Saturday, February 08, 2003

RECORD COMPANIES: EMBRACE FILE-SHARING OR DIE. Amen! The whole thing is worth reading. Here's a teaser
It could be argued that MP3s are the greatest marketing tool ever to come along for the music industry. If your music is not being downloaded, then you're in trouble. If you can't give it away, you certainly can't sell it. Daniel Bedingfield recently had a top 3 song on the radio, with "Gotta Get Thru This." However, his music was hardly available through any of the P2P networks. His record lasted on the Billboard Top 200 for less than a month, even though the single had been on radio playlists all over the country for several months. It's also been widely reported that the most downloaded album of all time was "The Eminem Show," by Eminem. It was downloaded so heavily that Interscope took the unusual step of releasing the album a week early due to the rampant online sharing of tracks from the album. Fast-forward to the end of 2002, and "The Eminem Show" is the best-selling album of the year. This seems to indicate the opposite of what the RIAA would have you believe. When people share MP3s, more music is sold, not less.

As recently reported, at least one company believes that file-sharing is good for business, and that it's a "promotional tool and boosts the sales of albums that deserve it." M.S.C. Music & Entertainment is encouraging listeners to download 20 tracks from rapper Tech N9ne's new album, for free. "The major labels can no longer fool the consumer. They don't want you to sample their music because they know that if the fans realize there are only two good songs on a record, you will not buy it ... We believe in our product."

TOUGH AS NAILS; As this NYT story on Kim Kang-ja demonstrates, gender stereotypes are changing even in fiercely Confucian South Korea.
As she tells her story, it sometimes seems as if Ms. Kim's career in South Korea's national police is woven of nothing but firsts. She was the first woman to head a police task force, the first female inspector, the first woman to serve as precinct captain or superintendent, and the first, in December 1999, to attain the rank of chief.

For years, even as she rose to senior inspector, Ms. Kim says she was patronized whenever she showed up on assignment in this male-dominated society. "In 1995, I reported somewhere and all the junior officers refused to take orders from me," she said in her stout, confident voice. "They knew I was their superior, but to them, it was still unimaginable."

Not so nowadays. When Ms. Kim shows up on her old turf, popping in to visit her former precinct house late at night, the all-male world snaps to attention. Now, it is she who patronizes, playfully pinching the cheeks of a male officer.

Today she is a national heroine. For all her firsts, what propelled her to that status was her pioneering role in cleaning up the country's huge commercial sex trade involving minors, something that Korean law enforcement had never focused on before.
The more Kim Kang-ja's there are, the better.

"I DIDN'T DO IT. NOBODY SAW ME DO IT. NOBODY CAN PROVE ANYTHING" Everyone rushes to backtrack from talk about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea.

DETHRONING A HERO; The PRC trys to take Yue Fei down a notch. Who says history doesn't matter?

TUBULAR EXAGGERATION: The Bush Administration a bit loose with the facts in its talks about tubes, nuclear weapons and Iraq? I think this piece might overstate their case a bit but it seems to me that the Iraqi nuclear weapons program was one of the weakest points in the Bush Administration's indictment of Iraq.

HOW TO WIN OVER THE REST OF THE ANTI-WAR LEFT: Ipse Dixit notes the following about Iraq and Saddam Hussein:

--Saddam Hussein personally owns guns, and uses them.

--Iraq produces oil, the combustion of which will doom the planet to a second ice age.

--Saddam supports the death penalty and uses it.

--Some Iraqis, including government officials, drive Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV).

--Saddam believes Iraq is better than other countries.

--Saddam is decisive, often seeing issues in black-or-white terms, rather than countless shades of grey.

--Many Iraqis are meat eaters.

--Many Iraqis are "pro-life," opposing abortion.

That should do it.


"OUR FUTURE IN SPACE IS HISTORY" This interesting piece doesn't actually support what the title seems to indicate and for good reason:
public opinion polls have shown consistent approval of space flight as a national pursuit. "Despite the dangers, human space flight is here to stay," says Brian J. Cantwell, a professor of astronautics at Stanford.
"We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue." -- Ronald Reagan (1/28/86).

WE'RE AT CODE ORANGE. What does this mean? What are we supposed to do? The Washington Post has some suggestions

WHY DO THEY HATE US? Todd Gitlin has some opinions.
Anti-Americanism is an emotion masquerading as an analysis, a morality, an ideal, even an idea about what to do. When hatred of foreign policies ignites into hatred of an entire people and their civilization, then thinking is dead and demonology lives. When complexity of thought devolves into caricature, intellect is close to reconciling itself to mass murder.

WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA? Eric Alterman can't find any.

A NICE STORY TO START OFF YOUR WEEK-END. The American Dream still lives for some.

Friday, February 07, 2003

GHENGHIS KHAN: The "most successful patriarch of all time"? Well, after a fashion

SNOW DAY. We probably got four to six inches of the stuff which is more than enough to cause schools to shut down. So I'm home with hot chocolate and an agonizingly slow dial-up connection.

I've shoveled the driveway. My soldier neighbors' driveways are 100% moisture free and the lines between the edge of the driveway and the grass are ruler straight. My effort by comparison is half-hearted (the stuff all melts in a day or two anyway) and sloppy.

The kids are all out running, screaming, and throwing snowballs at each other. Three neighborhood adolescent boys demonstrate their gallantry (and their secret crushes) by teaming up to hurl snowballs at the 14-year old girl who lives next door. My four-year-old is red-cheeked and wet but oblivious to the cold.

And meanwhile the world moves on.

--Unemployment was down in January Good news, right?

--The Lakers are above .500 for the first time this season. Not good news!

--VodkaPundit has some new reading. Methinks that some Americans are a bit too harsh on the French

--Michael Jackson feels betrayed. Sad, that.

Time for a hot cocoa refill.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

The North Korean party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, warned of the consequences if the United Staates seriously considered a pre-emptive strike on the nuclear complex, saying "a surprise attack on our peaceful nuclear facilities" would "spark a total war."

Making clear the potential of North Korea to wreak havoc on South Korea and possibly targets in Japan, the commentary said it would be "foolish for the United States to think that we sit idle with folded arms to wait until it gives orders" to initiate the attack.

The inference of the commentary was that North Korea might be the first to strike if the United States built up its forces in the western Pacific, as the Pentagon has indicated may well happen. The North Korean commentary appeared as a response to the disclosure that the United States is preparing to send two dozen bombers to Pacific bases while senior American officers have reportedly requested an aircraft carrier and additional troops to brace up the defense of South Korea.
The $64,000 question is whether the DPRK would really make good on its threats. I heard the argument today that in cases of small-scale conflicts--clashes with Japanese or ROK ships in disputed waters, for example--the DPRK has always backed away from escalating a confrontation. One can only hope that Kim Jong-il and company are not willing to take action that would most likely prove to be suicidal. They sure can talk that way though!

POWELL FAILS TO MAKE CASE: a half-hearted attempt to fisk Katrina vanden Heuvel's piece on this subject> She starts out with
As international and domestic doubts and opposition to war grow . . .
Really? Somehow I thought that the fact that the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia all signed letters of support for Bush's position on Iraq might be an indication that the tide is turning in favor of Bush. And domestic public opinion seems more in line with Britain than with France:
In the aftermath of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's address to the United Nations, a growing majority of Americans now say the United States has presented enough evidence to justify going to war with Iraq, according to a new News poll.

Overall, more than six in 10 Americans-61 percent-believe that the Bush administration has made the case for war, up from 54 percent in a survey conducted last week after the president's State of the Union address.

She continues:
Powell's multimedia presentation contained many specific allegations but little new information or proof of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There was no smoking gun. Instead, nearly all of the evidence was largely circumstantial or speculative. (Indeed, hours before Powell spoke, UN weapons inspections chief Hans Blix denied or discounted four claims central to Powell's indictment.)
She doesn't elaborate on the specifics of the four claims that Blix "denied or discounted" so I don't know how to deal with this particular fact. More generally, though, Powell's "largely circumstantial or speculative" evidence includes a transcript of the following conversation between an Iraqi brigadier general and colonel (see here for the entire speech):
We didn't destroy it. We didn't line it up for inspection. We didn't turn it into the inspectors. We evacuated it to make sure it was not around when the inspectors showed up.
Now it may be "speculative" in that it isn't entirely clear what the "it" is, but one can be fairly certain that they weren't discussing hiding back issues of The Nation from the inspectors. Powell continues
While we were here in this council chamber debating Resolution 1441 last fall, we know, we know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in western Iraq. Most of the launchers and warheads have been hidden in large groves of palm trees and were to be moved every one to four weeks to escape detection.

We also have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities.
And continues
In this next example, you will see the type of concealment activity Iraq has undertaken in response to the resumption of inspections. Indeed, in November 2002, just when the inspections were about to resume, this type of activity spiked. Here are three examples.

At this ballistic missile site, on November 10, we saw a cargo truck preparing to move ballistic missile components. At this biological weapons-related facility, on November 25, just two days before inspections resumed, this truck caravan appeared, something we almost never see at this facility, and we monitor it carefully and regularly.

At this ballistic missile facility, again, two days before inspections began, five large cargo trucks appeared along with the truck-mounted crane to move missiles. We saw this kind of house cleaning at close to 30 sites.

Days after this activity, the vehicles and the equipment that I've just highlighted disappear and the site returns to patterns of normalcy. We don't know precisely what Iraq was moving, but the inspectors already knew about these sites, so Iraq knew that they would be coming.

We must ask ourselves: Why would Iraq suddenly move equipment of this nature before inspections if they were anxious to demonstrate what they had or did not have?

I'm not sure what constitutes a "smoking gun" but anyone who honestly believes the Iraqi claims that they have no WMD's and are fully cooperating must be smoking something else. In the end, as I noted earlier, the issue is not really a "smoking gun" or the lack thereof, the parties involved already have their minds made up (and their speeches written). Those who opposed the war will still oppose it.

Why not go to war? She answers:
Any benefits of going to war to remove Saddam Hussein are outweighed by the possible unintended consequences of fueling anti-Americanism in the Islamic world; undermining the global fight against terrorism; increasing terrorism at home; helping Al Qaeda win more recruits, destabilizing Pakistan, Turkey and other countries in the region; and risking the lives of US and other troops and Iraqi civilians. Furthermore, the moral, political and economic costs of a likely postwar occupation would mean more spending on war and less on homeland security and unmet domestic needs.
If Washington bullies other Security Council members into acquiescing in an American war, the council's legitimacy will forever be eroded, having become an instrument of a war-hungry administration and no longer an instrument of the rule of law.
Of course the counter-argument is that failure to act on the fairly clear and unequivocal language contained in UN Resolution 1441 will also destroy the UN's credibility. In the end, giving this scathing indictment of the UN by James Lileks,
Perhaps you mean that we need the moral imprimatur of this august and esteemed body. You'd have a better point if the United Nations was moral, august or esteemed. On the contrary: The United Nations is a dim hive of self-interested parties engaged in endless parliamentary mummery, united by a consensual delusion that all nations are equal.

So you have the bitterly risible sight of Libya chairing the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which is akin to giving Kid Rock control over the New York Philharmonic. You have the 2003 disarmament conference rotating its presidency among a group of states that includes Iran and Iraq. (Perhaps next year the agricultural planning conference will be held in Pyongyang.) You have the shameful performance of the peacekeepers in Srebrenica, looking away while thousands were slaughtered. You have the sex-for-food scandal at U.N. refugee camps in Africa -- if it happened at an American frat house, it would be national news for a week.

And you have small, telling scenes like the one that transpired in Baghdad recently. A man thrust himself into a U.N. inspector's car and begged for sanctuary. The U.N. official pretended to study his papers while the poor man pleaded for his life. The Iraqi guards took the man away, and if what we know about Iraqi prisons is even half right, we can only hope they killed the man as soon as he was out of camera range.

Imagine you are running in fear from Iraqi thugs, and you see a U.N. car, and a U.S. convoy. To which would you run?
I don't know that the end of the UN as we now know it is all that bad of a thing.

Having said all of this, I am still opposed to going to war. The problem is I can't seem to find anyone who can articulate compelling and consistent reasons for opposing war that make sense to me. If anyone has come across such a case, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

JAPANESE SCIENTIST INVENTS "INVISIBILITY CLOAK" Legions of Harry Potter fans line up to purchase the prototype.

HOW THE SEGWAY CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Somehow I don't think I would last very long on I-95 riding one of those things.

DID COLIN POWELL MAKE THE CASE? I don't think it matters. Did any reasonable person really doubt that Saddam Hussein has not been forthright about Iraq's weapons programs before Powell's speech? The real issue is whether Iraq's possession and concealment of WMD's justifies a war. France clearly thinks the answer is no. And, in the words of a Washington pundit, only the release of Iraqi anthrax in a Paris subway will change the minds of the French. China and Russia still appear to be reluctant but, in the end, will probably be brought on board by American carrots and sticks. So, will the U.S. go ahead with war even if France uses its Security Council veto? Probably so.

Unfortunately for South Korea, Bush's current policy places not only North Korea, but South Korea as well at risk of the deaths of millions of its people and the massive destruction of property, for I doubt that North Korea will go down without wreaking as much havoc as it can against South Korea. Instead of the U.S. acting as savior and protector of South Korean security, the U.S. under George Bush appears as South Korea's greatest threat.

Read the comments for dissenting (and supporting) opinions

JAPAN MAY DEPLOY AEGIS DESTROYERS TO COUNTER NORTH KOREAN THREAT Just a few months ago, it looked as if the DPRK and Japan might normalize relations. Not now!

JAPANESE-BORN KOREANS IN THE DPRK WANT OUT (but life in Japan, clearly better than the "hell" of North Korea, is no picnic)
The Associated Press ("FORMER NORTH KOREAN SPY SAYS 100,000 JAPAN-BORN KOREANS, KIN IN NORTH KOREA WANT TO ESCAPE THEIR 'HELL,'" Tokyo, 02/05/03) reported that a former DPRK spy said Wednesday that about 100,000 Japan-born Koreans and Japanese nationals living in the DPRK want to flee their "hell," and urged Japan to welcome those who make the dangerous journey. Disguised in a wig, sunglasses and a gauze mask, Kenki Aoyama said those who left Japan for the DPRK under a repatriation program organized by Pyongyang decades ago are living in near-starvation conditions in the DPRK. "I would say 100 percent of them want to come to Japan. Why? North Korea is hell," Aoyama, who goes by a pseudonym, told a news conference in Tokyo. Aoyama, a Japan-born Korean, was 21 when he left Japan for the DPRK in 1960. Under the DPRK's repatriation campaign, about 93,000 Koreans, most of them originally from the ROK, and their 6,700 Japanese spouses went to the DPRK to escape the discrimination they faced in Japan. The survivors and their kin currently number about 100,000, Aoyama said. Aoyama, who said he developed missile technology for the DPRK and later stole secrets in the PRC as a spy, told the news conference that he and about 50 others who fled the DPRK don't feel safe in Japan and can't receive aid because Tokyo doesn't consider them refugees. They can't find jobs because they can't use their real names for fear of reprisals against relatives they left behind, he said. "We have no legal status here," he said. "We are both asylum seekers and refugees ... We want Tokyo to recognize us as refugees and guarantee our human rights."

IF THE THREAT OF A U.S.-LED ATTACK WEREN'T ENOUGH: The DPRK is complaining about the perils of cultural imperialism as well:
Reuters ("INFLUX OF WESTERN CULTURE WORRYING NORTH KOREA," Tokyo, 02/05/03) reported that bibles, pornography, mini-skirts and women wearing "very strange make-up" and artifacts of western culture has found its way to the DPRK, and DPRK government officials aren't happy about it, a Japanese newspaper reported Wednesday. Citing internal DPRK documents, the Sankei Shimbun daily said DPRK citizens who travel overseas on business were bringing home some unwelcome souvenirs. The result: a decline in morals, a growing divorce rate and rising popularity of fortune tellers. "This is a harsh situation and the impact is significant," the conservative newspaper quoted the document as saying. The 16-page document, which Sankei said was issued by a DPRK ruling party publisher and given to senior officials last year, contains ideas to be drawn upon in public speeches. "Women are using very strange make-up, putting foreign-style make-up on their lips and eyelashes," the document said, adding that women were also wearing "short skirts." "Divorce is increasing among the people...fortune-tellers are becoming popular," Sankei quoted the document as saying. The document also said those who own television sets and radios were listening to broadcasts from the ROK and other neighboring countries, and that young people in particular were memorizing ROK songs and bragging about it. Recent visitors to the DPRK, however, have seen no evidence of Western fads, even in the capital of Pyongyang.

There's hope yet.

NORTH KOREAN IS GOING NUCLEAR (AND MAY SELL THE STUFF) And yet, at the same time, the process of North-South engagement continues: The first road traffic between North and South, a bus carrying some 100 South Koreans, crossed the DMZ.

I get the impression that if left alone the two Koreas just might figure out how to get along without bombing each other back into the 19th century. Sadly, I also get the impression that at least some among the powers that be in Washington aren't willing to let this happen.

To be sure, the prospect of the DPRK selling a nuke or two to "nonstate actors" like Al-Queda is terrifying. But it seems to me that clearly establishing that selling nukes is a "red line" that the DPRK must not cross while at the same time moving to improve ties and provide other avenues by which the Kim Jong-il regime can make money might accomplish our laudable non-proliferation goals (meaning the spread of nuclear weapons beyond North Korea; I take the DPRK having nukes as a fait accompli) while at the same time avoiding a devastating war on the peninsula.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


AHEAD OF ITS TIME (as usual): When this McDonalds spoof was done, I doubt the folks at SNL had any idea how soon reality would catch up. Two of my favorites:
"The Big N' Tasty should not be used as an artificial heart."
"According to United States Law, the Big N' Tasty cannot perform the duties of a Legal Guardian. If you were to go into McDonald's and say, "Hey, Big N' Tasty, take care of my kids while I run some errands," you may face legal action."
Read the whole thing.

The result has been anti-American demonstrations, a spectacle that makes investors recoil. "Korea has been a world-class place to invest in," said Martin Pichinson, chief executive of Sherwood Partners, a consulting firm in Los Angeles and San Francisco. "They've recently destroyed it. You have a new leader speaking against the United States."

Since his election, Mr. Roh and his advisers have been trying to tone down their comments and have reached out to people like Mr. Jones to calm the waters. Mr. Roh "is interested in how foreign businesspeople feel about Korea," Mr. Jones said. "He wants to do the right thing for the economy. He thinks it's important for the government to continue attracting foreign investment."

While Mr. Roh may make headway with foreign businesspeople in Seoul, Mr. Pichinson said, it is less clear whether distant investors with little firsthand knowledge of the country will take much comfort from Mr. Roh's change of tack. "Korea has created an unstable zone," he said, and for now, he said, his advice to investors is to "do nothing" in the country.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has put 24 long-range bombers on alert for possible deployment within range of North Korea, both to deter "opportunism" at a moment when Washington is focused on Iraq and to give President Bush military options if diplomacy fails to halt North Korea's effort to produce nuclear weapons, officials said today.

The White House insisted today that Mr. Bush was still committed to a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Any decision to bolster the considerable American military presence near North Korea was simply what Ari Fleischer, the president's spokesman, called making "certain our contingencies are viable."

The Bush administration continues to stress its desire for a diplomatic solution to the current crisis, but observers note the following:
At the same time, administration officials, in private briefings to members of Congress, have confirmed that North Korea appears to be moving spent nuclear spent-fuel rods that have been in storage since 1994.

If reprocessed into plutonium, those rods would provide the raw material for upwards of a half dozen weapons — about one a month once the reprocessing plant is in full operation, experts say. That gives Mr. Bush a window of what one senior official said today was "a few weeks to a few months to decide if he wants to do something about Yongbyon," the nuclear complex, before the plutonium production is under way, and any military strike would risk spreading radioactive pollution around the Korean Peninsula.

Monday, February 03, 2003

MORE ON THE KIM DAE JUNG/NOBEL PRIZE/KIM-KIM SUMMIT SCANDAL HERE I'm not entirely clear what the fuss is about. I thought the point of DJ's sunshine policy was to increase engagement and interaction. His 2000 summit with Kim Jong-il was the first ever meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. Does it really matter that much if Kim Jong-il, following a long-standing North Korean pattern, demanded some goodies as a price for cooperation?

Well, here's one possible reason for objecting

In articles recently posted on several civic groups' Internet homepages, a man who said he worked for the National Intelligence Service (NIS) argued that President Kim funneled about 2 trillion won to North Korean leader Kim and lobbied in foreign countries to get the 2000 Nobel prize.

With that money, Kim Jong-il purchased 40 Soviet-made MiG jets and a submarine from Kazakhstan as well as key components for nuclear weapons, said the man known only by his family name Kim.

THE WINDS OF CHANGE: For the first time in South Korean history, a ROK-approved history textbook actually has something nice to say about North Korean leader Kim Il-sung:
For decades, it was illegal here to say anything positive about Kim Il Sung, just as it was forbidden to display a North Korean flag. The revised history textbooks reflect a broad overturning of taboos here recently that has resulted in everything from South Korean tourists traveling to North Korea, to the president-elect, Roh Moo Hyun, openly questioning the nature of the longstanding alliance with the United States.

What is most striking about the debate over Kim Il Sung is that there is little disagreement in South Korea over the facts. In the 1930's, Mr. Kim successfully led fighters in the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, based in Manchuria, in a series of raids against the Japanese occupiers, including an attack on the Korean town of Pochonbo in June 1937. This was, by most independent accounts, a minor skirmish, but it is celebrated in North Korea as a huge victory.

Mr. Kim's raids prompted the Japanese to mount a major operation in the region, which eventually wiped out most of his fighters, forcing the Korean guerrilla leader to flee to Khabarovsk, in the Soviet Far East. He remained there for the duration of the war, and Kim Jong Il was born in Russia in 1942 during his exile. North Korea's hagiography of its founder is silent on these setbacks, and North Koreans are taught that Kim Jong Il was born at Mount Paektu, the legendary source of Korean civilization.

The newly approved textbooks say nothing about those historical inventions, limiting themselves instead to a relatively circumspect, but nonetheless groundbreaking, account of Mr. Kim's anti-Japanese efforts. The Northeast Anti-Japanese Army "backed by other fighters, set fire to Japanese administrative offices and attacked the police," one of the books says.

Later in the same passage, it adds, "after Korea was liberated from Japan, Kim Il Sung was revered by North Koreans as a leader of Korean independence," and goes on to note that South Korean experts have criticized North Korea for exaggerating the battle.

Of course, some don't like this:
Park Sung Soo, a prominent academic who heads the Institute of Documenting Accurate History, a conservative group that is critical of North Korea, says even such limited mention is going way too far and is an example of the sunshine policy run amok. For Mr. Park, and for other conservative historians who have objected to crediting Mr. Kim, history is a political weapon, and South Korea is naïvely lowering its guard.

"North Korea doesn't recognize the contributions of other people," said Mr. Park, whose institute unsuccessfully fought the textbooks' introduction. "They make it sound like Kim Il Sung single-handedly liberated Korea. Why should we give him so much credit? We are letting sunshine politics distort our historical thinking, and giving recognition to leftist facts is becoming a factor in the growing anti-Americanism here."


THE SPACE SHUTTLE MUST BE STOPPED! And, apparently, the internatonal space station and manned space flight (and NASA?) along with it:
Unfortunately, the core problem that lay at the heart of the Challenger tragedy applies to the Columbia tragedy as well. That core problem is the space shuttle itself. For 20 years, the American space program has been wedded to a space-shuttle system that is too expensive, too risky, too big for most of the ways it is used, with budgets that suck up funds that could be invested in a modern system that would make space flight cheaper and safer. The space shuttle is impressive in technical terms, but in financial terms and safety terms no project has done more harm to space exploration. With hundreds of launches to date, the American and Russian manned space programs have suffered just three fatal losses in flight—and two were space-shuttle calamities. This simply must be the end of the program.

Will the much more expensive effort to build a manned International Space Station end too? In cost and justification, it's as dubious as the shuttle. The two programs are each other's mirror images. The space station was conceived mainly to give the shuttle a destination, and the shuttle has been kept flying mainly to keep the space station serviced. Three crew members—Expedition Six, in NASA argot—remain aloft on the space station. Probably a Russian rocket will need to go up to bring them home. The wisdom of replacing them seems dubious at best. This second shuttle loss means NASA must be completely restructured—if not abolished and replaced with a new agency with a new mission.
While I agree that NASA could use some restructuring and reform (and some more $$), giving up on manned space flight seems rather short-sighted to me.

UPDATE: Bush to propose $500 million more for NASA


LILEKS on manned vs. unmanned space flight

The rest of the day I listened to the radio. NPR had an interview with one of those people who think we should not send people into space, but rely entirely on robots. As I pulled into the parking lot at the mall he casually asked “what can a man do on Mars that a robot cannot?”

PLANT A ******* FLAG ON THE PLANET, I shouted at the radio. Pardon my language. But. On a day when seven brave people died while fulfilling their brightest ambitions, this was the wrong day to suggest we all stay tethered to the dirt until the sun grows cold. Are we less than the men who left safe harbors and shouldered through cold oceans? After all, they sailed into the void; we can look up at the night sky and point at where we want to go. There: that bright white orb. We’re going. There: that red coal burning on the horizon. We’re going. And we’re not sending smart toys on our behalf - we’re sending human beings, and one of them will put his boot on the sand and bring the number of worlds we’ve visited to three. And when he plants the flag he will use flesh and sinew and blood and bone to drive it into the ground. His heartbeat will hammer in his ears; his mind will spin a kaleidoscopic medley of all the things he’d thought he’d think at this moment, and he'll grin: I had it wrong. I had no idea what it would truly be like. He’d imagined this moment as oddly private; he'd thought of himself, the red land, the flag in his hand, and he heard music, as though the moment would be fully scored when it happened. But there isn't any music; there's the sound of his breath and the thrum of his pulse. It seems like everyone who ever lived is standing behind him at the other end of a vast dark auditorium, waiting for the flag to stand on the ground of Mars. Then he will say something. He might stumble on a word or two, because he’s only human.

But look what humans have done. Again.

AS I FEARED: Punxsutawney Phil predicts more winter ahead.

THE JOYS AND PERILS OF GOOGLE. In my case, I can blame any bad links on the biology teacher, Purdue swimmer, or Danish website designer (?) that share my name.

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