Patterico's Pontifications


John Hurt, RIP

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:35 pm

John Hurt has long been among my favorite actors. The last movie I watched was actually a movie I re-watched: V for Vendetta (I even blogged about it here, barely over a week ago.) I enjoyed Hurt in The Elephant Man, Alien, Midnight Express, and the Harry Potter movies. But one performance I doubt many will remember, but which sticks out in my head, is his performance in the three-part TV mini-series Crime and Punishment. I remember watching that with my family as an 11-year-old child in Fort Worth, sitting in front of the TV with my back against the ugly round bright orange footrest that sat in the middle of our family room floor, and watching Hurt as Raskolnikov. It was transfixing and it made me want to watch other movies with Hurt. (Old-timers will recall that it wasn’t so easy to do that in 1979 with a snap of your fingers.)

Rest in peace.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Remembering Apollo 1, 50 Years Later

Filed under: General — JVW @ 4:01 pm

[guest post by JVW]

I want to draw everyone’s attention to a terrific comment from our fellow commenter DCSCA, who earlier today reminded us that we are observing the 50th anniversary of the tragic launchpad fire which killed the Apollo 1 crew: Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. Here is DCSCA’s comment in full:

If I may, some words this Friday, January 27th about another Friday, January 27th.

The Fire.

That’s all you have to say to anybody familiar with America’s space program. They know the rest. And if alive at the time, likely remember where they were and what they were doing when they got the word. The date, January 27, 1967. The place, Cape Canaveral’s launch complex 34. The time, 6:31 PM, EST. The astronauts lost: Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee– the crew of Apollo 1.

Today marks half a century since they were killed in that flash fire inside their command module, testing systems to be used only weeks later in what was planned to be the first flight of America’s three-man Apollo spacecraft. The nation was stunned and the accident brought America’s $24 billion moon program to a dead stop. And the chances of reaching the moon by 1970 appeared bleak that cold, winter evening.

Space enthusiasts still wince recalling it. I was eating dinner with my family when the phone rang; a classmate called to pass the word. He choked up. I did as well. Sounds a little hokey today. But the space race was very much a part of the lives of America’s youngsters back then and loomed large in the schools, the pop-culture and the hobbies we pursued in that era.

The initial TV bulletins were curt and cryptic. By late evening, the network news specials aired, some of which can be found on YouTube today. It still stings to view them; the discomfort evident in the faces of the reporters. In the immediate aftermath, the crew was memorialized across the country. Grissom, one of the ‘Original Seven’ Mercury astronauts, and Air Force space rookie Chaffee, were interred at Arlington. White, America’s first spacewalker, was buried at West Point. A board of inquiry was established and the scorched spacecraft itself was carted off and dismantled, bolt by bolt.

Months of Congressional testimony followed as investigators sought to determine what happened and why. A massive report was written uncovering design flaws and shoddy workmanship. The crew had suffered burns but died of asphyxiation. The hatch was complicated, opened inward and pressure made it impossible to open fast. The fire itself was likely caused by a spark from frayed wiring and fueled by the pure oxygen of the single gas system used in the spacecraft to breathe and flammable items in the cabin. It was ‘go fever’ — a disaster waiting to happen.

The rest is history. A redesigned hatch that opened outward was installed; a safer, two gas system using oxygen and nitrogen to breathe was added and wiring bundles, along with other components, were enhanced and fireproofed. So by October, 1968, Apollo 7 orbited Earth; at Christmas, Apollo 8 reached lunar orbit and by July, 1969, Apollo 11 placed Americans on the moon. But ask any of the technicians, engineers and managers at NASA and their contractors at the time, and they will tell you that without the Apollo 1 fire, the United States would likely have not succeeded in reaching the moon before the end of the 1960’s.

Over the decades since, thousands of pages have been written and hours of film have been aired about an accident which began and ended in about 12 seconds. Most of the eyewitness descriptions have been brief, terse and as it turns out, accurate. In recent years the audio of the accident has become available on wikipedia and YouTube. Google ‘Apollo 1 audio’ to find it. It still grits the teeth to hear and elicits a feeling I’ve only experienced twice since that day- when Challenger and Columbia were lost.

Today the Apollo 1 spacecraft remains disassembled, locked in a government warehouse in Langley, Virginia. It is rarely seen by the public. Only this month, NASA announced plans to display Apollo 1’s ill-fated hatch alongside Challenger and Columbia artifacts. What remains of the Florida launch pad pedestal is now a cement memorial, with the words ‘Abandon In Place’ stenciled across it.

But the crew is remembered. And among the mementos left by Armstrong and Aldrin at Tranquility Base, is an Apollo 1 flight patch. For they knew they’d never have gotten there without the sacrifice of their colleagues, Grissom, White and Chaffee, fifty years ago this day.

Ad Astra, guys.

Thanks, DCSCA, for that poingant reminder of American heroes.

[Cross-posted at the Jury Talks Back.]


Are Republicans Changing Their Policy Views to Fall Behind Trump?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:30 am

The New York Times claims they are. In an article titled Republicans Now Marching With Trump on Ideas They Had Opposed, the Gray Lady paints a picture of a compliant GOP, abandoning core principles willy-nilly to conform to Trump’s policy views:

Republican lawmakers appear more than ready to open up the coffers for a $12 billion to $15 billion border wall, perhaps without the commensurate spending cuts that they demanded when it came to disaster aid, money to fight the Zika virus or funds for the tainted water system in Flint, Mich. They also seem to back a swelling of the federal payroll that Mr. Trump has called for in the form of a larger military and 5,000 more border patrol agents.

They have stayed oddly silent as Mr. Trump and Senate Democrats push a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, larger than one they rejected from President Barack Obama. Once fierce promoters of the separation of powers, Republicans are now embracing Mr. Trump’s early governing by executive order, something they loudly decried during Mr. Obama’s second term.

I’ve worried since May 3 that the Republican party would fall in line behind Trump’s policies, even when they contradicted their own past positions. But the reality is not quite the way the Times portrays it. Let me take a couple of examples from the above two paragraphs. Here’s Mitch McConnell on December 12, being somewhat less than “oddly silent” on the infrastructure plan:

“I think the details are really important, but I hope what we clearly avoid — and I’m confident that we will — is a trillion dollar stimulus that will take you back to 2009,” McConnell said, arguing that the projects the 2009 stimulus produced few tangible results to sustain a long-term recovery.

“So we need to do this carefully and correctly and the issue of how to pay for it needs to be dealt with responsibly,” he added.

That doesn’t seem like odd silence to me. Then we have the claim that Republicans are “embracing Mr. Trump’s early governing by executive order.” The claim has a hyperlink to this New York Times article, which portrays Republicans as divided, not “embracing” Trump’s policies in toto. Here’s a quote from that previous article. Remember, the article containing this quote was linked by today’s to prove that Republicans are embracing Trump’s executive overreach:

But some Republicans are wary too. Even as they welcome the opportunities opened up by having an ally in the White House, some worry that the continued emphasis on executive actions is just another step in the dilution of legislative power.

“We need to go back to being the legislative branch,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican opposed to a potential executive order by Mr. Trump that would end a special program allowing younger illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. “We didn’t like this when Obama was doing it, so why should we accept it now?”

Other Republicans were hoping the start of a new administration would allow a reset between the executive branch and a legislative branch that has seen its influence steadily erode as lawmakers surrender power and responsibility to the administrative side. Mr. Trump’s broad assertion of executive power could make any rebalancing difficult to achieve, though lawmakers say they intend to keep pushing.

“The imperial presidency was not created overnight and it will not be undone overnight,” said Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, who is leading an effort called the Article I Project to try to recapture some lost authority for the House and Senate.

Even the claims in the previous article that some Republicans were caving on executive power were unconvincing:

The health care executive order issued by Mr. Trump last week directed federal officials to find ways to minimize the financial burden of the health care law on governments, health care providers and others. Many saw the move as a backdoor attempt by the new White House to undermine the current law of the land while Republicans try to figure out a way to repeal it.

It was the reverse of the type of action Republicans criticized President Obama for — using his executive powers to prop up the health care law without sufficient authority. But there were no loud complaints from Republicans this time, a fact not lost on Democrats.

Nothing about Trump’s executive order was the “reverse” of Obama’s orders, but the reporter did not seem to understand this. To the extent the order could be interpreted as constitutionally objectionable, it would be because it could be read as providing authority to delay certain parts of the law — the very same thing Obama did, not the “reverse.” I have urged a “wait and see” attitude regarding those executive orders, because we don’t know exactly what they would do . . . and nobody is accusing me of being a Trumpkin.

I guess the author of today’s hit piece didn’t expect us to follow the link. She also doesn’t seem to understand that reversing unconstitutional executive orders is not an abuse of power:

Also notable is the Republicans’ acceptance of something they have despised: the use of the executive pen to make policy. Several House Republicans dismissed the notion that Mr. Trump would abuse his power to issue executive orders in the way they complained that Mr. Obama did during his second term.

“What you do by the pen can be dismantled by the pen,” said Representative Tom Reed of New York.

That’s a Republican rejecting something he despised, not accepting it. He’s saying that if Obama signed illegal executive orders with his pen, they can be undone by Trump’s pen. Is this really so hard to understand?

It’s not all garbage, of course. This shot hits the mark:

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, whose own website this week still praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, now applauds Mr. Trump for putting the final shovel of dirt over the accord, with the president saying he is interested in bilateral agreements instead.

There are other points, too, about attitudes towards Russia and torture, that have some basis in reality. But overall, the reality does not match the portrayal by the Times.

The notion that Republicans will twist themselves into pretzels to line up with Trump’s agenda is a real concern. But this article doesn’t prove it has happened to any significant degree.

Vigilance is good. Let’s make sure we are honest as we remain vigilant. This article does not meet that standard.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]

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