Archive for March 5th, 2012

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Asteroid DA14…wham!

March 5, 2012

Next February we will see a close pass (probably in the nature of 16,000 miles) of asteroid DA14. Maybe we’ll get lucky. Maybe it will break up into pieces the size of “basketballs, and uh, Volkwagens, things like that.” Did I read that right? Sixteen thousand miles. Geosynchronous orbit is 22,200 miles! That’s where the communications satellites live!

All I can say is, where’s Harry Stamper?

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About the current Rush Limbaugh flap…

March 5, 2012

He’s an easy target. He makes a living “illustrating the absurd with absurdity.” He is often emotional, and does not suffer fools gladly. He also has the largest audience in talk radio…in fact, one of the largest audiences anywhere in any media. He has coined many phrases used by not only by conservatives, but by people of all political persuasions. (For example, he created “operation chaos” to keep the race between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama going through more primaries…and I’ve heard it used often by others over the last few weeks in referring to the Republican primaries.)

Now, I’m sure I’ve said some things without doing proper research from time to time. I expect all of us have. I have to say, though, that the statements I’ve read and heard from a variety of sources today seem to have been made without having ever heard the argument Rush Limbaugh made the other day.

I’ve been a Rush 24/7 member for years. I suppose that disqualifies me for this discussion. I have heard the whole argument, because I have listened to the audio files from earlier in the week.

As I understood it, Rush was making a couple of points. First, the entire “committee hearing” was a sham. The House Republicans wouldn’t allow “testimony” on the contraceptives/religious freedom issue the Current Occupant of the White House started. That decision was made by Rep. Darrell Issa, who has been critical of the whole issue in the past.

Therefore, Democrats decided to create a sort of a fake hearing to get their points out to the press. I’ve seen it referred to as a “Congressional Panel.” I guess that’s a true statement. There were Congressmen – but only Democrats. They listened to “testimony” from a “Georgetown University law school coed,” whose age was given as 23.

Except…Sandra Fluke is actually 30 and has a long history of promoting feminist causes. In fact, there is some evidence she decided to attend Georgetown specifically because she wanted to make the University’s health care policies an issue. She certainly was not a random female law school student, testifying as to the beliefs and concerns of all her fellow students. She is a woman with a very specific agenda.

So Limbaugh’s first point was that the entire “panel” was set up just to bring this issue to light in the way the Democrats wanted to present it, and the media lapped it up.

His second point was that, assuming Fluke’s testimony could be applied to all female students at the University, two things seemed absurd: if all female students were so concerned about contraception, they must all be having sex or contemplating same; and that they all believed it was the job of the Government to force health care plans to provide means of contraception free of charge. Georgetown, a Catholic Jesuit university, was a perfect target for Obama’s argument that all heath care plans should include contraception, even if they are provided by religious institutions that specifically discourage the use of contraception.

In his “illustration” of the absurdity of these issues – a sham “hearing” and a blatant infringement of religious freedom, not to mention the issue (still to be decided) of the constitutionality of Obamacare – Limbaugh used the absurd. If Ms. Fluke was sexually active – and she must be, or why should she be concerned about contraception? – why should her health care provider be forced to provide it? Granted, Limbaugh did have one break in his logic chain: the price of birth control pills does not increase based on the frequency of sexual activity – although condoms do, of course.

So, if Obamacare distributes the costs for health care across the largest possible group of people, then by extension, we, as contributors to Obamacare, are being forced to pay for her contraception. “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” Robert Heinlein tried to make that into a pronounceable acronym in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, but TANSTAAFL doesn’t fall right off the tongue. It still is true, though. The bigger issue here is that we are being forced, through taxation, to pay for many, many things that should not be the responsibility of government. Doing so creates more opportunities for control, both in taxation and in rules and regulations.

Limbaugh attempted to show that if the government provides (or forces other agencies to provide) contraceptives for sexually active, unmarried young women, then we – as the providers of the funds used to provide said contraceptives – are, in essence, “paying these young women for having sex.”

Put aside for the moment the fact that a thirty-year-old unmarried law student publicly admitted that she is sexually active. (Even though she did nothing to lead us to believe she is in a committed relationship, even.) You may also put aside the fact that she tried to project her situation to other female students. We may instead stay focused on the issue of the government promoting contraception to the extent of requiring even religious institutions to provide it.

This was the core issue – an issue of religious freedom and public policy. It was not an issue of one law student being sexually promiscuous. Instead, that issue was overpowered by a personal attack.

Limbaugh pushed his logic too far by trying to personalize it and focus it on one person. I’ll agree with that. His apology to Sandra Fluke demonstrated that he realized it as well. You may say that the only reason he apologized was because his advertisers were beginning to bolt, but I don’t think that’s true. I’m sure he got some heat from Premiere Radio Networks, which distributes his show, even though they were quick to support him publicly. Should he have called this woman a slut…no. I don’t think so. But should the President of the United States call this same woman to express his support? No. By giving this incident the focus that can only come from the use of the “bully pulpit” of the Presidency.

The discussion we should be having is why the President is willing to trivialize a constitutional issue. It’s not the first time, of course, and it won’t be the last. Why does he do it? Because it’s his deception tactic – “pay attention to this little thing over here, and you won’t see the great big thing going on over there.”

Okay, Rush Limbaugh said a stupid thing, or at least said a thing stupidly. Is that worse that any one of a number of things Bill Maher has said about other women? Of course not. It was said by Rush Limbaugh, though, which means it’s automatically the most horrible thing ever said by one human being about another.

Let’s get back to the big issues. Rush probably learned a lesson, and maybe we all can, too. Let’s be concerned about how more and more of our freedoms are being taken away, instead.

 

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How strong is the Force! THIS strong!

March 5, 2012

Back in 1977 I graduated from college and went on the interview circuit looking for a music teaching job. I finally was hired by a district 15 miles from the town I was from, but in between I covered a lot of ground throughout the Midwest. In June of that year I was in some little town in western Wisconsin that I have forgotten the name of…my brother Greg had traveled with me on that interview trip. We had the evening before the interview to kill so we drove downtown to the local one-screen movie theater. They were showing this science fiction movie that had turned into a big success. Even in mid-June the line to get in that night was around the block – and the movie had come out almost a month earlier!

We liked it, but we both thought it was a little hokey. I was a hard science fiction kind of guy, reading Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, Jerry Pournelle, those sorts of guys. This was pretty “space opera” for me…come to think of it, I don’t think that term had even existed yet then. If it did, I hadn’t heard it.

The special effects were great, and even with the sounds of the ships in the battles in vacuum I was impressed. I thought the main character was weak and the actor portraying him didn’t help. On the other hand, the guy playing his buddy was pretty good. I cheered along with the rest of the cast at the end when the Death Star was destroyed, and when everybody but the Wookie got medals. (What was up with that?)

The film grew on me, as it did on millions of others. So, of course, as soon as my kids were old enough they were indoctrinated into the ways of the Force. We took my ¬†daughter to see “Empire” when it came out…she immediately identified Yoda as “Fozzie Bear” – good ears, kid! My son came along in 1981 and had to play catch-up a little bit.

Fortunately, after the first movie came out in 1977 the whole saga never really went away. There were blips up and down over the years when it was more culturally prominent, but it was always there. I actually took a personal day off work to go see “The Phantom Menace” with my son!

And yes, I’m one of those few who likes JarJar. And I have that giant, three-foot Millennium Falcon toy.

So…once the online gaming started I was too old for that. Too many things intervened and I never was into gaming much. My son Brian, though, that was different. I couldn’t tell you exactly what online games he has been involved in except for World of Warcraft. Now, apparently, he is involved in something called Star Wars The Old Republic.

So…when it came time that Brian wanted to propose to his girlfriend of three years, Amanda, he did it at the SWTOR Summit in Austin, Texas. Yeah. And the guys who wrote the game helped set it up. Stormtroopers, R2-D2, the works.

Just as George Lucas had no idea back in 1977 where Star Wars would take him, I had no idea where it would take my family. Dang.

Oh – I still think Luke is a big whiner! But then, his dad was a whiner…