Have We Seen The Last Shuttle Launch Already?

Maybe. I’d like to call in on the phone bridge to today’s press conference with Gerstenmaier and Shannon, but I don’t have a center press credential. I’m hoping that someone, perhaps Oberg, will ask what should be the obvious question today — what are the program consequences of shutting the system down now? It seems to me that the only reason that they wanted three more flights is to preserve the jobs as long as possible, and the only real lost capability will be AMS, which they could perhaps put up on something else (e.g., Falcon 9, if a Dragon were in place to tug it to ISS). Of course, as I noted over at Space Politics, Nelson et al don’t really care whether the Shuttle actually flies or not, as long as they keep spending the money. But it’s gong to look like a ripe place to cut.

Deinstitutionalization

I wrote yesterday that there are no acceptable changes to current law that would have prevented Saturday’s horrific events, but Clayton Cramer says that perhaps there is one:

In 1950, a person who was behaving oddly stood a good chance of being hospitalized. It might be for observation for a few days or a few weeks. If the doctors decided that this person was mentally ill, they would be committed, perhaps for a few months, perhaps longer. Hospital space was always at a premium, so generally, if someone was kept, there was a reason for it. The notion that large numbers of sane people were kept for no reason just has not survived my research efforts.

I will not claim that the public mental hospitals back then were wonderful places. They were chronically underfunded from the 1930s through the 1950s, and even into the 1960s, conditions in some were the shame of civilized people everywhere. (Ken Kesey wrote the novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest after taking LSD and going to work at a mental hospital, and the film by that name is not a documentary.) But it did mean that many people who were mentally ill were either locked up (where they did not have access to guns, knives, or gasoline) or at least not sleeping on a park bench, catching pneumonia.

A large fraction of the “homeless” population are people who in earlier times would have had “homes,” though little or no freedom. But it’s not clear the degree to which people who are slaves to the roiling and chaotic chemical impulses of their brains can be said to be free, either, and some percentage of them endanger the rest of us, as we saw. But speaking as someone with a history of this in his family, it’s a very tough problem.

[Tuesday morning update]

“Politically incorrect” thoughts from Dr. Helen.

[Bumped]

Stupidest Politician

It’s a tight contest:

Unfortunately for Clyburn, Kerrey is making a strong run for the championship himself, as RCP again captures. Kerrey says that the perp was “mentally ill and deeply troubled,” and therefore Kerrey said he would demur from making too much of his political beliefs — right after Kerrey announces that the attack was motivated by the upcoming vote to repeal ObamaCare.

Well, at least no one is blaming Bush. Yet.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, we have a new contender:

The attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords really did rattle Washington. It took an entire day before someone reacted by proposing new, horrible legislation.

That someone is Rep. Bob Brady D-Pa., who told CNN Sunday that he’d draft a bill making it a crime to use words or images that looked violent or threatening to public officials. “You can’t put bull’s eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official,” Brady said. “The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down.” The solution: Expand Title 18, Section 871 of the U.S. Code so that more public servants would be protected from written threats.

Would it be rude to point out the problem with this? There’s no evidence—none—that violent pictures or words inspired the violence in Arizona.

Gee, what was I saying the other day? Oh, right:

As usual, the event will be used as an excuse for everyone to saddle up their political hobby horses. In the coming days, we can count on renewed demands to do things that either wouldn’t have prevented this, or would so restrict our freedom and way of life as to have allowed this particular terrorist to win.

Right on cue.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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