“It’s Just Property.”


The suggestion has been made that destroying property, which can be replaced, is not “violence.” Others have suggested that since it’s not “violence” per se, it’s perfectly acceptable as political protest.

Okay, strictly speaking “crimes against property” are not “crimes against persons”–property crimes vs. violent crimes.  However, the idea that this makes it a perfectly valid form of political protest is ridiculous.

One thing people bring up is the Boston Tea Party.  I have dealt with the Boston Tea Party before and it is in no way comparable to the riot, vandalism, and looting currently going on.  In the Boston Tea Party they were organized.  They very carefully limited their damage to the specific thing against which they were protesting (the tea of the British East India company which had the backing of the British government).  One man who attempted to keep some of the tea for his own use was prevented from doing so.  Damage done to property not of the British East India company, specifically a padlock they had to break to gain access to the tea, was replaced the next day.  Nobody was hurt and nothing other than the specific target of their protest was damaged.  And nobody used it as an excuse to enrich himself by looting.

But let’s address the idea that property is replaceable.  The specific items might be replaceable, but what you cannot replace, what no one can replace, is the time and effort, the bits of my own life, that went into obtaining that property. That is gone forever and I can never get it back. So, by destroying or taking that property, what you are doing is taking those bits of my life away, and neither you nor anyone else can ever replace them.

And here’s the thing, the only way I can replace the specific items damaged or taken is by spending more bits of my life to acquire them.  They don’t magically reappear by the wave of a hand.

“But…insurance” some will say.  The problem there is that insurance. costs. money.  More bits of my life spent to “protect” my property from people like you (person in the article linked above).  And the more property you damage, the higher the “risk” the insurance companies have to assess, and thus the higher the premiums I have to pay–the more “bits of my life” that have to be spent to protect other bits of my life from you.  Mind you, depending on how the risk pools are generated I, personally, might not have to pay the full cost of the increased risk.  Other people whose risks weren’t increased may be assessed higher premiums to cover my increased risk caused by people like you.  In that case, you’re not taking bits of my life.  You’re taking bits of their lives.  It’s no better for your case.

“But…government.  Government can reimburse the loss.” And once again, that merely changes whose lives you’re taking bits from.  Government doesn’t magically create the stuff for reimbursement from nothing.  People still have to be put to work producing that stuff.  And if government is paying for it, that means people have to be taxed (or worse, the currency inflated) to pay for it.  That’s pieces of all those people’s lives taken away because “it’s just property and property can be replaced.”

You might try to salve your conscience by saying that all this activity replacing stuff that’s jobs for lots of people.  That’s good for the economy.

Only it isn’t.  It’s the Broken window Fallacy.

You see (if you didn’t bother to watch the video, I’ll sum up the conclusion here):  All the economic activity that stems from replacing the lost stuff (repairing the broken window in the video), could just as well have stemmed from producing new stuff.  We, as a nation, are poorer by the amount of new stuff (and that includes goods and services both) we could have produced with the resources instead used to replace lost stuff. (BTW, the bad guy in The Fifth Element was clearly all-in on the Broken Window Fallacy.)

By rioting, burning, looting, and vandalizing, you are making our people poorer, not just “the wealthy” (however you define that term this week) but everyone.  And you are taking not just bits, but big chunks of people’s lives.  And how many chunks, between them, add up to a life.  Taking a thousand bits from a thousand people, each bit, say, amounting to a mere six weeks of someone’s life (and many of those destroyed businesses amount to a lot more than that)?  That’s 115 “life years” you’ve taken.  How is that better than taking 115 years from one person?  Combined, you’ve stolen a life as surely as if you killed a young child.

So, no, it’s not “just property.” In a very real sense it’s people’s lives.

Remembering SpaceCub


Years and years ago, I, along with Science Fiction writer and NASA scientist Geoffrey Landis put together a concept we called “SpaceCub.” The premise was a rocket that could be built as a kit by well-heeled hobbyists, carry a person up about 100 miles and return safely.  It was not intended to make orbit, a far, far more difficult task, just a suborbital up and down.  We believed that there would be a market for such a vehicle, that people would buy it.  That people would fly it.  Making and selling such a vehicle a business could make money that could be used to improve and extend the performance, of successor vehicles.  Longer range.  Larger capacity.  Something transatlantic capable, then transpacific.  Finally orbital.  All done incrementally through private industry without the need of any government financing except possibly “payment for services rendered” (if they wanted to buy vehicles, or buy flights on vehicles, we’d be more than happy to take their money, at least after careful consideration of what strings might come with that money).

During the time that we were actively working on SpaceCub, we presented at the Northeast Space Development Conference in 1994, the International Space Development Conference in 1995, and a couple of smaller venues.  Articles were published about SpaceCub in Popular Mechanics, in New Scientist, and the Brazilian magazine ISTOE.  I was interviewed about SpaceCub for an AAAS radio broadcast (and really wish I had a copy of that broadcast, but such is life).

And that’s where it ended.  Not being any kind of gifted fund-raiser and not having anyone else to pick up the torch, SpaceCub never went beyond those initial paper studies.  Not in itself anyway.  Not long after the SpaceCub idea started making waves, the Ansari X-Prize was announced, a then-proposed $10 million prize to the first company to send a crew of three 100 km up and then do it again with the same vehicle within, I think it was, two weeks.  I spoke by phone to one of the founders of the X-Prize and he said that SpaceCub did not influence them to create the prize.  However, in a separate conversation with Geoffrey Landis, he noted that before us nobody was talking about manned suborbital flight.  Nobody.  So coincidence?  Or were they influenced by us and simply not willing to admit to that (fearing, perhaps, that I’d demand remuneration).  So perhaps we did provide the impetus that led to the X-Prize, and in so doing led to Rutan’s SpaceShip One, to Virgin Galactic being founded, and further were part of the impetus to the creation of SpaceX and other up and coming firms in the field of private, commercial space flight.


The website on which I had my old pages describing SpaceCub is long defunct.  The hosting service has closed shop.  However, thanks to the Internet being forever thanks to the wonders of the Wayback Machine, I have been able to recover the original pages and include them here as one, long post (with minimal editing, mainly to delete defunct links).

So, here it is, combined into one:

The original SpaceCub pages (lightly edited):

News and information for the first “General Aviation” spacecraft

SpaceCub is designed to be a totally private, manned, reusable, suborbital rocket. It is planned to have sufficient performance to reach space and to allow ordinary individuals a taste of space flight including such experiences as take-off acceleration, weightlessness, sunrise (and sunset) from space, and reentry.

Aviation was, originally an activity for very few, a handful of pioneers who often died in the pursuit of their dream of flight. Yet that handful swiftly grew until thousands, them millions could fly in aircraft of all sizes and designs. While most of these people flew as passengers large numbers were able to pilot aircraft themselves. This opportunity has not been possible for those who dream of flying in space. Only a handful of individuals, selected by national governments, do that. SpaceCub is designed to change that. It is intended to make the breakout from space being merely the realm of a handful of pioneers to the workplace, living space, and even the playground of a great many people. The first step in that path is to allow ordinary people, not the chosen of any government, to experience a taste of flight in space.

The announcement of the X-Prize has made SpaceCub more than possible. It has made it, or something very like it, virtually inevitable. The X-Prize is similar in concept to the Kremer Prizes for man-powered aviation. It is to be a $5-10 million prize to the first private group (not government funded or run) to launch a manned, suborbital rocket, one capable of carrying a crew of three or more, to an altitude of 100 km (62 miles) twice within a fourteen day period. Such a prize would almost completely recover the development cost of a vehicle like SpaceCub.

Frequently asked questions:

What is the Spacecub?

The Spacecub is a manned, suborbital rocket meant to be built, operated and flown by individual hobbyists. It is planned to be fully reusable and not to drop pieces of itself along the way. In many ways the Spacecub can be thought of as a fully reusable, manned version of the Viking rocket of the early ’50’s since it has the same basic performance and general capability.

In addition to the hobbyist market, SpaceCub could also be attractive to “adventure tours” types of businesses (such as the outfit that sells the opportunity to fly Russian fighters or Interglobal Space Lineswhich sells, among other things, zero g aircraft flights) and those who currently launch sounding rockets.

With the exception of the computers and electronics, most of the features of the Spacecub are rather old technology. Most of the technical issues have been dealt with thirty or more years ago.

What are the numbers for the Spacecub?

The Spacecub will have the following dimensions:

Length: 11.5 m (38 ft 4 in.)
Span: 11.5 m (38 ft 4 in.)
Height: 4 m (13 ft) (ventral-dorsal fin tip to tip)
Fuselage dimensions: 1.5 m X 3 m X 10 m(5 ft X 10 ft X 33′ 4″)

Empty weight: 2800 kg
Payload: 500 kg
T-O weight: 18000 kg

Maximum altitude reached: 245 km
Maximum range: 612 km (at 100 km peak altitude)
(altitude is traded for range to some extent)
Maximum velocity at burnout: 1850 m/s (4138 mph, about Mach 6)
Flight time: 10-20 min

How much will the Spacecub cost?

We’re aiming at keeping the cost of the Spacecub down to about $250,000-500,000 in kit form with a fully constructed version at perhaps twice that. This is comparable to at least one high-end kit plane, a plane that has sold upwards of 50 kits to date. (According to figures listed in Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft.) [Ed:  1994 numbers]

How many passengers will it carry?

The current version of the Spacecub is a four seat vehicle, but there are plans to use the experience gained in the first Spacecub to design and build new vehicles with greater range, more passengers, and larger payload capacity. [Ed:  First concept was a single seater, but when the X-Prize was announced we enlarged it to make a 4 place vehicle.]

Why is the Spacecub suborbital? Why not make an orbital vehicle?

It takes a speed of nearly 8000 m/s to make orbit. However, fighting gravity and shouldering aside the atmosphere uses power that makes the rocket require a velocity potential (a “delta v”) of about 9500 m/s. With kerosene and oxygen as propellants the rocket would need 20 times as much propellant as the empty weight of the rocket. The suborbital Spacecub only makes a speed of 1850 m/s but fighting gravity and the atmosphere requires a “delta v” of about 4000 m/s. To do this the rocket needs fuel of 4.5 times the rocket’s empty mass. This is much, much easier to do than 20 times. However, all is not lost. As more experience is gained with vehicles like SpaceCub, it will be possible to design larger and faster versions, leading up to an orbital vehicle. All will be done in easy stages, making money with each step. This minimizes both market and technical risks at each stage.

Have any been built or flown yet?

No. It’s just finished conceptual development [Note:  Since the time this was written, the concept has been “back burnered.”  Further develop should be forthcoming.]. However, a series of scale models have flown, testing the stability of an early configuration in subsonic flight. These model flights have provided valuable information toward the eventual building of a flying models. (Many thanks to Brent for the work.) The latest configuration, aimed at possibly winning the X-Prize, has not yet had these model flights, however work toward doing so is underway. Current plans call for seeking financing in 1 – 2 years, with a prototype about 2 years after that, and first kit sales 6 months to a year after that depending on how flight tests go.

What is the X-Prize?

The X-Prize is a prize of the same nature of the old Ortig prize offered for the first non-stop transatlantic flight (won by Charles Lindberg), and the Kremer prizes for various man-powered aircraft milestones. It is to be a prize of $5-$10 million to the first private vehicle (government programs need not apply) to fly twice within fourteen days (same vehicle, so it must be reusable) to an altitude of 100 km. The vehicle must be able to carry three people, which was the reason for the recent change in SpaceCub design. [Ed:  This prize was eventually won by Dick Rutan with his Spaceship One.]

What does the Spacecub look like?

The current design has a ) main body seven meters (21′) long, an elliptical in cross section–1.5 meters high and 3 meters across. The nose is conical and two meters long with a rounded tip and rounded “shoulders” where it meets the main body. The rocket has swept wings with root chord of 4 meters and a tip chord of 1 meter with the trailing edges swept back to a point 1.5 meters behind the mainbody. The span is 11.5 meters (33′). There are two vertical fins, one dorsal and one ventral, swept, two meters in root chord, 1 meter tip and with trailing edges also swept back 1 meter. Tip to tip span of the vertical fins is 4 meters.

How does the Spacecub take off? Vertically or horizontally like an airplane?

The Spacecub both takes off and lands vertically. This means that some fuel must be reserved for landing. This also means that virtually any flat surface twelve to fifteen meters across can serve as an emergency landing point.

If It’s VTOL, why wings?

Suborbital vehicles reenter on much steeper paths than do orbital vehicles this means that they dive into deeper atmosphere while retaining more of their velocity than orbital vehicles. High speed and denser atmosphere add up to strong G forces. Computer models show that a capsule configuration, even a lifting capsule like Gemini or Apollo would experience reentry accelerations of 12-15 G’s. This was considered too high for a hobbyist spacecraft.

The only other option was a lifting reentry to keep the vehicle at higher altitude, and in thinner atmosphere, until it had lost more of its speed. Lifting bodies were one possibility but problems with layout and lofting, particularly when it was considered that SpaceCub was meant to be built by hobbyists, arose. That left wings as the only other option. Wings, of course, meant a penalty in such areas as weight and drag during ascent, but they proved the only viable option for the initial SpaceCub design.

What will the experience of flying the Spacecub be like?

The flight will start, with the Spacecub fueled and checked, with the pilot laying back in the seat, with the nose of the Spacecub pointed at the sky. Mist, visible through the Spacecub’s canopy, will drift around the front half of the Spacecub, condensation around the craft’s liquid oxygen tank.

Then the engines will light. The engine’s roar will shake the cockpit as the Spacecub begins to climb slowly into the sky. Acceleration will be gentle, a slight heaviness at first that will slowly increase until the pilot feels three times his own weight. In just over two minutes the Spacecub is over twelve miles up and breaking through the sound barrier. The engine noise vanishes and all becomes relatively quiet, with the only noise being that carried through the body of the SpaceCub itself.

Outside the sky becomes darker, first purple, then black. The stars become visible against the black.

Then, the engines cut out, less than four minutes after launch. All feeling of weight vanishes as the Spacecub begins its ballistic arc. For the next two minutes the Spacecub continues to coast upward before the ever-present pull of gravity begins to drag it back down. Then three minutes of falling and the rocket’s wings begin to again feel the bite of the atmosphere. The air around the Spacecub begins to glow with heat. The skin of the Spacecub begins to warm as acceleration builds. The airflow over the wings generates lift, and the Spacecub starts to pull up from its dive. At an altitude of more than 20 miles the Spacecub comes level, still moving more than 3 times the speed of sound. The Spacecub slows, shedding energy and begins a gentle descent. At about 12 miles it drops back through the speed of sound.

The Spacecub glides to the landing target and pulls up in an increasingly steep climb, trading speed for altitude. When it comes vertical the engines light and the Spacecub sinks vertically on its tail.

Why not use a parachute for landing, like the old Space Capsules?

Those old capsules set down at sea for a reason. Landing a large vehicle by parachute is hard on anyone in it. Such landings can end in broken bones and internal injuries. The Russian Soyuz capsules use a parachute landing, but even they use braking rockets to slow them at the last moment.

Well, why not a horizontal landing, like an airplane?

The Spacecub would have a stall speed of nearly 80 miles an hour, a power-off sink rate, in stable glide, of over 1000 feet per minute. That falls somewhere between a very bad glider and a very bad parachute.  The key phrase there is “very bad.” That combination would make for a difficult and dangerous landing. The Spacecub is aimed at hobbyists and pilots with a moderate amount of experience, not highly trained and experienced jet pilots.

Other problems arise from the need to flight test SpaceCubs. Each builder will have to test his own, or have it tested for him. With a vertical takeoff/horizontal landing there is no provision for taxi tests, hover tests, short hops, or other steps that can be made for either VTVL or HTHL modes. This makes the testing process more dangerous.

Still other problems with horizontal landing include a second set of, heavier, landing gear for horizontal landing, accessory equipment required at the landing site to erect the rocket for takeoff, very large peak structural loads on the airframe during landing (that descent rate is hard on the structure), protecting tires from reentry heat, and reduced options for landing sites in case a navigation error or emergency prevents reaching the original target site.

All that said, however, the vertical landing mode is one of the greater technical risks for SpaceCub. In particular, difficulties may arise in converting the engines chosen for SpaceCub for both reliable in-flight restart and continuous and precise throttling. While there is no doubt that both of these problems can be solved, there is a question about whether they can be solved within the projected budget. As a hedge against that possibility a horizontal landing option using an air-cushion landing gear to minimize stress to the airframe is under investigation. Such a system will involve a severe penalty in overall vehicle performance for the weight of the landing gear plus the weight of a separate “go around” engine (more important for HL than for VL). However, the performance should still be sufficient to meet the X-Prize requirements.

What about terrorists? Won’t they be able to use SpaceCubs as weapons?

Short answer, perhaps they could. But in a bit longer answer, they’d be really stupid to try. The SpaceCub has rather short range as missiles go. It has extremely limited payload. And its liquid propellant engines, in particular using liquid oxygen, make launch operations extremely hard to conceal. Furthermore, it comes down as a large, essentially empty vehicle. With the large wings and empty tanks it’s speed in the low atmosphere is something on the order of 150 miles per hour. It’s all metal construction, still hot from reentry, make it a perfect target for both IR and radar guided counterweapons.

There are plenty of better choices if one is seeking a terror weapon, or a battlefield weapon.

How much does fuel cost for each flight?

A flight of maximum performance requires 1200 gallons of kerosene and 2200 gallons of liquid oxygen. With kerosene at $2.00 per gallon and the price of liquid oxygen as quoted by a local supplier of $0.35 per gallon a fully fueled flight would require $3200. [Ed. Note:  those were 1994 prices]. That’s expensive, but not out of reach of those who can afford to buy a SpaceCub in the first place.

How many flights will the Spacecub be able to make overall?

With regular inspections of flight critical hardware and occasional overhauls of the engines, just as on aircraft, there’s no particular reason the Spacecub cannot last for years and hundreds, or thousands of flights. SpaceCub is designed with 50% margins throughout, which is a general standard and helps to keep high reliability and a long lifetime.

What preparations are needed to fly the Spacecub again?

The Spacecub will require refueling, recharging of the batteries, resupply of the pressurized helium tanks (used to pressurize propellant tanks and to power the RCM’s during ballistic flight), and a preflight checkout taking no more than an hour or so to be ready to fly again. This is an off the cuff estimate, though, until we actually have flight experience with the vehicle.

What kind of kit will the Spacecub be?

As presently conceived the Spacecub will be available in a “materials and components” kit. Actuators, sensors, engines, and complex parts such as those containing compound curves or taking high stresses (nose cone and wing spars as examples) will be pre-formed. Titanium parts will also be pre-cut to relieve the builder from working this difficult material.

What kind of materials will the Spacecub be made of?

The Spacecub uses mostly aluminum and titanium in its structure. The propellant tanks are sheet aluminum. The tank support structure is aluminum. The skin and skin support structure is titanium. Should titanium prove to be untenable, it would be possible to use steel instead, but the result would be either a more fragile vehicle (thinner skin and framing members) or a heavier vehicle, or both. Either result would reduce the performance of the spacecraft.

What will be used for reentry heat shielding?

At the speeds of the Spacecub, its size, and its mass, the skin of of the vehicle itself is adequate to survive reentry. The maximum temperature of the craft is less than 800 K (980 F).

What kind of redundancy will the Spacecub have? How will you handle an engine out on landing?

The Spacecub is designed to have three to five (not yet finalized) engines. The rocket engines we are most interested in are the verniers from the Russian RD-107 or RD-108 engines. These engines have been around since the days of Sputnik and have established a simply incredible reliability. Other engines, mostly of Russian make, are also under consideration. In all cases, the ability to make a safe landing, at any point in the flight, should one engine fail, is a major design criterion. In the landing phase, the rocket has shed enough mass that any one engine is sufficient for landing.

Control systems and electronics will be fully redundant, with nice, simple, foolproof mechanical switches for shifting from main to backup systems. Three computers, two GPS receivers, and two inertial platforms will give redundancy in navigation. Even primary structural member have redundancy. The three pressurized propellant tanks carry fuselage loads. Each one is sized, individually, to carry the entire load so that loss of pressure in one, or even two, would not result in loss of the vehicle or its crew.

How automated will the Spacecub be? Will the pilot be able to take control?

The Spacecub is designed so that the entire flight can be made with the pilot doing no more than pushing the “go” switch, or, alternately, with the computer doing nothing but provide data to the pilot who controls the entire flight manually, or any level of automation in between. This will allow pilots with a wide variety of different abilities and experiences to fly the Spacecub. For low experience levels the Spacecub would operate in a highly automated mode. As the pilot gains experience, the level of automation could be dropped until the pilot is flying manually. This makes the SpaceCub its own trainer.

What kind of license will be required to fly the Spacecub?

This is one of a number of yet unresolved legal issues. The Office of Commercial Space Transportation controls private space flights but their regulations, as yet [Ed:  at the time this was written, 1994], contain no provision for manned vehicles.

Launching overseas or in International waters is no help. The relevant laws (chiefly Public Law 98-575) applies the restrictions to US persons even when the activities take place outside the US.

Currently [Ed:  as of original writing in 1994], there is work underway to get this situation changed and to get a licensing procedure based loosely on aviation regulations enacted which will allow Certificates of Flightworthiness and Spacecraft Pilot’s licenses which will let you file a flight plan and go.

The level I have been recommending for piloting the Spacecub is 250 hours of flight time, instrument and multi-engine ratings, and 10 hours of aerobatic instruction, plus either five hours of dual instruction “in type” (i.e. a supersonic, VTOL, rocket plane), or twenty hours in a high-fidelity simulator, or some combination of the two.

Will the FAA allow the Spacecub to be launched?

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation is now an office within the FAA. It’s mission is explicitly to provide for commercial access to space. While the legal structure does not, at present allow for manned vehicles such as SpaceCub since no commercial manned vehicles exist at present, there are indications that they are amenable to working on developing such a structure if necessary.

SpaceCub could be launched using the same regulations as for unmanned vehicles, but that would not be terribly practical at present. In particular, the liability insurance requirements are prohibitive.

What kind of launch and landing sites will be required?

The Spacecub needs a solid surface to launch from, a supply of liquid oxygen and kerosene (which can be trucked in), compressed helium, and a supply of electrical power to charge batteries. No specialized gantries, launch pads, or other such facilities will be required.

For landing, you need a flat spot to set it down, although it might be nice to have the facilities to take off again.

What is the liability exposure of the Spacecub?

This is an issue for the lawyers to wrangle over. The actual risk factor (to anyone but the pilot within the vehicle) is actually quite low. The total amount of fuel is 1200 gallons. The fuel we are considering is the low volatility Jet A, or JP-5 (military version of the same stuff) so even a complete, catastrophic failure of the fully fueled rocket on takeoff would be less disastrous than a similar failure in a corporate jet. Further, the terminal velocity of the falling rocket in the lower atmosphere is about 300 mph, and the rocket is quite lightweight at that point so a total failure here is limited in extent. Finally, the redundancy and engine out capability of the ship makes the occurrence of such a complete and total failure (or explosion) a very low likelihood event. In practical terms the rocket is little more hazardous, to bystanders, than aircraft of similar fuel capacity.

Some have expressed concern about the presence of liquid oxygen, and the dangers it might add. This effect should be minimal. Again, the amounts involved are small on an industrial scale. Also, the physical separation of fuel and oxygen tanks makes the chance of sufficient mixing to cause a catastrophic explosion remote.

The main causes of explosive failures in rockets are combustion instabilities, destruction by Range Safety Officers (using bombs planted in the vehicle), and hard impacts (crashes). By using well established engines, combustion instabilities can be avoided. Airplane, rather than missile, style operations, will eliminate the need for RSO’s and their bombs (after initial testing). That leaves crashes. Multiple engine redundancy, computer enhanced, fly-by-wire control, and strict operational guidelines (to be developed) will minimize that risk.

What environmental effects will a launch cause?

This was one of the reasons for the choice of propellants for the rocket: kerosene and oxygen. This was to avoid highly corrosive and toxic propellants such as hydrazine or Red Fuming Nitric Acid. The environmental effect would be that of burning 1200 gallons of kerosene in a reasonably efficient system. There appears to be some question, however, over just how efficient that system is. Rockets generally run fuel rich since that provides best performance, and so would burn “dirtier” that kerosene burners on the ground. However, the exhaust is hot enough that the unburned kerosene products would burn quickly in the air. The detailed amounts of pollution would have to be investigated. Still, flight rate is likely to remain low enough for some time that total environmental effect will be negligible.

What about damage to the launch site from the rocket exhaust?

This is still an unknown. While the rocket exhaust is very hot, the total mass and exposure time is low. One trick under consideration for protection of the launch surface is to have the Spacecub carry a water tank that sprays water into the exhaust to carry off the heat. About 120 gallons of water would be enough to carry off all the heat generated in the first ten seconds of flight. After that, the rocket is more than 100 meters up and no longer a danger to the surface below.

What about noise problems on launch and landing?

This is another unanswered question. The reputation rockets have for being really loud comes from the big rockets people are most familiar with. For instance, the Atlas rocket has about 400,000 lbs of thrust on takeoff. The Spacecub has 20,000 lbs or thrust or so on takeoff. The bigger the rocket, the noisier. Just how loud the Spacecub will be is still not known though. From theoretical indications, the SpaceCub should be 1/20th, or 13 dB less loud. It appear that here SpaceCub resembles aircraft more than it does spacecraft. Also, the same water spray under consideration for launch-stand protection would help to deaden this noise.

What International Treaties Affect the SpaceCub?

This is another sticky issue. The main treaties are the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and the 1973 Convention of International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects. However, most of the provisions of these treaties can be neatly avoided by simply restricting flights to over the US. Flights to higher altitude will also need some check to avoid any risk of collision, yet such a risk is minute for the altitudes and flight times of the Spacecub.

Why would one want to use or buy SpaceCub?

If one needs a “practical” reason the Spacecub is the fastest means of going up to 600 km. However, “practical” reasons aren’t really what the Spacecub is about. It’s meant for recreational flying. In the Spacecub one could see the sun against a black backdrop. One could experience weightlessness. One could see the Earth from above its atmosphere.

What about emergency considerations? Can the pilot extract himself from the rocket in an emergency?

In most possible failure modes, the pilot would be best advised to stay with the rocket. In particular, the pilot would have to stay with the rocket at supersonic or extra-atmospheric flight. The multiple engines provide the ability to the Spacecub to continue flying and either abort to a controlled landing or complete the flight even should an engine fail.

The prototype, however, will probably have some sort of escape system.

Perhaps the most serious potential problem for pilot safety is loss of cabin pressurization. As a shield against this a look is being taken at the Space Activity Suit, a skintight elastic garment that provides pressurization by direct pressure of the fabric. The suit has been tested to pressures of at least 3.5 psi and appears to be adequate for emergency use until reentering the lower atmosphere.

Where does it go from here?

At this point, SpaceCub has gone about as far as paper analysis can carry it. Most of what remains in that area is just fiddling with details. The next step is to get actual experience with hardware. The following projects have been suggested to continue:

1/10 scale flight model (flight through the transonic regime)
full scale mock up for wind tunnel testing (probably expensive, if only for wind tunnel time)
2/3 scale tow glider (test control and handling qualities at low speeds)
full scale cockpit mockup (check human factors)
In depth computer analysis (CFD, weights and structures)

How can I find out more?

One way would be to stop in at [Ed:  defunct website deleted] and ask.

Forget finding out more, How can I get involved?

SpaceCub is always looking for participants, people who have skills and abilities they can bring to the project.  What are being sought are not employees, but the initial core of people around which to build the project.  You can discuss the project at the private news site [Ed:  defunct website] or write to [Ed:  defunct email] to find out more about these opportunities.


SpaceCub Mass and Components Breakdown

All masses in Kilograms


System Subsystem Component Quantity Mass ea. Total Mass
  Fuselage Body        
    Ring Frames 20 5 100
    Stringers 10 7 70
    Access Panels 8 0.5 4
    Climbing Steps 8 0.25 2
    Spring Step Covers 8 0.25 2
    Retractable Step 1 1 1
    Skin 1 253 253
    Stringer Brackets 200 0.003 0.6
    Rivits 4400 1E-04 0.484
    Spar 1 100 100
    Aux. Spar 1 100 100
    Ribs 20 1 20
    Spoilers 4 14 56
    Spoiler Hinges 4 2.6 10.4
    Spoiler Actuators 4 1 4
    Return Springs 12 0.1 1.2
    Landing Struts 2 10 20
    Leading Edges 2 3 6
    Skin 1 205 205
    Rivits 1500 1E-04 0.165
  Vertical Stabilizer        
    Spars 5 2 10
    Ribs 8 1.2 9.6
    Spoilers 4 7 28
    Spoiler Hinges 4 1.3 5.2
    Spoiler Actuators 4 1 4
    Return Springs 12 0.1 1.2
    Landing Struts 2 10 20
    Leading Edges 2 1.5 3
    Skin 1 40 40
    Rivits 800 1E-04 0.088
    Spar 2 10 20
    Ribs 8 0.75 6
    Leading Edges 2 1 2
    Mounting Swivel 2 2 4
    Mounting Plate 2 5 10
    Canard Actuators 4 1 4
    Skin 1 58 58
    Rivits 600 1E-04 0.066
Propellant System          
  O2 Tank        
    Pressure Shell 1 65 65
    Anti-slosh baffles 4 0.5 2
    Anti-Vortexing Baffle 1 0.25 0.25
    Surface Tension PMD 1 2 2
    Fill Line 1 3 3
    Fill Check Valve 1 1 1
    Relief Valve 1 1 1
    Feed Line 1 10 10
    Purge Drain Line 1 2 2
    Drain Valve 1 1 1
    Level Sensor 1 2 2
    Mounting Brackets 60 0.03 1.8
    End Cap Hardpoints 8 2 16
  Kerosene Tank        
    Pressure Shell 2 50 100
    Anti-slosh Baffles 10 0.3 3
    Anti-vortexing Baffles 2 0.25 0.5
    Surface Tension PMD 2 2 4
    Fill Line 1 5 5
    Fill Check Valve 2 1 2
    Relief Valve 2 1 2
    Feed Line 2 6 12
    Purge Drain Line 2 2 4
    Level Sensor 2 2 4
    Mounting Brackets 150 0.03 4.5
    End Cap Hardpoints 16 2 32
  Landing O2 Tank        
    Outer Shell 2 4 8
    Anti-Vortexing Baffle 2 0.125 0.25
    Surface Tension PMD 2 1 2
    Fill Line 2 3 6
    Fill Check Valve 2 1 2
    Relief Valve 2 1 2
    Feed Line 2 6 12
    Purge Drain Line 2 2 4
    Drain Valve 2 1 2
    Level Sensor 2 2 4
    Mounting Brackets 150 0.03 4.5
  Landing Kerosene Tank        
    Outer Shell 2 3 6
    Anti-Vortexing Baffle 2 0.125 0.25
    Surface Tension PMD 2 2 4
    Fill Line 2 2 4
    Fill Check Valve 2 1 2
    Pressure Relief Valve 2 1 2
    Feed Line 2 2 4
    Feed Valve 2 1 2
    Purge Drain Line 2 1 2
    Purge Valve 2 1 2
    Level Sensor 2 1 2
    Mounting Brackets 40 0.03 1.2
    Pressure Shell 1 100 100
    Windshield 1 20 20
    Canopy 2 15 30
    Canopy Frame 2 6 12
    Canopy Hinge 2 4 8
    Canopy latch 4 2 8
    Canopy Gasket 2 2 4
  Air Supply        
    Compressed Air Tank 2 5 10
    Tank Pressure Guages 2 2 4
    Flow Regulator 2 2 4
    Cockpit Pressure Guage 1 1 1
    Couches 4 10 40
  Controls and Instruments        
    Computer Motherboards 3 3 9
    GPS Receiver 2 2 4
    Inertial Platform 2 5 10
    LCD Displays & Controls 3 2 6
    Q Ball 1 5 5
    Guages and Instruments 1 20 20
    Switches, etc. 1 5 5
    Radios 2 2.5 5
  Batteries   1 110 110
  Wiring Harness   1 10 10
  Power Conditioning   1 5 5
Main Propulsion          
  Rocket Motors   4 71 284
    Jetavator Rings 4 5 20
    Mounting Brackets 4 20 80
    Actuators 8 5 40
  Box Truss        
    Struts 99 0.5 49.5
    Joint Plates 52 0.25 13
Reaction Control System          
    Thrust Chambers 24 0.5 12
    Solenoid Valves 48 0.25 12
    Mounting Brackets 24 0.25 6
  Propellant Feed        
    Main Pressure Regulators 2 1 2
    Low Pressure Tanks 4 2 8
    Helium Distribution Lines 8 1 8
    Feed Lines 48 0.125 6
    High Pressure Tanks 2 10 20
    Subtotal     2454
    Mass growth allowance     366
    Empty Weight     2820
    Payload     500
    Landing Fuel     700
    Reentry Weight     4020
    Takeoff Fuel     14070
    Takeoff Weight     18090

SpaceCub Development Cost Estimates

Initial Design Through Blueprints 450,000
Engine Development 1,000,000
Software Development 600,000
Engine Static Testing 1,300,000
Construction of 3 Prototypes 1,050,000
Flight Testing 1,750,000
Total 6,150,000

This is a rough estimate, based largely on parts count. [Ed:  A friend of mine, at the time who worked for McDonnal Douglas said that for an initial estimate figure “X” man hours per component and a loaded hourly rate of “Y” dollars.  That’s the basis for those figures.  Dick Rutan’s “SpaceShip One” cost about four times that much to develop, but it was a much more complicated project.  Unfortunately I was in no position to raise that kind of money.  Would have been interesting to see if we could have done it]

Ongoing Projects [Ed:  as of the original 1994-1997 writing of this.  Sadly, the need of employment and caring for my family took over and things came to a grinding halt.]

  • Trade Study analysis software
    This is a project to develop a software package to perform trade studies on the SpaceCub.  It will  allow the user to put in different parameters such as fuselage size and shape, nose cone size and shape, wing span, sweep, and thickness, canard size and placement, and so on.  The software would then draw a picture of the design, make a weights and balances estimate, and estimate subsonic and supersonic drag and stability.

    • Develop 3D drawing engine (Done)
    • Develop SpaceCub design specification engine (In Progress)
    • Develop aerodynamic characteristics calculation engine
    • Develop user interface
  • SpaceCub performance simulator
    This is a project to develop a software package to take the results of trade studies produced by the above and run a variety of standard flight profiles to gauge performance of the various packages.  This is to be an extension of the existing package used for the initial analysis

Future projects [Ed:  None of which happened, sad to say]

  • 10% scale flight model.
    • This is to be a model, possibly radio controlled, to test stability of the design in subsonic and low supersonic flight regimes.
  • Cockpit mock-up/simulator
    • This will first be a non-functional mock-up to test human factors for the full scale system and later will be equipped with functioning controls to run a computer flight simulator.


Anything Government can do for You…

…it can do to you.


I have been saying that for years.

Now, with the ongoing riots all across the country, the President has suggested using the military to quell the riots.  And, as a result, certain people are outraged.  This, they claim, is a clear demonstration that we are now a dictatorship.

Never mind that if we were actually a dictatorship those people would already be in a camp.

It’s not like the government has never used the military (both National Guard and regular troops) to keep peace and order in trying times in the past even in the “modern era”.  From enforcing desegregation orders in the 50’s and 60’s to quelling riots (exactly the circumstance now) the guard and the military have been used to keep or restore order in the US.

Going further back we have various actual rebellions:  the Whiskey Rebellion, Fries’ Rebellion, John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry, and others.

The 1807 Insurrection Act gives the President authority to use troops if he believes an insurrection is in progress.  Now look at things like those listed rebellions and compare them to what’s going on now.  They all carried convictions of treason fitting the Constitutional definition:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

Do the current riots rise to the level of insurrection and “levying war against [the United States]”? I don’t know.  And “I don’t know” is certainly not good enough for me.  I would want to be damn sure of my position before going down that road.

But the interesting thing is the same people who were perfectly okay with the idea that the military might be used against me for my position on RKBA, for limiting the power of government, and general being “pro liberty”, are now up in arms that the military might be used against them.


Once you give the government power, there is no guarantee that it will always be used in ways of which you approve.

The Floyd protests

Stock image, not representative of actual events.

All across the nation people are rioting (no, they are not “peaceful protests”; they are riots) over the case of murdered man George Floyd.  Floyd was stopped and arrested on an alleged bad check charge.  In the course of the arrest, he was placed on the ground, cuffed, and one officer knelt with one knee on the side of his neck, pushing the other side of his neck into the pavement and held him there.

Not long after, George Floyd was dead.

This “knee on neck” position is something Minneapolis police are actually trained in.  It’s a “low risk of injury” technique intended to subdue a resisting suspect.  It compresses the carotid arteries, reducing or cutting off blood flow to the brain that brings swift unconsciousness.

My martial art of choice has long been Judo.  In Judo, blood strangles are among our main close grappling techniques and they are low risk of injury.  This is why they the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, included them in the randori-waza (the collection of techniques permitted in “randori”–full contact training practice against a fully resisting opponent).  However they are only “low risk of injury” if the pressure is removed quickly.  In Judo the person being strangled can “tap out” or, if he loses consciousness the referee stops the fight.

Keep the pressure on long enough and the person dies.  There is no damage to the trachea (as noted in the autopsy report of George Floyd) because no significant pressure was applied to the trachea.

This–cutting off blood flow to the brain–is how hanging kills.  Even neck break hanging so long as you remember that true death happens when the brain stops functioning.  This is actually a great misconception about short-drop/no-drop hanging.  The noose constricting about the neck does constrict the windpipe but it also shuts off the carotid arteries and jugular veins.  Blood flow to the brain stops, causing swift unconsciousness and eventual death. (Neck break hanging may stop the heart immediately, but it’s lack of blood flow to the brain that causes the brain to die.)

Looking at the case in every way I can, I don’t see any way that this wasn’t a deliberate killing by the police officer(s) involved.  And there is every cause for entirely justified outrage over the incident.

Indeed, the vast majority of people agreed.  And, in fact, the system in this case was actually working.  The police officers involved were fired.  The one who actually killed Floyd has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder. (Higher degrees require standards of proof on motivation and premeditation that might be hard to establish and I’d rather see a conviction on 3rd degree than an acquittal on first degree because of failure to establish the necessary proof.)

The system was working.  Everyone should be cheering that aspect of the case.  Indeed, considering how often things just get dismissed, we as a people should be effusive in our praise in the handling of this case so as to encourage more of it in the future.

Instead we get not just protests but outright riots and not just locally, but nationwide.  What, exactly, are you folk trying to accomplish?  It’s not about awareness.  Awareness was already near universal, as was agreement that this was an unjustified police killing.  It’s not about “justice”.  The.  System.  Was.  Working.  Criminal charges, good, solid ones with a good chance of being upheld in court.  There was really nothing more to expect from this case unless what you wanted wasn’t justice but a lynching of the police officer involved.  Perhaps you expect the case to be “soft pedalled” to the jury and the officer to be acquitted denying justice for Floyd.  And maybe that will happen.  But if so that’s the time to protest, not while the process is still running along in the direction we should want it to go.   While it’s doing what it should be doing (prosecuting the killer) it should be encouraged in that direction as much as possible.

You’ve taken what was a case of near unanimity in support for the accusation of police abuse and turned it into…something else.

Then there was target selection.  Protesting government offices and in particular police precincts?  That’s one thing.  And while invading and burning police precincts is inappropriate, I think, for the current situation at least it’s reasonable target selection.  Looting businesses and burning them down is not.  Again, you’ve taken what was a case of near unanimity in support for the accusation of police abuse and turned it into something else.

One of the things the protesters may not have considered is that by invading the police precinct offices, they may have contaminated or destroyed evidence, or just broken chain of custody, sufficient to make a conviction of the officer who killed Floyd impossible.  I’d like to think that was foolishness on their part but I have to wonder.  After all, if he is acquitted, that will jut fuel even more protests, and more riots.  People talk about “unintended consequences” but I sometimes wonder just how “unintended” those consequences are.

Hang onto your hats folks.  Check your guns and have your ammunition at the ready.  We’re in for a bumpy ride.


Indie Publishing and “Yog’s Law”: a Blast from the Past


Back in the days of GEnie, an online service run by General Electric (thus the quirky capitalization) and before the spread of the Internet*, there was an SFRT (Science Fiction Round Table). By the time I had joined, the Science Fiction Roundtable had expanded beyond the one board to three:  SFRT, SFRT2, and SFRT3.

One of the sysops of the SFRT boards had the online handle of “Yog Sysop” (since then, he’s become one of the founders of sff.net, an online discussion group, web, and email host). He formulate what became known as “Yog’s law” which states “Money flows toward the writer”. An alternate formulation was “the only place a writer signs a check is on the back.” This was in the long-ago before the rise of indie and self publishing, of course, when traditional publishing was essentially the only game in town.

That rule was the way to differentiate between “legitimate” publications and vanity or outright scam “publications.”

Today, of course, it’s not so simple. Nevertheless, as a writer I try to adhere as closely to it as possible. After all, the idea is to makemoney writing, not spend it.

One of the things I’m trying to do with this “indie” thing is bootstrap my way up. Being incredibly insecure (what? You’ve never heard of an insecure writer before?) I’m really reluctant to spend much of my own money in prepping and publishing a work. Time? Well, I already spend time in writing the thing in the first place, but money? Money that I could use to do things like buy bacon? That, I’m more reluctant to spend.

So I started with a very small budget, basically $15 spent for Dreamstime credits most of which I used for the image for the cover for Live to Tell.

I was actually concerned that the $15 I allocated for cover art would be a write-off.  I’d sink that money and never recoup it.

Did I mention insecurity?

However, the insecurity turned out to be unjustified.  Initial sales of “Live to Tell” gave me enough accrued royalties that, even though they hadn’t reached a level to be paid out yet, were enough that I felt comfortable spending a bit more money (less than the accrued royalties) for more Dreamstime credits to get more cover art.  And so I paid a little more money for cover art for “EMT” and “FTI:  Beginnings.”**

Hopefully, I’ll continue to make sales, and be able to hire someone for things like professional editing, buying my own ISBN’s, or more tools for preparation so I can wean myself away from Smashwords. But I want to, if at all possible, pay for these things out of money made by earlier work so that, on net, I’ll follow Yog’s Law: Money flows towards the writer.

I may have to take off the writer hat from time to time, and put on the publisher hat.  And publishers, of course, pay for things.  But in the end, when you add up the ingo and outgo, the net flow of money must be towad the writer–me.

If that isn’t how it works out then I’m doing something very wrong indeed.

*The Internet existed, certainly, but it was, at that point, largely limited to the government and large schools.  Widespread access via various Internet Service Providers was still in the future.

**Those were the stories I had ready as of the first writing of this.  There have been others since then, not as many as I might like because I am not a fast writer but, see sidebar.

On this Memorial Day



In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

To absent friends.

No, I do not Advocate Mandatory Vaccination.


People have been criticizing me what they think is my position in favor of mandatory vaccination (whether for Winnie the Flu or other things).  That, however, is not my position.  Never has been.  I can see that folk calling for such have some valid points to make while still disagreeing with the conclusion.

Let me explain in more detail.

People should vaccinate, not just to protect themselves but to protect everyone around them. I’ve gone over that multiple times.  This does not, by itself, imply a government mandate but is just damn good advice. Indeed, anyone who can should be vaccinated against pretty much everything for which they are at all likely to come in contact.

Just because something’s a good idea, does not mean that government should force people to comply.  Like the joke: “Socialism, an idea so good it has to be forced on people at gunpoint.”

One of the keys there about vaccinating is “who can”. Some people can’t take certain vaccines because they have serious reactions to some component of it. (This is not as common as the Jenny McCarthy’s of the world would have you think and Wakefield lied about the autism thing, but it is, nevertheless a real thing for some people.  I do, however, know somebody in that situation, who suffers life-threatening reactions to the Pertussis vaccine.) The only way those people can be protected is to avoid exposure to the disease.

This is where “others around you” comes into play. When someone gets sick, they tend to “share the joy” with folk around them. In some cases that can be someone who can’t vaccinate against that particular illness (my friend when it comes to Pertussis). It can also include children who haven’t yet had their full course of vaccinations, folk who are immunocompromised and get sick easily even if vaccinated (again, personal knowledge of a person in this situation), or folk who are just unlucky and are the ones for whom the vaccine just happened to fail in there case. Nobody but anti-vaxers of the “if your vaccinated, then why should you care if…” type claim that vaccines are 100% effective. Sometimes, for some people, it just doesn’t work.  (And for this one I’m the person:  measles vaccine failed on me and I ended up getting measles.  Not the worst week in my life but right up there.)

Being sick is a cost. Even if you never miss a day of work, or a lose a dollar of pay, it’s still a cost. The key is, if you would pay to get make it go away (something called a “bad” on the first day of my Intro to Microeconomics class back in college–whereas a “good” is something you will pay to acquire) then it’s a cost. I don’t know about you, but I would pay to make the miserable symptoms of being sick go away.

Now, in economics there are internal and external costs. An “internal cost” is one a person directly involved in a transaction incur. If you don’t vaccinate and get sick, the “cost” of being sick is an internal cost, one you imposed on yourself by your choice. The person involved in the “transaction” of not vaccinating incurs that cost. Well, they made their choice and they can live (or not) with it. So far, so good.

Now, external costs. (This is a bit more advanced topic. I don’t think I it was covered in Intro to Microeconomics back in college and it took until I encountered Sowell and Friedman that I really started to “get” it.)

External costs are costs imposed on third parties, not party to the transaction. If you have a barbecue and throw your trash in your neighbor’s yard, he has the cost of cleaning it up as well as the reduced enjoyment he has of his own property until it is cleaned up. That’s a cost you would have imposed on your neighbor who is not a party to the “transaction” of your barbecue. (Now, if you invite him over to the barbecue and throwing trash into his yard is part of the deal, that’s now an internal cost and all is well, at least to that extent; we won’t go into other neighbors whose enjoyment of their own property is reduced because you’ve created an unsightly mess over there.

External costs are often subject to legal remedies. Throw your trash over in a neighbor’s yard and refuse to both clean it up and cease doing it and he can sue you. Break someone’s window while playing softball. And so on.

Now, in these cases it’s generally fairly easy to determine who imposed the “external cost” on whom. There might be some arguing on the magnitude of the cost. (You and your neighbor will likely disagree about the value of the lost enjoyment of his property from your trash.) But in general it’s fairly straightforward.

Now consider someone who’s ill infecting others. If you have a single “Typhoid Mary” infecting a lot of people, that’s one thing. In such cases the person can be identified and censured, perhaps held liable for what they’ve done to others. But what about a lot of people who could be of much reduced likelihood to infect others but choose action or inaction that gives them a higher chance of doing so. In most cases particularly when talking about something like vaccinated or not, each individual has a relatively small “expectation value” of cost imposed. (“Expectation value” is the magnitude of something that can happen multiplied by the probability of its happening. If you got a dime every time a fair flipped coin came up “heads”, the expectation value on a flip would be five cents.) However, when you start talking about larger populations, those small “expectation values” add up, particularly since the combination is not linear.

People who don’t vaccinate, as a group, impose a cost on other people, people who do choose to vaccinate. That’s an external cost, one that those making the decision don’t have to pay and yet which is imposed on people who had no part in the decision.

The point of all that is that the argument about those external costs, imposed on folk who had no say in the decisions that led to them is a valid one. In theory at least, it makes a case for some kind of government action (not a comprehensive list):

  1. One could hold those who impose the external costs liable for the costs imposed on others and require them to make restitution.
  2. One would be a kind of insurance/risk sharing. Folk who choose not to vaccinate would pay a small fee for each vaccine of a “standard list” foregone. If they have legitimate medical reasons to avoid that vaccine (documentable allergies to specific components for instance), the fee could perhaps be waived for that specific allergy. This fee would be aggregated and used to compensate those who do choose to vaccinate, or who cannot (including those with those documentable allergies), or are too young to have the full course should they fall ill to an illness against which they are not yet vaccinated.
  3. One could be simply to mandate vaccination to a standard list (exempting those with specific issues with specific vaccines as above) .

HOWEVER, Each of those has severe problems:

  1. How do you determine which unvaccinated person infected (imposed external costs on) which other person fell ill despite doing their best to vaccinate? I ran into a “screw you; I can do what” I want type of “Libertarian” when asked if he’d be willing to take responsibility for other people catching the disease he could have been vaccinated against responded “sure, if you can prove that I did it.” That, right there, sums up the problem. How do you “prove” to even a “preponderance of evidence” let alone “beyond a reasonable doubt” that this particular individual was the specific one who infected that particular individual?
  2. This is not too dissimilar to what Friedman recommended for dealing with polluting industries. Charge an “effluent fee” to cover the “external costs” that their pollutants impose on others. However, the problem I see is that the government does a very bad job of making fees it charges match the actual “cost” of what it’s being charged for. Fees rapidly shift to “money grab” with the value set to “all the traffic will bear” (until it becomes politically unprofitable to raise them higher).
  3. Government mandates, in addition to the simple moral problem of “how many people are you willing to kill to make this happen” (which all laws come down to in the end), tend to lead to cookie cutter “one size fits all” solutions. Well, people are not the same and one size does not fit all.

Every one of those is s deal breaker as far as I’m concerned. Every. Single. One.

Those can all be summed up in Sowell’s oft used expression: “Just because government can do better than the market in some areas doesn’t mean that it will.” And while I don’t recall Friedman expressing it that way, his book “Free to Choose” is filled with examples of the principle even if not explicitly stated that way.
So, there are valid arguments to be made in favor of something like mandating vaccines, but the problems attendant on them so outweigh them that I still fall on the “no mandatory vaccines” side.

That does not mean that I can’t recognize, and acknowledge the validity of those “pro-mandate” points. Indeed, I must if I’m going to be intellectually honest. So the argument is “well, you do have a point there, yes, but I think these other factors loom larger and take precedence over it.”

Or, as I am wont to say “There is no problem so bad that government can’t make it worse.”

Happy (Or not, as you prefer) World Goth Day

Normally I do these in the evening, but for today I’ll post early.


For those unfamiliar, here’s a brief history of Goths, the Gothic subculture and why “Goth”  even though they, we, were nowhere about when Rome was being sacked. (I’ve got an alibi!)

And some pictures of Goths, being Goth (what can I say, I like couples):

If this interests you, Toxic Tears has some tips on getting started:

Winnie the Flu and Mandatory Vaccines.


So there was this:


In this Adam Dershowitz warned that if a Coronavirus vaccine becomes available, it could be mandatory.

I admit to having very mixed feelings on this.  Readers of this blog should know my position of vaccination (Vaccinate your kids, people).  On the other hand, readers of this blog should also know my position on the use of the coercive power of government (I’m agin’ it; a few exceptions but outside that pretty much always).  Still, there is an argument to be made.

Public health is the very epitome of what economist call “External costs” or “neighborhood effects” (basically, where your choices affect not just you but everyone around you and it’s hard to tie the specific “cost” imposed on one person to the specific person imposing that cost). Not just costs but there’s also “external benefits”–where folk other than those directly involved in an economic transaction benefit from it. If something has significant external costs (the commonly used example is pollution, but spreading of illness also works), you’ll have more of it than if the costs were fully paid by those involved. Likewise, if something has external benefits, you’ll have less of it than if the benefits were fully realized by those involved.

Even quite libertarian folk like economists Thomas Sowell and the late Milton Friedman recognize that in such cases a government approach can improve on the free market. Friedman’s example was to use an “effluent fee” to be paid by businesses for waste discharge–“X dollars paid for every ton of Y pollutant”–thus internalizing the external costs.

Sowell, however, is quick to point out (perhaps Friedman did as well, but I don’t recall an example offhand) that just because government can improve on the market in such situations doesn’t mean that it will.  There are very few situations so bad that “well-intentioned” government intervention can’t make them worse.

Thus, I am…uncertain of the best course to chart here.  If there were some way to make folk who choose not to vaccinate responsible for any harm caused to others (see previous posts on why “if you trust vaccines…” is not a valid response to that), then I’d be all for letting people make their own choices.  Absent that, I don’t know.

Nowhere is it writ that I will always have a pat answer for any problem that comes up.

Tekhag Means War, a Snippet

From a new work in progress:

David L. Burkhead

Smoke rose in thick black plumes from beyond a low ridge of hills.  The breeze carried on it the scent of ash and burned meat.  Elara, queen of the elves of Greenwood, also called Talen in the old tongue, turned in her saddle and raised a questioning eyebrow at Witharin, Court Wizard and her closest advisor.

Witharin shook his head, his lips pressed together in a grim line. “Telaris, Majesty. The smoke comes from Telaris.  I fear…”

Elara nodded. “Reigning Duke Valles wastes no time.  Not even a formal declaration of war.”

Witharin snorted. “No doubt he considers the death of his son all the declaration needed.”

Elara sat silent for a moment before replying. “And should I, perhaps, have permitted him to slay me?”

Witharin sighed then opened his mouth to reply.  Elara held up a hand, forestalling what he was about to say.  A rider, one of the forward scouts, topped the ridge ahead of them, galloping back to the column.

Elara urged her horse forward, trotting past others in the company of elves that served as her escorts until she reached the front of the column.  Witharin followed in her wake.

The returning scout rode up to her and saluted. “Majesty.”


The scout, an older elf of at least three centuries, nodded. “Telaris burns.  According to a survivor, half a dozen ships landed two days ago and disgorged no less than three hundred elves.  They attacked the town without warning, slaughtering all they could find.  they then looted the town.  Yesterday, they set fire to the buildings and returned to the sea.”

The scout wiped his arm across his forehead. “I have left the bulk of my detail to gather and organize the few who survive and see what might be recovered from the ruin–” He licked his lips. “–and to see to the Rites for the bodies.”

Elara sat in silence, her own heart in a turmoil.  Mere days before she would have welcomed the news.  Elf killing elf would have brought her no end of joy, a just vengeance for the death of her adopted family, for the husband she had loved.

Now?  Now, as memories hit her, she did not know what she felt.

“You have done well,” Witharin said when her silence threatened to drag.

Elara dragged herself back to the present. “Yes, Scout.  Very well indeed.” She lifted a waterskin from its hook at the rear of her saddle and held it out. “Drink.  Then return to your detail.  Take this word with you, we come quickly to render what aid we can.”

The scout took the skin and poured a long stream of water down his throat before returning it. “My thanks, Majesty.  I go.”

The scout reined his horse around and headed back up the ridge in an easy canter.

Elara took a drink before hanging the skin back on its hook.  She stood in the stirrups and turned to look at the column of elven warriors behind her.  Spotting the commander, she beckoned him over.

Celedan, the elven commander, reined his horse up next to Elara and saluted.  His gray eyes burned as the studied her.  His hair spilled in silver waves from beneath the rim of his helm.  And while his face showed the subtle signs of age appropriate to an elf well into his fourth century, his body retained the lean hardness of a warrior.


“Telaris has been sacked.”

Celedan tilted his head to one side, his expression clearly, indicating that he knew this already.

Elara sighed. “I ride ahead to see what may be done.  Have your men make haste to follow.”

Celedan hesitated. “Majesty…”

Witharin interrupted whatever Celedan had been about to say. “Have a detail of bodyguards selected for her majesty, immediately.”

Celedan saluted, then looked at Elara.

Elara grimaced, then nodded. “Go, commander.  You have your orders.”

“As Your Majesty commands.” Celedan turned his horse and began barking orders.

Elara turned to Witharin and raised an eyebrow. “Bodyguards, Wizard?”

Witharin sighed. “You are the last survivor of the old royal house.  When your father was slain and you…lost, the kingdom nearly disintegrated.  I do not know if it would survive losing you again.”

Elara shrugged.  Truth be told, she did not care whether the kingdom survived or not.  A part of her still wished its destruction for what Elves of Greenwood had done to those she cared about.  But…Tanya.  She had promised Tanya’s spirit to try not to see only enemies among the elves.

And that meant, she had to preserve the kingdom…for Tanya’s sake.