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Calling all bloggers!

You have until Monday night at 10:00 PM to get your entries in for this week’s Carnival of the Clueless.

Last week’s was the best yet with 26 entries from both the right and left side of the political spectrum hammering those individuals and groups among us who are truly clueless.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

Each week, I’ll be calling for posts that highlight the total stupidity of a public figure or organization – either left or right – that demonstrates that special kind of cluelessness that only someone’s mother could defend…and maybe not even their mothers!

Everyone knows what I’m talking about. Whether it’s the latest from Bill Maher or the Reverend Dobson, it doesn’t matter. I will post ALL ENTRIES REGARDLESS OF WHETHER I AGREE WITH THE SENTIMENTS EXPRESSED OR NOT..

You can enter by emailing me, leaving a link in the comments section, or by using the handy, easy to use form at Conservative Cat.

By: Rick Moran at 7:34 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)


As this article in the Washington Post makes clear, there’s probably nothing that can be done to avoid what could turn out to be the most calamitous event in American history; the coming Bird Flu pandemic:

Public health officials preparing to battle what they view as an inevitable influenza pandemic say the world lacks the medical weapons to fight the disease effectively, and will not have them anytime soon.

Public health specialists and manufacturers are working frantically to develop vaccines, drugs, strategies for quarantining and treating the ill, and plans for international cooperation, but these efforts will take years. Meanwhile, the most dangerous strain of influenza to appear in decades—the H5N1 “bird flu” in Asia—is showing up in new populations of birds, and occasionally people, almost by the month, global health officials say.

If the virus were to start spreading in the next year, the world would have only a relative handful of doses of an experimental vaccine to defend against a disease that, history shows, could potentially kill millions. If the vaccine proved effective and every flu vaccine factory in the world started making it, the first doses would not be ready for four months. By then, the pathogen would probably be on every continent.

Am I being an alarmist? Am I overstating the potential for unmitigated disaster?

I wish I was. What the article makes clear and what international health officials have been saying for months is that it is only a matter of time before the strain of flu currently infecting millions of birds mutates into a pathogen not only with the ability to jump from birds to humans, but more catastrophically, a mutation that would enable it to leap from human to human via casual contact.

This would bring about a social and economic catastrophe the likes of which this country has never seen.

Other measures would go well beyond the conventional boundaries of public health: restricting international travel, shutting down transit systems or nationalizing supplies of critical medical equipment, such as surgical masks.

But Osterholm argues that such measures would fall far short. He predicts that a pandemic would cause widespread shutdowns of factories, transportation and other essential industries. To prepare, he says, authorities should identify and stockpile a list of perhaps 100 crucial products and resources that are essential to keep society functioning until the pandemic recedes and the survivors go back to work.

In order to contain the outbreak, the federal government will have to assume enormous powers, ordering the closing of schools, office buildings, factories, malls – anywhere and anyplace that large numbers of people congregate. The simple chore of shopping for food will become a nightmare as strict limits will be placed on the number of people that will be allowed in a store at any one time.

Every time you walk out of your house, you’ll have to think is this trip worth the risk of getting sick?

The strain on the public health system will be overwhelming. Hospitals will be filled to capacity. Workers on the front line of the epidemic – doctors, nurses, and other health care workers – will be hardest hit straining the ability of hospitals to deliver even basic services.

How do we know this? Because the US and the rest of the world went through a flu pandemic before; the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918. That worldwide calamity killed more than 30 million people, 675,000 in the United States alone. By contrast, on average 36,000 deaths are attributed to flu each year in the United States.

Given the massive change in population density worldwide plus the advent of international air travel the World Health Organization is estimating that a Bird Flu pandemic could kill 300 million worldwide. Even their pie-in-the-sky best case scenario where the world is given another year or two to prepare places the number of dead at 7 million.

We may not have that long.

So what makes this version of the flu any different than the disease that strikes the US every winter?

Pandemic influenza is not an unusually bad version of the flu that appears each winter. Those outbreaks are caused by flu viruses that have been circulating for decades and change slightly year to year.

Pandemics are caused by strains of virus that are highly contagious and to which people have no immunity. Such strains are rare. They arise from the chance scrambling and recombination of an animal flu virus and a human one, resulting in a strain whose molecular identity is wholly new.

The reason Bird Flu has flared up in Asia is because of the close proximity of people and birds. This closeness has been seen throughout history as a prerequisite for viruses making the jump from animals to humans.

What has international health officials especially worried is that this particular flu’s mortality rate doesn’t moderate once it makes the jump to humans. Where the disease might have a mortality rate of 70% in birds, that number would be expected to fall precipitously once making the jump to humans, dropping to less than 10%. The reason is the simple evolutionary strategy of the bug. In order to survive it must keep infecting humans. To do that, it has to keep the host alive long enough to infect someone else. This gives our own body’s defenses time to marshall its immune forces to do battle with the invader.

However, this strain of Bird Flu has shown a 34% mortality rate. And while there’s a chance that figure will go down in any pandemic, compared to the 1-3% mortality of ordinary flu worldwide the numbers would still be catastrophic.

As for the economic effects, there would not be a parallel in American history. The reason goes to the heart of what globalization means to our economy and how economic activity in the United States is truly the engine that drives the economies of the world.

If the kinds of draconian quarantine measures contemplated by the government were initiated, the economy would deflate like a punctured balloon. Even if the CDC were able to contain the epidemic quickly – say, as quickly as a modern industrialized Hong Kong was able to contain the recent SARS outbreak, we’d still be looking at a period of about two months of government mandated reduced economic activity.

What would that mean for the economy?

The only comparable event we have to go on would be the economic impact of 9/11. And while there are as many estimates for that as there are economists, the GAO did a round-up of estimates that would seem to indicate that the attacks cost the US economy upwards of $165 billion in direct costs with a loss of perhaps as many as 175,000 jobs. Indirect costs that are still being felt today could be 3 times that much.

That was one attack in one city. The flu would hit several cities almost simultaneously and cause massive economic dislocation due to the virtual halt in economic activity in those and perhaps most regions of the country. I wouldn’t want to contemplate what that would mean over a two month period but given that imports and exports would be massively affected due to probable restrictions on loading and unloading of ships, I daresay that the entire world would be plunged into an economic nightmare that would overwhelm the ability of most third world government to deal with the crisis.

I really hope I’m wrong in all this. But seeing how the WHO has been scrambling for the last 18 months to try and contain each and every outbreak of human to human contact, I’m not very optimistic. And the CDC is taking the possibility very, very seriously.

As I said back in May when this story first started to percolate, I’m going to keep a close eye on the far east news services. I would suggest you do the same. Given the incompetence of the MSM, by the time they start reporting this story in earnest, the epidemic will be upon us and it will be too late.

I’m also going to make some common sense plans including purchasing a good supply of surgical masks and stock up on canned goods and other non-perishables.

I hope a year from now everyone can call me an old goat who panicked over nothing.


I thought that this would be a story tailor made for the Shadow Media but at the moment, only 9 blogs have linked to the WaPo article.

One of them is Fragments of Floyd:

We (global mankind, science and public health) have not adequately anticipated and prepared for such a scenario, even though we could have seen it coming for a decade or more. If we could turn back time 15 years and know with certainty the pathogens we would face in the future, would there have been any better cooperation between continents? Would we have wasted so much talent, wealth and technology (ostensibly) to protect our people and way of life from acts of terrorism if we’d accepted that it was emerging infectious disease that posed by far the greater threat to our economy and to our very survival?

It seems we may be very near the moment of truth. Is it too late to turn our swords into vaccines?

I don’t buy the argument but he has a point (we would have to face both – there’s no “either, or” – much like our dilemma at the outset of WW II: Germany or Japan?)

His point about cooperation is spot on. Read his post for how that pandemic might be nipped in its infancy with an international pooling of resources.


It appears that most of the other A-list bloggers don’t find this story worth their time with the exception of Glenn Reynolds, who thinks we should be worried “a bit” and John Cole who at least has the common sense to share a small degree of my concern:

This isn’t going away, it can’t be negotiated, so we better start preparing. Just as a curious side note, the the late night crazies at Art Bell’s Coast to Coast have been fretting about this for years.

What next! Will a Yeti walk out of the woods and show up in a bar in Yakima?


The Maryhunter has posted his learned and fascinating response here.

By: Rick Moran at 7:08 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (26)

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CATEGORY: War on Terror

Ever since the attacks of September 11, 2001 Americans across the political spectrum have been seeking to “understand” terrorism. We’re very good at this sort of thing. It’s a part of our national character commented on by such diverse intellects as de Tocqueville and Winston Churchill. We are a nation of problem solvers, tinkerers, do-it-yourselfers; we’re good at taking things apart to get at the nub of a problem be it a faulty condenser or where to build a railroad.

What we’re not so good at is “understanding” the motivations underlying human behavior for which most of the evils of this world both past and present can be ascribed. In truth, understanding the nature of evil has not been one of our strong suits. We have either hugely simplified it using “the devil made him do it” explanation or more recently, refused to acknowledge that evil even exists. That doesn’t stop us from trying to catalog, chart, ponder, pontificate on, and generally make an intellectual mess of trying to explain and understand the historical and philosophical forces that are responsible for the connection between modern Islam and terrorism.

The problem is that Islam itself resists such scrutiny. Caught up in a world where the basic tenets of their religion clash with the reality of life confronting its nearly 1 billion adherents, Islam is in need of some serious introspection. The old verities are no longer adequate comfort for young Muslims who see the rapid pace of change in non-Muslim countries and ache to participate in some meaningful way in the adventures available to their 21st century counterparts. This is especially true in Europe where segregated immigrant societies seethe with discontent over being left off the train pulling the engine of progress both in their adopted homeland and back home where their extended families – extremely important in Arab culture – waste away in poverty and bitterness.

For us, it becomes too easy to overgeneralize when looking at Islam as it’s dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It is this resistance that forms the basis of terrorism.

When talk show host and NRO contributor Michael Graham took a stab at trying to describe this resistance by Islam to modernity by claiming that the religion itself was a terrorist organization, he was fired for his trouble. Mr. Graham had just returned from an emotional first hand look at the War on Terror in Iraq and I wish his detractors would have cut the man some slack for that reason. He was, after all, not saying anything that can’t be found in many comment threads and discussion forums on the net. The fact that he’s a radio talk show host with many thousands of listeners should not have made much of a difference. After all, the great advantage of living in a free society is that when one hears something they disagree strongly enough with on the radio or television, they can switch the infernal machine off or change the channel to something more agreeable.

I do it all the time. Whenever I hear the Reverend Al Sharpeton start talking, I generally either switch off or switch over. Sharpeton’s hate-filled rants appeal to both a certain segment of the African American population as well as the mainstream press. He does not appeal to me. Hence, the Reverend’s rants are cause enough for me to tune him out.

If enough people do that, Mr. Graham then gets fired for poor performance, not for saying what he thinks, even if many believe what he said was wrong. However, in Mr. Graham’s case, his employers – who initially stood by him – eventually caved in to pressure from the professional victimhood society of CAIR. The Council on American Islamic Relations – several members of which have been indicted and convicted for aiding and abetting terrorists – has proven its power with the media many times in the past. The Fox TV show “24” was actually forced to change a story line so that Muslims wouldn’t be portrayed in a purely negative light. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in some of these meetings between CAIR and network execs just to see how the terrorist apologists frightened a major network so much that halfway through filming their number one hit series, they changed the plot to accommodate them.

In Mr. Graham’s case, there was an organized attempt to boycott advertisers for the station. This tactic is as American as apple pie and proves that when it comes to apologizing for terrorists, CAIR will even invoke the tactics used by its putative enemy.

What CAIR or any other so-called “moderate” Islamic group cannot do is to refute Mr. Graham’s thesis point by point. To recognize that there is even a discussion about whether Islam itself is the problem would open the door to introspection. And at the present time, this is something that Islamic culture simply is incapable of doing.

It was much the same with the United States regarding the issue of slavery. For four score and seven years, the issue colored politics in the US the same way that terrorism now colors any discussion of Islam. And like our ancestors – both North and South – we couldn’t deal with the fundamental issue that was both the reason and moral justification for slavery; that our Constitution codified it, made it legal, indeed burned it into the soul of the democratic process by assigning a value of 3/5 of a human being to those held in servitude for purposes of Congressional representation. The way that power itself was exercised depended on slavery.

So like a beetle enmeshed in a spider’s web, there simply was no way out. The threads that bound slavery to our political process also precluded any discussion of getting rid of the spider. To do so would open doors to changing too many things. The South had developed both an economy and a culture that wound the spider’s threads so tightly around it that only the radical surgery of civil war could break them. That surgery took almost 100 years to recover from and to this day still colors some of our politics.

So it is with Islam. The spider has woven a web that has enmeshed its adherents in bloody resistance to change both for the religion itself and for the societies where believers live. The justification for the blood can be found in their “Basic Law” of the Koran. Unlike our Constitution which has a process for amendment, the Koran being the word of Allah does not have the same luxury. Hence, there is no way to approach the problem from a purely religious point of view. In fact, any re-interpretation of the Koran will only exacerbate the problem as the resulting schism will serve to further radicalize those who refuse to accept the change.

This is why our current policy of trying to reform the political societies where terrorism is nurtured has a chance of succeeding. By modernizing politics in those benighted countries, there’s a chance that eventually people will stop looking for justification to kill from their Holy Book and instead look for reasons to live. The medieval Christan church found plenty of justification in the Bible for burning witches, killing Jews, and torturing heretics. It wasn’t until the rise of nation states in Europe with the subsequent loss of power by the Church that people stopped looking for justifications to punish and instead looked to the Bible for a way to live in a modern world that these practices mostly died out.

We can only hope for something similar to happen with Islam. When I hear people say that what Islam needs is a Martin Luther King, Jr. I have to disagree. They don’t need a King: They need a Martin Luther to nail 95 reasons to live to the door of a mosque.


Try Basil’s Brunch. The layout looks sumptuous.

By: Rick Moran at 8:54 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (8)

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CATEGORY: War on Terror

Just when you think the rhetoric of those seeking to pollute the 9/11 Memorial with anti-American propaganda can’t sink any lower, up steps the New York Times to call those of us who come down on the side of a site that’s totally devoted to the events and heroes of that tragic day “un-American.”

It is a campaign about political purity – about how people remember 9/11 and about how we choose to read its aftermath, including the Iraq war. On their Web site,, critics of the cultural plan at ground zero offer a resolution called Campaign America. It says that ground zero must contain no facilities “that house controversial debate, dialog, artistic impressions, or exhibits referring to extraneous historical events.” This, to us, sounds un-American.

The Times defends the size of the Memorial by saying it “is larger than the public spaces in the Whitney Museum.” A Memorial honoring the victims of the largest, the most destructive, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States should not be compared in any way, shape or form to an art museum (I will forgo commentary about the anti-American nature of much of the politically motivated art at the Whitney). By drawing an analogy with the Whitney, the Times unconsciously reveals how it views the events of 9/11 and its aftermath.

It’s a theme I’ve dealt with many times here; there is a sizable segment of the left that cannot grasp or refuses to see that the world changed following 9/11. They see terrorism as a “nuisance” and as a problem for international law enforcement. The interconnectedness of al Qaeda with rogue states is not something to concern ourselves with. The war in Iraq is unnecessary because Saddam Hussein wasn’t an “immediate” threat.

This is a mindset that can compare the interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo with the behavior of the worst tyrants in history because at bottom, they do not believe we are at war. They concentrate on everything but the ongoing struggle because to do so would explode cherished myths both about the War on Terror and the United States in general.

The hearkening back to Viet Nam, the constant comparisons with Hitler, the belief in conspiracies, all seek to obscure the harsh reality that there are thousands and thousands of terrorists out there supported by millions of others who wish to wipe us off the face of this earth! For whatever reason, this hasn’t penetrated the minds of the editorial page writers at the New York Times. They see this battle over the Memorial and truly can’t understand why anyone would object to the casual anti American bias that’s become so commonplace to the left that no one gives it a second thought anymore. They are playing by rules that became obsolete the second that first plane plowed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. And sadly, this editorial reveals their lack of understanding of how truly hallowed a place the Memorial is to not just the families of the fallen, but to those who understand the nature of the life and death struggle we’re in and see any besmirching of America through the selective use of history to be sacrilege.

Karen Lee who lost her husband on that horrible day sums it up perfectly: “What happened that day was not about left and right. It was about right and wrong.”

Given the moral relativism of the Times and the rest of the lickspittle left, it’s hardly surprising that they just don’t get it.

To contribute or get involved in the fight to Take Back the Memorial, go here.


Michelle Malkin:

All I’ll add is that a newspaper dumb enough to publish editorials like this one in a post-9/11 world has some nerve lecturing anyone else about a “sense of proportion”—let alone about what’s “un-American.”

‘Nuff said.

By: Rick Moran at 7:58 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (11)

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I received a comment on the originial post from someone purporting to be Larry Johnson:

Hey boneheads,
I actually spoke with Admiral Inman. He said he was misquoted (Gee, what a surprise, the NRO can’t get its story straight). He’s disgusted by the attacks on Valerie Plame. You guys only got one thing right, Admiral Inman is a class act.

After quickly looking behind me to make sure that I was still the only person blogging on this site, I accessed a technorati search on “Larry Johnson” that referenced both my post below and a post on Josh Marshall’s TCMP Cafe from guest blogger Larry Johnson that does indeed talk about a phonecon between Johnson and Inman:

Admiral Inman was quoted out of context. I spoke with him this afternoon after alerting him to the National Review online quote. He takes very seriously the compromise of Valerie’s cover. He was telling Mr. Spruiell that anyone in the intel community would not be in a position to intuitively know whether Valerie was or was not undercover at first glance. However, since they are in the intel community they have clearances and should not be out and about talking about people they do not know.

Um…no, that’s not what Admiral Inman was saying. Inman was specifically taking the CIA leakers to task for their dirty work during the campaign last fall.

For the record, Valerie Plame was not working as a CIA analyst, she was undercover, per press reports, as an Energy Analyst for Brewster Jennings. Inman did not misstate her position, and told me he has no firsthand knowledge of her cover status. This speaks very poorly about the journalistic standards of the NRO.

Is it bad journalism to print exactly what Admiral Inman said? Inman said he didn’t know Mrs. Wilson’s status. NRO had no comment on that. Where are journalistic standards violated?

Hey Larry! Can’t you take it when someone agrees with you?

Here, however is the meat of Mr. Johnson’s response to NRO and frankly, scares the wholly living beejeebees out of me.

To show how pathetically ignorant the National Review is on this matter, there have been CIA officers who started off as an analyst, who like me were undercover. They later switched-over to an operations officer career track and are now serving overseas in undercover positions.

What is so despicable about all of this is that the conservative movement, which was born in part from the efforts of Whittaker Chambers to expose communist treachery, is now serving as apologists for political operatives who have destroyed an intelligence network and at least one case officer’s distinguished career. The new standard for the Republican National Committee—Karl Rove didn’t commit a crime. Boy, there’s a slogan to run on, “At Least I Wasn’t Indicted”

Speaking of “pathetically ignorant,” it would come as pretty much a shock to most conservatives to learn that “the conservative movement… was born in part from the efforts of Whittaker Chambers to expose communist treachery…” I guess philosophers like F.A. Hayek, Russell Kirk, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver, Clinton Rossiter, and Leo Strauss not to mention Norman Podhoretz, Ben Wattenberg, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and other Neo Conservatives (you know, the real “neocons,” not everybody that falls under the rubric of the left’s lazy habit of calling anyone who disagrees with them a “necon”) don’t carry as much influence as the nearly 60 year old case involving Whittaker Chambers.

What the heck was this guy doing working for the CIA? My 16 year old cousin knows more about the history of conservatism than Larry Johnson. And this was someone who served as Deputy Director in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism as well as working in the Operations Directorate at the CIA.

That statement – so ignorant of history and blatantly partisan in its intent – along with Mr. Johnson’s pre-9/11 statement about terrorism not being a big problem, causes me to question the sanity of whoever is doing the hiring and promoting at our intelligence services.

Chambers you may recall, was a former Communist who outed Alger Hiss as a communist spy working for the state department. The Congressional hearings on the matter as well as Hiss’ trial became left wing shorthand for the dangers of modern conservatism. The liberals held the Hiss case against Richard Nixon till the day he died and to this day (as Ann Coulter has noted in her book Treason) the left insists that Hiss was an innocent victim of a smear campaign by Chambers and Nixon.

The only problem with that is that Hiss was guilty as sin.

Revelations contained in the Venona Files prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hiss was not loyal to the United States government, was a member of the Communist Party USA, and that he gave Stalin a preview of our negotiating position at the Yalta Conference that ended up dividing Europe into “spheres of influence” between the west and the Soviet Union, thus condemning millions of people to living lives under a barbarous tyranny.

To replay the entire Chambers-Hiss-Nixon drama would take up more bandwidth than Mr. Johnson is worth . For the barebones facts of the case, Wikpedia has a good summary. Hiss was only convicted of perjury even though the US government was aware of his perfidy. Not wanting to take a chance on losing their ability to intercept Soviet cables, (the Venona files) an ability that would have been revealed if the government put on the table everything it had on him, Hiss got away with his treason. He was even re-admitted to the bar in 1975 after it was revealed that there was a considerable amount of government misconduct in his perjury trial. Of course, the misconduct did not obviate the perjury itself nor did it negate the fact that Hiss was a traitor to his country.

Hiss was considered a martyr until the Venona files became public. Even then, many liberals refused to believe the evidence of their own eyes and prefer to think Alger Hiss is innocent. After all, they’re part of the “Reality Based Community” which these days actually means “Never let reality stand in the way of obfuscating the truth.”

The fact that Mr. Johnson attempts to raise the specter of Chambers is revealing in that this “registered Republican” is more of a partisan hack and less the heroic defender of Maiden Wilson’s honor than he lets on.


NRO’s Stephen Spruiell responds to Larry Johnson’s inaccurate post at TCMP Cafe referenced above. The happless Mr. Johnson is gonna need some rectal surgery to repair the damage done by Mr. Spruiell’s scathing comeback:

So let’s review: I removed an inaccurate statement that reflected well on Rove and the administration, and Larry Johnson accuses me of taking Inman out of context in order to make his statements reflect well on Rove and the administration. It’s this kind of analytical prowess that led Larry Johnson to get the pre-9/11 terrorist threat so unbelievably wrong.

More importantly, I have no idea what Inman told Johnson, but when he was speaking to me his feelings on the Plame leak were crystal clear. Inman felt that CIA officers with a political axe to grind posed far more of a threat to intelligence-gathering sources and methods than any administration officials who may have leaked the name of a woman who shuttled back and forth to Langley every day.

It sucks that I have to interrupt my wedding to rebut this clueless publicity hound, but I’m not going to let him get away with claiming a monopoly on the capital-T Truth. For someone who has publicly demonstrated such faulty perception regarding the greatest threat of our time, I’m surprised Johnson is so arrogant.

The only surprise is that Johnson can walk and chew gum at the same time. He’s not arrogant…he’s blissfully ignorant.

By: Rick Moran at 5:37 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

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CATEGORY: War on Terror

Watching the beginning of Fox’s Over There last night, I was struck by how much TV had changed since I was growing up.

We were allowed a limited number of hours to watch TV during the week – 10 hours in 5 days as I recall – and every Sunday night as we ate our graham crackers in milk, we would have to decide among the 5 of us what shows we would be watching for the entire week (day and night). Note: The strictures applied during the summer months as well with the exception that Cubs and White Sox games were not counted against the total.

Because of this, it wasn’t until years later that I saw The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres, Gunsmoke, and a host of others. But there was one show that all of us in the family couldn’t wait to watch; a show whose gritty realism (we thought) made our wargames that much more compelling to play. Combat, starring Vince Morrow was always on the list.

Looking at the re runs today, I see how jaded we’ve become. Unless there are the sickening sounds of heads exploding like a ripe melons or torrential blood flows gushing from gaping wounds along with huge explosions that send people flying through the air, it just ain’t war. Nevertheless, Combat managed to hold our attention through what passed for action sequences as well as some characters that everyone who has seen a John Wayne war movie can relate to.

There was the tough, no nonsense Sarge who cared about his men more than himself. The soldiers were usually a colorful lot drawn from all corners of the country. There’s usually the street smart city guy, the farm boy, the quiet intellectual, and the one who always sasses the higher ups. Combat had all of this plus war on a much more personal level than John Wayne movies which were usually about grand themes like courage and patriotism. The men in Combat were always tired, always hungry, never took showers, and nervous about the enemy. To us, it was as real as it got.

I wonder if the kids today will take away a similar impression of Stephen Bochco’s Over There? Hell, do kids today still play “war?” The drama seems to have many stock elements of a war drama – the big change being a welcome addition of different skin colors and gender. And there’s actual foul language and lots of blood (a round from a grenade launcher hits a terrorist in the chest and blows the top half of his body to smithereens while his legs take a few extra steps). But at bottom, all I could think of while watching it was Combat for the 21st century.

I have no clue as to how realistic it was so I decided to gather some reaction for our best and bravest in the Shadow Media – the Milbloggers as well as some thoughts from a few non military types.

Blackfive checked out the website and found the characters “cartoonish” so he didn’t watch. But he opened the linked post to comments on the show, many of which are very interesting.

Charmaine Yost actually liveblogged the darn thing and has some comments both perceptive and snarky.

The Air Force Pundit saw it and had this to say: “Oh, did I mention this show sucks from a military perspective? I know in the USAF we don’t do alot of close in battle drill, but it would take a 4 year old to figure out we don’t all hide within 15 feet of each other, and then walk SLOWLY toward the enemy in a STRAIGHT LINE. Uh, didn’t we pretty much give that up about 1864?”

The Word Unheard couldn’t bring himself to watch for this reason: “Now, there are two things that the ‘Hollywood / television’ industry is incapable of doing with very few exceptions, and those are 1.) removing politics from any subject and 2.) accurately portraying any aspect of military life, the military experience or understanding anything accurately ‘through the eyes’ of military personnel.”

A Healthy Alternative to Work has some thoughts about past war dramas and this one:

In the movie M*A*S*H, and basically any other movie about wars set in Vietnam or before, one of the boons given to writers was the fact that the draft was in place. You could include a definitively non-military character like Donald Sutherland’s Capt. Hawkeye Pierce and explain his presence away by saying, “Oh, he was drafted.”

Now, however, times are different, and we’ve got an all-volunteer force (which, by the way, I don’t think is going to change, recruiting shortfalls notwithstanding).

This forces the writers to answer an important question for each character – Why is this person in the military?

Alarming News has something positive to say:

I highly recommend the show. I was pleasantly surprised to find that politics are kept to a minimum. The show focuses on the personal and daily lives of the soldiers, and the realizations they come to while fighting on the front lines. The battle scenes are done very well, and the small things that we don’t think about very often are brought to light in several aspects. Like what the heck you do when you have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the desert.

Argghhh has a great roundup both pro and con from milbloggers and adds this:

As for going down in flames… if the combat scenes and characters can suck you in, I suspect people will watch it. It plays to the low expectations people set for stuff like that. The more interesting part will be… does this set the Zeitgeist for the war… as M*A*S*H kind of did for Korea (and Vietnam, too)? The characters of M*A*S*H were generally likable, and we military types all knew Burn’s and Houlihan’s… but did the show represent Korea? Not really. Does it in the communal mind… arguably.

Interesting question – and I suspect this audience isn’t going to be diverse enough in outlook and opinion (no slam guys, but on things military and the war, we’re pretty much a cluster, it’s on things social where we have our spread) to answer this question well… but how many people’s perceptions of Vietnam are shaped by Platoon… or by We Were Soldiers?

Finally, Ace didn’t like it AT ALL:

Steven Bochco can suck my c**k.

This is the sort of glib liberal fool that Hollywood entrusts for this sort of project. No Donald Belasarius, no Steven J. Cannell.

And yes, I know Steven J. Cannell would have our troops assisted by cute robots and zooming around Baghdad in “Assault Ferraris,” but sh*t, I’d still watch it.

Well, no I wouldn’t. But I’d promote it.

Generally then, it would appear that our military for the most part doesn’t take to the show and righty bloggers ditto.

Me? I’m going to withhold judgment for a few more weeks before I declare the show a lost cause. I found the combat scenes compelling (if not realistic) and I’m curious to see if they’ll continue portraying the enemy as fanatics.

When advancing toward our heroes who have taken cover behind a berm, you can hear the enemy saying “Allahu Akbar!” Nice touch and one of the only times I’ve seen terrorists portrayed as religious fanatics. So for the time being, I’ll continue watching.

By: Rick Moran at 6:07 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)


This article originally appears in The American Thinker

Admiral Bobby Inman is known as one of the most brilliant men who ever worked in the intelligence game. His service as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence under William Casey as well as his stint as Director of the National Security Administration was legendary for the breadth of intellect and experience he brought to the job. Here’s how one writer put it:

One doesn’t have to be around Bob Inman long to realize that one is dealing with a different type of brain, a type not shared by many. He is the intersection of micro and macro, at once displaying an insane head for details, and in the next sentence, an awe-inspiring grasp of the big picture, seeming to see the dominoes and dynamics of world events at a glance. Omni called him “simply one of the smartest people ever to come out of Washington or anywhere,” and Newsweek dubbed him “a superstar in the intelligence community [and] a tough-minded administrator.”

He is also a recipient of the DIA’s Defense Superior Service Medal for “achievements unparalleled in the history of intelligence.”

Kinda makes Valerie Plame’s #1 defender Larry Johnson look like a fool. Of course, Johnson doesn’t need to be compared to Inman for that to happen. Admiral Inman didn’t say that ” terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way,” 60 days before 9/11. Johnson did.

Also unlike Larry Johnson, Admiral Inman is truly non-partisan. He was named to replace that fumbling bumble of a Defense Secretary under President Clinton Les Aspin in January of 1994. But then less than a week before his confirmation hearings started, he withdrew his name. At the time, Inman claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by Bill Safire of the New York Times and Senator Robert Dole. That charge was widely derided in the mainstream press as a fantasy. This didn’t stop many of those same pundits and reporters from starting a whispering campaign about his sexuality. Inman said enough is enough and left Washington for good.

And while the conspiracy charges against Safire and Dole were never proven, Safire did in fact have a long standing grudge against Inman:

In early 1981, Israel suddenly bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Puzzled, Inman, then deputy head of the CIA, realized that Israel could only have known where the nuclear reactor was located by having gotten access to U.S. satellite photographs. But Israel’s access was supposed to be limited to photographs of direct threats to Israel, which would not include Baghdad. On looking into the matter, furthermore, Inman found that Israel was habitually obtaining unwarranted access to photographs of regions even farther removed, including Libya and Pakistan. In the absence of Reagan’s head of the CIA, Bill Casey, Inman ordered Israel’s access to U.S. satellite photographs limited to 250 miles of its border. When Casey returned from a South Pacific trip, his favorite journalist and former campaign manager, Bill Safire, urged Casey to reverse the decision, a pressure that coincided with complaints from Israeli Defense Minister General Ariel Sharon, who had rushed to Washington to try to change the new policy.

Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger, however held firm, supported Inman, and overruled Casey, and from then on Safire pursued a vendetta against Bobby Ray Inman.

I bring all this up only to shine a light on the difference between an honorable, non-partisan intelligence professional like Inman and the partisan hacks and leakers who have crawled out of the woodwork not so much to support Valerie Wilson but rather to attempt to politically harm the President of the United States.

In an interview with Stephen Spruiell of the Media Blog at NRO, Inman had this to say about the Rove-Plame-Wilson Affair:

I was utterly appalled during the 2004 election cycle at the number of clearly politically motivated leaks from intelligence organizations — mostly if not all from CIA — that appeared to me to be the most crass thing I had ever seen to influence the outcome of an election. I never saw it quite as harsh as it was. And clearing books to be published anonymously — there was no precedent for it. I started getting telephone calls from CIA retirees when Bush appointed Negroponte, talking about how vindictive the administration was in trying to punish CIA, and I was again sort of dismayed by the effort to play politics including with information that was classified. What is the impact on younger workers who see the higher-ups engaged in this kind of leaking?
(HT: The New Editor)

Inman was not saying that revealing Valerie Wilson’s name was right:

[The leaking of Plame’s identity] is still one I would rather not see, but she was working in an analytical organization, and there’s nothing that precludes anyone from identifying analytical officers. I watch all the hand-wringing over the ruining of careers… there are a lot of operatives whose covers are blown. It doesn’t mean the end of their careers. Many move to the analytical world, which is where she already was. It meant she couldn’t deploy back off to Africa, but nothing I’ve seen indicated that was possible in the first place.

Spruiell asks an excellent question: “Where was all the liberal outrage over the leaking of classfied information when the leaks were designed to hurt the Bush administration?”

This is where the scandal’s focus should be; the deliberate and selective leaking of classified information by unelected bureaucrats in the months leading up to the election for the purpose of swinging the contest against the President. And this is the context in which the White House had begun to “push back” as Tom Maguire puts it against this cabal of CIA officials both in and out of government who for a wide variety of reasons were trying to sabotage the Administration. The push back by the White House may have included Rove and Libby having a role in writing Director Tenet’s statement of July 11 in which the CIA took responsibility for the questionable use of the Iraq-Niger yellow cake story in the President’s state of the union address as well as the attempt to discredit Wilson’s trip by trying to highlight his wife’s role in getting the Counter Proliferation Department at CIA to send him to Africa in the first place.

The point is that the leak that outed Valerie Wilson did not take place in a vacuum. The White House was under attack by our own CIA.

Inman points to disatisfied former agents who were accusing the Administration of “punishing” the agency by the selection of John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence. The DNI was created in response to recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission and was vigorously opposed by the CIA. And if the appointment of Negroponte wasn’t bad enough, the President then chose Porter Goss to succeed George Tenet as DCIA and within weeks Goss had begun to clean house. He quickly forced out the Chief of Operations as well as his Deputy and sent out a memo (leaked to the New York Times the next day) informing agency personnel that further leaks would not be tolerated. Both the press and agents whined that this would destroy their “independence.” What Goss was trying to do was get a handle on what Senator McCain had called a “rougue agency.”

All of the events I’ve described overlap to form something of a confused muddle. Christopher Hitchens clears things up a bit with regard to the intentions of the leakers:

The CIA in general is institutionally committed against the policy of regime change in Iraq. It has also catastrophically failed the country in respect of defense against suicidal attack. (“I wonder,” Tenet told former Sen. David Boren on the very first news of 9/11, “if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.” Wow, what a good guess, if a touch late. The CIA had failed entirely to act after the FBI detained Zacarias Moussaoui in Minnesota in August.)

Could it be that there is an element of politicization in all this? That there is more to Mr. Wilson’s perfunctory “no problem” report from Niger than first appears? I would describe this as a fit, if not indeed urgent, subject for public debate. But the CIA has a reserve strength. It can and does leak against the Defense Department. But if anyone leaks back at it, there is a nutty little law, passed back in 1982, that can criminalize the leaker. Karl Rove is of course obliged to observe this law and every other one. And it appears that he did, in that he did not, and did not intend to, expose Valerie Plame in any way.

But who is endangering national security here? The man who calls attention to a covert CIA hand in the argument, or the man who blithely says that uranium deals with psychopathic regimes are not in train when they probably are? And we cannot even debate this without the risk that those who are seeking the true story will end up before a grand jury, or behind bars!

Despite all the speculation, no one really knows what Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating at this point. But one thing is clear; the least understood aspect of this scandal – the war between the White House and the CIA - is also the least covered by the press. Whether the reason is it’s too complicated or whether it’s because the issues between the Administration and the CIA are too arcane to pique the interest of news consumers, it doesn’t matter. The result is the same; ignorance.

It may be up to those of us in the new media to push this aspect of the story to the front so that it gets the recognition it deserves.


Baseball Crank links to the NRO piece and has this to say:

It’s actually amazing – at least if you’re not familiar with how politics works – how much heat has been expended on the issues of who can be prosecuted and what regulations require and what the president said he should or should not do, as opposed to the central question of what is bad enough conduct to justify firing someone in the first place. And to me, if somebody was just negligent with the identity of a non-covert agent and accidentally revealed that she’d been covert in the past, that’s a blunder, but it’s not something you organize a lynch mob over.

Crank, of course, is correct. The problem is the lynch mob has had a rope in its hands for 5 years just waiting to use it.

Joshua Sharf:

The Post, in trying to hold journalists to be above the law, has systematically ignored facts, reprinted lies, drawn false dichotomies, sought to deny others due process, and misunderstood the intelligence world to a degree even they should find embarassing.

Yep…I think that just about covers all the bases.

Tom Maguire makes an interesting point. If the CIA knew that Novak was going to print Mrs. Wilson’s name in connection with the agency, why didn’t they try to stop him?

I know some fans of spy fiction are under the impression that if the CIA press flack had told Novak not to publish because Ms. Plame was covert, the CIA would then have been obliged to send a hit squad into the night, tires squealing, to silence Novak.

However, I have read on other occasions that, when the hit squad is not available, the CIA settles for a phone call to the publisher to squelch publication. Why that did not happen here remains a puzzle. [Or see the NY Times discussion of its own controversial article about CIA Air.]

So, as of July 8, Wilson knew that Novak was telling strangers on street corners that his wife was covert, news that would, per Wilson, endanger her networks, her life, her friendships, her kids – and he figured the CIA would handle it? Do tell. Did he tell his wife? Did she notify her superiors? Presumably Fitzgerald knows.

We can only hope Fitzgerald knows. Or that he’s even concentrating on that end of the investigation; what did the CIA know and when did they know it regarding Novak’s column?

By: Rick Moran at 6:18 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)


A few months ago, I did a post on Avian Flu and how international health officials were keeping a close eye on the disease that at the time, showed no ability to jump from human to human. People who got sick from the disease got it by handling infected domestic fowl. Back then, I pointed out some of the consequences of a pandemic:

This is what’s giving the folks at CDC nightmares. If Bird Flu were to mutate into a strain that could easily be spread by casual contact among humans, it could wreak havoc on the world’s population and the economy. Why the economy? Here’s a look into a possible future where a Bird Flu pandemic is already a reality in the United States. It’s from a mythical blogger: (Hat Tip: Instapundit)

The United States is battened down before the storm. The government has outlawed all gatherings in public places. In past pandemics that never worked. But epidemiologists say that if we do it early on, it might slow the spread. Modelling also suggests that closing schools and universities is especially important as teenagers and young adults are among the worst hit. We just need to stop them from hanging out elsewhere. Stay at home, is the message blaring from every TV screen.

There’s a possibility that the disease in fact may have mutated to the point where human to human contact is possible. And that could mean by late fall, the world may be in the throes of a truly frightening pandemic which could kill up to 300 million people worldwide.

The culprit for allowing the disease to get out of control could be China. I found this via Winds of Change:

I’ve been following this for some time, basically the World Health Organization is doing everything NOT to raise the alert level from stage 3 to stage 5 or 6, and has tried to explain away clear cases of human-to-human transmission (these cases mean we’re at Stage 5 at least). There are also LOTS of rumors China is covering up an outbreak of Stage 6 human-to-human bird flu. China has been completely uncooperative with the WHO, refuses to let out most medical samples, and has even threatened epidemiologists. Nevertheless, the few published samples available from China (obtained from dead birds in Qinghai) all have genetic traits of strains that infect mammals, including humans. The worry is that these samples come from a major nexus in bird migration routes, meaning that this dangerous virus will soon be dispersed throughout Eurasia (it’s already popping up in Russia).”

The secretive way in which the Chinese government handled the SARS epidemic illustrates the problems totalitarian societies can cause the rest of us. By first denying there was a problem with SARS, then minimizing it, then underreporting the number of victims of the disease, and finally obstructing the activities of the World Health Organization before giving in and asking for help, China kept the epidemic alive. From China, SARS spread to Hong Kong, Viet Nam, and several other countiries in Asia. The disease made it to Toronto where an interesting dichotomy could be observed between the reaction of a totalitarian state to crisis and the efforts of a democratic society to deal with the same threat.

Thanks to a strategy that included public information about symptoms of the disease, close cooperation between government and health officials, and strict and effective quarrantine procedures, the Toronto outbreak of SARS was limited to 345 cases, 44 of which were fatal. It could have been much worse.

And now there are indications that once again, China’s secretive society may trigger another epidemic. This time, however, the results could be catostrophic. It’s estimated that between 1 and 3 million Americans would die in a Bird Flu pandemic. As Joe Katzman points out, the effects of the pandemic would be similar to those of a biological weapons attack:

In many ways, a pandemic isn’t really all that different from a major bioterrorism scenario. Winds recommendations #2-9 from my June 2002 Bioterror Readiness 10-Point Platform for Change still apply, for instance. So, unfortunately, do the comments in Bill Quick’s bioterror readiness post re: why the USA isn’t farther ahead in 2005. There’s a lot of heavy lifting to do, in order to change that picture. We may not have that time.

If we really want to “plan” for a dynamic scenario like this and get a fast fix out there, there’s a simpler way: don’t depend on a huge, elaborate system, but on fast point defense and overlapping measures. Spend about $1 million, and ship copies of SimOutbreak to every key official all around the country. In a scenario like this, fast and informed local reaction will be worth hundreds of millions in backup infrastructure. Include law enforcement and first responders in the distribution – they’ll probably be the first to see the signs. Have cities like my Toronto, hit hard by SARS, share plans and lessons learned.

Mr. Katzman has some good advice that I personally plan on following:

Spend a bit of time following this yourself, on a personal level, and think about what your contingency plans might be re: your family. Spread the word. Write your representatives. Point out that the WHO is soft-pedaling this, and may fail entirely.

In other words, begin building little islands of understanding and capability. Eric says “start planning!” I say “Plan less. Experience and communicate more. Become a pack in motion, not a herd in wait.”

In other words, don’t panic but monitor the situation. I’m not one of those people who plans for the worst but I’m definitely going to make some plans just in case things get out of control.

And I’m going to continue publicizing this. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for pointing me toward the the WoC post.

By: Rick Moran at 6:05 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5)

Stop Bird Flu linked with bird pandemic PH
stop bird flu linked with Avian influenza

NASA has fallen a long way since the heady days of the 1960’s when budgets were fat and it seemed that the space agency could do nothing wrong in the eyes of the American people. Of course, a large part of that was politics. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all found it politically useful to garner some reflected glory from NASA’s towering achievements by being chummy with astronauts. That and naked cold war power politics which turned the space race into an exercise in chest thumping, nationalistic one upsmanship allowed NASA considerable leeway in its budgetary priorities.

Alas, nothing lasts forever and by 1975, NASA had fallen victim in part to its own success. Promising the shuttle miracle – a craft that could not only take off and land but also allow the agency to turn a profit – NASA ended up delivering what was essentially an Edsel. The high expectations NASA engendered for the shuttle turned out to be wildly unrealistic. Instead of flying 30 to 35 times a year as originally planned, that number has now been reduced to 6 or less. And the corporations that were supposed to line up for space on the shuttle to deploy their satellites have mostly found better, cheaper alternatives. NASA now competes with not only American companies to launch payloads, but also the European Space Agency, the Japanese, and soon the Chinese will throw their space helmets into the ring.

What happened?

A major lack of leadership both in the executive branch and at NASA itself is mostly to blame. The agency was allowed to deteriorate from a program that embodied the highest hopes and biggest dreams of the American people into just another ossified government bureaucracy. The Challenger disaster exposed the agency’s weaknesses as well as a callousness that shocked those of us who had followed the program from its inception. And NASA’s most recent catastrophe – the Columbia disaster – revealed the agency to be a rudderless ship, unable to make the necessary changes to both hardware and procedures to get the Shuttle flying again in a timely manner.

Part of the problem is NASA’s budget and the priorities the agency sets every year. The Shuttle should be seen as a vacuum cleaner, sucking money away from programs that actually advance scientific discovery. Flying below the public’s radar are a host of NASA successes that have transformed everything from physics to engineering. NASA missions in the last decade have opened up brand new scientific vistas using space based gamma ray and x-ray telescopes, rovers on Mars, a probe to Saturn’s moon Titan, and most recently, the extraordinary achievement of the Deep Impact probe. This is what NASA does best – build and launch probes that private industry wouldn’t touch.

But the agency’s manned program is a different story. To put it bluntly, it’s just too damned expensive. Yesterday’s launch cost NASA about $10,000 per pound to put the astronauts in low earth orbit. Even with the next generation of reusable launch vehicles (RLV), the agency is shooting to only lower that figure to $1000 per pound and most engineers think that number unattainable. The problem is that human beings need to be kept alive in space which has turned out to be an extraordinarily expensive undertaking.

Some of the difficulties may be overcome by using different kinds of boosters with different ways to propel the craft into space. Hybrid engines currently under development use different propellants than the standard mixture of liquid oxygen and hydrogen. Rockets using nuclear power have been tested successfully but are unlikely to be built due to environmental concerns. The next generation will use a mixed fuel booster with solid propellant rockets used at liftoff. Still expensive but it might halve the cost of putting man in space.

This begs the entire question of why NASA should be putting men in space in the first place. The “Space Station” is another NASA project that promised much and has been both oversold and is now over budget. The Russian contribution has been consistently late and not up to specs. I have to add that Moscow did us a huge favor by ferrying people back and forth to the station using their good old fashioned Soyuz spacecraft. And we’re using their good old fashioned Progress rockets for resupply missions.

For the foreseeable future, NASA is stuck in low earth orbit. Although Congress has just approved initial funding for a planned moon landing in 2015, and a Mars landing a decade or so beyond that, the proof for Congress will be in NASA’s ability to operate efficiently with the funds that are appropriated. Watching NASA’s performance over the last months, I don’t have much confidence in the agency’s ability to convince Congress that it’s wasteful ways have changed.

Scientist James Van Allen who discovered the band of radiation that encircles earth and protects us from cosmic rays thinks that NASA’s time has passed:

My position is that it is high time for a calm debate on more fundamental questions. Does human spaceflight continue to serve a compelling cultural purpose and/or our national interest? Or does human spaceflight simply have a life of its own, without a realistic objective that is remotely commensurate with its costs? Or, indeed, is human spaceflight now obsolete?

I am among the most durable and passionate participants in the scientific exploration of the solar system, and I am a long-time advocate of the application of space technology to civil and military purposes of direct benefit to life on Earth and to our national security. Also, I am an unqualified admirer of the courageous individuals who undertake perilous missions in space and of the highly competent engineers, scientists, and technicians who make such missions possible.

In a dispassionate comparison of the relative values of human and robotic spaceflight, the only surviving motivation for continuing human spaceflight is the ideology of adventure. But only a tiny number of Earth’s six billion inhabitants are direct participants. For the rest of us, the adventure is vicarious and akin to that of watching a science fiction movie. At the end of the day, I ask myself whether the huge national commitment of technical talent to human spaceflight and the ever-present potential for the loss of precious human life are really justifiable.

Van Allen is correct in his assessment as far as it goes. Perhaps it is time for governments to get out of the business of putting human beings into space. The aforementioned ISP was supposed to be completed by 2000. Instead, it may not be finished until 2010 at a cost of some $80 billion which is overbudget by a factor of 5. Could such an endeavor be done more cheaply?

The answer is absolutely yes. There are about a dozen corporations that are vying to ferry human beings into space. The suborbital flight last year of Spaceship One is just the first step. Plans are afoot by several companies to develop orbiting spacecraft as well as build their own space station. Originally for the super rich who would be willing to pay the hefty $20 million to go into space, as more companies become involved and competition heats up, that price will come down considerably.

And then there’s the space elevator.

A space elevator is a physical connection from the surface of the Earth, or another planetary body such as Mars, to a geostationary Earth orbit (GEO – In the case of Earth) above the Earth at roughly 35,786 km in altitude.

It is hoped that someday a space elevator would be utilized as a transportation and utility system for moving people, payloads, power, and gases between the surface of the Earth and space. It makes the physical connection from Earth to space in the same way a bridge connects two cities across a body of water.

NASA is looking very seriously at such a project as are a half a dozen private companies. An elevator from earth’s surface to a space hotel for tourists may be a lot closer to realization than some think. The technology is there. All that’s needed is the will and the funding.

The fact is that alternatives to NASA’s manned space program will be commonplace in a decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if when this next generation of RLV’s was retired in 2025, NASA will get out of the business of putting people in space entirely. By then, I have no doubt that spaceflight will be much closer to being available to anyone of a little more than modest means.


No sooner had I finished writing this article than NASA discovered a rather large chunck of insulation had fallen off the booster during liftoff of the orbiter. Thankfully, it didn’t smash into the Shuttle and damage any of the tiles that protect the spacecraft on re-entry. But since this was one problem that NASA thought it had solved, the Shuttle fleet will be grounded until they figure out how to fix the problem.

Officials do not believe the foam hit the shuttle, posing a threat to the seven astronauts when they return to Earth on Aug. 7. But they plan a closer inspection of the spacecraft in the next few days to be sure.

“You have to admit when you’re wrong. We were wrong,” Parsons said. “We need to do some work here, and so we’re telling you right now that the … foam should not have come off. It came off. We’ve got to go do something about that.”

The loss of a chunk of debris, a vexing problem NASA thought had been fixed, represents a tremendous setback to a space program that has spent 2 1/2 years and over $1 billion trying to make the 20-year-old shuttles safe to fly.

“We won’t be able to fly again,” until the hazard is removed, Parsons told reporters in a briefing Wednesday evening.

The forces at work during a Shuttle lift off are simply awesome. The vehicle generates 6 million pounds of thrust when both the solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank are ignited. No matter how well the systems are designed, there are going to be unforseen stresses on different areas of the spacecraft. And travelling at several thousand miles per hour through the atmosphere under a “Max-Q” of nearly 7 G’s also makes trying to predict stress points exactly an almost insurmountable problem.

My guess would be that NASA will spend 6 months in meetings and in typical fashion will declare that the insulation falling off will be “an acceptable flight risk.” Like the “O” Rings that caused the Challenger disaster and a half dozen other problems NASA has examined in the past, when no solution presents itself they simply lower the safety bar. They really have no other choice except to ground the Shuttle altogether. And given the investment the government has in the International Space Station and the Shuttle’s vital role in ferrying supplies and personnel to that boondoggle in the sky, that won’t happen.

Kevin at Wizbang offers this thought:

Much as you wouldn’t keep pouring cash into a clunker automobile, it’s time to admit that the shuttle fleet is end-of-life and start work on a new space vehicle design.

They already have started work. The problem is it won’t be ready for at least 5 years. And unless we want to swallow our pride and admit our incompetence entirely be continuing to depend on Russians to get us poor Americans back and forth from the Space Station, we have no alternative but to continue holding our breath every time the Shuttle launches or re-enters.


Rand Simberg offers some interesting thoughts:

I think that it’s most likely that they will decide to come home with it as is. And if they do, I also think that they will undergo a great deal of ignorant criticism for this decision, because they’ve “lost their safety culture,” just one flight after they killed all those astronauts, and now they’re recklessly gambling their lives again (disregarding the fact that throwing away a two-billion dollar vehicle, and a third of the remaining fleet, is not a decision to be taken lightly either).

It’s not a question of NASA “losing” their safety culture as much as it is raising the bar of “acceptable risk” which I suspect Rand would agree with. Whether that’s a good thing because of past over cautiousness or whether it’s not a good thing is a moot point. Prior to launch, NASA said that there was a 1 in 100 chance the Shuttle would be destroyed. I don’t think there are too many people who would accept those odds and go into space.

By: Rick Moran at 2:12 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5) linked with Some Call It A Bonfire/Carnival Of Classiness...
No Oil for Pacifists linked with Deep Six Shuttle
CATEGORY: Politics

Patrick Ruffini has been conducting a poll of possible Republican Presidential candidates over the last few days and the results so far are, to me, more than a little surprising.

The leader as of today is Senator George Allen, Jr. of Virginia with 37.7% followed closely by Rudy Guiliani with 34.4% with Romney, Frist, and McCain trailing far behind.

Ruffini has gone further and broken down the results by blog links so that it’s possible to get a grasp of what types of conservatives support the frontrunners. For instance, Allen enjoys a 17 point edge from readers referred by Hugh Hewitt but trails Guiliani by more than 20 points among Instapundit’s referred readership. And readers who voted at Pat’s site give Allen a slight 8 point advantage.

What does it mean and does it really matter?

Of course, it doesn’t matter a whit. And trying to glean too much meaning from this kind of an on-line poll is a pretty useless exercise. But beyond the lack of utility in such polling, I found this kind of support for George Allen more than a little surprising.

I knew that Allen was head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee which under his leadership the party picked up 4 seats in this last election cycle. But as far as leadership in the Senate, he seemed to be pretty much in the background on most of the big issues, although I did see him on Hardball giving a spirited defense of the President’s energy policies.

In short, Senator Allen was something of a cipher to me. So, I decided to do a little research and try and judge what kind of a candidate he’d be in 2008 if he decided to run for President.


Birth date: 03/08/1952
Birthplace: Whittier, CA
Home City: Mt. Vernon, VA
Religion: Presbyterian

J.D., University of Virginia Law School, 1977
B.A., History, University of Virginia, 1974.

Political Experience:
Member, United States Senate, 2000-present
Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia, 1994-1998
Member, United States House of Representatives, District 7, 1991-1993
Member, Virginia House of Delegates 1982-1991


Allen defeated two term incumbent Chuck Robb in 2000, no small feat but running behind President Bush considerably. Also, it can fairly be said that Virginia is now pretty much a reliable state for the GOP in federal elections with both Senators and 8 out of 11 Congressmen being Republican. That said, Allen may have a tough re-election fight on his hands if popular Democratic governor Mark Warner decides to run. Warner however, may have bigger fish to fry as he’s been mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 himself.

A breakdown of Allen’s 2000 support by county reveals some interesting tidbits. Virginia is pretty much divided into three major battlegrounds; northern Virginia which encompasses the Washington, D.C. suburbs, the coastal and river cities of Richmond, Norfolk, Newport News, Portsmouth, and Roanoke, and the rural interior that includes the Shenendoah Valley and a slice of Appalachia.

Allen did extremely well in the interior running up double digit margins of victory in the Valley as well as Appalachia in the southeast. He lost big to Robb in the liberal D.C. suburbs of Alexandria and Arlington, as well as getting slaughtered in Falls Church. What piqued my interest was how strong Robb ran in two Virginia counties that previously voted for Bill Clinton. Allen narrowly lost Fairfax county that borders liberal Arlington County and carried nearby Stafford County. Whether these results represent a general Republican trend in the state or whether Allen appeals to a certain kind of Clinton Democrat is unknown. But it is interesting.

In his two races for governor, he proved that he can both raise money run a campaign efficiently. His style, according to this article in Richmond.Com appears to be low key but effective.

I’ve seen a few of his floor speeches and he always impressed me as earnest but bland. Perhaps that’s why his present popularity surprises me a little.


This is where Senator Allen surprised me and where he might raise a few eyebrows on the Christian right if he runs.

I would characterize Senator Allen as a moderate conservative on social issues, a mainstream conservative on economic issues, and a hawk on foreign policy. In short, he’s no ideologue. Recently, he’s shown he can be a good partisan as he was one of the few Senators from either party to openly criticize Dick Durbin’s idiotic remarks comparing our servicemen to Pol Pot’s henchmen. And he’s emerged as a strong supporter of the President’s choice for UN Envoy John Bolton.

Whether he’s just now starting to feel comfortable in the Senate or whether he realizes he’s got to throw some red meat to the party faithful if he wants the nomination is hard to say. His interest group ratings reveal a mainstream Republican with some surprising positions on social issues.

For instance, on abortion, the Senator does not favor an outright ban on all abortions but would allow abortion to save the life or health of the mother, in cases of rape or incest, and in cases involving fetal deformity. This flies in the face of most of the Christian right groups who oppose abortion in all instances. It could be why he received only a grade of 67 with Dr. Dobbs Family Research Council. He did, however, receive a perfect 100% from Pat Robertson’s Christan Coalition.

He appears to be something of a federalist with regards to transferring welfare responsibilities to the states in the form of block grants. He has a mainstream Republican view of tax policy, opposing a flat tax while supporting elimination of the marriage penalty. He’s a free trader supporting NAFTA, GATT, and CAFTA. One thing that should please Glenn Reynolds is that he has a seat on the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus. He opposes internet taxation and would seem to have a healthy interest in high tech issues of all kinds.

On immigration, he’s still something of a cipher. He gets a zero from both the liberal American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the non-partisan Americans for Better Immigration. Since immigration could be the hot domestic issue of 2008, it should be interesting to see where he comes down on protecting our borders.

Interesting tidbit: He was an original co-sponsor with Mary Landrieu of the resolution apologizing for the government not doing anything about lynching for 100 years.


On the plus side he’s young, attractive, from a southern state, not a fire eater, popular with his fellow Senators, appears to be capable of raising lots of money, and projects a moderately conservative image.

The biggest minus is that he’s an unknown quantity for both conservatives and the rest of the country. I’m also not enamored with his speaking style which at this point is conversational rather than inspiring. And he just hasn’t done enough to separate himself from the crowd. Also, he’s a sitting Senator which as we’ve seen, has historically been a detriment to running for President. In other words, he just hasn’t made a big impression on even a political junkie like me.

Since I think that the GOP’s best hope for ‘08 lies in nominating a southern or western conservative, Allen bears watching.

By: Rick Moran at 6:48 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (12)

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