Sunday, December 30, 2001

Joel Mowbray makes an excellent case that the Hollywood left is racist because there are few black charectors on TV and in the movies who do not adhere to unpleasent stereotypes. Alas, Eric LaSalle's Dr. Benton, who certainly fit no stereotype, will no longer be on ER. Dr. Benton was was a tough, talented, and sometimes irraciable charector. While Mowbray points out that the color of Benton's skin was not irrelevent, it was not his single, defining quality.

Sadly, there are few Bentons in the stories Hollywood chooses to tell. From the jiving human debrie which inhabit UPN urban comedies, to the rogue cops and crazed criminals which exist in action film, the white executives in Hollywood seem to for the most part think there are few believable roles for black actors. Sure there are some notable exceptions, such as parts played by Morgan Friedman (from the gravedigger turned Seargant in Glory to President of the United States in Deep Impact.) But that's the exception which proves the rule.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Helen Thomas, bless her heart, suggests that President Bush should have sympathy for Jihad Johney Walker. The reason is that Dubya himself had a brush with the law during his DUI incident.

Of course the problem is that Dubya took his lumps like a man. He didn't try to lawyer or spin his way out of it. He didn't try to say, "Do you know who my father is?" He admitted what he had done and suffered the consequences of his actions. He can tell one and all that matching drinks with an Australian tennis player and then trying to drive home is a bad idea.

But one doesn't need to go through all that in order to tell Jihad Johney that bearing arms against the United States, advocating death and destruction against the same, and thus in effect commiting treason, is also a bad idea. In countries where there are consequences for misbehavior, that sort of thing earns one the firing squad.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Liberals may have a problem with "tax cuts for the rich", but as Edwin J. Feulner points out, they see nothing wrong with farm subsidies for the rich. And that includes some members of the very Congress which votes to spend the money.
Here's the Best and Worse for Space Exploration, the year 2001.

Best hopefull development: The beginning of the Bush Presidency. In less than a year the Bush administration has replaced both the paranoid Director of JSC and the mercurial Administrator of NASA, ended the dysfunctional X-33 and X-34 programs, begun to rein in the out of control ISS program, and begun the process of putting NASA on a sound financial footing. Dubya may not have a "space vision" yet. When he does, in one or two years, he will have a NASA capable of carrying it out.

Worse gag gift: The 4.8 billion dollar hole the Clinton administration blew in the ISS program.

Best appointment: Sean O'Keefe for Administrator of NASA.

Worse political grandstanding: Senator Bill Nelson (D) Florida for his hysterical insistance that no changes be made in the space shuttle program.

Best new start: Kepler, a Discovery class space telescope which, when launched in 2006, will start to detect Earth-like planets in orbit around other suns.

Best work of fiction: Surprisingly, Mars Landing by Robert Zubrin. It aint Arthur C. Clarke, but the story is nevertheless entertaining.

Best comeback: Mars Odyssey actually went into orbit around Mars without vanishing or crashing.

Best outrageous proposal: Bob Zubrin's idea to stick it to the Moslims by going to Mars.

Best space TV series: Enterprise, which actually has people exploring strange new worlds, etc. The crew also seems to rely on guts and ingeunity and less on double talk tech solutions.

Worse case of excuse making: Andrew Beal's silly ad in Space News in which he blames the failure of his rocket company on NASA (which shares some of the blame) but never mentions the technological problems his firm faced developing new rocket engines. Too bad, because I really would have liked to see that 4.5 million pound of thrust monster lit in full glory.

Best case of course reversal: NASA's decision to cancel Arecibo and then cancel the cancellation practically in the next breath.

Worse political compromise: Congress deciding to restore funding for the Pluto probe, but not enough to actually matter.

Best conclusion for a space mission: NEAR landing on the asteroid Eros.

Worse disappointment: 2001 has come and almost gone and we do not have a proper wheeled space station (as God and Von Braun intended), not a lunar base, no nuclear powered space craft. Someone seriously needs to pay for this.

Best Poke in the eye to the NASA bureaucracy: Dennis Tito, the first paying space tourist who stayed on the space station and made NASA angry.

Nigel Hawthorne, the British actor, passed away yesterday. Hawthorne is best known as staring in the film The Madness of King George. I remember him best, though, as the smarmy, scheming bureuacrat Sir Humphrey Appleby in the British TV series Yes, Minister and its succesor series Yes, Prime Minister.

Why is it, by the way, that the Brits can put on such splendid political satire such as Yes, Minister, Yes, Prime Minister, and the Francis Urquart trilogy (House of Cards, To Play the King, and Final Cut), where Americans can't seem to manage? Sure we come out with the occasional Wag the Dog and Primary Colors (both inspired by Boy Clinton), but for the most part what passes for political satire in Hollywood consists of liberal polemics like the unintentionally funny, The West Wing.

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Osama Bin Laden seems to have accomplished one political feat. According to the New York Times he has increased President Bush's support among blacks.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

The Curmudgeon saw Fellowship of the Ring yesterday and came out of the theatre anything buy curmudgeonly. He has to admit to somebias, because he has been a fan of the triology since first reading it in highj school longer ago than he will admit. The film took his breath away, made him weep, then made him cheer. It took him to Middle Earth, a place he had often wanted to visit.

But of course there is only one problem. It is a whole year until The Two Towers is released. Can a human being be forced to wait that long?
Time Magazine punts by making Rudy Giuliani its Person of the Year. Taking nothing away from Rudy, who is magnificent, really the only real choice was Osama, by influencing the world for evil, or President Bush for influencing the world for good. Time didn't choose Osama because, one suspects, it was not worth the lives of the members of the editorial board. And of course Time didn't choose Bush because he's a conservative Republican, in my humble opinion.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Jonah Goldberg has the straight scoop on Fox New's ace war corespondant, Geraldo Rivera. I have to say that while I appreciate a reporter who actually seems to think our cause is just, one gets the impression that Geraldo is rather confused at what he role is. Geraldo, who is carrying a gun as well as a microphone, probably is dreaming that he, personally, will be the one to get Osama Bin Laden.

Of course that would make up for Capone's vault, wouldn't it?
John Podhoretz holds nothing back in his assessment of Yassir Arafat. Most analyst think that Arafat condones terrorism because he's too week to rein in the terrorists. Podoretz suggests a darker motive: that Arafat likes killing, a sort of toad-like Ted Bundy in charge of suicidal madmen.
Sean O'Keefe has been confirmed as NASA Administrator in the full Senate. Let the future now begin.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

A Senator who has neither of the qualities described below is Tom Daschele who persists in blocking a stimulus bill despitethe fact that the President has knocked together a bipartisan version of it which most of the Senate now supports. In so doing, Daschele may have walked wide eyed into the trap President Bush has laid for him. The bill Bush proposes caves on just about every issue the Democrats claim is important to them. But like Yassir Arafat before him, Dashele claims to still not be satisfied. Now Bush can state at every opportunity that the only person standing between the country and some kind of economic relief is Dashele. Usually the President gets the sole blame for economic downturns. This time may be an exception to that rule, thanks to Dashele's inflexibility.
Senator John McCain shows great discernment and class by nominating President Bush as "Man of the Year" in an article in Human Events.

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Ann Coulter has an interesting suggestion for the next target for the war on terrorism. She suggests that we liberate France all over again, but this time from the French. After all, the French government has been appeasing terrorists and other evil doings at the expense of the United States for over a generation. Should be an easy campaign, Coulter suggests, for after all, "What are they going to do? Fight us?"
Jumping Jimmy Jeffords has discovered the wages of being a turn coat. He obstinsibly bolted the GOP over funding he wanted for Education, though he also wanted to preserve the Northeast Dairy Compact. He didn't get the one in the Education Bill just passed, and it looks like he didn't get the other. But he's still Chairman of an environmental committee, so at least he got something for giving the Senate to Tom Daschele.
Joe Biden demonstrates again why people haven't trusted liberals with national security issues in a rant against missile defense. Biden would have us believe that the same sort of people who would not flinch at launching airliners filled with people at us would be disauded from launching missles tipped with weapons of mass destruction by pieces of paper.

I hear he wants to run for President again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Bloom County's Opus to return as a movie star! Now my joy is complete.
Spaceref is reporting that a cornerstone of the Bush space vision will be making space travel cheap, reliable, and high volume. The theory (which is sound) is that given that, everything else from space based defenses, to missions to Mars, to lunar settlements become not only practicable but inevitable.
A federal judge has overturned the death sentence of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Interestingly enough, the judge did not say-as Abu-Jamal's many supporters maintain, that Abu-Jamal was innocent. The judge simply has problems with the way the sentencing hearing was carried out.

Now the state of Pennsylvania has to either appeal, reconvene a sentencing hearing, or give Abu-Jamal life. The real scandal is that a man who demonstrably murdered a police officer is still alive himself after twenty years of appeals and a clever campaign of race baiting with the participating of addled Hollywood lefties and other weird fanatics. No wonder most people are comfortable with secret military tribunals for terrorists.
The Republicans have decided, sensiably, to stop trying to negotiate a stimulus package with Tom Daschele and are now trying to cut a deal with John Breaux of Louisianna. This move is adroit because Breux is one of the two rational Democrats in the Senate (the other one being Zell Miller of Georgia). Breaux is not running for President in 2004 and therefore hasn't really any interest in prolonging the recession in order to make George Bush a one term President. So we'll see if something reasonable arises.

Monday, December 17, 2001

Alan Dershowitz doesn't believe that the Bin Laden tape proves that Bin Laden is guilty. The mind boggles at the notion of a Harvard law professor behaving as delusional as a denizen of the Arab Street. But then one remembers that Dershowitz believes that both O.J. and Bill Clinton are innocent as well.
Geraldo is reporting that Osama has been stashed away somewhere in Peshawar by symphathetic tribesmen and has shaved his beard and put on Western clothes. Even if this bit of news, or some similer scenario is true (and I'm still holding out the possibility that the Evil One is laying dead somewhere in Tora Bora), we shouldn't allow the usual suspects to spin that into a defeat for our side. Remember that we were chasing Nazi war criminals for years-even decades-after World War II ended. I don't think that it will take that long to catch up to Osama-dead or alive-but even if it does, then we've won anyway. Afghanistan is free, Osama is on the run, and it's on to the next target of opportunity.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

A ratherlong article in Spaceref about the coming O'Keefe era at NASA. Folks who think all Sean O'Keefe will be is a mindless bean cutter are in for a pleasent surprise.

Saturday, December 15, 2001

Fox News is reporting that Senator John Kerry (D) Massachuttes has placed a hold on all nonjudicial Bush nominations, including Sean O'Keefe for NASA Administrator, in response to a hold placed on his "Small Business Emergency Relief and Recovery Act" by Sen. Jon Kyl, (R) Arizona. A Kyl spokesman said there is no hold on the legislation.
Michael Kinsley shows once again how silly he is in the way he calls for mercy for American Taliban John Walker. His "reasoning" goes like this. The United States did not "hate" the Taliban sufficiently to go to war with it before the events of 9/11. Kinsley somehow detects a kind of national hypocrisy in this fact. Therefore we should show "mercy" to Walker, which presumably means not executing him for treason or sedition.

The problem is that using Kinsley's logic, we should not have executed any German or Japanese war criminals after World War II because the United States was insuffiently angry with the Nazis and the Japanese to go to war with them before Pearl Harbor. Walkers' crimes took place, though, after 9/11 when he persisted in bearing arms against the United States, even participating in a battle which caused the death of an American CIA officer. Kinsley demonstrates one of the many perversities of liberalism in that somehow he doesn't think that Walker should pay any consequences for his crimes. The United States suffered greviously sincxe the sixties because of this view that criminals are not responsiable. Kinsley should be ashamed for attempted to revived that failed additude.
The Curmudgeon is told that Senator Mike Dewine is the person who has put the hold on O'Keefe's nomination for NASA Administrator. The reason is that Dewine wants assurances that the Glenn Space Flight Center in his state won't be closed to cover budget shortfalls in NASA.

The Washington Times is reporting that American Intelligence has picked up the voice, on radio, of Osama bin Laden issuing orders to his fighters in Tora Bora. That means that he hasn't slipped away to Pakistan, but is now inside the noose.

What must the Evil One be thinking? Does he expect a miricle from Allah to save him from his current predicament? Is he frantically searching his roladex for Johney Cochran's number?

And as for the question, dead or alive? Taking Osama dead means that the essential problem which is Osama is solved immediately. On the other hand there will be a lot of people in the Middle East who will not believe he's dead, even if his bullet ridden corpse is displayed on TV. We'll have Osama sightings (along with Elvis) all over the world for all time to come.

Taking the Evil One alive means a trial. And since we don't want some kind of OJ-style circus, that means a military tribunal. That would be followed by an execution, a cremation, and then ashes scattered in secret.
29 years ago, Apollo 17 departed from the Moon. People have not been back since, a fact that is (or should be) a black mark of shame on our civilization.

Friday, December 14, 2001

Nasa Watch is reporting that a single Senator, identity at this time unknown, as placed a hold on the nomination of Sean O'Keefe to be NASA Administrator. There are two possibilities:

(1) It's someone who is unhappy about the nomination. My guess would be Bill Nelson (D) Florida, as he whined the most during the hearings.

(2) It's somebody with issues unrelated to the nomination. That is to say, someone holding it hostage until some issue important to him/her is resolved.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

Oliver Stone assasinates the truth again in the Showtime movie The Day Reagan was Shot. Fortunately, Richard Allen was there and is able to set the record straight.
Here's a transcript of the Usama bin Ladendialogue of madness and blood lust. What can one say? One couldn't write this dialogue in a movie.
President Bush has just made it official. The ABM Treaty is history and, in six months, it will be legal again for the United States to defend itself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

George Will looks upon the upsurge of patriotism and nationalism in post 9/11 America and finds it good. Not only is the Left totally disconcerted, but the upsurge apparently has had another effect. There's been a marked drop in the sales of Coinfederate flags.
As predicted below, Tom Daschele has come out against withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Well, of course he has.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey has made it official. A great warrior for freedom, like Phil Gramm before him, he has decided to lay down the burden of elected office and retire at the end of this Congress. Armey's service has been great and productive, stretching across the fall of the Soviet Empire, the Contract with America, welfare reform, tax cuts, and the current battles for the Bush agenda. Eighteen years of accomplishment has certainly earned him a well deserved rest. Even so, the Curmudgeon hopes that, after a year or two of relaxation and fishing, Armey might be moved to accept some office of trust, so that his great talents and energy will still be on the side of liberty.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

It also looks like that the Russians are far less bothered by the end of the ABM Treaty than I suspect certain liberals are.
Looks like President Bush is about to bury a long obsolete relic of the Cold War, that is to say the ABM Treaty
Jonah Goldberg asks the burning question, areChucky Schumer (see below) and people who believe as he does on crack. Certainly that would explain a lot of things.
The esteemed Professor Glenn Reynolds has called the Boston Globe's Tom Oliphant a racist. His reasoning? (A) Oliphant has attacked Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, an Asian-American. (B) Liberals like Oliphant have maintained that anyone who attacks any minority is a racist. Therefore (C) Oliphant is a racist.

Glenn is of course deliberately missing the point. Liberals never agree to be bound by the rules they seek to impose on others. That's why liberals can accuse Clarence Thomas, Bob Packwood, and John Tower of being sexual preditors, but at the same time defend Bill Clinton for crimes up to and including rape. That is because the crime commited by conservatives is not racism or sexual assault. The crime is conservatism.
The Bush Administration seems to have lost patience with Yassir Aarfat. It's about time, though the State Department is under the illusion that whomever wil replace him can somehow be persuaded to deal in good faith. My prediction is that Arafat's successor will be far less adroit in pretending to want peace. Then people who want peace in the Middle East will be confronted with a stark choice. That choice will be to either allow things to boil along as before or to seize the West Bank and Gaza (with Israel or not) and to spend years "deterrorizing" the population.
Chucky Schumer, the other Senator from New York, published a shameless lie recently. He stated "The era of a shrinking federal government has come to a close...For the next two decades (after 1980), the federal government stopped growing, and by some measures even shrank, with Bill Clinton doing more of the shrinking than any other president."

In fact the growth of government has continued almost unabated. Schumer thinks that now that we're at war government can be made to grow even more, until it presumnably devours every last portion of individual freedom. Recent evidence suggests that he may be expressing a vain hope. President Bush was able to turn back an attempt by Senator Byrd and other liberals to lard the Defense budget with pork. The President, who is defending freedom abroad against the Taliban, must also defend it at home against people like Schumer.
The New York Post has a photo and article about how suicide bombers are made. Apparently to get people to blow themselves up for Palestine and Allah, one has to start off when they're as young as four. These classes are taking place in refugee camps all over Lebenon.

A question. Aren't these camps nominally run by the UN, winning of this year's Nobel Peace Prize? If so, why isn't this sort of thing stopped?
Looks like Terminator 3 is a Greenlight. Cool by me, I liked the first two, even though the second film had a scene with one of the most unintentionally funny moments in film history.

You must remember the one. This is when Linda Hamiliton dresses up like a combination ninja and SS stormtrooper and goes to head off WWIII by killing the scientist who is destined to create the supercomputer which will start the war. After blasting the hell out of the man's living room with an automatic weapon powerful enough to give Chucky Schumer the vapors, she prepares to send him into eternity before the eyes of his family. But first she delivers a speach about how all men are evil, since all they know how to do is to kill and destroy. Women are superior because they can make babies. Fortunately, Hamilton's baby-the future davior of the world-appreciates the irony and gets mom to stop.
Today marks the three month anniversary of 9/11. My, how the world has changed. I'll bet that Osama, in whatever hole he is now cowering in, never thought it would come to this.
Bah humbug update. The Rutherford Institute, an organization dedicated to fighting religious discrimination, is being deluged with complaints about schools which are trying to stamp out Christmas. Handing out Christmas cards and even wearing green and red are now cause for punishment on certain school campi.

Things have certainly changed since I was in school. The Curmudgeon was the star of his sixth grade Christmas pagent, in which he played a space alien being shown how various Earth countries celebrated Christmas by a pair of Earth children. All great fun and fully supported by the teachers and staff. If someone were to try putting something like that on now, one suspects that a full assault by the Grinches as the ACLU would ensue.

Monday, December 10, 2001

A good summary about how John Walker, American Taliban and traitor, transformed from a quiet, upper middle class California teenager to someone who looked like something Buffy the Vampire Slayer would drop kick in the first fifteen minutes of her show.

One arguement offered by Rand Simberg for executing the twit is that a trip up the tall ladder and down the short rope would prove a warning for parents who ignore the anti-social behavior of their offspring. Of course, Walker's parents actually encouraged it by wiring money to him in Pakistan so that he might complete his indocrination.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has come up with a splendid idea-or perhaps half of an idea-to deal with taxes. It's called the "Tax Me More Fund" which in essence allows Arkansans who think they are taxed too little to be taxed more. The media and Huckabee's liberal opponents are outraged, but the people-who have given the Governor an approval rating in the 70s-think it's a hoot. The fund has raised just $260.00.

Now, to complete the idea, could we have a "Tax Me Less" scheme in which people can lower their own taxes if they think they are taxed too much?

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Maureen Dowd proves that she can be just a silly when writing about Latin and Greek classics as she is writing about politics. She seems to have been provoked by the plan to translate Harry Potter into Latin and Greek. The idea is that since Harry Potter has inspired millions of children to read English which they otherwise might not have done, the Latin and Greek editions might inspire them to read in those langauges as well.

It might be a better idea, though, to translate Harry into Arabic, Farsi, or even Mandarian. These are languages people should know in dealing with real world problems in the 21st Century
Tom Daschele's Senate may be a bit busy to pass a stimulus bill (even a bad one), or an energy bill, or to confirm various judicial nominees. But our merry Senators don't seem too busy to make sure they get a pay increase.

Saturday, December 08, 2001

Gary "Who will rid me of this meddlesome wench" Condit has filed for reelection, acting as it were in the great tradition of Senator Teddy Kennedy.
The irrepresible Christopher Hitchens suggests that the United States has managed to bomb Afghanistan out of the Stone Age. He goes on to castigate some of his former friends on the left for thinking this is a bad thing.

Friday, December 07, 2001

NASA Admistrator designate Sean O'Keefe performed rather well at his Senate confirmation hearing. He didn't back down on the need for management reforms, even while being lectured by Senator Bill Nelson (D) Florida on the utmost importance of the space shuttle. Nelson advanced the silly element that we can't cut back on space shuttle launches because some day we'll have to increase them.

When asked about corporate NASA's tendency to argue against effeciency by suggesting that it would compromise safety, O'Keefe invoked the memory of the father of the nuclear navy, Admiral Rickover, who believed that effeciency and safety were not mutually exclusive. O'Keefe's father worked for Rickover, by the way.

I was particularly impressed by O'Keefe's calm but firm demeaner. The previous NASA Administrator was known for his fits of screaming rage (one of which the Curmudgeon witnessed.) This tended to make the people Dan Goldin proposed tolead unhappy and demoralized. O'Keefe's style of leadership will be quite different.
It looks like that President Bush is doing to the Liberal Democrats at home what he's doing to the Taliban abroad. Thursday he won fast track trade authority in the House, which few people thought he could manage. Friday he turned back Robert Byrd's attempt to lard up the Defense appropriations bill with pork.

And people persist in underestimating the man.
The fantasy boom started by Harry Potter continues apace as Hollywood options the C. S.Lewis Narnia series.
Global warming is melting polar ice caps. The interesting thing is that it's occuring on Mars, a planet which currently has no inhabitants to cause global warming.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

Mike Spann apparently interrogatted American Taliban traitor John Walker, shortly before Spann, a CIA officer, was murdered by the Taliban prisoners. It looks like Walker is a real hard case who may not be sympathetic in an OJ style circus trial.
Robert Novak thinks that Senator Robert Byrd has badly blundered by attempting to lard the Defense Appropriations bill with fifteen billion worth of pork. Calling the pork homeland defense" seems not to have deterred President Bush from offering a veto threat. Now the question is will Senate Democrats hold up a defense bill in time of war to defend pork?
The owner of the pill factory in the Sudan which was obliterated by a missile attack ordered by Bill Clinton is suing for fifty million in damages. The suit asserts that the attack was launched to restore Clinton's popularity damaged by Monicagate and had nothing to do with terrorism.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Hollywood has purchased a story about war in the Middle East for a possible film. The war in question, though, is the Third Crusade and is entitled Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade. The story will also feature Maimonedes, the rabbi and physician who nursed Couer Lion back to health when he fell ill during the Crusade.

Could be an interesting film, if done right. Saladin, while a nemisis of the West, was-unlike current enemies in the Middle East-a man of considerable honor and even chivalry. He would be a splendid model for modern Moslems to copy.
Mansoor Ijaz describes how the Clinton Administration blew several chances to seize Osama bin Laden. It represents one of the most lost opportunities in history.
Michael Kelly writes about Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the three reasons Vermont should be placed under martial law. (The other two reasons are Vermont's other Senator, Jumpin' Jimmy Jeffords, and its communist Congressman, Bernie Sanders.) Kelly writes that Leahy does not let the minor fact of his country being at war to prevent him from having a royal snit over military tribunals. Leahy is also blocking the President's judicial nominees, so one supposes that he doesn't much like the civilian kind either.
Meanwhile the SciFi Channel plans to follow up its successful Dune miniseries (far better in my humble opinion than that David Lynch monstrosity) with a six hour adaptation of Children of Dune.

Perhaps if that continues, we can finally see adaptations of all of the old SF classics. I vote for Asimov's Foundation, anything by Arthur C. Clarke (starting with Earthlight), anything by Poul Anderson (starting with Tau Zero), and any young adult story by Robert Heinlein (starting with The Rolling Stones).
Now that Harry Potter has made magical adventures respectable, Hollywood is in search of further stories along those lines. T.H.White's The Once and Future King seems to be first. The book is yet another retelling of the life of King Arthur. Hollywood has trotted out Camelot innumerable times, most recently this past summer with Marion Zummer Bradley's Celtic, feminist retelling, The Mists of Avalon.

With Potter and the Lord of the Rings certain to rake in the box office, Hollywood will probably scour literature for similer epic stories of magic and adventure. My suggestion, such as it is, would be to look at the works of David Eddings and Ray Feist.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Meanwhile US News has published one of those tiresome, but one supposes inevitable articles about why 2001 the year is not like 2001 the movie. The article doesn't really answer that question. Decisions taken as far ago as 1965, when Lyndon Johnson refused to support then NASA Administrator James Webb's plan for a post Apollo program, surely contributed to the current, sad state of affairs. The refusal of various administrations and Congresses to address bureaucratic mismanagement at NASA is also a cause.

But in the main, the real cause stems from a misunderstanding of what drives human progress. It's not, by and large, big government programs like Apollo. It's the private sector. Remember that in the film 2001, NASA was not running space stations, space shuttles, or a space communications system. Those were run by Hilton, PanAm, and Bell respectively. We can certainly spend a lot of money getting highly paid government employees intospace, to the Moon, and even Mars. And maybe these would be good things to do. But if grubby, greedy entrenpeneurs don't follow, then the dreams of a space faring civilization remain still born.
One of the many legacies bequeethed by the Clinton Administration is a five billion dollar hole blown in the budget of the International Space Station. NASA has been a poster child of mismanagement and petty corruption, even before Clinton. But the space agency is now under new management. According to NASA Watch, the following plan is being initiated to save the space station:

The Big Strategy

Slow down ISS assembly - per the IMCE report (Young Committee) - Longer stays, less crews, less shuttle flights

Show ability to keep the three person core station on budget for the next two years
- Note the OMB guys keep saying that the three person ISS is the only ISS to which the US is committed
- All of the International Partners point out that this is not what the InterGovernmental Agreement (IGA) says

Keep the items necessary to go beyond three person crew going on a low level - aiming for an 2008 capability for seven people. These capabilities are (in priority order)
- Regenerative Life Support
- Node 3
- Additional Research
- Habitation Capability

Plan to go for additional funding to complete seven person capability in FY04 budget
Investigate intermediate options to get earlier interim six person capability from FY06-08
Rush & Malloy reports that Fox's ace war corespondant, Geraldo Rivera, is having trouble getting cooperation from the US military. It seems that our soldiers have long memories and remember Rivera's unquestioning support of Bill Clinton. Not even Oliver North has been able to smooth the way for him. Said one unnamed officer, "Geraldo's paperwork is not in order, and it won't be in order until the war is over."
Bah humbug update. Susan Estrich, the mouth that devoured a million TV screens, was on Hannity and Colmes Monday night was was wackier than usual. Estrich, who might have been on the Supreme Court had Micheal Dukkakis become President, actually said that the town parents of Kennsington, Maryland were right to ban Santa Claus. Why? Because Santa Claus is a religious figure who has no business being in the public square.

Monday, December 03, 2001

The Weekly Standard's Richard Starr writes some details of the life of the American Taliban John Walker. It appears that the traitor's parents are already setting the groundwork for an insanity defense by claiming their darling boy was "brainwashed." Well, of course. Being an American citizen, Walker will likely not be subject to trial by a military tribunal. So I predict a circus of a trial with someone like Johney Cochran as ring master.
The fifth test of an antimissile missile has apparently met with success. The Curmudgeon awaits the cries of anti missile defense zelots who will (a) insist that missile defense won't work and (b) will work so well that it will destabilize the world.
As predicted by the Curmudgeon, Behind Enemy Lines finished a strong second in the Weekend box office behind the invinciable Harry Potter.
John Podhoretz describes more in sorrow than in anger the latest effort of the Palestinians to condemn themselves to more violence and misery. It is amazing to think of an entire people so psychotic that they think that they can wipe the Israelis off the face of the Middle East if they just persist in suicide terror bombing. Not since Germany yelled "seige heil!" to the Austrian Lunatic and marched against the world and into ruin had there been such a situation of a nation so out of touch with reality and so in love with evil. Eventually even the patience of the US State Department is going to be at an end, and then the chastisement that will be coming the way of the Palestinians will be swift and terrible. But they will only have brought it on themselves. A conquest of Yassir Arafat's absurd little kingdom, followed by a generation of "deterrorism" lays in the future.

Sunday, December 02, 2001

Here's a picture of the Million Santa March in Kensington, Maryland, the town which banned Santa from the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
CNN.Com tells the story of a Taliban taken at Kunduz who calls himself John Walker and claims to be an American. If so, he's a traitor and ought to be dealt with accordingly.
Dean Kamen's long awaited secret invention is revealed at last. It's called the Segway Self Balancing People Mover, a kind of battery powered motor scooter with gyroscopes to prevent the rider from falling. I'm not sure this device will catch on in cities with a lot of sprawl, like my town of Houston. Still it may be just the thing for going around the block or fetching something from the corner market.
One of the sleeziest Mayor's races in my town of Houston ended Saturday as the current Mayor, Lee Brown, managed a narrow victory for a third term. Brown, whose tenure has been marked by mediocrity and petty corruption, beat back a stiff challenge by City Councilman Orlando Sanchez by running one of the most negative campaigns in the city's history. Brown won by using the tried and true method of yelling "extremist" at every opportunity, implying the Sanchez was in favor of "hate" and suggesting that, as a Conservative Cuban, Sanchez was not a "real hispanic." Clinton used the same method to great effect. It also almost worked for Gore. It's a sad state of affairs, but there it is.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Rand Simberg has some interesting comments on Sean O'Keef's selection of NASA Administrator. I would add that I think that the conventional wisdom of the Bush Administration as being uninterested in space is a false canard. True, George the Younger hasn't stood up before Congress and shouted, "We choose to go to Mars!" or something similer. But he has taken several, workmanlike measures to fix the messes inside NASA which have been festering for years, and made worse by his predecessor. The selection of O'Keefe, a sound manager with the ear of both the President and Vice President, is just the latest.
Byron York relates the history of bungling and appeasement which was Bill Clinton's legacy on terrorism. Everyone a terrorist outrage took place on Clinton's watch, the first thing he would do is take a poll.

It also seems to me that Clinton was quite a bit tougher on personal, political enemies-say Ken Starr or Newt Gingrich-than on enemies of the United States like Osama Bin Laden. In Clinton's world, opposing his agenda or questioning his innocence were greater sins than murdering American sailors and soldiers. That's the Clinton legacy and it has fallen to the current POTUS, George W. Bush, to clean up the mess.

Friday, November 30, 2001

We saw Behind Enemy Lines Friday night and enjoyed ourselves immensely. It is the first patrotic, military film of the post 9/11 era and it works very well, considering that it takes place during one of Clinton's murky, "wars for peace.". It has a heroic, hotdog US Naval aviator forced to survive after being shot down in war torn Bosnia. It has Serbian bad guys who all look like Cro Magnons in cammies. It has a smarmy, French-NATO admiral willing to sacrifice the life of the heroic aviator for political reasons. It has Gene Hackman who really stretches himself as a crusty, but loveable American Admiral who isn't going to stand for that. The film was shot in Slovakia, another Balkan country just a few miles away from the actual venue of the movie.

Coming soon, Black Hawk Down based on a serious, Clinton era blunder which got a number of US Army Rangers killed in Somalia. Rumor has it that the United States may be returning to Somalia very soon to exact a little pay back as part of the War against Terrorism.
CBS News veteran Bernard Goldberg is publishing a book exposing liberal bias in the media. It's a phenomenom which everyone knows about but few in the media want to talk about. Thus, Goldberg's ex-friends at CBS are madder than wet hens.
The controversy over the decision by the town council of Kennsignton, Maryland to ban Santa Claus from the annual tree lighting ceremony continues. Some residents vow to stage a Million Santa March in protest of the decision.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle blames the return of federal budget deficits not on the economic slow down or on the costs associated with the war on terrorism, but on President Bush's tax cuts which, except for the rebate checks which Daschle supported, haven't even kicked in yet. No, tax cuts don't cause deficits. But they do contribute to outbreaks of foot in mouth desease among extremist, liberal politicians.
On the subject of post 9/11 films, Fred Barnes suggests that Hollywood take the opportunity to leave off making the usual movies about CIA double dealing, FBI plots, and US military atrocities and make some movies in which Americans are-well-the good guys. Certainly the war again terrorism will produce a wealth of material. I have pitched an idea to a production company with which I have had dealings an idea for a film about US Special Forces soldiers who find themselves traveling about Afghanistan on horseback, thus finding themselves the first US horse cavalry to see combat in about a century. I think of the proposed film as a kind of homage to John Ford's cavalry westerns. Stay tuned in case something comes of it.
The first post 9/11 Hollywood film about America's fight against Middle East terrorism may be in the works. The proposed film, however, will be about America's first war with Middle Eastern terrorists, the Barbary Pirates.

Practically from the beginning of the United States, a group of North African countries preyed on American shipping, demanding tribute, and kidnapping American sailors. Finally tired of these depredations, President Jefferson sent the United States Navy to the North African coast to suppress the Barbary pirates.

Twentieth Century Fox has picked up a screenplay entitled Tripoli. The proposed film would depict the adventures of American diplomat and soldier William Eaton, who set off on an epic five hundred mile trek across the North African desert with a motley army of mercenaries and American Marines with the goal of deposing the pirate ruler of Tripoli (modern Libya) and replacing him with his elder brother, the rightful King. I haven't read the screenplay, but the real life story has all the makings of a cool epic, with battles, political intrigue, and utlimate betrayal. If greenlighted, Tripoli could make a fine piece of cinema.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Bill Press, the former Democrat Party hack from California and liberal yeller on CNN's Crossfire, was on Bill O'Reilly Wendsday night. He told O'Reilly that O'Reilly's No Spin Zone was nothing but spin. The evidence was that O'Reilly dares to criticize, among other people, Hillery Clinton, and is therefore a conservative spinner. I suppose that makes Chris Hitchens and Chris Mathews real goose steppers, brothers in spirit with Joef Goebbels..

Then, in an obvious effort to shove his foot even further down his own throat, Press attributed the popularity of shows like O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to audiences of narrow minded bigots who only want to listen to one point of view. Of course O'Reilly has guests like Press on all the time and Rush takes callers whose views make Karl Marx seem like Milton Friedman. Of course Press would know that, if he actually watched O'Reilly and listened to Rush.
A female, Afghan General disses American feminists in general, and Hillery Clinton in particular. “She cannot defend her own rights against her husband. How can she defend the rights of my country?”

Couldn't have said it better myself.
Bah humbug update. Matt Drudge is reporting that the town of Kensington, Maryland has banned Santa Claus from the community's annual Christmas tree lighting. The Town Council decided on the ban after two families complained abouyt "feeling uncomfortable" about the preasence of Ole Saint Nick.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

An interesting article in Spaceref.Com about a proposal which might be the basis of President Bush the Younger's space program. It was advanced at a meeting of the Aerospace Commission by the second man to walk on the moon.
Jack Kemp, who knows something about the subject of tax cuts, explains why if the current stimulus packages now being debated in the Congress is the best the folks on the Hill can come up with, perhaps it is best that there be no stimulus package at all, at least until after the issue is fought over in the 2002 elections.
My sister passed me these verses from an anoynomous poet who surely must be Tenneyson or Kipling reborn:


Two thousand one, nine eleven,
Five thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.

A bearded man with stovepipe hat,
Steps forward saying, "Lets sit, lets chat".

They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
"I have a dream!" and once he did,
The Newcomer said, "Your dream still lives."

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray,
Others in khaki, and green then say,
"We're from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine",
The Newcomer said, "You died not in vain."

From a man on sticks one could hear,
"The only thing we have to fear."
The Newcomer said, "We know the rest,
trust us sir, we've passed that test."

"Courage doesn't hide in caves,
You can't bury freedom, in a grave,"
The Newcomers had heard this voice before,
A distinct Yankees twang from Hyannisport shores.

A silence fell within the mist,
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say,
What was in the hearts of the five thousand plus that day.

"Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports.
Worked our gardens, sang our songs,
Went to church and clipped coupons.

We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought;
Unlike you, great we're not."

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, "don't talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see,
You died for freedom, just like me."

Then, before them all appeared a scene,
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams.
Death, destruction, smoke and dust,
And people working just 'cause they must.

Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone.

"Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman,
Side by side helping their fellow man!"
So said Martin, as he watched the scene,
"Even from nightmares, can be born a dream."

Down below three firemen raised,
The colors high into ashen haze.
The soldiers above had seen it before,
On Iwo Jima back in '44.

The man on sticks studied everything closely,
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly.
"I see pain, I see tears,
I see sorrow - but I don't see fear."

"You left behind husbands and wives,
Daughters and sons and so many lives,
are suffering now because of this wrong,
But look very closely. You're not really gone.

All of those people, even those who've never met you,
All of their lives, they'll never forget you.
Don't you see what has happened?
Don't you see what you've done?
You've brought them together, together as one.

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said,
"Take my hand," and from there he led;
Five thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven,

Rob Long writes in the Wall Street Journal that Hollywood is depressed over its place in the vast scheme of things now that Bush is in the White House and especially since September 11th. Long writes, "'I miss Clinton,' a development executive at a television network said to me last week. 'First off, the guy was always in town. I mean, he must have spent half of his eight years in L.A. Second, he listened. Really listened. I remember back then we had a sitcom on the air and one of the actresses on it was really concerned about . . . I don't know, air quality or something . . . and she marched right up to him and started talking air quality policy stuff to him and he just listened for, like, half an hour.'"

A cynic might wonder if the actress was (a) young and good looking and (b) whether this conversation about air quality took place in private, like in her dressing room.

Long goes on to write, "It's true. When Bill Clinton was president, we were more than entertainers and campaign contributors. We were policy makers and deep thinkers. Our ideas on environmental protection and space exploration were sought after by the White House."

I think that Long is kidding himself if he thinks that the Clinton White House took anything Hollywood had to say about public policy seriously. For instance, if Clinton had listened to his friend Tom Hanks about space exploration, the space program of the 1990s would have taken a far different shape. Clinton was the master of pretending that whomever he was talking to was the most important person to him. What he was really interested in, though, was what he could get from people. That could be money or other favors.

Hollywood people are rather susceptable to this kind of manipulation. Being in the business of make believe, many Hollywood types nurture feelings of insecurity. They want to be taken seriously about serious things. That's why many actors and actresses find themselves promoting causes which for the most part they know nothing about. We really wish they would stop and concentrate on making quality films and TV shows. Entertainment is a very important undertaking and, properly pursued, an honorable craft. Bringing joy to the lives of audiences is a socially healthy thing. Harry Potter, for instance, will do more good than every starlet testifying before congress about alar in apples combined. The more people in Hollywood realize this, the happier everyone will be.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Congressman Ken Bentsen (D) Texas, nephew to Lloyd Bentsen, Senator, Vice Presidential Candidate, and Clinton's first Secretary of the Treasury, wants to become a Senator himself. He is running for the seat held by Phil Gramm, who is retiring next year. This is a good thing on several levals. Primarily it is a good thing because it will liberate the 25th District of Texas from his misrepresentation. Bentsen, unlike his uncle, has been a nonentity in the House of Representatives, toeing the Democrat Party line for the most part, not offering an original piece of legislation of even an original thought. He runs as a moderate and operates in Washington as a liberal. When he looses his run for the Senate and retires to private life, he will not be missed.
Thomas Bray writes that the feminists are irate that George W. Bush has liberated the women of Afghanistan. And well they might, for Bray writes, "By providing the muscle to topple the Taliban, the Bush administration has done more for women's liberation in Afghanistan than the professional feminists ever did. Women are shedding their burkhas, meeting publicly and sending their daughters back to school in the liberated areas." Not that Afghanistan has become the feminist ideal. But the leap from not being able to go out, go to work, and go to school to being able to do all of those things is a greater feat than anyone could have imagined even weeks ago. One wonders if Osama bin Ladin, in whatever hole he is hiding in, appreciates the irony.

Nocturne sold to Hollywood! Unfortunately not the thrilling novel of suspense coauthored by yours truly, but rather a video game featuring monsters and demons.
Political cluelessness update. Former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin send an American flag flown on the International Space Station to the American Physical Society's Robert Park as a thank you gift. The problem is that Park is a vehement opponent of the space station and indeed of all human space flight. In the meantime, Nasa Watch's Keith Cowling, a space station supporter, albeit a vehement critic of Dan Goldin, didn't get his flag. No doubt there was a mailing mixup.
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol has joined the luddite chorus calling for a blanket ban on all human cloning in a short polemic in today's online Weekly Standard. Unfortunately he doesn't make a distinction between reproductive cloning, the creation of carbon copies of human beings, and therapuetic cloning, which would create cells and even replacement organs to better fight deseases. I could certainly support a moratorium on the former since there are ethical and safety issues which have to be worked through. But I am at my wit's end trying to figure out what is so horrible about the latter. It is as if anti-cloning people have the additude that there's a divine edict against using cloning as a tool to aleviate human suffering. People thought the same about vaccination, for example.

Perhaps Bill Kristol, a man I have a great deal of respect for, would explain himself. What princible is so important that he feels it necessary to prolong human suffering and needless death? Kistol states, "At least some effort should be made to achieve a ban more quickly, if only to put the lie to the fatalistic notion that the progress of science is unstoppable and legislative efforts are merely symbolic or even foolish." Gee wizz, we wouldn't want to avoid stopping the progress of science, would we? I wonder what other potential breakthroughs Kristol is in favor of stopping, just to prove that they can be?
Here’s my obligatory commentary on Harry Potter. I first became aware of the phenomenon a couple of years ago when I heard that there was a series of children’s fantasy novels which were actually luring children away from their video games and televisions and into reading. I wasn’t, at first, tempted to read the books myself. There are not enough hours in the day to do what I have to do, not to mention what I want to do. Besides, being in early middle age, I imagined that I wasn’t in Harry’s demographic group. Fortunately a friend of my wife and myself persisted in insisting that I must read Harry Potter. So-more to shut her up than anything else-I picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Several days and four books later, I emerged from the magical world of Hogworts simply wild about Harry. The Harry Potter books are filled with wonder and magic such as rarely seen in literature. I compare them very favorably to The Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz. And the movie, now breaking all box office records, was even great. The scene of the Quidditch match is worth the price of admission. Harry, besides being a wizard, is an unlikely school jock. Scrawny, short, and with thick glasses, he turns out to be a wiz (so to speak) at a game that’s sort of like rugby played on flying broomsticks.

There’s only two sad things related to Harry Potter that begs mentioning. One is that there seems to be a group of rather narrow-minded fundamentalists who are under the delusion that Harry Potter is a plot to turn their children’s souls to the devil. Besides misreading the books, where good and evil are clearly defined, these “Christians” are playing into the stereotype of people of faith as being a bunch of bigoted kill joys. They should lighten up. Harry Potter is not going to cause children to engage in blood sacrifices or participate in sacred orgies.

The second is the Harry’s author, J.K. Rowling, intends to only write seven books, each for a year at Hogworts School of Wizardry. There will be no books about Harry as an adult. I can understand this desire to move on. But I think Ms. Rowling may want to go into hiding after publishing the seventh book if she really thinks her fans are going to be satisfied. Arthur Conan Doyle, sick of writing Sherlock Holmes stories, killed off his most famous character and thought that was the end of it. He found himself hounded by fans until he was forced to literally bring back Holmes from the dead. So many it be with Harry Potter.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

A company called Advanced Cell Technology seems to have cloned the first human embryo, This has raised a ruckus, barely muted by news of the war, along with renewed calls for blanket bans on human cloning. There are some ethical and safety issues on repoductive cloning, which is the creation of a human being, which have to be addressed before it's allowed. However, therapeutic cloning, which could do things like create pancreatic cells to cure diabetes or nerve cells to repair damaged spinal cords, ought not to be held back out of political considerations. The potential to cure human suffering is too great to engage in wrangling.
The protean ex Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich hosted a documentary on medical errors tonight on Fox News. One of the fascinating aspects of Newt's documentary is that it avoided the breathless air of scandal and finger wagging with which news shows usually approach subjects like this. The show actually examined a host of real world solutions hospitals are using to address the problem. The key seems to be rapid and accurate desimination of information via computer networks.
Geraldo Rivera's new role as ace war corespondent for Fox News has, at the very least, a great deal of entertainment value. I've seen two of his reports so far. One was from a dirt track he called "the road of death", not because the US Air Force had bombed the hell out of a bunch of Taliban there, but because four unfortunate journalists were bushwacked and murdered there. The other was from a bunker filled with a "witch's brew" of terror and death, which is to say chemicals designed to kill lots of people. Both stories were filed with a kind of breathless enthusiasm which has to be seen to be believed.

Now Geraldo did his best work as a foreign corespondent before his tabloid TV days, when he was one of the few reporters who was not chastising the Israelis for attacking terrorists in Lebanon. So I was willing to give him a chance until he appeared on Bill O'Reilly. He basically blamed 9/11 on people who wanted to send Bill Clinton to Levenworth. The theory is that if all those FBI agents had not been unearthing the latest dirt on the Boy President, they would have gone after Osama and presumably stopped the attack. The problem of course is that the record shows that Clinton was about as interested in going after terrorists as he is in entering a monastery. Time and time again, starting with the first attack on the World Trade Center, to the assault on the USS Cole, Clinton's reaction ranged from feckless to nonexistent. Clinton will be remembered as a man who was one part Warren Harding and one part Neville Chamberlain. And that's only just, in my humble opinion.
It seems that the Red Chinese have stumbled upon the notion that a great power, a status to which they aspire, is necessarily a space faring power. Just as the Romans built their empire with roads, the British theirs with sailing ships, and the United States theirs with the air plane, the super powers of the 21st Century will build their empires with space craft:

China Announces Future Space Plans

The only surprise in this report is the year 2005 date for the first Chinese manned flight. I think they'll put up a man before then, possibly some time next year. Also, while it looks like the Red Chinese are setting their sights on the Moon, there doesn't seem to be a Chinese equivilent of Kennedy's "when this decade is out" challenge. I don't think we'll see Chinese taikionauts singing The East is Red on the lunar surface any time soon. A pity, in a way. There would be nothing like a good space race to light a fire under America's own dysfunctional space program. See my old Space Policy Digest article on the subject:

Lets Challenge the Chinese to a Space Race
George Will has a splendid piece today on the State Department's feckless policy on the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict:

Powell's Intrusion
First a little about myself. My name is Mark R. Whittington. I’m a writer and computer analyst residing in Houston, Texas. Along with my wife Chantal I’m the author of an espionoge thriller, entitled Nocturne. I have an alternate history novel coming up, entitled Children of Apollo. To learn more about both, as well as information on how to buy copies, see below:

The Nocturne Home Page

This page is going to be devoted to my random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me. I hope you all enjoy the reading as much as I’m going to enjoy the writing.