Saturday, July 26, 2003

July 26, 2003

I get quite amused sometimes by the Bush Administration’s simplistic view of the world. Since the deaths of Qusay and Uday, the news has been full of speculation, much of which came from the White House, that the daily attacks on Americans would stop. While a captured bodyguard of one of the Hussein brothers’did confirm that Sadam set up the guerilla warfare as he fled American forces, he also confirmed that some of the attackes were due to basic Islamic fundamentalism. It is also to be expected that simple nationalism will fuel the fires at some point, whether it is doing so today or not.

My sister sometimes sends me some interesting ditties from other websites. One of those is from a journalist named Greg Palast who has a website at Mr. Palast claims to have evidence supporting claims that George Bush, Sr. used his influence to get his son (our current President) into the Texas Air National Guard during Vietnam to shield him from the draft, not to mention securing a pilot slot he could not qualify for on his own. I visited the website and saw the letter that made the claim. It’s impossible for me to verify the authenticity of the letter, so what really happened remains an open question. But I wouldn’t be surprised…

What I do see is the hypocrisy surrounding the image of Bush, Jr. as a pilot. He is not one, even if he used to be one. He seems content to use the image when it suits his political advantage, but he has shown no interest in aviation other than that. He has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate, in fact, an unfriendliness to general aviation. To be fair, I’ve seen that same behavior from airline and military pilots who have never been associated with general aviation. I write it off to arrogance. I can’t say whether this is true for Bush as well.

I saw on the news today where the Justice Department sent an unsigned letter to Congress telling them the Department would fight their attempts to rescind delayed notification of search warrants. From the reports, I’m not sure if the letter was an attempt from someone inside the department to tip Congress off or whether it was from a Justice Department official who wanted to thumb his nose at Congress from behind a bush. If it was the former, it was an act of courage. If the latter, and my bet is on that, it was nothing short of cowardice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

July 22, 2003

The big news of day is, of course, the killing of Qusay and Uday Hussein, Sadam Hussein’s sons. While this was a major step forward in the war in Iraq, it was and is nothing to celebrate. I suspect this event will have only a minor impact on the daily killing of American soldiers that has come to plague us in the country. Getting Sadam himself would have a much larger impact. That day might come; but even if it does, Iraqis’ will continue to ambush American troops in an attempt to turn public opinion against keeping forces there.

Bush says we’re going to stay the course. What course? American handling of post-war Iraq has drifted like a ship without a rudder. It is woefully apparent that the Administration had no post-war reconstruction plan for Iraqi but only a plan to invade and depose. In the end, our invasion of Iraq and our subsequent mishandling of the country may do more damage than allowing Sadam to collapse under his own weight would have.

Bush’s War, in the end, may well, in the long run, take us to the brink of economic ruin as well as prove to destabilize the Middle East.

Little notice was paid to a CNN poll taken last week that asked readers if they thought Bush was doing a good job. Fifty-four percent said “no”, and forty-six percent said “yes”. Without another attack on the US or some other combat, I predict that Bush’s popularity will continue to slip.

A day or so ago, I posted some comments about a series of articles being run in the Houston Chronicle about NASA, the Columbia accident, and the manned space program in general. I am going to continue that series but will not include those comments (unless they are short) in the blog. I’ll list each one as a piece of “Columbia and the Final Frontier, Part X” where “X” is the number of the installment. How many of them will there be? I really don’t know. I’ll end it when I have no more to say and make sure to note the end of the series in the last piece.

Monday, July 21, 2003

On The Space Shuttle

For the last two days in the Houston Chronicle, I’ve been reading articles—which really are essays in disguise—by Tony Freemantle and Mark Tolson that are raising questions about the viability of the space shuttle. Well and good. I never have a problem with anyone questioning anything. Usually, whatever is being questioned will be the stronger for it. But during both days, these guys have not gotten their facts straight; and that is raising serious credibility concerns with what they are writing.

I haven’t said anything here previously about the Columbia accident because I was asked not to. I was on some of the accident investigation teams, though primarily in a monitoring role. But with the upcoming release of the CAIB report, with the articles in the Houston Chronicle, and with the investigation over, I no longer feel I have to restrain my constrain my comments about what has happened and what is happening.
I have the dubious distinction of being one of those people who was working at NASA, Johnson Space Center in particular, during both the Challenger and the Columbia accidents. In the first installment of the Houston Chronicle articles, the authors imply that, unlike in the aftermath of the Challenger accident, space experts and government entities are questioning the shuttle’s reason for being and stating it's just not worth it. Yes, they are. But they did also do the same thing after Challenger. In fact, there was more doubt about whether the shuttle program would press ahead, would exist at all than there is now. Wouldn’t a thorough search of the reporting of that day have shown that? I certainly remember it that way, and the current “nay-saying” comes to me as no surprise. I’ve been down this road before. Not only with the Challenger and Columbia accidents but also because I’ve had a long involvement with aviation. This same kind of reaction has occurred with every accident that involves a public loss of life. The good news is that, despite it, we still keep flying.

In today’s article, the guys tell a story about Eileen Collins flying a simulated space shuttle approach in Building 9. In reality, the Building 9 simulators are used for ingress/egress training and RMS operations. There is no simulation capability of the type they’re mentioning there. The most likely place Eileen would do such a thing is in the Shuttle Mission Simulator in Building 5. She might also do such a thing in the Shuttle Engineering Simulator in Building 16 or if she were working in the Shuttle Avionics Integrated Laboratory (SAIL) in the same building. Or maybe if she were flying the VMS (Vertical Motion Simulator) at AMES Research Center or in the Shuttle Training Aircraft shooting approaches at Edwards AFB or White Sands, NM or KSC in Fla. They really missed the boat on this as well. With two misses in two days, what else have they gotten wrong? More to the point, what is it that they have right?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

We won the battle but have we lost the war (in Iraq)?

More and more, Iraq is looking like the battle we won but the war we lost. Despite the Bush Administrations’ protests to the contrary, it’s all too evident that they had no adequate plan for reconstructing the country. The near chaos that now reigns can only be answered by more troops; and ultimately, if order cannot be restored—and the longer the current situation drags on the harder it will be—even an all-out occupation of the country will not prove to be enough. It will become the American Afghanistan. In the end, there will be a very good chance that the government that ultimately takes power in Iraq will not be democratic but Islamic Fundamentalist and more of an imminent threat to the US than Hussein ever was.

If the current unrest in the country is fueled by Hussein loyalists who are fighting to regain power as many in our government claim, then the U.S.’ failure to capture Hussein was a great strategic mistake. The President attempted to distract voters from that failure by saying that only regime change was important. The continued killing of US troops is showing that he was practicing an exercise in delusion if not deception. The US needs to make finding Hussein one of their top priorities, no matter what it takes to do it. To ignore his influence, as Bush has tried to do, only continues the mistaken policies we have been exercising.

I am not surprised at all at the revelations that the President is suspected of manipulating CIA intelligence data to justify his invasion of Iraq. I have felt all along—and have stated here—that Bush was operating from personal motivations than a level-headed sense of what was good for the country or the world. The question now becomes whether there will be enough proof of that for the issue to be raised to a Constitutional level. Certainly, it deserves every bit as much scrutiny as Bill Clinton’s sexual improprieties got. But it is unlikely to be raised to that level until the continued deaths of American soldiers becomes so painful that Congress is forced to intercede. How many young men will die before that happens?