Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Passing of the Year

Every year seems to look weirder in retrospect than previous years and 2009, the year that "Octomom" became a household word has proven to be no exception.

The year began with great fanfare about the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. As I asked in that post, would the policies reflect the soaring rhetoric? It soon became obvious that the policies would not favor protection of the lives of the most defenseless, though the prolife movement marched on with new resiliency.

This year we became all too used to hearing of dollar amounts in the trillions as stimulus, "Cap and Trade" and most of all health care became the issues of the day. While the acute financial crisis of late 2008 abated, rising unemployment caused continuing public anxiety over the economy. Meanwhile. the emerging "clinategate" scandal demonstrated that the certainty underlying much of the prevailing conventional wisdom is not so certain after all.

Economic turmoil and increased government intervention in citizen's lives spurred a new grassroots movement that recalls America's revolutionary roots by adopting the "tea party" logo as the political winds once again seem to be shifting direction.

With all of our domestic turmoil we are reminded that is still a dangerous world with the terrorist atrocity committed by a single individual at Ft. Hood and the averting of an even greater atrocity aboard Flight 253 on Christmas day. The struggles in Iran and other nations show how precious freedom and peace are in our world.

Progress continued in many fields of endeavor. This year I had the special opportunity to participate in the final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. (To review my posts on the mission, go to my May 2009 archives and scroll to the bottom, then scroll upward to read the posts in ascending order.) The launch of other science probes and the near completion of the International Space Station and the continuing emergence of the commercial sector highlight the year in space while the nation underwent a major reassessment of the direction and implementation of its human spaceflight program. Look for decisions in early 2010, a year known for a fictional space odyssey.

So once again we need to be prayerful and vigilant while hopeful and proactive as we face another new year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

World at Unrest

While we are celebrating Christmas and other holidays, a Christmas day terrorist atrocity was narrowly averted on Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines Flight 253, revealing vulnerabilities in our security system.

In Iran, the the struggle between the government and its people continues to intensify in violence. Michael Ledeen summarizes what has been transpiring there over the last several days.

Finally, John F. Cullinan describes the situation of the often forgotten Christians in Iraq.
While the Iraqi government has belatedly taken some modest steps to ease the suffering of Iraqi Christians, the U.S. government’s consistent policy of studied and shameful indifference forms rare common ground between the Bush and Obama administrations. It is an indelible stain on American honor that two administrations did nothing to assist, much less protect, a beleaguered religious minority. Such was not the case in the Balkans a decade ago, when the Clinton administration came to the aid of embattled Muslim minorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo with decisive military force in similar circumstances. In Iraq, however, America’s unmet moral obligations were and are the direct consequence of the security vacuum arising from the American-led destruction of Saddam’s Republic of Fear.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have a Holy and Merry Christmas!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Luke 2:1-14

Here are two stirringly beautiful Christmas music videos by Enya and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Trans Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Canon

shadow | MySpace Video

Expedition 22 heads to Space

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Expedition 22 crew arrived at the International Space Station on Tuesday after launching from Kazakhstan at 4:52 pm EST Sunday (2152 GMT Sunday, 3:52 am local time Monday). This brings the ISS crew back up to five after several weeks of being down to a crew of two after others departed for Earth.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Wonderland

The storm as seen from far overhead (NOAA satellite image emphasizing moisture content) and from my front door and from my kitchen overlooking the deck in back.

The East Coast is experiencing a really big December snow storm today. It is a really pretty site, but by the time I'm done shoveling out, I may begin to wish Al Gore was right.

Imagine No "Overpopulation" Hysteria

A video clip cited by American Papist and picked up at other sites shows John Lennon and Yoko Ono in an appearance with TV host Dick Cavett (I'm guessing around 1971) pithily popping the bubble of "overpopulation" hysteria.

John Lennon rightly ridicules those already living deciding who else can live and also (even if somewhat flippantly) suggests human expansion beyond Earth as part of a more positive human future than population control.

Copenhagen Ends With A Wimper

The Copenhagen climate summit finally ended on Friday with an underwhelming conclusion. Then again, the premise behind the mega-conference is far from settled. As I've said before, climate change is a complex scientific topic, so we should conduct vigorous climate research and monitoring and energy research and development, but not impose major social and economic disruption.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Code RED!!

Citizens gather to oppose the health care bill (above). US Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) addresses the rally (below). Note the "Palin-Bachmann" sign behind her held by a supporter of two of America's most dynamic political women.

Several thousand citizens gathered near the Capitol this afternoon in a "Code Red" rally to oppose the constantly morphing health care bill being debated in the Senate. Abortion funding, health care rationing, excessive bureaucratic control in personal decisions and excessive costs and taxes are among the fundamental flaws in this legislation.

The most fiery rallying speech was delivered by popular radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.

After the rally, many of us visited our senators' offices (In my case, MD Senators Mikulski & Cardin) and expressed our views to the staff who were present.

Monday, December 14, 2009

WISE Launches to Unveil Objects in Space

Image Credit: United Launch Alliance

NASA launched the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite this morning from Vandenberg AFB, CA. This new observatory will map the entire sky in search of objects ranging from near Earth asteroids and comets to distant galaxies and other astronomical features.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hanukkah and Our Attitude about the Future

(This is a post I originally made in 2003 and feel is worth repeating each year, especially in light of some very dark anti-human views of the future (like this development from earlier this week) vs. ongoing and emerging developments that can provide resources for future generations.)

Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a provocative column in WorldNetDaily on a message of Hanukkah that is relevant to people of all faiths. He shows examples, ancient and modern, of how a pessimistic Malthusian worldview have been repeatedly disproved by the Creator's providence of material resources and the ingenuity to utilize them to provide for the future. Rabbi Lapin says:
It only seemed that we lacked sufficient copper, whale oil or wood. In reality, our God-given ingenuity developed exciting new technology that eliminated our need for each commodity just as it was becoming scarce.

Hanukkah's miracle was that, day after day, the Temple's menorah just kept on burning in spite of an apparent shortage of fuel - a metaphor, surely, for all apparent shortages that can be overcome with faith. Hanukkah invites us all to express gratitude to the Creator whose beneficence is boundless. It stimulates discussions that can spur our spiritual growth. It reminds us that with His gift of creativity, challenges become optimistic opportunities to partner with God in creatively solving all material shortage.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

SpaceShipTwo Unveiled

Virgin Galactic, in a dramatic after dark ceremony, rolled out its SpaceShipTwo commercial suborbital spacecraft Monday at the Mojave, CA spaceport. A crowd of guests endured some very windy weather to witness this historic roll out of the new space ship.

Hobby Space's Space Transport News page has several posts with many links including this YouTube video.

Senate Rejects Health Plan Abortion Exclusion

The Senate today rejected an amendment to exclude abortion coverage from the massive health care bill. If the bill passes the Senate without this exclusion, it will differ from the House version which includes the Stupak amendment. Abortion could be one of the pivotal issues that decides the final fate of the health care legislation.

OK, Stop Exhaling that Toxic Gas!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared carbon dioxide (yes, the stuff you breathe out and plants breathe in) and five other greenhouse gases a threat to public health.

Meanwhile, the Copenhagen climate summit has opened with a carbon footprint larger than that of some small countries and new differences among nations.

Finally, the growing global "ClimateGate" scandal continues to generate news.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hearing on Bill Targeting Pregnancy Centers

Last night I attended, along with about 250 others, a County Council hearing here in Montgomery County, MD on a bill targeting prolife pregnancy help centers by requiring that they post disclaimers that the information they provide to clients is not medical advice. The usual suspects are pushing this bill.
The bill was supported by Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.

Representatives of the affected centers and a large number of other witnesses pointed out that the centers already disclose that they do not provide or refer for abortions or contraceptives, that the bill creates a double standard since it does not require abortion providers to post any disclosures, and that such "compelled speech" could raise serious First Amendment issues.

A similar bill was just recently enacted in Baltimore. It will be seen if the large turnout and compelling arguments presented at the hearing cause the council to reconsider their intent to pass this dubious legislation.

UPDATE: Another post including some video of selected portions of the hearing is up at Restore-DC-Catholicism.

Global Unraveling

The growing climate scandal is unraveling globally, according to James Delingpole. Particularly significant is Australia's emissions trading scheme failing to pass that nation's Senate. This could signal a global trend that could make it really interesting in Copehagen next week.

There is so much unfolding on this story. Climate Depot is providing a staedily growing collection of links related to the situation, so I'm adding this site to my side bar.

Obama's Afghanistan Speech

I was out last night and did not see President Obama deliver his speech on Afghanistan (text here). There is much commentary with varying views on the policy and how much the President is committed to victory. I give him credit for adopting a policy not favored by his base. I do question the public statement of a goal to begin withdrawal in 2011. I think stating such a goal publicly will likely complicate the situation.

Even when the cause is just, going to war is always a serious situation where lives will be lost what ever we do. Let's pray this ends for the better.