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We're not going back to the moon. We're not rushing pell-mell to Mars either. Instead, NASA will support efforts to develop commercial human spaceflight to low earth orbit, and focus its own efforts on development of a heavy launcher and long-term exploration of the solar system by both humans and robots.

We made it to the moon as quickly as we did for a lot of reasons. One of them is that the moon can be visited quickly. Just as Chernobyl can be visited quickly. What matters, mostly, is your lifetime exposure. And reaching Mars takes a very long time.

We don't have a practical engineering solution to keep people reasonably safe from the levels of radiation they would encounter on the long slow trip to Mars. It's going to take time to figure out how that could be done at a sane price. And we also don't have a practical plan to bring people back from Mars. And we have no idea how to create a self-sufficient ecology on another planet, so yes, we do have to bring them back. Etc.

This is why so many plans to visit Mars seriously proposed one-way "once you're there you're a Martian" trips or even elderly "colonists," on their way to die on Mars because they were soon to die anyway and thought it would be a seriously cool way to go while doing lots of good science, etc. This is a calculation a human being is entitled to make privately of course, but for my tax dollars exploring the universe should be an adventure, something from which you might one day return. Alive.

A better plan is to continue exploration, make better use of robots, develop commercial use of low earth orbit (and find practical ways to clean up the dangerous mess we've scattered there), and work on the long term problems of groundbreaking propulsion, better radiation shielding and sustainable ecology.

That last one is going to pay big dividends here on Earth. You can bet that any technology that sustains life independently on another world is going to require huge insights into how to sustain life on this one.

I would like NASA to have a bigger budget and pursue bigger goals sooner, but I can't fault the Obama administration for doing the math and setting goals that make more sense. Bush committed us to return to the moon but never set a realistic budget to get there. A sustainable long-term program is much more honest.
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Because [livejournal.com profile] solestria demanded it, and [livejournal.com profile] smittywing will no doubt be amused as well:



And the ready-to-go icon version:

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You don't get to equate the holocaust of the Jews in WWII with abortion and then speak at the inauguration of a pro-choice Democrat. It's nonsensical. And yes, he made the comment recently.

Warren is also on the record establishing just the sort of litmus tests for political candidates that the Saddleback Forum was supposed to reject.

I'm convinced: Obama made a boneheaded choice here. He may have to deal with Warren civilly (hell, he deals with everybody civilly), and I still think participating in the Saddleback Forum buoyed his credibility with people of faith who were nervous about Obama's own pastor. But he doesn't have to put Warren on stage at the inauguration. Who expected him to? Nobody. He's needs to stop running for election (standard Democrat strategy: run like hell to the left, clinch the nomination, run like hell to the right) and think like a guy with a mandate to govern.

I'd be surprised if Obama backpedaled on this. In fact, I'm sure he won't. It would be a lousy move, politically. But I wish he would anyway. He could announce that he just heard about Warren's holocaust remarks, shake his head sadly, and disassociate himself from yet another scary radical preacher. He's got skillz in that department already.

(P.S. Hey, when did LJ start providing handy-dandy tag typeahead? Sweet. Now I know which tags I've actually used before.)
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I changed my tune on this tonight after doing more research. Read on if you're curious where I was initially coming from on it.

* * *

Rick Warren, famous evangelical pastor and author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," supported California's proposition 8, a constitutional ban on gay marriage in that state. Yet Barack Obama has chosen him to give the invocation at his inauguration. Why?

Rick Warren hosted a debate between Obama and McCain, showing Obama equal respect, which helped Obama bury the Jeremiah Wright thing and win the election. Warren has demonstrated a willingness not to demonize Obama and has spoken out against "God demands you vote Republican" religious politics. So Obama has to deal with him with the same degree of respect. That's politics. It's how our guy won for a change.

This also sets the bipartisan tone he'll need to set in the Senate to get anything at all accomplished. He's coming across as the grown-up, just as he did during the election.

All of this is in stark contrast to Bill Clinton's chaotic transition period and first 100 days. Obama is clearly determined to be realistic, effective, and impossible to write off as a wild-eyed idealist.

None of this would justify Obama's choice if he were to endorse Warren's positions on gay rights. But he hasn't done that, and in fact he's spoken out to the contrary. Also, Rev. Joseph Lowery will get the last word, giving the benediction. Rev. Lowery, whose civil rights track record that is beyond criticism, has spoken much more positively on the matter of gay marriage. No, he's not a signed, sealed and delivered supporter (he says he's "in the valley of prayer" on the subject), but that just underscores the fact that it's kinda tough to find a nationally known pastor who is. Or a national candidate who is. Obama himself has said that he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman," while speaking out against constitutional amendements to that effect.

I'm not thrilled that Obama chose Warren, but I see the political wisdom of it. Political necessity? I don't know. Obama has been compensating, brilliantly, for his political weaknesses. He may be overcompensating at this point. I'll decide when I see how he chooses to spend the political capital he has built up.
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Ze Frank's From 52 to 48 With Love is brilliant. As Ze Frank acknowledges, it's an oversimplification of a deep divide, but so what? We could all use a little goodwill right now.
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So I'm having an Obama victory party tomorrow night. And people are giving me grief about this because I'm "tempting fate" by declaring victory.

[Rolls eyes]

I'm not tempting fate, people. I'm supplying Clotho with better spindles and monofilament thread. I was canvassing all this weekend and I will be canvassing all day tomorrow.

Maybe you are working for Obama's election and you are superstitious. Okay, fine, be as superstitious as you want, long as you're on the side of the angels.

But otherwise... you do know how lame it is to wring your hands about tempting fate when you could be altering it, right?

There's still time to log in to my.barackobama.com. Go canvass or phonebank near you. If you can't leave the house, no problem— you can get local numbers to call and/or print out canvassing materials right on the site.

Then you get to give me shit for planning for success.

always, Tom
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See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die


Ron Howard and friends humiliate themselves playing old characters we thought we'd never see again... in support of Barack Obama.
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Reality-checking Joe the Plumber. Sure enough, Joe nets a whole lot less than $250,000 and he admits that "if you believe him," Obama would cut his taxes.

As for the matter of fining companies that don't provide health insurance to employees, Obama says he won't do that for "small businesses." The article dings Obama for not being specific about what a small business is. Sure, but he's not the only one being vague— nobody seems to know how big that business Joe wants to buy is. Tough to tell, I imagine, when it doesn't even belong to Joe and the current owner probably has no interest in this circus.
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PRO:

Nap!
Could start rice cooker, eat something other than bocaburger
Not groggy in front of voters
Not grumpy in front of voters
On my game at rueda later

CON:

Significantly less Obama time tonight
Does not provide excuse to consume an additional yummy caffeinated beverage
Not so much with the grumpy anyway
Might not get out of bed again
Suck at napping
Already ate asian food today
Six hours' sleep? (*) O NOES! Quit whining and get your ass over there

(*) Following several hours of vigorous exertion, it is true
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Here we go again: under Obama, Joe the Plumber (*) is going to pay a huge penalty for operating a successful business! Except he that he won't.

Obama wants to return the top tax brackets to where they were under Clinton. For individuals, the 33% bracket would become 36%. For couples, the 35% bracket would become 39.6%.

The lower of those two brackets kicks in when your income exceeds $195,851. And it kicks in on EVERY DOLLAR AFTER THAT.

If this guy is properly deducting his business expenses, he'll probably find his taxable income is lower than $195,850 anyway.

And if not— if his taxable income is really $250,000 a year— he'll pay no more in taxes on the first $195,850 of his income than anybody else. There is no mystical-magical "I earned one more dollar, now I owe $20,000! Obama hates babies" cutoff point. That is not how it works. Quit pretending otherwise or I will mock you soundly.

If he earns an extra $50,000, he'll pay an extra 3% of that extra $50,000. Which pencils out to $1,500.

If he has 800 dependents, his taxable income will be lower due to deductions. Etc.

Go play with the tax bracket calculator and you'll see what I'm sayin'.
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Obama and McCain have agreed to split the country. Obama will lead the states with people in them, while McCain will be President of the states populated primarily by cattle.

McCain put a brave face on the situation. "The Maverick States of America are the largest in geographical terms. And we can guarantee jobs for all six people here in our capital of Billings, Montana by paving the rest of our great land with solar panels, then selling that electricity to the Hopeful States of Obamica."

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(No, I have no idea who did this.)
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Once again I listened on the radio rather than watching on TV. (But this time I plugged the radio in rather than cranking it! Whooo, welcome to 1940 Tom! I totally forgot it had an AC adapter jack.) This was good for productivity of other kinds, but I had a few occasions to wish I could see the candidates, most notably when McCain said "that one" instead of naming Obama.

Both candidates put up a good fight. I think McCain started strong, I think Obama ended strong. The latter is more important. I think my guy was better, but this was a long way from a blowout.

Both ignored the format and ran long, turning this debate into a rerun of the first one in some ways. Which was probably a win for Obama, who isn't especially good at the Clinton-Oprah format. Neither was as aggressive as the commentators are trying to suggest. There was no mention of McCain's role in the Keating scandal, no mention of Obama being "friends with terrorists."

McCain made a promise, early on, to renegotiate the principal and not just the interest of bad mortgages. By saying that, he co-opted a position further left than Obama's, acknowledging as he did so that it would "cost a lot." Yeah, damn straight it'll cost a lot. I'm not sure I'm looking forward to bailing out people who borrowed $300,000 on a $20,000 income. Who's going to pay for that? People who are still solvent, people who have not borrowed beyond their means. And that'd be me, kids.

Yes, you heard me right— I'm pissed off because McCain is somewhere to the "left" of me on an issue.

They said pretty much the same things on nuclear power (which I support— along with a national "no more NIMBY bullshit, let's find a stable salt deposit and be done with it" disposal site), pretty much the same things on "clean coal." McCain surprised me by speaking honestly, though not especially clearly, about our true economic reasons for giving a shit about Georgia.

But this is nothing new. Republicans run like hell to the right during the primary, then run like hell to the left during the general election. Then they ignore the latter (remember Bush promising to pass the Kyoto protocol?) and put members of the former on the Supreme Court.

There were some great questions raised by the voters, including some that could have easily sunk a less careful candidate. The social security question and both candidate's answers will get turned around and twisted around all week.

I think this one came down to your level of trust in the speaker. And I trust Obama a whole lot further than I trust McCain.
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Thursday: tell everybody I'm going into Obama mode.

Thursday night: attend official Democratic party debate night event. Try to throw myself on the mercy of volunteer organizer. Completely fail. Organizers present are working in the northeast, which I can't get to, and aren't particularly... well... organized.

Offer to help fix local Obama campaign web site, which has great big horking 500 error in volunteer form. No word yet.

Friday night: spend half an hour making canvassing calls via my.barackobama.com. The national site is fully capable of putting you to work making calls or canvassing door to door all byitself. The site is so effective, I nearly burst into tears contemplating its sheer functional beauty. Nevertheless, I reach only one person before it's kinda late and I don't feel right about calling. Lame start.

Saturday morning: Battle of Germantown reenactment. For inspiration, y'know.

Saturday afternoon: Bruce Springsteen Obama rally! Yay! Still not accomplishing anything! Boo!

Saturday night: wear conspicuous Obama pin to latin night at Shampoo. You laugh, but this is a genuinely culture-crossing activity in which my chances of meeting actual McCain/Palin supporters are much higher than they are on the Internets. Numerous compliments on pin from bouncers and other staff.

Sunday: canvass from 10:15am till 3:30pm. First hour is training and a brief rah-rah speech from Kathleen Sebelius, governor of Kansas, which is awesome but by then we've all been waiting in the sun for a while and we're ready to just get to work. But then, many hours of actual knocking on doors and talking to people. Make actual connections, have several "wow I think we actually helped that person get where they need to go" moments. One address on the list belongs to a bodega; on a hunch, ask the shopkeeper if he's the man in question. He is and he's on the fence, leaning toward Obama on points, and clearly enthused to discuss it.

Talk to honest to god South Philly campaign coordinator, make high degree of availability abundantly clear, make plans to show up at local campaign office early and often.

Abscond to POPE (Pub On Passyunk East) with fellow Obomination [livejournal.com profile] nohx and Jason, my canvass partner today. Discover extraordinarily good beer and cider list. Also a vegan burrito special utterly worthy of the late, much lamented Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen in Seattle. Maybe... to be completely honest here... maybe better.


Note to self: cannot afford to celebrate on this scale every time I spend five million hours canvassing in the hot sun. Deserve to, but can't.

Finally got the ball rollin'! Personal goal: catch up with [livejournal.com profile] smittywing's canvassing. Since I don't have any clear idea how much canvassing she has actually done so far, I can just assume it's way more than me and keep at it, eh?
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Just got back from watching the debate with [livejournal.com profile] nohx and a sizeable mob of Democrats at the Artful Dodger in Headhouse Square.

So who won the darn thing? Coming out of that room, you didn't necessarily have an unbiased point of view.

My thoughts at the time: "Palin is holding her own, doing a lot better than predicted. Most of her sentences have subjects and predicates. She's still saying a few clueless, off-the-rails things. Not knowing what the Vice President actually does is not going to help her case. Neither is making a cheery comment about her opponent's dead wife. What the heck is that about?"

So far the press seems to be agreeing with a lot of that. I haven't read anything yet that latches on to her cluelessness about the actual responsibilities of the Vice President... or at least her cluelessness about how to address that question without contradicting Dick Cheney. Nor do they seem to have noticed the extent to which she babbled at one point when asked about energy policy.

She threw one direct Reagan quote in there ("there you go again"). Anybody over 35, which is to say most of the electorate, probably caught that and just shook their head. Note to Palin: if you're going to use that line, you have to use it more than once. Like, approximately as often as you used the word "maverick." Lord.

Nevertheless, her handlers succeeded in raising her faux-Reagan cred considerably. I think Biden was wise not to try to fake an equal level of folksiness and to stick to calling bullshit on the reality of what McCain's policies would mean for actual folks.

Biden was smart to point out that taxes on people earning over $250,000 would be no higher under Obama than they were under Reagan. I think the Obama campaign also needs to stress how tax brackets work: you pay the same rates as anybody else at each step of the way up to $250,000. You don't suddenly owe a higher rate on the first quarter million just because you earn $250,001. And you always take home more money when you earn more money, although the percentage of the last dollar you take home is lower. Nothing in Obama's job provides a motivation to sit on your ass and not get a job. Contrived anecdotes about brothers-in-law who plan to stop working if Obama is elected are making the rounds, and the math doesn't even come close to adding up.

So again: who won? The Republican playbook on debates: lower expectations for your guy in advance (gosh, we're folksy, not wonky!), then exceed those modest expectations. By that standard, Palin did do well. But she ran up against a skillful opponent and landed no knockout punches of her own. The question now is whether it will matter. Are people switching away from McCain because he picked a lame veep... or because he simply does not represent the interests of the average American as effectively as Obama?

Time will tell how Palin's own conservative base reacts to the most surprising moment of the debate: Palin and Biden seeming to agree substantively on all points regarding gay and lesbian civil rights.

Gwen was certainly surprised.

Biden's explicit "no" on gay marriage wasn't surprising in the context of the last sixteen years of Democratic politics. But it did feel jarring immediately following such strong comments on his part in favor of gay "equality," in which he used the word "constitution" about half a dozen times.

Meanwhile Palin's explicit comments in favor of some gay rights (again, short of marriage) are going to piss off the religious right no end. At the end of the day, they are going to vote for her and for McCain anyway, lacking any serious alternative... Palin hopes. But the debate has clearly been reframed a long way from where it stood even ten years ago.

Palin was careful to say that nothing in a McCain administration would interfere with hospital visitation rights and the like. Which is not the same thing as championing them.

Still, I've said it before: you know progress has been made in this country when you hear the formerly unthinkable offered up as a given by a Republican nominee. Whether sincere or not, the fact that she felt she had to say those things speaks volumes about how much things have changed in America.
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I think we'll look back on this debate as McCain's last and best shot at the Presidency. His credentials are strongest in the area of foreign policy.

Obama won anyway. Not a slam-dunk, sledgehammer, "why on earth did McCain say that boneheaded thing?" victory— McCain was in his element once the debate moved to foreign policy, and he did all right, scoring points on earmarks and the surge. But he didn't win the easy victory he needed in this first debate. He failed, on the whole, to convincingly paint Obama as wrong, wrong, wrong on Iraq, which he absolutely needed to do. And it'll only get harder for him from here as the debates turn to other topics.

I think McCain's attempt to reframe the debate regarding the economic crisis as somehow being the result of excessive government spending went over like a lead balloon. This is the wrong week to complain about the evils of the public sector.

Obama assigned partial blame for the economic crisis to the Dubya administration. McCain missed his opportunity to respond to that and try to assign some of the responsibility to the Clinton administration, where he might have had a point.

I think Jim Lehrer did a fine job. I cheered when I realized he'd decided to kick the economic crisis out there as a topic. That was entirely appropriate. The whole business of delaying the debates, suspending the campaigns, etc. sent the message that Presidential campaigns, and by extension elected officials, are trivial sidelines and the noblest thing they could possibly do is get the hell out of the way, shut up and let grownups like Bernanke do their jobs unimpeded by annoyances like democracy.

I listened to the debate on the radio, thanks to problems with CNN's online video stream and a crying need to clean my house. I'll be curious to hear what people who could see the candidates thought.
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Remember World War II? It was awfully recent history when you were in high school, Senator McCain. I shouldn't have to sketch it out for you but I will:

Remember 1944? We were still very much at war with both Germany and Japan.

There was a Presidential election that year, in which Republican Thomas A. Dewey took on Roosevelt. Nationally aired debates were not yet the norm, but the events of that election did not get cancelled, delayed, or otherwise set aside because of the war. Why in the world would they be? There were serious issues facing the country. And presidential campaigns were— and still should be— about serious issues.

If anything, the debate should have been moved forward so that the candidates' potential ideas might have informed the decisions that Congress is making this week.

Mine readers, if you also feel that the candidates should go forward with their debate tomorrow, PFAW has a handy petition for you to sign online.

Please note: you do not have to check the "PFAW membership" box.
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Matt Damon articulates why Sarah Palin is not the right choice to be one step away from the big red button. Ganked from [livejournal.com profile] solestria.
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The night before the election...



Ganked from [livejournal.com profile] opadit.

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