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Friday, July 18, 2008

Mandela At 90

Nelson Mandela id turning 90 this week, and I could hardly let it pass without noting the greatest living human on earth. After he successfully negotiated the end of the South African government without bloodshed, he lead his people to majority rule without all the ensuing bloodbath and wrecking of the economy that has been part of so many third world transitions to native rule.  After spending eighteen years in a hell hole apartheid prison he had every reason to take revenge, but he went for the best for his people. Leadership that is seldom seen in history, and we have the privilege of living at the same time as this great man. Fading and frail, he still is doing what he can to ease Zimbabwe out of the dark path they took after white rule. Greatness is a  junction of time, place and personality, with personality making it work. He is a socialist that gave market economics breathing room to create much needed economic progress. He didn't jail or deport the Apartheid goons that murdered and enslaved his people. His party, in their parliament, set up the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" that just insisted that the criminals of the white minority government and the black guerillas simply publicly discuss and confess their crimes to be pardoned. That stroke of genius allowed the country to get on with its business and prevented the criminals from paving over their crimes. 

South Africa is not out of the woods yet. Crime is horrible and poverty is poisonous, but with determination inspired by Mandela they can be overcome. Nelson Mandela wasn't a plaster saint, but as good as a person could ever hope to be.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

War Crimes Trial?

Americans will have the opportunity to prosecute the perpetrators of the Iraqi war and abrogation of the Constitution starting in 2009. Some of the charges are international, specifically the instigation of war against a non-aggressor that in 1946 got so many Germans locked up or hung. We can handle the trampling of the Constitution on our own. The real question is: Do we want to start having each succeeding administration administration having show trials aimed at the prior, or were the crimes of Rumsfeld/Bush/Cheney so egregious and well documented as to make prosecutors sure of conviction. Such a prosecution would be stepping into a dark woods without a map. Sure conservatives held show trials in the 50s and did a naked politically inspired impeachment against Bill Clinton, but it was wrong. If I had my way the perps would spend the next ten years in The International Courts at The Hague defending their sorry asses. We would have to open our records to the court, but that could be done. It would be a good excuse to sign on to a couple of international war crimes and extradition treaties.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Absolutely Brilliant!

I just finished an article in the Washington Post by Michael Benson that, if implemented, would give the flying white elephant known as the International Space Station an actual purpose other than a tombstone for the Ronald Reagan lack of vision. Put the ISS into a lunar orbit. It's so simple, cheap and obvious I can't figure out why I didn't think of it.

Think about it. An orbiting platform loaded with Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and whatever Japan and France call their equivalent a hundred or so miles above the lunar surface. Bring the Chinese on board, we'll need their money too. Everything in the development pipeline is adaptable to such a project.

A reusable lunar lander makes a lot of sense in that it doesn't have to carry all that fuel and tons of heat tiles for reentry. Gas it up, take a couple of Astronauts on board, and touchdown. There is still a couple of low milage rovers there waiting to be hotwired. Think of the opportunities for a space telescope as a part of the ISS. Infinitely upgradable and repairable. I think I just drooled.

This idea is so cool it probably doesn't stand a chance of ever happening.