Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Tuesday, August 12, 2003

  Moon: 1. Meteors: 0. Man: 38

Every year, for my birthday, the universe puts on a spectacular light-show - the Perseids meteor shower - just for me and my family, or so I think sometimes. In the original Estonian, my name, "Täht", means "star or planet". I've spent far more time wandering all the stars and planets in the universe - in books, and lying flat on my back looking up, late at night - than I have with earthbound folk.

I cursed at the moon tonight because it drowns out the Tähts, it drowns out the Perseids, and it drowned out our space program.

The full moon is as clear, and as sharp, and just as out of reach as it has been my whole life. I can cover it with my thumb. I can see the shadow my hand casts on the ground and see the odds of humanity colonizing space in my lifetime grow longer, and longer.

I still hear John F Kennedy's voice in my head - his first speech, given May 25th, 1961.And from his second speech, given at Rice:12 men reached the moon. All 12 came back.

If I could see just one falling star tonight I'd make a wish on it. It's long past time we did the other things. Kennedy made it one goal to return those men that made it to the moon safely to earth. I can't believe he intended to stop there. It's long past time we sent expeditions to the asteroids, that we make it our goal to move into space, and stay there.

In a nation scarred and enraged by 9/11, it seems ironic to me that the passing of the crew of the Columbia has only paralized the space program. No one, no politician, no pundit, no one in power in america seems to retain Kennedy's core vision: to do what it takes push humanity on to the stars.

We seem intent on throwing money down gravity wells - not just on the moon and Mars - but in wars and useless government programs.

I stare at the sky this time of year, and I think about the Apollo and Aten asteroids: real estate, on the hoof, each with billions of tons of valuable raw materials, each on an orbit that could take man on a grand tour of the solar system between venus and jupiter every four years. An asteroid mission would be a goal worthy of a presidental imperative, and practical besides. There's no gravity well to climb into or out of, no atmosphere to burn up in.

I dream of visiting and colonizing Toutatis and Castilla, and I despair. Toutatis passes within 4 lunar distances on Sept 29th, 2004, and I know where I'll be. Sitting on a beach, watching opportunity slip by.

I know, even if the odds were thousands to one against my safe return to earth, I'd go to space. So would so many others. Even if the toll of names lost filled a monument the size of the vietnam memorial, it would be worth it.

"History will remember the inhabitants of this century as the people who went from Kitty Hawk to the moon in 66 years, only to languish for the next 30 in low Earth orbit. At the core of the risk-free society is a self-indulgent failure of nerve." -- Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut

Bonus Link: The Permanent plan for exploring the asteroids. Many good links....
 
Monday, August 11, 2003

  Taking a political quiz

I just took Advocate's for self-government's political quiz. When I first took the test, I scored libertarian. Then I thought about it, in various contexts, and took it again, and scored left-liberal. Then I thought about it some more and landed smack dab in the center. Then I thought about it some more and threw the test out entirely.

I'd like to talk today about how phrasing shapes thinking. Tests like this need their assumptions tested. The only thing I learned from this test is that we all need to test our assumptions once in a while.

The questions:

1) Military service should be voluntary (no draft). I answered yes to this one. America has arguably not needed a draft since WWII. Getting rid of the draft has improved the quality of our armed forces tremendously. But if we had not had a draft in WWII, or in WWI, or (for that matter) the civil war, we'd be saying yessah, masta Hitler.

2) Government should not control radio, TV, the press or the Internet. This one became a maybe. A far better question is: "Do you believe that media should be concentrated in the hands of a few?" My answer to that, is a resounding "NO!". I can't believe any red blooded American would say differently.

The question then becomes, how do you prevent media from being concentrated in the hands of a few? And there lies the rub. How do you do that? Market forces seem to push inexoriably towards media concentration. So far as I know only government can prevent it. I leaned libertarian while our newspapers, tv, and radio became monopolized, dull outlets for homogenized pap, and I regret it. I get my news now from the internet and from overseas. I don't want to see the internet go down the tubes, too.

3) Repeal regulations on sex for consenting adults. Yes. But: some days, I believe that childbearing and childrearing should require a license. Other days I think that being anti-contraception or anti-abortion should automatically require you to adopt as many children as you can afford, and then some.

4) Drug laws do more harm than good. Repeal them. Maybe. I'm in favor of replacing half our tobacco fields with marijuana fields and then taxing the hell out of it. It would make for a mellower america. But planting poppies is right out. I'm a little extreme about my hatred of heroin, but I have cause. Similarly, other drugs that lead to destructive behavior should be strictly regulated - methamphetamine and cocaine, notably, but also sugar, carbohydrates, and caffene. I don't have much against the various hallucinogenics, except that they lead to use of patcholi. Take pot off of schedule 1 and put patcholi there, PLEASE.

5) People should be free to come and go across borders; to live and work where they choose. In an ideal world, yes. It's not an ideal world.

6) Businesses and farms should operate without govt. subsidies. Welfare for big business - no. Farms have historically failed due to weather, bad planning, and lack of investment. I don't have a good answer for farms.

7) People are better off with free trade than with tariffs. Again, in an ideal world, yes. Tariffs are used to fight off other tariffs, and I don't know a better way to deal with the issue.

8) Minimum wage laws cause unemployment. Repeal them. No. Minimum wages establish a baseline for legal employment.

9) End taxes. Pay for services with user fees. No. Anyone want to pay a toll every time they reach an intersection? No one likes taxes, and I'm all in favor of reducing transaction costs with market forces whenever possible, but some things can best be dealt with by eliminating transaction costs in favor of a general tax.

10) All foreign aid should be privately funded. No. I'd go into this one at length, drawing on historical analogies, like "Big Sugar" in south america, but I've lost my enthusiasm for this test.

The questions asked, and the boxes ultimately we are put in (libertarian/liberal/centrist/conservative) don't adaquately describe my worldview. If you think about it, you may find that your worldview doesn't fit either. We need new labels for how our ideals align.
 
David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


Resume,Songs,
My new blog, NeX-6, My facebook page
Orgs I like
The EFF - keeping free speech in the world
Musical stuff I like
Jeff, Rick, Ardour, Jack
Prior Rants - Wireless and Wifi in 2015 - not what I dreamed of Saving wifi! Fixing Bufferbloat! Fighting the vend... Virgin Media - Fixing the epidemic of bufferbloat ... 49... and trying to find my navel Wheels down on mars! Tracking the landing of Curiosity, from Seattle spotting NEOs from around venus's orbit Asteroids as lunar orbit resources SOPA is bad news Departing France for England, then 'home'.
Best of the blog:
Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
Authors I like:
Doc Searls
Where's Cherie?
UrbanAgora
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
Evan Hunt
The Bay Area is talking
Brizzled
Zimnoiac Emanations
Eric Raymond
Unlocking The Air
Bob Mage
BroadBand & Me
SpaceCraft
Selenian Boondocks
My Pencil
Transterrestial Musings
Bear Waller Hollar
Callahans
Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member

If you really want to, you can poke through the below links as well.

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