Curmudgeons Corner

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

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

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Buy the following books wherever fine books are sold

Now Available for the Amazon Kindle

Contact Me

Return to the Moon Store
Children of Apollo Store
Health Words
Muse Voices
Top Secret Writers
Capitalist Review
Blasting News
Instapundit
Spudis Lunar Resources Blog
Big Hollywood
Marks Fine Books - Used and New
This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Monday, February 28, 2005
 
Looks like the Chinese are jumping on the space tourism bandwagon.


 
Amidst what seems to be a mass rising of the people of Lebanon, the pro Syrian government of that country has collapsed. Will the Syrians go home or will they turn their artillery on the people? Hafez Assad, the father of the current dictator, leveled an entire city in Syria under similar circumstances.


 
More on Japan's space ambitions. This seems to be, in part, in response to the Chinese effort, which some people keep telling me doesn't matter and is not threatening.

Addendum: To no one's surprise, Rand Simberg is a bit skeptical.


 
Dan Rather is being dissed, not just by a bunch of right wing bloggers, but by the people who know him best.


 
Guess who is overjoyed at the prospect of the mad mullahs getting the Bomb? They shouldn't, of course, because it will lead to space based missile defenses and they think that would be a bad thing.


 
In the new era of space entrepreneurialism, how to tell the wheat from the chaff among the space startups?


Sunday, February 27, 2005
 
Helium 3, which is found in nature on the Moon, may have other uses besides in fusion. Nanotechnology for instance. And there are other neat stuff as well.


 
Scientists have renegerated an optic nerve. This is a very big deal.


 
If anyone can make sense of the latest ravings of the irrepressible Jeffrey Bell, please drop me a not. Personally, I think he's been to Room 101 and it has totally unhinged him.


 
Czar Vlad Putin displays a clear misunderstanding about how the media works in the United States.
When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: "We didn't criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS."

It's not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush's National Guard service. Yet it's all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media—just like his own. Bush's aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin's inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how he had no power to fire American journalists. It made little difference.


 
Jason Verheyden is quite unhappy with Canadian Prime Minister Martin's missile defense decision.


 
SpaceShipOne, the first private manned space vehicle, is headed for the Air and Space Museum where, with the Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, and the Apollo 11 Command Module, it will be in good company.


 
Japan's successful launch of its H-2A rocket has revived talk of a Japanese manned space program.
Japanese officials say they are not in a space race with China. But in a major policy switch, a government panel last year recommended that Japan begin studying the possibility of establishing its own manned space program.


Saturday, February 26, 2005
 
The University of Colorado is actually considering paying Ward Churchill money to get him to go away. Now, Ward Churchill is, besides being a purveyor of hate speech, a liar, a fraud, and apparently an art plagiarist. It should not be a complicated matter to give this odious piece of work the royal order of the boot. Just send a couple of campus police to his office with some cardboard boxes and tell him that he has twenty minutes to pack up and vacate. If he resists, arrest him for trespassing.


 
Robert Zimmerman discusses an oasis on the Moon.


Thursday, February 24, 2005
 
I always thought that Hillary Clinton secretly wants to be Goddess Empress, rather than President, in recompense for all of the humiliations she suffered at the hands of her husband over the decades. But there is one woman with not only the intellectual strength, but the style to deny Hillary either position, should she wish to have one (I suspect the Presidency) for her own.


 
So, if a missile launched by--say--North Korea is found to be headed for--say--Vancouver, would the Americans be expected to shoot it down anyway? Despite this latest slap in the face? I suspect they will be so expected.

Addendum: Tom James suggests that there is less--and more--than meets the eye and that Canadian PM Martin is playing a sneaky political game.


 
More folks are getting into the suborbital barnstorming business.


 
On Howard Dean's greatest enemy.
It's interesting that Dean chose to express his hatred of Republicans rather than the Republican Party. Hating an institution is one thing, but hating individual Republicans, including my daughter who cast her first-ever presidential ballot last November for President Bush, comes off as a little extreme. Given the red-meat nature of his oratory during his 2004 Democratic presidential nomination bid, one might be forgiven for not showing surprise over his expressed hatred.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005
 
Season two of Battlestar Galactica begins this summer with twenty new episodes.


 
Ward Churchill, the odious little man who slimed the victims of 9/11, has confessed that he is not an Indian.


 
Advances in technology may be bringing forward the dawn of space settlements. And part of that is the utilization of space resources.


 
Your Humble Servant points a finger at the opposition to the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative, from the foolish to the ridiculous.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005
 
Kistler Aerospace rose, fell, but now seems poised to rise again. This will have profound implications for commercial space transportation.


 
Itallian film producer Dino De Laurentiis has a number of film projects in the works, including his version of Alexander and a new Hannibal Lecter film.


 
The Times of India present some questions and answers about commercial space policy.


Monday, February 21, 2005
 
Sherwood Boehlert, Chair of the House Science Committee, has his doubts about it. And handful of Clintonista scientists thinks it's an appalling idea. But, shockingly, NASA intends to go hell bent for leather on the Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative anyway.


 
Some Nobel Prize winning economists seem to think that those huge "transition costs" you keep hearing about to reform social security are a myth, since all it is is relabeling debt.


 
Jeff Foust examines the evolving issue of safety for the suborbital space travel industry.


 
Taylor Dinerman takes a look at NASA budget politics.


Sunday, February 20, 2005
 
Some folks at the Association for the Advancement of Science are complaining about Bush Administration science policy. Unfortunetly, the AP article does not fully identify some of the speakers. Rosina Bierbaum, for instance, was a Clinton Associate Director of the Office of Technology Assessment. Neal Lane was appointed by Clinton to head of the National Science Foundation, then served in the Federal government as Assistant to President Clinton for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Kurt Gottfried is correctly identified as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists (which he cofounded) a far left organization that has opposed missile defense as well as President Reagan's policies that brought about the end of the Cold War.

Not that one should accuse these distinquished folks of political bias. Just putting their remarks into context.


 
Chris Hall detects a bit of bad sportsmanship on the part of one of the pilots of SpaceShipOne.


 
Angst about job cuts in the space program proceeds apace as the space agency reorders its priorities. A perfect time for some stupidity from John Pike.
John Pike, a government watchdog and security expert who runs GlobalSecurity.com, said earlier this month the president's space exploration plan "is just a way to kill NASA."

How going back to the Moon and on to Mars is going to "kill NASA" is a question whose answer escapes me.
The agency has not released any detailed plans or chosen any destinations, and a major portion of the Aldridge Commission report - Bush's panel of aerospace experts that came together to study NASA's next steps - dealt with financial accounting, not ways to return to the moon or go to another planet.

Actually there's a rather solid concept that suggests that we're going back to the Moon in the next decade and Mars in the decade after that.
"It was supposed to say 'yes or no' could the space agency return to the moon or go out into deep space or whatever it needed to accomplish," Pike said. "It came back with the statement that if you want to go to the moon, then you need to build an accounting center and change the way (NASA) finance works. That's not very exciting stuff.

Perhaps not exciting, but rather necessary if you're going to do space exploration on a budget and a schedule that Congress and the public will accept.
"They don't even have any decent animation or pictures a year into this. That tells an observer all they need to know. If there's no good cartoons, then there's no plan."

There have been lots of space plans with lots of good cartoons and viewgraphs that never came to be. If NASA is busily trying to get hardware built and are avoiding the viewgraph program, then so much the better.
Pike said the White House has no love for the space agency and would like to see it "go away."

"NASA is a big problem. It can't do anything for them, and it is full of cost overruns," he said. "It certainly cannot help them overthrow the mullahs" in Iraq and Iran."

This is the ravings of a madman on several levals. For one thing, there are lots of good things to be done that don't involve wasting the Islamofascists.

I love Fox News, but really needs to not go to this guy to be a talking head for space stories.


 
My appearence of The Space Show went well. I got to talk quite a bit about Children of Apollo, space history, space politics, space policy, and so on. For those who missed it, I'll have an address to download/buy a copy of the show in due course.

Addendum: Here's the MP3 file of the show.


Friday, February 18, 2005
 
As part of a compromise to save his "Safe Clear" program from oblivion, Mayor White of Houston has actually proposed to do something he should have done from the start.


 
Was Rome actually founded by a fellow named Romulus. Maybe, maybe not. But this story is interesting, nevertheless.
The source of Mr. Carandini's confidence is the discovery of traces of an 8th century B.C. house of regal proportions on the edge of the Forum that dates from the period of the Eternal City's legendary founding.
Found 10 yards or so beneath pines growing on the surface of the Palatine and under centuries of construction from classical to Renaissance times, the palace had a courtyard and covered inner area spanning an estimated 3,800 square feet.
Wooden columns marked its entrances, ceramics decorated it and seats were located against the walls of a grand central hall.
It is located by the Sanctuary of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, close to the slopes of the Palatine, the site of the earliest traces of Roman civilization and where legend has it Romulus killed Remus before building Rome.


 
Jeff Foust wonders if there's something nerfarious going on with the GAO investigation of Sean O'Keefe.


 
Hillary Clinton proposes some "Elect A Democrat in 2008" legislation that will apparently make it easier for criminals and illegal aliens to vote, but not soldiers serving their country.


 
Our prayers and good wishes go out to Ms. Reynolds, Glenn, and their family and loved ones.


 
The title and tone of this account of the House Science Committee's NASA budget hearing is typical and somewhat misleading. Congress is not going to cut the Moon, Mars, and Beyond initiative because if it tries, then as last year the administration and its allies (re: Tom Delay) in Congress will play hardball to stop the move.

(Despite all that, I still say that the President needs to make a "Rice University" speech--perhaps at Rice University--laying out the justifications--including economic--for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond initiative. He should use that opportunity to make clear, even for people as dense as Sherwood Boehlert seems to be--that his committment to the initiative is absolute and not to be challenged because some politicians are prone to quesiness.)

On the other hand, the decision to cancel Hubble is proving to be a public relations headache. Reactions to the decision have been incandescent and NASA has not offered any good answers to justify it. The National Academy of Sciences pretty much nuked the safety excuse. A shuttle repair mission would not cost a lot of extra money.

My advice is to find some graceful way to climb down from the decision and give the shuttle mission to Hubble the go ahead. That would help to quiet the cries that "Bush wants to send people to Mars, but won't send them to Hubble."


Thursday, February 17, 2005
 
The regulation of private space flight is turning out to be complicated and filled with pit falls. Looks like the bureaucrats at the FAA are going to have to be watched just as much as politicians like James Oberstar.


 
Sherwood Boehlert tries to have it both ways once again. He is for the Moon, Mars, and Beyond program
I am for returning humans to the moon by 2020. I am for moving ahead prudently but swiftly with the development of a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) for that purpose. I am for retiring the Space Shuttle as soon as possible, but under absolutely no circumstances later than December 31, 2010. I am for a NASA that sees itself as a science agency, with all of Space Science, Earth Science and Aeronautics receiving the attention and funding accorded to priority areas. I am for a NASA that is open to outside ideas from academia and the private sector.

Well and good. However, Boehlert is against paying for all that.
So where does that leave me on the current budget proposal? With the same mixed feelings I’ve had in the past. First, let me blunt, I don’t think NASA should be our top budget priority either in this Committee or the Congress. That means in a budget as excruciatingly tight as this one, NASA probably should not get as much as the President has proposed. Moreover, even if NASA received every cent it has requested, it would still be trying to do too much at once – the historic pattern for the Agency, as the Gehman Report noted. So something has to give, and this hearing will be a first step in looking at what that might be. There’s one other problem we have reviewing this budget.

Make up your mind, Mr. Chairman. You can't be for something and against paying for it. That approaches doublethink.


 
Also, Dr. Dean seems to be quite nervous of how he might look in a scheduled debate with Richard Perle on the subject of the War in Iraq.


 
Bob Novak regards Howard Dean as a kind of "accidental" DNC Chair, ascending because of drift and aimlessness in the Democrat Party. Novak also doesn't buy the spin of Dean as a born again centrist moderate.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005
 
One of the great spins the media is putting out to avoid the reality of Howard Dean as head of the DNC is to claim that the Doctor is a "centrist" or even a "moderate" (a "fighting moderate", to make the oxymoran someone put out.) Did he not balance Vermont's budget? (By raising taxes.) Was he not looked upon with favor by the NRA? Of course, they say, he was against the war (a minor point) and that was how the evil Republicans pinned him as a nut job.

Jonah Golberg proves that all of this is spin. Dean is not only "against the war", but is an appeaser. And that's just the start of the depths of his lunacy.


 
Life on Mars? Could be.


 
Jimmy Carter, man of peace (and indeed, one might say, pacifism and appeasement), will have a Seawolf attack submarine named after him.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005
 
Will Robert Bigelow's dreams of a space hotel become reality? Or will his dream become his version of the Spruce Goose.


 
Keith Cowing of NASA Watch is reporting a story that the Administration is going to nominate Dan Crippen, former head of the Congressional Budget Office, as NASA Administrator. This means, obviously, that the White House favors another guy in the mode of Sean O'Keefe to run the space program. Crippen was also part of NASA's Safety Advisory Panel.


 
Oliver Stone may not have killed off the ancient epic after all. Halle Berry is attached to play Nefertiti in a film by her Monsters Ball director Marc Foster.


 
Apparently prositution, contrary to a previous story, is not mandatory after all in Germany.


 
A Florida Today piece on lunar and Martian soil has an astonishing error:
The hazards of moon and Mars dirt are some of the biggest concerns. A rocket landing on the moon could kick up clouds of loose material called regolith. With no gravity to impede rocks and dust, bits could whack the rocket or creep into crevices.

No gravity on the Moon? None?


Monday, February 14, 2005
 
This Sunday, between 3 PM and 4:30 PM Eastern time (between 12 PM and 1:30 PM Pacific) I shall be on The Space Show, with Dr. David Livingston, discussing my most recent book, Children of Apollo, and other space related topics.

Go here for listening options.

Listeners can talk to me or the host using toll free 1 (866) 687-7223, by sending e-mail during the program using dmlivings@yahoo.com or drspace@thespaceshow.com or chatting on AOL/ICQ/CompuServe Chat using the screen name "spaceshowchat."


 
The two sequels in development of the film Pirates of the Caribbean will depict the Carib Indians as cannibals, apparently out of historical accuracy. The current Caribs (who are not cannibals) are mad as hell at what they claim is a slander of their noble ancestors.


 
Jim Oberg draws out attention to an example of "Islamic" astronomy, courtesy of a Dr. Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyed of the Egyptian National Research Center.
Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: The centrality [of Mecca] has been proven
scientifically. How? When they traveled to outer space and took pictures of
the earth, they saw that it is a dark, hanging sphere. The man said, "Earth
is a dark hanging sphere - who hung it?"

Interviewer: Who said that?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: [Neil] Armstrong. Armstrong was basically
trying to say: Allah is the one who hung it. They discovered that Earth
emits radiation, and they wrote about this on the web. They left the item
there for 21 days, and then they made it disappear.

There is more.


 
John Leo casts his attention to those Americans who wish to flee to Canada rather than live under the merciless heel of George W. Bush, and then explains why they really shouldn't.


Sunday, February 13, 2005
 
Gov. Schwarzenegger has declared war on the unions and other interest groups blocking his package of four reform initiatives that will likely go before voters this fall.
First, the governor wants automatic spending cuts to be imposed when expenditures exceed revenue. Second, he wants to change government employee pensions from defined-benefit plans to 401(k)-type plans. He also calls for scrapping the 2001 bipartisan gerrymandering of the state's political districts. And he wants to link pay for teachers to their performance, while making it easier to fire bad ones.

Arnold's enemies are snickering when they should be trembling with fear.


 
The politics of space commercial regulation is still in a state of flux. Also, there is nothing quite like proving that something can be done by doing it.
House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., one of the proponents of the new space launch law, said he initially thought the idea of commercial human spaceflight was "a silly distraction" until Mojave's SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize by flying two manned sub-orbital flights in less than two weeks.

"We don't know yet what commercial space flight might lead to, but we need to give this new industry a chance to develop," Boehlert said Wednesday at a congressional hearing. "This is an infant industry. It is not the equivalent of today's airline industry. The law fully protects uninvolved third parties and requires extraordinary disclosures to immediate participants, and it sets the industry on a path toward greater regulation as it develops."

Indeed.


 
Tom James muses about the various space dramas now on TV. I would have mentioned Firefly, one of the most promising shows to have aired, and unfortunately cut off long before its prime.


Saturday, February 12, 2005
 
Eric Flint, one of the giants of alternate history literature, will shortly publish the first volume in a two part series, called Trail of Glory, in which Sam Houston engineers a happier fate for the Cherokee when they loose their ancestrial lands in the shamefull event known in American history as the Trail of Tears. The book is called The Rivers of War and is coming out in May.


 
Looks like Democrat opposition to private accounts under social security is beginning to crumble.


 
The lunatic is officially in charge of the asylum.


 
Jim Oberg expands on the "Mars Doesn't Need Women" flap and then discusses the history of sexism in the Russian space program.


Friday, February 11, 2005
 
Ann Coulter digs up some dirt on the odious Ward Churchill.


 
Deborah Orin suggests that there is a method to Howard Dean's madness.


 
Looks like the Texas Senate is ready to drive a stake through the heart of Houston's Safe Clear program.


 
Bruce Moomaw, writer, fool, hater, has somehow detected racism in the Administration's search for a new head of NASA.


 
More on the Benford Solar Sail.


 
Spielberg and Cruise talk about their War of the Worlds film. Hint: The aliens are not Martians.


 
So, let's see. The Democrats can accuse people like President Bush, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, and indeed any Republican of any nefarious thing that creeps into their little imagination. But put out a memo about Harry Reid which is entirely factual, and it is an outrage. Sounds like a bunch of whiners who can dish it out, but can't take it.


Thursday, February 10, 2005
 
Do I detect a bit of sexism in Russian space planning?
There would be probably no women on the first flight to Mars, Director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP), academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, member of the Presidential Council on Sciences and Education Anatoly Grigoryev announced after his speech in front of the students of the Moscow International University.

"After all, women are fragile and delicate creatures; that is why men should lead the way to distant planets and carry women there in their strong hands," the head of IMBP said with a smile.

Jim Oberg certainly does.
This is the same guy, five years ago, who blamed the Canadian woman
Judith Lapierre for all the tensions in the space isolation simulator when she was such a spoilsport about being french kissed by amorous russian crewmates -- and who wouldn't open the latch to let her out until she withdrew her emailed complaints. Discussed in my book 'Star-Crossed Orbits'. Will a few 'fragile and delicate creatures' go up to his office and kick the living daylights out of him, please?

Second that.


 
The Deaniacs are savoring the famous victory of their leader, who seems to be promising to absorb the Democrat Party into his cult. The results are not going to be pretty, but I think entertaining nevertheless.


 
The Clinton policy of appeasing North Korea has now borne bitter fruit indeed. A certifiable psychotic now has nuclear weapons.


 
James Oberstar seems not to have given up his drive to crush the embryonic suborbital space flight industry, using safety as a weapon.

Addendum: Rand Simberg has some more on the regulatory front and expresses the opinion that I'm being too tough on Oberstar.
I really don't think that the congressman's goal is to "crush the embryonic suborbital space flight industry." I think that he's sincerely concerned about safety, but extremely misguided.

Perhaps, but results I think matter far more than intentions, of which we know the road to Hell is paved with. Rand seems to agree:
Carried to its logical conclusion, Rep. Oberstar's philosophy would ban, or at least insist that the government heavily regulate mountain climbing, rock climbing, bungee jumping, skydiving, contact sports, extreme skiing, etc.

But perhaps those things are next on his agenda.

Indeed.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005
 
A (mostly) upbeat analysis on the 2006 NASA budget request.


 
Fox reporter Major Garrett suggests, in a new book, that Newt Gingrich's Contract with America is the defining political document of our age, affecting the agendas of both parties.



 
Battlestar Galactica, SciFi Channel's excellent reimagining of the classic 70s series, has been renewed.


 
The development of the Crewed Exploration Vehicle contains many challenges. Among them, getting it in on time and under budget. To do that, NASA will need to think outside the box.


 
Rand Simberg also has a commentary on Hubble.


 
Rand Simberg asks a couple of interesting questions. What if the blogosphere had existed ten or so years ago? Would Bill Clinton have survived?


 
Companies in the newly emerging personal space flight industry are banding together to set safety standards beyond what will be required by governments.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005
 
The ascent of Dr, Ev-er-Dean on the greasy pole of politics has not been pretty.


 
Looks like NASA is getting serious about going commercial for at least hauling cargo to the International Space Station.


 
Hollywood is getting set to roll out films and TV shows inspired by the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. They say they will be positive (with certain exceptions.) We'll see.


 
Planets with a layer of diamonds? Sounds pretty cool to me.


Monday, February 07, 2005
 
Some interesting cast additions for Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis.


 
NASA's 2006 budget request is out. There's a smaller increase than previously planned, with Hubble rescue and the JIMO probe getting axed. The shortfall seems to be made up in the out years, though. More here and here.


 
Stephen Ashworth argues for a program of space exploration based on enhancing economic growth on Earth. I see much merit to that argument.


 
Man made global warming woul be a good thing to happen on Mars. More on this subject.


Sunday, February 06, 2005
 
I think we're about to see how serious Congress is about reducing the deficit. Look for some of the same people who have been clucking about the deficit to howl with rage about the spending cuts that are about to be proposed to actually reduce it.


Saturday, February 05, 2005
 
Simplying the tax code, another of President Bush's proposed reforms, will be a daunting task. But he may be up to it.
Asked, when he was near death, to name things he regretted not doing, Andrew Jackson said: "I didn't shoot Henry Clay, and I didn't hang John C. Calhoun." President Bush, who seems determined to leave office with nothing undone -- except, maybe, horsewhipping Harry Reid -- vows to transform not only Social Security but the hydra-headed tax code.


 
The Iraqi police have come up with a method for breaking the macho mystique of the terrorists by cutting videos which start with them lording it over with cowering hostages, but end with them cowering themselves when they pass into police custedy. Naturally, there are people who think this is going too far.
Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch said such tactics raised the issue of whether the people were tortured or otherwise coerced into making the statements.

Last week the organization issued a report based on interviews in Iraq that "found the abuse, torture and mistreatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces to be routine and commonplace," said Ms. Whitson, the executive director of the group's Middle Eastern division. For example, she said, the police often described detainees as guilty before any trial had occurred and made them available to journalists to be photographed.



Friday, February 04, 2005
 
A thirteen year old British schoolgirl has published a best selling fantasy epic entitled Dragon Tamers


 
Harry Reid, Senator Minority Leader, once supported the same sort of private accounts against which he is now standing like a stone wall.

Oddly enough, another famous Democrat supported private accounts under social security.
But it turns out that FDR himself planned to include private investment accounts in the Social Security program when he proposed it.

In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, "Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age," adding that government funding, "ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

Well, imagine that.


Thursday, February 03, 2005
 
This little incident in a small town in Iraq sounds like something in the wild west.
The residents of a small Iraqi village have killed five insurgents who had attacked them for voting in last weekend's national elections.

Several other insurgents were also wounded.

The insurgents raided the village of al-Mudhiryah south of Baghdad after warning its inhabitants not to vote in the election.

The villagers fought back, killing five of the insurgents and wounding eight others.

The insurgents' cars were then set alight.

Al-Mudhiryah's tribal sheikh says his people are sick of being threatened by Islamic extremists.

All it needs is an Iraqi version of Wyatt Earp pointing a shot gun at the last surviving terrorist. "You tell Zarqawi that the law's comin'! You tell him I'm comin'! And HELL'S COMIN' WITH ME!"


 
A bill has been filed in the Texas State Legislature, apparently with overwelming support, that would abolish Houston's "Safe Clear" program.


 
Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling warns of an internet scam involving offers to sell bootleg Ebooks of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, but is actually a means of identity and credit card theft.


 
Gregory Benford, aerospace researcher and SF writer, and his brother, have a great space sail concept. Via Rand Simberg.


 
Captain Jack Sparrow is going to be in big trouble in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
This time around, Johnny returns as Captain Jack Sparrow and is caught in yet another tangled web of supernatural intrigue. It turns out, Captain Jack owes a blood debt to the legendary Davey Jones, ruler of the ocean depths and captain of the ghostly Flying Dutchman. If Jack can't figure a crafty way out of this one, he'll be cursed to an afterlife of eternal servitude and damnation. And as if that weren't enough, Captain Jack's problems throw a huge wrench into the wedding plans of the blissful Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, who quickly find themselves thrust into Jack's misadventures.

Sounds like great fun to me.


 
Another movie is in the works about the evil white man oppressing the gentle Native American. The twist, though, is that it's the 11th Century and the evil Europeans are Vikings.


 
While President Bush tours the country, selling social security reform, he might want to consider visiting Galveston County where a private social security system is already working quite nicely.


 
The State of the Union had a few moments of high drama. The first was when the President was giving out the facts on social security and the Democrats started booing. Very unbecoming on the part of the Dems and it will cost them, I predict. The best moment was when Safia Taleb al-Souhail, an Iraqi voter who shared First Lady Laura Bush's box, embraced Janet Norwood, whose Marine son fell during the liberation of Fallujah. That sort of thing cannot be scripted and was powerful because it was real.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
Instead of repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, how about replacing it?


 
Looks like President Bush's social security reform will benefit folks under fifty five. So let's hurry up and pass the thing, since I'll still be able to have one of those private accounts.


 
Star Trek Enterprise has been cancelled. That means that after May, for the first time since 1987, there will be no more episodic television in the Star Trek universe. Despite the fact that many of the shows have not quite shone in quality in recent years, I cannot help but feel a little sadness.

Still, there is always Battlestar Galactica and Star Gate, so we are not totally bereft of space faring television.


 
Houston City Council has put a band aid on the "Safe Clear" program so that breakdowns due to a flat tire or some other easily fixed problem won't result in a seventy five dollar tow. It will not, however, stop the controversy.


 
The editors of National Review plop down to their knees and beg the Democrats to name Howard Dean as their national chairman. It seems, against all logic and reason, that they (and I) are about to get their wish. What has crawled into the souls of the Democrats that would move them to name this raving lunatic their leader, or indeed to any post of trust? Has God finally revealed himself to be a Republican or has the reality of President Bush triumphant made them all mad?


 
Future astronauts should have better selections on the menu than in previous years.


 
Building a mining infrastructure on--say--Mars is not exactly a simple proposition.


 
More on Lunar Transportation Systems.


 
The political turmoil over Houston's "Safe Clear" program continues.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005
 
Jack Bauer is hunting down Islamic terrorists and Robert Spencer reports that there are some Muslims who are mad as hell about it. Sort of like Germans protesting a World War II film about German Nazis.


 
Looks like Howard Dean has a clear path to the post of DNC Chair. It's going to be an entertaining next few years.


 
Houston's "Safe Clear" program, which is in effect legalized car theft, has now had its first fatality.
Houston police spokesman John Cannon said investigators won't be able to find out why Kahng decided to dart across the freeway.

``There is no way you can know that,'' he said. ``He may have been going over there to talk to the guy. Who knows what he was going to do. That's something we'll probably never know.''

My guess is that Kahng couldn't afford that mandatory 75 dollar free it would have cost him to be towed and, not thinking, desperately tried to reach his car before it was towed.

I have to agree with Councilwoman Sekula-Gibbs. The program needs to be repealed.


 
The Islamofascists have kidnapped GI Joe and are threatening to behead the doll. Now that's going too far.


 
Mark Brown, liberal columnist for the New York Sun, engaged in an exercise in thinking about the unthinkable on Iraq.


 
President Bush will make good on his commitment to Moon, Mars, and Beyond and will provide for a small increase in NASA's budget to pay for it. Naturally, there will be another fight to get the increase approved.