oppose you. Hopefully we are more enlightened now than in the time of the Freedom Marches when the law looked the other way as crimes were committed against those who rallied for justice.

As for those on the ban-it-everywhere bandwagon, you too would have the freedom under a federalist system to move yourself to where your marriage would be protected from those who would corrode the institution (how it would be corroded, I don't know). For your sake, I hope you like either humidity (Deep South) or snow (rural Northwest).

Friday, June 25, 2004

A One Stop Source...

For all of the information members of the Democratic Party had admitted to having prior to the Iraq Invasion.

Perry on Politics: Gored

As has been said before: never say something that you know can be contradicted by something you said earlier. That is why before I started this blog, I had decided to never seek elective office. Of course, should the nuances change sometime in the future, I might reconsider that position.

Pitching in the Two Cents

The Professor at Instapundit.com has a section on various observations regarding Space Ship One. I'd just like to pass on one point from a conversation at Lone Wolf Cigars in Santa Monica.

Some people may gripe that SS1 is small and can only hold three people and is incapable of carrying any type of payload. In my mind, this is just another case of modern lack of gratification delay. Take a look at the differnce between the Wright Flyer and and the variety of aircraft available by World War II. Being the first to do something rarely involves actually making it useful. The point of being first is to prove the concept, that something is possible. It comes to hundreds and thousands of other people to take that possibility and improve on it, round off the corners, if you will.

I think I had better start taking better care of my health, because I want to be around after another fifty years to see just what we'll have flying by then.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Monday, June 21, 2004

Greetings from Mojave

I had the pleasure this morning of attending the Launch of Space Ship One (SS1) from Mojave Airport, which has just recently won approval from the FAA as the first inland spaceport in the country. What follows are a rough transcription of the notes I made as the morning went along.

Note: Go to the bathroom and grab a fresh cup of coffee, this is going to take a while.

3:45 a.m.
I am beginning to wonder if hitting the snooze bar at 2:00 may have cost me a parking space as the line to get onto Mojave Spaceport (I love writing that) stretched back at least a mile. The parking lot opened 45 minutes ago, and it seems that most of the LA basin is showing up. Fortunately there is still plenty of room in the well organized parking lot. Commendations to the Civil Air Patrol members who were directing traffic.

4:30 a.m.
I headed for the one lighted area that I could see, which turned out to be a concession stand and memorabilia shop. Even here with the sales matters were well organized, with a line for those paying with cash and those with credit. Sadly, in respect to the rate of movement, the cellular card readers gave those in the credit line little love, myself included. However, I got my cap and travel coffee mug, and I was good to go.

I should note that I was feeling particularly good for 4:30 in the morning and three hours of sleep. It was the excitement in the air, the 24 Oz. of Mocha Alert (Instant Cappucino with extra caffeine), or both.

The sun had yet to rise, but we are treated to a very clear view of Venus over the eastern horizon. There was a slight breeze, enough to make me glad of the sweatshirt I had bought, but the forecast was for the wind to die down shortly after sunrise.

The following is more directly from my notebook:
5:10 a.m.
I'm not sure which runway is going to used, Presumably runway A. The wind is coming from the north, and I am standing at the northernmost end of the viewing area. I'm probably a dozen or so people back in the crowd behind people who had the foresight to get here earlier and to bring camp chairs. It is no big deal that I will be standing the whole time, this should be worth it.

I figure that everyone will be standing when White Knight/ Space Ship One taxi by. At that point, being 6 Ft. 5 in. tall will have yet another advantage.

I'm standing next to a family that have chairs, binoculars, and, coolest of all, a receiver picking up the tower frequency. The mother just commented on the no one writes anymore (this is first draft in a notebook with a fountain pen, I love the classics), but I told her that this would go up on my weblog.

Sorry, folks, no pictures here, wouldn't know how to upload them, but I'll link to others as I find them. (Update 7-1-04: Found some damn good ones via Samizdata.net)

5:30 a.m.
I just realized while this is a historic first, this is still exciting because this is a space launch. I've been out at Edwards AFB a couple of times for landings. The first time was when President Reagan was present, and the second time on the spur of the moment when the shuttle had to be diverted from Cape Canaveral about four years ago. The second time was better, better view, and better point of view and appreciation from having studied engineering and the whole space program.

Still, those were both coming down. While tricky, its still the more natural of the two necessary operations: coming and going. The launch is where the power is, the sheer defiance, maybe hubris, in the whole project.

5:39 a.m. and the sun is just crowing over the horizon. Someone mentions this is the Summer Solstice. Since my best friends got married on the Solstice, and that I can never remember these dates precisely, I always use that as their anniversary, so Happy Anniversary Dave and Teala.

Okay, back to the reportage and awaiting the karmic payback for using the word "hubris" in a blog post.

5:45 a.m.
Music is now being played over the make shift PA system.

Good clear day as the sun clears the horizon. I can make out the windmills in Tehachapi from here. According to the Airport Manager, the conditions should be good for contrails, and White Knight (WK) will pop smoke near launch.

5:55 a.m.
Stewart Witt, the General Manager of the airport came on the PA to announce the launch is a go.

Later this afternoon there will be a small ceremony to officially proclaim Mojave Airport as the first inland spaceport in the country. Just getting anything through the FAA is worth a celebration in itself.

Just a side note, I would wager there are more digital cameras than film-loaders here. Obviously there are professional rigs out here, but the spectator contingent is almost all digital. No real importance with respect to the goings on, but I found it interesting none the less.

6:15 a.m.
Message off the PA: we are still go with White Knight/ Space Ship One (WK/SS1) taxiing out at 6:30 - 6:45. Should we expect this to happen right on schedule? Probably not, even the routine tech of commercial airlines is subject to delays. Regardless, both should be a damn sight more reliable than the Space Shuttle. I hope, I hope.

6:27 a.m.
PA of Kevin Mickey, VP of Scaled Composites: White Knight has started its engines in the Scaled Composites Hangar.

Dick Rutan, brother of SS1 designer Burt Rutan and pilot of the Voyager, has taken the podium, and has reported that the re-entry point is calm. He then went on to describe how Scaled Composites was the first to enter the X-Prize competition in 1996. When Dick asked Burt how he came up with these almost nonsensical designs, Burt replied with a quote I want to make into a poster:

The ability to deal with chaos and nonsense defines creativity.
-Burt Rutan

Emphasize "make shift" with respect to the PA, it sounds like a bad cell phone connection.

Cogent observation by Dick Rutan: This is the first manned US spaceflight in over two years. Recall: the Space Shuttle has been grounded since the Columbia.

6:36 a.m.
The first chase plane taxis out. It is a prop plane capable of aerobatics and will handle the chase through the lower altitudes.

White Knight/ SS1 has come onto the runway. White Knight is a short, twin tailed, twin jet engine, single fuselage craft that is almost surrounded by SS1.

The second chase plane, a Rutan design called the Starship, looks like a Gulfstream, except for the twin pusher props behind the back set main wing and canard along the nose. This one is the mid altitude chaser.

WK/SS1 will have a take off weight of 18,000 lbs. A long roll-out is expected.

6:46 a.m.

White Knight/Space Ship One is airborne.

It is expected to take one hour to reach the 47,000 foot launch elevation.

6:57 a.m.
The Starship has joined the formation and they are rapidly diminishing into the clear sky.

The final chase plane is called the Alpha Jet and has just taxied by. Two man, one engine jet to accompany WK/SS1 up to the launch altitude.

7:00 a.m.
Alpha jet takes off. It does gain altitude rapidly.

7:10 a.m.
Elevation approximately 30,000 feet. Even from this far the Rutan designs of the Starship and WK/SS1 are still distinctive. This launch is a great day, not only for private enterprise or the Antelope Valley, but also for the local chiropractic community. All of the neck craning is going to be awesome for their business.

Alpha jet has reached altitude and is drawing contrails. While everyone was looking at that, we lost track of WK/SS1.

The launch of SS1 will be to and toward the east in the direction of California City.

7:20 a.m.
WK/SS1 and Starship are contrailing, evidently Starship has separated. In fact, three contrails are intermittently visible. WK/SS1's is the most clearly visible.

7:42 a.m.
Needless to say, it is difficult following the planes toward the sun. The contrails are washed out. WK should pop smoke soon.

Announcement: 8 minutes to launch.

7:50 a.m.
Main separation of WK/SS1 and SS1 engine ignition. From the angle of the viewing area, it looks as if SS1 is climbing straight for the sun. First word from my neighbor with the radio is that the engine cut off prematurely and that the pilot is trying to check the fuse box to relight it. [This report is erroneous, there was a fuse problem with some of the surface controls.]

7:58 a.m.
A sonic boom rolls across the airfield. Everyone around me is still uncertain if the 100 kilometer mark was reached. The last rumor I heard was 210 thousand feet at 5 G's. Well short of the 330 thousand mark. Radio has 219 thousand.

8:10 a.m.
Waiting for some sort of announcement over the PA and for the planes to come back down. Some of my neighbors are discussion metric conversions. I am wishing I had a camera with me, SS1 and all three of its chase planes flew right overhead. The prop plane is in tight formation and has popped smoke.

8:14 a.m.
SS1 lands. Beautiful landing, almost right in front of me.

8:15 a.m.
WK executes a high bank turn to prepare to loop back for a landing.

8:19 a.m.
WK touches down.

8:20 a.m.
Flyby of the three chase planes.

PA has it that it may have been a trim system and not the engine that cut out and that they did hit the 100 kilometer mark.

Still quite a bit of uncertainty about if the mark has been hit. The PA is announcing matters as if the flight was a success. Given the amateur status of my radio operator, I will go with the official read of the PA. Success!

Either way, that is the most fun I've had before 8:30 a.m. and on four hours sleep.

The pilot of SS1, Mike Melvill, claims 340,000 feet.

8:45 a.m.
SS1 with Mike Melvill atop is towed by the public viewing area. They pulled the craft to about ten yards from the boundary ropes. Much cheering and hoopla.

Mr. Melvill had a sign on his victory lap on his ship that read:

Space Ship One
Government Zero

That was probably the best point of the whole exercise.

Update: From some of the scuttlebutt Dale Amon picked up, it looks like my amateur radio operator was not all that wrong. The engine cut out approximately 15 seconds before schedule. It would certainly explain whatever changes in vectors that would result in a 26 mile divergence from the re-entry box. I too heard on the immediate repeat of communication with the tower that there were trim problems on the way back to the spaceport. It was toward that problem that the instructions to check the circuit breakers came from.

Friday, June 18, 2004

What to Make of This?

CNN.com - Putin: Russia warned U.S. of Iraq terror - Jun 18, 2004

I'm scratching my head on this one.

What Would They Be Left Thinking?

I refer to all of those people who only got news from CBS. If this is the report on the report of the 9/11 commission, then you are going to have a lot of Americans with a seriously off view of the world. Even Mickey Kaus calls a foul on this one, and he is an ostensible liberal in most matters.

Screw "Enlightenment"

Back in the day, well before yours truly came along, it was the way of America that if a foreign agency kidnapped or harmed on American citizen, then America would exact a steep price. The government would accept a raid to rescue two hostages at the cost of twenty Marines.

Somewhere around the Carter Administration we lost that will. We became enlightened and transcended the need for brute force. It is the enlightenment that our allies in France and Germany and our own peace acitvist crowds want us to hew to.

After hearing about the death of Paul Johnson, an American civilian, I had to wonder at just what cost we are purchasing this enlightenment. Unlike most atrocities committed by Al Qaeda, this one was the follow-up to an act of extortion: do what we want or this person dies. If this is the rule of this war, that civilians may be targetted to achieve political or military aims, then so be it.

If it is discovered where Mr. Johnson was held and murdered, then that block and every block next to it should be bombed flat. An announcement should then be made: This is what happens if you allow terrorists to operate in your neighborhood. If you do not harbor terrorists, then this shall not happen to you. If you do harbor men such as this, then this is the price you and everyone around you shall pay.

This is not sinking down to the level of the terrorists. This groups demand was that other terrorists be released from prison, conceivably in order to continue the fight. Our demands would have the goal of denying the enemy a place to hide, and thus ending the fighting all the quicker. I would hold that the do it quickly method would result in fewer net casualties, although it would come in one big photogenic event, rather than spread out in drips and drabs.

If the US is pursuing a policy of torture in its interrogations, I would regret it. However, I would regret more an attack that could have been thwarted if only our side had the information that could not be gotten with kid gloves.

Via the Drudge report I have a link to some of the photos put on the web by the murderers. WARNING: Extremely Graphic Andrew Sullivan expresses doubt that these pictures will get nearly the play that photos from Abu Ghraib received. I have the same doubts, yet people need to understand what we are fighting. I would like people to look at these photos, and then shut the hell up about what seems thus far in the photos little more than fraternity hazing stunts.

We can live in a state of enlightenment in peace. When attacked by those who call that same enlightenment a weakness, however, then we must show how we earned that enlightenment. We earned elightenment because we have been that barbaric, and were very, very good at it. So good at it that we would have destroyed the world had we not become enlightened. We earned that enlightenment because we survived barbarity. We now fight a foe who does not understand the power that is constrained only by our desire to be enlightened. Our enemy has not yet tasted the full cost of his barbarity, and my suggestion to level nine city blocks is far below the line of what we could acheive.

Update: Michele at A Small Victory posts a pair of posts that show that I am not the only seeing the difference enlightenment makes. I'm afraid that I have turned that corner, or at least 45 degrees of it. If the United States gives up some of its power in the form of allowing the terrorists the choice: kill any of our people and the result will be the flattening of some of your neighborhoods, and proved that if A then B a couple of times, then the Arab Street can truly make an informed choice as to the cost of this war, the cost of allowing the barbarous among them.

I won't bactrack to Michele on this post because of her feelings on posting or linking to the picture. I don't do so to be gruesome. I do so to drive home the point of the cost of our enlightenment. When we come out of the far side of this war, I will remember the price we paid. That is a solemn oath.

My belated condolences to the Johnson family.

A tip of the hat to Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, and Dean Ing for the description of man's reason to give up war as being just too good at it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Fickle as the Winds

Granted, any report about media bias is meta-reporting. I just can't make out why a story ceases to be newsworthy. If this report is true, then maybe it is a case of bad news selling better than good news. In that case I would like to complain, as many who consider themselves liberal do, that corporate interests are skewing what the news reports.

I say that the previous owners of the big media outlets be brought back on board. You remember them, the ones that could not stop crowing about how the economy was going great guns in the 90's despite the prognositcators who pointed at the huge technology bubble. We just need to get rid of the new corporate influences who took over sometime around the last presidential election. These guys just can't seem to stand considering even the biggest pieces of positive information newsworthy. Evidently the MS (Microsoft) of MSNBC has not sold out of the venture yet. Like Bill Gates sells anything.

Friday, June 11, 2004

The Historical Horizon

Vindication in politics takes a really long time to come along. Andrew Sullivan posted a number of published quotes from the Reagan years that display the hand-wringing and worrying about a cowboy president who had us on the brink of war with the Soviets.

Was it just me (and Andrew, you're not fooling anyone) or has anyone else noticed the similarity between these quotes and the rhetoric thrown at President Bush today?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Did You Hear that Reagan Died?

I know that Ronald Reagan had done the most as President as any other President in the Twentieth Century. While at the time it seemed reckless to be baiting the Soviets (remember them?) and to cut taxes while spending hugely on defense projects, we have gotten past the historical horizon where we can see what the actual results of his policies were. In that respect, thank God for Ronald Reagan.

On the other hand, will someone please tell CNN that there has to be SOMETHING else going on in the world? Even I'm getting sick of the wall to wall coverage. I wouldn't want to accuse CNN of being ghoulish about the death of the icon of Conservatism, but...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

About Fricking Time

From the better late than never column:

CIA chief Tenet resigns - Jun 3, 2004

Now if the Bush Administration would have just fessed up and said that the guy had just flat screwed up too many times and that they canned his ass, then they can get back to regaining they face they think they are still trying to save.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

And This Guy Was In Charge of Bringing Us the Truth

Former Executive Editior of the New York Times Howell Raines has a column up on The Guardian of the UK.

I'll sight from one of Andrew Sullivan's takes on the article:

Reading it is a very useful insight into how he turned the New York Times into a crusading left-populist pamphlet. Take Iraq. Of course Raines opposed the war. The notion that he might have supported it under any circumstance while Republicans were in power is ludicrous. No doubt he takes the New York Review line that we should get out now. But then he's criticizing the Bush administration for a "cut-and-run" strategy:
White House strategists are betting that leaving Iraq in 30 days - no matter what chaos ensues in that country - will leave them time to revise history between now and election day and, more importantly, get on with the work of destroying Kerry's image.

Let's look at that quote again: "... leaving Iraq in 30 days ..." The question is: does Raines believe this? If he does, he believes keeping up to 140,000 troops in a foreign country is the same as "leaving" it. Now imagine that the Bush administration decided not to transfer sovereignty and remain in control of Iraq for another year. Do you think Raines would support them? The truth is: Raines would oppose any policy in Iraq as long as it was pursued by the Bush administration. And that was indeed the rule during his editorship: the Bush administration was wrong and evil, whatever it did.

Andrew made another point about another section of the column, quoted below, that I would like to add my two cents to.
As matters now stand, Kerry has assured the DLC, "I am not a redistributionist Democrat."

That's actually a good start. Using that promise as disinformation, he must now figure out a creative way to become a redistributionist Democrat. As a corporation-bashing populist, I'd like to think he could do that by promising to make every person's retirement as secure as Cheney's investment in Halliburton. But that won't sell with the sun-belt suburbanites. Not being a trained economist like, say, Arthur Laffer, I can't figure out the exact legerdemain that Kerry ought to endorse. But greed will make folks vote for Democrats if it's properly packaged, just as it now makes them vote Republican, and in terms of the kind of voters Kerry must win away from Bush, I think the pot-of-gold retirement strategy is a way to work. Forget a chicken in every pot. It's time for a Winnebago in every driveway.

So does Mr. Raines believe that it is appropriate for a Democratic candidate to pander to the populace's greed so that the party can later ram down what said populace really needs down their collective throats? And should it not be the duty of a self-respecting newspaper man to uncover such "disinformation"? Is it any wonder that the New York Times has earned the reputation of the Newspaper of Record for the Democratic Party.

Edited because the second quote seemed to be from Andrew as opposed to the proper attribution going to Mr. Raines.

Definition of Success

Members of the Provisional Iraqi government have already gone on record that the United States have not done enough to improve security throughout the country. They have legitimate grievances against us for what happened in Abu Ghraib prison.

And so long as they are not willing to pay for terrorists to advance their political causes or to use murder as a standard procedure for dealing with those who disagree with them, I would still count the US action in Iraq a success.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Long Road Back

I was really into blogging about a month ago. And then I went into therapy, and now I blog a lot less. Let the wags wag, but for me I realize that it was part of a problem that I had with myself, my job, and my life.

In essence, I was using the blog as a means of hiding from the rest of the world while in theory facing it head on. For now, this means that I am going to be blogging on a less frequent basis than I was in the past. Mainly this is because my paper journal has been getting the attention. Nothing against any of you who have been checking in over time, just that the realizations I have been making over the past few weeks are more of the keep-it-to-myself variety.

On the other hand, does anyone out there know of a place in the Southern California area looking for a slightly used Materials Engineer?