Words of Wisdom from Astronaut / Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins

Eileen Collins’ witness statement from the hearing on “The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the Need for Stability at NASA” in February of this year was short, to the point, and dead on. To whit:

“I believe program cancellation decisions that are made by bureaucracies, behind closed doors, and without input by the people, are divisive, damaging, cowardly, and many times more expensive in the long run. As a shuttle commander, I would never make a huge decision without input from all the experts, even the ones I do not agree with. So what will keep us from having surprises like this that set us back years? Answer: A continuity of purpose over many years, over political administrations, and over normal changes in leadership throughout the chain of command. I know there must be ways to do this through policy, organizational structure, and strong leadership.”

Indeed. I love working at NASA (as a contractor), and I want to continue to love working at NASA. The current administration has not been helpful in this regard.

You can read the entire content here: http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=48489

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Free Enterprise Works – So Let It

Seeing a flurry of social media posts about the minimum wage got me to thinking that it really is a terrible idea to have a federally-mandated minimum wage at all.

Companies should pay wages that are tied to an employee’s skill set and contributions to the company’s success. In fact, they pretty much have to, otherwise employees leave to go work for companies that do. That’s how it should work. Free Enterprise as a system is pretty good at taking care of that. In fact, there’s really no reason in this age to have a federal minimum wage. Federally regulating the wage floor has hurt the U.S., not helped it. It established a “good enough” mentality at which anyone with a W-2 can be content to do the minimum effort needed to get their federally-mandated minimum wage.

We’ve all be victims of this assault on the economy. Workers who give terrible service, who don’t care about making customers happy, etc. They have, I think, the most pernicious and damaging of entitlement mentalities that the government has enabled via bad ideas like a minimum wage.

Anecdotal stories about people making minimum wage after working at McDonald’s for several years says far more about the employee than the employer. I can’t imagine being that ineffective as an employee, or having so little ambition to better my position!

Also, one cannot ignore the fact that arbitrarily hiking the minimum wage for all workers puts people at the lowest income levels OUT OF WORK. The CBO predicted it (http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44995-MinimumWage.pdf), and it has already happened in the states that have raised the minimum wage.

Hopefully Trump and Clinton can read and do the math.

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Blame it on Trump and Clinton: I’ve Become Meme-er

Learn From History

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To Mr. Trump from a fan and a Republican: Stop. Please!

While addressed primarily to Donald Trump, I also have two additional pleas for sanity, one to the other candidates in the Republican primaries, and one to that segment of the voting public who continue to support Mr. Trump.  (N.b.:  If you’re not a voter, none of this will matter to you.)

Donald Trump: I’m a fan of The Apprentice; my wife and I have enjoyed many seasons of both the regular and celebrity flavors of the show. Clearly that sort of thing, like commercial real estate development, is in your wheelhouse. Go back to it, please.  To be blunt, you’re a transparently bad presidential prospect.  You certainly know how to appeal to patriotic emotions and national pride, and so have gained a lot of traction.  Too much traction, I believe, for the good of the American political process in general, and the Republican party in particular.

Initially I, like many others, was excited to have a self-funded candidate in the race. But you have failed — profoundly — to live up to any hopes or expectations I had for a candidate uninfluenced by donors.  I hoped we’d hear good, sound, conservative ideas from you, not colored by the influence of PACs or big spenders on your campaign.  I — we — liked, even loved certain  of your opening salvos, where you spoke with a strong public voice, conveying ideas that have been censored or quashed in current political speech. But once others started speaking, your focus changed completely from what does and can continue to make America great, to what’s wrong with the other guy.

Over the months, this sad shift never has shifted back.  Now you seem to have self-funded not a serious political campaign, but an extravagant self-promotion tour.  I believe this is not an endeavor that educated, thoughtful voters can or should respect.  Your public commentary has become increasingly substance-free, and utterly unencumbered by thoughtfulness or intellectual rigor.

It’s very disappointing.  Not to you, perhaps, but for me and others who know that words matter, that ideas matter, and that a President should be a leader in the mature application of both thought and word.

To be fair, you might actually have some good ideas, but I can’t find my way to them. Spelunking down  the ever-expanding cavern of adolescent, playground-bully-like sound bites you’ve issued forth, any well-thought-out ideas you have on leadership, policy, or getting things done as President are lost to me.

Mr. Trump, it’s not just that the substance of your candidacy is overshadowed by your use of verbal inside fighting and breaking away.  Your words and tactics, even if they are effective, embarrass me.  You appear to revel in actively and selfishly disrespecting your fellow candidates, the primary process, and the voting public.  You would argue that you’re not disrespectful, I’m sure.  But shallow and contrived ad-hominem attacks, carnyesque barking, and regular displays of personal animosity towards your opponents add up to exactly that: disrespect.  You regularly make mean and/or insipid comments that you must know are not true, then try to back away from your words, as if we who hear this verbal bile are at fault for misunderstanding you, that we somehow owe you another chance, because… why?  Because you are rich and independent, and can say what you want?

No, we don’t owe you that, and I for one will not give it to you.

Also, for everyone’s benefit, please stop making remarks of any kind on religious matters or personal faith, unless they are remarks on you and your personal experience with such things.  Nearly every comment I’ve heard from you regarding religion and faith has revealed a stunning level of ignorance.  You know from your business dealings to never pontificate on matters you have no knowledge of, lest you inevitably get caught and lose credibility.  For you,  this is clearly the case when it comes to matters of others’ faith and religion. Candidly, Donald, you come across as mean, vulgar, and stupid when you try.  I expect that from ignorant posters on Facebook, not from a candidate for President of the United States.

Show some maturity.  Own your words, examine yourself, and stop this.  Even better, drop out of the race and go back to things you do well that add value to American life.

Senators Cruz & Rubio, Governor Kasich, Dr. Carson, et al: Please keep talking about the things that truly matter to America and our future. Donald Trump is not one of those.  Engaging Mr. Trump on his level drags everyone down, and makes you individually, and the Republican field as a whole, look foolish.  Being in Texas I’ve already voted, but I will say that the four of you I’ve addressed by name here strike me as excellent candidates, and if the one I voted for does not win the nomination, I’d willingly and enthusiastically support the nominee if indeed it’s one of you.  In fact, I’d have extended that sentiment to some who have dropped out, too.  We had a really good field this time around.  Candidates Christie, Paul, Bush, Fiorina, Perry, Gilmore, and others, thank you for being willing to give it a go.  I hope we see you back again!

It’s very frustrating to me that so many of your good ideas and well-reasoned debates were given so little media coverage because of candidate Trump, the single participant who has failed to impressed me in the ways that matter when choosing a candidate for President.

Finally, to those who continue to support Mr. Trump: I used to get it, I really did.  But that time has long passed. Please, let reason and sound judgment do their work. Throw your support to one of these other candidates; listen carefully to what they say; they are all worthy of the White House, in my opinion.  We have at least four excellent candidates to choose from. Donald Trump can not be counted among them until or unless he exhibits the marks of a great leader, something he has not done in this campaign.  He has been brash, he has been loud, and he has been allowed to get away with too much shouting down others instead of engaging them in the arena of ideas (yes, I just went all Rush Limbaugh there, because Rush is right!)  Let’s not let Donald Trump win the nomination.  Not this way.

It’s time to stop the ongoing childishness.  Let’s discourage Trump-eted tantrums by ignoring them.



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Antonin Scalia’s Dissent on Obergefell v. Hodges

All three dissenting opinions on Obergefell v. Hodges are thoughtful and well-constructed.  Justice Scalia, however, has a knack for getting to the very heart of the matter.  Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas wrote excellent and, I believe, spot-on dissenting opinions.

But Justice Scalia?  Nailed it. The following is an excerpt from his brilliant dissent:

A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

Judges are selected precisely for their skill as lawyers; whether they reflect the policy views of a particular constituency is not (or should not be) relevant. Not surprisingly then, the Federal Judiciary is hardly a cross-section of America. Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single South-westerner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.

The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage. But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not. And to allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.

But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003. They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds—minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly—could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.

The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so.

You can read the court majority’s opinion and all three dissenting ones here:  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf


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logo-vatican  After watching Jacquie Baly​ and Mustafa Tameez spar on the topic this morning (curiously without Chris Tritico​’s usual refereeing; didja oversleep, Chris?), I decided to go look at Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, “On Care for our Common Home”. There’s an awful lot in it that’s not going to be reported on by the news media, but is worth at least scanning.

Okay, yeah, it’s really long, and if you’re not Christian, or you’re rabidly anti-Roman Catholic, you might not care. But I’m telling ya’, there are a lot of provocative and counter-cultural (and thus counter-intuitive) statements that deserve at least some reflection.

As for political preferences and forces (related to global warming or not), Francis gores everyone’s ox. For your consideration:

123. The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

Political left or right, I think we all just got skewered. IMO, regardless of where you fall on politics or religion, there’s some good stuff to chew on in this letter.


Posted on by Keith Chuvala | Leave a comment