Shut Up, Already!

The actions of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford have been weird, but his effort to explain his actions really crosses the line into pathetic territory.  When politicians get caught cheating on their wives, we don’t need to hear about how the affair was not about sex but about some kind of deep, non-physical connection, or how they plan to try to repair their fatally damaged relationship with their spouse, or why they consulted a “spiritual advisor” in an effort to deal with their problems.  Those kinds of tell-all confessions may be fine for vapid Hollywood celebs in a People magazine story, but they are creepy and sad for an elected official.  Such disclosures reflect a disturbing self-centeredness and egotism, as if everyone must care about why they ran off the rails — when in reality people are just embarrassed and dismayed.

Governor Sanford, and other politicians caught in similar compromising positions, should just shut up, take their lumps, and actually concentrate on doing their jobs.  It was focusing on their “emotional needs,” and thereby losing sight of their responsibilities as a public servant, that got them into trouble in the first place.

Re-Corking The Iranian Genies

In recent days it appears that the Iranian government is quashing dissent and its current rulers are trying to consolidate their power. However, given Iran’s byzantine governmental structure, with various councils and courts and other entities with various charters and responsibilities, I am not sure that the reality of the situation is clear to anyone. What does seem clear is that, in recent weeks, many people in Iran — and the Iranian population is predominantly young — received their first true taste of free speech and free political thought. Often, it is difficult to return those genies to their bottles, and let’s hope that proves to be the case in Iran.

The Best American Band: Time To Vote!

We’ve published a number of posts with our thoughts on the Best American Band, and we’ve given everyone time to think about that extraordinarily weighty issue. Now, it’s time for you to vote. We’ll check back in a week and declare a winner. Please, vote for just one of the candidates.

The Blame Game

With the economy performing poorly, unemployment up to 9.4 percent, and the federal budget deficit ballooning, look for politicians of both parties to focus on the blame game. This article asks whether it is time to saddle President Obama and the current administration with responsibility for these conditions.

I think it is unfair to contend that President Obama is solely to blame for our current predicament; rather, there is plenty of blame to be spread among irresponsible politicians of both parties. I also think, however, that if the recovery is stalled or weakened because our economy is burdened with enormous federal debt and/or inflation, it is not unfair to hold the Obama Administration accountable. The President got what he asked for from Congress, and so far it hasn’t delivered the “stimulus” that was promised and forecast. Instead, the only apparent effect to date has been a huge amount of federal borrowing that has not had any immediate positive impact, but threatens to have negative long-term consequences.

Air Conditioning

According to Wikipedia, the concepts underlying “air conditioning” were known to the ancient Romans, to Chinese dynasties in the centuries before A.D. 1000, and to the medieval Persians and Egyptians. The first modern, electrical air conditioning device was invented in 1902. Air conditioning was common in American hotels and restaurants in the 1960s — I recall, during summer visits to Ocean City, New Jersey during that decade, going to a restaurant that marketed itself with “air conditioned” painted on the front of the building in blue letters, with icicles hanging down — and, currently, virtually every American hotel, shopping mall, fast food outlet, grocery store, and other commercial establishment features powerful air conditioning units capable of cranking the temperature down to meat locker levels. During the summer and early fall months, when the mercury rises and humidity levels are high, many Americans — myself included — have come to rely on air conditioning to allow them to sleep comfortably and live their lives without dissolving into pools of sweat.

So, why are so many establishments in non-American countries so different? During our recent trip to Quebec, when we stayed at an otherwise spectacular hotel, our room air-conditioning unit was a pathetic failure. The only “conditioning” apparently accomplished was to add moisture to the air, and then feebly exhale the still warm, now moist, air into the room. It had about the same effect as someone breathing on you, and each morning I woke up a sweaty mess. Nor do I think our Canadian experience was anomalous. During our terrific trip to Italy, we experienced a number of sleepless nights when the heat and humidity in our rooms was unbearable. This may also be why so many restaurants and cafes overseas emphasize outdoor seating, where there is at least the promise of a breeze and cool shade.

Why can’t other countries be more like America, and recognize the value of air conditioning? If, as France’s high court found, access to the internet is a basic human right, shouldn’t air conditioning also receive that designation? Of course, if something like the recent “climate change” legislation passed by the House of Representatives is enacted into law, America could end up being more like other countries, and the current days of brisk, air conditioned comfort would become a fond but distant memory. To that I say:  Please, Congress — don’t take away my air conditioning!

Massachusetts Medicine

As Congress debates national health care and health insurance concepts, it seems wise to consider the actual experience of one state that has a universal health care law and mandates that every individual have health insurance.  This article discusses the Massachusetts approach and some of the cost and revenue issues it has encountered.

Hail, Ulysses!

After 17 and a half years — more than three times its original life expectancy — the Ulysses space probe will be shut down. Ulysses, which was a joint effort of NASA and the European Space Agency, has studied the Sun, the solar wind, cosmic rays, sun spots, and other solar activity and has provided unprecedented and interesting data that scientists expect to study for years to come. Power produced by the spacecraft’s generators has declined, and it therefore will receive its shut-down command on July 1. The European Space Agency website has a number of interesting links on Ulysses and its activities.

The Ulysses Spacecraft

The Ulysses Spacecraft

I love science stories, and it is always exciting to see a scientific effort that pays great dividends and demonstrates the capabilities of our existing space program and the possibilities for future exploration. Ulysses posed huge engineering challenges during its 17-year run, and the project managers and engineers performed masterfully. Among other things, they came up with an inventive solution to a potential freeze-up problem that allowed the spacecraft to continue to provide data for another year longer than expected. The fine work on the Ulysses project hearkens back to the days when NASA, through the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, was a “federal agency that could.” Its activities promoted excellence, spurred many technological advancements, and encouraged many young Americans to become excited about science, math, and space exploration. For precisely those reasons, money spent on space exploration is money well spent.