Pundit Press is proud to present interview number 40 in our ongoing series. Today we're interviewing Rand Simberg, the founder and editor of Transterrestrial Musings. He writes about politics and space policy at TM and will be receiving a space journalism award this coming weekend from the Space Frontier Foundation. He agreed to take part in an interview to highlight his cool site. Make sure to check out the site and bookmark!
1. When and why did you start Transterrestrial Musings?
It was October 2001, a few weeks after 911. But it wasn't a result of 911 -- it was a result of something that fortuitously happened a week or two earlier. Glenn Reynolds had started a blog, and a mutual friend of ours (Jim Bennett, who would later write The Anglosphere Challenge) emailed me with a link, writing, "Hey, look what Glenn is doing."
A few days later, 911 happened, and the rest is history for his blog, but I saw him doing the kind of "letters to the editor" thing without needing an editor, and said to myself, "I could do that, too." So I found some blog software (Graymatter), installed it on my server, and I was off to the races. Unfortunately, due to some glitches in software changes/updates over the past decade (frightening to think that it's coming up on both Glenn's and my tenth bloggiversary), I've lost the very earliest posts, but most of it is still there in one form or another. I've been on Wordpress for the last two or three years after giving up on Moveable Type.
Interestingly, if you look back through his archives, you'll note that his posts used to be a lot longer when he first started, because he didn't have as many outlets for his writing. The same has happened to me over the years. I now only write long blog posts when I don't think I can place them somewhere else where they'll find a greater, more appropriate audience (e.g., Pajamas Media, Popular Mechanics). I won't deny that knowing him before he was Instapundit probably helped me get started, because he was probably more willing to link my stuff in the beginning, but he's always been very much about introducing new voices to the blogosphere, regardless of whether he knew them or not, if he found them.
2. Do you believe that space can be successfully privatized in the next century?
No, I believe it can be successfully privatized in the next decade (for various values of "privatized"). I think that by 2020 there will be regular traffic to and from private space facilities on private launch systems with private, or other-government (e.g., Japan, Netherlands, Korea, et al) money. I also think that someone will have flown around the moon on a non-government system by then. Private moon landings, and settlements, will occur in the twenties (which will be "roaring" in their own way).
3. Was the cancellation of the Constellation project a disappointment?
It was a disappointment that it took so long to happen, because it was obvious to anyone who understood the issues from its inception that it would be a disaster. It was a horrific waste of money if you were truly interested in getting humans beyond earth orbit, or if you are an American taxpayer. Unfortunately, Congress seems determined to keep the zombie marching on, because it provides jobs in the right states and congressional districts of the only congresspeople who care about space, because they want the votes and campaign contributions that come from steering NASA money in the right direction.
4. Do you see the debt ceiling drama ending in either a) real cuts or b) a default?
As of Monday night the 25th of July, I think there will be a deal that results in real cuts, but not major ones. I hope it's enough to soften the blow of the debt downgrade, and that the markets will perceive that it will damage Obama enough that real cuts will be coming in a year and a half. The Senate in 2012 is a foregone conclusion, just because of all the Democrats up for reelection. It will be a completion of what started last fall. The Republicans may even have a supermajority. I'm not a Republican, but after the last five and a half years, I'll be looking forward to that.
5. Has President Obama been better or worse than expected?
Ideologically, he's been pretty much exactly as expected. Anyone who thought that the only senator with a voting record to the left of Barry Sanders would be a centrist was delusional. He has, shockingly, been even more incompetent than I expected, which was a pretty high bar. That is both good and bad, as many of the things that he has been trying to do would be disastrous if he were better at accomplishing them, but he did manage, with the help of Pelosi/Reid, to ram the health-care disaster through. On the other hand, he's now proving to be politically incompetent as well, which I'm hoping (and expecting with fingers crossed) to mean that we'll have someone else to kick around two Januaries from now.
I always thought that his political competence was highly overrated. He won because the public was tired of the Republicans (including many fiscal conservatives), McCain ran an awful campaign (and was hard to get enthused about in general), the media gave him a tongue bath instead of vetting him, and the economy melted down in the middle of the campaign. Not to mention that everyone wanted to feel good about themselves and prove what an enlightened nation we were for voting for the black guy. Even I thought that it was a good reason to vote for him (the only one). Now that they've gotten that out of their system, they can dump him in good conscience next year.
6. Anything else you'd like to add?
If you want to start a blog, write what you know and what you're passionate about. I've had a lot published on a lot of topics, but at the end I think I'm best known for my space-policy stuff, and I think I've gotten a lot of people to think a lot differently about that topic because of my blog. If so, I'm very happy, because I think it's a lot more important subject than the politicians do.