Saturday, April 6, 2013

Asses and Asteroids

Included in Barack's Budget is $100 million for NASA to go into space and lasso a 500-ton asteroid to bring back to earth. Maybe he can use his space junk to beat the old, the young, the sick and the poor to death quickly instead of imposing slow starvation upon them through his austerity manifesto. Or else, he can pay a few McWorkers $7.50 an hour to have them sledge-hammer it into a million tiny pieces, sell them in the online Obama Store, and use the proceeds for construction of his billion-dollar Presidential Cathedral. On second thought, he'll use unpaid interns, call them grass-roots activists, and hit them up for a $5 donation.

But it gets even weirder. For some reason, Obama also wants to put an astronaut on an asteroid by 2025. I think he might be suffering from a case of arrested development, thinking that  Antoine de St-Exupéry's fable of a young prince is all about himself -- similar to Paul Ryan thinking Ayn Rand was an actual economist. Maybe Obama can find an asteroid named B-612, that has volcanoes, a baobab tree and a sexy rose. And he can go himself, right now. Because although he may not really be a prince, his deficit-cutting ideas that stick it to ordinary people are definitely on the petty side.

Sharez la Sacrifice, S'il Vous Plait

Meanwhile, back on earth, while the Obamian imposition of chained CPI for Social Security recipients amounts to snatching several meals a month from the mouths of the old, the surviving, the sick and the disabled, our government is ironically force-feeding Gitmo prisoners who are currently conducting a hunger strike. The inmates, many of whom have been ordered released, are protesting the utter and cruel illegality of being kept behind bars. They have reached the point where they just want to die. Our leaders don't want to let them go, however,  for fear that they might fall in with a bad crowd, especially in places like Yemen where the bad crowds are growing every day due to their friends and families being bugsplatted by American drones. Of course, the Obama Administration is shoving feeding tubes into them out of sincere concern for their well-being. The Obama Administration needs a kick in its ass-teroid. 
In other news, the esteemed sycophants of the corporate journalistic class are keeping secret the name of a CIA operative up for promotion to a top spot in the agency because she was supposedly instrumental in the destruction of evidence showing that the United States tortured prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere. The NY Times and the Washington Post are therefore awarded this week's Ass-teroid Prize for excellence in media malpractice.


Pearl said...

An interesting article about the divisions within the Democratic party.

Can conservative Democrats be stopped? via @Salon

Zee said...

While $100M worth of “curiousity-driven” science may sound frivolous during these difficult economic times, I can see that it would definitely be useful to develop and demonstrate the capability to get a robotic space vehicle to an asteroid quickly and, if it happens to be on a collision course with earth, either to fragment it or deflect it off onto a safe path away from US.

If, in demonstrating that capability, we just happened to bring back an asteroid for study, well, in my view, that's just a scientific “two-fer.”

After all, if an asteroid collision could wipe out the dinosaurs, it could probably do the same to Homo sapiens. We won't be needing Social Security, Medicare, or food stamps if we've all been blown to smithereens, or, later frozen to death.

So if the two missions can be plausibly combined, well, I'm all for it.

We all talk about the importance of education to the future well-being of this country. An important follow-on requirement is that these educated people have something to do with their training. While I'm sure that NASA does some military-related work—perhaps it's not publicized or maybe even classified—most of what they do is basic research that has—in the past—had many quality-of-life-improving technological spin-offs for the civilian world.

A few threads ago some of us here were upset that one of the big defense contractors was using “science and engineering open-houses” to attract engineering talent. Well, NASA is a great alternative for a scientist or engineer who doesn't want to be part of the military-industrial complex.

But if NASA and other government research and development agencies are allowed to go under or lie dormant because of tough economic times, several regrettable things will happen.

First, a bunch of bright people will lose their jobs. Second, that will discourage many in the next generation from pursuing such educations and careers; who wants to train for a dead or dying field? Or, worse yet, they won't pursue any advanced education at all.

And third and last, technical capabilities, once lost, are difficult to re-acquire. The body of “art” that NASA has accumulated through the decades of its existence, which supports the body of science and engineering that NASA has also developed through the years, may well be lost.

I know from personal experience, from my career in national defense, that at the forefront of R&D, there is as much “art” as there is “science” necessary to accomplish certain technical things, and, sometimes, in the rush on to the next project, the “art” is never fully written down. Which can lead to serious problems, later.

It will be difficult and expensive to have to re-develop both the “art” and the “science” of space flight, which could be disastrous—if not fatal—if we suddenly were to need them both.

Kat said...

Oh yes, I saw the tv news man the other day announce that they had used a Freedom of Information request-- I did not know they were aware of such things or had any use for them.
For what did they exercise their rights?
To obtain Adam Lanza's records.
They're so cute when they try to play journalist.

Denis Neville said...

WOW! Lasso a 500-ton asteroid!!

“What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.” - George Bailey, It's a Wonderful Life

It was the Little Prince who realized that “what is essential is invisible to the eye,” an axiom that holds true for humanity today - the half million Near Earth Asteroids in the sky - out of sight and out of mind of most people on Earth.

The B612 Foundation, a private nonprofit group led by former astronauts, spacecraft designers, and asteroid specialists dedicated to protecting the Earth from asteroid strikes, was inspired by that famed children’s book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

How do you keep a large asteroid from hitting the Earth? A space tug equipped with plasma engines could give it a push:

Some believe that mankind faces a lot more threats than space rocks. What are our priorities? Should those millions be put it towards our more immediate problems? Ignore the odds of a major asteroid threat lurking sun-side of the earth?

“If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, there would be no greater tragedy in the history of life in the universe. Not because we lacked the brain power to protect ourselves but because we lacked the foresight. The dominant species that replaces us in post-apocalyptic Earth just might wonder, as they gaze upon our mounted skeletons in their natural history museums, why large headed Homo sapiens fared no better than the proverbially pea brained dinosaurs.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Karen Garcia said...

Here's my response to Maureen Dowd's column on the Hillary hoopla:

Leaving aside the XX chromosome/personality cult factor for a minute, what about Hillary's actual policy positions? Look at the mess of trouble this country is in. and ponder whether a vote for Hillary would be a vote in your best interests.

Is Hillary visiting poor neighborhoods, or is she limiting herself to six-figure speaking gigs before the glitzy donor class?

Will she now deplore the deaths-by-drone of hundreds, of innocent women and children in Muslim countries? Or will she stay true to Clinton/Bush/Obama neoliberalism, continuing the lucrative hegemony so beloved of the military-industrial complex?

How about the proposed Obama budget, which if passed, would effectively condemn even more struggling people to lives of want? Does she support the draconian chained CPI method of reducing benefits for retirees, veterans, widows.and orphans and the severely disabled? I’d love to hear Hillary weigh in on the disgraceful poverty rate in the richest country on earth while she's busy championing equal rights for Third World women.

How closely will she be working with the Clinton Global Initiative, which recently partnered with deficit hawk billionaire Pete Peterson to spread the gospel of austerity to students on college campuses? Chelsea, heiress apparent to the Dynasty, is now helping Catfood Commissioners Al Simpson and Erskine Bowles judge an essay contest with the theme of Fixing the Debt (shredding the social safety net).

Elizabeth Warren/Jill Stein 2016.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jay - Ottawa said...

Sound points, Anonymous.

I was once a liberal. Now look at me: A Quiveral – as in shaking in my boots. That goes for the rest of the gang, too, I suppose, if you study the comments above. But I fear you'll run out of vocabulary, Anon, if you try to do us all justice in turn.

It was bound to happen, eventually. How I became a Quiveral. I fear just about everything all the time now. My wife has taken to call me ScarediCat. Whenever I try to get a grip to put everything in proper perspective, I discover I have even more reason to fear. Seems like there’s about 300 million of us in the grip of fear for one good reason or another.

I am not one of those under-educated, over-educated or ill-informed fear deniers. I’m convinced the threat of extinction is all around me. I stifle existential screams all the time. Oh, the angst.

I am, therefore I fear. To live is to fear death.

For instance, I know too much about medical pathology. Did you know so many things can go wrong with our bodies, it’s a wonder most of us live long enough to graduate from kindergarten. At any moment some dread diagnosis can drop kick you into a cemetery. Maybe, if we just give biologists more money to do more good work, we can someday live forever.

Bush-Obama planted the seed of fear of terrorists in me. They (the terrorists) are so imminent, you know. Let’s hope the Pentagon, the force that stands between us and the terrorists, isn’t sequestered too much. Maybe, if we fund the Pentagon generously, we’ll get rid of all the terrorists, the way we stamped out small pox. That is the ultimate objective, isn’t it? First, we wipe out the terrorists; then we go for the pods.

Meteorologists have got me sweating over Climate Change. Can’t stop CC, they say, not any more, not with drones, astronauts or nukes. Even if everybody stopped using their cars tomorrow and also stopped burning something or other to stay warm through the winter, CC is definitely on the way, the only question being how much hotter past “game over” too hot. Speaking of “Game Over,” did you hear that James Hansen quit NASA recently? Seems like some of the bosses in NASA are CC deniers. Of all places.

Now, Astronomers and NASA engineers who put a man on the moon say the moon or one of its close relatives intends to return the favor, sooner or later, by putting an asteroid on the Blue Planet. The Asteroids Are Coming! Where’s Walter Cronkite when you need him?

NASA, which was just fooling around and showing off with the space race by mooning the Soviets in the late Sixties and Seventies, must gird up its loins again, this time to save the human race. Save us they will if we will only shell out enough big money for the Asteroid Defense System.

Continued …

Jay - Ottawa said...

Continued …

While our eyes search the skies, the elected bottom crawlers of the Washington swamp and the piranhas of Wall Street are intent on quietly nibbling us to death over the short term. Our pleas – and what little money is left from the other crises just funded – don’t impress them.

Try to understand Obama’s Grand Bargain as tough love. He must destroy the people to save the country.

In my stronger moments, as when I'm bucked up by a man-up guy like Anonymous (who just got deleted by the blog administrator – now do you see what I mean about here today and gone tomorrow?), I’m all for our hi-jacking of asteroids, especially those with evil intentions against life on earth.

We might even get a TwoFer for the price of one single national effort. First, we’ll chip off a few chunks of rock from the asteroid to occupy our saviors, the scientists and engineers at NASA. Second, before nudging the asteroid in the right direction back out into space, let’s put those prisoners from Guantanamo on it and call it Limbo. Mission(s) accomplished.

First, Clinton came for the welfare recipients. But I wasn't on welfare, so I did nothing. Then Clinton and Rubin tore the wall down between gambling and saving. But I had so little in the bank anyway, so I just crossed my fingers. Next, Bush and Cheney smashed Iraq. But I wasn't an Iraqi. Then they tortured Muslims. But I wasn't a Muslim. Then Obama shredded the Constitution. Then, Obama came after the young and the old with a shark’s smile. I wasn’t that old. He broke the Occupy Movement that objected. I read about it with sadness. Now he's about to sink the middle class with austerity and trade agreements. Every night while we sleep Bernanke shovels free money to the banksters. But I––

Everybody knows how this tune ends ….

Pearl said...

Jay: You know what you should really be afraid about?? That come 2016
Hillary will become President! There couldn't be anything more horrible, so
much so that it is hilarious. Your hopefully, tongue in cheek contributions
about what is happening actually cheered me up. It is all so ludicrous that
one can only
look at things as so unbelievable that we have to make fun of it all. George
Carlin knew how to do this beautifully. Meanwhile appreciate your wife, your
health (hopefully) your not old age as you said and get a dog. They love
unconditionally and privately laugh at us humans. And if you really live in
Canada, be thankful, especially as it is gearing up to get rid of our great
Prime Minister whose wife I am told has left him and is living with a woman.
Can't blame her.

And remember, give yourself and all of us credit for trying in our small
ways to do something about it all. And I am sure working in the health area
can worry one to death literally, but I am sure you were a godsend to your
patients. We didn't create this science fiction world and will have to find
ways to endure. At least you are not going hungry, without a roof over your
head, and have choices left in life. One learns after awhile how to
appreciate the small, simple things despite the dark ages we are going
through. Already the tide is beginning to turn slowly and quietly which I
predict will begin to really take off sooner rather than later. Many great
articles are coming out that give one energy and balance. Just remember the
stories of little black Sambo and how he survived when all the tigers were
running around the tree beneath him, snarling at each other and melted into

Now I'll go into the corner and have a good cry or maybe a laugh. And it is finally warming up, Spring is on its way and I will be able to go for a walk outside which I haven't been able to do since November. (achoo! pardon my allergies).

Jay - Ottawa said...

Dear one, it has to be this way. Here I am wallowing in gallows humor (humour) in the dark shadows, and there you are, with Denis and Zee and all the other good guys, putting on a brave face and peddling hope.

But you need me banging my head against that wall. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be writing as many of your fine appeals to reason, with reminders of spring around the corner. If it weren’t for a perpetual winter like me, nobody would properly appreciate a summer like you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful comment on the Redhead's column this morning, Karen. The possibility of Hilary's running for, never mind her attaining, the presidency, is horror enough to take my mind off Jay's cosmic and climactic terrors. And the ticket you propose would be ideal. I have not only joined the Greens, I've become a small donor.

Every time I read Bartlett & Steele and then Kevin Phillips as a sort of anodyne (it isn't) I get depressed. Currently I'm ploughing through "Wealth and Democracy" as a form of masochistic intellectualism. The global economy, not only ours, it is a mess due arguably, and largely, our fault.

Some environmental engineers are suggesting launching sulfur compounds into the troposphere as a cure for climate warming in response to climatologists' claims that it is too late to stop flinging our carbon, and the rest of our shit, at the moon like a lot of lunatic monkeys. Which we are; the engineers' response convinces me of that.

As for asteroids, just find a clear night sky, if you can, and look up. We are less than a speck of dust in all that, and the history of our species about 5k years and our biological lineage only about a million compared to around 200 billion for the universe and about 4 billion for the orb on which we're drifting through the cosmos. Stop worrying, stay pissed off, and enjoy as Epicurus and Pearl would say - but not to excess. It's incredible enough that we're here at all, never mind for how long. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sit on my vestigial tail and brunch on lotus leaves and honey. It's our corned beef and cabbage.

James F Traynor said...

Damn, damn, damn! That Anonymous is me again. I must be pissing off the real Anonymous.

James F Traynor said...

And, lest we forget, there's H7B9. Ta, ta.

old guy said...

The unspoken theme here is the fear of death. With all due respect, why would anyone be concerned that an asteroid would end human life on Earth? Is it narcissism? The Earth would likely be better off without humans. And for those who believe, God could always create another Adam and Eve, perhaps named Barack and Karen next time around....

We need the asteroid, to move us to the next frontier. Embrace the asteroid, and forget uranus.

Don’t give in to asteroid fear mongering. It is only a diversion tactic to keep the hamsters (people) spinning a political-economic wheel that is not sustainable.

On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

Instead, let’s create a replacement United Nations, one that actually works to resolve disputes and bring global peace. Also, invest in global birth control, to get the population down to a sustainable number.

As you gaze into the night sky, look not for asteroids, but for Moonlight in Vermont....

ps. Love the image in the story, thought it was a large breast at first....

Jay - Ottawa said...

Gracias por su comprensión profunda y el himno (no officiales) del estado de Vermont.

Zee said...

@old guy--

It's not so much that I fear death as it is that I just plain resent it.

Which, I suppose, just might make me a wee bit narcissitic.

And what with the fact--depending upon which scientific authority you care to trust--that 98% to 99.9% of all species that ever existed are now extinct, I hardly expect the human race to make a particularly long run of it, either. Why should we be any different?

Still, I get my vaccinations for typhoid, pneumonia, shingles, tetanus, and all that other bothersome stuff, as I suspect you do, too.

Is it particularly different to want to "innoculate" the Earth from a collision with an asteroid?

We have plenty of other ways with which to do ourselves in, and, sooner or later, I expect we will find one that really works.

Pearl said...

Congratulations to Karen for holding down a tremendous lead in her comment
to Maureen about Hilary's qualifications as president. Could some of the more literate readers be coming out of their coma?

An inspiring event for all Sardonicky quiverals including myself. I vote for
Karen for president in 2016!

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks Pearl. Here's my refutin' response to Krugman, who is praising Obamacare and refutin' Repub claims that it impinges on freedom, when it really will make us all free, and Obama's just funnin' with the Kabuki grand bargain and such. (I don't think readers will agree with me this time!) --

Coverage will be neither affordable nor anywhere near universal. Obamacare is, first and foremost, a massive corporative giveaway crafted by and for the insurance industry.

It is already being unnecessarily delayed and whittled down, giving the insurance predators extra time to raise premiums by double digits, raise deductibles by thousands of dollars, and still finagle a seemingless endless array of work-arounds with their government co-conspirators.

They just scored an enormous victory this month when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reversed itself and granted a 3.3% increase for their Medicare Advantage plans -- a windfall of billions of dollars in taxpayer money for the industry. CMS had originally recommended that the government REDUCE the Medicare Advantage subsidy by 2.2%.

Another "glitch" in the ACA means that up to 500,000 children of working poor parents may remain uninsured because the law provides only for subsidizing coverage of individuals and not entire families.

And if Obama's relentless grand-bargaining away of our already meager safety net protections is his idea of a Kabuki joke, there are at least 60 million of us struggling against poverty who are definitely not laughing.

It's high time we all get together and display our anger loud and clear, in no uncertain terms.

We won't succeed right away in moving the kleptocratic mountain, but giving up is not an option. Pragmatism is not only over-rated, it's hazardous to our health.