More Danger Than We Thought?

…from asteroids:

To properly explain the crater distribution, Ito and Malhotra say some other factor must have been involved. One possibility is that we simply haven’t seen all the craters yet: the ongoing lunar mapping missions may help on that score.

Another idea is that the Earth’s tidal forces tear Earth-crossing asteroids apart, creating a higher number of impacts than might otherwise be expected.

But the most exciting and potentially worrying possibility is that there exists a previously unseen population of near Earth asteroids that orbit the Sun at approximately the same distance as the Earth. These have gone unnoticed because they are smaller or darker than other asteroids, say Ito and Malhotra.

“More complete observational surveys of the near-Earth asteroids can test our prediction,” they say.

And let’s not waste too much time about it. By some reckonings, asteroid impacts represent the greatest threat to humankind that we are able to calculate.

Even more to the point, it’s not only the greatest one we can calculate, it’s probably the greatest one that we can actually mitigate (short of colonizing the galaxy).

Eliminating Private Insurance

Was Barack Obama lying then, or is he lying now? And why isn’t the mainstream press pointing this out?

Oh, right.

[Update a few minutes later]

Thoughts on the unprincipled toads who claim to represent our interests:

In the one exchange I’ve seen, Specter tried to explain how he goes about learning what’s in a 1,000 page piece of legislation. Specter said that, because of time constraints, his practice is to divide responsibility for reading the bill among his staffers. This explanation brought boos from the crowd.

The Senate fancies itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Senate is not a deliberative body at all — not when Senators concede that they would vote on legislation to overhaul one-sixth of our economy, and arguably the most important sixth, without having read the legislation. Specter’s defense that there’s not enough time for him to read it all himself simply raises the problem in a more acute from: why would the world’s greatest deliberative body consider legislation on a timetable that leaves Senators with insufficient to see for themselves exactly what’s in the bill?

Americans inevitably will disagree over how our health care system should operate. But nearly every American would agree that Senators should know what’s in major health care legislation before they vote on it, and that such legislation should not be enacted in a rush.

No, there are Americans like commenter “Jim” who thinks this setup is just dandy, as long as it gives him the socialist system that he wishes to impose by stealth on the rest of us.

[Early afternoon update]

Thoughts from Kevin Hassett:

Here’s how it works. Democrats propose something radical and unpopular, like President Barack Obama’s health-care plan. Then the Blue Dog Democrats traipse onto the public stage claiming to carry the banner of fiscal responsibility and moderation.

The show is covered the same way by the media every time. The virtuous, “centrist” Blue Dogs share the concerns of the American people, the story goes, and have enough votes to stop Nancy Pelosi and the fringe from radicalizing American policy. After “tough” negotiating sessions, the Democrats cave in to Blue Dog demands, producing a bill that is moderate and reasonable.

Except that it’s all just nonsense, meant to create the illusion that Pelosi isn’t dictating the details of Democratic bills in the House. In fact, she is.

Take the health bill. For any moderate and sensible individual, the key problem with Obama’s approach is that it calls for a public insurance plan, run by the government, that will compete with private plans.

…Make no mistake. If a public plan is enacted, it will move us swiftly toward socialized medicine with a single government payer, an objective Obama has endorsed in the past.

I agree that the Blue Dogs are not the friends of either the Republicans or the American people, but I also agree with Ramesh that there are other reasons to oppose this bill.

And as an aside, I hate the phrase “make no mistake.” It’s usually a bit of political rhetoric (like Obama’s verbal fetishes of “…as I’ve said before,” and “Let me be clear”) and throat clearing to indicate a massive whopper to come. I don’t think that Hassett is wrong, but I wish that he’d avoid that cliche.

On Race: “No, He Can’t”

Thoughts from Andrew Breitbart:

My long-held fear is that Mr. Obama is hiding something about his education. During the endless 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama would not release his college grades. Given that President George W. Bush and Sens. Al Gore and John Kerry all had proved mediocre grades were no impediment to a presidential bid, Mr. Obama likely had other concerns.

While I have no desire to see Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, I do want to see his college transcripts. My suspicion, one could even call it a conspiracy theory, is that Mr. Obama committed himself to a radical curriculum, aligned himself with the far-left professoriate, and sought to keep this biographical information from his political enemies, especially then-rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, for fear that they would paint the former community organizer and follower of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as something other than an advocate of racial reconciliation.

Through his acts over the last few weeks, Mr. Obama has reinforced my fears and my admittedly speculative thesis. He has shown he has neither the desire to provide a fresh angle on race, nor wants to draw attention to the bad ideas that dominate higher education and stifle the mainstream media.

Not only were there no fresh ideas about race and living in multiethnic America, but there were hardly even any stale ones. Perhaps this was because Mr. Obama’s and Mr. Gates’ initial – and thus probably most authentic – reactions in playing the race card had proved so unpopular, and so they just wanted to have their frosted malt beverages and get outta Dodge.

But for whatever reason – this ballyhooed beer summit proved merely to be a semi-private photo-op that just happened to be held at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There were rote, banal and opaque statements, with no public discussion, no interaction with reporters, or even with voices as identifiably conservative as Mr. Gates is identifiably liberal. For what Mr. Obama had called a “teachable moment,” the teachers were pretty much absent and there wasn’t even much of a lesson plan.

What a fraud this guy is. One also wonders why the administration is spending so much legal resources to avoid showing the original birth certificate, when they could simply end the controversy by releasing it.

Fortunately, while, as Lincoln said, you can fool some of the people all of the time, the number of those people seems to be shrinking, and below a majority in recent polls, at least among likely voters.

The God Who Bleeds

Jonah Goldberg says that the public is starting to see the man behind the curtain of the great Ozbama:

Obama undoubtedly has major accomplishments ahead of him, but in a real way the Obama presidency is over. His messianic hopey-changiness has been exposed for what it was, and what it could only be: a rich cocktail of pie-eyed idealism, campaign sloganeering, and profound arrogance.

As president, he’s tried to apply the post-partisan gloss of his campaign rhetoric to the hyper-partisan dross of his agenda. And he’s fooling fewer people every day.

Indeed, the one unifying theme of his presidency so far has been Obama’s relentless campaigning for a job he already has. That makes sense, because that’s really all Obama knows how to do. He’s had no significant experience crafting major legislation. He has next to no experience governing at all.

But he’s great at giving speeches, holding town halls, and chitchatting with reporters. So that’s largely what he does as president. The problem is that campaigning is different from governing. The former requires convincing promises about what you will do; the latter requires convincing arguments for what you are doing. He’s good at the former, not so good at the latter. Or as columnist Michael Barone puts it, he’s good at aura, bad at argument.

It’s revealing that liberals suddenly want Obama to spare the god and use the rod. Specifically, as Dick Polman notes in the Philadelphia Inquirer, they want Obama to channel Lyndon Johnson (whom no one confused for a quantum leap in our consciousness). Liberal historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says she wants BHO to go LBJ: “to take charge, to draw lines, to pressure, to threaten, to cajole.” Liberal activist Dean Baker says Obama should “get the list of every hardball nasty political ploy” that Johnson ever deployed.

As Polman rightly notes, this is crazy talk for the simple reason that Obama has nothing like LBJ’s experience, skill set, or treasure trove of chits and political IOUs. Obama can no more decide to become LBJ than Carrot Top can decide to become Laurence Olivier.

I guess that some people continue to avoid looking behind the curtain.

A Question That I Wish That The Augustine Panel Would Ask NASA

In light of our mandate to “…ensure the Nation is pursuing the best trajectory for the future of human space flight—one that is safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable…,” what do the defenders of Constellation think is “innovative” about it?

[Monday morning update]

Clark Lindsey has a summary of Augustine results to date, and some thoughts on their validity, particularly on the Ride subcommittee, which which I agree. They are comparing apples to eggs when they use a standard cost-plus industry analysis of Falcon 9 or a manned Atlas.

[Update mid morning]

John Kelly has some thoughts on what the Augustine options will include:

Yet another bid to replace the space shuttles appears doomed to cancellation.

This happens every time America tries to replace the shuttles. Past tries fell short technically, or blew the budget, or both. Ares is technically feasible. It’s closer to budget than earlier candidates. Still, it’s on political life support.

Panel members are frustrated because changing course means tossing aside time and money invested so far. They say there must be an overwhelming reason to kill it. Then, they keep citing a compelling reason: NASA’s budget can’t field the system on time. Not even close. Orion might not fly with people until 2017 at best. A moon landing? 2028.

Moreover, those dates are only possible if the shuttle is retired in 2010 and the station is forsaken in 2016. Sticking with Ares means a longer — and growing — space flight gap.

The panel is leaning toward a combination of launch systems, maybe including Ares V. The Ares I crew launcher is unlikely to be listed as an option that meets Obama’s goals.

And of course, Ares V makes no economic sense if there’s no Ares I, because much of the Ares I development costs were supposed to be a “down payment” on Ares V and, sans Ares I, it will have to be charged the full development costs on its own, making its cost even more insane. By the time the decision is made to go ahead with its very expensive development, it’s quite likely that private activities will have shown the way to becoming spacefaring, sans heavy lifter.

The reason that every attempt to replace Shuttle has failed is because the very notion of replacing Shuttle is flawed, as I pointed out five years ago in The Path Not Taken:

The chief problem with the Bush vision for NASA is not its technical approach, but its programmatic approach—or, at an even deeper level, its fundamental philosophy. This is not simply a Bush problem, but a NASA problem: When government takes an approach, it is an approach, not a variety of approaches. Proposals are invited, the potential contractors study and compete, the government evaluates, but ultimately, a single solution is chosen with a contractor to build it. There has been some talk of a “fly-off” for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, in which two competing designs will actually fly to determine which is the best. But in the end, there will still be only one. Likewise, if we decide to build a powerful new rocket, there will almost certainly be only one, since it will be enough of a challenge to get the funds for that one, let alone two.

Biologists teach us that monocultures are fragile. They are subject to catastrophic failure (think of the Irish potato famine). This is just as true with technological monocultures, and we’ve seen it twice now in the last two decades: after each shuttle accident, the U.S. manned spaceflight program was stalled for years. Without Russian assistance, we cannot presently reach our (one and only) space station, because our (one and only) way of getting to it has been shut down since the Columbia accident.

Even ignoring the fact that there will never be another Shuttle in the sense of a vehicle that meets all of its requirements, we have to stop thinking in terms of closing the dreaded “gap” with a NASA-developed vehicle with no redundancy. Every attempt to do so will suffer the same failure as the Shuttle itself. If it is to have a robust program, and one that is more than just a jobs program, NASA simply must learn to rely on the private sector for its human transportation at least to LEO, if not beyond, just as it does for unmanned payloads. This should be a prime lesson of the history of the past forty years since Apollo XI.

An Upcoming Space Debate

This looks ilke it might be interesting. It might even be interesting in a way unanticipated by the folks at The Economist.

If you read the summary, it sounds like the standard media template — humans to the moon versus robots. But I’m pretty sure that Mike Gold is all in favor of sending humans to the moon — he’s probably just opposed to NASA doing it the way they propose to do it. I suspect that the debate will not be at all about humans versus robots, but about the best way to get people back to the moon. Which is a much more useful debate, but it may not be the one that the people who are putting it together intended. I wonder how the debaters were chosen?

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!