SPACE RACE: SHENZHOU-5 VERSUS MERCURY-5

(via APS – What’s New by Bob Park – October 17, 2003)

On Wednesday, China successfully launched the Shenzhou-5 space capsule into orbit with taikonaut Yang Liwei on board and returned him safely to Earth after 14 orbits. The first American to reach orbit, John Glenn, circled Earth a mere three times in the Mercury-5 capsule – 3 years before Yang was born. And this is only the beginning; China hopes eventually to construct a permanent base on the moon. Americans should welcome China’s new direction. Sending humans into space offers no military, economic, or scientific advantage; rather it’s a symbolic demonstration that China has arrived as an economic power and can now afford to waste vast sums of money. Perhaps the U.S. could help by offering China complete plans for the space shuttle. This would serve the cause of world peace by diverting China’s resources from more dangerous adventures.

While I don’t completely agree with Dr. Park’s opinion on manned space exploration (though I do think NASA’s manned space program for the past 20 years or so has been pretty pointless), I thought this was pretty good.

Mr. Krabs would not approve

This would never have happened if Mr. Eugene H. Krabs was in charge of Red Lobster.

From Joe Bob’s Week in Review:

Edna Morris was booted as president of the Red Lobster restaurant chain after her all-you-eat crab dinner promotion triggered a sell-off of shares and wiped out $405.9 million of stock value in one trading session. The dinner was priced at $22.99, but so many people went back for third and fourth helpings, and wholesale crab prices rocketed up so quickly, that the company had to write off $3.3 million for the first quarter. Customers still searching for the “Endless Crab Dinner” will be told by their waiter, “You’ll love our fish sticks!”

George W. Bush’s Medieval Presidency

I always thought Bush was just the leader to lead this nation into the middle ages…

(From the Los Angeles Times)

It should have been an embarrassing admission for him and a flabbergasting one for us: President Bush told Fox News recently that he only “glanced” at newspaper headlines, rarely reading stories, and that for his real news hits, he relied on briefings from acolytes who, he said flippantly, “probably read the news themselves.” He rationalized his indifference by claiming he needed “objective” information. Even allowing for the president’s contempt for the press, it was a peculiar comment, and it prompted the New York Times to call him “one of the most incurious men ever to occupy the White House.”

The difference between the current administration and its conservative forebears is that facts don’t seem to matter at all. They don’t even matter enough to reinterpret. Bush doesn’t read the papers or watch the news, and Condoleezza Rice, his national security advisor, reportedly didn’t read the National Intelligence Estimate, which is apparently why she missed the remarks casting doubt on claims that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Africa. (She reportedly read the document later.) And although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hasn’t disavowed reading or watching the news, he has publicly and proudly disavowed paying any attention to it. In this administration, everyone already knows the truth.

A more sinister aspect to this presidency’s cavalier attitude toward facts is its effort to bend, twist and distort them when it apparently serves the administration’s interests. Intelligence was exaggerated to justify the war in Iraq. Even if there were no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or of ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the CIA was expected to substantiate the accusations. In a similar vein, the New Republic reported that Treasury Department economists had been demoted for providing objective analysis that would help define policy, as they had done in previous administrations. Now they provide fodder for policy already determined. Said one economist who had worked in the Clinton, Reagan and first Bush administrations, “They didn’t worry about whether they agreed; we were encouraged to raise issues.” Not anymore.

Even the scientific community has been waved off by the medievalists. A minority staff report issued last month by the House Government Reform Committee investigating scientific research found 21 areas in which the administration had “manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings,” including the president’s assurance that there were more than 60 lines for stem-cell research when there were actually only 11; it concluded that “these actions go far beyond the typical shifts in policy that occur with a change in the political party occupying the White House.” When a draft report of the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year included data on global warming, the White House ordered them expunged. Another EPA report, on air quality at ground zero in Manhattan, was altered to provide false reassurance that no danger existed, even though it did.

His self-confidence is certainly admirable at a time when most politicians mistake opinion polls for empiricism. It is also scary. As writer Leon Wieseltier recently observed, this is a presidency without doubt, one entirely comfortable with its own certainties, which is what makes it medieval. But as Wieseltier also observed, it is doubt that deepens one’s vision of life and often provides a better basis for acting within it. It is doubt that helps one understand the world and enables one to avoid hubris. A presidency without doubt and resistant to disconcerting facts is a presidency not on the road to Damascus but on the road to disaster. By regarding facts as political tools, it compromises information and makes reality itself suspect, not to mention that it compromises the agencies that provide the information and makes them unreliable in the future. And by ignoring anything that contradicts its faith, it can vaingloriously plow ahead – right into the abyss. The president and his crew may well live within a pre-Enlightenment lead bubble where they are unwilling and unable to see beyond themselves, but their fellow Americans must live in the real world where even the most powerful nation cannot simply posit its own reality. If you need proof, just read the newspapers.

Doctor Who Returns!

From BBC News:

The much-awaited comeback will be written by acclaimed TV dramatist Russell T Davies – a self-confessed fan.

Davies’ credits include hit dramas like Bob and Rose, Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Touching Evil, and The Grand.

Let’s hope the new Dr. Who doesn’t suck.

Star Wars is adolescent nonsense; Close Encounters is obscurantist drivel; Star Trek can turn your brains to puree of bat guano; and the greatest science fiction series of all time is Doctor Who! And I’ll take you all on, one-by-one or all in a bunch to back it up!
— Harlan Ellison

Reasons to Dislike Bush

Some pundits wonder why so many people have visceral dislike for George W. Bush. Ted Rall sums up the reasons here. Here’s some excerpts:

First but not foremost, Bush’s detractors despise him viscerally, as a man. Where working-class populists see him as a smug, effeminate frat boy who wouldn’t recognize a hard day’s work if it kicked him in his self-satisfied ass, intellectuals see a simian-faced idiot unqualified to mow his own lawn, much less lead the free world. Another group, which includes me, is more patronizing than spiteful. I feel sorry for the dude; he looks so pathetic, so out of his depth, out there under the klieg lights, squinting, searching for nouns and verbs, looking like he’s been snatched from his bed and beamed in, and is still half asleep, not sure where he is. Each speech looks as if Bush had been beamed from his bed fast asleep. And he’s willfully ignorant. On Fox News, Bush admits that he doesn’t even read the newspaper: “I glance at the headlines just to kind of [sic] a flavor for what’s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read [sic] the news themselves.” All these takes on Bush boil down to the same thing: The guy who holds the launch codes isn’t smart enough to know that’s he’s stupid. And that’s scary.

Bush bashers hate Bush for his personal hypocrisy–the draft-dodger who went AWOL during Vietnam yet sent other young men to die in Afghanistan and Iraq, the philandering cocaine addict who dares to call gays immoral–as well as for his attacks on peace and prosperity. But even that doesn’t explain why we hate him so much.

Bush is guilty of a single irredeemable act so heinous and anti-American that Nixon’s corruption and Reagan’s intellectual inferiority pale by comparison. No matter what he does, Democrats and Republicans who love their country more than their party will never forgive him for it.

Bush stole the presidency.

The United States enjoyed two centuries of uninterrupted democracy before George W. Bush came along. The Brits burned the White House, civil war slaughtered millions and depressions brought economic chaos, yet presidential elections always took place on schedule and the winners always took office. Bush ended all that, suing to stop a ballot count that subsequent newspaper recounts proved he had lost. He had his GOP-run Supreme Court, a federal institution, rule extrajurisdictionally on the disputed election, a matter that under our system of laws falls to the states. Bush’s recount guru, James Baker, went on national TV to threaten to use force to install him as president if Gore didn’t step aside: “If we keep being put in the position of having to respond to recount after recount after recount of the same ballots, then we just can’t sit on our hands, and we will be forced to do what might be in our best personal interest–but not–it would not be in the best interest of our wonderful country.”

David Limbaugh is also a Big Fat Idiot

(via Eschaton)

David Limbaugh makes the following claim in his book, Persecution:

IN 1776, 99.8% OF THE PEOPLE IN AMERICA WERE PROFESSED CHRISTIANS

99.8 is obviously a made up number. Never mind the fact that it clearly ignores Native Americans and many African slaves (which if counted would likely put the number well below 50%), but there is no way one could honestly come up with such a precise number.

By the way, to the Christian Right, persecution means “other beliefs are tolerated in the U.S.A.” or “they won’t let us turn the U.S.A. into a theocracy”.

A Technical Summary of the Major Presidential Candidates’ Web sites (2004 election)

Candidate Web Site Webserver information
John Kerry JohnKerry.com Apache/1.3.27 (Unix) (Red-Hat/Linux) FrontPage/5.0.2.2623 mod_python/2.7.8 Python/1.5.2 mod_ssl/2.8.12 OpenSSL/0.9.6b DAV/1.0.3 PHP/4.1.2 mod_perl/1.26 mod_throttle/3.1.2
John Edwards John Edwards Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Howard Dean Dean for America Apache/1.3.12 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.6.5 OpenSSL/0.9.6e ApacheJServ/1.1.2 mod_fastcgi/2.2.10
Wesley Clark General Wesley Clark for President Apache/1.3.28
Dennis Kucinich Dennis Kucinich for President Campaign, 2004 Apache/1.3.27 (Unix) PHP/4.3.1 mod_ssl/2.8.14 OpenSSL/0.9.6b
X-Powered-By: PHP/4.3.1
Carol Moseley Braun Carol Moseley Braun for President Apache/1.3.26 (Unix) ApacheJServ/1.1.2 mod_webapp/1.2.0-dev PHP/4.1.2 mod_ssl/2.8.10 OpenSSL/0.9.6g
Bob Graham Bob Graham for President Apache/1.3.27 (Unix) FrontPage/5.0.2.2634
Joe Lieberman Joe Lieberman for President 2004: Apache/1.3.12 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.6.5 OpenSSL/0.9.6e ApacheJServ/1.1.2 mod_fastcgi/2.2.10
Dick Gephardt Dick Gephardt for President Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Al Sharpton Sharpton Explore 2004 Microsoft-IIS/5.0
MicrosoftOfficeWebServer: 5.0_Pub
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
George W. Bush GeogeWBush.com Microsoft-IIS/5.0
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
X-AspNet-Version: 1.1.4322

No surprise that W.’s campaign is hosted on a expensive, buggy, and relatively insecure web server. I’m somewhat disappointed in the Democrats who also serve there web pages with IIS.