Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Terri Schiavo case may have provided a pernicious precedence for future cases like hers. I think, in fact, it has had another equally pernicious effect of damaging respect for the rule of law. When someone can be put the death by hunger and thirst for no sane reason under the law, by judicial whim, then many people are going to conclude that no one is safe from such law and such whim.
Has NASA's bureaucratic culture been reformed? Not yet, apparently. But if NASA is to become the Corps of Discovery of the 21st Century, it had better change and soon.
Glenn Reynolds describes in great detail the slings and arrows he's taken over his stand on the Terri Schiavo case. Now, first of all, I need to state that it is hateful and unworthy of those who wanted life for Terri Schiavo to wish people dead or--worse--actually threaten to kill them. Being "pro life" means exactly that.

Having said that, Glenn is dead wrong, in my humble opinion, on his objections on process. Article 3 of the US Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to direct the courts. The 14th Amendment prevents states from depriving people of their lives without due process.

Also, one does not have to accept Glenn's stawman of a "conspiracy" among judges to observe that seems to be a shared additude of arrogance among certain judges. Many of them (and Judge Greer is a prime offender) seem to regard laws as suggestions, to be followed or not according to whim. Evidence supporting Terri's right to life was ignored. Evidence supporting her husband's right to kill her was flimsy and was given too much weight. Clearly Greer was off on his own agenda. Pity that the higher courts choose to give his decisions, flawed as they were, undue deference.

Something will have to be done about that.
Just as I suspected, the magnanimous decision of Michael Schiavo to "allow" an autopsy of his dead wife is required by law whether he "allows" it or not. Not the only lie the kill Terri crowd has been telling, I surmise.
Liberals are running ads demanding the removal of House Majority Leader Tom Delay, deciding I suppose that he has replaced Newt Gingrich as chief devil in the Congress. I think this jihad is going to backfire. Delay is far tougher than Newt ever dreamed of being and is entirely capable of giving as good (or better) than he gets.
The long murder of Terri Schiavo has reached it's conclusion. One can imagine such a thing happening in some country ruled by a mad despot. But it happened in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Shame on us all.

Addendum: Rand Simberg takes the opportunity to wax metaphysical.

For the record, I believe that there is some survival of consiousness after death. It may not be the Catholic Christian version that Terri apparently believed in, but I do hope that hers is better than her last fifteen years of physical life.
The case for nuclear power.
George Will suggests that replacing our myriad and complicated federal taxes with a single, simple sales tax will not only make easier the paying of taxes, but will kill K Street. And that's why the sensible idea will be fought against to the death.

Addendum: Jason Verheyden is a bit dubious, citing the experience of his native Canada where they apparently got a national sales tax, but kept the income tax. Clearly we can't have a national sales tax unless the income tax is abolished and the 16th Amendment is repealed.
Ann Coulter gives the back of her hand to people who want to kill Terri Schiavo, even those on the right who should know better.
Also on the pro-killing side are conservatives still pissed off about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 who are desperately hoping to be elected "most consistent constitutionalist" by their local Federalist Society chapters.

You can't grow peanuts on your own land or install a toilet capable of disposing two tissues in one flush because of federal government intervention. But Congress demands a review of the process that goes into a governmental determination to kill an innocent American woman – and that goes too far!

It's not a radical extension of current constitutional doctrines – even the legitimate ones! – for the federal government to assert a constitutional right to life that cannot be denied without due process of law under the Fifth and 14th Amendments. Congress didn't ask for much, just the same due process John Wayne Gacy got.

But people even stupider than lawyers have picked up on the vague rumblings from "most consistent constitutionalist" aspirants and begun to claim that Congress' action is an affront to "limited government."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Much has been made by the kill Terri Schiavo crowd of the "hysterics" and "crazies" who are among those who want to save her life. But Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, has pushed the envelope in creepiness.
Think that you can never go to the Moon because you are not a PHD or a test pilot or (in the future) a rich adventure seeker? Think again. There will be a need for a lot of blue collar skills at a lunar settlement.
Tennessee lawmaker Stacey Campfield has started a blog that relates the daily goings on at the Tennessee legislature. This has very much annoyed the powers that be and there has been some retaliation.

But Rep. Campfield should take comfort that he is following in a proud tradition. The very first newspaper was started by a Roman politician named Gaius Julius Caesar and it related the daily goings on in the Roman Senate. Caesar's fellow Senators were not amused at having their activities the subject of reading and comment by the populari. Hopefully Campfield's fellow lawmakers will not go as far as Caesar's fellow Senators in their ire.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The British are coming up with an early warning plan for natural catastrophes ranging from earthquakes to asteroid strikes.
Just when all hope was lost for Terri Schiavo, here comes Jesse Jackson to the rescue. Mind, his intervention could have been more useful about a week or two ago. It may be too late.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Jason Verheyden lauds the idea of a Lunar Exploration and Development Authority, with certain reservations.
There were also unfortunate effects of both the British Empire and the Hudson's Bay Company. In the case of the latter was the fact that a single company was given a government sponsored monopoly on the early Canadian frontier. This prevented other competitors from moving in and possibly decreasing prices.

In the case of the British Empire, I don't think I need to mention to Mark a little problem with Tea in Boston to remind him of those pesky little issues of an Empire's influence on a burgeoning frontier people.

Well, to be sure. But a lunar settlement were to break away from the Mother World and declare independency, I would not be outraged. Indeed, I hope a Whittington is there toi participate, just as one did in 1776.
For those of you who enjoyed my piece on the proposed Lunar Exploration and Development Authority, you might be interested in these products.
Orlando Bloom as a young (apparently teenaged) James Bond in film based on a novel set in the thirties? Interesting idea.

The book is called Silverfin:
Michael Barone, as usual, gets it right about the Terri Schiavo case. Note his refutation of those folks who suggest that federalism means that state courts can order people killed for no reason:
Start with the federalism issue. During Reconstruction, Congress passed laws authorizing the federal government to protect the civil rights of individuals left unprotected or harmed by state action. Those laws have been invoked in cases where the rights of black Americans were violated and the violators went unpunished. Invoked, I would say, not often enough. The law Congress passed and Bush signed was an attempt to protect the civil rights of one individual in light of substantial evidence that those rights were not being protected by the state. You may not regard the evidence as persuasive, though I think it's pretty strong: At crucial stages Terri Schiavo had no independent advocate; some medical tests that many neurologists regard as routine in such cases were not administered. Federal interventions to uphold civil rights should probably be rare. But they're not unprecedented in this country.

One of the great problems facing modern liberalism is the inability of that particular creed to adapt to the realities of the 21st Century. Liberalism greatly resembles the Roman Catholic Church of the 16th Century, clinging to old dogmas, wallowing in corruption, and resisting to the death attempts to reform it. This latest post by my old Deaniac friend Rich Kolker is a proper illustration of the conundrum.
Public Schools, Social Security, Equal Rights at the lunch counter and the hotel counter and the polling place, these are big ideas and they are part of America because Democrats lead and convinced the people they were worth having.

Of course public schools have become dysfunctional, social security is going broke (and is unfair on a number of levels), and "equal rights" (which were supported, by the way, by a lot of Republicans and opposed by a lot of Democrats in the 60s) has morphed into affirmative action and quotas that pit one group against another. Liberals have no clue about what to do about these problems, except to say "NO!" to efforts to solve them.

Read the whole thing. It's rather sad.
One of the problems holding back the proliferation of hydrogen fuel cells is the problem of safely storing hydrogen, a very volitile element. Just ask the passengers and crew of the Hindenburg what can happen. Fortunetly, some very smart people are working the problem.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Looks like Michael Schiavo has allowed his dying wife last rites and communion after all. I am just awe struck by that display of generosity.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Just when you though the Terri Schiavo case could not get more outrageous.
Paul O'Donnell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk, said the family unsuccessfully urged Michael Schiavo to allow his wife the sacrament of communion during the holiest feast of the Catholic year. She received last rites the day the feeding tube was pulled.

"This is in violation of her religious rights and freedoms and allows the governor to ... intervene," O'Donnell said, repeating the family's request that the governor take Schiavo into protective custody. "We beg you to have courage and take action."

The family had asked for Schiavo, who cannot swallow, to have a minuscule piece of bread and a drop of wine placed in her mouth.

I wonder what purpose it serves to deny Terri communion? Is it a poke in the eye of religious people, as well as the Catholic Church, who want her to live?
Jason Verheyden laments the impending judicial murder of Terri Schiavo by slow starvation and dehydration. He offers a warning that ought to give those who smugly suggest that all we're seeing is the rule of law and the Constitution in all of it's majesty and that those who concentrate on the fact of a young woman being killed in agony are being hysterical pause.
If Terri dies a vocal minority in US politics will no longer believe in the rule of law. This is a dangerous thing. If a small, yet significantly large enough portion of the population no longer believes that the state, and the courts will protect their rights then chaos ensues.

Any disabled relative will immediately think about kidnapping or other method to attempt to prevent their deaths in mercy killing cases, or similar cases. If the public believes that the courts have a bias, then they will no longer trust them.

People will take the law into their own hands. And that's the most dangerous thing to come out of this case.

Indeed, some people are already reacting extremely by issuing death threats and concocting hair brained plots.

I am hopeful that laws will be passed that will prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. Also, the Schiavo tragedy adds a certain impetus to the fight over judicial nominations in the US Senate. If a myriad of state and federal judges decree that Terri Schiavo must die, completely ignoring exculpatory evidence, it is not to my mind an indication that the facts of the case are on the side of the husband. It is instead an indication that there is something seriously wrong with our judges and judicial system.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Glenn Reynolds is offering what seems to me to be a cold blooded case against efforts to save Terri Schiavo's life. Also, while I should be loath to dispute a distinguished professor of law on a matter of the Constitution, I think he's wrong in suggesting that efforts to overturn the Florida state courts are unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment clearly forbids states from depriving a person of life without due process. I don't think that Terri Schiavo has been given due process. Even if I'm wrong, it should be a matter of federal review, trumping the federalism arguments that Glenn makes.
What is a human life worth? In the case of Terri Schiavo, about six to eight million dollars, according to Gerard van der Leun.
There seems to me to be two unanswered questions surrounding the Terri Schiavo situation.

First, did Terri actually express the wish not to be kept alive by “artificial means?” We have the testimony of her husband, backed up by his brother and sister in law to support the answer of “yes.” Leaving aside what Terri might have meant by “artificial means” and whether that included a feeding tube, there seems to be some doubt as to the veracity of that testimony. There is other testimony from friends and other relatives that suggest that Terri took a dim view, out of perhaps religious belief, toward ending a human life, even one kept artificially.

Also, some doubts have been raised about Michael Schiavo’s true motives for wanting his wife dead. These doubts are not just the results of rumor and innuendo, but sworn testimony. There have been disturbing stories of abuse and even murder attempts that are difficult to ignore.

The second question: Is Terri really in what the media calls a “persistent vegetative state?” Here, there seems to be conflicting expert views. Some medical professionals say yes, others say know. (It is amazing to me, by the way, as a lay person to observe how two doctors can come to startling different conclusions based on the same CAT scan.)

By the way, I am really unsympathetic to the idea that considerations of process trump the question of life or death of a young woman. Bemoaning violations of judicial precedence, or federalism, or whatnot seems to be an exercise in tap dancing around the fundamental fact that a woman is being deliberately starved to death in front of the world, by judicial decree. One does not have to believe in conspiracy theories to conclude that there seems to be a shared attitude in the judicial system that is not erring on the side of life.

To my mind, Terri should be kept alive a little longer while there is a thorough, public, and impartial investigation of her situation. All parties would benefit from such an exercise.

Terri and those who think she should be kept alive would obviously benefit if it were determined that, as some experts suggest, she could be salvaged to a certain extent.

Michael would benefit if it were determined that she could not be salvaged. If Terri were to be put to death, as seems likely at this point, with those questions unanswered, then millions are going to believe—fairly or unfairly—that Michael is a monster who abused and then had his wife murdered. If Michael is an innocent man, put upon by public hysteria, trying to do what is best for his wife, then he could not but benefit from an investigation that would confirm that supposition. Otherwise he will be doomed to an OJ Simpson—like existence, shunned, hated, and perhaps even in danger from crazies

The integrity of the judicial system, which some people seem to want to protect even at the cost of a human life, would benefit as well. There have been too many stupid decisions made by judicial tyrants, made not on the basis of law, but on the basis of whim, for another one that might result in an atrocity so enormous that it would stain the reputation of the judicial system forever to be tolerated.
A T-Rex bone with soft tissue and, perhaps, DNA. That is, obviously, very exciting.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Scientists complain bitterly that the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision is "gutting" space science. But the true culprit may be Congressional pork barrel spending and interference.
Ann Coulter provides a moderate solution to the Terri Schiavo situation as only she can. Governor Jeb Bush should send in the National Guard to rescue the woman. Right now (and I know this comes from my emotions) I don't consider this an extreme option.
Your Humble Servant discusses a New Way to Explore the Moon. It's one that is actually being considered by NASA.
My old Deaniac friend, Rich Kolker, bemoans the fact that the hayseed conservatives and libertarians do not see the world the way he does. In so doing, he reveals--albeit inadvertently--what is wrong with the left.
I am puzzled that people I know, who seem otherwise well informed and reasonable don't see what I see when I look at Iraq, when I look at George W. Bush, when I look at the state of the United States, its government, and its role in the world.

"Otherwise well informed and reasonable." Meaning that we are ill informed and unreasonable when we don't "see what he sees."
It's not education, because many of them are as well educated as I. It's not age, or region, or religion (although all those are contributing factors.)

Yep, those hayseeds in the red states who belong to a religion. Shame on them.
I am circling in on the idea that where we part company, ultimately, is in our view of the United States. They see it as a place, and I see it as an idea.

Here is where Rich really starts to become incoherent. America is both a place and an idea. The crux of the disagreement is a disagreement over what the idea is.
If you think of the United States as a place, 50 states and a few odd territories mostly on the continent of North America, with about 280 million residents, limited but bountiful resources, then an attack on that place becomes of primary importance, worth almost anything to defend against or fight back to prevent recurrence. The Bush administration and neo-con wing of the Republican Party plays to "America as Place" to justify its actions: war in Afghanistan, Patriot Act, war in Iraq, holding people without either status as a criminal or a prisoner of war. All are justified as part of protecting "America as a place."

Shocking that people actually were affronted by the slaughter of three thousand people on 9/11. Even more shocking that the response was the liberation of tens of millions of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, which has apparently inspired a new appreciation for democracy in the Middle East that just might free more countries. Appalling that terrorists are being taken out or else confined without ACLU lawyers.

I also love the reference to "neo-cons." Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard once defined "neo conservatism" as a "Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, led by Condi Rice, and aided and abetted by the Christian Right." Neo-cons actually are former liberals who got mugged by reality. That explains the fury of those liberals who have not yet recognized who is mugging them.
On the other hand, if you, as I do, see the United States as an idea, then these actions become not only unjustified but counter to protecting our country. United States as idea believes that wherever Americans live by the principles and laws of our nation, beginning with those ideas embodied in our Constitution and reflected in the Declaration of Independence, that place is America, whether those people are in Kansas or on the Moon. To the extent that anyone acts contrary to those ideas, or works to prevent Americans from living by those principles, those are the enemies of our nation, no matter whether they live in a cave in Afghanistan or a condo in New York City or government owned housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

One would find more sympathy with this statement if it did not end with a comparison of the President of the United States with Osama bin Laden. (I'm not sure who the people are who live in a condo in New York. My understanding is that even the rich in NYC, the epicenter of one of the bluest of blue states, are liberals. Perhaps Rich is instead thinking of Republicans that Howard Dean boasts of hating.)

I also find it interesting people who throw around the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution when they do not respect either document. I could also think of people as enemies of our nation "anyone acts contrary to those ideas, or works to prevent Americans from living by those principles." An example of such would include using "campaign finance reform" to suppress free speech one disagrees with. Another would be attempts to suppress the Second Amendment through statute. Still another, seeking to starve a woman to death simply because she has a physical handicap.

I somehow doubt that Rich will even recognize the irony.
How do we communicate that to those who see United States as place? This is my challenge to myself, and to the extent anyone here would like to play, to you.

First, look in the mirror.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Michelle Malkin gives the main stream media's coverage of the Terri Schiavo case the back of her hand.
Here's a discussion of the CT scan of Terri Schiavo's brain, which is supposed to show that her cerebral cortex has turned to liquid. There is considerable dispute to that conclusion.

Yet, it looks like she's going to be put to death anyway.
Glenn Reynolds thinks that Michael Griffin is just the man to get NASA out of it's torpor and humankind headed for the stars again.
Ron Howard is slated to direct a film about Cortez.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Rand Simberg has a very thoughtful essay on the Terri Schiavo situation. One thing he discusses, which no one else seems to have, is the idea of future technology fixing neurological conditions which today are considered "irreversible."
Bill Hobbs has an excellent suggestion concerning what should happen after the Terri Schiavo affair concludes, one way or the other. (By the way, I disagree with him that the Congress did the wrong thing Sunday. It's clear that the courts (especially in Florida) are out of control and are not erring on the side of life.

Via Instapundit.

There also needs to be a thorough, inpartial, and public investigation as to the circumstances surrounding the case, starting with whatever happened to Terri that sent her to the hospital to start with.
A film version of Ender's Game is in development.
A couple of nurses who had cared for Terri Schiavo in the past had some interesting things to say about Terri's condition and her husband's true feelings.

Addendum: A transcript of an interview on Fox with one of the nurses, who accused Michael Schiavo of trying to do his wife in. On the other hand, Rich Lowry thinks Michael is getting a bad rap.
Judge Whittemore has ruled that Terri Schiavo must die. The matter now goes to the 11th Court of Appeals. The clock, though, is ticking

Monday, March 21, 2005

Here is a report of an examination of Terri Schiavo by renowned neurologist and Nobel Prize nominee Dr. William M. Hammesfahr, M.D. Note the recommended treatment at the bottem of the report. None of the treatments have to this date been carried out.
As readers of this blog knows, the TV show Boston Legal has been one of my favorites. For the most part, the story lines, the acting, and especially the clever dialogue has been first rate. And, besides, seeing William Shatner actually act is a delightful experience.

Unfortunately the producers of the show seem not content with all of that. They have decided that their series would be a neat vehicle for political pontification, abandoning story telling to preaching. This sort of thing is never a good idea, since the demands of good drama suffer and at least half of the audience is sure to be ticked off.

As I was for the past two weeks.

Two weeks ago, there was a story line that attacked the Fox News Network as a crazy, right wing place where people who are against the War in Iraq are regularly accused of treason. Now, I am an aficionado of the network, which seems to be a dream come true to those who have complained of liberal bias in the main stream media. I cannot recall a single instance when an on air personality (even Bill O'Reilly) called war opponents traitors. In any case, Fox has plenty of liberal voices as well as conservative. Fox has gotten the unfair indictment of a "right wing network' because, unlike other news networks, conservative voices are heard.

Last week's episode had an even more pernicious story line. In the story, at the urging of one of his fellow associates, the mercurial and cynical Alan Shore travels to Texas to argue a death penalty case. The story was clumsily written to push all of the anti death penalty buttons. The defendant (and African American of course) is manifestly innocent, and mentally challenged besides. The racist, bigoted, blood crazed judges in the "High Court" refuses to listen to the evidence and the poor victim is executed anyway.

The story line was filled with biased stereotypes about Texas and a number of factual errors. For instance, there are not two or even one "High Courts" in Texas whose sole reason for existence is to speed convicted death row inmates to the death chamber. Texas has a Supreme Court just like any other state, albeit an elected one.

I would suggest that the producers return to the clever story lines that have attacked people like me to the show. They are capable of it. The other story line from last week, in which Shelley Long played a frumpy, middle aged woman caught paying a gigilo to fulfill her sexual needs, was a hoot.

(Now, Curmudgeon, is you objection only because you disagree with the political story line? What if there was one that you agreed with?)

If and when such a thing happens, I'll let you know.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is poised to become a major player in the future of space exploration.
Hutchison is concerned that NASA might not be able to send astronauts into space between the planned 2010 retirement of the space shuttle and the rollout in 2014 of the crew return vehicle. The vehicle would replace the shuttle and take astronauts and scientists to and from the international space station, travel to the moon and eventually play a role in missions to Mars.

"I believe it is a security risk to our country to have a five-year lapse," she said. "We know now that Japan is looking at sending people into space. For America to go on a vacation for five years is unacceptable."

Closing the gap, said Hutchison, will mean either asking Congress for more money, changing priorities in the NASA budget, extending the shuttle's life or channeling more resources into the crew return vehicle.

The good Senator should be made aware that encouraging private sector solutions to that problem ought to be in the mix.
Paul K. Driessen discusses the phenomenom he calls eco imperialism by which rich, white environmentalists keep third world countries in poverty and squalor.
Opposition to centralized electricity and economic projects, support for, "sustainable development," and "appropriate," forms of small-scale renewable energy projects, and an attachment to romanticized visions of, "indigenous" cultures, are merely different facets of the anti-human attitudes that dominate so much of environmentalist thought today. They are ingredients in a recipe for sustained poverty, misery, disease and premature death.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Here is audio of Terri Schiavo interacting with her parents last Friday.

As of this writing, both the House and Senate have passed the bill to give Terri and her famly relief in the federal courts. I pray that the federal judges will have more sense, compassion, and wisdom than the Florida state judges have had up to this point.
Dr. Dean certainly knows how to turn a phrase
One major reason his party lost the 2004 race to the "brain-dead" Republicans is that it has a "tendency to explain every issue in half an hour of detail," Dean told the semi-annual meeting of Democrats Abroad, which brought about 150 members from Canada and 30 other countries to the Toronto for two days.
Remarkably, liberal Democrats, who are quite eloquent about the rights of murderers and terrorists, are delaying Congressional action to save the life of a disabled, innocent woman who is in the process of being deliberately starved to death.
With the proliferation of prizes designed to expand human civilization into space, I find the Robert A. Heinlein Flight into the Future Project Contest not only a mouth full to say, but fascinating and of some value.
The Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust is pleased to announce the start of the Robert A.Heinlein Flight into the Future Project Contest. This is a competition to promote innovative scientific works and is being held to commemorate the memory of the famous American writer, and one of the founders of modern science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein. The main goal of the competition is to identify and support talented young researchers and to encourage their innovative activities that will help to bring humanity closer to Heinlein’s dream of our future in space.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Apparently even the French find the EU Constitution to be unacceptable.
Peggy Noonan has some good words about the plight of Terri Shiavo, whose life hangs in the balance.

Addendum: When told of her death sentence, Terri Shiavo cried.

This is murder, pure and simple, done by court order and in the full view of the world. Can something not be done?
A political activist named Rich Kolker tries to address the problem of what liberals should be for rather than just against, by proposing something called "The American Compact." This is an admitted imitation of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I used to know Rich when he was more involved in space activism than he is at present. And with that information, I can say that I can remember Rich's reaction of outrage and cynicism when the Contact first came out. I guess now he's learned and grown.)

Now, to the Compact.

Free public education pre-K through post-12, reflecting that a high school diploma alone is no longer the "ticket" to the middle class

I guess that means that college will now be subsidized by the government. Does that mean that if a kid gets into an Ivy League school, the government will pay for it, or will the plan just apply to publically funded schools? How much is this going to cost? It seems like a massive new entitlement to me.
National standards for fair federal elections including a common ballot design and common 24 hour election day (10pm EST the first Monday in November to 10pm EST the first Tuesday in November, worldwide)

This seems like actually a sensible reform.
Nonpartisan congressional redistricting (and at the state level, nonpartisan legislative redistricting)

Ditto. Though I hasten to add that Arnold is trying to institute this reform in California against the opposition of that state's liberal Democratic establishment.
Fair and Simple progressive no-deductions income and payroll tax

This seems sort of like a flat tax, except for the pernicious word "progressive" inserted in the proposal. The progressive tax system is the left's way of punishing achievment and success. Also, what are the definitions of "fair" and simple?" What will be the rate(s) imposed under this tax system. Will the proposal result in a massive tax increase (as I suggest should be likely, considering the spending proposals in the "Compact.")
Fair Social Security funding (lift the income limit, add progressivity) to guarantee solvency and meet our moral obligation

A liberal "Compact" would not be complete without a punt on the problems with the fairness and solvency of social security and a proposal for a massive tax increase. What about private accounts? What about raising the retirement age? What about adjusting the COLAs? The "Compact" is silent on these questions.
Health care for every child as a step to health care for every American

Another massive entitlement without any details about how it will be structured or paid for.
Expanding, retraining and reequipping the National Guard as our "first line of defense" for Homeland Security. Return "the militia" to its role of protecting its community.

This is a solution in search of a problem. While some Guard units are deployed overseas, as has been the case for every war in American history, it is already heavily involved in Homeland Security.
Troops not Toys - Spend tax dollars on the military prioritized to support the soldiers, sailors and airmen, not enrich the defense contractors

I'm not sure what this proposal means. Opposing any and all weapons systems has been an oldy but goody for the left since the end of the Second World War. Bashing defense contractors (and indeed all private companies) is another. There are no details how we will "no enrich the defense contractors." Is this a proposal to nationalize the defense industry. Otherwise, I don't see how one can procure even weapons that liberals might approve of without Boeing, Lockmart, et al turning a profit.
Pass legislation to enforce equal protection under the laws for all Americans as guaranteed by the Constitution

I'm not sure what this means either. Are there people not being granted equal protection as guarunteed by the Constitution? It seems to me that Constitutional matters are a subject for the Courts to decide.
Progress toward energy independence by applying American technology for common-sense conservation and the use of government grants and incentives to encourage purchase and installation of home and community based sources of solar, wind and other inexhaustible, renewable energy.

This is another oldy but goody issue of the left, usually used to stop oil drilling. Now, R&D on alternate energy technology is a senisble idea, but this seems to smack of government trying the subsidize technologies that either the private sector is already working or are not yet mature. The proposal doesn't address really grand solutions to energy shortages, like space based solar and fusion. I also see that fuel cells are not mention.

All in all, I give Rich an E for effort. He recognized the problem that the left has, that in opposing everything and proposing nothing, become illrelevant. But his solution falls rather short, not only in detail, but in imagination.
Robert Zimmerman warns that NASA's paperwork requirements--much of it mandated by the Congress--may strangle the attempt to build the Crewed Exploration Vehicle.
A extra on the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: Deadman's Chest, tells what it was like to work with the likes of Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Senate Democrats have married in a performence that stretches the ability of even a skilled wordsmith like Byron York to describe.
"Anti war" radicals tend to claim that they "support the troops" but oppose the war. (How one can "support the troops" but oppose what they're doing is a question that has never been answered to my satisfaction.)

This is a clever bit of positioning, because it avoids the oder surrounding the despicable practice of Vietnam era protestors of spitting on soldiers and calling them names like "baby killers." However, the venue of this planned rally makes one wonder how much truth is in the spin.
It is wonderous what 56 dollar oil and a national election can do. Looks like we'll be drilling in ANWR at last.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Democrats like to think they would like to see the return of Bill Clinton. But they are only fooling themselves.
Alcestis Oberg, who generally writes about space topics, teams with former Judge Ray Holbrook to discuss the Galveston Plan and demonstrating that private accounts are a pretty good deal compared to social security.
Upon retirement after 30 years, and assuming a more conservative 5% rate of return, all workers would do better for the same contribution as Social Security:

• Workers making $17,000 a year are expected to receive about 50% more per month on our alternative plan than on Social Security — $1,036 instead of $683.

• Workers making $26,000 a year will make almost double Social Security, $1,500 instead of $853.

• Workers making $51,000 a year will get $3,103 instead of $1,368.

• Workers making $75,000 or more will nearly triple Social Security, $4,540 instead of $1,645.

• Our survivorship benefits pay four times a worker's annual salary — a minimum of $75,000 to a maximum $215,000 — rather than Social Security's customary onetime $255 survivorship to a spouse (with no minor children). If the worker dies before retirement, the survivors receive not only the full survivorship but get generous accidental death benefits, too.

• Our disability benefit pays 60% of an individual's salary, better than Social Security's.

Yeah, I can understand why liberal democrats hate privatizing social security.
Republicans believe they now have the votes to end the unconstitutional practice of filbustering judicial nominees. Former klansman Senator Robert Byrd is mad as hell.

Addendum: So is Harry Reid, who is threatening to use the "terrorist option" to shut down the Senate if the GOP insists on the Constitution. Make my day.
Kenneth Branagh is doing one of my favorite Shakespeare comedies, As You Like It. Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of the famous director Ron Howard) plays Rosalind.

I saw a small production of this play a few years ago. The actress playing Rosalind had an interesting way of doing these lines:
If I were a woman I
would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased
me, complexions that liked me and breaths that I
defied not: and, I am sure, as many as have good
beards or good faces or sweet breaths will, for my
kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.

while giving guys in the front row a good smooch. I rather enjoyed that.
Evil doers (and everyone else) had best beware. Vic Mackey is back.
John Zogby, who knows something about public opinion, suggests that even if President Bush loses on social security reform, he wins. Something for the stonewall democrats to think about.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Brian Enke has some more thoughts about Michael Griffin.
Mike Griffin does seem to
be the right person at the right time to lead NASA in the right
direction. Or so we hope - it's a tough horse to tame... and he'll be
pulled in all different directions. We'll see what happens. All I know
is the scientists that I work with are very happy now. That's already a
major accomplishment before Mike has even moved spent a single day in
his new office.

Brian, by the way, has a new novel out, entitled Shadows of Medusa.
Jeff Foust looks at Michael Griffin and finds a man with some interesting ideas.
In his October 2003 hearing, Griffin addressed the question of why the US should fund human space exploration. He dismissed the “politically correct” answers of things like spinoffs and educational benefits in favor of a broader rationale. “What the U.S. gains from a robust, focused program of human space exploration is the opportunity to carry the principles and values of western philosophy and culture along with the inevitable outward migration of humanity into the solar system,” he said. Such an effort, he noted, would be similar to the influence the British Empire had because of its mastery of the seas. “Can America, through its mastery of human space flight, have a similar influence on the cultures and societies of the future, those yet to evolve in the solar system as well as those here on Earth? I think so, and I think our descendants will consider it to have been worth twenty cents per day.”

I could not have said it better myself.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Michael Griffin will be the new NASA Administrator. It's an interesting choice as he has experience with both NASA, the military, private business, and academia.

More here. Grffin has some interesting and no doubt controversial ideas about accelerating the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision, at the expense of the shuttle and station.

Addendum: So far a popular choice all around.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The program to explore Mars past 2009 remains very much a work in progress.

There seems to be some concern that searching for life may be an insufficient reason for exploring Mars.
Moreover, the search for life will be not only difficult but alarmingly open-ended.

No matter how many expensive landers are sent to look and come up empty-handed, after all, there will always still be the chance that life -- or, more likely, fossil evidence of past life -- exists in some tucked-away corner of the planet, or buried deep under its surface.

And the general public is likely to be distinctly un-amused if, after a decades-long effort costing tens of billions of dollars, NASA is forced to say that either no life existed on Mars or that it is still unable to give the question anything like a good answer. As the Committee's co-chair Charles Elachi said, it's crucial to define a program which will not be regarded as a "failure" in that case.

My suggestion is that the main focus should be examining Mars for suitability for colonization. That's a bigger rationale than looking for Martian germs.

Some of the Mars planning people are unhappy about the "detour" to the Moon.
The Committee, however, seemed very uneasy about how much manned lunar exploration really will do to enable Mars exploration.

It seems likely that, contrary to the expressed hopes of Bush and Administrator O'Keefe, there is no advantage in launching manned Mars ships from the Moon's surface or lunar orbit. Even if there is a fair amount of ground ice at the lunar poles, it's too dilute to be useful in fueling a Mars ship unless one sets up a large-scale industrial town on the Moon.

And the other new systems necessary for manned Mars trips -- such as radiation protection, artificial gravity, and closed-cycle life-support systems that can keep a crew healthy for years on end without being resupplied -- can all be tested just as well (or even better) and more cheaply in Earth orbit than on the Moon.

Indeed, the Committee at times seemed fairly close to a flat-out rebellion against the orders it had received from Sean O'Keefe on this point at the start of the meeting.

Firouz Naderi and James Cameron expressed concern that the manned lunar program may bleed off funds and personnel necessary to develop a manned Mars program. Tom Young and Sally Ride went so far as to suggest that the Committee should override O'Keefe's orders by -- if it finds this appropriate -- officially questioning President Bush's entire emphasis on sending men back to the Moon before starting the manned Mars program.

I'm certainly not adverse to an industrial town on the Moon. In any event, anyone thinking about "revolting" against the program of lunar exploration should put that idea out of their minds. Testing technologies for Mars exploration is just one of the rationales for returning to the Moon, as anyone who had read the results of the first lunar roadmap meeting would realize.

Addendum: Jason Verheyden has some further thoughts.
Paperwork demands may jettison the small, entrepreneurial company Transformational Space's (t/Space) dream of building the Crewed Exploration Vehicle.
While a consortium that includes Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, builders of the first privately owned spacecraft, say they can build a great spaceship, they don't have the expertise or resources to do all the paperwork.

"NASA wants 40 to 50 monthly reports on what you're doing," David Gump, president of the Transformational Space consortium told New Scientist on Monday. And while "we could build a great Crew Exploration Vehicle", Gump says, the consortium cannot comply with the reports and studies NASA stipulates to monitor the project.

Two questions arise. Does NASA actually need all of this paper? And, how quickly will certain conspiracy theorists conclude that the paperwork is a NASA plot to cut out smaller upstarts and award their usual contractors (Boeing, et al) who have the resources to generate paper?

Addendum" Rand Simberg and numerous others look on with alarm.
Professor Reynolds contends with a misguided person who thinks that Islam is the "most perfected form of tyranny ever concocted." As Glenn points out, we are not fighting against Islam, but rather a heresy of it that has as much relationship with the religion preached by Mohammed as that of the Aryan Nation has with Jesus Christ.

I'm not pollyannish, by any means. Islam is not a "religion of peace." It is, however, a religion of rules, rules which tend to frown sternly upon the slaughter of innocents, suicide bombing, and other atrocities committed by Osama and his ilk. Indeed, Islam preached tolerance of other monotheistic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrian) at a time when Christian crusaders slaughtered Jews and Moslems with great enthusiasm.

I dare say that if one of the great leaders of Islamic history--say Saladin--were transported to our age, he would make common cause with America against Al Qaeda, in the name of Islam.

Addendum: Some Moslems with the spirit of Saladin issue a fatwa against Osama.
The Israelis, not surprisingly, have become innovators in cutting edge military technology.
Is the International Space Station, that money pit and poster child for project mismanagement, actually the key to getting people to Mars and back?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Houston City Council has passed a ban on smoking in restaurants. I have mixed feelings about that. The part of me that abhors restrictions on freedom is saddened. But the part of me that does not like breathing in acrid smoke wafting in from the smoking section of restaurants while I'm trying to enjoy my chicken tikka or fettuccini alfredo, wants to stand up and cheer.
Bigelow's dream of a space hotel, as well as America's Space Prize, is making progress.
While the argument over if and how to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope rages, another spirited discussion is starting over what to build next, in space and on the lunar surface.
Keanu Reaves as Simbad the Sailor, questing for Aladdin's Lamp in China? Could be fun.
More on the plight of William Poole, the High School student who was arrested, it is said, for writing a story about zombies taking over a school. Is there less or more than meets the eye for this story?
With the increasing popularity of hybrid cars and other fuel efficient vehicles, at least one state is losing out on gasoline tax revenues. But, governments are, if anything, creative in finding ways to put their hands in the pockets of its citizens.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I have heard the story of the school class that cheered upon hearing of the death of President Kennedy. Until now, though, I was not aware that the story was a lie. Nor did I know who it was who told it.
Rand Simberg weighs un on the controversy: To heavy lift or not to heavy lift.
Looks like humans are still better at arm wrestling than robots.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Margaret Wertheim thinks that if we send humans to Mars, we won't have quality teachers. This is a tiresome, ancient argument against exploring space. If space exploration doesn't wreck education, then it'll wreck the enviroment, or health care, or name your favorite cause.

Besides, the shortage of "quality teachers" has more to do with the dysfunctional way that schools are run, which tends to turn off teachers, than with any shortage of pay. The United States spends an enormous amount of money on education, but it is spent wastefully. A nation wide school choice system would do more to fix the problems with education than would cancelling the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision in the hopes that the money could be siphoned off for teacher pay (it wouldn't, I'll bet; there are a lot of competing interests with their hands out.)

Wertheim ends her essay with an insult to everyone's intelligence.
So here's a suggestion: Let's take that $100 billion proposed for the moon and Mars missions and spend it on a decade of great science teaching.

Let's make it worthwhile for young people to come into the profession. Let's offer them a salary of $50,000 a year — add in benefits and in-service training, and let's say $100,000 per person per year.

At that rate, we could employ 100,000 math and science teachers for an entire decade. Think what inspiration an army of well-trained teachers could provide. A lot more, I'll bet, than a few footprints on Mars.

And here's the real beauty of the scheme: Mars isn't going away. A decade hence it will still be there — and maybe by then a new generation of innovators will have developed the technologies to get us to the Red Planet at a price we can actually afford.

I've been hearing that one for decades. If not now, as the old proverb goes, then when? If not us, then whom? We have the means and the innovative skills to send people beyond low Earth orbit now, not in some distant future when everything is set right and it is "more appropriate" to do so.
Will Spike TV pick up Star Trek: Enterprise? Maybe.
Alex Richmond shakes her head sadly at the plight of William Poole, the high school student who apparently was arrested for writing a story about zombies taking over a high school.
Taylor Dinerman discusses the option of building a Very Heavy Lift version of the Delta 4 and/or Atlas V to service space exploration and military missions.
Jeff Foust examines the public relations disasters that is the decision to cancel the Hubble repair mission.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A group of parents in Texas have banded together to put an end to the zero tolerance madness.
Is a space race developing between Japan and China? Could be.
Lunar based solar power could be one way that the Moon might become the Persian Gulf of the 21st Century.
Zero tolerance madness strikes again. A kid is apparently arrested and is in jail for writing a short story for English class about zombies taking over his school. If there are no other facts to this case, it seems to me that Steven King had better watch it as he has slaughtered thousand (billions in fact in The Stand) in fiction. Indeed, was there not a TV series about vampires and demons set around a high school? Clearly everyone involved in that needs to go to reeducation camp. Not to mention this show about terrorists, murder, torture, and general mayhem that I like to watch every week.

This is, of course, more post Columbine zero tolerance madness.

Addendum: More here. And here.

Addendum 2: Looks like this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened.

Addendum 3. Come to think of it, I'm guilty too. I have one published novel in which terrorists try to blow up the leaders of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, amd Japan. And another novel in which terrorists try to blow up a mission to the Moon. I clearly need to be locked up.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Selling a vision of a new Age of Space Exploration will be a delicate and difficult task. One thing, I think, that should be done is a little marketing research.
One thing about the Walt Anderson affair that might provide some perverse comfort. The space commercial sector has arrived enough to have it's own crooks, just like every other industry.
If Smart-1 successfully images the Apollo landing sites, it will not matter. The conspiracy nuts will just claim that they were faked, just like the TV transmissions of the actually landings.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Robert Byrd, former Klansman and current raving idiot, rants that GOP attempts to remove Democrat obstruction of the President's judicial nominees is actually an assault on free speech.
It starts with shutting off debate on judges, but it won't end there. This nuclear option could rob a senator of the right to speak out against an overreaching executive branch or a wrongheaded policy. It could destroy the Senate's very essence -- the constitutional privilege of free speech and debate.

Well, no it doesn't. Senators can bloviate all day and night long about anything they desire. They won't neccessarily tie up Senate business and block judicial nominees for whom there is clear majority support while doing it.

Yes, Americans believe in majority rule, but we also believe in minority rights. Our liberties can be truly secure only in a forum of open debate where minority views can be freely discussed. Leave it to the House to be the majoritarian body. Let the Senate continue to be the one in which a minority can have the freedom to protect a majority from its own folly.

Like passing Civil Rights legislation to free blacks from Jim Crow.

Addendum: Hugh Hewitt calls Byrd on his obstructionism and points out a little hypocricy.
But Byrd's outrageous objection is doubly offensive because during his stint as majority leader, Byrd himself pushed through rules changes that benefited his party. Here is Byrd, from the Congressional Record, January 15, 1979 (courtesy of the blog Beltway):

"This Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past
. . . The first Senate, which met in 1789, approved 19 rules by a majority vote. Those rules have been changed from time to time . . . So the Members of the Senate who met in 1789 and approved that first body of rules did not for one moment think, or believe, or pretend, that all succeeding Senates would be bound by that Senate . . . It would be just as reasonable to say that one Congress can pass a law providing that all future laws have to be passed by two-thirds vote. Any Member of this body knows that the next Congress would not heed that law and would proceed to change it and would vote repeal of it by majority vote."

So it's an assault on free speech when they do it, but reasonable reform when we do it.

Second Addendum: Senator John Cornyn lets Byrd have it.
It seems that NASA has been a bit less than truefull about the background of the decision to cancel the Hubble repair mission. The decision was not based on any kind of analysis, but on the gut feeling of former Administrator O'Keefe. Worse, NASA is tying itself into knots trying to justify a decision that it knew was a bad one to start with. This could have a bad effect on plans to go back to the Moon, then on to Mars and beyond.
For NASA and the American space program, this increasingly untenable position is beginning to have a serious political cost. By refusing to reconsider their decision and reinstate the shuttle servicing mission to Hubble, NASA is undercutting its ability to persuade Congress to give it money to build spacecraft to fly humans back to the moon.

As Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., noted during those same science committee hearings, "If we're unwilling to take the risks to go to Hubble, then what does that say about (our willingness to mount) a moon and eventual Mars mission?"

Someone really needs to take the initiative and reinstate the Hubble mission before things unravel more.

Addendum: Rand Simberg is disturbed by all this.
Steve Fossett has landed, having become the first person to circumnavigate the globe nonstop in an airplane, flying solo and with no refueling. The great pioneering age of aviation continues.
The internet has been the greatest boon for freedom and openess since the invention of the printing press. Bloggers, mostly ordinary people, have been able to use this new tool to call to account the powerful and the arrogant. Dan Rather and John Kerry have just been two of the most infamous.

Well, the powerful and the arrogant don't like a bunch of pajama clad rabble saying bad things about them. And some think they have hit upon the perfect tool to shut us up. I'm refering to the most pernicious, tyrannical piece of legislation since the Alien and Sedition Act, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act. Of course the words that begin the First Amendment--"Congress shall make no law"--mean very little to these people. So I suggest, before it becomes illegal to do so, that we demand that the politicians keep their hands off the internet. Repeal of McCain-Feingold would be preferable. Amending it to exempt the internet would be a good start.

Addendum: Instapundit has a myriad of links on this threat to free speech.
The ADL is a little ticked with Robert Byrd for calling the GOP Nazis for wanting to stop obstruction of judicial nominees. I can understand why Byrd is a little put out by GOP attempts to restrict the fillibuster. Former Klansman Byrd and others like him used it to some effect to block civil rights legislation that gave black people freedom in the 50s and 60s. Had the nuclear option been used back then, Jim Crow would have died a quicker death.
Bruce Gagnon, "peace activist" and professional nut job, has stumbled upon an interesting conspiracy theory. The US space program is run by the Nazis.
More angst in Academia about the President's Moon, Mars, and Beyond Vision. However, dissenting voices are being heard.
Bettyann Kevles, a history professor with a specialty in aeronautical history, said that current astronomy research is not as valuable as a human mission to Mars.

"There is no application today [for astronomy]," Kevles said. "It's history -- finding light from millions of years ago. It is just satisfying human curiosity."

Kevles said public support for space explorations will eventually fade if humans are not sent to the Moon and Mars.
George Will says death to public television.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

There seems to be a serious effort with some serious money to try to save Star Trek: Enterprise from cancellation.
We are in the commercial space flight industry and would like to testify that at least one out of two of all the actual entrepreneurs involved in this industry has been inspired by Star Trek; and we are not only good at watching TV sci-fi , we are also good at writing checks, big checks. The people airing this kind of TV have a responsibility; inspiration. Star Trek has inspired us, and particularly Enterprise, with its superb theme song that tells so much about our struggle to move space travel forward and closer to the public, this inspiration is so self evident, that Virgin Galactic has ordered a 5-sub orbital ship fleet from Scaled Composites, a 100 million dollar investment, and the first one being built is going to be christened ‘VSS Enterprise.’ Now doesn’t that ring a bell in Paramount’s ears?

Now, don't get me wrong, I have a soft spot in my heart for Trek in all of its incarnations. The current season of Enterprise, with a new creative team in place, has been a marked inprovement. But if the goal is to inspire people about the promise of space exploration, it seems to me that money ought to be spent on development of a big screen film with a good story about near term space travel (say, about a lunar settlement or about asteroid miners.) Raise the money, get a good pitch, sell it to a studio, then hire a good screenwriter and director. I bet, if done right, it would work and it might even turn a profit.
When SpaceShipOne rocketed into space, it was powered by an engine developed by SpaceDev, a small, but growing aerospace company. That was neither the beginning nor certainly the end for SpaceDev.
The problem with socialistic health care systems, as Britain and Canada has, is that if one is unlucky to be a patient there, one has a much better chance of dying. Nevertheless, these systems persist because of a certain, sheep-like additude among the people that are being victimized.
Bartholomew reports that Peggy was "surprised at how 'accepting' her boyfriend's family was." What she saw was an unexpected passivity, a lethal submissiveness to systemic incompetence and tragedy, a reaction that seemed poles apart from how things happen in the United States. Explains Bartholomew: "She didn't say too much because she did not want to come across as a pushy, arrogant American but she was thinking that 'in America we'd go nuts if we were told we would have to wait six weeks to see a specialist. Expectations are so much higher.'"

Amazing, is it not? People are willing to suffer and die rather than seem pushy and arrogant, like Americans.
Peggy Noonan has some good advice on how to revive the CBS Evening News.
A snarky short subject based rather loosely on Apple Computer's classic "1984" ad.
Rand Simberg has some fun at the expense of Senator Robert Byrd, former Klansman and current idiot.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Newt Gingrich wants to transform rather than reform Medicaid.
Million Dollar Baby, winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Picture, may have fallen short, not because its depiction of mercy killing was evil, but because that depiction was cliched.
Even in these enlightened times, the Supreme Court will pass down an outrageous decision that goes so much against logic and the Constitution that one wonders what the five justices that voted for it were thinking.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, noted that most states don't allow the execution of juvenile killers and those that do use the penalty infrequently. The trend, he noted, was to abolish the practice.

So, in effect, we're taking a poll.
"Our society views juveniles ... as categorically less culpable than the average criminal," Kennedy wrote.

Count me out of that "society." Besides, a crime victim is not less dead if he or she is murdered by a seventeen year old.
Justices were called on to draw an age line in death cases after Missouri's highest court overturned the death sentence given to a 17-year-old Christopher Simmons, who kidnapped a neighbor in Missouri, hog-tied her and threw her off a bridge. Prosecutors say he planned the burglary and killing of Shirley Crook in 1993 and bragged that he could get away with it because of his age.

I guess he just did, insofar as the ultimate penalty is concerned.
The moderate, centrist Chair of the DNC Howard Dean is suggesting that Republicans are evil.