Friday, October 18, 2002

This fellow used a digital camera and an 8" telescope to take these images of the International Space Station.Check it out
In September, Bart Sibrel (6'3" 270#) - professional Moon Hoaxer - got his ass kicked by Buzz Aldrin (5'10" 160#) after calling the second man on the moon a liar and a coward. Jon Stewart wanted to get Bart Sibrel's side of the story. Sibrel is, as the report concludes, the Biggest Pussy in the World.
This study says that sixty people a year would be willing to pay up to $25M for a two week trip into space. At that about 15,000 a year would pay between $25K and $250K for a 15 minute suborbital flight. We've got the makings of a billion dollar a year industry here, no doubt more when this technology is better developed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Cheap Space Flight

Check out the X-Prize. A private group has put together a $10M prize which will be awarded to the first group which can launch a vehicle into a suborbital flight (100km+ in altitude) then turn around and use the same vehicle and do it again inside of two weeks. The flight is not so different than that made by Alan Sheppard in May 1961. But the intended result is quite different. Here, the prize requires that the same vehicle be used, with the hope that the vehicle can be used for tourist flights into space, starting as early as late 2004.

Mind you, a ride will set you back a cool $98K. But if you want, you can book it right here.

The scuttlebutt is that the team from Canada is in the lead.

Waiting for NASA to the get the public into space is like waiting for the DMV to come over and fix your Ferrari. Here we've got human ingenuity and the profit motive doing something the government wouldn't do in a hundred years.
A Post Saddam Trust?

We will soon be left with the big question of just what to do with Iraq after we remove Saddam Hussein. While we should strive to hold elections within, say, two years of Saddam's removal, it is not clear what a fair process for developing an Iraqi constitution would look like.

We could do everything from carve up the country into smaller states, create a federal system not unlike Switzerland (although it would probably end up looking like Bosnia) or try to impose, wholesale, an English parliamentary system. Iraq has a secular tradition, but I am not enough of a student of Iraqi history to know whether the Turkish Constitution, with its constitutional role for the military as defender of the Republic makes sense.

What I do know, however, is that unless the process for molding post-Saddam Iraq is done openly, the paranoid anti-war Left will never shut up about how we “imposed” a Constitution on the Iraqi people. Maybe I ought not care what the paranoid, anti-war Left has to say about the matter, but if you lived as close to Berkeley as I do, it would be nice if they would pipe down even once in a while. Moreover, they would - for the first time - have a point. The United States is leading a war to remove Saddam Hussein which will have the added benefit of liberating the Iraqi people. While our commitment to democracy and liberty is unequalled, it should be up to the Iraqi people to decide what model of government they have in a post-Saddam era. Additional input, from those with similar commitments to freedom, democracy and individual rights, can only help guide the Iraqi people into a modern constitutional structure. As good as the intentions of the United States, we want to guide the Iraqi people as a trustee and not rule them as a viceroy.

We ought not allow the United Nations to have a say in this matter. If they decide, after we do what we want, to give us a gold star and claim it was their idea, fine. But the United Nations is ineffective at best, but more likely just hypocritical and corrupt (in a future commentary, I’ll point out why Kofi Annan thought Belgian peacekeepers should get the same kind of immunity that he criticizes the United States for demanding for its own troops).

Nevertheless, we ought to have some international input. The United States and Great Britain appoint themselves and three other countries to a five-member Board of Trustees who, except for military matters (over which we would retain complete control), we would bind ourselves to its majority vote for matters of domestic and international Iraqi politics. This would include, but not be limited to, agreeing to Saddam era debts, settling claims from the Gulf War, conditions for the recognition of Israel, and the creation of a constitutional convention.

Next time, I’ll muse about why Finland, Iceland and New Zealand would make excellent partners in governing post-Saddam Iraq and why this system could prove to be a model of a sort of Third-Way Internationalism which would be vastly superior to the United Nations.

I'll start this with utterly non-controversial topics until I get the hang of this. Then I'll take on the silliness of the term "chickenhawk" now all the rage among the anti-war left, talk about why carbon nanotubes are going to make access to space dirt cheap and try to give you a primer on approaching single malt scotch.

Royal Mile Whiskies, although not so cleverly named, is a damned fine shop on the Royal Mile in one of my favorite cities, Edinburgh. I suggest you stop by if you are ever in town. They'll pour you the weeist of drams of just about anything in which they do a reasonable volume.