Curmudgeons Corner

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

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

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Sunday, July 31, 2005
 
Jeff Babbin calls for the immediate cancellation of the shuttle and space station programs and the reorienting of NASA to something called "science." While what he says about the shortcomings of the shuttle and station are true, the prospect of immediately getting rid of them (as opposed to the currently planned orderly stand down--at least of the shuttle) are just not in the cards.

As for having "science" as the be all and end all of the space program, that is the last thing we want.


 
Will someone tell me why Jimmy Carter, without question the worse President of the last century, is presuming to say anything about terrorism. He was so adroit, as I recall, at handling the Iranian Hostage Crisis, was he not?

Not.


Saturday, July 30, 2005
 
Plans for returning to the Moon are starting to take shape.


 
This water ice lake on Mars is pretty cool as welll.


 
I vote that we call this new planet Persephone. After all, there is currently only one "girl planet" in our solar system and that doesn't seem fair.


Friday, July 29, 2005
 
Looks like NASA may be getting a fix on the latest external tank problem and might be able to address it relatively quickly. That, from one point of view, is a good thing, since I'm not sure that another two and a half years and another billion dollars would have been forthcoming. Of course, if one really wanted to ditch the shuttle now and not five years from now, it might be bad news.


 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Seville.


Thursday, July 28, 2005
 
It's time for Helen Thomas to be taken away by a pair of kind but firm young men in white coats to a nice, calm place where her needs can be taken care of and where there are sympathetic professionals to listen to her.


 
Frank Miller's film about the Battle of Thermopyle is being shot with live actors and a CGI background.


 
Plans are being made for the first Mars Settlement.


 
Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan are going into the space ship building business. How futuristic that sounds rolling off the keyboard.


 
Looks like the forces of protectionism and isolation have been beaten back with the sadly usual sausage making methods.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005
 
Just when the shuttle program seemed back on track, this had to happen.


 
More in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Berlin and A History Lovers Guide to Naples.


 
Well, how clever of the Japanese to be the first to create a female android. Imagine the possibilities.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005
 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Stockholm.


 
There is nothing quite like the launch of a space craft, as much in my mind a work of art as a feat of engineering. It paints the sky with fire and smoke and sings a full throated roar that is like the movement of a symphony.

And so it was with today's launch of Discovery. Bon voyage, people.


 
One of the more bizzare plots by Osama bin Laden apparently was to spike the country's supply of cocaine with poison. Thousands would have died. Oddly enough, though, the Cartel didn't think much of the idea.
The evil plot failed when the Colombian drug lords bin Laden approached decided it would be bad for their business - and, possibly, for their own health, according to law-enforcement sources familiar with the Drug Enforcement Administration's probe of the aborted transaction.

Possibly? You think?


Monday, July 25, 2005
 
I have always thought that there are people of a certain age who are afflicted with Vietnam war protestor flashbacks. Now, with the advent (return?) of Baghdad Barbarella, I have proof.


 
Jim Oberg defends NASA's decision to launch the shuttle, regardless of the sensor glitch.


 
Is Mel Gibson's new film project, Apocalypto, about the Macabees or the Mayans?


 
Anthony Young wonders when the first woman will walk on the Moon.


 
Speaking of a new era in space flight, NASA unveiled a new commercial friendly exploration strategy at the Return to the Moon Conference. Now, while I'm very sure that not everyone will be pleased, I think this is the break through that the commercial space sector has been looking for. Now, of course, comes the hard part in which everyone has to perform. NASA has to back up its promises with actions. The commercial space sector has to deliver as well. Even so, we're in for some exciting times.


 
Just in time for tomorrow's attempt to launch the shuttle, Your Humble Servant has some thoughts about that venerable vehicle and the future of space travel.


Sunday, July 24, 2005
 
It seems that a group of former Black Panther terrorists are going to cash in on their former infamy by marketing a brand of hot sauce called "Burn, Baby, Burn." The mind boggles.


Saturday, July 23, 2005
 
SpaceDev has been contracted to design a human mission to the lunar south pole.


Friday, July 22, 2005
 
A little while ago I got some heat for this suggestion:
Mike Griffin presents his approach to space commercialism. It is a rather hard nosed approach that actually demands that entrepreneurial space companies deliver on their promises. This may annoy some people who, on the one hand, preach libertarian cant and, on the other hand, demand government pay money up front, before the promised hardware is even built, not to mention delivered. But it may well be the right way to go.

I could not help but notice the following on an account of the first day of the Return to the Moon Conference.
Jim Voss of t/Space reviewed their CXV project. At the end of the day, Bretton Alexander, VP of t/Space and a former administration official who helped craft the VSE, discussed the project as well. Unlike Kistler, t/Space will not try to develop their system with commercial money but will seek a fixed-cost contract, milestone payment approach with NASA. Alexander said that for human spaceflight there is no current commercial market and it would not be possible to raise $400M to develop a vehicle to serve an unproved market. Instead, they see the CXV as serving a specific NASA crew delivery requirement. Once the CXV is flying, they will spin off a commercial version to help develop the orbital space tourism market.

Addendum: Rand Simberg is now really not happy with me to the point of being a little insulting, while playing what I think are word games. Yes, I know that all the money won't be payed "up front", but some obviously would be in the scheme described, and most if not all would be before the vehicle flies. Otherwise, where does t/Space get the money to build the thing, given that it has admitted it can't raise it in the venture capital market? The princible that NASA would be paying for a vehicle that, in one version at least, would be commercial still applies. It's not the "pure" libertarian way of doing business, but there is nothing wrong with it. Of course, I'm not sure NASA is going to have four hundred million laying around for one company's space ship. Even if it did, I can see lots of litigation from just about every small start up in the alt.space world complaining about unfair advantages and so on.


 
Rich Kolker inveighs against the Patriot Act in particular and the idea of actually being afraid of terrorists in general. Besides the silly reference to Dan Rather, he makes an unfortunate one to FDR.
Franklin Roosevelt told us in the face of adversity that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." To me, too young to remember Roosevelt who died before I was born in the fearful 1950's, those were only words. But now I understand. Because as I reach next month the age Roosevelt was when he spoke those words, I see what fear itself can do to a free people.

Of course part of FDR's "patriot act" was to put several hundred American citizens behind barbed wire just because of their race. I also doubt that war dissenters were treated with the same sort of forebearence in the 1940s as they are now.


 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Oslo.


 
The House has just passed HR3070 a NASA Authorization Bill that, among other things, directs NASA to send people back to the Moon.

What a marvelous change from fifteen years ago when a Democratic dominated Congress when through Bush the Elder's Space Exploration Initiative like Tamberlane through Damascus.


 
Now, I wonder which ancient civilization circi 1000 BC Mel Gibson's new film is going to be set in?


Thursday, July 21, 2005
 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Copenhagen.


 
Looks like another bomb attack in London. So far the direct effects are much lower, with one person reported wounded. But with the suspension of tube and bus service and other security measures, the city is once again disrupted.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005
 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to the Loire Valley.


 
James Doohan, RIP.


 
Jonathan Goff and Rand Simberg both inveigh against building heavy lift to go back to the Moon. Goff argues for a variant of the Earth Orbit Rendezvous method instead. There are technical arguments, one suspects, for doing it either way. But the real sticking point, it seems to me, is the idea that using heavy lift is insufficiently commercial, that it's just another bad old, big government, dead end way of doing things. And, on the other hand, one could actually foresee a commercial entity doing EOR to go to the Moon. Rand seems to dream of this happening sooner rather than later:
Before too many more Apollo XI anniversaries roll by, I suspect that there will be many non-NASA personnel on the moon, visiting it with their own money, for their own purposes. And they won't be getting there in little capsules on large vehicles, that are thrown away after a single use.

Possibly, but I don't see any commercial entity actually working on doing that. While I'm a big booster of commercial space, I'd like to think that I do so with a clear eye. The commercial space sector right now is building on Burt Rutan's achievement to build suborbital space ships to give the well heeled and adventurous thrill rides. Some time beyond that, maybe in ten years, maybe less, commercial orbital vehicles will start flying. But I suspect that long before some private person gets to the Moon by his or her own resources, there'll be a government science base built using those wasteful and inefficient government methods like heavy lift. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just as Mike Griffin proposes to turn a lemon into lemonade by making the space station into a destination for some of those orbital commercial space craft, thus helping to jump start a commercial space transportation industry, so will a lunar base be used to extend that industry to the Moon. And when those private adventurers get there (provided we do things like alter the Outer Space Treaty) they'll have lots of interesting and profitable things to do.


 
Every blogger imagines that their wisdom is enjoyed by the world. Now our wisdom can be enjoyed beyond the world.


 
Happy Apollo Day. It was thirty six years ago this day when men first walked on the Moon.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005
 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Normandy.


Monday, July 18, 2005
 
You have to hand it to Trancredo. He has found a way to out psychopath the psychopaths. His proposal is, of course, immoral, wrong, and very likely ineffective.


 
Looks like support for the Vision for Space Exploration has increased since last year's Gallup survey.


 
Did the screenwriter of Spielberg's War of the Worlds really say that the Martians represented American GIs in Iraq and Ton Cruise and his family innocent Iraqis being slaughtered without discrimination? John Leo says it is so and that is not the only sin Hollywood is commiting. He suggests loosing the Martian tripods on Hollywood itself. I disagree. I suggest demands for diversity in the film industry, only in this case based on idealogy and not on race or gender. For every film or TV show made by a wacked out lefty, one (at least) must be assigned to a conservative or libertarian.


Sunday, July 17, 2005
 
There have been quite a few suggestions over the years that we just need to fire all the government bureaucrats, shut down NASA, and then the private sector will open up the space frontier by itself. But, perhaps, the public and private sectors need each other to prosper.


 
The mad cap Bruce Gagnon accuses Japan of joining with the United States in an evil plot to dominate the heavens and exploit it for its resources.

(In fact, I would hope this would be the case, taking out the phrase "evil plot" and substituting it with "long term plan.")


 
Jeff Foust discusses who two different polls on the Vision for Space Exploration done by the same organization (Gallup) can get wildly different results. Hint: It's all in how one asks the question.


 
Here's some background on those pesky fuel tank sensors that is keeping the space shuttle from launching.


Saturday, July 16, 2005
 
Paul Jacob has some interesting thoughts about the future of space exploration. There is one point, thugh, that I have to disagree with:
Instead of planning a glitzy mission to Mars, or funding another foray to the Moon, our politicians should spend less money and more actual brain cells to devise a new Outer Space Treaty. One that would help launch, not stifle, industry.

Oddly enough, I think we can should do both. A government science base on the Moon would be not only a good core market for entrepeneurs, but the nucleus around which private business could build and create not just a base, but the first true settlement beyond the Earth.


 
Interesting test to see what Fantasy/SF Charecter one is. Apparently I am Elrond.


 
Just in case you hadn't heard, that latest book in that little known fantasy series that apparently no one has read is now out:

Addendum: So far so good. Seems to be an allegory on the War on Terror.


Friday, July 15, 2005
 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Antwerp.


 
The only problem with this anthology of SF stories made for the small screen is that they picked the wrong Heinlein story. I would have picked The Long Watch or something else having to do with space.


 
Will churches and othe places of worship be the first victims of the Kelo Decision? Could be.


 
Paul Begala thinks that Republicans want to kill him and his children. Oddly enough that was not the only insane thing he said:
The Clinton administration's national security efforts involved the right blend of "experience" and "strength," Begala said, an assertion with which the 9/11 Commission apparently disagreed.

I suppose "experience" and "strength" are new definitions for appeasement.


Thursday, July 14, 2005
 
Harry Potter as an allegory for 1930s Britain and the march to war? Dumbldore as Churchill?
In the fifth book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," something interesting happened. The author, J.K. Rowling, abandoned the mystery genre and gave her readers something more challenging: a historical allegory. Through sleight-of-hand, Ms. Rowling took a children's book and transformed it into a parable about 1930s England. We've heard a lot recently about London and the Blitz. Ms. Rowling's unfolding saga may illuminate that dark historical moment, not only the ordeals that led up to it but also--who knows?--the triumphs that followed.

The parallels between this volume and Britain's prewar dithering are so great that the book is perhaps best read as a light companion to "Alone," the second volume of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill.

Fascinating


 
Apparently people are already trying to figure out how to make a few bucks out of the Return to the Moon. I approve.


 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Budapest and A History Lovers Guide to Salzburg.


 
Reader Kelly Parks gently reminds me that all French are not bad, as evidence by the following by a very good Frenchman indeed:


 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Edinburgh.


 
In honor of Bastille Day, we offer the following books on La Belle France:




For every Frenchman who ever asked the question, "Why do they hate us?"


 
The trillion dollar space program canard has risen again, this time by Citizens Against Government Waste. Now, I'm against government waste, but CAGW risks blowing its credibility by not only repeating the trillion dollar figure, which seems to have come out of the air, and by opposing space exploration in general.


 
Looks like we're about to be treated to another movie about a well muscled, sword weilding barbarian from Robert Howard. His name is not Conan.


 
It looks like a phased retirement of the shuttle fleet is being contemplated in order to free up funds for the Vision for Space Exploration. Makes sense to me.

Also it looks like Frank Sietzen Jr. and Keith L. Cowing are coming out with a new book that will cover the start of the Michael Griffin era at NASA, entitled: Uncertain Moon: Transforming a Space Vision into Reality - Mike Griffin Takes The Helm of NASA.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005
 
J. Peter Freire offers a remarkably silly argument in defense of the Pope's disdain for Harry Potter.
Yes, the Potter books have the kids reading in their spare time, which is enough for some to settle for. Ironically, this argument was ridiculed by its own progenitors once a deal had been struck for movie rights based on the books. And they follow a long, wonderful tradition of fables the kids can enjoy. But if the Potter books are on loan to help forge a Christian child's soul, without its being informed by the moral lessons of Christ, then how would they not be seductive? Put another way, what would encourage a child to accept God when the tales he hears involve other children overcoming problems by using powers they themselves hold?

Now, perhaps it is because I was raised in a different religious tradition, but I find it astonishing that overcoming evil (which is what the protagonists of the Harry Potter books do) using ones own talents (which religion teaches us are a gift from God) is somehow sinfull? I can just see Freire praying that God save him from some evil and God responding, "I gave you a brain. I gave you strength and cunning. I even gave you courage and faith. Well, get on with using them and stop bothering me."


 
The BBC has decided that the T word is too politically incorrect after all.


 
The Muslim Council of Britain is shocked, shocked that British Muslims rather than foreign jihadis are responsible for the suicide bombings in London. That's great, but if Muslims of good will really want to stop people from commiting terrorism in the name of Islam, they need to do more than offer mealy mouthed denounciations and wring hands over a "backlash" against Muslims.
"Verbal condemnations and choreographed press releases against violent terrorist acts, as Britain's Muslim leaders produced last Thursday, are no longer sufficient," Mansoor Ijaz, a foreign policy analyst and Muslim American, wrote in an article published in the Financial Times.

"Real action is needed - and fast."

Ijaz said U.S. Muslims after 9/11 chose to play the role of aggrieved victims rather than rise to their citizenship responsibilities.

"Britain's Muslims have an opportunity to set an important example by elevating the duties of citizenship above fears of looming civil rights violations."

He suggested three steps for moderate Muslims to take - forbid the use of mosques for spreading bigotry and hatred; open Islamic charities to greater financial scrutiny to identify those funding terrorism; and form Muslim community watch groups "to reclaim Islam from the terrorists and committed to contributing useful information to the authorities."

Indeed.


 
Carl Carlsson gives the editors of USA Today the back of his hand for being so down on human space flight.


 
Has the Pope actually read any Harry Potter? If he had, he would surely not have written anything as silly and wrong as this.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005
 
Bridget Johnson continues to inveigh against the censorship Hollywood is imposing upon itself concerning depiction of Arab terrorists. That begs an interesting question. Will Spielberg substitute European Neo Nazis for the Palestinian Black September terrorists in his Munich film?


 
Jeffrey Bell, one of the more gloomy people who has ever written in cyberspace, accuses space activists of spreading doom and gloom. The two regiments of straw men he creates are the Space Greens and the Space Libertarians. Both exist, to a certain extent, but Bell accuses them of predicting the ecological death of Earth in the first instance and the end of human freedom in the latter if we don't move out into space. He ridicules them by suggesting that there are no threats to the environment nor to human freedom.

Well, I'm not an environmental hysteric, but I could suggest that it would be better if the energy that is needed to fuel technological civilization were derived from--say--3HE burning fusion power planets rather than from coal and oil. Nor am I a doctrinaire libertarian. But with developments like Campaign Finance Reform and the Kelo Decision, can anyone argue that there is not an assault against human freedom? I think that the expansion of humanity into space would help address both problems.

Bell, of course, disagrees but, as is his custom, fails to mention what arguments would incite people to support space exploration. Unless, of course, the Gallup Poll taken last year in correct and people already do.


 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Prague.


 
That's it. Oliver Stone needs to stay the Hell away from any project having to do with 9/11. Allowing that man to make a 9/11 movie would be a travesty.


 
My old deaniac friend Rich Kolker jumps the shark by comparing the Sons of Liberty to Islamofascist suicide bombers.
The Sons of Liberty used terrorism to attack the British crown in Boston in 1775.

The Irgun used terrorism, one might argue, to help found the state of Israel.

The IRA used terrorism to fight Great Britain and radical Islamists are using it today in a fight against secularism and Westernism.

I had no idea that dumping tea into Boston Harbor was the equivilent of blowing yourself and other people up on buses and in markets.

I'm also pretty sure that the Irgun, a small, radical faction of the people fighting for a Jewish state, was not the equivilent of Islamoifascists either. Deir Ysassim notwithstanding.

Read the whole thing to understand how silly and weak the far left are on terrorism.


 
Looks like the NAACP is going to conduct what seems to me to be a shakedown of private companies for "slavery reparations." The potential for profit would seem to be virtually limitless.
James Lide, director of the international division at History Associates Inc., a Rockville firm that researches old records, said determining how many U.S. businesses are linked to slavery depends upon definition.

Almost every business has at least an indirect link to slavery, he said. For example, some railroad and Southern utility companies can trace their roots to businesses that used slave labor. Textile companies, for example, use cotton that was grown on Southern plantations.

"There's never going to be a solid number because the idea of how you connect a company to slavery is more a political one than a historical one," Mr. Lide said.


Addendum: Captain Ed has some comments.


Monday, July 11, 2005
 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Vienna.


 
Apparently soldiers are writing songs about their experiences in Iraq, something that is as old as war itself.


 
Senator Barack Obama says that Democrats have no core values.
"I see a Democratic Party afraid to say they're Democrats, who voted for the war in Iraq and voted for tax cuts for the wealthy," said Glenn Anderson of Orlando. "Why should I remain a Democrat?"

It was a tough question. But Nelson and Obama tried to answer it.

"The Democrats at times have lost their way," conceded Obama. "We are trying to decide what our core values are."

The criterion for judging the party isn't whether it's to the left or right, "but are we true to our core values," he said. Nobody defined core values.

Words fail.


 
Craig Carberry has decided that 2008 is not far enough away to start worrying about insofar as how the Vision for Space Exploration survives it. There is a short hand answer that many people will not like. Elect a Republican. Vitually every Republican likely to be nominated would also likely continue to VSE. The same can't be said for the Democrats.

Rand Simberg, on the other hand, thinks the piece is a little unfair to Richard Nixon.
Nixon did not cancel the Apollo program. Lyndon Johnson did. Nixon could have, in theory, resurrected it, though the politics for it certainly weren't favorable, but he can't be blamed for the cancellation.

Actually it is rather simplistic to suggest that anyone "cancelled" Apollo. After all, there were a number of expeditions to the Moon. The last three planned expeditions were cancelled, to be sure. What is actually the case is that Johnson cancelled any followup to Apollo (lunar base, large space station, Mars expeditions) and Nixon punted a chance to reverse that decision. Nixon decided that the shuttle would be the key to opening up space and then proceeded to make a number of mistakes that ensured that could never be the case.

A lot of the blame lays with Congress. There was a well orchestrated campaign to end human space flight in the name of "balance" or for some to siphon off money for social programs. Senators Proxmire and Mondale (the latter a future Vice President and Presidential candidate) were the leadings lights of this campaign. They nearly succeeded and did, in a sense, succeed in crippling human space flight for a generation.


Saturday, July 09, 2005
 
Captain Ed is afraid. that Spielberg's Munich Massacre film will be a thinly disguised polemic against the Iraq War. Meanwhile, Kaus is very leery about an Oliver Stone film on 9/11. Now, Spielberg, though a Hollywood lefty, has generally not commited politics in his films, so I'm willing to wait until the actual movie comes out before passing judgement. Stone, on the other hand, is very likely to inject conspiracy nonsense into his 9/11 movie and that will be a tragedy and a slap in the face to anyone who lost anyone on that day.

In my opinion, Hollywood needs to nurture some artists, directors, writers, producers, and actors whose politics are a little more to the right of Howard Dean than is currently the case.


Friday, July 08, 2005
 
Chris Hitchens shouts defiance at the scum who bombed London as only he can.


 
British television has not just one but two dramas in the works about Elizabeth I.


 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to Brussels.


 
Looks like phasers are on the horizon. However they can only be set on stun.


 
The Lord Mayor of London (an office, by the way, that an ancestor of mine held about six hundred years ago) was very eloquent in condemning the terror bombing of London. He has not, however, been very forthright when it comes to a certain mullah who had advocated terrorism.


 
Wonder of wonders. The BBC is using the T Word to describe yesterday's bombing outrage in London.


 
Looks like Indy IV is going to be set in the late 40s. Now, I understand that after Schindler's List, Spielberg won't do cartoon Nazis any longer. Fair enough. But wouldn't it be wonderful if we can have some cartoon Soviets threatening Dr. Jones in the name of Joe Stalin?


 
Both Paramount and Columbia are finally developing 9/11 projects, both of which seem to focus on heroic attempts to rescue people from the World Trade Center. So far so good. Both one of the projects is going to be directed by Oliver Stone. No word yet on the conspiracy angle.


Thursday, July 07, 2005
 
Bob Tyrrell thinks that Al Qaeda made a big mistake in bombing London, just as Hitler did sixty five years or so ago. They will soon find that it does no good to rouse the old lion. He still has teeth and claws.


 
Two more in a series of trave pieces. A History Lovers Guide to Amsterdam and A History Lovers Guide to Hadrians Wall.


 
My best guess is that this outrage is designed to spook the Brits the same way that the Spaniards were. Will it succeed? I would like to think not. After all, a fellow named Hitler thought he could cow the British by bombing London and we all remembered what he got.

Addendum: Rand Simberg offers some thoughts and defiance.
Certainly the British people are no stranger to such things, and have shown their mettle, as they did in the eighties against the IRA, and against the original Nazis during the Blitz. In the words of Winston Churchill, I'm confident that, once again, they will not falter, or fail. And even if they were the type to be cowed, there's no upcoming election here to sway, as there was in Madrid. If they were trying to hurry the British troops out of Iraq, I suspect that it would be more likely to have the opposite effect now. If nothing else, I hope that it encourages a real crackdown on the Islamist hatemongers, so many (indeed far too many) of whom have taken up residence in Britain, and preached and proselytized their neonazism unmolested for too long amidst a misplaced multicultural tolerance.

If that is the case, then the enemy will have lost. The greatest weapon against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005
 
I've always thought that Sarah Vowell is one of the more amusing lefties, even before her role as the angst ridden super teen Violet in The Incredibles. Now it looks like that most annoying lefty, Maureen Dowd, is on book writing leave from the New York Times and is replaced by the quirky Ms. Vowell. My advice to the Times is to replace Modo on a more eternal basis. Vowell's writing has usually brought a smile to my face, which is not something one can say about Dowd, at least since the late 90s.


 
A monument to President Ronald Reagan, breaker of empires, liberator of nations, and by official vote the greatest American, will be erected in Budapest. Who ever would have predicted that, twenty five years ago, when Reagan was running for President and dreaming the death of Communism, would have been called more than crazy.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005
 
Latest in a series of travel pieces, A History Lovers Guide to York.


 
More on NASA's new shuttle derived vehicles. Looks like NASA is looking at six lunar expeditions per year and a development cost for the heavy lifter of one to one and a half billion dollars.


 
There is actual consideration of allowing a unit of the Jordanian Army to enter the West Bank to help keep order. The Jordanians did that between 1948 and 1967. I wonder if the price of Jordanian help will be Jordanian influence, much like the Syrians have exercised in Lebenon after marching in to settle their civil war.


 
Taylor Dinerman comes out in favor of space weapons.


 
Dwayne Day disputes Alan Wasser's two part piece on Lyndon Johnson's role in the space race (Part 1 and Part 2), accusing him of "errors of fact" and "errors of interpretation." Along the way, just glancing over, Day makes a number of serious ones himself.
But the article states that “After the space race ended, some people tried to pretend that the reason for the race had been only the question of ‘national prestige,’ However, nowhere in his lengthy and detailed subcommittee statement summarizing the risks of Soviet dominance in space did Johnson so much as mention the question of national prestige!”

Just because national prestige was not mentioned in this one document does not mean that it was not the primary driver of the space race. In fact, it can be found in many other documents from that era.

Possibly, but Day doesn't quote from these documents or provide context.
A major problem with the article is that much of it is based upon what the author calls “the smoking gun,” a 1966 document written by Assistant Secretary of State Henry Owen linking the treaty to a desire to reduce space expenditures. One should never base the majority of a theory on a single document, unless one can prove beyond all doubt that the document accurately reflects the issues and was highly influential. But even then, context is everything. What about all of the other documents—letters, memos, drafts, briefing papers—that were obviously written about the treaty? What do they say? Do they contradict or support this interpretation?

There are undoubtedly hundreds of documents on this subject in former presidential and State Department files. It is entirely possible, indeed probable, that some of them directly contradict this one. Why select this document as a “smoking gun” on a battlefield that is filled with smoking guns?

Again Day doesn't quote from these hypothetical documents nor provide context.

By the way, Day does the same thing he accuses Wasser of doing by citing a single source, in this case a book by a friend of his, by saying, "It makes no mention of land and resources being the driver behind the Soviet space program." I guess that settles that.
Even if there was no Outer Space Treaty, the biggest impediment to developing the Moon would still be the immense cost of getting there. No treaty changes the laws of physics, no matter how much we wish it so.

The idea that the laws of physics make going to the Moon expensive either in 1969 or 2005 is sort of like saying that the laws of physics make air travel "expensive" (i.e. difficult)in 1903. The problem of cheap access to space (either to low Earth orbit or the Moon) has more to do with lack of technology and the economics of scale than physics. A large lunar settlement causing lots of traffic between it and Earth would take care of the cost of lunar travel quite nicely. And an impediment to a lunar settlement? Well, the traditional way that states protect the property rights of it's citizens (and such protection is necessary for the large scale commercial development of the Moon, hence a settlement) is by exercising sovereignty, which the Outer Space Treaty forbids. Absent a repeal of that clause or it's replacement with some sort of international agreement protecting lunar property rights, commercial development and hence the settlement of the Moon is going to be difficult indeed.

As Day says, "There are other errors, but there is insufficient space to discuss all of them."

Addendum: Sam Dinkin has some further thoughts.


Monday, July 04, 2005
 
Tim Robbins, the Hollywood far lefty, who plays a crazy guy in Spielberg's War of the Worlds, really hopes the movie does not motivate President Bush to start some kind of space race. I think we're safe there. The President, by all accounts, does not base policy on what movies he sees.

Incidently, Spielberg and the film's star Tom Cruise are all in favor of space exploration.


 
NASA is to be congratulated for such a wonderful 4th of July gift to the world. One could only imagine what Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and company would have thought of it had they known of the fireworks across the interplanetary gulf occurring of this, our Independence Day.


 
Looks like the Fix Network has decided to drop the ball on yet another great series.


Saturday, July 02, 2005
 
We saw Spielberg's War of the Worlds last night and my first impression is that the aliens' strategy for taking over the world seemed to come from Pinky and the Brain, another Spielberg creation.

"First, Pinky, we'll go back a million years and bury these gigantic three legged fighting machines. Then, when the time is right, we'll beam in the drivers on lightning bolts. Then the fighting machines will rise from the ground, killing and destroying, and then we'll TAKE OVER THE WORLD!"

"Yes, Brain, but where does the red weed enter into it?"

Of course, as Hitchcock might have said, it's impolite to delve too deeply into the McGuffin. The McGuffin, as defined by Hitch and subsequent film makers, is that thing that makes the actors do what they do. In this case, Tom Cruise and the cute as a button Dakota Fanning to run screaming in terror. It doesn't matter what the McGuffin is. It could be aliens. It could be a herd of rampant T Rexs. As long as there is the running and the screaming.

Mind, those combat tripods are pretty frightening, with their death rays, tentacles, and hunting bull horns. And the force shields. As with the 1953 film, that's the key to wiping out the US Army. Too bad Jeff Goldblum wasn't around to figure out how to take those suckers down.


Friday, July 01, 2005
 
Looks like NASA has decided on a pair of shuttle derived boosters to get human explorers back to the Moon and on to Mars. The referenced story wonders where the money will come from to get these launchers up and running in time for the shuttle retirement. I'll bet you that development costs will be shared by the military.


 
Clearly all that talk of Martian WMDs was a lie by Roosevelt to get us into a War of the Worlds.


 
Sandra Day O'Connor is retiring from the Supreme Court. My pick for a replacement? Robert Bork. After all, if we are condemned to a knock down drag out over a nominee, we might as well raise the stakes to the highest level possible.

Addendum: Then again, maybe Ann Coulter. There are likely a few members of the Senate who would stroke out at that nomination.


 
Brian Williams, anchor of NBC World News Tonight, suggests that it is no big deal that the new President of Iran is a terrorist and a hostage taker.
Williams' comment came in a question to reporter Andrea Mitchell.

At the end of Mitchell's report, Williams asked, "What would it all matter if proven true? Someone brought up today the first several U.S. presidents were certainly revolutionaries and might have been called 'terrorists' by the British crown, after all."

I suspect that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, et al would have been surprised to be called the equivalent of some Islamo-Fascist. I certainly was surprised to hear Williams make that comparison.

Happy Independence Day.


 
John Podhoretz asks the question: Where are all those Hollywood films about 9/11? Actually, there was one that played on Showtime that actually showed President Bush in a positive light.

Mind you, 9/11 and the War on Terror should have been a gold mine for epic motion pictures, should Hollywood have been inclined. But it seems, it is not.