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Housing, Homer, and Space… December 26, 2007

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.

(apologies to those who have never watched the Simpson’s, as this reference may very well be lost on you…)

And for those of you who may wonder why I bring up the housing market on a site dedicated to the promotion of the Space Cynic (tm*) way of life, consider this: externalities are those pesky things that can change your entire industry, economy, or even civilization while you aren’t paying attention. It happened to the buggy whip manufacturers (when the internal combustion engine brought about the auto industry), it happened to the steamship industry (international air travel) and it happened to the big iron computer manufacturers (the personal computer revolution). It also happened to the Aztecs (the Spaniards showing up) and the Dodo (tasted like chicken, apparently).

The housing market has the potential to dramatically worsen our economy – through the ripple effects already being felt in decreased private sector consumption of goods & services, decreasing taxes for cities and counties from properties going into foreclosure, losses in the banking sector from the CDO’s and other exotic “but it seemed like a good idea at the time” instruments, and the moral hazard of creating a safety net that encouraged such nonsense, and the destruction being wreaked on towns across America as foreclosed-upon houses become targets for thieves, squatters, and drug dealers, further worsening the spiral of problems…

And when the economy goes south, as it is already doing so (don’t kid yourself about the Dow reaching new highs – adjusted for inflation, the Dow is not even close to it’s all time high), government spending priorities will get shifted. Pet projects will get axed, Congress will scramble to fund the “necessities” – with sacred cows being ungoreable (Social Security, Medicare, and of course Defense – especially as our wars continue for years to come), the discretionary will suffer the greatest cuts. Think about what this means for visions of Mars or a lunar colony.

When the dot com bubble popped at the beginning of the decade, the Nasdaq began a rather long and devastating (for some) slide from highs of 5000 to a low of almost 1000… along the way, I kept hearing my friends (who were heavily invested in the tech sector, and loathe to give up paper profits that had already vanished) say “4000… that’s as low as it’ll go, now it’ll recover…. 3000, ok NOW it’s hit bottom, I’ll buy up some extra and dollar cost average to get my gains back when the price rises….


Well, we all know how that turned out, don’t we?

It appears that people in the real estate sector, for a variety of individual reasons, are chanting the same mantra – that we’ve had about as much deflating as was necessary and that the market should stabilize about now. Those of us Cassandras out there of course would beg to differ… and I’m pretty certain that a number of you would agree with me that the market still has another 30-40% to devalue before housing prices are back into intelligible realms…

So where’s the Homer moment?
For those of you who *are* aficionados of the Simpson’s, recall the episode where Lisa interrupts Homer’s big backyard BBQ:

(Homer and Bart chase after the roasted pig Lisa pushes with the lawnmower, and it goes through a bush.)
Homer: It’s just a little dirty. It’s still good, it’s still good…
(The pig goes across a road, hits a wall, and flies off the rotisserie grill and into the river.)
Homer: It’s just a little slimy. It’s still good, it’s still good…
(The pig goes down river into a dam where it gets stuck. Water builds up and sends it propelling into the air.)
Homer: It’s just a little airborne. It’s still good, it’s still good…

Methinks the people who have their fingers in their ears and their eyes closed as the housing market falls apart are saying the same thing… and those who think that the government is going to spend more (or even the same amount) on space are IMHO kidding themselves as well.

(*note – it’s not actually trademarked)


Dodos with IEDs December 21, 2007

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.

A recent email thread which I am cc:d on had the following tag line at the bottom:

The dinosaurs were destroyed by an asteroid because they weren’t space-faring.

It then went on to describe how perhaps Gaia decided to try with us mammals – and that we are now developing the capability (whatever that means) to detect and deflect asteorids, and goes on to speculate about future space colonies and spreading beyond Earth to ensure life would survive a planetary catastrophe.

This got me to thinking – as silly comments often do – what about the poor Dodo?

Perhaps the real message in the extinction of the Dodos was that if they were clever enough to invent IEDs (or even handguns – er… wing-guns?) then they would still be around today….

So the lesson to extrapolate from that, of course, is that we should all learn how to make IEDs and go out and purchase guns, to do our part to ensure that our future alien overlords can’t wipe us out the way we did the Dodo..


Someone get them a room December 19, 2007

Posted by shubber in hot air, public service announcement, smack talk.

It appears the great sage, Robert Zubrin, has come down once again from the mountain to share his wisdom with the masses. Not content with spewing economically challenged fantasies about developing space (lest we forget the trillion dollar asteroid), he has now set his sights on America’s energy independence, with a book entitled (surprise):


As if that were not bad enough, the sycophantic excuse for a review of the book, from a subset of a website I normally respect and read on a regular basis (Space Daily), was over the top.

Someone get Alan Walters a towel to wipe up that embarrassing stain on his pants. His love fest for the latest vapid tome from Zubrin would be funny if it weren’t sad. One might (even knowing better) hope that after he recovers from the GI Joe boo-ya mentality exhibited early in his “review” (“he even provides an aerial photograph and targeting information of the Iranian oil export terminal on Kharg Island.”) he might go back and re-read the book as an actual reviewer. What is it with arm-chair wannabe soldiers these days?

Perhaps he should consider the power of the Auto and oil lobbies, both of which are embodiments of western capitalism and self interest, and neither of which would ever let this fantasy of forcing flex-fuel engines on US consumers come to pass. Trent Lott’s recent stripping of key legislation on behalf of his donors from Nissan being exhibit D in a long and sordid list of such examples over the years. As for nefarious control of our government by those OPEC baddies, someone should just remind both him and Bob Zubrin which PAC has the single biggest influence in Congress.

Hint: it ain’t the Saudis.

Finally, given Zubrin’s displayed lack of a basic grasp of economics in his previous bestseller, “Entering Space”, perhaps one would take his “insightful” strategy with a healthy serving of much needed sodium chloride. Alas, this is obviously too much to ask for from Energy Daily.

Rise of Space Cynicism December 11, 2007

Posted by Robin in angel investing, hot air, investment, smack talk, venture capital.

(Note: this is a guest post from a sometime cynic, sometimes tragic…)

Nosy Reporter encounters leading Space Cynic and other cautious Advocates of the spacefaring thing at Space Investment Summit 3:

Space entrepreneurs launch ideas at investors

Rocket racers and other concepts are received as mere flights of fancy.

By John Johnson Jr., Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 10, 2007

Such blue-sky imaginings drove investor Shubber Ali crazy.

“They’re smoking crack,” said Ali

The 3,000…? December 11, 2007

Posted by shubber in distracting PR, gauntlet being dropped, hot air, Manned Space, smack talk, space tourism, suborbital tourism.

I often have emails forwarded to me by friends who are members of discussion groups which I have not been invited to because I am, perhaps, a bit too pragmatic for the kool-aid being served… a recent email which found it’s way to my inbox had an interesting quote/forecast buried in it which I thought I would bring to light, for obvious reasons.

Apparently, in 2004, Burt Rutan made the following predictions:

1) Within 5 years 3,000 tourists will have been to space.
2) Within 15 years sub-orbital tourism will be affordable, and 50,000
people will have flown.
3) Within 15 years the first, expensive orbital tourist flights will
have happened.
4) Within 25 years orbital tourism will be affordable.

Regarding item #1 – with only 385 shopping days until Jan 1, 2009, that’s not looking so promising.

Or, to take a line from one of my favorite books, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

Max Quordlepleen: And lastly, a party of devout believers from the Church of the Second Coming of the Great Prophet Zarquon. Still waiting for the Second Coming? Well, fellows, let’s hope he hurries. He’s got eight minutes left. (Laughter) No, but seriously, no offense meant. I know one shouldn’t make fun of deeply-held beliefs. So, I think, a great big hand for the Great Prophet Zarquon (applause) – wherever he’s got to.

Help the Cynic! Get a Reward! December 11, 2007

Posted by shubber in bling, public service announcement.
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One of my fellow honorary Cynics pointed me to a blog which mentioned some pretty esoteric, but funny, morale patches that have surfaced in the US military from time to time. For example, the “Death Wears Bunny Slippers” patch for the Nuclear Missile Combat Crew.

Well, the patch above – for the Joint Space Operations Center – is OUTSTANDING. As such, the Cynic would LOVE to get one of these – so the call is being put out to all readers (friend and foe) to see if any of you, or someone you know, or someone they know, has or can get one of these for me. If so, you will be made an honorary Cynic and we might even be able to send you a special present dug from the archives of space things gone by…

Operators are standing by.