Tuesday, September 30, 2003

This explanation by Robert Novak should put an end to the nonsense, but it won't.
Wesley Clark has an interesting technology development platform. It appears to include warp drive and time travel.
John Derbyshire imagines a real war on terror. The only thing I would change is that we would occupy the Saudi oil fields instead of letting the Wahabbists have them.
Meanwhile, speculation rages over the time, the duration, and the size of the first Chinese manned space mission.
Dana Dillon, senior policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, suggests that the upcoming Chinese manned space mission will inspire other Asian countries, including India, Japan, and even South Korea to launch their own manned space efforts. This has far reaching implications for the troubled American effort:
Dillon also expressed the view that China's bid may be what it takes "to shake our country out of its billion-dollar-per-launch complacency and cause us to reassert American pre-eminence in space."

"America's leadership and pre-eminent position as the world's sole superpower will be in serious doubt if Chinese tourists are taking pictures of Neil Armstrong's footprints on the moon and South Koreans are the first on Mars," he added.

Indeed. Read the whole piece.

Monday, September 29, 2003

David Frum and Jonah Goldberg muse on the nature of "Orientalism", a thought crime defined by the late Edward Said.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Terminator appears poised for a romp in the formally Democrat state of California. Indeed, if the numbers hold up, 58 percent will vote for one Republican or another.
Brandon Crocker examines the incoherence that is the current Democrat thinking on Iraq.
David Hogberg suggests that President Bush's current "low" poll numbers are not much to worry about.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Looks like the race for the X Prize is entering the final lap.
Smart 1, Europe's first probe to the Moon, is on it's way.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Charles Krauthammer suggests that President Bush has driven Teddy Kennedy and the rest of the Democrat Party insane.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Space elevators made Jay Leno's monologue. Jay has discovered a new, unforeseen problem. Who could listen to elevator music for the whole 60 thousand plus mile trip without going nuts?
Edward Said, apologist for Palestinian terrorism and enforcer for political correctness in Middle Eastern studies, has died.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Robert Zimmerman makes the sensible suggestion that we go to the private sector for our space transportation needs. He also gives the back of his hand both to NASA for wasting money on failed attempts to replace the shuttle and certain United States Senators who complain about such waste while rubber stamping those attempts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I've warned on a number of occassions about a coming space race with the Chinese. Now, Tony Blankley raises the possibility of a biotech race. The Chinese seem to have the advantage of being less--well--bothered by such things as using biotechnology to improve the human species.
Howard Dean demonstrates some confusion by identifying himself with the patriots who held the Boston Tea Party and the President with King George III. But, if I am not mistaken, the folks who tossed the tea into Boston Harbor were resisting higher taxes, which Governor Dean favors. The President, I suspect, would never impose a tax on peoples' breakfast beverage, be it tea or four shot espresso.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Rand Simberg hammers the La Times for commiting the "robots are better than people" fallacy. The only thing I have to add to Rand's points is that the premise, even given scientific exploration, is wrong and will be until we can build something like Star Trek's Commander Data. Unlike robots, people are capable to thinking outside the box (even when they work at NASA). It's impossible for a robot to do that because one can't think outside the box when one is a box.

In the interests of full disclosure, by the way, the LA Times has been kind enough to publish a couple of my own pieces with a slightly different perspective.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Here is a bitter sweet narrative about the fight to preserve the space shuttle program, and hence manned space flight, in the Spring on 1970. It's bitter sweet because the shuttle did not lower the cost of space flight, making everything else possible.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Rand Simberg muses on NASA's space shuttle problem and why the Orbital Space Plane is not the answer.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Peter Bishop has some insights about the lessons on the Chinese Admiral Zeng He and the European explorers who were allowed to seize the opportunities the Mandarians denied him.
Over the next 28 years, Zheng made seven voyages to the "western seas," visiting Southeast Asia, India and Africa, all decades before Portugese explorer Vasco de Gama rounded Cape Horn. But 28 years later, Zheng's magnificent fleet lay in ruins. What happened?

It was not that Zheng had not fulfilled his mission. He brought back priceless treasures, expressions of friendship from societies eager to trade with the Chinese, and new knowledge of engineering and medicine.

So why did the Chinese destroy his ships? Quite simply, they judged that everything he discovered was inferior to their own technology. Why spend money and risk lives to explore when all they would find had no benefit for Chinese society?

They were right about the first point. Chinese society was far superior to the peoples the admiral had discovered, including those in Europe.

The Chinese had technologies that the rest of the world would have to invent or import: printing, gunpowder, decimal mathematics, paper money, and multi-stage rockets. They developed a high culture of art and literature upon the Confucian values of personal responsibility and hard work.

What were they to gain from interacting with other societies?

As we know from history, they were wrong about exploration, its purposes and benefits. They measured the value of exploration against tangible, near-term outcomes. If you can't see the return, why engage in the enterprise?

The Europeans, however, explored largely for its own sake. Of course, they were looking for returns -- trade routes, gold, whatever, but when they did not find them, they did not give up exploring.

We know now that Europe, driven by that curiosity and the desire for something better, developed while China stagnated. The Europeans had drawn equal in technology, art and culture. And driving ever forward, they would come to lead and dominate the world while China has been catching up ever since.

I think the modern Chinese have learned the lessons of Zeng He and will not give up and withdraw into a splendid Ming-style isolation. We in the West had better take that into account while we wrestle with what goals we should pursue up on the High Frontier.

Just when one thought that the Democrats had pushed the limits of madness hard enough, Teddy Kennedy leaps the length of his chain to blow right past them, foaming at the mouth, snarling incoherently.
George Will says that only a politician with the steel of a Maggie Thatcher can save California. Fortunately, Will says, California has just such a person. But will the people elect him governor whenever the recall election takes place?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

More on space elevators. I'm not sure about who accurate the six billion dollar figure is, but it is interesting to note that it is two thirds to one half the estimated cost of the NASa Orbital Space Plane which will cost considerably more than $100/lbs to take people into space.
John Pike misunderstands how Presidential decision making works. Pike complains that President Bush is waiting for a committee of advisors to come up with policy suggestions before articulating a space vision.
"Well, it's not John Kennedy," said John Pike, a space expert who runs the think tank GlobalSecurity.org.

Kennedy, president when NASA launched the first manned spaceflights, set a goal in 1961 to place an American on the moon by the end of that decade. NASA landed its first astronauts there July 20, 1969.

"These are not decisions that can be made by committees," Pike said. "Considering that he's been president for three years, if he does not have developed views on these matters yet, it doesn't sound like it's likely to change."

Actually committees of advisors developing options for a President to base a decision on is exactly how these things work. That's how Kennedy arrived at the Moon landing goal and how every other President who launched a new space initiative since formulated similer goals.
John Carter McKnight responds to some blatherings by Spider Robinson with an entertaining and insulting rant.

Both gentlemen are wrong, of course. While it is regretable that the real 2001 did not resemble the movie 2001, that fact should not be a cause for either despair as Robinson expressed or cynicism as McKnight expressed. The destruction of the Columbia, along with the upcoming Chinese space mission and the soon to occur attempts at the X Prize, opportunities will soon abound for jump starting a space future. Not exactly the one McKnight so easily scorns, but something more wonderful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The President had some rather cryptic remarks on the subject of space exploration.
Bush said it's very important for NASA to have "a clear set of goals that are justifiable so that when we go to Congress, the funding will come."

Asked whether his evolving space vision includes a manned mission to Mars, the president said, "I really don't have an opinion on Mars, but I do have an opinion that the more we explore, the better off America is.

"I believe in pushing the boundaries," he said.

Also it looks like the shuttle won't fly until at the earliest May, probibly next summer.

The Republican Party is the party of manly men.
Under the delusion that he's Ike for knocking over a tiny Balkan province, Wesley Clark is going to offer to save the Democrats from their doom next year.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Jim Oberg has an analysis of China's drive to become a space faring power.
Hysterical environmentalists who protest biotech food products maintain that they will destroy the way of life of Third World Farmers. I agree and thank God for it, as that way of life consists of starvation, poverty, squalor, and early death.
Many thanks to Jim Oberg for pointing out this hysterical warning about President Bush's evil plans to rule the universe.
Jeff Foust discusses the state of play of the real cheap access to space technology, space elevators.
Speaking of the California Recall, the fact that Bill Clinton did not burst into flames the moment he entereed that AME Church--resumably holy ground--causes one to doubt the existence of a just God.
The madcap 9th Court of Appeals has done it again, this time delaying the California recall election. The excuse? Punch card ballots, used in elections for decades, are now suddenly unfair.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

The good people of Texas decided to cap noneconomic medical malpractice awards, thus inflicting a major defeat on trial lawyers.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Joe Pelton offers a commentary with the ten most important reasons for space exploration. There is, however, one reason that overrides all others.

The exploration and settlement of the high frontier of space will ensure the long term preservation of the human species. And, at the risk of angering some, if carried out by Americans and their allies, the long term preservation of human freedom is assured.
Rand Simberg performs a smackdown on Gregg Easterbrook, a man who embaresses himself every time he presumes to write about space matters.
Dick Gephardt went nuclear on Howard Dean by comparing him to--Newt Gingrich. This, for a Democrat, is like comparing someone to Satan. However, in so doing, Gephardt managed to tell several lies about Dean and Gingrich.
Burt Rutan's march toward the X Prize proceeds apace with a test of a hybrid rocket motor.
Multimillionaire Senator Teddy Kennedy, scion of a family whose members never spent an hour in a public school, has vowed to stop school vouchers for poor children in DC by any means necessary.

One must feel a modicum of sympathy for Massa Teddy. It just be very irritating when a group of African American educators and parents get uppity enough to imagine that they know best how to educate their children. Best to--er--drown such ambitions right away before they spread.
While the Israeli Security Cabinet suggests that Yassir Arafat should be removed to some suitable place, such as France perhaps, the Jerusalem Post suggests a much hotter venue.
The world will not help us; we must help ourselves. We must kill as many of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as possible, as quickly possible, while minimizing collateral damage, but not letting that damage stop us. And we must kill Yasser Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative.

No one seriously argues with the fact that Arafat was preventing Mahmoud Abbas, the prime minister he appointed, from combating terrorism, to the extent that was willing to do so. Almost no one seriously disputes that Abbas on whom Israel, the US, and Europe had placed all their bets failed primarily because Arafat retained control of much of the security apparatus, and that Arafat wanted him to fail.

The new prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, clearly will fare no better, since he, if anything, has been trying to garner more power for Arafat, not less. Under these circumstances, the idea of exiling Arafat is gaining currency, but the standard objection is that he will be as much or more of a problem when free to travel the world than he is locked up in Ramallah.

If only three countries Britain, France, and Germany joined the US in a total boycott of Arafat this would not be the case. If these countries did not speak with Arafat, it would not matter much who did, and however much a local Palestinian leader would claim to consult with Arafat, his power would be gone.

But such a boycott will not happen. Only now, after more than 800 Israelis have died in three years of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks, has Europe finally decided that Hamas is a terrorist organization. How much longer will it take before it cuts off Arafat? Yet Israel cannot accept a situation in which Arafat blocks any Palestinian break with terrorism, whether from here or in exile. Therefore, we are at another point in our history at which the diplomatic risks of defending ourselves are exceeded by the risks of not doing so.

Such was the case in the Six Day War, when Israel was forced to launch a preemptive attack or accept destruction. And when Menachem Begin decided to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. And when Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in Palestinian cities after the Passover Massacre of 2002. In each case, Israel tried every fashion of restraint, every plea to the international community to take action that would avoid the need for "extreme" measures, all to no avail. When the breaking point arrives, there is no point in taking half-measures. If we are going to be condemned in any case, we might as well do it right.

Arafat's death at Israel's hands would not radicalize Arab opposition to Israel; just the opposite. The current jihad against us is being fueled by the perception that Israel is blocked from taking decisive action to defend itself.

Arafat's survival and power are a test of the proposition that it is possible to pursue a cause through terror and not have that cause rejected by the international community. Killing Arafat, more than any other act, would demonstrate that the tool of terror is unacceptable, even against Israel, even in the name of a Palestinian state. Arafat does not just stand for terror, he stands for the refusal to make peace with Israel under any circumstances and within any borders.

In this respect, there is no distinction, beyond the tactical, between him and Hamas. Europe's refusal to utterly reject him condemns Palestinians, no less than Israelis, to endless war and dooms the possibility of the two-state solution the world claims to seek.

While the prospect of a Palestinian power vacuum is feared by some, the worst of all worlds is what exists now: Terrorists attack Israel at will under the umbrella of legitimacy provided by Arafat. Hamas would not be able to fill a post-Arafat vacuum; on the contrary, Hamas would lose the cover it has today.

A word must be said here about the most common claim made by those who would not isolate Arafat, let alone kill him: that he is the elected leader of the Palestinian people. Even if Arafat was chosen in a truly free election (when does his term end?), which we would dispute, this does not close the question of his legitimacy.

Whom the Palestinians choose to lead them is none of our business, provided it is a free choice, and provided they do not opt for leaders who choose terror and aggression. So long as the Palestinians choose such a leadership, it should be held no more immune to counterattack by Israel than the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were by the United States.

We complain that a double standard is applied to us, and it is. But we cannot complain when we apply that double standard to ourselves. Arafat's survival, under our watchful eyes, is living testimony to our tolerance of that double standard. If we want another standard to be applied, we must begin by applying it ourselves.

Forty or thirty years too late, if you ask me.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

I sometimes wonder, did a mad, exaulting voice, whispering in their minds, tell them that by doing that terrible thing they would cause an empire to fall?

And now, two years later, does the same voice taunt that maybe that empire is their own?

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Fifteen years after his death, Robert Heinlein is coming out with a new novel.

It's called For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs
Democrats may have to rethink their desire to kow tow to the United Nations.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Bill Buckley suggests that George W. Bush will really annoy his enemies by not confirming their hatred of him by actually becoming evil.
Loose talk about the Chinese going to the Moon proceeds apace. If they do it, we had better be there demanding they present their visas.
Good news actually does occur. The House actually passed school vouchers for poor kids in the District of Columbia and the good people of Alabama rejected the idea that God wants them to pay higher taxes.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Of course it looks like John Kerry wants to play political games with funding for Iraq in order to try to save his imploding Presidential campaign.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

President Bush has tossed the gauntlet into the teeth of those sunshine soldiers and summer patriots who fantasize that the Tet Offensive is now occuring in Iraq.
Even before the Supreme Court rules on it, McCain-Feingold seems to be imploding.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

The first real movie about 9/11 airs on Showtime this Sunday. Looks like it'll be pretty good.
Firefly, the TV space epic that was light years better than any recent Star Trek, but was nevertheless cancelled by the Fox Network, will now come to the big screen.
Over thirty years after Apollo 17, the United States Senate is shocked, shocked that people are not out beyond Low Earth orbit exploring. Bill Nelson (D) Florida was pretty sure who was to blame:
Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida and himself a former shuttle astronaut, warned O'Keefe against the danger of allowing the administration of President George W. Bush to perpetuate the mistakes and lack of vision of the previous three administrations in continuing to trim the shuttle program budget.

"The cost cutting has been part of the problem," said Nelson. "NASA has been starved of funds over four administrations and it has always been the (White House's) Office of Management and Budget that has said 'nyet' to NASA."

Of course NASA's budget was increased under Reagan, Bush 41, and now Bush 43. It was cut only under one of those past four Presidents, Bill Clinton.

Bush 41, it may be recalled, had a notion that people should be on the Moon and Mars, exploring. Congress at the time went through that plan like the Visigoths through Rome and the Space Exploration Initiative was formally cancelled by Bill Clinton.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Ron Howard's next project will apparently be the Eric Sevareid Story, about the famous reporter's adventures in China during World War II.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Looks like environmental terrorism has come to Texas.
For some weeks, the State of Texas has been treated to the silliness of Democrat State Senators literally fleeing to New Mexico in order to prevent action on redistricting. The unity of the Democrat exiles may now be on the verge of collapse.
The drive to reshape the American space program has begun in the Congress.
There a 1 in 909,000 chance that we're all gonna die in ten and a half years.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Announcing the triumphant return of Opus the Penguin.