Saturday, May 5, 2012

Outsourcing NASA’s Goal of Extraterrestrial Research: Russia’s Role as Commercial Partner

TO: Vice President of the United States of America, Richard Cheney

FROM: Eddie Devere

RE: Direction to Lead NASA

Outsourcing NASA’s Goal of Extraterrestrial Research:
Russia’s Role as Commercial Partner

Executive Summary

The current political situation with regards to NASA is one in which the public has given no mandate. What is clear is your interest in demonstrating your technical finesse and expertise in space policy. This paper outlines the steps that you should take to become a champion of NASA’s goal to focus on extraterrestrial research. In the next four years, many of NASA’s earth observing projects will be turned over to the public section. Dan Goldin has made it NASA’s goal to get out of LEO. NASA could finally focus only on extraterrestrial matters if the cost to LEO were reduced because then more private industries would invest in LEO ventures. Currently, Russian companies hold the key to the cheapest launch vehicles. You can demonstrate your desire to advance the U.S. in space by easing Congress’s fear of technology sharing and by working with key Russian Ministers to allow Russian ICBMs be converted into launch vehicles for American private industries and scientists. The foreseeable reaction by the Republicans in office is that they will argue for budget cuts in NASA when they see certain projects being privatized. Your job will be to champion NASA’s extraterrestrial goals and to shield NASA from the whims of congressional politicians.

This paper presents three space policy proposals. The first is a proposal to assign a Senate task force the responsibility of finding a private company to act as a Center for Technology Transfer in the United States. The second is a proposal to begin a Commission with Russia to determine the feasibility of a joint mission to place a human on Mars by 2009. The third is a proposal for NASA to purchase 20 Dnepr (ex-ICBM) launch vehicles, to ship them to the US and to hold a competition of mission designs for use of the launchers. This paper has determined that the first and third proposals will best suit NASA’s and private industry’s need.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What if the US had launched a military satellite before launching a civilian satellite?

We’ll eventually solve the problem of energy production vs. the environment, so it’s important to focus ahead to where we can grow life in the future. In order to understand where we can go, we have to understand the problems we have already faced in expanding into outerspace. This post address the topic of why the US launched a civilian/scientific satellite after the Soviet Union launch Sputnik rather than a military satellite before Sputnik I&II. The interesting conclusion I make at the end of the post is that the embarrassment in the US of the Sputnik launch could have been avoided if the Army and Navy had been able (or assigned) to work together to launch a scientific satellite (such as to study the Earth's magnetic field) using a Army rocket system. In other words, if the Army and Navy had been able to cooperate, then the US could have easily beat the Soviet Union to launching satellite into space. This is an important lesson to learn because the US might become engaged in another space race (this time with the Chinese) sometime in next few decades. One way to avoid the embarrassment of having the Chinese beat the US to building a Lunar or Martian space colony would be to have multiple US agencies (such as the Navy, the Air Force, and NASA) cooperate together. 

On Eisenhower's Decision to Launch a Civilian/Scientific Satellite before Launching a Military Satellite

To many people in the US, the launching of Sputnik I on October 4, 1957 appeared to directly lead to a crash program for United State's civilian space program to catch up to the Soviets. Sputnik had such a large impact because it seemingly knocked the US image down from the pedestal of technological greatness. However, it's important to note that the US was working on three different options for launching a satellite into orbit before Sputnik was launched. President Eisenhower could have directed the space program on a different path, one where the US launched the first satellite into outer space. President Eisenhower backed the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Special Capabilities, also termed the Stewart Committee for its Chairman Homer Stewart, which had decided to back a largely untested scientific mission associated with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). What is important here is to understand how events led President Eisenhower to place such an important decision in the hands of the eight-man committee. And how critical events after the committee’s decision in August of 1955 did not change the President’s mind to support Project VIKING before or after the launch of Sputnik. This post will examine the key features of each option open to the Stewart Committee, will trace out the affect of their decision, and will explore the advantages and disadvantages that would have stemmed from a 'compromise decision' to launch a NRL satellite on a Army REDSTONE rocket.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Richard Rorty, Feminism & Moral Creativity

Richard Rorty uses his basic pragmatic tenets from Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature to analyze the situation of modern feminism in the speech “Feminism and Pragmatism.” This speech relies on the ideas from philosophers such as John Dewey and Thomas Kuhn. Rorty uses his general abstraction of Kuhn’s idea of scientific revolutions in an application to moral revolution in the public sphere. In doing so, Rorty focuses on feminists as prophets of a new language, who work in small groups to redefine the word ‘woman.’ In a sympathetic, yet critical, response to Rorty’s essay, Nancy Fraser suggests that Rorty’s merger of feminism and pragmatism is too individualistic, concentrating too much on specific, small-scale groups, and lacking an analysis of the collective social movement that she sees feminism to be. This paper will evaluate how, by building off of Kuhn, Rorty sees the need for creativity and imagination in the form of small groups in order to create ‘abnormal’ discourse that will change the public social/moral sphere. This paper will also evaluate how Fraser argues that Rorty has not taken the image of irony to prophets further into the field of politics.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tax Waste, Not Productivity

I've been excited for awhile about the idea of reading a post on "taxing waste instead of taxing income." I see the ability to tax as the ability to destroy demand for a certain product. For example, if you tax income, then you have the ability to destroy demand for income. If you tax waste, then you have the ability to destroy demand for products that produce waste, and shift demand to products that don't produce waste.

So, in this post, I wanted to see if it was possible for the US gov't to replace 100% of the income tax with taxes on waste. Note that the total revenue from income taxes is roughly $1 trillion US dollars, so let's keep that in mind when I discuss the items below.

So, what would I include in my list of potential items to tax:
(These are items that we are hoping get rid by taxing)

1) Municipal Solid Waste
2) Hazardous Waste
3) Nuclear Waste
4) Electronic Waste
5) Medical Waste
6) Industrial Waste (such as slag from steel production and fly ash from solid combustion)
7) Emissions of ozone depleting chemicals
8) Acid Gas Emissions
9) Greenhouse Gas emissions (once we get to the point that the addition of GHG's is net harmful, rather than beneficial. This number is some place between 500 ppm and 1000 ppm.)

Cycles of Autocratic and Weak Regimes in Russian Government

Note: this essay was written in Jan of 2002

“Bourgeois culture does have one massive historical accomplishment to its credit, the neoconservatives argued. It provides an effective moral context for capitalism. With its emphasis on prudence, frugality, punctuality, thrift, piety, neighborliness, responsibility, and industry, it restrains some of the greedy passion that might otherwise make a market economy barbaric.”
David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise

Journalists, such as David E. Hoffman or Paul Klebnikov, are adept at investigating and chronicling the demise of the Soviet Union or even Russia’s decline into the status of a third world country. However, these journalists rarely join the debate about the broader meaning of what they observe. Questions, such as whether there was a workable alternative to the demise, are normally left to political economists to answer. On the other hand, political economists, such as Jeffery Sachs or Anders Aslund, see the big picture, but don’t look at the details close enough to remark on the similarity of the current Russian economy and others in it long history. The American public buys into what journalists feed them more than what political economists write, believing in a Russian state plagued by crime and corruption at the expense of Gorbachev-style democracy. Most Americans want to know whether or not a continuation of Gorbachev-style gradualism would have made for a more civilized transition or would have deepened the crisis. However, the question can better phrased as could the Russian economy have avoided crime and corruption without a return to an authoritarian-police state. The choice was not between shock therapy and gradualism, but rather between feudalism and authoritarianism. The Yeltsin government decided that a return to feudalism, however unstable or detrimental, was more favorable than a return to authoritarianism.

The Origins and Failures of the French Revolution: Segegration, Materialism, & Individualism

“Peculiar, ill-assimilated, and unwholesome liberty prepared the French for the great task of overthrowing despotism, but it made them by the same token less qualified than perhaps any other nation to replace it by stable government and healthy freedom under the sovereignty of law.”[1] This is the general pessimism in Alexis de Tocqueville’s book The Old Regime and the French Revolution. The irony of a despotic government is that it causes a nation to remain despotic even in times of equality. This is why the French did not change much during the French Revolution. De Tocqueville attempts to find the origins of despotism in France, and also attempts to determine how that despotism affected social, political, and intellectual life. The author sees segregation as both a cause and an effect of centralized administration. With this in mind, the author attempts to show how segregation of classes explains the failure of the French Revolutionaries to create a stable French Republic.

This essay discusses the follows topics: the causes of segregation, the crime of segregation, the effects of segregation, how the Old Regime’s bureaucracy took the place of the aristocracy, and finally how centralized authority caused the failure of the first French Republic.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Paternalistic Libertarianism

Are you familiar with the recent economics theories in "paternalistic libertarianism" stemming from the University of Chicago?

The theory goes as follows: 1) people make irrational decision in some areas of their lives (such as saving vs. spending), 2) one of government's role should be to help persuade individuals to act rationally (such as nudging people to save more than spend), and 3) government can do so by giving people options, but the key here is that the default option is the one that nudges them to act rationally (such as save more than spend.)

So why would paternalistic libertarianism be better than just libertarianism?

A basic tenet of Adam Smith is that a 100 specialized individuals creates more products and more value than 100 jack-of-all-trades individuals.

A society of individuals that specialize and focuses on smaller details (rather than being jack-of-all-trades) is quite dependent on their fellow neighbors and their government to focus on all the tasks that individuals living in small tribes have to accomplish. In order to specialize in one area, such as removing brain tumors from woman ages 55-65, an individual has to trust in their fellow neighbors and trust in their government.

The more an individual specializes; the more an individual is dependent on neighbors and government. The idea of pulling one's self up by themselves is meaningless in a society of specialized citizens. If we were all jack-of-all-trades citizens, sure, it makes sense.

In a society of specialized citizens, it takes neighbors, government and the individual to pull one's self out of a job loss in one specialized area and into a job in another specialized area.

The logic is subtle, but I think that there's something here.
Capitalism doesn't work without trust, and it doesn't work without both individual and social responsibilities.