An Interesting Google Ad

This looks like an interesting course:

Have you ever wondered: How do various scholarly discourses—cosmology, geology, anthropology, biology, history—fit together?

Big History answers that question by weaving a single story from a variety of scholarly disciplines. Like traditional creation stories told by the world’s great religions and mythologies, Big History provides a map of our place in space and time. But it does so using the insights and knowledge of modern science, as synthesized by a renowned historian.

This is a story scholars have been able to tell only since the middle of the last century, thanks to the development of new dating techniques in the mid-1900s. As Professor Christian explains, this story will continue to grow and change as scientists and historians accumulate new knowledge about our shared past.

I and others actually tried to condense this story down to something that can be told in forty-five minutes or so at the dinner table, which we tell on Moon Day (coming up two weeks from today, on the forty-first anniversary of the lunar landing).

What was really interesting, though (and what mindless stereotypers on the left will find boggling) was that it was a Google ad at National Review…

Muslim Self Esteem

I have some thoughts on the NASA administrator’s recent comments over at PJM this morning.

[Update a while later]

I see that (as is usually the case) most of the commenters over there can’t be bothered to read or comprehend what I wrote, but instead just take it as an opportunity to vent on a public bulletin board.

[Update a while later]

More thoughts from Victor Davis Hanson. Bottom line:

We all know that Bolden means well and wishes to get his agency on board with President Obama’s larger plan to create a kinder and gentler image to the Muslim world in order to lessen world tension and reduce terrorist attacks against the U.S. Unfortunately, world tensions are rising, and 2009 saw the most foiled terrorist attempts against the U.S. mainland since 2001, so one can wonder about the efficacy of these approaches, or even worry that they are having the opposite effect of what they intend. But the real problem with using NASA as an arm of the State Department’s current politically correct agenda is that it is supposed to have other things to do.

What’s really stupid is that it is doing other things, and good ones, but idiocy like this wipes it off the media map.

[Update mid morning]

Mike Griffin weighs in:

“NASA was chartered by the 1958 Space Act to develop the arts and sciences of flight in the atmosphere and in space and to go where those technologies will allow us to go,” Griffin said in an interview Tuesday. “That’s what NASA does for the country. It is a perversion of NASA’s purpose to conduct activities in order to make the Muslim world feel good about its contributions to science and mathematics.”

Griffin calls NASA’s new mission, outlined by space agency administrator Charles Bolden in an interview with the al-Jazeera news agency, “very bad policy for NASA.” As for NASA’s core mission of space exploration, Griffin points out that it has been reaffirmed many times over the years, most recently in 2005, when a Republican Congress passed authorizing legislation, and in 2008, when a Democratic Congress did the same thing.

Too bad that you didn’t take NASA’s core mission seriously, Mike. Instead, you completely ignored the recommendations of the Aldridge Commission and the CE&I contractors, and decided to make NASA’s core mission on-the-job training for rocket designers at Marshall, and building an unnecessary new rocket that didn’t even get the crew all the way to earth orbit without help from the crew module.

“NASA has been for 50 years above politics, and for 50 years, NASA has been focused by one president or another on space exploration,” Griffin says. “Some presidents have championed it more strongly than others, and it is regrettable that none have championed it as strongly as President Kennedy.

Oh, please. NASA has been above politics for fifty years? NASA has been ninety percent politics since its inception. It’s a friggin’ government agency. And Kennedy didn’t champion space exploration — he championed beating the Soviets to the moon in a battle in the Cold War. He told his own administrator that he didn’t care about space.

For all his unhappiness with the new policy, Griffin says blame for the situation does not belong with NASA administrator Charles Bolden, whom Griffin calls “one of the best human beings you will find.” “When I see reports in the media excoriating Charlie for this position, that blame is misplaced,” Griffin says. “It belongs with the administration. That is where policy for NASA is set. The NASA administrator does not set policy for NASA, the administrator carries it out.”

Really? Well, gee, Mike, maybe if you’d carried out the Bush policy, instead of perverting it yourself, the agency wouldn’t be in such a mess now.

The Long View

If we can turn the cultural and political momentum around on gun grabbing, can we do it on big government, too?

We’ll find out. I think that Pelosi, Reid and Obama have awakened a sleeping giant. The “Silent Majority” is finally speaking up.

[Update a couple minutes later]

From a surprising source — liberals should defend the Second Amendment:

while liberals certainly do not argue for lawlessness, and will acknowledge the necessity of certain restrictions, it is generally understood that liberals fight to broadly interpret and expand our rights and to question the necessity and wisdom of any restrictions of them.

Liberals can quote legal precedent, news reports, and exhaustive studies. They can talk about the intentions of the Founders. They can argue at length against the tyranny of the government. And they will, almost without exception, conclude the necessity of respecting, and not restricting, civil liberties.

Except for one: the right to keep and bear arms.

When it comes to discussing the Second Amendment, liberals check rational thought at the door. They dismiss approximately 40% of American households that own one or more guns, and those who fight to protect the Second Amendment, as “gun nuts.” They argue for greater restrictions. And they pursue these policies at the risk of alienating voters who might otherwise vote for Democrats.

And they do so in a way that is wholly inconsistent with their approach to all of our other civil liberties.

Of course, true liberals (as opposed to “progressives”) have always supported the Second Amendment. But I can understand why those who want government to rule the people wouldn’t like it.

[Update a few minutes later]

There are over 1400 comments, most of them the usual (“but what about nukes and cannons?” dorm-room stuff), but I was amused to see a little side thread among some of the leftists about the relative virtues of .357 versus .44 Magnum, and carryability. Diversity!

Thoughts On The Revolution

…from London:

The British are less religious these days than Americans are (although both the Anglican and the Catholic churches I saw this Sunday had quite large congregations), but the persistence of an established church has something to do with this feeling that the state is and should be an important moral agent in the life of the nation. The church, supporting and supported by the state, projects values into society and all good people are expected to rally around. (A Puritan version of this vision made it over into the New England states; the desire of many American liberals to use government to reshape society ultimately traces back to this English sense of the union of throne and altar.) In America, there were always too many sectarians who saw these attempts to unify the moral and the political as a form of tyranny, and in the US the ‘great and the good’ have had a harder time imposing a unified moral vision on society as a whole.

There are other ways in which the British are more comfortable with centralization than Americans are. We have no city like London: it is Britain’s New York, Washington and Los Angeles rolled up into one. The American founders debated keeping the capital in Philadelphia or New York, but decided to place it out in the boondocks. (In the same way many American states deliberately chose to establish their political capitals in smaller towns.) We don’t want too much power flowing to a single city and we don’t want the members of the elite to get too clubby and know each other too well; the rest of the country is suspicious of anyone who works on Wall Street or inside the Beltway. We don’t think America would be a better place if Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue got closer together.

America is too big, too diverse and too disputatious to settle down with one social model and one big establishment the way Britain has. This has its costs; ever since Franklin’s time Americans have looked with envy on British governance that often seems more effective, organized and, since the middle classes nudged the aristocrats out, more honest and competent than our own raggedy system. But although over time we have built a stronger and more effective central government, somehow we never quite go all the way. Thomas Jefferson and his allies ultimately defeated Alexander Hamilton’s effort to model our financial and political systems on Britain’s. Daniel Webster, Nicholas Biddle and Henry Clay were beaten by Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.

In that sense, the forces that drove the American Revolution are still coursing through our politics now. While a significant number of Americans (usually relatively affluent and well educated) want a transformational government acting in the service of a coherent moral vision, larger numbers of Americans start getting nervous when they see too much movement in that direction.

Read the whole thing.

Happy Independence Day

Sadly, I think that too many take our freedom for granted, and are too willing to trade it for government cheese. But I think that the past couple years have seen a reawakening of the principles on which the country was founded, as a backlash against the current political class, which to the degree that it isn’t entirely ignorant of them, seems to hold them in contempt.

Part of that backlash is two promising web sites, debuting today, Declaration Entertainment, and Big Peace, another Breitbart production. I wish them luck in their efforts to help restore the Republic.

It Just Makes You Want To Cry

Here we go again. No one at this American Thinker piece, neither the author or any of the commenters, has clue one about the new policy:

Now, with the Obama administration’s new “plan” for NASA effectively ending nationally funded human spaceflight, we drop a torch others are grabbing.

Where do they come up with this nonsense? How can one sanely characterize a policy that extends ISS until at least the end of the decade, and that has billions of dollars budgeted to buy crew services, as “ending nationally funded human spaceflight”?

NASA has long been planning to cancel the Shuttle program, which is understandable, considering budget constraints and the priority of the Constellation program. But to cancel both programs leaves the U.S. with no viable human space transport. The International Space Station, which represents a $100-billion investment by U.S. taxpayers, will be unreachable by scientists and astronauts from the U.S. without hitching a ride on Russian or Chinese space transport. This is unacceptable.

Or from commercial American services, which will be available much sooner than Ares/Orion. And later, he finally gets around to discussing this:

With the ending of the Constellation program, there are no future human missions for the U.S., except those made possible in commercial spaceflight. While commercial spaceflight is tremendous in its future implications, it will progress only in areas that have demonstrated a possible fiscal return…and space operations are so expensive and difficult that it is highly unlikely that any true exploration would occur. Commercial space flight is space exploitation, not space exploration. For the foreseeable future, an entity like NASA — which is nationally funded and not constrained by profits and losses — and a project such as Constellation is the best way to extend our reach into and knowledge of space. Robotic missions are all well and good for certain applications, but one does not learn anything about putting humans in space by putting robotic vehicles in space.


Where to start?

Look. We are simply transitioning from a mode in which NASA develops and operates its own earth-to-orbit vehicles to spec, to one in which it purchases transportation services to LEO for crew from private providers, as it has been doing for years for satellites and probes. No one said that NASA was “getting out of the planetary exploration business” when it launched LRO and LCROSS on a commercial Atlas, and if they had they would have rightly been considered insane. Why is it any different for astronauts?

Exploration starts when we get into LEO, not at Cape Canaveral.

And you cannot simultaneously know anything about Constellation and state that it is “the best way to extend our reach into and knowledge of space.” Constellation was a fiscal disaster waiting to happen. It was unaffordable both in terms of its development costs, and its operational costs. There are many better ways to accomplish that goal. The new policy is one of them.

Jeebus crow.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!