Saturday, January 28, 2006

Remembering the Challenger Explosion

I was reading an article yesterday on MSN about the Challenge disaster 20 years ago, where the author addresses 7 "myths" about the whole thing. These are the points the author wishes to make:

1. Few people actually saw the Challenger tragedy unfold live on television.
2. The shuttle did not explode in the common definition of that word.
3. The flight, and the astronauts’ lives, did not end at that point, 73 seconds after launch.
4. The design of the booster, while possessing flaws subject to improvement, was neither especially dangerous if operated properly, nor the result of political interference.
5. Replacement of the original asbestos-bearing putty in the booster seals was unrelated to the failure.
6. There were pressures on the flight schedule, but none of any recognizable political origin.
7. Claims that the disaster was the unavoidable price to be paid for pioneering a new frontier were self-serving rationalizations on the part of those responsible for incompetent engineering management — the disaster should have been avoidable.
Some of his points seem valid, but many to me just seem rather nit-picky. On the first "myth" he does concede
With Christa McAuliffe set to be the first teacher in space, NASA had arranged a satellite broadcast of the full mission into television sets in many schools, but the general public did not have access to this unless they were one of the then-few people with satellite dishes. What most people recall as a "live broadcast" was actually the taped replay broadcast soon after the event.
And since I was a highschool student at the time, I was apparently one the "lucky" few who actually saw it live. I remember it was a very scarring moment. For years I could not watch a launching of the space shuttle without reliving that moment, expecting to see the "explosion" (that apparently was not an explosion in the traditional since of the word) again.

As to the third "myth", I was already aware that the astronauts did not likely die until impact, but to say that the "flight" didn't end after 73 seconds is a stretch in my opinion. It seems to me that once the craft is no longer under the control of the astronauts or mission control, you can hardly consider it a flight anymore. Maybe it continued to be a projectile for a few seconds and then a falling object, but in my opinion, it was no longer a flight.

I really have no knowledge of the other myths he addresses, but because I see the first three as nit-picky and, in one case questionable logic, I have to wonder about the other points as well.

So much for that idea. . .

Oh well, so much for New Year's resolutions. I've probably broken all of them already. I think I've found that when it comes to blogging, I just really don't have much of anything to say.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The President, the Congress, and the Supreme Court

Over at Poliblog, Dr. Taylor has posted an entry about The President, the Law and Foreign Invasion which I take some minor issues with. The post deals largely with the Alito hearings and some of Senator Biden's comments and questions, particularly about the Presidents right to launch invasions and the Supreme Courts role in punishing a president.

His first point,

First off, the question really is whether any President can so do. The specifics of Bush are a distraction. As are the specters of invasions of Iran and Syria.
I have no problem with.

His assessment of the rights given to the President by the War Powers Act, I have no problem with.

I guess my problems begin with this paragraph:

Now, the inference that I took from Biden's line of questions was whether the President could mass troops and engage in an invasion on the scale of the invasion of Iraq without Congressional approval. However, if Bush today starting massing troops on the Syria-Iraq border, in preparation of an invasion of Syria, I am guessing that a) the Congress (and the whole world) would find out about it, and b) it would extremely difficult, if not impossible, to convince Congress, or the American public, that such an invasion was warranted. Such things do matter.
It seems to me that Taylor is equating approval with knowledge which are certainly two different things. One can certainly know that something is about to happen without approving of it. But I will agree that without Congressional funding such an invasion or military action could not continue for very long. However, sometimes the logic could be employed that what the President starts, Congress will have to finish.

Taylor goes on to suggest that this line of question is somehow inappropriate or simplyinflammatoryy because it does not really deal with the duties of a Supreme Court justice.
As such, a scenario in which a President went on a wildcat invasion of another country, the power to deal with that move would be squarely in the laps of the Congress, not the Supreme Court, despite the fact that Biden's questions seem to dump the question in the lap of the Court.
With this observation I also take some issue. It is true that issues of impeachment are to dealt with by Congress not the Supreme Court. However, the point I was trying to make in my comment was that the roles of the different branches of the US Federal Government are not always static over time. Just as the role of the President has grown over time, taking over role traditionally held by the Congress (as evidenced by the War Powers Act), so might the role of the Supreme Court change during the time that Alito could realistically serve on the Supreme Court. I am not saying that the Supreme Court will gain this power, but that it could become an issue at some point in the future, so what does it hurt to address the issue. Maybe Biden was trying to be inflammatory, I'm not saying that he wasn't.

The role of the Supreme Court has changed before. It was not initially given the power of Judicial Review, but later gave itself that power through precedent. And in 2000, the Supreme Court was given the power to settle a dispute over a slate of presidential electors (from Florida) even though in 1876, that same issue arose and was settled through an action of Congress. Things can change. The Constitution is not a dead document carved in stone. It is open to interpretation and the roles of the different branches often change or evolve over time. Such an evolution, or change, could take place at anytime in the near future. That doen't mean they will, but they could.

That was the point I was trying to make. Hopefully I made it more clearly here than I did in the comments section at poliblog. If not, I'm sure I'll hear about it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mouse Issues

I have gone through multiple computer mice during the life of my computer. They just don't seem to last very long. I've had rolling ball and optical mice and both have gone haywire. My first mouse just got too much dirt, oil, etc., in the works and that I could understand and deal with. Since then, however, my mice have died a bizarre death. Generally they begin to cause my cursor to jump around the screen and randomly open programs (as if I had clicked on them). This makes the computer basically useless, and then the mouse dies completely.

Does anyone have any idea what is killing my mice or have any suggestions on a good quality mouse to buy as a replacement? I'm currently using a cheap Wal-Mart replacement, but I have a feeling it's not going to last very long.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

It really bugs me. . .

when I hear someone say "She was so beautiful (pretty, etc.) it is such a shame" when someone is murdered. I heard it a lot during the whole Laci Peterson thing and I just recently heard it on a commercial for 60 Minutes. It seems to indicate that it is somehow worse that an attractive person was killed than if they were plain looking, or heaven forbid, ugly or overweight. It's not just on the news or even on t.v. that I hear it either. Just average people, who honestly are not that great looking themselves, say things like that. Does that mean it's okay to kill ugly, or unattractive, people?

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'd like to remind you that the victim of this crime was obese and hag-like, therefore you must acquit my client. . ."

Oh, well, just my own personal rant I guess.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I feel like a circus animal

I spent the day jumping through hoops, or so it seemed. I suddenly decided, near the end of last semester, that I was going to cut my career as a graduate student short and go ahead and graduate. I had originally planned on making this 2-year degree into at least a 4-year exercise, but I decided that I was tired of being a student and was ready to get on with my life (and hopefully a career that earns money instead of costs money). However, due to this sudden change in plans, I now have a considerable amount of paperwork to do that I had originally assumed I 'd have plenty of time to complete. Therefore, I spent my day today getting registered, admitted to candidacy and having my curriculum changed to the 10-course (comp exam) option instead of the 12-course (with thesis) option. Hopefully I'm well on my way to a December 2006 graduation. I still have to file my intent to graduate, but I have until March to do that, so I'll save those hoops for another day.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Reasons why I'm a lousy blogger

I've decided that I'm a lousy blogger and so I've been trying to decide exactly why that is. These are the reasons I have come up with:

1. I need constant positive reinforcement

2. I'm easily discouraged

3. I worry too much about what other people will think

4. I don't read many other blogs, so I don't get much interconnectivity

5. I'm NOT a news junky

6. I avoid spending too much time on the computer, because if I don't, I will waste my whole day on it.

7. I assume no one really cares what I have to say, and I my readership tends to confirm my assumptions.

However, one of my New Year's resolutions is to blog more regularly, so we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Is the American Media Simply a Rumor Mill?

After the fiasco of the report that 12 trapped coal miners were alive, later to find out that only one had indeed survived, I find myself wondering if the American media is simply a rumor mill. I can understand that there was a misunderstanding in the communication between rescue workers and officials, but it would seem that information of such grave importance should be handled with great care and verified before being broadcast nation-wide.
It seems to me that the whole of the American media is way too ready to jump on any story, good or bad, without verifying it. People are likely to assume that what they receive from the media is true, certainly they shouldn't, but they do.