Fraser River Sunset
A Waste Of Space
I have come to despise manned space exploration. It is wasteful and inefficient, and the same money spent could fund unimaginable portfolios of unmanned science missions. But back in the day, you know, when I was in my younger and middle teens, I was gung-ho for the Mercury and Gemini and Apollo programs -- and for the competing Russian programs, too.
But it was different then, too, because of the attitude of the astronauts and the bureaucrats who funded them. They recognized that there was danger, that danger was part of the exercise. They knew that if a few Brits and Portugese and Danes and Italians hadn't previously drowned in the Atlantic, then Columbus would never have made it. For the last generation or so, though, safety has been paramount. Safety as public relations, safety as politics. It has drowned out the science, and it has drowned NASA in billions of dollars of wasted effort.
We can compare the fates of Apollo I and the Challenger shuttle, which were destroyed on January 27th, 1967, and January 28th, 1986 respectively. In 1967 we were horrified to lose three brave men to the fire. But everyone got on with it. It was a tragedy, but Apollo II kept on rolling because everyone knew it was a dangerous business with some certainty of losses. In 1986, the loss of the shuttle scuttled the program for years, with billions more spent for investigations of the investigators of the investigation.
Between 1967 and 1986 we had changed, and our attachment to manned exploration changed too. Most people still seem to support it -- the non-military parts of the NASA budget could hardly survive without such support -- but with a catch: they want it to be as safe as sitting at home on the couch. And thus the wasted billions spent attempting to make manned space flight risk free. Billions that could have been better spent on missions like the extraordinarily successful Mars rovers.
With this attitude, it is no wonder that today's Challenger anniversary is celebrated on front pages and on TV specials, while yesterday's anniversary of the deaths of Virgil Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee went almost unnoticed.
There Is Mad Cow Disease in the US ...
... and the mad cow's name is Ann Coulter.
Test 1: "[The media a]'re always accusing us of repressing their speech. Let's repress them ... Frankly, I'm not a big fan of the First Amendment."
Test 2: "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee."
Test 3: "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
Test 4: ""We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Hypocrisy and Democracy
As an anarchist, it is right good fun watching the leaders of the "democratic" world condemning the results of a free and fair election in Palestine today. Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel made the basic claim:
"Hamas is surely not a democratic movement."
Surely, Mr Weisel, if a party receives the most votes in a free and fair election, that is a better definition of a "democratic movement" than anything you might be thinking of. And Bush, not surprisingly, said, in effect, that the current regime in Gaza should essentially ignore the results of the election:
"[Abbas] is in power, we'd like him to stay in office."
Well I'm sorry, George. Perhaps you missed the part in your civics class where the folks who get the most votes get to be in power, and the people who don't, get to leave. How would it have been if your Daddy had decided to stay in office even after he was spanked by Bill Clinton and the voters? Chaos, eh?
The Secretary of Hypocrisy, Condi Rice, dismissing the results, claimed that:
"You cannot have one foot in politics and another in terror."
She forgets, of course, that such a description fits many of the regimes and organizations that the United States has supported vigorously over the years -- not least the Mujahaddin and then Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Moreover, it is a description that accurately reflects the US's own position on so many issues.
Hypocrisy on so many levels. It's fun to watch the crazy people dance.
Coming home tonight, this was too rich to resist.
Same Old, Same Old
So we had an election in Canada yesterday; another in those $250 million taxpayer-paid cabarets by which modern consumer-capitalism and its handmaiden democracy attempt to beguile you and me into thinking we have some say. Nonsense, of course.
This time, the Canadian Conservatives -- a shadow of the US neocon fundamentalists -- will form a minority government. They take the place of the scandal-wracked Liberals who had a minority government last time out. With no hope of a parliamentary majority for anything radical, we face the next few years with the same old, same old stuff just with new faces to criticize. Boring and wasteful.
I voted of course. There were five candidates running in my riding and I voted for each and every one of them. I figure that if they have the guts to put their names forward then they deserve my useless vote.
The Loss of Hawai'i's Freedom
Lest we forget:- Today is the 113th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawai'ian monarchy by US business interests, which led directly to the imperialist annexation of the islands by the United States of America. Manifest Destiny stretched forth its hand and stole a country on this day of infamy.
Chile's New President
Last week there was Evo Morales in Bolivia, this week we have to celebrate the historic victory of Michelle Bachelet as the newly elected President of Chile! As The New York Times has it:
"Her political success has baffled many Chileans who thought a left-leaning single mother jailed during Pinochet's dictatorship stood little chance in this socially conservative country."
That being said, she was extraordinarily successful in her role as Minister of Defense, where she "became a popular figure among the admirals and generals." Politically, she follows closely in the footsteps of outgoing President Ricardo Lagos who led a market-oriented center coalition, and her recent comments about Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez were not overly sympathetic. However, one can always hope that her Socialist Party regains some of the progressive attitude it had during the days that her father worked with Salvador Allende. Adding Chile to the growing anti-imperialist movement in Latin America would be a great coup.
Street Art XIX
Whatever Happened To ....
... all those Saddam Hussein doubles that were supposed to be hanging out in Baghdad before the invasion?