I caught David Limbaugh on Sean Hannity's show yesterday. While hawking his new book, he made an offhand remark that NASA is one of the few things the government does well. This was related to some sort of charges that Obama employed heavy-handed tactics regarding his treatment of the Constellation program.
NASA is something the government does well. Really?
I had long thought that NASA dropped off the learning curve regarding the International Space Station. The plan to have different countries build different modules of the ISS struck me as dumb. Look at the thing. Isn't the hull design a bit Rube Goldberg-ish? I'm no rocket scientist, but it seems plain that a more simplified hull plan would be more cost-effective and more efficient regarding space utilization.
The station should have been built internationally the same way my computer was built. One country builds the hull and chassis (or the rocketry equivalents). One build the solar panels. Others build different sets of internal systems.
Rand Simberg is a rocket scientist, and in 2009 he wrote this article expressing various perceptions about NASA's history. He dishes out criticisms of the Space Shuttle:
We now know that the shuttle was a mistake. It has not lowered the cost of access to space; it has not made access to space more routine; it has not proven safe. The shuttle had to meet too many requirements—it had to be everything for everyone, but on an insufficient budget to do all that was required. Because it had to carry a certain class of classified military payloads, it was very big. Because it originally had no space station to go to, it had to serve as a sort of mini-station itself with a multi-day orbital capability. Early plans to launch the shuttle with booster rockets that could fly back and land on a runway were scrapped in favor of solid rocket boosters that parachuted into the ocean; these had a much higher recurring cost, and one of them destroyed Challenger in 1986. Because of the payload requirement and the lack of funding, the shuttle uses an external fuel tank (the tall, rust-colored part of the shuttle) that is just discarded after each launch; this wastefulness dramatically increased costs, and the tank’s foam insulation was responsible for the loss of Columbia in 2003.
Read the whole thing. There's lots, lots more. One recurring bone of contention is NASA's unwillingness to adopt an all-craft-must-be-reuseable policy.
There are all sorts of folks telling Imam Rauf to build his new mosque in a different location. Is anyone asking him to give it a different name? Naming it after a defunct caliphate that subjugated Westerners is not the way to build bridges to the West. Assuming Rauf really is interested in bridge building.
Imagine if in 1948 some Japanese investors planned to build a Japanese cultural center two blocks from Hickam Field. They give lip service to building bridges without giving any specifics, but the public has no record of the project leader’s views on Japanese-American relations, and doesn’t even know who’s investing in the project. That the investment group is named the Manchukuo Initiative leads many to believe that the leader is quite nostalgic for Japanese imperialism, as Manchuckuo was the name Imperial Japan have to occupied Manchuria. The leader is either a dishonest swine*, or a supremely incompetent diplomat.
(* Allusion to Islamic dietary laws purely accidental.)
Construction of the Manchukuo Center can’t be stopped legally, but after such a faux pas there’s no way it could ever serve as a cultural bridge builder.
Segue to 2010. A mysterious entity plans to build a mosque blocks from Ground Zero. We don’t know anything about this outfit’s philosophy or its source of funding. Imam Rauf plans on calling it the Cordoba Center. According to the New York Times, this name invokes “the city in Spain where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together centuries ago in the midst of religious foment.” Rauf is either a snake-oil salesman or an utter fool; Westerners (aside from the lefty anti-Western-Civ crowd) feel the opposite of nostalgia for a city where Jews and Christians lived under the Islamic thumb.
What is obnoxious is not necessarily illegal. However, there is a separate legal issue, which I cited at ITA and also at Vodkapundit:
There appears to be a legal means of stopping the mosque’s construction: Imam Rauf is a donor to the Free Gaza movement. Citizens may protest in foreign countries [without violating American laws, I should have added], but they’re not allowed to pay people to directly obstruct foreign nations’ law enforcement. That sort of thing is (rightly) what one government does to another. There’s a case to be made that Rauf illegally engaged in conducting foreign policy. I would think that municipalities are authorized to hold up construction permits for persons under felony investigation.
A group of high school students attending a conservative leadership conference in Washington, D.C. said they were ordered by a security guard to stop singing the national anthem during a June 25 visit to the Lincoln Memorial.
U.S. Park Police confirmed that the students were in violation of federal law and their impromptu performance constituted a demonstration in an area that must remain “completely content neutral.”
Someone should find a demonstration-accessible spot and serenade the Park Police with this:
And then lobby for the stupid regulation to be changed.
(Link via Spatula City, whose bloghost is benefiting from the medical properties of duct tape.)
The Cordoba House was supposed to be a monument to religious tolerance, an homage to the city in Spain where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together centuries ago in the midst of religious foment.
TOLERANCE?? They're naming the mosque after the Cordoba Caliphate, where Jews and Christians lived under the yoke of Islamic rule for a century. I guess Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf didn't plan on building any bridges with Spain or Portugal.
Someone should build an International Museum of Bacon on the other side of the mosque.
California Proposition 8 bars the state government from a specific activity (redefining marriage). The law is unconstitutional if the state is obligated to engage in said activity. The law is perfectly constitutional if a) the state is not obligated to engage in said activity, or b) the state has no authority to engage in such activity in the first place. Criterion b) is sufficient to legally uphold Prop 8.
Marriage is a legal and cultural institution as old as civilization. Same-sex "marriage" (SSM) is a concept born some time between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Sex and the City. Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that they're both the same thing. He's not allowed to do that, for at least two reasons: the government owns neither marriage nor the common language.
Society at large owns the institution of marriage. Government has been granted some jurisdiction over it, but it has no ownership. It is not even a custodian, any more than OSHA is custodian over businesses - and OSHA has far, far more authority over its charges than the law has over marriage.
The common language descends from the consent of private individuals, and thus belongs to society, not to government or any other sect.
To name someone or something with the expectation that that name be formally recognized by society is an act of authority over that someone or something. Parents name their children; society accepts those names, hospitals and courthouses record those names in their records.
Government may name only that which it owns, and thus has no jurisdiction over the definition of marriage or any other institution it does not own.
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy I posed the state-authority-over-language argument. Martinned countered by noting that the US Code is "chock full of definitions" - missing the point of who originates language. My response:
The US Code does not change existing concepts. It contains a dictionary of terms; many of these the government uses in the same context as the general population does, some are coined to define specific concepts. “Discovery” in the legal sense is in no way confused with any other concepts we call by that name.
Claire Berlinksi makes an argument in favor. Her argument: the burqa and the niqab are intimately connected with a vicious form of tyranny, emanating from both the private-sector and (in parts of the Islamic world) the public sector. What kind of tyranny? Read the article.
Naturally, most would play the free-exercise-of-religion card. Free exercise is not an absolute. We make an exception where coercion is concerned (churches and everyone else may not engage in racketeering), and over safety issues over which government jurisdiction is recognized (drug laws, building codes).
By that standard, a burqa/niqab ban would be legal only in such cases where physical safety is at issue. Driving is an obvious example.
Berlinksi notes that the government isn't capable of determining which burqa/niqab wearers do so voluntarily and which do so under coercion. But she doesn't point out one problem with anti-veiling laws: they would penalized the victims, not the victimizers. Veiling bans won't change the victimizers. They won't make a single dent in an ideology that humiliates women worse than the worst of Western male chauvinism.