Curmudgeons Corner

Random thoughts on politics, current events, popular culture, and whatever else interests me.

Mark R. Whittington is a writer residing in Houston, Texas. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel of suspense Nocturne which he coauthored with his wife, Chantal, The Children of Apollo trilogy, The Last Moonwalker and Other Stories, Gabriella’s War, The Man from Mars: The Asteroid Mining Caper, and Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004
 
It looks like radical liberals and radical libertarians have at last found common ground in opposing the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. I'm not surprised that a Clintonista like Alice Rivlin would oppose space exploration. The far left have always disdained it. But I thought that the folks at CATO were smarter than that. Especially galling is the hoary old "robots uber alles" cliche. Once again, folks, in order to fully understand the unknown places like the Moon and Mars, not to mention to fully exploit the opportunities there, we have to send people.


Monday, November 29, 2004
 
Sean O'Keefe speaks about the future of space exploration, China's ambitions, and other subjects.


 
San Dinkin proposes replacing some current holidays with a set of what can only be described as thematic celebrations. I think his idea is, politely speaking, a bit wacked. However, I have always thought that July 20th should be a federal holiday, called Apollo Day. Even so, I am not ready to junk Thanksgiving and Independence Day.


Sunday, November 28, 2004
 
Steven Spielberg's production of War of the Worlds is having trouble attracting an "ethnically diverse" group of extras willing to be killed by the alien invaders in the course of the movie. '"We want to make it so they don't just kill white people, they kill everybody," casting director Billy Dowd said.'


Saturday, November 27, 2004
 
Speaking of Oliver Stone, he has some surprising things to say about the parallels between Alexander and President George W. Bush.
“I would not put Bush down. We have to move on,” Stone said. “The election happened, and there’s no point in crying over it. It’s a fresh slate for me, personally. I look at him fresh. People change. ...

“Often second-term presidents do become better presidents. They’re a little bit wiser and they don’t have to run so hard to get elected. So things might change. You hope for that.”

If Bush manages to transform Iraq and Afghanistan into secure, democratic states; if he can negotiate with Iran to disband its nuclear weapons program and calm Islamic radicalism; if he continues to work peacefully with Russia, which has its own historic interests in the region...Stone says the U.S. president may earn the legacy of the ancient hero of “Alexander.”

“It’s a grand scheme,” Stone said. “If he pulled it off...in 20 years, maybe he would be considered 'Bush the Great.'”

Praise indeed.


 
I’m a real sucker for historical epics, even bad ones. Most of them tend to follow a formula. Broadly drawn characters, simple plots, lots of action, eye popping, computer animated scenes of ancient battles and cities (in the modern era), an obligatory sex scene or two, and often an only tenuous relationship with what the actual historical record was. Gladiator and Braveheart are good examples of the genre.

Oliver Stone did not follow this formula when he made his film, Alexander, and that seems to be the problem. Instead of an historical epic, Alexander is really a character study of history’s greatest conqueror. That means between the action, the sex, and eye popping scenes of the Battle of Gaugemela and the triumphal entry into Babylon, are long scenes of exposition that try to examine Alexander’s formative influences, his motives, and his passions. This can be very tedious if you’re not expecting it and you find that sort of thing boring. It can be rewarding, though, if you can stick with it and pay attention.

Oliver Stone’s Alexander has a number of flaws. His use of accents in dialogue is disconcerting at time. Alexander’s mother Olympia, played by Angelina Jolie, affects a kind of thick, gypsy dialect that has to be heard to be believed. Some of the Macedonians seem Scotch-Irish, including one general with a brogue so thick that he is almost incomprehensible.

Alexander’s main flaw, though, is that it is at once too long and not long enough. At the end of the almost three hour long movie one feels as exhausted as if one had marched to India and back with a megalomaniac in charge. And yet, large swaths of Alexander’s life were left out, to be dealt with a few lines of voice over by Sir Anthony Hopkins as the old Ptolemy. Had I been given the assignment of bring Alexander’s life to the screen, I’d have given it the Lord of the Rings treatment and made it three movies. The first would have followed Alexander’s childhood and young manhood. The second would have covered the conquest of Persia. The third would have depicted the march to the uttermost East.

About the gay thing. It wasn’t as excessive as you might have heard. A few significant looks here, a few innuendos there. There is one scene in which Alexander and his companion Hephaistion declare their love for each other that might make one squirm if one is uncomfortable with two men doing that. More disturbing as the sex scene between Alexander and his bride Roxane which seemed to be either rape or some kind of violent, Sogdonian style foreplay. My group who saw the film with me is still debating the matter.

Colin Farrell and Val Kilmer turn in solid performances as Alexander and his father King Phillip respectively. Rosario Dawson is delicious as Roxane.

One minor historical nit. Alexander’s tendency to massacre populations that resisted him—as at the siege of Tyre—is glossed over. He also seems to have acquired some kind of liberating, multicultural ideology that the historic Alexander did not have. His tendency to having wild, drunken rages during which he as mad, bad, and dangerous to be around is depicted very accurately.

Should you see it? I did not find the movie a waste of the ticket price and there are many parts of it that are rewarding. One should just approach it for what it is and not what one would expect a historical epic to be.


Friday, November 26, 2004
 
This proposal for "scientific planetary parks" on Mars seems like an interesting compromise with the folks who want to seal off the whole planet against human settlement. But I can see the scheme complicating terraforming efforts a lot.


 
More on lunar helium 3 as a solution to global energy shortages.


Thursday, November 25, 2004
 
This communique from the Planetary Society is not unusual, except that the author of it is Lori Garver. We last saw Garver as a space policy advisor to the Kerry Campaign in which capacity she helped to cast aspersions upon President Bush's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative. I'm not sure when she became associated with the Planetary Society, but I find that association rather odd seeing as that organization strongly supports the President's initiative. It bespeaks a certain political nimbleness that is at once fascinating and disconcerting.

Thanks to Jim Rohrich for the heads up.


 
Ready or not, the new Moon race is on.


 
America will send two landers, called Moonrise to return samples from the Aitken Basin at the lunar south pole in 2010.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004
 
It seems that the Declaration of Independence has been banned at a California public school. Why? It seems that Thomas Jefferson mentions God in the document.


 
Film maker James Cameron looks ahead at the coming new age of space exploration.


 
Robin Lane Fox, one of the greatest living experts on the life of Alexander the Great, recalls his role as consultant on Oliver Stone's much panned film by the same name.


 
A regulatory hurtle has been surmounted for the test flight of a prototype of a Bigelow inflatable module.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004
 
A private trip around the Moon? Perhaps.


 
Apparently the American Physical Society slam against Moon, Mars, and Beyond is not being met favorably in certain quarters. I wonder if they will threaten to sue Robert Walker and Bob Zubrin?


 
Looks like the American Physical Society is threatening to sue NASA Watch. Personally, I didn't find any of Keith's commentary slanderous or even wrong.


 
Very soon, we shall not have Dan Rather to kick around any more. In a way, considering how he tried to take down President Bush with those forged documents, Rather's resignation adds to that long list of people who went up against George W. Bush and lost.


 
First Captain Kirk, now Ellen Ripley will be flying into space via Virgin Galactic.

Via Tom James.


 
Your Humble Servant writes about Space Exploration and A Tale of Two Presidents Bush.


Monday, November 22, 2004
 
Now that President Bush has beaten Congress into submission and has gotten funding for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative, NASA is proceeding at warp speed to get it done.

Meanwhile, more silliness from Robert Park's American Physical Society:
Many scientists dissent from Bush's plan. They fear human space travel will gobble up scarce funds that they would prefer to use on pure research.

On Monday, the American Physical Society, which represents 45,000 physicists and astronomers, issued a report protesting that manned missions to the moon and Mars will jeopardize more promising robotic missions, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars rovers now surveying the red planet.

Of course, if human space flight were banned and no humans would ever go into space again, one suspects that support for robotic space exploration would quickly atrophe and then die. After all, would you rather spend billions finding germs on Mars or billions on health care and education on Earth? That would be the question.


 
Glenn Reynolds examines the debate on space tourism. Along the way he finds out something I have long suspected. There are certain extreme sports--mountain climbing for instance--that are far more dangerous than rocketing into space is likely to be for the well heeled and adventurous.


 
The Chinese will complete their unmanned lunar program in thirteen years, it seems. Meanwhile, with the blessings of the State Department, the Chinese are having a look at America's exploration plans.


 
Greg Zsidisin proves that Post Election Selection Trauma (PEST) is a truly debilitating illness with these lunatic (no pun intended) ravings.
Fundamentalist Christians played a key role in re-electing George W. Bush President and giving the Republicans an even stronger stranglehold on Congress. It is clear that they will continue to move the country to be more conservative, and to further blur the lines between church and state.

The country needs more unity, and I think it's time those of us "obstructionists" oblige. We could well achieve this unity by constructing something I call the Lunar Crucifix.

As the ultimate faith-based initiative, we could task NASA with emplacing a huge cross in lights stretching across the face of the Moon. The cross would of course be best seen during a new moon, when the Near Side is dark. However, because the lunar surface reflects only a few percent of the sunlight it receives, a Lunar Crucifix could be designed to be visible even during a full Moon.

Greg is also under the mistaken impression that Tom Delay is a Senator and is Senate Majority Leader. He is a member of the House and is House Majority Leader.

In the meantime, Sam Dinkin proves the danger of getting one's history from computer games. I would suggest that Sam read a book or two, or at least watch the History Channel. Having done so, he might realize that Martian germs are not the moral equivilent of the gentle Native American nor the trodden upon Irishman.


Sunday, November 21, 2004
 
Radiation will be a great hazard for any future interpanetary explorer. The solution is already being worked on in the form of something that sounds out of Star Trek.


Saturday, November 20, 2004
 
Looks like the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vison will be fully funded for FY2005, thanks to the tireless efforts of the White House, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, and --not the least of all--the Stonewall Jackson of space politics, House Majority Leader Tom Delay.

So much for the President not wanting to do what it takes to pass his own initiative.

Meanwhile, the House has passed the Commercial Space Bill, HR5382, that will enable the embryonic commmercial space flight industry. Now it's up to the Senate.


Friday, November 19, 2004
 
A group of Greek lawyers are just mad as hell that Oliver Stone is going to depict Alexander the Great as a bisexual. They are threatening to sue.

The problem, of course, is for once Stone is being historically accurate in one of his movies.


Thursday, November 18, 2004
 
This week marks the thirty fifth anniversary of Apollo 12. That mission has a special place in my heart. I had the occassion, before his untimely death, to exchange some emails with Captain Conrad on a variety of subjects. Pete Conrad went on, after the Apollo era, to a variety of activities, including a brief career as an actor in the TV film Plymouth, about a lunar colony. Conrad is best known, besides commanding Apollo 12, for his involvement in the Delta Clipper project. Unlike many attempts to find a way out of the shuttle trap, the DC-X actually flew. Had it not been for Clinton era politics, DC-X might have grown into something wonderous.

Alan Bean, the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, went on to become an accomplished artist. His paintings of various incidents during the Apollo missions to the Moon are classic works of art. I met Bean at an art show, many years ago, and treasure the conversation we had to this day.


 
Ordinarily, I'm not a defender of Oliver Stone. While he is a director of immense skill and passion, a number of his movies have been travesties. JFK in particular was a talky, conspiracy rant that probably poisoned the understanding of history for millions.

But now, Stone is being attacked for being historically accurate in his latest film, Alexander. I haven't seen the film yet, so can't comment on its over all quality. But I think Stone needs to be applauded for depicting Alexander for what he was--a bisexual man in an era when that sort of thing was considered normal and common.


 
As the end game develops for the fight to fund the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision, the White House plays some hardball.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004
 
Canadian columnist and total nut case Thomas Walkom calls for the kidnapping of President George W. Bush and putting him on trial in some kind of kangaroo court for "war crimes."
On the face of it, Bush seems a perfect candidate for prosecution under Canada's Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

This act was passed in 2000 to bring Canada's ineffectual laws in line with the rules of the new International Criminal Court. While never tested, it lays out sweeping categories under which a foreign leader like Bush could face arrest.

In particular, it holds that anyone who commits a war crime, even outside Canada, may be prosecuted by our courts. What is a war crime? According to the statute, it is any conduct defined as such by "customary international law" or by conventions that Canada has adopted.

One doubts that the government in Ottawa would be so inpolite as to do such a thing. But just in case, one should remind people like Walkom what would happen to Canada should it take such an action and since Canada has thoughtfully denuded its armed forces, it could do very little to stop the retibution that would fall upon it.


 
More excellent material about capitalism, mining, and living off the land on the High Frontier.


 
This and this are stark proof of an old truism. The biggest racists in America are not a bunch of low browed crackers living in some place like Vidor, Texas. The biggest racists in America are effete, north eastern lefties. For attacking Dr. Condi Rice, I declare that they are no gentlemen. They are stupid people who are unworthy of shining the shoes of the woman they are savaging.

Dr. Rice rose from poverty in the segregated south to enter college at fifteen, to become the youngest college provost in history at Stanford, to sit at the right hand of the greatest US President of the 21st Century.

If I die and am reborn, I hope to get at least half of Dr. Rice's brains.


 
Some time ago, Ann Coulter suggested (she insisted tongue in cheek) that we should compel the Islamic terrorists to convert to Christianity. My counter suggestion was that they should be forced to convert to Islam, since many of the things practiced by the terrorists were condemned by the Prophet. Ralph Peters suggests that the terrorists, for all their pretensions, have rejected the tenets of Islam and have started a blood, death cult that dates back from before the time of the Prophet.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004
 
Colin Powell vrs Hillary Clinton for Senator from New York? Interesting idea, but I doubt that Ms. Powell would approve.


 
Even in death, Yassir Arafat is causing trouble and controversy by lying on his Death Certificate.


Monday, November 15, 2004
 
Smart 1, Europe's ion propelled lunar probe, has entered lunar orbit. Scientific observations are slated to begin in January.


 
James Earl Jones, whom many of you know as the voice of Darth Vader, offers an appreciation of the very first film he appeared in, Dr. Strangelove.


 
Sam Dinkin, usually a sensible writer, jumps the shark about space colonization.
By not joining the Kyoto Accord or the land mine treaty, working to evade the International Criminal Court, withdrawing from the ABM treaty, and skirting the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, the United States is certainly is going into fast forward and losing its legitimacy

Actually it's those treaties that are illegitiment.
It’s time to reread Sun Tzu’s admonition to determine which of two sovereigns is imbued with “moral law”: “The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.” We do not have the fortitude to watch our forces get decimated.

I'm not sure where it the world American forces are being "decimated." 1200 KIA in twenty months, while certainly a tragedy for each fallen soldier and their families, is certainly not at Vietnam levals. That leval was a morning's work on D Day. In any event, Bush was reelected.
It is also a lot shorter trip now to Washington, DC from Iraq than from Babylon to Rome during the Roman Empire. How will the world change because of the US missing the opportunity to strengthen anti-proliferation, chemical, and biological weapons treaties?

Yep. Scraps of paper certainly will keep Al Qaeda from setting off WMDs.
I think that America’s new great colonizer, Paul Wolfowitz, should be given the NASA administrator job. For the $150 billion we have devoted so far in Iraq, he could post some great prizes for space colonization. He could send our nation’s finest into space and find all the Earth-crossers, the ultimate weapons of mass destruction. By withdrawing from the Outer Space Treaty, he could set off a huge land rush. That would be the perfect ending for the man who championed the Mother of All Colonization by invading Iraq, home to Babylon, the Mother of Colonization.

The lunacy of that paragraph speaks for itself, though amending the Outer Space Treaty, a Cold War relic, is certainly a good idea.


 
Greg Zsidisin, who recently had the occasion to compare President Bush to Hitler and supporters of his Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision to Nazis, spews some sour grapes about the implementation of the vision. One of the other fallacies of the far left is that the President "really isn't serious" about pushing space exploration. I suppose that is why the administration threatened to veto any appropriations bill that didn't fund it.


 
India may become America's next big space partner.


 
Jeff Foust talks to Lori Garver about her role in the formulation of John Kerry's "space policy". What results is a case study in wishfull thinking and spinning.
Kerry had, in her view, “said somewhat positive things” about space during the primary campaign, but with caveats about the budget.

Like when he slammed President Bush's space exploration vision. Yes, Kerry did suggest that having a space program was a cool thing, but seemed unable to get behind anything specifically.
However, Kerry also had a political reaction against the Vision for Space Exploration since it was introduced by Bush during an election year. “He did have more of a knee-jerk reaction against space, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get involved,” she said.

This has been the number one fallacy of liberal space activists. "Yes, I know that my candidate is hostile to space, but if we can only explain things to him, he'll change his mind." If this is not true about--say--tax cuts or social security reform, I wonder how that can be about going back to the Moon.
One goal was to keep space from become too politicized. “I don’t believe space should be a partisan issue, and wanted to keep it from being a partisan issue,” she said. “I’m not sure we succeeded at that.”

That's putting it mildly. When you candidate slams the cornerstone of his opponents space policy, then one would think that space will get just a little partisan.
She noted that the campaign used the Ansari X Prize as an example of the effectiveness of prizes in an economic policy document.

Of course there were no specific recommedations for prizes from the Kerry Campaign.
She also tried to make inroads on the use of space resources, such as space solar power, and their role in energy independence for the country, although that was eventually not adopted by the campaign.

Not surprising, considering Kerry's hostility toward energy development on Earth.
Most importantly, she said, the campaign wanted to differentiate its policy from the Bush space policy. “That’s what got the most press,” she said, “but I really felt our goals in the campaign were much, much broader than that. On the policy side, we really hoped to keep it so positive that if Kerry was elected, he would be a pro-space president.”

They certainly succeeded in the first goal, by slamming the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision. They clearly failed in the second goal by offering no alternative.
Garver said that the agency did a poll last year surveying the public on what they get out of the space program. While NASA has not formally released the results of the poll, she said that “general knowledge” came out on top, followed by aeronautics and earth sciences; exploration was, she said, “way down on the list.” This led the campaign to adopt a policy that called for a balance between the various facets of NASA’s mission.

I'm not sure what poll that is. The Dittmar organzation did a study, paid for by NASA if I am not mistaken, that showed a huge degree of support for space exploration. In any case, it seems sad that Kerry proposed to return to toe discredited practice of using polls to formulate policy.
“Ultimately, the campaign felt that those NASA public dollars were at risk if all you’re going to do is explore,” she said. If NASA handed over aeronautics and earth sciences to FAA and NOAA, respectively, “and NASA becomes an exploration organization, that puts the agency potentially at risk in the discretionary budget, especially given the deficits and the war and the other things happening today.”

"Potentially at risk" would seem to me to be an improvement over actually at risk, which has been the case for over thirty years.
One criticism that the Kerry space policy received when it was finally introduced in late October was that is was very vague, with few specifics and no mention of the space shuttle or International Space Station. That was a deliberate decision, she explained. “It’s just a no-win to mention existing programs during the campaign,” she said. “We’re not at NASA now, we don’t know what it’s going to take to return the space shuttle to flight, and how much that’s going to cost. It’s not up to a presidential campaign, in our view, to make those kinds of calls during the campaign.”

If it is not up to a political campaign to say what it's candidate will do if he is elected, then what is the purpose of a campaign? To fool people?
One thing that surprised Garver was the strong negative reaction directly at her. “This was a very challenging thing to do, personally. I was attacked and slammed within my own community,” she said. “It is difficult to operate in that kind of environment, since I was very concerned that this would come out negatively within the campaign.”

The heart bleeds. Garver doesn't mention that part of that negative reaction stemmed from the wide spread belief that she wanted to be NASA Administrator and would do anything to achieve that goal.
She noted that, for example, she was vilified for “flip-flopping” on the Vision for Space Exploration, initially supporting it before arguing against it, but insisted her change in opinion was sincere.

A change of heart that just happened to coincide with Garver's attachment to Senator Kerry, a man with a record of being hostile to space exploration.
“I truly believed, over time, that we would have a better chance of sustaining a NASA program that would evolve civilization into space,” she said. “I truly started to believe that Kerry would be a better pro-space president.”

Based on what evidence, either from Kerry's Senate record of hostility to space or his hostile statements against space during the campaign, I'm not sure.
The fact that Garver was the de facto Kerry space representative, while the Bush campaign rotated through a series of spokespeople, was also a problem, she noted. “I think it’s better if you have a lot of people giving the same message to show that this is the message of the candidate and not the individual,” she said.

They out sold us, that is. Of course when you have something interesting and exciting to sell...
She noted that she never spoke directly with Kerry during the campaign, instead relying on intermediaries, such as Senator Barbara Mikulski and her staff, as well as former Senator John Glenn, who she said proved helpful.

A remarkable admission. The Kerry Campaign never talked to its own space policy spokesperson. I wonder if that's how a Kerry Administration would have operated.
Garver also singled out the aerospace industry for criticism. “The aerospace industry wants to be nonpartisan, but 90 percent of PAC [political action committee] dollars go to Republicans,” she claimed. “That’s just not how it works.”

Actually yes it is how it works when the Democrats are hostile to the aerospace industry.
While the Kerry space policy won’t be adopted, it is not necessarily just a historical document. Kerry remains a senator and is one of the senior Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee, whose jurisdiction includes NASA. Garver said that the policies general themes, including fiscal responsibility and science, “clearly resonated” with Kerry. “I definitely believe that he is more pro-space now than he was eight months ago.”

You mean he's going to start attended committee meetings. That should be interesting.
However, the policy that will shape and define NASA over the next four years will be the Vision for Space Exploration. Garver noted that Bush has two things going for him that his father didn’t have when he promoted the Space Exploration Initiative 15 years ago: Bush was reelected, so he can continue to oversee this policy, and that unlike during SEI, NASA really does want to transform and carry out the Vision.

It's called a mandate. Learn it, live it, love it.


Sunday, November 14, 2004
 
To Mars and back in 90 days.


Friday, November 12, 2004
 
The jockying for the contract to build NASA's CEV is getting interesting.


Thursday, November 11, 2004
 
Good news from the Dittmar Study on public additudes toward space exploration and the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision (at least the Moon part); not so good news for the Mars Direct crowd.


 
Oh Lord, from where do we get men like this?

As long as there are such men, the Republic will endure.


 
I don't know who first put down the following words, but they are true.

"It is not the minister, but the veteran who gave us freedom to worship.
It is not the students' union, but the veteran who gave us freedom to assembly.
It is not the journalist, but the veteran who gave us freedom of press."

For all those who gave all they have, for all who continue to give in the current war on terror, thank you."


 
Is global warming melting the polar ice caps? A Canadian scientist begs to differ.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004
 
Looks like the United States is behind in the new race to the Moon.


 
It's finally official. Yassir Arafat now burns in Hell. I'll bet he's even surprised.

Addendum: Jeff Jacoby explains why.

Second Addendum: So does Max Boot.


 
Recent incidents, such as the savage murder of film maker Theo Van Gogh, have caused the people of Holland to finally face up to the stark reality of Islamic Fascism. Jim Oberg passes along this note from a Dutch colleaque of his:
It's sad indeed, but what's even sadder is the fact that everybody was predicting things like this were bound to happen sooner or later (but everybody knew it would be sooner).

Everybody was warning for muslim extremism, with Christians and Jews being harrassed by young Morroccans, spit in their faces, beaten up, robbed, etc. Everybody was saying something HAD to be done, except the government. Even when Pim Fortuyn was assassinated (the right-wing politician who dared to say these things aloud in the press) the ruling parties spoke out that the limit had been reached, did nothing and after a few weeks went back to every-day business.

A sad example is the mayor of Amsterdam. Mind you, this major is a Jew, and I feel a Jew should understand more than anyone else how important it is to fight racism and extremism. But this guy is simply too much of a softie for his job.

When young Morroccans were screaming anti-semitic texts during the annual ceremony to commemorate the holocaust, he did nothing, except saying "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

When they used the wreaths as footballs, he said "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

When they stood outside Christian churches an spat in the faces of the church-goers, calling them pigs and Christian dogs, he said: "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

When a small group of these guys (of between 15 and 18 years old) terrorized an elderly couple to such an extent that they had to flee from their street where they had lived for decades, he said "We must start a dialogue with these people to explain why this is unacceptable."

On top of that, he gave them a building where they could meet. Never did he do anything to protect the people that were attacked. The police is afraid to act, since they are always accused of discrimination immediately. Cops that I know are very, very frustrated about this. They resent the fact that issuing speeding tickets is a higher priority than protecting the people (it is!).

I don't know what you heard about what's been happening here in the last week. When Theo van Gogh was murdered, that was the limit for many, many people. The killer stuck a breadknife in his body with a letter addressed to a female (Muslim) MP announcing that she would be next (and several other outspoken people were also named).

This woman had been telling in public about the humiliations women have to undergo in Muslim countries such as Somalia (where she was born), Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. She has had dozens and dozens of death threats since.

The reason Van Gogh was killed, the letter said, was the fact that he couldn't find her and because she has a number of body guards.

Van Gogh was rather outspoken, to say the least. He called Muslims "goat f----s", explaining that he felt he had the right to call them that since these Morroccans call him a dog or a pig.

All in all, it appears that there are elements here that have had it with the undecisiveness of the government and decided to take the law into their own hands. A very bad development, but something most non-politicians had seen coming for several years.
I don't know where you got the info you added in your message, but there weren't 40 arrest teams (equivalent to your SWAT teams). There aren't that many in the entire country!

However, never before have there been this many different police and military units involved in one incident. Three policemen were injured when the house they wanted to raid turned out to be boobytrapped and the people inside threw a hand grenade. Two were hospitalized, one of them seriously wounded, but not life-threatening.

About three hours ago, the BBE and sharpshooters ended the siege and arrested two people, one of them was shot in the shoulder in the process. They suspected that there was some explosives in the house, plus the other weapons. Don't know if they've already found anything: a robot with a camera is searching the place. They're probably afraid that there will be more booby traps and I cant blame them....

Anyway, I'm afraid that it isn't over yet. It's probably just starting.


 
Tom James has some interesting comments on the Bigelow Orbital Prize.


 
In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), a fancy NASA-speak term for living off the land, is the key to opening up the Solar System for human exploration and settlement.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004
 
Kerry supporters are seeking professional help from psychotherapists in droves. Now, I understand that it is bad form to question the patriotism of liberals, even those whose sole response to national security threats is to advocate more appeasement. But it now seems unassailable that one can question their sanity. I remember that when Clinton beat Bush the Elder, I and most of my right leaning friends vowed to buck up and have fun (almost too much fun for the sake of the Republic as it turned out.) My suggestion is that liberals do the same. After all, you might grow to like living with a conservative government.


 
Are you a Kerry supporter and thinking of fleeing to Canada? Alex Beam suggests that you think again.


Monday, November 08, 2004
 
Frederica Mathewes-Green gives an appreciation of the new, family animated film The Incredibles (a great movie, by the way, that you should see.) Along the way, she shows how great family films are made.
How do you make a kids' movie that adults can stand to watch — and watch over and over again, once it comes out on video? One approach is to load it with references to pop culture, so everyone can feel fashionably knowing. But five years later those same refs will be unfashionable, and in a couple of decades incomprehensible. Or you could go for plenty of gross stuff, bathroom jokes and double-entendres. That might amuse the less-mature segments of the grownup audience, but it wears mighty thin on repetition, and makes responsible parents uncomfortable.

Is there any solution? Well, how about an enthralling plot, compelling characters, genuine humor, and a stirring message? It's so crazy it just might work.

Indeed.


 
Robert Bigelow has announced the rules for his fifty billion dollar Orbital Prize, which he now seems ready to finance himself.
1 The spacecraft must reach a minimum altitude of 400 kilometers (approximately 250 miles);

2 The spacecraft must reach a minimum velocity sufficient to complete two (2) full orbits at altitude before returning to Earth;

3 The spacecraft must carry no less than a crew of five (5) people;

4 The spacecraft must dock or demonstrate its ability to dock with a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space habitat, and be capable of remaining on station at least six (6) months;

5 The spacecraft must perform two (2) consecutive, safe and successful orbital missions within a period of sixty (60) calendar days, subject to Government regulations;

6 No more than twenty percent (20 percent) of the spacecraft may be composed of expendable hardware;

7 The spacecraft must complete its two (2) missions safely and successfully, with all five (5) crew members aboard for the second qualifying flight, before the competition’s deadline of Jan. 10, 2010.

8 The contestant must have its principal place of business in the United States of America.

9 The Competitor must not accept of utilize government development funding related to this contest of any kind, nor shall there be any government ownership of the competitor. Usin government test facilities shall be permitted.

10 The spacecraft must complete its two (2) missions safely and successfully, with all five (5) crew members aboard for the second qualifying flight, before the competition’s deadline of Jan. 10, 2010.

The fifty million, by the way, could be just the beginning of what a successful orbital space craft might earn, with the possibility of fat contracts with Bigelow.


 
Like James Van Allen and Robert Park, Carl Sagan used to be one of those irritating scientists who saw no use for humans in space. Unlike Van Allen and Park, Sagan grew in wisdom as he grew in years and changed his mind.


 
Sam Dinkin wonders about a "space race" among states of the Union. Now, the idea of California launching it's own Mars mission is, to my mind, a bit silly. However, competition to attract commercial space enterprises is a real possibility.


 
Taylor Dinerman muses on how President Bush can use his election mandate to advance the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision.


Saturday, November 06, 2004
 
British fantasy writer Philip Pullman misunderestimates President George W. Bush in a big way.
For children's fantasy writer Philip Pullman, George W. Bush would make a perfect villain in his epic sagas of good and evil.

"He would fit right in," said the British author of the trilogy "His Dark Materials" which now looks set to follow in the cinematic footsteps of Harry Potter and The Lord of The Rings as the next blockbuster franchise.

"Bush has this baying certainty and has imposed this fervent zealotry," said Pullman whose books have been condemned by church groups for attacking organized religion.

"The Christian right in America is the mirror image of the Islamic fundamentalists," he added.

First off, whatever one thinks of the beliefs of what Mr. Pullman calls the "Christian right in America", I'm pretty sure that none of them have flown airliners into buildings, sawed off the heads of hostages while video taping the act, nor blown themselves up in crowded marketplaces or cafes.

Second of all, Pullman is wide of the mark at the appropriate role a character like the President would be in a high fantasy.

Let's see, George W. Bush as a fantasy hero.

We can start with a venerable King of some land, having conducted a successful war against the Dark Lord, but who is subsequently overthrown by jealous and corrupt nobles. The pretender King spends most of his time chasing skirt and neglecting his royal duties, bringing weakness and ignominy to the land.

Meanwhile the young son of the former King is being brought up in secret exile in some outlaying duchy. He has a reputation for drunken carousing at the local tavern until, one day, his attention is brought back to his destiny and duty by a wise wizard. Gathering a motley group of companions around him, the exiled Prince seizes the duchy and then, eventually, regains his father's throne.

Just in time too, as the Dark Lord strikes, taking advantage of the turmoil in the land brought about by the succession crisis, killing many in the capital. The young King gathers an army and strikes back at the Dark Lord. By the end of the first book in the trilogy (it is always a trilogy, you see, thanks to Professor Tolkein), our hero King has won some great victories, while fending off treachery by the same jealous and corrupt nobles who did his father in.

Hmm. Not a bad scenario at that.


Friday, November 05, 2004
 
No way should Yassir Arafat be buried in Jerusalem. Were it up to me, the old, depraved monster's body should be burned and his ashes scattered in secret.


Thursday, November 04, 2004
 
Looks like Clark County, Ohio, targeted by a letter writing campaign by the far left British newspaper The Guardian to urge the people there to vote Kerry, showed defiance instead and voted Bush.


 
President Bush's triumph in the election is also good news for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision.


Wednesday, November 03, 2004
 
One of my more controversial observations is that America is engaged in a space race with the Chinese, whether we know it or not. An objection to this view is that China cannot hope to win such a race by relying on a classic government run space program against countries that encourage commercial space industries. It looks like that the Chinese may realize that.


 
Fox is just reporting that Kerry has conceeded, thus showing much more class and sense than Al Gore did four years ago.

Addendum: Kerry's speech was unusually gracious.


 
Dick Morris thinks that the erroneous exit polls may have been deliberately biased.


 
Another Presidential election, another George W. Bush victory, another bunch of Democrats wondering, "Wha happened?" And vowing to lawyer their way to victory from the jaws of defeat.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004
 
Ms. Curmudgeon and I just got back from voting. The traffic was steady, but there was no line. Inclement weather here in Texas means no one was outside trying to get us to vote for their candidate for County Sheep Inspector, which was a blessing.


Monday, November 01, 2004
 
The Kerry people really ought not to get Stormin' Norman angry with these kind of shannigans.


 
In the future, space archaeology might become a thriving science. But will those future Indiana Joneses of the heavens be Chinese, as some of the scenarios suggest?


 
You’ve heard the major arguments of the current Presidential campaign on the issues of the War on Terror, the economy, and even character. I believe that President Bush wins over Senator Kerry in all three areas hands down. But I am not writing now about the present or even the near future, but of the future that stretches out before our species for as long as our species will exist.

Last January, President Bush proposed the most far reaching revamping of the American civil space program in its history. He has proposed to correct a thirty year old public policy mistake, turning the space program into a high tech, space taxi service, and turning the National Aeronautics and Space Administration into a later day Corps of Discover. Its task would be to explore the Moon, then Mars, then beyond. He has also, almost unnoticed, moved to make the space agency more commercial friendly.

This new policy has profound implications for the hope many hold for a space future. It is my belief that the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision provides the best way to finally making our species a multi planet species, ensuring in the meantime its long term survival and prosperity. Whatever happens to our planet, a human race that has spread across the Solar System—and eventually I hope to the stars—will survive. Using the vast resources that can be found in the heavens, the human race can thrive, free of the shortages of resources and energy that a single planet bound civilization might face.

Senator Kerry’s response? To slam and even ridicule the vision. Despite the fact that he has often invoked John F. Kennedy and the spirit of Apollo, he has not offered his own, competing vision. He has offered a space “policy” filled with generalities and platitudes, but no substance. Even Senator Kerry becomes President, our space program will be frozen into the place that it has existed for a generation. Humans will be stuck for the foreseeable future going in circles in Low Earth Orbit.

Worse, we will be one shuttle accident away, under Kerry, from ending human space flight in America.

Those who see the promise of commercial space flight should not take comfort. Under Kerry, with his zeal for high taxes and burdensome regulations, the commercial space flight industry in America would be strangled in infancy and driven to other countries.

Could there be a space future in America beyond a Kerry administration, provided that the United States is not crippled permanently by his policies? Perhaps. But the dream of a space future has been betrayed twice in my lifetime. Once, when I was a boy, when it looked as if Apollo might lead to something, the Left in the Congress and the media combined to crush that dream and the Nixon Administration made the thirty year, space shuttle mistake. Again, when I was a young man, Bush the Elder’s Space Exploration Initiative died of its own weight, happily hurried to its death by the Left again, NASA bureaucrats, and a curious impotence on the part the first Bush White House.

Now we have a third chance. Do we dare pass it up in hopes of a fourth?

I think not.

So, vote for President Bush and Vice President Cheney, so that at long last the future can happen.


 
Rand Simberg provides a thoughful analysis of the Bush space policy and the Kerry space "policy".


 
Greg Zsidisin is one of those Kerry supporters who nevertheless is uncomfortable about what passes for a Kerry space policy. Unfortunately he goes into some strange contortions to justify voting Kerry.
It is thus that Wernher Von Braun has helped me make a confident choice for November. I would not suggest that George W. Bush merits comparison to Hitler. However, Wernher Von Braun and his team faced an analogous, if much greater, moral dilemma in developing rocket technology for the Nazis. The V-2 missile work at Peenemunde hastened the day when humans would walk the Moon—indeed, much of the same team was involved in both efforts. Yet in the near term, that team created “Vengeance Weapons” using slave labor at both Peenemunde and the barbaric, underground Mittlewerk production facility (also presided over by key team members). The inaccurate V-2s were purely terrorist weapons, and they led directly to the nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that have terrorized the world since the late ’50s.

No, no, Zsidisin is not going into Michael Moore territory by comparing Bush to Hitler or pro space Bush supporters to Nazis, he insists. Except, of course, he proceeds to do so.
Even those of Von Braun’s team who were patriotic Germans and/or hated Jews and foreigners as they had been raised to do, must surely have felt some guilt for the concentration camp victims who suffered in front of, and because of, them; for those unknown civilians on whom their weapons fell; and later for the threat their rockets posed to the world. Yet Von Braun and his teammates shilled the notion that they were always looking at the stars, that they all merely wanted was to build space vehicles. This was indeed their great opportunity to do so; it only came at a terrible moral cost, away from which the team members (if not the world) seem largely to have looked.

In other words, pro space Bush supporters are willing to turn their eyes from all the evil things Bush is doing (according to Zsidisin) just to have a space future.
So it is that, at a much smaller and personal level, the example of Von Braun instructs me in voting against Bush/Cheney. Given that I (among many others) are opposed to, and fearful of, what the pair might do in a second term, my urgent desire to see NASA move forward with exploration—born of frustration by the end of Apollo when I was a child, borne out by the space activism work that consumed me as an adult—will take a backseat to concern for the well-being of my country and the world. I will do so knowing that an opportunity to move space exploration forward may be lost.

Never mind that there are many concerns about a political candidate (kerry) with a clear record of duplicity and of supporting appeasement abroad and socialism at home. And one can certainly defend the War in Iraq as part of the larger War of Terror and Bush's tax cuts as a means to jump start the economy. But Zsidisin prefers to engage in the crudest of political hate speech, comparing Bush to Hitler and Bush supporters to Nazis, while denying that he does so.

Zsidisin goes on to comfort space advocates that a Kerry President "won't really" mean the end of their dreams.

John Kerry has overseen NASA for years as a member of the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee, part of the Senate Committee for Commerce, Science and Transportation. As such, he is more aware of the agency and its issues than most. (Bush, on the other hand, is reported never to have visited the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston during his time as governor of Texas.) Kerry has also advocated a project on the scale of Apollo to end the country’s energy dependency, which further demonstrates an appreciation and commitment to technology that he is likely to bring to office.

Of course, considering Kerry's poor attendance record on committees, one wonders how relevant that is. Besides, as Keith Cowing has pointed out, Kerry has voted to gut the civil space program a number of times.
The first fully private spaceflights—both of SpaceShipOne this fall and Elon Musk’s privately-financed Falcon launcher early next year—herald the start of a fast-paced race by private industry to catch up to, and eventually surpass, government space projects. This is bolstered by the fact that Sir Richard Branson is funding a fleet of Rutan-designed tourist vehicles for first launch in only three years, and claims a waiting list of thousands of passengers. Here is a bird in the hand that may be better than the two in with Bush.

So how is Kerry going to nurture this new commercial space sector? We'll find out a little later and it's not pretty.
The success of Peter Diamandis and team in mounting the Ansari X Prize, in garnering support for the follow-on X Prize Cup races, and in inspiring NASA and others to follow the prize model, makes it likely that more big, fast-paced developments in space are in the offing. Even considering just the sea-change in public perception of who can fly in space, it is likely that even more daring ventures—private piloted orbital, perhaps Earth-escape, missions—are not far off.

Kerry has made some noises about supporting prizes. No specifics, of course. Then, we have an amazing admission from Zsidisin.
A caveat: it is possible that Kerry’s proposed tax hikes for the wealthiest, should they be enacted, would chill both investment and participation in the early private space tourism industry, which at this point is a playground being built by billionaires in which millionaires will play.

But on the other hand.
While tax exemptions for the industry seem a good bet and have been discussed, a first-order assumption that tax hikes will be a detriment would seem fair. (None of the space-investing billionaires and millionaires to whom I have written have yet replied on this issue.)

What's this? Tax cuts for the rich? In a Kerry Administration? I see no evidence of such a thing happening.

So there you have it. Bush is evil. Bush supporters are like Nazis who turn their eyes from that evil. Vote Kerry. Don't worry. Be happy.



 
Ten reasons not to vote for President George W. Bush.