- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

Shuttle culture

“When your design stinks, Engineering 101 says admit your mistakes and go back to the drawing board. I would like all top NASA managers to read the following words very carefully: The space shuttle is a Rube Goldberg contraption that is never going to be reliable, no matter how much money, time, and engineering careers you throw at it. Thank you for your attention.

“This is not the fault of the present generation of NASA engineers. Most of the ones I know have wanted to retire the space shuttle for a very long time and build a reliable spaceship worthy of our country. But any time these engineers have suggested this idea over the past decade, they’ve had their heads served up on a platter and told to get behind the shuttle. They’ve even been branded as having a special ‘culture’ that is dangerous. … This is, of course, a lot of hooey. There may be a failed culture inside NASA but it does not include its engineers.”

Homer Hickam, writing on “Way Too Many Astronauts,” Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal

Double standards

“The Animal Liberation Front press office has a fax machine in California ready to receive messages from ALF activists. After an attack, Steven Best and three other press officers post the information on their Web site and answer reporters’ questions….

” ‘I’m not in the ALF,’ he says, standing in his kitchen sipping coffee with soy milk. ‘If I were, I’d be wearing a mask, and you wouldn’t know who I was.’ … That may be true, says David Martosko, but it does not clear Mr. Best. Mr. Martosko, research director of the Center for Consumer Freedom … argues that groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and press officers like Mr. Best form an aboveground support system for the ALF.

“Mr. Martosko and other opponents maintain that Mr. Best is a spokesman for terrorists who should not be able to use his faculty post [at the University of Texas at El Paso] to indoctrinate his students and offer violent extremists a dash of intellectual legitimacy. ‘If a university professor were out there saying that abortion-clinic bombers had a good plan going,’ Mr. Martosko says, ‘the university would sever the guy’s tenure in a New York minute.’ ”

Scott Smallwood in “Speaking for the Animals or the Terrorists?” in the Aug. 5 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

New last refuge

“Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens is dissatisfied with the way the team’s management has treated him. Owens stated that he would not play for the Eagles this year, and demanded a trade. …

“What is interesting is that Owens claims he is doing this for his family. ‘The most important thing is my family,’ he said.

“This assertion has become so common and familiar among public figures as to become something like punctuation, a mere indicator of seriousness without any real content. …

“The invocation of family says: Even though my actions indicate otherwise, I’m not a fool, nor a scoundrel; I’m selfless and devoted to others.

“Patriotism used to be the last refuge of a scoundrel. … Today, family is the scoundrel’s first, last, and paramount refuge. …

“A politician who has fallen far behind in the opinion polls decides not to run for re-election and announces he’s doing so ‘to spend more time with my family,’ with wife and children standing at his side and looking simultaneously dutiful, honored, puzzled, and bored.”

S. T. Karnick, writing on “Phonies on the Family,” Tuesday in Tech Central Station at www.techcentralstation.com

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