Friday, July 27, 2007

And now, drunken astronauts...

It just keeps getting better for NASA. While investigating patterns that could identify unstable astronauts like Lisa Nowak (who was planning to murder one of the others), they've found two occasions in which astronauts were flying drunk. And drunk enough to pose a flight safety risk.

Some of the commenters below this story have said, basically, aww, let 'em drink--they're getting sent off on a dangerous launch and they're just along for the ride. Well, no--the commander and pilot do have some interaction they've got to do with the shuttle during launch. And in case of an abort at any stage, they've got to be ready. Furthermore, even the Mission Specialists and Payload Specialists, who could more be said to be along for the ride, would need to be ready to follow emergency procedures if there were an accident.

Should I be disturbed that there appears to be an actual phrase, "bottle to throttle"?

Explosion connected with SpaceShipTwo

There's been a nitrous oxide explosion at one of Burt Rutan's hangars at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Two dead and four injured. This is connected with the work going on to make SpaceShipTwo, Rutan's follow-on to SpaceShipOne, the winner of the X-Prize. There's more at the link.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Last stages on the US Attorneys firings non-scandal

Andy McCarthy has a great comment on the US Attorneys firings over at The Corner. Apparently even some Democrats are starting to realize this is all politics and not the law. I've been frustrated by how this has played out, with so much news coverage of it, when the Congress simply has no authority here. The Executive was entirely within its powers, and Congress couldn't change any of this, anyway, unless they tried a Constitutional amendment.

And on top of it, there's the chutzpah factor: these are the guys who defended Clinton when he fired every single one of the Attorneys, including the one investigating his Whitewater scandal. A lot of us suggested that was the real reason behind Clinton's blanket firing order, and it should have gotten more public attention. If Bush were firing someone who was investigating him, there should quite rightly be a public outcry, even if he was within his rights. But that's not the case, here.

McCarthy brings up a very interesting strategy issue here:

Congressional Democrats have tried to investigate it as if it were a crime. They've violated constitutional separation-of-powers principles by issuing subpoenas to some of the president's top aides. The White House wisely declined to comply, and Congress's next step is to try to hold them in contempt of Congress.

Only there's a small problem. The Constitution vests Congress with no authority to prosecute. That is an executive power. Congress can say "prosecute" all it wants. It needs a U.S. attorney to do it. But the U.S. attorneys work for the president. Flexing its constitutional muscles, the executive branch is not going to prosecute any contempt urged by Congress. Checkmate. Like this whole theater from the start, the issuance of subpoenas and the chatter about contempt is political, not legal.

Heh, heh, heh...

Now, I will say that I'm ashamed of the carelessness that Attorney General Gonzales seems to have shown in the firings--an unawareness of the reasons, whatever they were. And he's awful at handling things like this when the other side raises a public stink. His response should have been "Hey, this is lawful and within our power, and you can't say a thing about it, so buzz off" from the beginning. But instead, he acted like a weasel about it and, by extension, made the President out like a weasel. Don't come up with bad excuses, just state your case or tell them off, and leave it at that.

I've never been a big fan of Gonzales in general, because I think his politics are too wishy-washy, but the office of Attorney General should be relatively free of politcs anyway. But his badness at handling these sorts of problems just makes me cringe.

Sigh. We need a Donald Rumsfeld in that office.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Terrorist Logos

An excellent idea: putting together a collection of terrorist logos for easy identification. They're grouped by common symbols for easy reference.

The Sun and Global Warming

Andrew Stuttaford links to this article by an astronomer, about the Royal Society's annoucement regarding the sun's effects on global warming. It seems it's gotten misinterpreted by the press, or at least the BBC.

I might comment more later, but I'll say now that I'd first seen discussion of this in the late '90s, in an Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics article about the subject. The graphs of solar output and global temperature were shockingly (to me) close. While it might not be the whole story, it seems to me that to dismiss this without a lot of research is simply bias and unscientific close-mindedness.

(Link via The Corner.)

No Man-Eating Badgers in Basra?

The BBC confronts the British military with a tough accusation: "UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area." (Via The Corner)

Riiiight! After eight years of Clinton, we in America learned how to parse government denials. So, maybe they *were* badgers, but only mildly ravenous, not completely man-eating. Or maybe they're man-eating wolves, tigers, or rabbits, not badgers. Or (and I think this is most likely) they *have* released man-eating badgers, but into the neighboring ZIP-code, rather than into Basra proper, and who cares if a few sneak into town on weekends?

I wish the British military had instead answered him, "Badgers? Badgers?! We don't need no stinkin' badgers!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is the Pope Catholic?

So, like, do I now belong to the "United Methodist Ecclesial Community"?

In all fairness, this isn't terribly new. It mostly restates the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 2000 document, Dominus Iesus (although it seems to clear up some details, and it's more adamant in denying Protestants the honor of being called churches). And that, itself, wasn't terribly new in using this buzzphrase, "ecclesial community," which goes at least as far back as Vatican II's Lumen Gentium (well, there it's "ecclesiastical community"). It doesn't make the document's claims any more correct, from our point of view, but it does go back a ways.

I'm entertained to find that the criticism of this language goes back to the 2000 document. In fact, the "was this really necessary?" response amongst some Catholics goes back to that, too. The American Catholic article I linked to there could have been written yesterday. Interesting. Incidentally, I was hoping to be the first to use the phrase, "United Methodist Ecclesial Community," but it seems Mr. Switzer beat me to it!

So are Catholic priests and officials, in everyday conversation, really going to be saying things like, "the Methodist Ecclesial Community"? Surely not...right?