We’re not going back to the moon

This is kind of depressing, but I don’t know why – but NASA administrator Bolden says that NASA has no plans to lead another mission to the moon within our lifetime:

“However, he made it clear NASA has no plans to lead its own human return to the Moon under his watch. “NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission,” he said. “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things.” Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. “We intend to do that, and we think it can be done.” (from SpacePolitics.com and several other places.)

Yes I am old enough that I can remember the Apollo program, and vaguely the Gemini and Mercury projects. Certainly during my teen age years I followed all developments at NASA in great detail. I can remember the launch of Apollo 11 (9:32am in July 16 1969) and building models of each of the spacecraft, the rockets, the landers and so on. I love that stuff. So, bummer.


Internet in a suitcase

The U.S. government is helping create parallel internets and cell phone networks in countries where the government is suppressing free communications between their citizens. The idea makes sense and is, “pretty cool”:

“The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype “Internet in a suitcase.” (from The New York Times)

Read more about it in the New York Times: US Underwrites Detour Around Sensors.

Hilarious blog post teaching Israelis how to adapt to living in the USA

This is too funny. Here’s a taste, but you should read the whole article saying how an Israeli should adapt to living in the United States. For example, this is about the express line in the super market:

“The express line operates differently in American grocery stores, and might take some getting used to. The 10 item limit is strictly enforced. It would not be considered normal for you to haggle and argue with the sales clerk and to raise your voice because you only have 11 items. It is even less likely that as you stood your ground, the people in line behind you would start to call you names and to yell at the clerk for not moving on. And do not expect six people to simultaneously yell at each other at the top of their lungs as a result of this unlikely confrontation. As you can see, the express line requires an adjustment period for any Israeli, and is perhaps the place where you will first start to feel homesick.” (from Advice for Israelis coming to the United States)




Fareed Zakaria: “Are Americas Best Days Behind Us”?

I know it’s a provocative title, and sadly I suspect that many of the ‘intended audience’ will agree with much of what he says, but then also feel like there’s nothing that can be done about it.

I am a waning fan of the Sunday TV news shows. Nowadays it is so easy if you are inclined to keep up with the news, moment by moment that it’s hard to find much more than the usual platitudes and repetition.

Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program on Sundays for me is now easily the best. He has interesting, thoughtful segments that don’t fall into that boring greyness that the rest of TV news has become. Nowadays, I only tune in to TV news for the visuals.

So Fareed Zakaria’s new editorial in TIME magazine tells us:

“The following rankings come from various lists, but they all tell the same story.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), our 15-year-olds rank 17th in the world in science and 25th in math. We rank 12th among developed countries in college graduation (down from No. 1 for decades). We come in 79th in elementary-school enrollment. Our infrastructure is ranked 23rd in the world, well behind that of every other major advanced economy. American health numbers are stunning for a rich country: based on studies by the OECD and the World Health Organization, we’re 27th in life expectancy, 18th in diabetes and first in obesity. Only a few decades ago, the U.S. stood tall in such rankings. No more. There are some areas in which we are still clearly No. 1, but they’re not ones we usually brag about. We have the most guns. We have the most crime among rich countries. And, of course, we have by far the largest amount of debt in the world.” (from Fareed Zakaria)

Old news, right? I have seen stats like this before, and they are depressing. And yet any attempt to even talk about this is immediately shot down.

Also depressing is that for all that they are ‘common knowledge’ it seems like our leaders are unable to get out of the mode that they are in:

“So why are we tackling our economic problems in a manner that is shortsighted and wrong-footed? Because it is politically easy. The key to understanding the moves by both parties is that, for the most part, they are targeting programs that have neither a wide base of support nor influential interest groups behind them. (And that’s precisely why they’re not where the money is. The American political system is actually quite efficient. It distributes the big bucks to popular programs and powerful special interests.)

And neither side will even talk about tax increases, though it is impossible to achieve long-term fiscal stability without them. Certain taxes — such as ones on carbon or gas — would have huge benefits beyond revenue, like energy efficiency.” (from Fareed Zakaria)


Any politician who dares suggest that the U.S. can learn from — let alone copy — other countries is likely to be denounced instantly.

If someone points out that Europe gets better health care at half the cost, that’s dangerously socialist thinking.

If a business leader notes that tax rates in much of the industrialized world are lower and that there are far fewer loopholes than in the U.S., he is brushed aside as trying to impoverish American workers. If a commentator says — correctly — that social mobility from one generation to the next is greater in many European nations than in the U.S., he is laughed at.

Yet several studies, the most recent from the OECD last year, have found that the average American has a much lower chance of moving out of his parents’ income bracket than do people in places like Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Canada. (from Fareed Zakaria)

I probably will be branded as a socialist just for liking this article.