President Obama's decision in 2010 to cut NASA's budget and abandon the Constellation program, established by the Bush administration, which was charged with returning Americans to the moon by 2020 and creating an "extended human presence on the moon," has created a vacuum, which China will attempt to fill.
China has announced an ambitious five-year plan that includes the launch of space laboratories, a manned spaceship to the moon and the creation of its own global satellite navigation system that will almost certainly be used for military purposes.
A friend of mine hands me what looks like a business card. It says, "Don't Die Stupid." As America begins another round of voting to select the next president, or retain the current one, what we need is a stupid test. Flunk it and you shouldn't vote.
Is there, or should there ever be, a point when a state is no longer penalized for its discriminatory past?
Not according to the Department of Justice, which last Friday rejected a South Carolina law that would have required voters show a valid photo ID before casting their ballots.
Justice says the law discriminates against minorities. The Obama administration said, "South Carolina's law didn't meet the burden under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory practices preventing blacks from voting." Why South Carolina? Because, the Justice Department contends, it's tasked with approving voting changes in states that have failed in the past to protect the rights of blacks.
In a season in which there is very little "peace on Earth" and even less "good will towards men," it is a particularly tough time for Jews, who may be finding it more and more difficult to tell who their real friends are.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta fired an unusually harsh salvo across the Israelis bow. In a speech at a Brookings Institution forum, he urged Israel to get to the "d--n table" for peace talks. It must have escaped Panetta's notice that the Palestinians are the ones refusing to come to the "d--n table" unless their unacceptable demands are met. These include, depending on the day, the cessation of construction projects, even on pre-1967 Israeli land, the so-called "right of return" of "Palestinian refugees," a concession by Israel to re-draw its borders to 1967 lines -- though such borders would be completely indefensible against an inevitable attack -- and the re-division of Jerusalem, which Israel rightly sees as its capital. Meanwhile, the Palestinian side concedes almost nothing and fulfills none of its promises. Neither is it held accountable for its behavior.
We live in a bipolar culture. We allow ourselves to be drenched in sexual images in movies, on television and on the Internet and then defend First Amendment protection to even the most graphic of them. Then, when a politician acts out what culture promotes, we criticize him, especially if he's conservative, branding him with the equivalent of a "scarlet letter."
In our not too distant past, a feeling of shame made people go into hiding after an adulterous relationship was exposed. Now they go on television to talk about the sleazy details. They either deny it (Herman Cain), admit it and say they've asked God for forgiveness (Newt Gingrich), or pay no political price at all (space limitations prevent me from listing the legion of politicians that fall into this last category.)
Seventy years ago this month, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and brought America into a war that had begun in Europe in 1939.
In his masterful new book "December 1941: 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World," Craig Shirley takes readers back to a very different America. Through hundreds of stories and advertisements culled from newspapers, Shirley not only transports us back to that tumultuous time, but reminds this generation that denial about an enemy's intentions can have grave consequences.
During the presidential campaign of 2000, George W. Bush was criticized by some conservatives for calling himself a "compassionate conservative." Some believed the term to be redundant.
Now we're in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign and candidate Newt Gingrich has called for a "humane" policy on illegal immigrants. Gingrich wants illegal residents who have been in America for 25 years to stay, so as not to "separate families."
For more than half my life I was a 99-percenter. I kept my first pay stubs in the news business to remind me where I came from and what was necessary in order to get where I am today.
In 1975, while working at a TV station in Houston, I wrote a letter to a friend in Washington complaining about my stalled career and low salary. "I will probably die here with my boots on, boots bought on a revolving charge and not fully paid for," I griped. My memory is not that good. He kept the letter and showed it to me a few years ago. We laughed.
Now it's Newt's turn. Having risen to the top in some opinion polls, the former speaker of the House is taking heat for large consulting fees paid to him by the government-sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac for wisdom a New York Times editorial said was so simplistic it might have come from a fortune cookie.
As Republican presidential candidates rise only to fall when their imperfections are brought to light, Republican voters risk disappointment in 2012 by playing the left's game on their turf and by their rules. What they must do instead is to protect their "product" at a time when the opportunity to hold Barack Obama to one term, while taking the Senate and increasing their House majority, has never looked better.
"Success with Honor" is the motto of Penn State's athletic program. They got it half right.
The alleged sexual abuse of young boys by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is disgusting, outrageous, and immoral. That so many at the school's highest level allegedly engaged either in covering up serial abuses, or turned a blind eye to them in order to maintain the "integrity" of the football program and its legendary coach, Joe Paterno, adds insult to unfathomable injury.
If ever there was a time when "see, I told you so" was warranted, it is now as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports this week that Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon.
That so many in the State Department over several administrations could deceive themselves into believing claims by the Iranians that their intentions are nothing but peaceful and their sole objective is to develop more sources of electricity for their country reminds me of the Munich Agreement of 1938. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler, thought they had an agreement concerning Czechoslovakia, shook hands on it, and then watched stupefied as Hitler boldly seized the country, en route to Poland, plunging Europe into greater turmoil.
In 2007 when she was running for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton told a fundraising event in Carson City, Nev., "I sure don't want Democrats, or the supporters of Democrats, to be engaging in the politics of personal destruction. I think we should stay focused on what we're going to do for America."
Clinton's husband, the former president, used the phrase at the time of his impeachment proceedings for lying under oath about a sexual dalliance in the White House.
The politics of personal destruction is nothing new. It has been around from the beginning of the country when worse things were said about presidents and presidential candidates than have been alleged against Herman Cain.
When it comes to sex, the media apply different standards to Republicans and Democrats.
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton allegedly trolled for women, using state troopers as his procurers. As president, Clinton engaged in oral sex with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. He lied about it under oath and was impeached, though later acquitted by the U.S. Senate. Other sexual accusations tainted Clinton, including one that he raped one Juanita Broaddrick. That "everybody lies about sex" and "it was just sex" and didn't affect his public responsibilities, were just two of the exculpatory statements from Clinton's Democratic defenders. James Carville slimed Paula Jones, one of Clinton's accusers, by saying you never know what you'll find "when you drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park."
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles last Tuesday granted a request for a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks a provision in North Carolina's new abortion-restriction law that would require women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image of their womb within four hours of the procedure.
In her decision to suspend this one requirement, while upholding other provisions in the law pending resolution of the lawsuit by several plaintiffs, Judge Eagles said the ultrasound requirement likely violates patients' First Amendment rights. Come again?
Republican Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana last weekend won re-election with a staggering 65.8 percent of the vote in a state that remains heavily Democratic. It is, the governor's office contends, the highest percentage achieved by a candidate since the state's open primary was created. Jindal won all of the state's 64 parishes, increasing by four the number of parishes he won in 2007.
One might expect this to be big news beyond the state, but most newspapers and TV media outside Louisiana either buried Jindal's win on inside pages and deep into their newscasts, or ignored it.
It was said of Al Smith, a Roman Catholic, that if he won the 1928 presidential election he would take orders from the Vatican and not uphold the Constitution.
John F. Kennedy famously confronted that anti-Catholic prejudice in a 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. Kennedy said in part, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the president -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote..."
The death of one of the great innovators of our time, or any time -- Steve Jobs -- brings a question asked by Pete Seeger in another context. To paraphrase: Where have all the (creative) people gone; long time passing. Jobs and fellow computer innovator Bill Gates represent if not a vanishing breed, then at least one that might be classified, were it an exotic animal, as endangered.
In a country that used to encourage, promote, honor and reward innovation, why does there now seem to be far fewer innovators? In our past, they propelled us to higher standards of living and made life more enjoyable and comfortable. If you missed them while studying sex education in school, try Googling "inventors and innovators" and see what pops up.
Listening to some establishment Republicans grousing about the field of GOP presidential candidates should serve as a warning. Republicans, if they are not careful, are in danger of catching the same virus that infected Democrats in 2008.
That would be a messiah complex, the belief that one man (or woman) can deliver us from our collective economic, social and foreign policy "sins" and bring redemption to a nation from the consequences of too many wrong-headed choices.
There isn't much about dysfunctional government that shocks me anymore, but this story did.
According to a report by the Office of Personnel Management and reported in Ed O'Keefe's "The Federal Eye" column in the Washington Post, our government has been sending checks to dead people. "In the last five years," O'Keefe writes, "the Office of Personnel Management has made more than $601 million in payments to dead federal retirees, according to the agency's inspector general. Total annual payouts range between $100 million and $150 million."
The cultural and media snobs are trying to explain Texas to those who don't know the difference between a steer and a bull. If you fall into this category, a steer has been castrated -- a bull has not. I'll leave any analogy to East and West Coast elites for you to sort out.
People who are from Texas, or have lived there, are devoted to it and I never truly understood why until I lived there ... twice. Texans speak of their state with an affection one doesn't often hear from Oregonians or Michiganians. No matter what city they are from, Texans almost always add "Texas" when they introduce themselves, apparently to avoid confusion, as though there were another Nacogdoches or Cut and Shoot anywhere else in the world.
The world -- or at least the large part of it that hates Israel and wishes it would go away -- moves a step nearer that goal this week when the United Nations votes on whether to recognize a Palestinian state. The vote violates the Declaration of Principles signed by the PLO in 1993, which committed the terrorist group and precursor to the Palestinian Authority to direct negotiations with Israel over a future state. This violation is further evidence the Palestinian side cannot be trusted to live up to signed agreements and promises. Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick rightly calls the prospective UN vote "diplomatic aggression."
In the Republican presidential candidates debate Monday night in Tampa, CNN's Wolf Blitzer posed a hypothetical question. Normally, a hypothetical question should not be answered, but in this case it revealed something about the questioner and sparked a controversial, but necessary answer from Rep. Ron Paul.
For those watching the two Monday Night Football games, the question was: "A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I'm not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I'm healthy, I don't need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it. Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?"
The show business publication "Variety" reports "40-plus programs expected to commemorate 10th anniversary of (9-11) attacks." And those are just the specials. They don't include reports within news programs, or overseas TV memorials, which began last month.
How we love our anniversaries. Whether it's "the Maine," "Pearl Harbor" or "9-11" we choose to remember, the question is "Why?" Why remember? To honor the dead? Yes, that is a good reason. How about to remember loved ones and survivors? That, too, is commendable.
This will be a stretch for some, but stay with me. Suppose someone presented a plan that is guaranteed to achieve the objectives everyone (or almost everyone serious about such matters) agrees are necessary to create jobs, end our financial dependence on China, reform the tax code and repair Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid so they not only continue to support people now, but ensure the health and welfare of future generations.
Would the politicians accept this gift from the political gods? Or would they prefer the dysfunction that characterizes virtually everything they do and prevents solutions, guaranteeing instead the continuation of the issue for partisan political gain?
In advance of a "major speech" on the economy and jobs, President Obama has selected Princeton University professor Alan Krueger to be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger is no relation to the horror film character Freddy Krueger, though if his ideas are implemented, they might further "slash" the economy.
Alan Krueger is the latest in a long line of professors and academics to populate this administration. Few, if any, have held real jobs in the private sector. They are mostly theorists, whose theories are often proved wrong, but in academia, as well as in government, being wrong rarely disqualifies one from a leadership post. Intentions are all that matter.
In my high school days before sex and environmental education and the general dumbing down of the population, memorization of some Shakespeare was expected in Miss Kauffman's 12th-grade English class. A favorite I still recall is this line spoken by Brutus in "Julius Caesar": "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries..."
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) repeatedly says in various ways it is too soon, or he isn't ready, for higher office, such as vice president. He's been in the Senate for a little more than seven months and has delivered only two major speeches -- his maiden speech on the Senate floor and one last week at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
While the federal government continues to drown in a sea of debt, several states are reporting surpluses, thanks to policies Washington would do well to emulate.
Nowhere has the economic turnaround been more immediate than in Virginia. When Governor Bob McDonnell took office in January 2010, he was faced with a $2.2 billion shortfall bequeathed to him by outgoing Democratic governor (and now Senate candidate) Tim Kaine. In less than two years, McDonnell has delivered two budget surpluses without raising taxes or causing harm to the "most vulnerable." Instead, he has judiciously cut spending.
As defined by Collins English Dictionary, a bigot is "a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, especially on religion, politics, or race."
In contemporary culture, those who claim to tolerate everything are intolerant of ideas that come from perspectives other than their own, especially when those ideas are rooted in conservative politics or evangelical faith.