Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving!

And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people's growth from their mother's womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
to deliver us in our days.

Sirach 50:22-24

For all of the readings for the Thanksgiving Day Mass, click here.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Forty Years Ago
In the Fall of 1963, I was in third grade. On that Friday afternoon, my class first heard the principal's announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. Being in Catholic school, we immediately began saying Hail Marys. Shortly after, the announcement that the President had died, more prayers and my teacher''s statement that we would see this event in our history books.

President John F. Kennedy's Administration made history with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the partial nuclear test ban treaty, the Peace Corps, civil rights and, of course, the reach for the Moon.

Like any historical figure, Kennedy was a complex person in turbulent times. We later learned of the extent of his medical problems and of his moral weakness in terms of extramarital affairs. And of course there is the ongoing controversy surrounding the government's handling of the investigation of his assassination.

Kennedy's call for the lunar landing inspired a generation. It is also seen in hindsight to have created habits in the government's implementation of a centralized space program that sparked innovation in the early years but hindered entrepreneurship in later decades. The current reassessment of our purpose and policy in space will hopefully renew the inspiration while encouraging more innovation and entrepreneurship.

President Kennedy followed his 1961 address to Congress calling for the Moon goal with what might be considered his 'philosophical keynote' speech on space in Houston in September 1962. The text and streaming audio file are available at this link.

Friday, November 21, 2003

SETI Observation Campaign
The SETI Institute is conducting its Fall observing campaign at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Check out the observers' diaries and the SETICam live webcasts of observatory operations.
If anyone still believed that social issues wouldn't play in the '04 campaign,...
... that illusion was blown away by this week's Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and the firestorm of reaction.

For more information, checkout, which contains various links and a blog with posts from those with viewpoints on both sides of the issue, and a Q&A on Marriage from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

White House Space Policy Process
Keith Cowing posted an interesting SpaceRef article containing analysis and speculation on how the Bush space policy is being formulated and what may be the outcome.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Sleepless in the Senate
The Senate debate on the obstruction of President Bush's judicial nominees will extend into Friday morning. The Democrats are now whining that the Republicans are taking valuable time away from urgent national needs to debate what they imply is an unimportant issue of judicial nominees.

Two questions should be raised in the face of this hot air. First, if this debate were not taking place, would the Democrats really be staying up all night working diligently to solve unemployment, poverty, health care, etc., all in two days? And more to the point, if the judicial nominations have suddenly become so unimportant, why continue to spend the time and energy to block them?

UPDATE: On Friday morning, the motions to invoke cloture on three highly qualified nominees: Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Brown did not pass.

The motions to invoke cloture vote averaged 53-42. Sixty votes are necessary to force a vote on the Senate floor. This outcome was not unexpected. Unfortunately, this obstruction will continue, but the issue is not yet settled. Just one more battle in the continuing fight over the fate of our civilization.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Senate Hearing on Lunar Exploration
Attended Thursday's informative session, featuring Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt and three other knowledgeable witnesses. For the full list and links to prepared remarks, click here.

Senator Brownback chaired the entire session, while Senator Bill Nelson participated for part of it and joined in asking questions of the panel. No other Senators were present. Kudos to Senator Brownback and his staff for bringing these forward-looking topics to the attention of Capitol Hill.

UPDATE: The following article summarizes the key points made in the hearing.

Meanwhile, the House space subcommittee held a hearing on Wednesday on the Commercial Space Act of 2003. (I wasn't present for this hearing.) For more info, click here and for links to prepared remarks, click here

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

What a difference 'regime change' makes!
While his predecessor used his bloody veto pen to twice veto earlier versions of the bill, President Bush today signed the bill banning partial birth abortion. Yes, elections do matter.

Of course, the pro-abortion forces are howling and shrieking and suing in court. The bill just signed into law was modified from earlier versions to clearly document the medical opinion that there are no 'health reasons' justifying this procedure. How this case will be decided when it reaches the Supreme Court is difficult to predict, since it is an inscrutable mystery how Justice Sandra O'Connor will split her hairs on any given day.

Nevertheless, the cause of life is advancing and today's signing is a cause for celebration.