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Hamilton, and Thoughts on the Uncanny Valley of Musicals

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On Saturday night Krissy and I went and saw Hamilton in New York. This was a moment greatly anticipated by a large number of my friends who had seen the show (or at least listened to the soundtrack) had fallen head over heels in love with it, and who wanted to induct me into their Hamiltonian cult. I had previously refused to listen to the cast album of the show, choosing to go into it fresh (although only to a point — I obviously knew who Alexander Hamilton was, and I had read the Ron Chernow book that Lin-Manuel Miranda used as a basis for his play), so Saturday was my entrance into the congregation. Having been thus baptized, I would now be available for Hamilton sing-alongs and arguments as to which Schuyler sister was the best and so on.

Having now seen Hamilton, here’s what I have to say about it:

One, it is in fact really good. I see why all my friends went nuts for it, and also why it won all the awards it did and propelled Lin-Manuel Miranda into the stratosphere of celebrity. It’s all entirely deserved. I suppose I could quibble here and there if I was feeling contrary — the play is notably episodic, particularly in the second act, and some characters and plot points are jammed in and then dropped out, which suggests the play could have been more tightly edited — but one can always quibble on details and miss out on the overall effect of a work, which in this case is significant. I hugely enjoyed myself, and was thrilled in particular with the second half of the first act. I’d see it again, surely.

Two, I don’t love Hamilton like my friends love Hamilton. This is not the fault of the play, nor a matter of me being contrarian to be contrary, and choosing not to love that which my friends love, simply because it’s already gotten all their love. It’s because of something that I already knew about myself, which is that generally speaking I have a level of emotional remove from a lot of live action musicals, both in theater and in film. I can like them and enjoy them, and certainly admire the craft and skill that goes into making them, but I don’t always engage with them emotionally. A really good live action musical can easily capture my brain, but in my experience they rarely capture my heart.

Why? The short answer is a lot of live action musicals exist in the emotional equivalent of the Uncanny Valley for me — an unsweet spot where the particular artifices of musicals make me aware of their artificiality. The longer answer is I’m perfectly willing to engage in live musicals intellectually — and why wouldn’t I, says the writer of science fiction, a genre with its own slate of artifices — but seem to have trouble with them emotionally. Live humans stepping outside of their lived experience to burst into a song directed to an audience pretty much always makes my suspension of disbelief go “bwuh?”, and then I’m not lost in the story, I’m aware I’m a member of an audience. That sets me at a remove.

Which is, to be clear, entirely on me. This is my quirk, and not an indictment of live action musicals. They clearly work perfectly well for large numbers of people, who do not suffer from my own issues regarding emotional engagement with the form. Nor does it mean I don’t enjoy musicals in general. I do. Not being at 100% with musicals doesn’t mean that the experience is like ashes in my mouth. Getting 90% of the effect of a musical can still be pretty great, and was, in the case of Hamilton. It does mean, however, that the fervor so many of my friends feel about a really great musical is usually not something I feel.

Interestingly, in my experience the way for me to engage emotionally in a musical is to add more artifice to it. For example, I’m a sucker for animated musicals — I think Beauty and the Beast is one of the best musical films of all time, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a brilliant operetta, and Moana, whose songs were written or co-written by Miranda, made me cry where Hamilton didn’t — precisely because the animated format adds another layer of willing suspension of disbelief. I mean, if you’re willing to accept talking candelabras, or skeleton kings or the ocean as a comic foil, it’s not that hard to accept characters breaking out into song, either.

Likewise, I have an easier time with funny musicals — or more accurately, musicals intended to be comedies as well (Hamilton has several funny moments, including the bits with King George, but is not meant to be a comedy). I enjoyed the hell out of The Producers and The Book of Mormon and Spamalot because they were fundamentally ridiculous anyway, so the breaking out into song doesn’t pull me out the way it does with more serious musical work.

Going the other direction — movies with songs in them which yet are not musicals — also works for me too. Strictly Ballroom (the film) feels like a musical and yet isn’t, and I love it insensibly. The concert film Stop Making Sense is a perfect film, from my point of view; watching it is like going to church. And I’m looking forward to Sing Street because everything about it suggests I’ll get the thrill watching it like I got watching The Commitments back in the 90s.

Again, this is about my quirks, not an argument that, say, Hamilton would have been better as Hamilton!, a funny farce where a zany founding father gets into all sorts of hilarious hijinx with his best ol’ frenemy Aaron Burr. It wouldn’t have (although I have no doubt now that someone will try it). It’s merely to the point that for whatever reason, a lot of live action musicals exist in a place I can’t get fully emotionally engaged with it. I find that interesting, and wonder if I’m alone in this.

The real irony? Not only did I perform in musical theater as a kid (and enjoyed it! And would do it again!) I’d kind of like to write a musical one day. Not to say “you people have been doing musicals all wrong, this is how you do it” because, yeah, no, I’m not that asshole. But because I think Redshirts in particular would make a damn fine musical, of the funny sort, and because I know I appreciate and engage with science fiction better, having written science fiction, so who knows? Maybe that trick will work again in another genre and medium. Or (actually “and”), maybe I should just go and see more musicals. That would probably help too.

In the meantime: Hamilton is excellent, as advertised. Go see it when you can. I’m not likely to join the HamilCult, but that shouldn’t dissuade you, should you be of a mind to.

(Also: Angelica Schuyler was the best Schuyler sister. I mean, come on.)


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satadru
15 hours ago
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He's absolutely right about Moana & Angelica Schuyler.
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Uber Misled Public About Its Self-Driving Car That Was Caught Running a Red Light

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Mike Isaac and Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for The New York Times:

The experiment quickly ran into problems. In one case, an autonomous Volvo zoomed through a red light on a busy street in front of the city’s Museum of Modern Art.

Uber, a ride-hailing service, said the incident was because of human error. “This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers,” Chelsea Kohler, a company spokeswoman, said in December.

But even though Uber said it had suspended an employee riding in the Volvo, the self-driving car was, in fact, driving itself when it barreled through the red light, according to two Uber employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements with the company, and internal Uber documents viewed by The New York Times. All told, the mapping programs used by Uber’s cars failed to recognize six traffic lights in the San Francisco area. “In this case, the car went through a red light,” the documents said.

I called this correctly back in December: their PR statement was carefully worded to mislead:

At first read, it sounds like Uber is saying there was a human driving the car. But if you parse it closely, it could also be the case that the car was in autonomous mode, and the “human error” was that the human behind the wheel didn’t notice the car was going to sail through a red light, and failed to manually activate the brake. I think that’s what happened — otherwise the statement wouldn’t be ambiguous.

Another case where lying has made a situation much worse. Everyone now knows the truth — their self-driving car was caught running a red light in downtown San Francisco — and the company’s (already questionable) credibility is shot. No one will believe a word the company says about future incidents with its autonomous cars.

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satadru
16 hours ago
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So A Nazi Walks Into An Iron Bar: the Meyer Lansky Story

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I’m starting a series here where I talk about history, because geeks love history. I’m going to focus on stories I think anarchists will like. Here’s one:

“The Nazi scumbags were meeting one night on the second floor. Nat Arno and I went upstairs and threw stink bombs into the room where the creeps were. As they came out of the room, running from the horrible odor of the stink bombs and running down the steps to go into the street to escape, our boys were waiting with bats and iron bars. It was like running a gauntlet. Our boys were lined up on both sides and we started hitting, aiming for their heads or any other part of their bodies, with our bats and irons. The Nazis were screaming blue murder. This was one of the most happy moments of my life.”

That was Max “Puddy” Hinkes, of Newark, New Jersey, and today we’re going to be talking about Jewish gangsters who fucked up Nazis.

Gangsters, especially those from the first half of the twentieth century, occupy a really interesting place in the mythology of the United States. People tend to idolize them as Robin Hood types, even when they weren’t (Pretty Boy Floyd, I’ll write about you later), and tend to revere the stories of double-crossing, brutality and corruption in a way that is frankly a little weird. On the one hand, these gangsters present a typical capitalist ideal of rags to riches. On the other, their stories have the added benefit of allowing their hero, such as he is, to retain a working-class sensibility, since gangsters were rarely allowed into the elite social circles into which other equally violent but more lawful self-made robber barons could gain access. But gangsters especially seem to become figures of historical pride to people now generally construed as white, with various once-marginalized European ancestral origins. I once worked at a museum dedicated to gangsters. Irish, Italian, and Jewish Americans would all seek out stories of the Irish, Italian, and Jewish gangsters of the 1920s, all vehemently insisting that the people from whom they form their sense of cultural identity were the most shady, the most brutal, and the most criminal of all. There’s a lot going on there about the way whiteness leads people to seek their cultural identities in odd places; the way whiteness excuses and lends respectability to behavior that would otherwise be seen as abhorrent; and the way history can become myth.

There’s a lot going on there about the way whiteness leads people to seek their cultural identities in odd places; the way whiteness excuses and lends respectability to behavior that would otherwise be seen as abhorrent; and the way history can become myth.

Of course, as a Jew, I am here to tell you why the Jewish gangsters were, in fact, the most badass motherfuckers in organized crime during the first half of the twentieth century. And I feel like I have the facts on my side here, because holy shit did they whale on some Nazis.

Let me tell you about a guy named Meyer Lansky. You might have heard of him. He’s definitely not the most famous gangster of the Prohibition era, probably because unlike Al Capone, he wasn’t a sadistic horrorshow and didn’t engage in a concerted campaign of self-promotion.  Meyer Lansky was a sensible guy. He was trying to make a very, very, obscenely good living, and he was trying to stay out of jail. He was not trying to be famous. That hasn’t stopped fictionalized versions of him from showing up all over the place, but these versions rarely focus on my absolute favorite thing about him, the aforementioned Nazi-beating.

Meyer Lansky made it big during Prohibition, along with his best friend, Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. Their friendship was a big deal at the time; Jewish organized crime and Italian organized crime did not usually get along. But Meyer and Lucky got along so well that their friend and fellow gangster Bugsy Siegel described them as more like lovers than friends, before hastily clarifying that he didn’t mean that in a gay way, and I have seen at least one historian go out of his way to state for the record that his is definitely not saying Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano ever had sex. Which, I mean, come on, has there ever been a more obvious way of saying “these two guys definitely had sex”? Do I have any real evidence for this? No. Do I ship it? Hell yes.

Meyer and Lucky would later go on to be extremely big deals, with Lucky founding one of the Five Families, and Meyer founding a group called Murder, Inc (Depending on who you ask, Meyer Lansky is an American hero either in spite of or possibly because of this innovative hybrid of homicide and corporations). He would also end up corruptly controlling most of Cuba, and later Las Vegas. He was a capitalist, a colonialist, and also a Zionist, also, as advertised, he made a business of killing people.  He was a guy who got rich off being an exploitative dick, just like pretty much every other rich guy.

But then there are Meyer Lansky’s extra-curricular activities, and for that, we’re going to need to step back for a second away from the world of lovable Irish, Italian, and Jewish crime organizations, to talk about the less-familiar world of the more-or-less lawful but fucking gross ethnic association called the German American Bund.  

The German American Bund was formed in 1936 to promote the causes of Nazi Germany in the United States. It was open to Americans of German descent, provided they could prove they had no black or Jewish ancestry. These guys were openly Nazis, like, not even the kind who think they can hide behind fake irony and shitty frog memes. Their flag was a swastika shooting out of an iron cross. So: fuck these guys entirely. They claimed they wanted to “liberate America from the Jews.” The general membership were fond of accusing FDR of being secretly Jewish, and referring to the New Deal as the “Jew Deal” because fascists are terrible at jokes. Their leader was fond of embezzling from the organization. (They dissolved shortly after Pearl Harbor, when being openly a Nazi temporarily went out of style in the US, and everyone tried to pretend there hadn’t been a 25,000 member organization of Americans dedicated to helping Hitler win.)

The German-American Bund had a lot of meetings in areas with high immigrant (read: Jewish) populations. One of those places was New York City. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia affirmed that Nazis were allowed to meet, and were entitled to police protection, but he made sure the cops guarding their meetings were mostly black or Jewish. So that was… passive aggressive. But then there was another local political figure: Judge Nathan D. Perlman.

Judge Perlman, who was — no shit — Jewish, did not care for Nazis. This led him to reach out to one of the most powerful Jewish guys around: Meyer Lansky. Judge Perlman, as you might expect, hadn’t done Meyer any favors in the past. He had for example helped to end Prohibition, the repeal of which, while generally extremely popular, wasn’t great for the Meyer Lanskys of the world, who had been making bank off illegal booze. But when Perlman met with Meyer after the rise of the German American Bund, they ended up getting along pretty well. Perlman was like “I want you to disrupt meetings of Nazis” and Meyer was like “excellent, on it,” and Perlman was like “hang on I’m not finished” and Meyer was like “sorry” and Perlman was like “I will pay you and give you legal assistance, should anyone get arrested.  The only condition is, don’t kill anyone.” With what I can only imagine to be the world’s greatest eye roll, Meyer said “Ugh fine, I won’t kill anyone. Also, I don’t want your money.”

And then he went to work.  

Now, I need you to be picturing this correctly. Meyer Lansky, for all the power he had amassed, was 5’ 4”. He had a reputation as being a pretty decent guy. I once talked to an elderly New Yorker who assured me that Meyer Lansky would push him around in a pram while his mother was running numbers, and there’s a book about him and other Jewish mobsters that is literally called But He Was Good to His Mother

Nevertheless, when this unassuming little Jewish dude and his homies went to work on these Nazis, they did so with efficiency, brutality, and an almost surgical precision (so as to stay within the “no dead Nazis” rule set forth by Judge Perlman). He and his fellow Jewish gangsters would show up at Bund rallies and just fuck everyone up, leaving behind broken arms, legs, ribs, skulls, faces and teeth, but no corpses. In one case, they sent in infiltrators ahead of time, who positioned themselves around the hall, and on a signal, rushed towards the stage to attack the speaker, while from outside, more gangsters pushed past the guards on the doors, while yet more gangsters climbed up the fire escapes and burst in through the windows. Chaos, and fucked up Nazis, inevitably ensued. Since they were trying to not kill anyone, they wouldn’t use guns, but they used pretty much every other weapon you associate with mobsters of the 1920s and 30s.

These attacks went on for over a year. Journalist Walter Winchell would praise the attacks from the air, and pass on information to Meyer about where and when the Nazis would be meeting. Life got pretty dangerous for Nazis in New York City.

Can you just imagine Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel training young antifa in the early 30s? I love it. I’m picturing a lot of newsboy caps and comments like “no no not like that, my bubbe (ofblessedmemory) punches better than that, you grip the brass knuckles like this.”

In the meantime, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel also TRAINED other people to fight Nazis, which, come on, can you just imagine Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel training young antifa in the early 30s? I love it. I’m picturing a lot of newsboy caps and comments like “no no not like that, my bubbe (ofblessedmemory) punches better than that, you grip the brass knuckles like this.”

This also seems like a good time to mention that Lucky Luciano, Meyer’s definitely-not-boyfriend-I-don’t-know-why-you-would-think-that, offered to send some of his guys to help with this, but Meyer told him, “thanks, but no, this needs to be a Jewish fight.”

Here’s Meyer’s description of one of these events:

“We got there that evening and found several hundred people dressed in brown shirts. The stage was decorated with a swastika and pictures of Hitler. The speaker started ranting. There were only about fifteen of us, but we went into action.
We attacked them in the hall and threw some of them out the windows. There were fistfights all over the place. Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up, and some of them were out of action for months. Yes, it was violence. We wanted to teach them a lesson. We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults.”

That right there is a folk hero. A flawed, terrible, and yet in many ways incredibly likeable guy, who used his power to fight fascism in the streets. And throw it out the window.

Meyer Lansky wasn’t the only Jew who took blunt instruments to Nazis during these times, and there are stories about Jewish gangsters all over America taking on the Bund specifically and anti-Semitism generally. The Jewish mob of Newark, New Jersey, as well as those in cities across the Midwest did similar good work. But Meyer Lansky’s story strikes me as special; the refusal to take cash for doing the job he wanted to do anyway, the refusal of non-Jewish assistance in the fight, and the scale of the attacks he launched, are all the stuff of legend.

He also used the mob’s corrupt control of the waterfront to help the Allies stave off Nazi attacks, but that’s a story for another time.

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satadru
16 hours ago
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‘They knew he was dying’ Parents guilty of 1st-degree murder in son’s death |

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Calgary – The painful death of a diabetic boy who was so emaciated he appeared mummified could have been avoided if his parents had not isolated and neglected him for years, a judge said Friday in finding the couple guilty of first-degree murder.

Justice Karen Horner said Emil Radita, 60, and Rodica Radita, 54, were equally guilty of murdering 15-year-old Alexandru.

The boy, who was one of the Raditas’ eight children, weighed less than 37 pounds when he died in 2013 of complications due to untreated diabetes and starvation.

“Mr. and Mrs. Radita intended to and did isolate Alex from anyone who could intervene or monitor his insulin treatment aside from themselves,” said Horner. 

“Alex died as a result of bacterial sepsis brought on by extreme starvation. His physical condition at death was not a sudden or quick occurrence but rather took place over months and possibly, probably years.”

Horner said by isolating Alex he was unlawfully confined and totally reliant on his parents. She said it was also clear that the Raditas knew what they were doing in denying him a sufficient amount of insulin and the long-term consequences.

“The evidence underscores that the Raditas were well aware how ill Alex was and still refused to treat his medical condition with proper insulin protocol and medical care,” she said.

“They knew he was dying.”

Neither parent showed any emotion or had a comment during sentencing.

Justice Horner sentenced them to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

“Your actions in starving your son Alex to death are beyond comprehension. You persisted in arrogant confidence…until he was dead.”

Witnesses testified that the Raditas refused to accept that their son had diabetes and failed to treat his disease until he was hospitalized near death in British Columbia in 2003.

B.C. social workers apprehended Alexandru after his October 2003 hospital admission and placed him in foster care — where he thrived — for nearly a year before he was returned to his family, who eventually moved to Alberta.

Patricia MacDonald, the B.C. social worker who fought against Alex being returned to his parents, was in court for the verdict.

‘I’m happy with the verdict. I think that it really is justice for Alex. He went through a horrible ending to his life and I’m glad to see his parents being held accountable,” said MacDonald.

She said she wanted to see the Raditas one final time.

“I just feel like they’re so empty. They’re void of any kind of emotion, any kind of feeling. I’ve never met parents like them in my life.”

Testimony also indicated that after the family moved to Alberta, he was enrolled in an online school program for one year, but never finished. There was no evidence that the boy ever saw a doctor, although he did have an Alberta health insurance number.

The trial heard that the parents’ religious beliefs included not going to doctors.

The day the Alexandru died, the family went to church and said that the boy had died, but that God had resurrected him.

“This was a really difficult case for all involved. The facts that Justice Horner found were such that you really did see the magnitude of Alex’s suffering, how long it was and how extensive it was,” said Crown prosecutor Susan Pepper.

“Certainly the evidence that was presented in court does show that the system and the social safety net in our province and in our country did fail Alex.”

Pepper said she hopes that Alex’s case eventually leads to changes in how children in care are tracked in the future.

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satadru
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Farewell to Kenneth Arrow, a Gentle Genius of Economics

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In case you couldn't get to the WSJ article by Larry Summers, written in tribute to Kenneth Arrow, here's an open link:

Farewell to Kenneth Arrow, a Gentle Genius of Economics: My mother’s brother, the Nobel economist Kenneth Arrow, died this week at the age of 95. He was a dear man and a hero to me and many others. No one else I have ever known so embodied the scholarly life well lived.
I remember like yesterday the moment when Kenneth won the Nobel Prize in 1972. Paul Samuelson—another Nobel economist and, as it happens, also my uncle—hosted a party in his honor, to which I, then a sophomore at MIT, was invited. It was a festive if slightly nerdy occasion.
As the night wore on, Paul and Kenneth were standing in a corner discussing various theorems in mathematical economics. People started leaving. Paul’s wife was looking impatient. Kenneth’s wife, my aunt Selma, put her coat on, buttoned it and started pacing at the door. Kenneth raised something known as the maximum principle and the writings of the Russian mathematician Pontryagin. Paul began a story about the great British mathematical economist and philosopher Frank Ramsey. My ride depended on this conversation ending, so I watched alertly without understanding a word.
But I did understand this: There were two people in the room who had won Nobel Prizes. They were the two people who, after everyone else was exhausted and heading home, talked on and on into the evening about the subject they loved. I learned that night about my uncles—about their passion for ideas and about the importance and excitement of what scholars do. ...
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satadru
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King for a Day

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“Arm chair generals study tactics; real generals study logistics” – attributed to General Norman Schwwarzkopf

Many of my old friends and colleagues are asking me a question these days:  “If you were NASA Administrator, what would you have the agency do?”  I know what they want to hear:  Moon, Mars, or Asteroid – what is the next destination for human spaceflight?  But that is not the answer I would give. Whatever ‘horizon goal’ is established, without significant organizational and cultural changes at NASA, the chance for success is in doubt.

To make NASA into the extraordinarily effective organization it once was and could be again will require significant work to transform it.  NASA is filled with extremely smart, highly motivated individuals who are the experts in their fields.  They can do amazing things.  Measured against any other organization – government or commercial – the NASA civil service and contractor work force is outstanding in terms of inherent capabilities and the desire to make their projects successful.

But success in NASA’s endeavors is hobbled by three structural and cultural problems:  (1) inter-center rivalry, (2) mind numbing bureaucracy, and (3) a paralyzing cultural requirement for perfection in all things.

These are the problems I would propose must be improved for any large scale program to be effective.  And frankly, resolving these issues exceeds the NASA Administrator’s authority.  Solutions will require not just concurrence from the President, but action by the Congress would be required.  And given that somebody somewhere would probably file a lawsuit regarding some of the directions, the Judicial branch would have to concur as well.  Rapid, coordinated concurrence from all three branches of government?  What are the odds of that?  So my title:  King for a Day.

So in the Libyan fable it is told
That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
“With our own feathers, not by others’ hands,
Are we now smitten.”    – Aeschylus, Choephoroe 59

Topic 1:  break down inter-center rivalry.  NASA was established in 1958 as a collection of 10 loosely federated fiefdoms and it has never broken out of that paradigm.  If you ask a typical NASA employee who they work for, the response will be their center, not the agency.  Can’t blame them; they are hired through a center, promotions and career advancements come through their center, the very culture of the organization enforces loyalty to a center.  Every center has its local politicians and politics centered on local interests, every center has its own history and area of expertise, and every employee is inculcated with the beliefs and norms.  Centers sometimes seem united only in their disdain for NASA Headquarters.  Not that anybody openly works to sabotage direction from Headquarters, they just bend the direction toward what their individual project and center would like to do.  Competition for scarce resources drives rivalries between centers.  In addition, there is a huge ‘not invented here’ problem everywhere.  Not just with any idea from an organization outside NASA but also with any idea from another center.  It makes the workforce ready to find fault, slow to see the advantages of any new thing not born from within their own organization.  Secretive, competitive, and ultimately destructive of the larger purpose, these behaviors have been worse in the past but are still present.  My solution:  make people move.  Many organizations both government and industry do this as a matter of course.  Move not just the senior leaders, but the journeyman workers.  Take the center name off the badges.  Develop a ‘Bureau of Personnel” to centralize promotions, bonuses, and career advancement.  No small tasks these.

“A system under which it takes three men to check what one is doing is not control; it is systematic strangulation.” – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

Topic 2:  mind numbing bureaucracy.  The organization has evolved, as all bureaucracies do, to the point where too many people can say ‘no’ to any action.  In the early days of NASA, this was not so.  It is good to have checks and balances and oversight, but the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of (electronic) paperwork, diffuse responsibility, and inaction.  The system now has watchers watching watchers watching doers – and always with criticism for the doer.  Corrective action will take serious attention from any leader.  Achieving the proper balance may well be impossible and the best we can hope for is to swing decision making back to the lowest level possible.  Gibbs Rule #13 applies here:  Never involve the Lawyers.

 “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” – Gaius Cornelius Tacitus

Topic 3:  the cultural imperative to make everything perfect.  This is a very sensitive topic for me.  I have personal been involved with decisions that were made with too little information, riding roughshod over the experts in the field.  But these days, after Columbia, the agency is paralyzed by requiring too much:  too much data, too many tests, too much analysis.  In the Apollo days, this was not so.  We – and I am a guilty party in this – have trained the work force to make everything perfect before any project can proceed.  In this business, nothing is ever perfect.  Space flight involves risk, it can never be completely eliminated.  But real space flight is actual flight, not studies and ground tests.  It is difficult to find the balance of having done enough to be reasonably sure of success and safety and to get on with a project and actually fly.  I hate the term ‘risk averse,’ but as much as it makes my teeth grate, the effect of wanting to make every detail perfect has the same outcome as cowardice: never flying.

So when folks ask me that question:  “If you were NASA Administrator, what would you have the agency do?”  I have a rueful look on my face and tell them any destination – or all three – are good; the tougher job is what we must do to ensure that we get there.

 

            “Come, my friends,

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows, for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.”

  • Tennyson’s Ulysses



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reconbot
16 hours ago
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New York City
satadru
1 day ago
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