According to SpaceREF.com, American investment manager Dennis Tito (who caused a huge kerfluffle at NASA in 2001 when he paid the Russian Federal Space Agency to fly him to the International Space Station as a tourist) has now announced that he will shortly be announcing plans for a trip to Mars in 2018. The press conference is scheduled for next Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 1:00 PM at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
This sounds so ambitious as to be insane, but Tito has managed to do things in the past that “the experts” thought could not or should not be done. Unfortunately there appear to be no plans to stream the press conference, but I’ll be watching for the accompanying press release and stories.
Washington Post columnist George Will, a politically conservative columnist whom I often agree with about limited government and fiscal responsibility, but often disagree with on human rights issues, today posted a thoughtful and quite pointed op-ed on the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. He clearly considers it a type of torture. If I had not already come to the same conclusion previously, I think he would have convinced me in this article.
People tend to be generous in the wake of a disaster, whether it be a hurricane (Sandy) or a massacre (Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut). Unfortunately criminals know this, and take advantage of it. Neil Schwartzman, a friend and fellow antispammer, blogged today on CircleID on how to give to charity safely, without feeding the criminals. I’ll have some detailed things to say about the spammers who do this over on the MainSleaze Spam blog later today. Meanwhile, I recommend reading, and heeding, Neil’s post.
After a young man who reportedly had autism spectrum disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) and a personality disorder shot his mother and a Connecticut school full of five-to-ten year old children, their teachers and their principle, voices are being heard all over demanding stricter gun laws. This is understandable: we prefer easy answers to difficult, complex ones, and guns are the easier target. They would just require banning a few “assault weapons” and we can all feel better. A few people are making the harder, but better, call: we *must* fix this country’s abysmal failure to deal with mental illness.
Just seen on the Telegraph: a story about a woman convicted of a crime for downloading a banned magazine that promotes Islamicist terror. Her story, which the judge believed: she wanted to see what had convinced her brothers (both convicted terrorists) to become terrorists. She was given a short jail sentence, just a month after the time she has spent awaiting trial.
I have a problem with this. Thought crime is NOT crime. Acting on what she read would almost certainly have been criminal, but reading it? I’ve downloaded and read a bunch of terror material, starting with the Turner Diaries and Mein Kampf. I had no interest in becoming a Nazi: quite the contrary. I was merely interested in these documents that convinced people to support Hitler and led to the Holocaust. I wanted to understand what could cause people to do such things.
I guess, in the UK, I’d be looking at a “custodial sentence”, as they call it. :/
Elisabeth and Stephen Alderman lost a son in the terror attacks on 9/11. It’s tempting to call it the worst thing imaginable, but (of course) it isn’t. Their son Peter was by all accounts a wonderful, loving, decent human being who packed more life into his 25 years than most people manage in 75. His parents grieve for him, but are extremely proud of him and have every reason to be so.
Orson Scott Card is one of the best writers alive today. He’s also a devout (if atypical) Mormon who has a conscience formed by his faith. His religious beliefs and mine differ significantly (I’m an Orthodox Christian), but we both read the Bible and –despite having very different theologies — we both believe that Jesus Christ speaks God’s words. Jesus had certain rather strong things to say about punishing children for the sins of their parents, or (for that matter) any innocent person for the sins of the guilty. (He doesn’t approve.) So it shouldn’t surprise me that Card said what I believe about underage illegal immigrants better than I could say it, here:
Over forty years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. I watched; my mother got me up from bed rightly believing that this was something I should remember. Neil Armstrong was one of the quietest of the Apollo astronauts in later life, preferring privacy and the occasional meeting with high school kids to gladhanding a bunch of politicians or (for that matter) SF fans. I never met him. It doesn’t matter: he’s one of the abiding reasons that, despite everything, I remain proud to be an American.
Too many people I care about have died recently, dammit. The SFFNet memorial rose is overloaded with names, and I expect that there will be a number of memorial services at the 70th World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention next weekend in Chicago. I won’t be there, but I’ll be thinking of Neil, and Sally Ride, and SF writer, horse nut and irrepressible punster Josepha Sherman, with the rest of you who are.
Dr. Sally Ride — astronaut, scientist, and teacher — was one of my heroes, as she was for many women of my age/generation. Dr. Ride died yesterday, at 61 years of age, of pancreatic cancer. I posted the following on SFFNet, an online community of science fiction and fantasy writers and fans that includes NASA employees and other scientists. As varied a community as SFFNet is, we’re all space flight nuts — I think that it’s required for admission.
If you want to join us in memorializing Dr. Ride’s life, feel free to do so. Instructions are below, and all are welcome.
Jonathan Bernstein wrote the following in today’s Washington Post, and it’s so good that I want to quote verbatim:
The sad part of all this [the defection of conservative intellectuals from the Republican party] is that it leaves the Republican Party in desperate need of smart, independent-minded conservatives. It’s important to remember: Even if those of us who believe that the GOP and the “conservative movement” have gone seriously off the rails are correct, it does not mean that conservative ideas or policy positions are necessarily wrong.
Even more so, it doesn’t mean that what Democrats and liberals are up to is necessarily correct. It does mean is that what Democrats and liberals are up to isn’t seriously challenged, because there’s no interest in seriously engaging policy or ideas within the conservative movement (and, perhaps, because many of those capable of it are gone).
You can read the whole blog here.