Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent: Looking Toward Christmas

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time of preparation for the coming celebration of our Savior's coming at Christmas. Pope Benedict XVI welcomed the season on Sunday.
This Sunday we begin, by the grace of God, a new liturgical year, which opens naturally with Advent, a time of preparation for the Lord's nativity. In the constitution on the Liturgy, the Second Vatican Council states that the Church "presents in the annual cycle the whole mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and the nativity, to the ascension, the day of pentecost, and the expectation of the blessed hope and return of the Lord."

Atlantis Returns to Florida

Space Shuttle Atlantis returned safely to Earth on Friday after delivering supplies and spare components to the International Space Station (ISS) and assisting the ISS crew in performing upgrades to the station. ISS crew member Nicole Stott returned on Atlantis after serving for ~3 months aboard ISS.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

A special day to give thanks to God for all His gifts to us.

The first American Congress enacted the first national day of Thanksgiving during the Revolution. (Hat tip to Laura Ingraham)
Saratoga turned the tide of the war -- news of the victory was decisive in bringing France into a full alliance with America. Congress responded to the event by appointing a committee of three that included Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Daniel Roberdeau of Pennsylvania, to draft a report and resolution. The report, adopted Nov. 1, declared Thursday, Dec. 18, as "a day of Thanksgiving" to God, so that "with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor."

On October 3, 1863, in the middle of the dire circumstances of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that carried on the tradition of giving thanks to God.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Have a good time with family and friends and don't eat any more than I would. ;-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Enlightened" Agendas Falling Apart All Over

Those in the liberal political and cultural establishment may act like their biggest worry is Sarah Palin's book tour. But they must be feeling the sinking pit in the stomach over how their agenda is unraveling all over the place. A few examples:

- A man in Britain believed to be in a coma for 23 years was found to be mentally aware the whole time, demonstrating how foolhardy it is to be dismissive of such a patient's condition. Wasn't this what the family of Terri Schindler Schiavo (supported by the prolife and disability rights movements) tried to say all along?

- ACORN (the gift that keeps on giving): After getting busted this summer by an undercover video project for being willing to abet horrendous illegal activity (prostitution and human trafficking), the organization was facing an investigation by the California AG's office, so a branch office near San Diego attempted to dispose of many potentially incriminating documents, causing ACORN to be once again busted by its arch-nemesis, Andy Breitbart.

Hat tip to Rand Simberg whose comment should not be missed.
As I said, the Republic is fortunate in its enemies. It’s about what you’d expect, though. An organization like ACORN is not going to select for the best and brightest, and perhaps that’s what always saves us from people like them. Remember that tape during the campaign last year of the moron (I think almost literally) in the red tee-shirt, speechifying "ACORN needs Obama, and Obama needs ACORN"?

-The Earth may or may not be heating up, but the global climate research scandal surely is, with growing calls for investigation. More details revealed by Powerline Blog here.

This is the growing scandal that is starting to rock the world. Find many links to info and commentary at Climate Depot.

- And I haven't much time to go into the unravelling health care debate in Congress.

STS-129: Successful Labor in Space and on Earth

The Space Shuttle Atlantis and International Space Station (ISS) crews have accomplished their major mission objectives including transfer of spare cargo to ISS and three days of work outside the station (EVA-1, EVA-2, EVA-3).

Meanwhile , while astronaut Randy Bresnik was busy working in space, back on the ground, his wife successfully deployed their baby girl after the usual ~9 months in the payload bay.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Something's Heating Up Big Time

With so much unraveling in ways the conventional wisdom establishment cannot control (health care debate, stimulus benefits in imaginary congressional districts, KSM NYC trial reaction, Sarah Palin on the move, etc.), a revelation of some hacked e-mails at a British climate research center may turn out to be the biggest story of all. This story broke on the Internet on Friday according to Powerline Blog (Intro here, follow-up details here and here).
The biggest news story of the day is one that has barely begun to break and will continue to reverberate for months or years to come. Someone hacked into a computer at the University of East Anglia's Hadley Climatic Research Centre, one of the main centers of anthropogenic global warming research. The hacker downloaded 62 megabytes of data from the server, consisting of around 1,000 emails and a variety of other documents. He uploaded them to an FTP server, where they were available to the public, apparently, for only a few hours. The event is described here.

Before the documents disappeared from that location, several people had downloaded them and posted them in other locations. I downloaded all of the material earlier today and have begun to review it. The emails are stunning. They are authored by many of the leading figures in the global warming movement: Michael Mann, James Hansen, Phil Jones, Keith Briffa, Stephen Schneider, and others. They are remarkably candid; these individuals talk to each other with the knowledge that they are among friends.

Rand Simberg has links and commentary here and here.

As has been noted for a story this significant and complex, it will take time for assessing and corroborating all of the relevant information. But considering how much the topic of "global warming" has been on the whole world's agenda for many years, this breaking story has the potential for tremendous political and social reverberation.

They Can't Keep a Good Woman Down

Much of the political and media establishment thought that they permanently buried Sarah Palin's reputation after last year's election. Now they seem to be apoplectic that she's back, stronger than ever with her new book tour. Robert Costa is maintaining a "Rogue" blog at NRO covering the book tour and the range of reactions to it.

Meanwhile, it appears that a lot of Americans, many of whom probably don't share Palin's political views or populist style, have come to see that she has been treated unfairly by much of the media, according to a Fox News poll.
As Sarah Palin blankets the media on a whirlwind book promotion tour, the former vice-presidential contender is clearly back on America's radar screen. Despite being characterized by many as a divisive force in her party and the nation, Americans are much more likely to give Palin a positive rating (47 percent favorable) than another prominent female leader -- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (28 percent favorable). Moreover, about six in 10 Americans (61 percent) think Palin has been treated unfairly by the press, according to the latest Fox News poll.

Senate OKs Health Care Debate

The US Senate this evening voted to proceed with debating the Senate version of a health care reform bill. The initial procedural vote had a straight party line margin of 60-39. The Senate version being promoted by Majority Leader Harry Reid weighs in at a whopping 2,074 pages, slightly larger than the House passed version's 1,990 pages.

After Thanksgiving the real debate and parliamentary maneuvering begins over the details, including abortion funding, health care rationing,the real cost of the plan, impacts on citizen choice, medical research, etc.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Atlantis Launches for Station Delivery

Space shuttle Atlantis launches through the clouds from Launch Pad 39A.
Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off this afternoon from Kennedy Space Center, FL, carrying spare parts and other hardware to the International Space Station (ISS). Most of the cargo is mounted on two carriers developed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Significant Amount" of Water on the Moon

NASA's LCROSS lunar impactor mission which culminated on October 9 has revealed a "significant amount" of water in the crater where the impact took place, according to mission scientists. This confirmation is a major break through in our understanding of the Moon.
"We are ecstatic," said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Multiple lines of evidence show water was present in both the high angle vapor plume and the ejecta curtain created by the LCROSS Centaur impact. The concentration and distribution of water and other substances requires further analysis, but it is safe to say Cabeus holds water."

Paul Spudis explains this development within the context of other recent lunar missions and emphasises that it enables human lunar development.
When the crater formed, flying ice particles could have refracted the glare of unfiltered sunlight into an "ice rainbow," similar to those seen through very high altitude clouds on Earth. For a very brief time, a rainbow might have been visible to an observer standing on the lunar surface. And like its namesake, this rainbow is a promise - a promise that the Moon is habitable. It is an invitation to humanity to extend man’s domain to our nearest planetary neighbor.
This discovery comes at a time when it could influence the decisions on the direction of the US space exploration program. It might also provide a powerful incentive for increased commercial activity on the Moon.

March Storm Lives!

In a mix-up this week, two space groups that share a common heritage, similar vision and quite a number of participants were vying to lay claim to the mantle of the March Storm citizens space volunteer lobbying effort. A group within the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) claimed that the annual event "was allowed to fade away" and would be revived by the Foundation in 2010.

ProSpace, the organization that has conducted March Storm for more than a decade, responded quickly that planning for the 2010 event was already underway and that the 2009 event was cancelled for a number of reasons including the difficulty of getting congressional focus on space issues in the midst of the nation's economic crisis.

I am active in both of these organizations and was involved in the events of this week. Faulty assumptions were made by some individuals, but I won't go any further as this was a misunderstanding among friends and both organizations need to move forward toward the goals we share. The outcome is that there will be a ProSpace March Storm in 2010 and the SFF group will probably conduct a similar event under another name. That would continue the healthy trend of several space lobbying efforts by various professional and citizen organizations.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Wall Came Down

Germany and the world celebrated today's twentieth anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the most visible event in a time of the rapid collapse of communism in eastern Europe and eventually of the Soviet Union itself. This was a momentous time for anyone who had grown up with the threat of communism in the world.

Newt and Callista Gingrich and Vince Haley point out that this historic event had as much a spiritual component as it did a political one.

Freelance Terrorism

Accused Ft. Hood mass murderer Nidal Malik Hasan apparently had contact with an extreme Islamic Imam and attempted to contact Al Qaeda. Whether Hasan had any direct support or, as is likely, he acted alone, the killings now appear to have been an act of terrorism, an act of war against the US. Those that want to destroy us can use the Internet and other means to encourage and advise freelance terrorists without giving direct and specific orders.

This deadly attack once again raises the issue of signals that were missed and of an excessive political correctness that may weaken our ability to detect and counter threats in this dangerous kind of war.

Health Care Bill and Abortion Funding

Some interesting fallout appears from the votes on Saturday night on the Stupak anti-abortion funding amendment and the final Pelosi health care bill. Some have argued that enacting the Stupak amendment provided cover for some reps to vote for final passage of the Pelosi Bill (with all its other onerous features), enabling it to pass by a narrow 220-215. That is probably true at face value.

However, this outcome may have set up a situation that could lead to the ultimate defeat of whatever final ObamaReidPelosi health care monstrosity that emerges while also weakening the pro-abortion lobby's grip on power and strengthening the role of prolife Democrats.

Already, staunchly pro-abortion legislators and activists are in an uproar over the House Dem leaders' caving to allow the Stupak amendment vote as a price to pay for winning passage of the Pelosi bill. And the abortion funding issue now adds to the already complicated situation facing the Senate Dem leaders pushing to pass a Senate bill.

There has been some second-guessing among some prolife and conservative activists over the Stupak amendment strategy. However, Steven Ertelt analyzes the differing views and calls for unity among prolife forces moving forward to advance the cause of life and defeat whatever health care bill emerges with anti-life and other onerous features.
Even with Stupak added, every pro-life group admits that rationing and conscience issues remain and that the bill still has concerns for the pro-life movement. No pro-life group -- and even the bishops despite some mis-reporting in the mainstream media -- are supporting the House bill as approved.

Let's cease the attacks on one another. This is only a strategic debate between people who wholeheartedly want to see abortion end immediately if not sooner and not a matter of one side or the other abandoning pro-life principles. We all want to get the ball in the end zone and some of us want to pass and some to run the ball.


I've finally gotten around to adding some links of favorite sites to my sidebar links and blogs sections, including NASASpaceFlight, NewsMax, CNSNews, American Thinker, Instapundit, RedState and Hot Air. I've also deleted a few defunct blog links.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

"House Call" This Afternoon, House Voting Tonight

The House of Representatives tonight voted (barely) for the ~2,000 page health care bill after approving language excluding support of abortion from the plan. More on this below, but first this afternoon's rally at the Capitol.

I attended a "House Call" rally this afternoon outside the Capitol building (a short notice follow up to a larger rally held Thursday that I did not attend). Leading Republican House members active in opposing the Pelosi bill spoke. The event climaxed with a dramatic unrolling of the bill with pages taped end-to-end from the lawn all the way up the long set of steps up to the House side of the Capitol.

House members and citizens oppose government health care takeover.

The ~2,000 page bill creeps up the Capitol steps.

Rep. Michele Bachmann meets with a wheel chair bound citizen concerned about the bill.

After the rally, I met with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a rising formidable political leader (who has been drawing some of the same kind of harsh attacks as has Sarah Palin), who was eager to sign my FORMER EMBRYO T-shirt. (I'll order another one (size XXL again to fit over winter clothing) to wear as I can't risk washing out the signature.)

Then I joined a few friends in visiting the offices of our Maryland reps, Van Hollen and Edwards, where we had brief and spirited but respectful discussions with staffers.

Tonight the Pelosi bill passed by 220-215 (with 39 Dems voting against and one Republican voting for). This is not a done deal as no bill has passed the Senate yet, so this debate is far from over.

One significant compromise the House Dem leaders made to get their bill passed was to allow a vote on the Stupak-Pitts amendment to bar abortion coverage in the bill. This passed by a stronger margin than the bill itself, with 64 Dems supporting to make the margin 240-194 (with 1 "present"). This is a significant prolife victory. A bipartisan prolife press conference on C-SPAN now (~12:15 AM Sunday) has members (with diverging views on the overall health care bill) noting the significance of this stand against federal abortion funding.

Of course, the possibility of abortion funding being sneaked back into the final bill plus the unaddressed issues of health care rationing, government control, high cost and impact on medical innovation mean the coming battles over health care require continuing vigilance.

Friday, November 06, 2009

And They Want to Run Our Whole Health Care System?

The American Future Fund asks that very question with this very timely and pithy ad.

Coming Out of the Dark Side

A director of a Planned Parenthood (PP) affiliate in Texas has resigned after seeing an ultrasound of an abortion taking place. She has joined a local prolife group praying outside the same PP facility she directed. Interestingly, it appears that PP is seeking by court order to restrain the former director and the prolife group from revealing certain information "to protect the safety and confidentiality of our clients and staff." Wonder what PP is really trying to hide?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Deadly Shootings at Ft. Hood

The tragic situation at Ft. Hood today has taken several turns as developments were revealed this evening. The current situation is that the lone gunman (as opposed to early reports of 2 or 3 shooters) who killed 12 is alive and hospitalized. While the actions being of a lone gunman make it unlikely to be part of a terrorist conspiracy, his political and religious views may have provided some of the motivation for the deadly crimes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Rebel Alliance Starts to Regain Ground

Tonight's elections have so far resulted in a Republican sweep in Virginia led by Bob McDonnell becoming that state's next governor.

Fox News has just now (10:18 PM EST) projected Chis Christie as winning the New Jersey Governorship. (AP also saying Christie wins.)

Still waiting on New York Congressional District (CD) 23, California CD 10, Maine & Washington ballot votes on marriage.

While a lot can happen in a year, tonight's results give the GOP momentum going into the 2010 midterm elections. This is change we can believe in.

Lunar Lander Challenge Winners

NASA's Lunar Lander Challenge has been occurring over the past few weeks and has now been completed with the announcement of winners. This project offered prize money to spur innovative efforts to develop innovative technology that can be applied to a lunar lander.