Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, has a short biography out written for children:
Is it time to amend the Outer Space Treaty to make space law more commercial friendly? Well, yes of course.
Private accounts within Social Security remain popular with likely voters, according to Zogby. Standing like a stone wall against them is not, alas for the Democrats.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Future lunar settlements will not so much be built as inflated with structures of smart materials, embedded with sensors to keep track of temperature, radiation levels, and breaches, and solar collectors to provide power.
SETI, or Search for extraterrestrial Intelligence, was once a NASA project, but was cancelled by Congressional liberals as being a "hunt for little green men." Fortunately, SETI has prospered under private funding. Indeed, the project has enjoyed a greater deal of flexibility than it would have had it remained a government project. Of course, SETI has yet to find any alien civilizations.
Today, in the midst of the American Iliad, we remember all of those who bought our freedom and our lives with theirs. No reward is too great for them.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A young college lefty named Jennifer McBride has come up with ten reasons not to assassinate the President. Number ten is actually because it would be wrong.
As expected, the people of France have rejected the European Union constitution, a monstrosity that would have micromanaged all aspect of life in Europe. One of the happy side effects of this development is that it may mean the end of the political career of Chirac.
I had heard buzz a couple of years ago that John Rambo was going to come out of retirement and kick some Al Qaeda butt in a new movie. There was even talk of a final battle between Rambo and the most evil man in the world himself, Osama bin Laden. Well, it looks like Rambo will return to the big screen, but not--alas--to kill Islamo-fascists. Hollywood has found a group of bad folk that are a little more PC than bad tempered Muslims for Rambo to slaughter.
The Washington Times tries to seek a middle ground on space weapons. It's somewhere between "Oh my God, Bush is building the Death Star!" and "Space weapons are a fantasy!"

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Space X has test fired it's Falcon 1 engine, a big step for the entrepreneurial launch company.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Check out A History Lovers Guide to London by Your Humble Servant.
All I have to say is that they'll take my steak knife when they pry it from my cold, dead hand.
House Majority Leader Tom Delay is understandably incensed at the swipe taken at him during an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
In the episode, police are frustrated by a lack of clues, leading one officer to quip, "Maybe we should put out an APB (all-points-bulletin) for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt."

NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly seems to take Delay and every other adult following this to be ignoramuses.
"The script line involved an exasperated detective bedeviled by a lack of clues, making a sarcastic comment about the futility of looking for a suspect when no specific description existed," Reilly said.

I do have a way that NBC can prove there was no political intent. How about a story line in which there are a series of mysterious rapes occurring with no clue. Then, a line of dialogue from an exasperated cop: "Maybe we should put out an APB on a guy wearing a Bill Clinton mask."

I won't hold my breath.
Apparently some one is spreading a rumor about a prequel to the Star Wars prequels that will feature a young Yoda defeating the Sith tyranny, starting the order of the Jedi, and founding the Galactic Republic. There are some hints in Revenge of the Sith about just that sort of thing.
One of the more interesting themes of the Harry Potter books is the tendency of government bureaucrats to be a plague upon ordinary people. So it is ironic that the makers of the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix are having real life problems with real life bureaucrats.
My question is does this poll predicting victory for Hillary in 2008 use the same sampling methods as the exit polls that predicted victory for Kerry last year? I tend to agree with Rand Simberg that Hillary is going to have lots of problems with the new media, uncovering and highlighting the less savory aspects of the Senator's career.
A renaissance in space exploration? Robert Zimmerman credits the new media.
The legislature of Quebec strikes a blow against multiculturalism.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Well, well. Three days after the Senate, the country, and human civilization was saved by fourteen moderate Senators and comity was returned to the United States Senate, the Democrats have decided to filibuster the nomination of John Bolton to become UN Ambassador and then lie about what they are doing. The naked cynicism of it just takes the breath away. The question is, what will John McCain and his gang of squishes say now?
It seems that in the wake of the Challenger Disaster, the journalist in space program was not quite as dead as people thought. Miles O'Brien would have been an excellent choice. (Yes, I know he works for CNN, but the one area Fox News is weaker than CNN is in its science/space reporting.) MSNBC's Jim Oberg or UPI's Robert Zimmerman would have been good picks as well. Sadly, Columbia has killed the idea very dead.

Still, I understand Virgin Galactic is selling tickets...
Social security reform just got some support from a surprising source.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Your Humble Servant examines A Brief History of the Exploration of Mars.
Revenge of the Sith as a case study in the perils of bad business management. Is a book entitled Manage the Sith Way: Darth Vader's Secrets to Total Victory in the Business World far behind?
Is Rober Mugabe, having wrested control of Zimbabwe from a white, European minority now selling the country to the Chinese?
Conservative bias in the media? Causing death and destruction and chaos?

Well, fear and loathing on the far left, in any case.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Conservatives are incandescent with rage and shock over the filibuster deal. But there is one radical leftist who is equally mad as hell.
A biop of Edgar Allan Poe directed by--Sylvester Stallone?

Addendum: Harry Knowles has more.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Tom James has some interesting thoughts on the madness of Helen Caldicott and the wisdom of Winston Churchill.
Of course it was a sleazy, backroom deal made by Senators with contempt for the Constitution. Having said that, though, it only kicks the question of judicial filibusters down the road. With three conservative judges that the Democrats insisted for years were unacceptably extreme now getting votes and probable confirmations, the Democrats will be hard pressed to do the same to other conservative nominees. I predict, though, that they will try, especially when there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court this summer. Then one wonders what those squishy RINO Senators are going to do.
More proof that NASA is getting a little bit more commercial friendly.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Another interesting analysis of the Vision for Space Exploration.
But Griffin is a real space guy. He wants to get out there and explore. He thinks that if we don't venture into the solar system, someone else will. At his nomination hearing last month, he told senators that space remains competitive:

"The 'discovery' of the New World had happened before and would have happened again, whether or not Columbus had ever sailed from Palos. One way or another, European settlement of the New World was inevitable; however, it was Isabella's bold action that secured Spain's role in that future."

Griffin all but says we're still in a space race. Since Columbia disintegrated, Russia and China have put astronauts into orbit. Go along with our Vision, Griffin essentially says, or the next person on the moon might be speaking Mandarin.

And that would be a bad thing.
Captain Ed notes that Howard Dean gave quite a performance on Meet the Press. I'm not sure anyone will have to throw this wacko an anvil.
Your Humble Servant has a long article out entitled The Space Shuttle: The Solution that Failed. It's not only a brief history of the space shuttle, but of the ongoing quest for cheap access to space.
The backlash against gay marriage has reached Texas. I fully intend to vote against this amendment, but I fear it will pass overwhelmingly.
The mad cap Helen Caldicott has written a polemic against space based weapons which, while it does not mention "missile envy" or "boys playing with toys", is still pregnant with the fallacies of arms control cultists that one would have thought were disproven by how President Reagan won the Cold War. (Hint. It was not by relying on pieces of paper solely.)
The Bush administration is clearly moving toward putting weapons in outer space. It has spent about $500 million a year in research on those potential weapons in the past few years, according to the Center for Defense Information, although often burying it in categories that make hard accounting extremely difficult.

Shocking, a government keeping top secret research programs--well--secret.
In the research phase are antisatellite weapons, space-based antimissile systems, laser beam weapons and bombardment satellites using kinetic impact, directed energy and possibly nuclear explosions. Some of these weapons will be powered by orbiting nuclear reactors.

One wonders where this information came from, since even John Pike has admitted that the Bush Administration has been adroit at keeping stuff that's in the black world out of the pages of AV Leak. Still, I hope this is all true. I want us to have the best high tech weapons imaginable, the better to make enemies think twice about messing with us.
In its document "Visions for 2020," the U.S. Space Command announced the new doctrine of "Full Spectrum Dominance," saying that "the nation which dominates outer space will dominate the Earth." Space, according to the Space Command, is a legitimate and final frontier from which the United States should project its power.

Again, shocking, that a great nation would want to project its power, especially to stop some other nation from dominating space.
Space is already militarized because satellites are used to identify targets on Earth and to accurately direct land-based weapons — tactics that have been used successfully in the Iraq war and in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Intercontinental ballistic missiles enter and exit space in their journey to their land-based targets on other continents. Antiballistic missiles launched to destroy them also would operate in space.

Darn it! Those nasty politicians and Generals did all that when we weren't looking.
If one genie is already out of the bottle for space militarization, another genie can and must be contained by preventing space weaponization. Weapons do not now orbit in outer space. There are powerful reasons why such weapons should be forbidden.

They're not going to pull a fast one on us again, no sir.
First, placing weapons in space inevitably would provoke an arms race there. Such a race eventually would consume hundreds of billions of dollars. It is simply inconceivable that the United States could place weapons in outer space without provoking other nations such as China, Russia, Japan and countries in the European Union to do the same.

We heard this sort of nonsense during the 1980s. Fortunately President Reagan didn't listen and as a result the Soviet Empire is in the dustbin of history. The problem is that countries like China (aggressive, tyrannical, etc) are going to build the weapons they think they need regardless of what others do. Japan is an ally (partly because of fearing China.) Russia's economy is in the tank and therefore it probably cannot afford space weapons for the foreseeable future. The Europeans would have to give up their welfare states to afford space weapons and this they will never do.
Second, most space-based weapons are inefficient in relation to those based on the ground or in the atmosphere. If we want to destroy a missile site or a troop deployment or bomb a nuclear reactor, it is far more effective to do this with a ground-based missile or pilotless aircraft. Space-based weapons are also radically more expensive than land-based weapons or aircraft.

Inefficient? Compared to bombers? I'm not sure why this is so. The authors do not explain. Expensive? Perhaps, though with the revolution beginning in cheap access to space, I'm not sure that will hold true for very long. Indeed, a lot of commercial space launch companies would love contracts for deploying and servicing space based weapons platforms.
Third, the United States is already the dominant military power in the world, spending about $500 billion a year on the defense budget, including money for current wars, with technology that far exceeds any possible rival, including Russia and China. Adding outer space as a new dimension of our military presence is simply not necessary. Such a move adds a new gesture to our military posturing without increasing our security.

This is, of course, the equivalent of the British in--say--1860 deciding that they don't need to spend money on ironclads because the Royal Navy is already the mightiest in the world and will always be so. Technology progresses on and if one doesn't keep pace, one is likely to get into trouble.
Finally, a response to any possible arms race in outer space is already available: a draft international treaty forbidding space weaponization that was proposed by Russia and China in 2002. The United States has been alone among the great powers in refusing to endorse U.N. General Assembly resolutions on outer space and the draft treaty.

Of course. A piece of paper. The problem is that those two countries, especially Russia, have a history of ignoring treaties when it suits their purpose. Treaties for them are tools to constrain democracies, not themselves. I can see lots of "peaceful" space projects (like the Shenzhou) turning out to have a military component.
Other countries are eager for an agreement, just as they are for a nuclear test ban that includes underground testing, an international criminal court, an agreement on global warming as well as treaties on land mines, small arms and chemical and biological weapons.

Of course they are. These would restrain the United States.
In refusing to sign a treaty on space weaponization and these other significant international accords, the United States is virtually alone in thwarting the world in its efforts to achieve disarmament and environmental sanity through multilateral agreements.

Good for us, I say. I'm rather a "peace through superior fire power" type of guy. It tends to work better than scraps of paper.
In 1967, the United States led the world in pursuing the Outer Space Treaty, which forbids the orbiting of weapons of mass destruction — but not non-WMD. Today, we are the ones obstructing the world in its desire to seal off space as a potential area of weaponization.

Aside for the arrogance of presuming to speak "for the world", I think that if the world has the desire to "seal off" space from (American) weapons, it needs to be obstructed.
U.S. policy is driven not by a need to ensure our security but by lobbyists who need to secure contracts for their defense industry corporate employers.

It is beyond time for the United States to agree to sign an international treaty to prevent weapons from being deployed in outer space, a policy that would serve the country and not a select group of corporations.

Oh, those evil merchants of death. It's all a plot. Like the black helicopters.
The issue of space weaponization is a test case for this administration to reach out to other nations and to set the safest and most sensible direction for the nation and, indeed, the world.

Yes, by starting the United States Aerospace Force.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

It seems that a nine year old Catholic girl is being forced to choose between her health and her religion. It's this sort of nonsense that helped to cause the Protestant Reformation.

More here.
This group of Cuban patriots is brave beyond my capacity to tell. And their meeting is proof that the great wave of democracy, started by the liberations of Afghanistan and Iraq, has started to reach to even within one of the last bastions of Communism.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Of course we saw Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and I have to say that it is the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. The story, unlike what you may have heard, was actually tight and well written. It was a tragedy of--dare I say it--Galactic dimensions. It was not about the fall of Anakin to the Dark Side, but of an entire society into tyranny. The latter happens because too many people are blind to what is going on around them and are too indecisive to act until it is too late. Obi Wan is the worst offender in the latter category. His indecisiveness causes him to behave with incomprehensible cruelty at the climax of the final battle on the lava planet. It also causes all sorts of grief which we saw in Episodes 4-6.

Of course, the best features of a Star Wars flick are the visual effects. Revenge of the Sith is one of the most visual stunning works I have ever seen on the screen. From the initial space battle to the final scenes, one's eyes were treated to a feast.

Now I'm actually sad that there will likely be no more of these.

One note on the politics. I didn't see an overt political message. I doubt that anyone would have imagine there being one if George Lucas hadn't opened his mouth at Cannes. The story had more parallels to Faust than to any political figure, contemporary or historic.
I'm told that a lot of people were absent from work for the premier of some flick that's the latest in a little known series of space operas. This would have helped all of these people who were suddenly taken ill by a disturbance in the Force.
Jason Verheyden is understandably disgusted by political developments in his native Canada. It looks like Prime Minister Paul Martin has bought himself (and that is the exact phrase) a reprieve from having his corrupt government collapse around him by enticing a Conservative member of the Canadian parliament, one Belinda Stronach to cross the aisle in return for a cabinet post.

Jason and other Canadians of good will should take heart by remembering a similar occurrence that happened in the United States. Then Democratic leader Tom Daschle enticed Republican Senator Jim Jeffords with the promise of a committee chairmanship to become "independent" and thus flip control of the United States Senate to the Democrats. The victory was short lived. The Republicans took back the Senate in 2002 and Daschle lost his own seat in 2004. Jeffords will not run for reelection in 2006. So much for victories bought by hook and crook.
The National Review calls on America to establish a benevolent domination of space. U agree, for one thing because if we don't do it, someone else well--only it will not be so benevolent.
Find a way to extract oxygen from lunar soil and $250,000.00 can be yours.
NASA is already bioengineering plants that will thrive in Martian greenhouses.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Burt Rutan has some advice for NASA.
After this performance, can any one doubt that any prosecution of Tom Delay by Ronnie Earle would be politically motivated?

Addendum: Captain Ed has some more detailed thoughts.
Bruce Gagnon and Helen Caldicott very upset about the prospect of the United States deploying weapons in space.

Bruce blames Queen Isabella:
I proposed to widen the discussion and suggested we look at Christopher Columbus and Spain. I reminded everyone how Queen Isabella began the 100-year process of building the Spanish Armada after Columbus' "successful" return voyage from the Americas. Spain's naval armada helped create the global war system that we suffer from today, as soon thereafter all the European powers were building navies to "compete" for control and domination of the sea lanes and new territories for resources and markets.

Helen Caldicott was not to be outdone:
Helen Caldicott took the floor after I finished and reminded us all, as she so powerfully does in these moments, that our planet is in the intensive care unit and that we must change our way of thinking if we are to save life for the future generations. She underscored that we cannot continue to play the little boys game of tit-for-tat that was so evident among many at this unique gathering.

Caldicott is the author of a book called Missile Envy in which she suggested that the design of ballistic missiles had less to do with aerodynamics than with some Freudian dysfunction on the part of politicians and generals. She was evidentially driven mad in her girlhood upon seeing the nuclear war film On the Beach in her native Australia. I can sympathize. I was driven mad by the incessant playing of Waltzing Matilda during the flick. And I like that tune.

Meanwhile, Jm Oberg sends this from Dennis Kucinich, a Congressman and former Presidential candidate who was apparently born mad:
"The Administration is considering putting weapons in outer space, to give the United States the power to control the world. This astronomical arrogance pushes not simply aggression to new heights, but may well preclude our nation from spending money for anything other than weapons, which will cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

"The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 states that it is "the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind." Space was envisioned as a place of cooperation, of confirming human unity, a place where we could aspire to build a new platform of peace, fulfilling the prophecy of the poet Browning who wrote: "but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"

"What has happened to our country? Why are we projecting fear and paranoia to such heights? Have we so lost our way and our faith that we are prepared to transform the heavens into hell? If the kingdom and the will of God is to be done on earth as it is in heaven, what is to happen when the United States takes nuclear fire up to the gates of heaven?

"Such an offense against humanity could bring the wrath of God upon this nation."

Representative Dennis Kucinich
U.S. Congress

With enemies like these, who needs comedy?
There is a place where copies of the Bible, a book sacred to billions of people on this planet, is regularly defiled by government policy. Care to guess where this place is? And care to guess the level of official and media (especially Newsweek) outrage is?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Looks like the United States is gearing up to deploy weapons in space, the better to defend Civilization. Naturally, this will spark the usual tiresome objections from the usual quarters.
George Galloway, member of the British Parliament and apparently of the coalition of the bought, is a real piece of work, is he not? Lying to a US Senate Committee ought to have consequences, in this case.
From Jim Oberg, via Fred Kiesche, a science experiment to discover whether it is possible to flush a copy of the Koran down a toilet. In respect for the sacred nature of the Koran, a more secular book was substituted.
Peter Kokh examines the lunar poles as the sites for first settlements and finds them wanting.

Addendum: Sam Dinkin has some thoughts. Note also the comments from Paul Spudis.
A Democrat has finally come up with a plan to "fix" social security. The plan is, of course, to raise taxes.

Monday, May 16, 2005

George Lucas is now denying that there is a political subtext to Revenge of the Sith.
I'm told that a "reconstruction" (not a director's cut as the director Sam Fuller was already passed on when the project happened) of The Big Red One is available in DVD. The Big Red One is one of the best war movies ever made. Incidentally, it features Mark Hamil in one of his better non Luke Skywalker roles.
Burt Rutan discusses the future of space tourism.
The latest example of no tolerance silliness in schools is a ban on hugging at a Middle School in Oregon. Of course. Hugging might lead to orgies or teachers dating students or some such horrors.
A lottery to finance lunar settlement? Not without historical precedence, according to Sam Dinkin.
Jeff Foust continues his analysis of the regulatory and legislative challenges facing the commercial space sector. One of those, according to Taylor Dinerman, is ITAR, the export control regime that many believe is a problem.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

There's a new book out that is supposed to be the full story of Bill Clinton's rancid, cadish relationship with eight women who had the misfortune to cross his path.
Howard Dean is chewing the carpet again, urging that Tom Delay go back to Texas and hence to jail. The problem is that Delay has not even been indicted with anything, not to mentioned convicted.

If I were a Democrat, I would be embaressed.

Addendum: Barney Frank is one Democrat who is embaressed according to Michelle Malkin.

I wonder what would have to be done to oust Dean from the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee? And what the consequences of that would be?
Looks like the French are seeing Revenge of the Sith as an allegory for the war in Iraq, with President Bush as the Emperor in waiting. George Lucas, who probably didn't think of that, is playing along and is embarrassing himself by making damn fool, false statements like this:
"We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn't think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam. ... The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable."

And Hollywood is wondering why box office receipts are off.

Addendum: The New York Times thinks that Revenge of the Sith is great so long as one is not too finicky about the acting and the writing.
Looks like Newsweek messed up by falsely reporting that US interrogators at Gitmo were defiling copies of the Koran to rattle prisoners. I don't think that an apology is enough. People died because of this little booboo. Riots have broken out across the Dar as Islam and there have been threats of jihad made over the matter. American national security was placed at risk. All because Newsweek was so anxious to print a story that was embarrassing to the Bush Administration. People need to get fired over this.
Addendum: Austin Bay has more comments.
Booksamillion.com has started a program called Books for Troops where in one can purchase a book or books from a list which would then be sent to our soldiers fighting overseas. There is also a provision to send books specifically to the unit of a loved one if desired.
A little while ago, the Houston Chronicle published a story about the latest attack on campus upon Ann Coulter which roused the ire of space journalist Jim Oberg. Jim has gotten a couple of replies, first from he paper's ombudsman:
From: "Campbell, James"

To: "Jim Oberg"

Subject: RE: Houston Chronicle Poor Journalism re Coulter UT Speech Arrest

Date: Monday, May 09, 2005 11:36 AM

Mr. Oberg,

You're right. Our reporters should have quoted someone with a different viewpoint regarding Ms. Coulter's speech. It could not have been that difficult because I suspect the majority of the crowd were Coulter supporters. I sent your email to the state editor and the reporters pointing out that the story begged balanced.


James T. Campbell, Readers' Representative

Then, from one of the original reporters.
Mr. Oberg,

Thanks for your comments on the story – it is always nice to hear from readers, whether good or bad. It was especially interesting reading your letter, since you are a journalist.

As a journalist, you know that I do not write the headlines. That job belongs to the copy desk, and I don’t know what it is going to say until it shows up in the paper the next day.

And we debated printing his exact quote, but opted against it. Again, that was not my call. But we did put a link to it on our website. We do try to appeal to a broad audience, and for as many people, like you, who wouldn’t have been offended, you and I both know that there would have been just as many people who would have been offended, even if we used asterisks.

I’m sorry you feel the reporting in this story was not objective. I think if you were to take a look at a larger sample of my stories, you would see I am fair and objective. And if you knew me, I think you would be surprised to hear my political beliefs.

We used Jensen because he is known for his protesting. What he said has nothing to do with who was giving the speech. In fact, when I talked to him, we didn’t talk about Coulter at all. We were simply talking about the law.

Thanks for your comments,

Jeffrey Gilbert

Houston Chronicle, Austin Bureau

Jim replies:
To: Jeffrey Gilbert

Thanks for the reply, which is very encouraging -- I hope that I made it clear
that I appreciate the environment we wordsmiths work under, in terms of
both resources (like time), access, page space constraints, editorial
direction, and our own culture of colleagues, perspectives, and
experience. I've been taken to task myself, sometimes vigorously,
and occasionally justifiably, and I always was grateful for
the candid critiques (sometimes, not immediately, I must admit).

The central issue always has to be, not who was right or wrong yesterday,
but what we're going to do tomorrow (which might involve correcting the
record set down yesterday, but mainly deals with future treatment of
similar stories).

** As a journalist, you know that I do not write the headlines. That job
belongs to the copy desk, and I don’t know what it is going to say
until it shows up in the paper the next day. **

Boy can we swap stories about THAT! However, in this case, we
have to agree that the tone of the headline was set by the tone of the
text, and aside from the editorial staff passion for puns and
alliteration, I don't think this headline strayed far from the way
you wrote the story. If so, let's BOTH go and beat up on
somebody (verbally, of course)... Who and where?

** And we debated printing his exact quote, but opted against it.
Again, that was not my call. But we did put a link to it on our website.
We do try to appeal to a broad audience, and for as many people, like you,
who wouldn’t have been offended, you and I both know that there
would have been just as many people who would have been offended,
even if we used asterisks. **

This is the core of the issue, it seems -- and by ducking the truly vile
nature of the words used by Raj, you easily left many readers with a
sense of disproportion between what you allowed them to naively
imagine what he might have said, and the police response. You could have
expected them to emotionally react that the police were excessive, but
those who did were arguably duped by the circumlocutions used.

Further, to even suggest -- as you stated as fact -- that he was actually
asking a question in order to learn something about Coulter's beliefs
is to deliberately camouflage his overt intentions, expressed elsewhere
during and after the incident. For you to allow his social sabotage to
masquerade as dialog, even raucous, gutter-talk give-and-take, was to
mischaracterize (even fictionalize) the entire event. Here is where I think
the journalism craft was betrayed.

** I’m sorry you feel the reporting in this story was not objective. I think
if you were to take a look at a larger sample of my stories, you would see
I am fair and objective. And if you knew me, I think you would be surprised
to hear my political beliefs. **

I appreciate the verbal gesture but I don't need or want an apology from you.
I want better reporting for the public. How do I go about encouraging this?
This story is hardly unique, or even egregious, on the pages of the
Chronicle in the last year or two -- semantic loading, selective interviewing,
clear slants in omissions of explanatory or exculpatory information, patterns
in selections and placement of items deemed newsworthy at all -- this is an
issue that has raised concerns from many intelligent, fair-minded readers,
and increasingly their response is to give up and just find their news from other
sources. I'm seriously in doubt about whether I want to continue my own

** We used Jensen because he is known for his protesting. What he said
has nothing to do with who was giving the speech. In fact, when I talked to him,
we didn’t talk about Coulter at all. We were simply talking about the law. **

Known to you, perhaps, but how about your readers who would be left with
an inaccurate assessment of his balanced expertise? And by the way, he's hardly
known for "protesting", but rather for serious far-left activism and opinionating --
unless you'd seen him at some recent anti-abortion rally ? You also confirm
here and broaden the issue that you went to him to get him to talk about and
speculate about an event he didn't know anything about -- hardly the kind of
'expert testimony' that enhances a reader's understanding of an issue.

Further, although I note you went far afield to find Jensen, I repeat my
concern that you didn't seem to be able to find anybody at the meeting who
felt offended by the deliberately-disruptive words, gestures, and actions of Raj.
You might talk with my son, for example, who recalled that early in the
presentation, as Raj had already begun screaming obscenities from his seat,
my son turned to him and said, 'Hey, shut up, I can't hear the speaker." To
which the non-plussed Raj blurted out, and my son remembers the words
exactly,"Oh, sorry...(pause). No, i'm not sorry. F--- OFF!", and continued
with his 'heckling'.

** Thanks for your comments, **

What I would be grateful for is any indication that they were of use to you
in the continuous perfection of our common craft. I do appreciate your
civility and candor, and that is a good step. What do we do differently,
if anything, in the future?

By the way, as we are discussing a public-interest topic which we are
both in-the-public-eye participants in, I'm assuming you know that any of
my comments can be distributed and posted anywhere, and i'm assuming
the same with regard to yours to me. Thanks, and I'll be watching!

Interestingly, though the Chronicle has privately acknowledged that their original story was flawed, a correction has not been run as of now in the paper.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Washington Post takes on the Vision for Space Exploration. It's a worth while read if one can stomach the snarkiness in the beginning and middle. The article also deigns to quote Robert Park uncritically, which is just wrong.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The mad cap, but ever entertaining Bruce Gagnon, describes his plans to put a stop to that evil scheme known as Project Prometheus.
I will say this. We do intend to run a global campaign to Park Project Prometheus. We want to park it in the annals of history alongside past nuclear rocket schemes like Orion, Rover, NERVA, and Timberwind. All previous generations of the nuclear rocket were cancelled because of enormous cost and fear of the environmental consequences of an accident. What makes anyone think that the reaction to Prometheus will be any different?

I don't suppose we can count on sanity and reason overcoming hysteria this time?

Tom James directs his ire.
So there's going to be a movie about an alien predator who crash lands on Earth in the time of the Vikings. And then, I think, sort of wishes he hadn't.
Even if one supports gay marriage, as I do, this sort of thing is not the way to go about it. It only increases fury against out of control judges and is a attempt to short cut around the long, arduous process of winning people over by reason and appeals to fairness.
If true, this brings childish pique to whole new levels of outrageousness.
U.S. Border Patrol agents have been ordered not to arrest illegal aliens along the section of the Arizona border where protesters patrolled last month because an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of Minuteman volunteers, The Washington Times has learned.

For your anger.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Robert Novak reports that opposition to Bolton is all about the desire of some to appease Fidel Castro.
I would never have imagined the hapless last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustus, as an action hero, but apparently someone is going to have a go at it in a film called The Last Legion.

Addendum: Apparently the story is based on a novel:
Senator George Voinovich just made the most appalling performance at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sliming John Bolton, then claiming that, "I like John Bolton. I think he is a decent man." He went on about how Bolton is unfit for apparently any job at all, but will however vote to send his nomination as UN Ambassador to the floor "without recommendation." It's bad enough that Voinovich is a back stabbing weasel, but apparently the Senator lacks the courage to shove the knife all the way in.
The mercurial Cynthia McKinney (D) Georgia has found a new cause. No nukes in space.

Addendum: From Astronotes:
May 11 [2005]

NASA's Prometheus Nuclear Propulsion Work
by Leonard David

A Member of Congress is expressing "grave
concerns" over NASA's Project Prometheus nuclear
rocket program.

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, representing the
4th District of Georgia, is spearheading an effort
to find like-minded lawmakers to question the
building and deployment of "a nuclear propulsion
rocket" - and to protect the public "from the
potential of a catastrophic nuclear accident posed
by the Prometheus Project."

In a "Dear Colleague" letter dated May 5 to other
members of Congress, Representative McKinney is
seeking the support of Members of Congress "for
shifting Federal funding from the development of
nuclear propulsion systems to research and
development for solar and other alternative energy
systems that can support our space program."

McKinney has also prepared a letter for co-signing
by her colleagues addressed to new NASA chief,
Michael Griffin. "If NASA insists on pursuing this
dangerous idea," the correspondence requests that
the Environmental Impact Statement for Project
Prometheus also address the military application
of the nuclear space work.

Addendum 2: Dan Schrimpsher has some thoughts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Now here's a political odd couple if I ever saw one. While I'm certainly in favor of the bill, which will reduce medical paperwork, save money, and save lives, I couldn't help but imagine a couple of questions. Will the right be more suspicious of him consorting with her? Or will the left be more suspicious of her consorting with him?
Now there's a role playing game set in Eric Flint's 1632 series, wherein a modern West Virginia coal mining town finds itself plopped down in the middle of Germany during the Thirty Years Wars.
Robert Zimmerman takes note of the number of countries developing their own space program, and proclaims the birth of a new Colonial Age in the heavens.
Nonetheless, the burgeoning efforts of these countries give us our first inkling of who the players will be in the grand interplanetary effort to colonize the solar system over the next few centuries.

We are at the dawn of a new colonial age. The growing space competition between nations is in many ways very reminiscent of the 19th century competition between the European powers to colonize Africa and the South Pacific. In the 1800s, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom aggressively competed to carve up the undeveloped world. The result was foreign-run colonies controlling most of the Third World, for both good and ill, for almost a century.

Today, a new list of nations -- India, China, Japan, Russia, Europe and the United States -- are throwing their resources at space exploration in much the same way. Their goal, unstated but indisputable, is similar to the colonial powers of the 19th century: to obtain future domination over unclaimed territories in space.

This quest will, like the previous colonial efforts, be a long, complex and difficult historical process. Just as the colonial movement dominated much of 19th century politics and history, the growing desire by nations today to settle and control the solar system is also likely to dominate human history for centuries to come.

The significant difference, however, is there are no aborigine peoples in space. The colonization of the solar system offers the hope of oppressing no one while bringing benefits to everyone who does it.
I am constantly reminded of what an evil place my state of Texas is, compared to the more enlightened states in the North East. We kill our felons in droves, and this is wrong. And, of course, we brought forth the Anti-Christ (whom you all know as President George W. Bush.)

And yet, unlike Boston, (so far as I know)the gentle Native American may walk the streets of Houston, Austin, and even Vidor unmolested by the law just because of who they are.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

While President Bush celebrates freedom in far off Georgia, Democracy seems to have broken down just next door in Canada.
More on the idea that seems to be developing to have the Crewed Exploration Vehicle as a pure space craft (it would move from Low Earth Orbit to the Moon or Mars and back) while a seperate, simplier vehicle takes people and perhaps cargo and fuel up to the CEV.

Seems to me that this would make the VSE the "airmail" or core market for folks trying to make space travel cheaper.
Gabriele Garibaldi has an interesting analysis of the super power competition in space between the United States and Communist China.
It's not enough that the defenders of the Alamo were wiped out to the last man by Santa Anna's Mexican Army. Nickelodeon, the children's network, has choosen to spread insults and lies about them.
"Alexandra DuPont" talks about Revenge of the Sith, and then about the space epic that we're really waiting for, Serenity.
Rand Simberg on Michael Griffin, a man in a hurry.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Looks like, if something is not done, Glenn Reynolds is going to be in big trouble come 2009. And so will we all.
Some conservatives are planning a tribute for Tom Delay as a show of support. Naturally, the Washington Post thinks that the House Majority Leader is really in trouble now.
Looks like Michael Schiavo, who relied on the courts to help him kill his wife, feels free to ignore them when he finds it convenient.

Meanwhile, I'm told that Mark Fuhrman is working on a book on the Schiavo case. Former LA Police detective Furhman is most recently known for his book Murder in Greenwich, which helped send Martha Moxley's murderer--a Kennedy relative--to jail.
As all the world knows, Ann Coulter got cussed out by a left wing student at the University of Texas during a question and answer session. The Houston Chronicle thinks that the vulger student, who bought himself an arrest for being disorderly, is the real victim. This has provoked the wrath of space journalist Jim Oberg.
The May 7th page 1 article by Jeffrey Gilbert and Terri Langford about the ‘heckling’ arrest at Ann Coulter’s speech at the University of Texas exhibited a poor level of basic journalism and editing. As a practicing journalist myself for 35 years (occasionally on the pages of the Houston Chronicle) I found the article as published to be superficial, biased, and misleading.

Even the headline-writing was misleading, in that it described how the arrest itself ‘raises hackles’, rather than the disruptive student’s behavior raising similar hackles. And the ‘heckling’ is described as a single event occurring after the program, rather than (as it actually did) occurring throughout the program and culminating in the question and answer period.

My son is a sophomore at UT and attended the event, and as it turned out, sat next to the young man in question, Ajai Raj (a writer for the student newspaper there). He emailed me: "That was the guy I asked to be quiet and he told me to f--- off! HA! Pretty funny stuff.” Throughout the speech, my son reports, “he was yelling the stupidest most ignorant comments I have ever heard ("Coulter is a Nazi," "Do you have something against brown people!?") and he was interrupting her every two minutes.” This is the character who is portrayed in your article as some sort of champion of free speech – his, but clearly not anyone else’s.

In an essay attributed to Raj on the DailyKOS blogsite, he does not dispute this description: ! “From the beginning I was yelling obscenities along with my friends, roaring at Ms. Coulter's right-wing bulls--- festival the way no one else had the balls to.”

And your article went through extreme euphemistic convolutions to avoid an accurate portrayal of the true language used in the final confrontation. “When Raj took to the microphone, he confronted her about that view [of marriage], lacing his question with profanity,” the reporters wrote.

There is little dispute over his actual words: "You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage. How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but f--- his wife up the a--?" You may have to interpose enough asterisks to mask the raw language to the level required for a newspaper to publish, but at least let the adult readers fully understand the nature of the comment without verbal pussy-footing.

Yet somehow, the Chronicle’s reporters could not seem to find anyone at the speech itself to describe what these other witnesses may have seen as a pattern of deliberatively disruptive behavior. The newspaper quotes nobody at the speech who was offended. Instead, the reporters practice mind-reading when they write that Raj “thought he was exercising his right to free speech when he quizzed conservative pundit Ann Coulter on her definition of marriage”.

Their article continues: “But some question if Raj's behavior really violated the law. . . . Robert Jensen, a UT journalism professor, said he wasn't at the speech, but he said nothing he has heard or read constitutes disorderly conduct.” They added that “Jensen said it sounds like it may have been a pre-emptive arrest to get Raj out of the room,” when elsewhere in the article they make it clear the arrest didn’t occur until he was taken outside.

So after admitting that Jensen’s views are at best second or third hand and his speculations based on a misinterpretation of the sequence of events (why, then, was he even quoted?), the writers then simply identify him as an ordinary “journalism professor” who might, by that credential, be expected by a naïve reader to offer a balanced perspective.

What the article leaves out, however, is the information that Dr. Jensen is a far-left activist who has endorsed and supported Ward Churchill's analysis of 9/11 (“Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens”) on CommonDreams.org, Z-Net, and Counterpunch. He has urged that "God condemn America, so the world might live," and written that “Scratch the surface of U.S. rhetoric about its quest to bring freedom and democracy to the world, and one finds the suffering of the people who must live with the reality of U.S. foreign policy."

Such views are, of course, his perfect right to hold, but readers of the Houston Chronicle have the right to know, when a person’s evaluations of a news event are presented, what pre-existing biases he may bring to the issues discussed. This article failed to meet this standard, arguably with deliberate intent to deceive.

The reporters did find one person at the speech whose opinions they thought worthy of quoting, Emily Cadik, spokeswoman for ‘University Democrats’, who told them she didn’t think Raj should have been arrested because "using expletives on campus is not a crime and he wasn't posing a threat." In her view, as reported in your article, Coulter’s speech was just as offensive as Raj’s: “But she got away with it, and he got arrested."

Raj and his supporters trumpet their outrage over censorship, and then at the close of his essay on DailyKOS, he shows his own commitment to free speech: “And hey, Ann, don't come back to UT. We're better than your bulls--- here. And I can think of at least one jackass here who can dish it out better than you.” Too bad your article didn’t give a clearer (and more honest) picture of this self-style civil libertarian and his supporters.

The public would be better served if the Houston Chronicle exercised its own free speech to inform, rather than propagandize through misinformation, as the reporters and editors involved in this story did.

James Oberg
Looks like a group of Republican Senators, led by Trent Lott, are prepared to extract defeat from the jaws of victory over judicial fillibusters. This treason, should it go forward, would be, in my opinion, Trent Lott's revenge for getting booted out of the Senate Majority leadership. If that means caving to the Dems and flouting the Constitution, well, a small price I suppose.
t/Space has developed a concept that will replace the space shuttle sooner and will actually compliment the CEV. The idea is that the CEV is launched unmanned and then a seperate vehicle delivers the crew to it in low Earth orbit.
Jeff Foust discusses the current state of affairs in commercial space just over six months after the winning of the X Prize.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Washington Post has rather belatedly discovered that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin is changing things a bit to accelerate the development of the Crewed Exploration Vehicle. Instead of a fly off competition in 2008, a single contractor will be picked within months. Since only a single contractor will be chosen, more money and therefore time is saved. However, the chances of an X-33 debacle are increased, if people are not careful. My suggestion is a parallel, smaller scale effort aimed at encouraging the alt.space companies.
There are moves afoot to bring political balance to PBS. A good start would be to privitize the thing. In an era of a myriad of cable networks from the History Channel to the Discovery Channel, do we really need a government TV network?
Sixty years ago today, the Third Reich finally fell in blood and fire and the Second World War in Europe ended. But for many, the victory was bitter sweet, for the people of Eastern Europe soon found that they had only exchanged Nazi terror for Soviet tyranny. For them, freedom would not come for another forty four years.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Apparently the school that suspended a student over a cell phone call he took from his mom serving her country in Iraq has decided to do a little back peddling and will allow the student to return to class on Monday. In my opinion, it's not enough. Some sort of exception should be made for calls to students from parents serving overseas. Also the teacher who tried to grab the phone out of the student's hand needs to be disciplined, if not out right fired.
Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader and imbecile, has proven that he is both insulting and delusional.
Just to prove that Russian courts are just as prone as American courts to hearing crazy law suits, a Russian woman is litigating to stop NASA's Deep Impact probe from hitting the comet.

Addendum: More . Apparently the woman is an astrologer.

Friday, May 06, 2005

As promised we saw Kingdom of Heaven. The one word I have to describe it is magnificent. While it does start a little slow, when it sets up the characters and situation, the film rapidly becomes a grand tale of honor, courage, and faith. I highly recommend it.

Now, to two irritating aspects which have to be dealt with. First, upon the subject of historical accuracy, while I doubt that there has ever been a Hollywood production that tracks the historic subject matter exactly, Kingdom of Heaven comes very close. The characters of the historic figures, Crusaders and Saracens, seem much as they were in real life. Some things have obviously changed for dramatic purposes. It is, after all, a drama and not a documentary.

Second, the charge that Kingdom of Heaven is an allegory for our current war on terror. This is something that is advanced by those who are opposed to warring on terrorists, feeling it is some kind of imperialist plot against Muslims. In the characters Guy of Lusignan and Renaud de Châtillon, such people see counterparts of scheming neocons in the Bush Administration. Of course, for that to be true, Saladin would have to be Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein (though oddly enough, Saladin and Saddam were both born in Tikrit.) In any case, to compare the chivalric and noble Saladin, who was admired by Muslim and Christian alike, to the Islamofascist terrorists of today is to slander Saladin. Saladin, were he alive today, would certainly not tolerate suicide bombing or the slaughter of innocents which have been the modus operandi of the modern terrorists. He would note that the terrorists are killing far more Muslims than Infidel. He would make common cause, I would not doubt, with the civilized world against the terrorists.

In any event, see the movie without worrying overmuch about historical accuracy or contemporary politics. You’ll enjoy this magnificent drama far more if you do.
So a kid gets suspended from school for talking to his mom, now serving her country in Iraq, on a cell phone during school hours. Another victory, I suppose, for zero tolerance.
Steve Beard likes the film Kingdom of Heaven and does not think it falls into the politically correct trap.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Yorkers, while favoring Hillary Clinton for Senate, also want her to serve a full six year second term, thus eschewing a run for President in 2006. Now, I think Hillary is capable of making such a promise and then breaking it in order to run for the White House anyway. Her husband did, having promised a full term as Governor of Arkansas in 1990, then breaking that promise in 1992, and suffering no consequence for her faithlessness.
The Crewed Exploration Vehical may be about to morph into a slightly larger space craft that will be launched from a shuttle derived heavy lift launch vehical in one piece. Previously, the CEV would be launched in pieces on a Delta IV or Atlas V and then assembled in space.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, which I'm right now unprepared to pick and choose. I'll have more opinions from people who are prepared to choose as they come in.
According to this week's Space News (no link yet) NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has quietly told the Goddard Space Flight Center to start getting ready for a shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Addendum: More here. The article says that no firm decision has been taken yet, but I would not bet against a servicing mission taking place now.
The President's Vision for Space Exploration has created a firestorm in certain quarters in the scientific community which feel threatened since their favorite areas are being trimming to pay for it. The argument, especially advanced by the Earth Science community, is that any cuts in government spending in science will cause people to not go into that field, thus hurting America's strength in that area. But, so far, there is no real crisis in the sciences and no drop off in the numbers of people going into them. Engineering, on the other hand, is facing a deficit of people seeking it as a career, oddly enough something that the VSE would tend to address.

I also have to add that Earth Science was spoiled quite a bit during the Clinton Administration. It was the favorite of Vice President Al Gore and was lavished with resources when other NASA priorities (say, space flight) were being cut.
("You told him about the statue?") Sure, this may be in bad taste, but wait until they put one of Captain Kirk up somewhere in Iowa.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Texas House, with so many other pressing matters, has found time to pass a bill banning lewd cheer leading performances, without actually defining what those are. Now, I have not seen a cheer leading performance of any kind since High School, so I can only imagine what is going on these days. Maybe they're doing something like troupes of slaves used to do to entertain the Emperor Tiberius on the island of Capri during his depraved era. The mind boggles.
Michael Griffin describes one of the perils of relying solely on a commercial strategy for opening the high frontier of space. Private business may not step up in a timely fashion. There are ways to get around this, of course. One of them would be to retain the option of doing a thing in house if there are no commercial providers ready and willing, with the view of eventually selling that thing (whatever that is) to private business.
Is Ridley Scott's new Crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven politically correct? We'll be seeing it on Friday and will have a full report.

There is one thing in the refered article that I have to disagree with?
The film serves as a counterpoint for Hollywood portraits of Muslims as religious zealots. After the demise of the Soviet Union deprived Hollywood of a ready source of communist bad guys, Arab terrorists became an easy substitute as the heavies in action films.

Oh? Since when? We remember how Tom Clancy's story The Sum of All Fears changed the bad guys from Arab terrorists to Central European Neo Nazis, because Arabs as terrorists was a concept that was considered too politically incorrect. It is as if 9/11 was perpetrated by blond haired, blue eyed Europeans.

I can think, in fact, of only two instances in living memory in which Arabs were depicted as terrorists. In 1994, James Cameron released a film called True Lies, which depicted Arab jihadists trying to set off a nuke in Miami. And, this year, one of my favorite shows, 24, actually had a group of Arab terrorists (again with a nuke) wrecking havok without the typical device of being just a front for a cabal of white oil company executives. Naturally the storyline is being widely condemned in certain quarters for being "racist."

There has not been a wave of Hollywood films about Arab terrorists. That's because Hollywood is afraid of the PC police. It's sad, though. It's sort of like trying to make a movie about World War II without offending the Germans and Japanese.
Is Belarus about to become the next tinpot dictatorship to fall to the winds of freedom? Could be and about time too.
Mind, I certainly think that Hillary needs to be stopped. But, running negative ads against her is only half of a strategy. Someone with some heft has to run against her in 06. One cannot beat someone (no matter how evil) with no one.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Environmentalists have long touted wind power as a clean alternative to energy generated by fossil fuels. That is, until someone actually actually started building the windmills.
If I were Tom Delay, I would be very happy that Howard Dean is putting up billboards in my own state that say bad things about me. There are few things that irritate a Texan more than a northeasterner insulting one of his own.
Lockheed Martin's concept for the CEV is--well--interesting.

Rand Simberg is puzzled by the whole lift body concept. Others are even less impressed.

Addendum: More from Popular Mechanics.
Matt Damon as Marco Polo? Looks like it could happen.

Monday, May 02, 2005

One of the mistakes NASA made during Apollo was it's failure to build a lunar cargo ship, the better to sustain astronauts on the Moon for long periods. That mistakes must not be repeated in the current lunar effort.