Friday, April 16, 2010

Obama surrenders the high ground, without a fight

Three things.

An open letter from Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, and 25 other astronauts, about Obama's new direction for NASA. They don't like it.

Charles Krauthammer says,

We are seeing the abolition of the manned space program.

When Neil Armstrong speaks out, that’s an event. This is a guy who is the most self-effacing American hero in our history. He could have been Lindbergh and he became J.D. Salinger.

And now he speaks out in an open letter together with [Eugene] Cernan, the last guy that walked on the moon, and James Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13. And they are saying that the program that Obama has abolished — has cancelled — is essentially the end of man in space. It turns NASA into an R&D agency for pie-in-the-sky ideas like having humans on asteroids and ends its role as the agency that actually gets us into space, even low-Earth orbit and back.

Obama spoke about — we’ve done the moon, so we are going to do asteroids and Mars. This is total pie in the sky. On what rocket? With what space capsule? With what simulators? With what training program? There’s nothing here of substance.

And when Kennedy committed us "in this decade," as he said, he meant it within his presidency. He intended to be — he expected he’d be — president until January 1969. Obama is talking about 2025, 2030. All of this is total speculation.

And what it does is it ends our human dominance in space, which we had for 50 years. We have no way to get into earth orbit. We’re going to have to hitch a ride on the Russians who are charging us extraordinary rates and are only going to increase that.…

All the private stuff [launching humans into space] is complete speculation. What we’re doing is we're ceding the certainty of access into space. We are not going to have it. The Russians will have it. The Chinese will have it.

We spent tens of billions on the space station and spent three decades in constructing it. We're not going to have any way to get there....

And we'll look up in a decade and there’s going to be a lunar base ... [there are] not going to be Americans on it.

Sarah Palin, on Facebook, asks,
"Mr. President, is a strong America a problem?"
Asked this week about his faltering efforts to advance the Middle East peace process, President Obama did something remarkable. In front of some 47 foreign leaders and hundreds of reporters from all over the world, President Obama said that “whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower.”

Whether we like it or not? Most Americans do like it. America’s military may be one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever seen, liberating countless millions from tyranny, slavery, and oppression over the last 234 years. As a dominant superpower, the United States has won wars hot and cold; our military has advanced the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and kept authoritarian powers like Russia and China in check.

It is in America’s and the world’s interests for our country to remain a dominant military superpower, but under our great country’s new leadership that dominance seems to be slipping away. President Obama has ended production of the F-22, the most advanced fighter jet this country has ever built. He’s gutted our missile defense program by eliminating shield resources in strategic places including Alaska. And he’s ended the program to build a new generation of nuclear weapons that would have ensured the reliability of our nuclear deterrent well into the future. All this is in the context of the country’s unsustainable debt that could further limit defense spending. As one defense expert recently explained:

The president is looking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Reagan-era buildup. Once the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “ended” (not “won”), the arms control treaties signed, and defense budgets held at historic lows while social entitlements and debt service rise to near-European levels, the era of American superpower will have passed.

The truth is this: by his actions we see a president who seems to be much more comfortable with an American military that isn’t quite so dominant and who feels the need to apologize for America when he travels overseas. Could it be a lack of faith in American exceptionalism? The fact is that America and our allies are safer when we are a dominant military superpower – whether President Obama likes it or not.
And the question is, Are the first two things related to the third thing?

Private space development would be great. But what Krauthammer says about ceding the certainty of space is not speculative.

Will NASA and the FAA and the rest of the government get out of the way of private space efforts? Encouragement would be too much to ask for.

Update: Harrison Schmitt, astronaut and US Senator, has more to say:
“I am very much of the mind that America can’t afford to be second-best in space. It’s the new ocean. It would be as if the United States decided in the last 200 years or so not to have a Navy. The oceans were where the competition between nations existed, and now that competition has moved into space. We should not be afraid of it. We should embrace it.”
Via Althouse. One of the commenters at the linked CapTimes article says,
"Wait, so here's an area where Obama would just as soon not spend $230 billion (likely more, because, remember, the shuttle program ultimately came in at a 55% cost over-run), and the same people who scream about the exploding deficit are saying we need the program, we need to spend the money? This just proves that nothing Obama could do would appease these people."
This is the kind of thinking that comes from someone who would eat the seed corn, or skip the oil changes to buy spinner hubcaps and mag wheels. Speaking of wheels, I'm inclined to agree that NASA has been spinning its wheels for years, as a result of being run by pork-minded bureaucrats who have lost sight of the mission, but what's called for is not abandonment of the mission, but a return to it. As I said in an earlier post, "Men will go to space; but no law of nature requires that they be Western, or free."

There are a couple of fairly zingy comments by yours truly on that Althouse thread.


El Pollo Real said...

This is more evidence that BHO is the anti-JFK democrat.

Hector Owen said...

Trying to imagine Obama eyeball-to-eyeball with a modern equivalent of Khrushchev strains my imagination. I can hear him saying something like, "Well, OK, then, if you think that's fair …"

Updated the post to mention Harrison Schmitt.

El Pollo Real said...

Hector- did you ever see For All Mankind?

Hector Owen said...

No, Pollo, I did not. I thought that eye-witnessing (well, you know, on teevee) the actual moon landing was enough. But maybe it's time to look at it again. Thanks for the tip.

By the way, and OT: are you the "real" chicken, or the "royal" chicken? I'd be happy to give you an accent, I mean one of these: "Réal" over in the sidebar, if you would like that.

Hector Owen said...

Or perhaps you like the ambiguity. Hadn't thought of that. Real, royal, both at once: subtle.

Hector Owen said...

Here's a song for you, Pollo: Rhode Island Red. This album isn't released yet, so it's a sneak peek at what may or may not be the final mix. I'm playing the 2nd, or lead, guitar, and overdubbing mandolin.

El Pollo Real said...

Hector: Somebody significantly younger than I (I think maybe Freeman Hunt) first recommended the movie. Like you, I recall many of the events in real time. However, the film makes very good use of archived footage, much of which I don't ever recall seeing. It sort of retells the whole Apollo story in the words of many of the astronauts. My son who is 12, enjoyed it very much too.

Hector Owen said...

Just put "For All Mankind" in my Netflix queue. I much prefer my documentaries to have the real people, not actors pretending to be the real people. This looks like the right kind of documentary.

El Pollo Real said...

As for the origin of my name El Pollo Real:

I started out commenting with the name chickenlittle on a blog called the Housing Bubble Blog (when it was on blogger) where I used to comment on the sky-is-falling mentality around there. I was also pretty much a regular on Lou Minatti's blog since late 2005. Although I had known about Althouse's blog since the middle of 2004 (I still have an email correspondence from that time), I didn't start commenting regularly there until 2006 or so as chickenlittle.

Here is how "El Pollo Real" evolved: one night on Victoria's blog I took on an avatar of In-N-Out burger, modified to "In-N-Out urge" (lol-I don't think that anybody ever noticed that). Some time afterwards, I tired of the burger thing and adopted the avatar of another SoCal fast food chain, El Pollo Loco. That avatar lasted a while- my pseudonym was still chickenlittle. When Twitter started up I wanted chickenlittle as a handle but it was already taken and so I lopped off characters and came up with "chickelit" which is what some people on Althouse like to call me.

When I started my own blog about a year ago, the name El Pollo Real struck me because (1) it's a play on El Camino Real, an important street name out here, and (2) it's a play on the English word "real". I sometimes strive to write in double entendre and so both meanings "real" in English and "royal" in Spanish are relevant. I eventually switched to El Pollo Real from chickenlittle last January.

Hector Owen said...

Thanks for the explanation. I love bilingual or multilingual puns, and had been wondering whether your name was meant to be one of those since I first saw it. I figured it was highly unlikely that you could not manage to add an accent, if you wanted, but still … wondering … I shall wonder no more, and you will get no accent in the sidebar. Let them eat ambiguity. Or, you know, a Gorgonzola sandwich on Bloomsday.

El Pollo Real said...

Gorgonzola sandwich on Bloomsday

One of the very first thing I did in Zurich after moving there in 1990 was to visit here.

Actually, about the accent thing, maybe you can answer the question I posed back here regarding Spanish orthography.

El Pollo Real said...

Your Red Island Red link above doesn't work.

Hector Owen said...

No it doesn't. Try this one.

No expert on Spanish orthography am I. But it appears that Don Gaspar de Portolà was Catalan; the Catalan language retains the grave accent to this day. I have seen on some web page I can't find again that the grave and acute accents were were used at whim in Spanish until some date in history, (1880's ?) when there was a move to regularize spellings.

So Portolà's name is a bit of Catalan occasionally misspelled by people who think it is Spanish. Is what I get out of that.

Hector Owen said...

"Catalan occasionally misspelled by people who think it is Spanish" — misspelled or assimilated. After all, we don't refer to Cristoforo Columbo or Giovanni Caboto, do we.

El Pollo Real said...

Thanks for the links.

Is that really you laying mandolin?

El Pollo Real said...

About the grave and acute acute accent. Your explanation makes sense. I had been reading this book which spells it exclusively with an acute accent.

Hector Owen said...

Mandolin and guitar, yup. I'm pretty pleased with this record.

El Pollo Real said...

Mandolin and guitar, yup. I'm pretty pleased with this record.

Very cool Hector. Is it commecially available?

Coincidently, I used to know a mandolin player in a bluegrass band who also raised chickens!

Hector Owen said...

Commercially available Real Soon Now, like later this month. It was supposed to be out mid-April, but one thing and another, some trouble with the artwork, a last-minute remix, oh well. Should be notices here, and here, and here, and here, when it happens.