Sunday, September 30, 2007

"The issue was abortion."

Those are the words of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas explaining the bitter battle for his confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1991. The discussion of Justice Thomas' Supreme Court nomination was part of the interview by Steve Kroft on the Sixty Minutes show broadcast this evening on CBS. The interview comes withe release of Justice Thomas' autobiography, My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir.

Actually, abortion, which violently destroys over one million unborn human lives every year in the US, has been at the heart of many of the most acrimonious battles in American politics over the past thirty five years. The conventional wisdom was (and still is in some circles) that the prolife movement would eventually fade away and that America would come to accept abortion-on-demand. Actually, the battle has been long and painful, but abortion has never become a 'settled' issue. Like the racial injustice Clarence Thomas faced while growing up, abortion is a great injustice that will not stand forever.
Party Like It's 1540

Today's perfect early fall weather made it a good day to go to the Maryland Renaissance Festival where I enjoyed good food, drink, music and entertainment.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Newt's National Brainstorming Session

I participated in a local workshop for Newt Gingrich's American Solutions day, where numerous workshops were held nationwide as part of an Internet based event exploring various national issues including immigration, taxes, environment & energy, health care, etc.

Our group participated in the first two out of three sessions, picking one out of the several topics for each hour-long session, which consisted of a moderator and panel discussing the issue and answering audience questions and the ability of local workshops to submit questions and comments via the Internet. The workshops will soon be available for replay and, hopefully, will continue to include the question/comment capability. One session I definitely plan to participate in is the one titled “Space – The Race to the Endless Frontier”, moderated by Robert Walker, a former House Science Committee Chairman who is a leading proponent of innovative space policy.

Meanwhile, Newt has apparently decided not to run for president in 2008. I believe this is probably the best decision, since as a candidate Newt would draw an intense negative emotional response from some voters (as is also true for Hillary Clinton). His decision allows him to remain doing what he does best, advocating for fresh, bold ideas at a time they are really needed. Whoever does win the presidency might consider consulting Newt as an informal 'Secretary of Ideas'.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dawn of a New Voyage to Asteroids


NASA's Dawn mission lifted off from Florida this morning shortly after dawn. The probe will explore two of the Solar System's largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. Here are more links at

This mission is primarily a basic science mission, but the asteroids have a tremendous potential to provide for future generations.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Moon, By Those Who've Been There

Saturday, I went to the AFI theater in Silver Spring to see Ron Howard's In the Shadow of the Moon, which powerfully features some of the Apollo astronauts recounting their pioneering experiences and what it all means. Definitely worth checking out at a theater near you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The New Moon Race

Entrepreneurial space efforts to another step forward as the X-Prize Foundation today announced a new prize, sponsored by Google, that would reward the first, and possibly the second, successful landing and operation of a robotic Rover on the Moon. The Google Lunar X-Prize web site is already up.

Alan Boyle has a detailed article up, which includes a description of the major strategic partners involved in this effort.
The teams won't be expected to do everything themselves. The X Prize Foundation forged strategic alliances with several partners that could provide the teams with space services:

SpaceX says it will offer each team an in-kind contribution that, in effect, represents a 10 percent reduction in the price of a Falcon rocket launch.

Universal Space Network will give the teams a 50 percent discount on its tracking, telemetry and control services, for data uplinks as well as downlinks.

The Allen Telescope Array, operated by the SETI Institute, will pass along 500 free megabytes of downlinked data from the lunar spacecraft - most likely including the required high-definition TV "mooncasts" sent back after landing and doing 500 meters of roving.

Not surprisingly, Red Whittaker announced right away that the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University would be competing for this prize.

This is an exciting development, that will spur commercial robotic exploration of the Moon. Hopefully, it will also spur other corporations to sponsor prizes for possibly even more dramatic private space advances.

Meanwhile, the efforts of several nations to explore the Moon are gaining steam. Earlier this evening (my local time), Japan launched its Kaguya spacecraft toward a lunar orbiting exploration mission.

Monday, September 10, 2007

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Six years ago tomorrow morning, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Six years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, the recently busted terrorist plots in Europe and the rambling Bin-Laden video provide fresh reminders that the threat is still real.

This audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks recaptures all of those experiences. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. (I've also added the link to this video to my sidebar.)

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some men, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy.
The Doers v. the Critics

General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker today presented to the House Armed Services Committee, their long-awaited status report on the status of the situation in Iraq. While I wasn't able to watch their testimony live today, they are currently on a Fox News special with Brit Hume. Their professional presentation compares quite well with the desperate attempts to discredit them preemptively by some leading Democrats, activists and commentators. Kathryn Jean Lopez has links to Petraeus' testimony and slides and to highlights from Crocker's testimony. (Interestingly, the testimonies and slides are not yet up on the Committee web site.)

Much commentary has been written leading up to and following today's events. Here is a column published this morning with the thoughts of Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain.
We must also recognize that the choice we face in Iraq is not between the current Iraqi government and a perfect Iraqi government. Rather, it is a choice between a young, imperfect, struggling democracy that we have helped midwife into existence, and the fanatical, al Qaeda suicide bombers and Iranian-sponsored terrorists who are trying to destroy it. If Washington politicians succeed in forcing a premature troop withdrawal in Iraq, the result will be a more dangerous world with our enemies emboldened. As Iran's president recently crowed, "soon we will see a huge power vacuum in the region . . . [and] we are prepared to fill the gap."

The Democratic Party leaders and other critics bet on pessimism, on gloom and doom, and now are flustered that the tide is turning and their position is being left behind.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Population Scaremongering and the Human Future

Colin Mason of the Population Research Institute (PRI), in an article posted at, analyzes why some prominent environmental groups are obsessed with population control issues (tied to contraception and abortion), even while this 'over-population threat' has no basis in reality.
Why do environmentalists consistently promote population control? In part this is yet another holdover from the radical sixties. Paul Ehrlich's risible "population bomb" thesis lives on in the minds of these aging activists, whose remain in thrall to doomsday scenarios of total environmental collapse caused by burgeoning human numbers. They remain oblivious to the countless demographic studies that have proven such fears baseless.

And as I've written here before, the resources of the Solar System and beyond are a blessing for us to provide for the countless members of future generations.
Yes, There is a Fred

Fred Thompson has officially joined the race for the Republican presidential nomination in this already long running campaign season. The Republican field has offered a rich field of choices.

I have a liking for Sam Brownback for his eloquent commitment to the life issues and his support for innovative space policies as a Senate subcommittee chairman. However, Thompson has a consistent commitment to conservative ideas. including a strong prolife record and a real grasp of the global security situation, combined with the communications skills that make him a strong contender to win the nomination and the presidency.

As we approach the frontloaded caucuses and primaries early next year, this already long(winded) campaign is actually starting to become more interesting.

Monday, September 03, 2007

W Speaks to the Troops

President Bush and some of his key officials dropped in on Anbar Provence, Iraq, while en route to an international summit in Australia. The President addressed some of our forces in a region that some months ago would have been too violent to plan for a presidential visit there.
You see Sunnis who once fought side by side with al Qaeda against coalition troops now fighting side by side with coalition troops against al Qaeda. Anbar is a huge province. It was once written off as lost. It is now one of the safest places in Iraq. (Hooah.) Because of your hard work, because of your bravery and sacrifice, you are denying al Qaeda a safe haven from which to plot and plan and carry out attacks against the United States of America. What you’re doing here is making this country safer, and I thank you for your hard work. (Hooah.)

Frederick Kagan analyzes the Iraq situation further, and draws an analogy to another battlefield that saw a presidential address.
In any other war, with any other president, this event would be recognized for what it is: the sign of a crucial victory over two challenges that had seemed both unconquerable and fatal. It should be recognized as at least the Gettysburg of this war, to the extent that counterinsurgencies can have such turning points. Less than a year ago, it was common wisdom and the conclusion of the Marine intelligence community in Anbar that the province and its people were hopelessly lost. Now the Anbaris are looking to the Americans and the government of Iraq for legitimacy, for protection, and for inclusion in a political process they have spurned for years. What is that if not a major victory in this war?