Confessions of a Curiosity Voyeur

Landing on Mars was 50-50 chance.We have just watched, along with millions of other space junkies, NASA’s successful landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of the planet Mars.  And I must confess that those of us here, and at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California, along with millions from around the world, have been ecstatic for hours.

It is one thing to view the Mars crater landing on the faces of the crew working the mission; it is another to see the swiftly delivered almost live photos that they are viewing themselves.  Spectacular thumbnails first seen through transparent lens covers, then through the lenses themselves, made us oooh! and aaah!

Seeing a live broadcast by NASA is now over for the night. And over too is my first voyeuristic adventure with Curiosity.  It has been enormously satisfying.  But now it is back to the canned, replayed stuff from the past.  And soon tonight’s events will also become a part of the past history of the United States space program, a program that has been exciting me for six decades.


New Blog Post: Governor Oops

New Blog Post: Governor Oops never fails to disappoint – True to his unprincipled belief in crony capitalism and sel…

Democracy will not be automatic. buildings
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We must work to preserve Democracy.  Freedom and liberty under a constitution do not come easily, nor will a nation endure without care-taking and effort.  We in the United States have lost something of our constitutional democracy since the turn of the century.  And people in the Middle East stand to gain much if democracy can prevail after their “Arab Spring.”

The Arab Spring did not produce a set of Democratic governments.  Although Tunisia probably has the best chance of living under a democratic regime.  Syria is still in the midst of a civil war.  Women’s roles have come under question in all countries in the Middle East.

Civil liberties protections for U.S. citizens took a beating over the years, following the Bush administration’s response after the attacks on the U.S. on 9/11/01. The U.S. government has become more and more intrusive into our everyday lives.  Even now the Obama administration is pressing for the renewal of the (FISA) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Expectations of Democracy as a result of nation building were the hallmark of the previous Bush-Cheney administration. We came to know Neocons back then as they pursued their aggressive war agenda. They continued to have influence in the 2008 campaign. And now they still have not gone away; they are advising Mitt Romney on foreign policy.

Our political parties are less able to work together; they are becoming much more polarized.  The rise of the extreme right wing makes widespread repression of citizens’ rights possible.   The government of Michigan has actually taken a turn away from Democracy.  City after city in Michigan is now run by a governor-appointed administrator.

The Occupy movement showed much promise when it began last year. A wide variety of citizens joined the protests. Recently, however, at the NATO summit in Chicago, protesters were not as numerous as some had expected.  The movement has not found its footing yet.

Democracy is not automatic.  We cannot take it for granted that the people of any country will be able to achieve to their full potential.  And we do not easily learn from our mistakes.   One of the keys to building and holding democratic institutions is the election process. The United States and several countries in the Middle East are looking towards electing their next leaders.  The best outcomes will be where citizens know what is at stake and what leadership is really all about.

Texas local news makes it to TPM

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My State Senator, Wendy Davis’s, office was the target of a number of firebombs within recent days.  It is a scary story that had a good ending.  A staff member put out the fire and a suspect was arrested within hours.  No one was injured, thank goodness.

See the details in this well written story from yesterday’s Talking Points Memo blog post by Nick R. Martin.