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Normally I don’t really like Roger Cohen’s op-eds in the New York Times (and the Times has quickly worn thin on me – as well as Roger Cohen –  with their persistent and pugnacious anti-Israel slant) but every so often he does write up a fairly nice piece.  His op-ed Age of Outrage is particularly good.  In this op-ed, which I will only summarize here (it is left as an exercise for the reader to read the op-ed for themselves), Cohen focuses on the current outrage that has boiled over in the UK into riots and how the Germans have managed to avoid the same level of disaffection with globalization and the shift in the world economy that is now spreading throughout the UK, Spain, Greece and other countries (and which is spreading – albeit not with the same level of furor as in the UK – to the US).

The best part of the op-ed is actually the first comment that was posted by Doug Terry of the Terry Report (Doug, like me, is a resident of the Washington D.C. metro area).  His comment is very apropos:

One of the best ideas need not come from the Germans. It is simply this: let’s not go overboard with the doom and gloom. The UK, and Europe, have surely gotten themselves in a pickle, but let’s not jump in the barrel with them.

There is a terrible dislocation going on in the US in regard to jobs moving overseas, chasing lower wages, longer working hours and a compliant, no benefits workforce. What can we do about it?

1. Find a way to decouple the paydays of CEOs and other top management from the performance of their stock. Require a 50 or even 70% tax rate on stock gains made in a public corporation while an executive is serving and for five years afterward. Compensating people to ruin companies and cash out with hundreds of millions of dollars must stop.

2. Demand that all American founded corporations declare whether they are, or are not, still American companies. If, like GE, they take in over 50% of their revenues from overseas and if they no longer wish to be American companies, then decouple the benefits, tax breaks and protections they get.

3. End “special purpose corporations”, which are little more the sly means of doing secret and/or dirty deals by their large corporate creators.

4. Monitor corporations for compensation relative to total profits and profits as a percentage of revenue. Make the information public, so that citizens know when a corporation is basically getting rich, as Wal-Mart does, by keeping employees on low wage scales.

5. Change the pro-corporate slant of court rulings by changing laws and, if necessary, Constitutional amendment. Balance must be restored between citizen and corporate power.

6. No more free lunch for broadcast companies which pay nothing for television and radio licenses and keep those licenses for generations, unless they sell them for many millions.

7. Develop comprehensive policies to encourage job creation and new business development. Reward companies for creating jobs here.

The above says a lot – and could go further if we mix in the concept of term limits for politicians (no more “careers”), campaign finance reform (to eliminate the power of SuperPACs, PACs, and corporations), and tax code reform (and I mean REAL tax code reform – no more of this band-aid on top of band-aid nonsense).  If we could do what Mr. Terry suggests above from a corporate governance perspective and what we need to do in terms of term limits, campaign finance and tax code reform, we may go a long way to righting the ship that is the United States and to steer it back to a more prosperous future for everyone.

I heard it but couldn’t believe it. I had to whip out my phone and start surfing the web for information about it. Surely the quote was taken out of context. He must have been misquoted…but alas, no. I looked at the links Google had returned, selected one and started reading.

Apparently NASA, whose historic mission was to promote and help lead research and development in the field of science, math, and engineering in the US and to develop America’s space capabilities has now been charged with a new mission – to reach out to Muslim (and predominantly Muslim) nations – to help them “feel good” about their contributions to math, science and engineering – to “boldly” go where no one has gone before!

I read it and just about fell off my chair. What kind of nonsense is this? I figured that perhaps the writer of the column must have gotten it wrong. He must have misunderstood. Sadly…no. I heard it from the proverbial “horse’s mouth”:

Yep…you heard it right. Apparently President Obama charged NASA’s administrator, Charles Bolden, with a new mission for NASA. No longer was space exploration (either manned or unmanned) it’s primary goal. No longer was research into aeronautics and astronautics a goal. No…the new goals are:

  1. Help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math,
  2. Expand America’s international relationships, and
  3. Reach out to the Muslim world

Ok…#1 and #2 — that makes sense. When I heard #3 my brain did a quick double take to make sure I understood what I had just heard and read. #1 and #2 fit in with NASA’s historic missions of science, math, and engineering research and development as well as our cooperative efforts in space exploration with other countries. But #3? Now, NASA is supposed to “reach out to the Muslim world”? And not just reach out to the Muslim world (as well as the “dominantly Muslim nations”) but to “help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” You know, I’m sorry if they don’t “feel good” about themselves or their past contributions to science, math and engineering…but is that really America’s fault? I mean come on, yes, Islam did make very significant contributions to math, science, and engineering but that ended centuries ago. Since the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 Islam’s advances in sciences has been on the decline and has continued to do so due to a wide variety of factors. But why does the American taxpayer have to pay for NASA to reach out to the Muslim world in order to make them “feel good” about those contributions? That is not what NASA’s mission ever was or should be.

And why does this administration single out Muslim and “dominantly Muslim” nations as a focus for this effort? Why not reach out to the Indians? Or the Congolese? Or the Zulu? Why the Muslims? As Charles Lane of the Washington Post put it:

But does it follow that the U.S. government should seek cooperation on space projects with the government of a particular country explicitly because its people are mostly Muslim?

Doesn’t this put us in the position of categorizing nations by religion as opposed to other characteristics, such as whether they are democratic? We did not pursue space partnerships with Europe because it was “Christian” or Israel because it was Jewish, did we?

Lane, Charles, “NASA: Mission to Mecca“, Washington Post, July 7, 2010

This is one of the most ridiculous re-visioning of NASA’s mission that I have ever seen. First, President Obama says that we can’t get anywhere beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) without international help (hmmm….let me see…aren’t we still the only country who has landed a man on the moon and returned him safely to earth – even now…40 years after the accomplishment was made?) and now he wants NASA to become some sort of outreach organization to help Muslims feel good about their past accomplishments. If the Muslims want to feel good about their past accomplishments they can certainly do so without our help. On top of that it seems that this administration policy may well be in violation of the U.S. Constitution. As Charles Lane of the Washington Post continues:

[T]he Constitution expressly forbid[s] the establishment of religion. How can it be consistent with that mandate and the deeply held political and cultural values that it expresses for the U.S. government to “reach out” to another government because the people it rules are mostly of a particular faith?

Lane, Charles, “NASA: Mission to Mecca“, Washington Post, July 7, 2010

This has to be one of the worst ideas to come out of this administration. It is a waste of NASA talent, a waste of American taxpayer money, and it certainly doesn’t make sense…to me as well as to many other people. As Charles Krauthammer said in an interview on Fox News: “This is a new height in fatuousness…this idea to feel good about their past scientific achievements is the worst combination of group therapy, psycho-babble, imperial condescension, and adolescent diplomacy. If I didn’t know that Obama had told this I’d demand the firing of Charles Bolden.” Amen to that Mr. Krauthammer…Amen to that!

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