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Space Restrictions

Frist follies. Doing the Houston Shuttle. Kosovo and the War on Terror. Baghdad blues. Permanent evolution. Plus much more.

8.2.05

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FRIST SHALL BE LAST
Re: The Prowler's The Celling of Bill Frist:

One would deduce after reading the spin from whirling dervish Frist supporters about his 180-degree turn on embryonic stem cell research is the White House staff is guilty of shear blindness. Oh yes, Senator Frist has been talking to "a lot of people" including the New York Times. If he did speak to a lot of people his about-face would have wet the pavement long before he tipped off the liberal establishment. Apparently he did not speak to the President or his staff before he made a decision that was sure to cause turbulence.

The Frist supporters and lobbyists who depend on their "top flight air controller" are afraid of being grounded after their flight plan resulted in hitting the side of a mountain. If they think they can spin this thing to make it less bitter to the political base then they are in a thick fog and deserve to be grounded... and then pounded.

It is the staff of Senator Frist that is weak in the anticipation department. Here is an outcome Senator Frist's staff should anticipate: his much talked about run for the presidency has stumbled very badly. They only have themselves to blame for mistaking pot leaves for tea leaves.
-- Diamon Sforza
San Diego, California

Bill Frist has come to his senses. Why don't you?
-- MPM

THIRTY WASTED YEARS
Re: Jed Babbin's Houston, You Have a Problem:

Mr. Babbin's August 1 article on our floundering space program is spot on! I used to be fascinated by the Shuttle and the space station -- now I am sick to death of hearing about them, especially the oh-so-fragile ceramic tiles. I wish both of these turkeys could be shut down and replaced with something else.

Every time NASA's manned program messes up, it provides ammunition for the America-hating progressive types who don't want us to have any people in space at all. They cite various reasons, of course. Oh, the program is so expensive -- though it is microscopic compared to so-called "social spending" on the federal, state, and local levels. The real reason, I suspect is that it makes America look good (when it works) and we mustn't have that.

The American space program went into a blind alley after Apollo. If Bush ever gets his new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), based on updated Apollo technology, it will be what we should have been doing 30 years ago.

NASA has made some really stupid decisions since Apollo -- for example, it originally wanted all flights to be aboard the shuttles, and was even throwing out the old expendable rockets (sorry, "launch vehicles"). When the Challenger blew up, we had only a handful of expendable rockets left. I remember especially one ailing spy satellite they had to nurse along until new rockets came on line.

On the other hand, NASA has had some stupid policies forced on it by others. It originally wanted a smaller, simpler space plane that would have been fully re-usable. You would use expendable boosters to launch the heavy stuff, then the astronauts would go out and assemble it. In a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision, the government told NASA to do something cheaper. NASA had to go to Defense and other places to ask for further support and money, but they gave it only after insisting on many changes. For example, the Shuttle had to be greatly enlarged, to carry Defense's spy satellites. That's how we got a huge, fragile space truck, instead of a souped-up version of the old X-15. It's a good instance of how a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Thirty wasted years. At least the space probe missions to other planets are a resounding success.
-- John Lockwood
Washington, D.C.

'Not long after the last moon mission returned to earth, America (or was it Jimmy?) decided that our national malaise precluded investing in things that could produce unvalued commodities such as quantum leaps in scientific progress and the sense of national purpose and pride. So we went on to build the space shuttle, a workhorse reusable launch vehicle that could carry large payloads into orbit, but not beyond. '

In fact, it was Nixon that cancelled the Apollo program, and redirected efforts towards a space shuttle. As much as I hate Goober Jimmy and love Tricky Dicky, the sad truth is that Nixon did the sorry deed...
-- Peter

I'm in full agreement with you. What we are doing now would be the same as if after Columbus having make his journeys to the new world Spain decided to park a ship 100 miles of its coast and shuttled people and material back and forth rather than keep going to the new world. That would have been a waste. All the big stuff was found after Columbus.
-- unsigned

Though I agree with your article, I don't know if I agree with some of the tenets you sight.

First, the period between 1952 to 1975 for both the U.S. and USSR the space race was part of a political scientific race. In a sense a scientific war without the use of weapons. From the period since the last joint Soyuz mission to present there has been no pressing push to "be out there." Lacking any aim, science for science's sake became the buzzword.

Second NASA's mission should radically change. NASA should still be a champion for basic science missions developing payload packages, etc. But their bigger mission should be the fostering of private enterprise into space. Until profits are being made from low earth orbit there will be no great leaps. Possibly NASA should be emulating the Postal Service of old with the fledgling airline industry. Let lift contracts for payloads to private concerns at certain launch prices. Adjusting the price downward over time to get the lift prices down to where launches into space are not much more than three times current airline ticket prices for an international flight.

Somewhere there is a budding Jack Northrop that sees the solution and gets the payload price down.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

I've often wondered whether, if we ever get our act together and proceed into space in the way Jed Babbin has so wisely signaled, our great-grandchildren will be able to believe that we used to strap human beings onto giant bombs and blast them into orbit for no good reason.

With all due respect to the hard work and dedication of the legions of good people who carry out NASA's programs, the entire enterprise is preposterous. It would be hilarious if it weren't so expensive and wasteful.

What we're doing now is not much more than a zillion-dollar version of shooting a man out of a cannon.

More bread, less circus, please.
-- Paul Kotik
Plantation, Florida

How long will it take to send a rocket filled with bailing wire, chewing gum, duct tape and super glue to fix Discovery?
-- Clasina Segura
New Iberia, Louisiana

WITHDRAW
Re: Doug Bandow's Closing the Books on Kosovo:

Now that NATO (pardon me -- the "EU"?) has established a strong Muslim foothold in its underbelly, I believe we should not only leave Bosnia/Yugoslavia/Whatever you wish to call it, but also Germany, Belgium, Greece, etc. except for some "serious" bases of operations from which we can launch and support our military unencumbered (e.g. Italy, Czech Republic, and Britain).

We may choose to "report" the atrocities committed by "both sides" and the apparent "disingenuous reporting" preceding our "invasion," but doubt that will ever happen.

This was and is not a problem of the U.S. any more than the Euros would claim ownership of our problems with Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, or Mexico.
-- Bill Toutz
Appleton, Wisconsin

The problem of Kosovo is described well by Doug Bandow. But Bandow didn't stress that Kosovo has inherited a big new complexity since NATO's 1999 intervention: that, post 9/11, it lends itself easily to being viewed through the prism of the "Global War on Terror."

Like Lebanon or Chechnya, Kosovo sits squarely on the fault-line that, for centuries, has marked the frontier between Christianity and Islam. The province's 2-million population is mostly two main groups: Serbs and Albanians. The Christian Orthodox Serbs number about 120,000. Kosovo's Albanians are over 80 percent Islamic -- almost entirely Sunni Muslim.

Kosovo, today, is a desperate place. Planning for post-war reconstruction (just like in Iraq) has been shambolic. Uncertainty over Kosovo's future has scared-off investment. The major economic activities appear to be either narcotics or people-smuggling.

So whither Kosovo? Choices are limited. Governance from Belgrade, once more, hardly reassures: where is the advantage for Serbs in (again) having to ensure the welfare of an unhappy Islamic Albanian population in Kosovo shortly to exceed 2 million? Independence for Kosovo is also mooted: but this runs the risk of creating another Sunni-Muslim failed-state with scant respect for minorities -- this time in Europe.

Less ambitious approaches stand more chance of success. A trial partition (Cyprus-style) or cantonization (like Bosnia), may at least allow Kosovo's Serbian and Albanian moderates an opportunity to outflank each side's more rejectionist elements. And, like Cyprus, the passing of time (with, hopefully, some sustainable economic prosperity) might convince sufficient in each community that they both have a stake in working for a better future.

The need to get a Kosovo resolution that is acceptable to enough on each side is imperative. Do nothing or get it wrong and there is every chance that the two sides will declare an intifada simultaneously. Into such a void would step those adept at exploiting such tensions: Al-Qaeda, no doubt, would watch developments closely. It behooves all of us to consider Kosovo in a way that is in keeping with our post-9/11 age.
-- Richard Griffiths
London, UK

QUAGMIRE?
Re: John Connly Walsh's Summer Blues in Baghdad:

Given its confounding defense of our military foray into Iraq, I must at least congratulate The American Spectator's editorial integrity in publishing John Connly Walsh's latest, highly discouraging dispatch from Baghdad. Notwithstanding the incessant prattle and abstract issuances of the neoconservatives amongst us, the very best that can be said for the U.S.'s Iraqi action is that the administration in good faith made a bad decision on the basis of bad intelligence.
-- Francis M. Hannon, Jr.
Melrose, Massachusetts

Why aren't our torturers better than theirs? Can you say Abu Ghraib? Can you say Gitmo? Can you say mainstream media? Can you say Democrat? They only way to defeat barbarians is to become barbaric. This worked wonders in WWII, both at the end of the war and during post-war occupation. We have yet to become ruthless and barbaric enough.

The two engineers you talked to are [dead wrong]. Yeah, there was no crime other than the state-sponsored crime committed by the Baathists and Saddam and his sons. What [fools]! What the hell is "low grade" terror? Is it "low grade" as long as it doesn't happen to you? Is it "low grade" as long as live you through it, albeit without a tongue or an ear or a hand? Is it "low grade" as long as they don't kill your mother or wife or daughter or sister after they gang rape her in front of you? And, what does this say about the minds of people that even consider this to be "low grade"?

You are right. We should have deployed all types of electronic surveillance equipment by now that would assist in detecting the roadside bomb. If cell phones are used to detonate the things then we could shut off cell phone service or at least create cell phone dead zones.

Exactly how long have they been working on this constitution? How long was it between the Magna Carta and the U.S. constitution? How long did we take to create our constitution? How long was it between the first amendment and the last one, so far?
-- RW
Cow Creek, Texas

CHANCE, BY GOD
Re: George Neumayr's The Monkey Wrench and Reader Mail's No More Monkeying Around:

Give me a break! Intelligent Design is not science. It is theology. Pure and simple. It has no place in the classroom. It is not the job of scientists to explain "why" the universe was created, only "how" and "when" it was created. It is the job of theologians and philosophers to explain the "why." Intelligent Design explains the "why." I like it. I am a Catholic and I believe that God did intervene in the evolutionary development of homo sapiens to produce an intelligent, sentient being who was both aware of his existence and his inevitable death. But that doesn't mean I want scientists teaching this kind of stuff to my children. I want them explaining the nuts and bolts of evolution and the development of the Universe from the moment of its creation.

Intelligent Design is a metaphysical theory. It holds no scientific water and belongs in the church, not in science classes. Furthermore, for anyone to state that the Theory of Evolution is an ideology and not science exposes their low-level of intellectual development. Only a rabid anti-intellectual and religious bigot, unschooled in even the most basic understanding of biological evolution, believe such a statement.

The editor of the Spectator should take some time and actually read and study science. He won't find God there -- but scientists are not looking for Him either and don't report on Him. A scientist mathematically and chemically analyzing the first nano-seconds of creation, the Big Bang, aunt looking for Cherubim -- he's looking for the base elements of subatomic particles and trying to understand how they were created as the result of a dark, cold explosion emanating from a single, atom-sized point in utter emptiness.

It is the job of the theologian to explain why -- from all the billions of possible combinations of subatomic particles -- the only combination that could possibly lead to existence is the very one that occurred in the first moment of creation (all the other possible combinations would have led to nothingness). To the scientist, this particular combination was arbitrary -- any one of the other billion or so combinations could just as easily occurred. But the scientist also doesn't think that any of the other probabilities are important. The only one that matters to him is the one that actually occurred. To the theologian, on the other, our universe's creation was part of a divine plan. Those subatomic particles joined together as the result of a guiding intelligence that created, in that first instant of creation, all the physical laws that govern our universe. These views do not oppose each other because science and religion are not the same thing and do not address issues in the same way. Therefore, the debate between those who hold to Evolution and those who hold to Intelligent Design is also irrelevant. Two completely different issues that should be addressed in two completely different forums.
-- Dave Penrod

Don't undermine conservatism with this crazy gibberish.

You should know better, and if you do not, you should be ashamed of yourself.
-- Lamar Johnson
Beaverton, Oregon

I just read your article (sorry for the being behind, but I was on vacation last week don't ya know). In response to your article and the critics of your article, I would suggest that all read the book Darwin's Black Box by Michael J. Behe. Darwin's theory has a hitch in it that Darwin himself acknowledged -- it is called irreducible complexity. Some things are so complex, all the pieces have to be in place in order for them to work; there is no "evolving" to that state, either it is or it isn't a functioning living creature or organ. Darwin acknowledges this was the flaw in his theory.

The science of microbiology and biochemistry do not support Darwin's theory of evolution because of the extreme complexity of what happens in a cell and among cells at the micro level. The human eye is an example of irreducible complexity, the chemical reactions required to give us "sight"' are highly complex. All the parts that make up the eye have to be in place and functioning for the eye to work. Half an eyeball won't work so if it doesn't work, why would nature keep it? Natural selection demands that it be abandoned. Read the book, for those of you allergic to God, relax, there is no God or religion in the book. It looks at Darwin's theory from a scientific point of view and says if you want to talk about evolution fine, but you have to find a better theory than Darwin's, because the sciences of microbiology and biochemistry don't support it. Remember these sciences didn't exist when Darwin came up with his theory.

The emperor has no clothes. Get over it.
-- M. L. Gilbert
Bristow, Virginia

I have met genuinely intelligent people who think they have found the ultimate trump card in asking "Yeah, but where did God come from? Who or what made Him?" Supposedly religion is brought low because it can't explain the origins of a Supreme Being.

I can't speak for any other religion; but Christianity answered this question long ago. The question itself betrays the error that since we are creatures all things (including God) are "creatures" as well. We assume the God is bound by the rigidity of time as we are. To us, everything has a beginning and an end. To think otherwise does not come naturally to us. But strictly speaking from this side of things, God exists in the present, He has an eternal future and He has an eternal past. In other words, God has always been. As stated in the Athanasian creed, the Father was neither begotten nor made.

There is some discussion among theologians that God exists both "in time" and "out of time" -- that every moment exists before Him in the "eternal now." While I respect this point of view I also find it a bit speculative. It also utterly befuddles us as we try to understand it. As Pascal once said, "How can finite beings such as ourselves understand the infinite?" The answer is we can't. Everything we really know about God was shown to us on the cross.
-- Michael Wm. Dooley
Indianapolis, Indiana

One of the responses to George Neumayr's piece in "No More Monkeying Around" stated the following:

"Darwin's theory of Natural Selection says that if two groups of animals of the same species are separated from one another over a period of generations, the groups will evolve in different ways and ultimately become separate species. That is science that considers the facts, makes a prediction and is subject to testing. Work with short-lived species, such as fruit flies, has proven this very kind of theorizing."

Is he arguing that small modifications occur in every species over time? No one disputes that, but that is not the same thing as crediting this process with the ability to create a new species. Using the example he cited, no one has ever produced a new and improved fruit fly by experimentation. Scientists have used radiation and other methods to produce mutant forms of flies with altered genetic patterns but none produced a new species that is an improvement over the existing one. By and large, these experiments yield grossly deformed or sterile offspring which that are doomed to quick elimination once they are re-introduced into the general population -- and the bottom-line is they are still fruit flies, not some heretofore unknown creature!

To take a concept that no one denies (observable change over time) and then make an unsupported leap of faith to extrapolate that it proves evolution is not science. Magic fairy dust is more credible. This is the type of tripe ardent supporters of evolution have been attempting to foist upon us for years. Let's have some real evidence for your bankrupt theory.
-- Rick Arand
Lee's Summit, Missouri

Judging from some of the reader response so far, the subject article is quite handily being proven true. I encourage I.D. theorists to take heart and come to hear as music to your ears the adherents of nineteenth-century Darwinism banging away on their tired straw men; victors over claims never made, slayers of windmills of the mind. Yet it's also sad to hear others' simple misstatements of fact or erroneous assumptions. Though for brevity I redirect all specifics to my own pages on the matter (page down for many pertinent chapters), it seems the majority of fighting in this ideological war is being done between unarmed opponents. So to all concerned, especially fellow I.D. proponents -- read and arm yourselves well!

"It is the height of bigotry to have only one theory of origins taught in our schools." -- The ACLU arguing for the inclusion of evolution when only creationism was taught.
-- Bill Needle
Bonner Springs, Kansas

It is not surprising that science is beginning to close the door on those of faith entering into the discussion regarding the entirety of creation. Anti-evolutionists proceed from an intellectual dead end. The basic thesis; that everything was created in a short period by forces outside of this universe and our understanding. Their creation hypothesis suffers in the process of the discussion because it is often missing a hidden rationale; Divine creation according to the literal interpretation of the Genesis story in the Hebrew Bible. It is difficult to hold a discussion under such conditions.

Anti-evolutionists dismiss the laws of physics, the vacuum speed of light, the forces of gravity, radiation, subatomic particles, and quantum relationships. They never seem to reconcile the fact that we see light from galaxies that was emitted more than five billion years ago. We are physically seeing through time as we peer into space. If the universe happened all at once less than 100,000 years ago, our skies at night would look very different. The objects we observe have an identifiable age, mass, and distance from us. 100,000 years is not enough time for the various types of radiation that we detect to arrive from their sources.

There also is a failure to account for fundamental processes of geology, plate tectonics, and paleontology. Anti-evolutionists offer no rational explanation for the stratification of the fossil record. If Homo sapiens existed since the beginning of time, then why do his remains not appear across a broader swath of the fossil record? The same goes for every other form of life that has preceded us on this planet. However, Antis often don't accept that the dinosaurs died out 65 million years in the past since no matter how much the science shows those fossils to be that age or much older, those bones could not be that old because they believe that they cannot be that old. The anti-evolutionists cannot accept the movement of the Earth's crust. Their "science" does not include Gondwanaland, Pangaea. It cannot abide the Precambrian, and has no ability to understand the Cambrian explosion.

The anti-evolutionists set themselves against sciences of many types but in particular they have difficulty with basic Biology. They strike at the dawning understanding of the functions and roles of DNA, RNA, and the genomes of all of the life on the planet. They artificially divide single cell life with multi-celled life, even though the fundamental mechanisms for both are identical. They can observe bacteria evolve to survive past antibiotic treatments, and toss of the event as a "micro" development versus a macro development.

Their assertion that we have never "proven" evolution is based upon a requirement that shows some unbroken chain of change from one form to another. A fossil snapshot of ungulate "A" giving birth to whale "B." For their level of absolute proof, an unbroken fossil genealogy would be necessary, and denies the basic premise of evolution that those direct changes do not occur. A critical element evolution is generational advantageous mutation and reinforcement. The antis impose standards on the "Theories of Evolution" (yes, there are many theories, and most in some form or combination are probably correct) that the theories do not even impose on themselves.

Unfortunately the anti-evolutionists do this out of fear. Their fear is that in not believing the literal word for word, sentence for sentence, description found in the Bible that they will be condemned to an eternity out of the presence of the Almighty. I also note a fear of not being "special" because if humans evolved from some lesser common form, how could humans be "special" and separate when they are related to apes in some way? For those fears, there is no salve, I suppose.

There is another "truth" within this bitter argument, however. Anti-Darwinists are not alone in their faith based approach to the Creation. Many Atheists have adopted Darwin as some sort of demigod, and his work as an "aholy" writ, their belief in our accidental uninspired existence borders on the religious. People with anti-religious agendas push Darwin, which would probably be much to his chagrin, as the anti-God, the faith buster, the undoer of superstition. Their use of the theory of evolution as refutation of the existence of God is much like a man asserting that because man invented the airplane, he can fly by flapping his arms.

Somewhere there is a mid-point, a place where science is the study of God's creation, and that God's creation is not magic. Someday more people will see that physics, chemistry, biology, geology and all the sub-sciences therein are tools that explain the Almighty's continuous and marvelous creation, and that evolution was how he made a man out of clay.

We are the only creature on this planet that can contemplate his own existence. I firmly believe that God made this universe by introducing uncertainty into what was before and no longer satisfactory to Him. The randomness of some change seems to be purposeful. Our intellect may ultimately be the greatest example of purposeful action. These are faith statements, however. The "Randomists" bear an equal burden of a type of faith, within this argument, as well. It takes a tremendous amount of faith to assert that all of these occurrences are complete accidents. Resolution of such diametrically opposed faith statements is unlikely.

I am a faithful, though flawed, Roman Catholic. I see, and neither did my Church at least until recently (though the authority of the Archbishop questioning the science is in doubt), nothing inconsistent between the Story of God's creation and the theory of evolution. One is a history of faith; one is a scientific explanation of growth and change. Neither theory should be cast out for the emotional comfort of the other adherent.
-- John W. Schneider, III
Bristow, Virginia

TAMPA TWO-STEP
Re: Lawrence Henry's Gone Country:

You're dead bang right about country music. At its best it can be transporting. And I think you identified one of its charms, its honesty. TAS readers should find the best of country simpatico. The message in most of it is profoundly conservative (even after excusing a certain amount of carousing and drinking and driving those pickup trucks when we should be sleeping it off).

I came up with Hank Sr. and Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells and later Patsy Cline on the radio. I left it for a decade or more when I was in college and later a young hotshot -- not cool, doncha know? -- but I came back to George Jones and Reba and Dolly and Willie and Alan Jackson. I'm with fiddles and steel guitars for the duration.

Keep on keepin' on. I'm glad you have a country station there deep in Sawks country (Yes, Virginia, you can be a country music aficionado and a BoSox fan).
-- Larry Thornberry
Tampa, Florida

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