Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oh, What a Year!

Once again we arrive at the point in Earth's journey around the Sun that we turn the page from one year to the next. And each year, it seems like events can't become more ominous yet more promising or just down right weird. 2010 is another one for the record books.

January brought a devastating earthquake to Haiti and a political upset in Massachusetts that would be a harbinger of things to come. February brought a proposed new direction in space which sparked a roaring controversy through much of the year. The Mid-Atlantic US almost seemed like a settlement on a strange wintry world when two back-to-back storms (one and two) created a "Snow-maggedon/Snow-pocalypse".

While the snow melted, March brought another kind of storm to DC as the fight over an intrusive, expensive and potentially lethal health care plan came to a head. Citizens rallied en masse to say "No Way", but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted on ramming it through by the narrowest of margins so that we could then "find out what's in it." Passage did not change the unpopularity of this debacle as many Congressional Dems lost their jobs and (thankfully) Pelosi now loses the Speakers' gavel.

April brought a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that would last many months and affect many peoples' livelihoods.

September brought about a seeming consensus on America's direction in space, but left legal clarity and full funding in doubt.

October brought a happy conclusion to the dramatic story of the Chilean miners trapped underground for over two months.

While the foreign threat to life and security continued to make itself present, the November mid-term elections turned largely on economic doldrums and issues of the role of government and the direction of our culture. Nationwide, the results ended Democratic domination of national politics and saw a Republican resurgence in many states.

December saw a breakthrough for the commercial space sector that represents one distinctly positive trend for the future. A post-Christmas snowstorm brought havoc to much of the US Northeast.

These are only a few highlights of a tumultuous year. We need to remember that any positive development in history is only a step along the way while fending off new threats and calamities. And with God's blessing, let's get ready for an exciting 2011 as another opportunity to fight for a culture of life, a rebirth of freedom and an expanding frontier.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

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

A Memorable Christmas in Modern History


Christmas Eve 1968 saw three men go where no human beings had gone before.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Christmas Favorites

Here are two stirringly beautiful Christmas music videos by Enya and Trans-Siberian Orchestra I first posted last year and would like to share again.

Trans Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Canon

shadow | MySpace Video

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Omnibus Bill A Stuck Pig

Public Domain

The huge omnibus spending bill the Democratic leaders of the outgoing Congress were rushing to pass so that we could then find out what is in it has been stopped dead in its tracks. Looks like they're scrambling on the Hill to pass another short term continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown.

Interestingly, this rejection of business-as-usual comes on the 237th anniversary of the original Tea Party.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Commercial Space Field Heating Up

Responses to a recent NASA solicitation for its next round of Commercial Crew Development program, called CCDev 2 indicate increased interest among established and new space companies in providing commercial human spaceflight. There has been particular attention paid to the unexpected announcement of Orbital Sciences Corporation's proposal for transport to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

If even some of these proposed ventures are carried out, the next few years will be quite interesting and exciting time in humanity's expansion into space.

MD GOP Convention

Just catching up but I participated in last Saturday's Maryland Republican Convention in Annapolis (after some fun hospitality suites the night before). As it followed the recent statewide elections, this was the convention to select party leadership.

After a spirited but friendly competition among several candidates, both well known figures and rising stars, the convention selected outgoing state Senator Alex Mooney as Party Chair. Senator Mooney is known for being forthright about his conservative convictions and for his fundraising prowess. The contests for Party Chair and the other leadership offices were influenced by an influx of new people, some from the Tea Party movement, into county central committees.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A New Giant Leap

Photo credit: NASA/Kevin O'Connell

History was made today with the launch and return to Earth of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which will carry cargo and likely eventually people to the International Space Station (ISS) and possibly other destinations in space. Today's flight marks a major advance toward a new form of partnership between NASA and the commercial sector in conducting space endeavors.

Clark Lindsey has posted numerous reports and comments on the flight here and here.

Meanwhile, the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II rocket has arrived at Wallops Island, Virginia for its first planned launch next summer. Like SpaceX, Orbital will be carrying cargo to the ISS for NASA.

Congratulations to the SpaceX team and all who played a role in today's accomplishment. Here's a video of today's spectacular launch.

Late Term Abortionist Not Welcome Here

The notorious late-term abortionist, Leroy Carhart, has set up shop at an existing abortion facility in the town of Germantown, here in Montgomery County, Maryland. This development is receiving national attention and Carhart has already been greeted by a large rally in opposition to his practice.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is rallying additional peaceful opposition and hopefully this situation will draw increased attention to the human life issue in this community.

The Tax Deal

There is a wide range of reaction to the compromise on tax legislation that President Obama announced (even if somewhat grudgingly) on Monday evening. The editors of National Review say that the proposed deal is a "Qualified Victory" for conservatives.

Of course, the President does deserve a thumbs up for giving his liberal base conniptions. Socialist Bernie Sanders vows to try to filibuster the bill. But so does Republican Senator Jim DeMint, for fiscal reasons. We'll have to see how this all plays out.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Arsenic and "Life As We Know It"

A NASA press conference today featured several scientists describing a newly discovered life-form that defies previous assumptions about what is required for life to thrive.
Describing her research, Wolfe-Simon said "what I've presented to you today is a microbe doing something different than life as we knew it."

"I was taught as a biochemist that all life on Earth, all life we know of, to harken back to the 'pale blue dot' ideas of Carl Sagan, all life we know of is here so far," she said. "And if there's an organism on Earth that's doing something different, we've cracked open the door to what's possible for life elsewhere in the universe. And that's profound. ... This microbe substitutes arsenic for phosphorous in its basic biomolecules. What else might we find? What else might we want to look for?"

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 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.

WikiLeaks Impact

Jonah Goldberg assesses the impact of the colossal Internet secrets leak.
Politically, the one advantage for the White House is the sheer volume of the leaks. If these stories came out one by one, there’d be room for them to flare up as full-fledged controversies, but with a quarter of a million documents, each story robs oxygen from the next.

Still, the (relative) lack of surprises is hardly an exoneration for anybody - not for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has declared himself an enemy of the United States, nor for the Obama administration, which seems utterly lost about how to deal with him.