"The Space Shuttle is dead. Good riddance!"

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“If a car maker tried to sell a car that cost 228 times what was promised, could fit only half the advertised passengers, and had to be refurbished after every drive, they might not do so well in the market, especially when a much cheaper alternative was available.”

Mike Durning's picture
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To be fair...

I get the point. But, to be fair, going to space is just a little more complicated than going down the highway.

Aaron Blumer's picture
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The trend

I'm encouraged by the trend toward private enterprise involvement in space, though. While I think the shuttle program was well worth it despite its flaws (and I'm not really glad it's over either), I do think private efforts can accomplish the same things at a fraction of the cost and probably much, much faster.
Granted, the private efforts we're seeing now are building on lessons learned from the shuttle program, but they are learning many lessons of their own very quickly. It may be that now that shuttle is dead, the pressure and opportunity for private development will greatly increase.
Hopefully, their efforts won't be so hyper-regulated that they end up being as inefficient as the government's efforts.

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Sad

When I was a kid, every boy wanted to be an astronaut.

I agree that the answer to space tech/travel is going to be private enterprise, but only if the gov't gets out of the way. That's going to be a problem, because the idea of a corporation having any sort of control over such pivotal territory is scary.
[img ]http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-K30v7sgCI2o/ThOh3RaD58I/AAAAAAAAAcA/PS5lHm1Tzc... ]

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Private Enterprise - only in US

The move towards private enterprise taking advantage of space is primarily within the US. There is still the trend towards public enterprise within China, and I believe India and Russia (Russia is the most financially incapable of the three).

I am not sure if anyone here is aware, but there have been discussion regarding the mineral resources on the moon and how they will be split among the countries (not companies) of the world. If a country is not capable of taking advantage of those natural resources then there is a good possibility that they will lose out. This is very comparable to the actions which China, as a state, has been taking with natural resources on the earth (rare earth metals, energy and other natural resources).

Is government wasteful in this regard, absolutely. Are they potentially the only one large enough to take on the move towards natural resources on the moon and enforcing those rights? Well, maybe and maybe not.

But, before conclusions are jumped to I believe that all of the facts need to be considered and taken into account. Private enterprise is only going to move forward in these areas if they see a potential profit at some point in time in the future. Perhaps there will be a profit in the exploitation of the resources on the moon, but it is difficult to calculate at the present which means that private enterprises will be slow and hesitant in moving in that direction.

Just my two cents...

Jim's picture
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WSJ article

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405270230491110457644593425420376... The Shuttle Was a Dud But Space Is Still Our Destiny

Quote:
ompare the multibillion yearly price tag for the shuttle program (leading to estimates ranging between $500 million and $1.5 billion per launch for the 135 missions) to the total cost of, say, $5 billion to $7 billion over more than a decade for the Next Generation Space Telescope. It makes one wonder, as the University of Maryland's Robert Park has mused, whether it would have cost less and been more efficient to merely send up another Hubble (on an unmanned rocket) instead of sending an expensive manned ship to repair the old one.

Certainly, the shuttle program can't be justified on the grounds that it helped us build the International Space Station. The station is a largely useless international make-work project that was criticized by every major science organization in this country. All that can be said for its scientific justification is that it now houses a $2 billion particle-physics experiment that managed to avoid serious scientific peer review early on; otherwise it certainly would not have been recommended for funding.

The real science done by NASA has not involved humans. We have sent robots to places humans could never have survived and peered into the far depths of the cosmos, back to the early moments of the Big Bang, with instruments far more capable than our human senses—all for a small fraction of what it costs to send a living, breathing person into Earth's orbit. The first rovers went to Mars for what it would cost to make a movie about sending Bruce Willis to Mars.

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Space program and costs

Even if the shuttle itself never quite lived up to its expectations, the costs were more than reasonable. The ENTIRE shuttle program (30 years worth) is estimated to be around $196 billion, adjusted for inflation. In comparison, Medicaid is something around $1.2 trillion for 5 years, meaning more than $200 billion per year. Social security and defense are much worse. I think what America has gotten from it over those 30 years has been worth much more than $196 billion.

FWIW, I almost agree with leaving "near space" to commercial organizations, if it really frees NASA to focus on deep space, Mars, colonization, etc., but I see no grand plans (or any budget for them) that is coming up to replace the shuttle. Further, it seems like it will be at least 5 years where America is not capable of putting a man in space for any reason, leaving it instead to the Russians and Chinese. As someone who was born and grew up during the heyday of the American space program (I was 6 at the time of the first moon landing), I find that unconscionable.

Dave Barnhart

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Dave, What did we get that

Dave,

What did we get that was worth 196 BILLION dollars? For that amount of money, I think I could do without Teflon. Exploration and expanded knowledge are wonderful when available, but nothing comes to mind worth the price tag - particularly when the nation is living in debt during that entire period. I mean, driving a Porche sounds fun, if someone wants to give me one. But I don't have the resources to justify purchasing one for myself.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture
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List

It would be great to see a list of all the technologies that have come out of the shuttle program... and maybe some of the applications. Teflon is far more useful and ubiquitous than people think. But it's not the only useful innovation to come out of it.
Because of the nature of technology itself, there are fewer and fewer major "breakthroughs" and increasing numbers of incremental discoveries that fit together into useful things later.
It'll be producing dividends for a while.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Part of my point would be

Part of my point would be that these discoveries may have been and could have been made apart from the shuttle project, at least for the most part.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Quote: Part of my point would

Quote:
Part of my point would be that these discoveries may have been and could have been made apart from the shuttle project, at least for the most part.
In pursuit of what? The space program (and many other endeavors) have come up with many of these "inventions" in pursuit of something. If they weren't pursuing the space program, they would not have come up with the inventions.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Larry wrote: Quote: Part of

Larry wrote:
Quote:
Part of my point would be that these discoveries may have been and could have been made apart from the shuttle project, at least for the most part.
In pursuit of what? The space program (and many other endeavors) have come up with many of these "inventions" in pursuit of something. If they weren't pursuing the space program, they would not have come up with the inventions.

Who knows? Who cares? They weren't planning on finding Teflon; they stumbled across it working on the space project. Who knows what other projects might have generated similar finds. What has the shuttle program produced that's worth the 196 BILLION investment of tax payer money? If it was that important, private industry would have pursued it, and we would still have gotten our Teflon, et al.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Technologies are just part of it ...

As Aaron has already pointed out, there are plenty of technologies that have come from the shuttle program (and not just teflon): various thermal insulating technologies (with a lot of applications), artificial heart technologies, memory metals that retain their shape (used in my current pair of glasses which makes them much less likely to be broken compared to what I had before), control software for harsh environments (which includes earth locales like under the ocean, desert and arctic climes, etc., not just outer space), stronger, lighter weight materials for use in aircraft (currently used in many airliners today), more dependable and safer avionics for controlling of those aircraft. I could go on, but there's really no need.

You might argue that none of this is strictly necessary, and I guess when you look at the past, you would see that civilization could have survived without them, but what I am saying is that we are better off with them. You've said that private industry would have found them eventually. Maybe, but you can't predict the future, and since many of these were found trying to solve problems that no one else faced, I would bet that there's no way most investors would approve the spending of research dollars on something where they can't see an immediate profit.

I'm not saying the shuttle program didn't cost anything. What I am saying is that an average of 6.6 billion a year on exploration and research surrounding that, compared with over 200 billion a year on just ONE social program (remember, Jesus said the poor will be with us always when rebuking someone for saying that a seemingly extravagant expense could have been sold and given to the poor), is at least a reasonable investment of our money. Compare it to you buying a computer you can't really afford because it would help with sermon preparation and other tasks that will pay big (but largely intangible) dividends in your church later.

Chip, you sound like someone who would be happy to just stay right where you are, and never explore, never just research for the possibility of just knowing or finding out. I'm saying we need to put national resources behind exploration, pure research, and the infrastructure to accomplish that. Personally, I'd be happy to pay extra taxes to keep that going, even given how much the government wastes the rest of the money I pay them. You obviously disagree, and that's fine. However, if you think that the minimal amount spent on the shuttle program compared to what is spent on defense and social programs will now have any effect at all on the deficit and debt, well I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, and expecting private industry to take on the amount of research (that might not pan out) that has come from the space program is frankly unrealistic. If we don't replace the shuttle with something else, I for one, will be very disappointed. Many people have decried the state of our nation these days because of a number of factors. I think if we cease spending on just learning and exploring just to see what's out there and try to put it toward more mundane things (like social redistribution), it's just an indication of how far down we have come.

Dave Barnhart

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Dave, I guess I'm not being

Dave,

I guess I'm not being clear enough. What I'm talking about is priorities. Saying it's ok to waste money in one area because we waste a whole lot more in another area is poor logic. Since I'm facing bankruptcy with millions of dollars in unsecured debt, it's ok to keep taking the family out to eat at Burger King every night and putting that on the credit card too! After all, what difference is another $25 a day going to make when I owe millions, right?

Nothing in the shuttle program was indispensable; I would argue completely dispensable. When our house is in order, and we have surplus funds, great, let's explore God's creation as much as we can. Until then, we should have other, greater priorities. This must be why those folks in D.C. can't figure out how to balance the budget. Cutting spending is a great theory, but every project is someone's pet. I say cut 'em all until we fix the mess, then decide what needs to be reinstated.

To be clear, I am not advocating social redistribution. I don't want to cut the shuttle so we can keep on spending on welfare. I want to cut ALL of it to some degree (some things more than others). Just like I have had to do with my family during the economic downturn.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Budget and priorities

If all you are saying is that our "greater priorities" are that we need to get America's house in order, spend less than we take in, and pay off the debt, well, I can't disagree with that. I've been flying a "Don't Tread on Me" flag in support of that notion for over a year. I think we need to cut back on whatever programs are necessary to get us to that point. But, for example, I think it would be quite reasonable to take the exploration funds out of the somewhere around $686 billion or so we are spending on defense per year, to be able to afford it. Some things should keep going, and I would argue that pure research is more important than yet *more* money in wars, bailouts and social programs. I wonder if President Obama is even considering all the technology jobs not only in the shuttle program, but in all the ancillary tech industries that were suppliers to that program that have been or will be cut? Yet we bailed out failed banks and car industries (largely because of worries over the loss of jobs and industries) to the tune of a lot more money than the shuttle program. Looks like what the U.S. lost on Chrysler alone could fund the space program for almost two years. I think losing the engineers, and engineering infrastructure behind the space program is much worse for the U.S. in the long run than losing manufacturing and financial jobs.

I'm in the computer industry, and I've lost my job to cutbacks a couple times, the last time because my entire company closed. While I was jobless I cut out a lot of expenses. However, I kept my telephone and internet, because they were useful for the job search -- in other words, they would only pay off in the future, and yet I considered them essential expenses. I figured I could spend less on groceries in order to have better opportunities for a job search. It goes without saying that eating out, any entertainment expenses, etc., were already cut completely out, so I was cutting "essentials" in order to pay for the the future. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. And to your example about Burger King, well you do have to eat. You can probably do it a lot cheaper than even fast food, so Burger King is not the greatest expense, but in spite of your owing millions in your example, you will still have to buy groceries and other necessaries to support your family, and you probably still need to pay for the "tools of the trade" to be able to prepare sermons and pastor properly.

Sounds like we only disagree on the shuttle program itself being entirely dispensable, and we probably won't be moving any closer on that!

Dave Barnhart

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Defning waste

It's not waste if there's a return that matches or exceeds the investment.
Arguably, it's not even waste if there was a good chance of a return on the investment. It's like planting a crop. If the weather doesn't cooperate and you lose money, was it a "waste"? Most would say it was worth a try.

But I agree that technological results alone do not justify huge expenses. The process of weighing where money should go is complex. And if technological advance justified every cost... we should start a big war. So far, nothing in human history advances technology quite like trying to kill the other guys before they kill you.
Sad, but true.

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Gains from waste

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's not waste if there's a return that matches or exceeds the investment.
Arguably, it's not even waste if there was a good chance of a return on the investment. It's like planting a crop. If the weather doesn't cooperate and you lose money, was it a "waste"? Most would say it was worth a try.

But I agree that technological results alone do not justify huge expenses. The process of weighing where money should go is complex. And if technological advance justified every cost... we should start a big war. So far, nothing in human history advances technology quite like trying to kill the other guys before they kill you.
Sad, but true.


You're right, of course. Where do we think a lot of that $686 billion in expenses is going, anyway? My dad has retired from both the military and civilian government service, but because he retains his high security clearances he's still a contractor working on developing weapons systems for the government (which is pretty much what he was doing before he retired). Since that national expense is currently about 100 times what we were spending on the space program, we'll probably be seeing a larger number of technological advances come out of that. However, I agree that expenses that high are not completely justified by the gains, especially when much of what is learned when developing defense technology remains classified for a *very* long time.

And of course, the threat of nuclear war was in fact the major motivating factor behind the first space program, but I don't think that lessens or negates the accomplishment or what we've gained nationally at all. I guess I don't need to start down that road again...

Right now, we need to cut pretty much everything to bring expenses in line, but I know it's things like the space program that will suffer, while income redistribution probably goes up...

Dave Barnhart

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Chip, your analogy of BK is

Chip, your analogy of BK is quite off, anyways. But don't worry, you and the vast majority of people don't fathom big numbers (myself included). Our minds cannot fathom a trillion dollars, nor a billion dollars, nor a million, and can barely fathom thousands. So, to put your analogy in perspective, you would be allowed to spend 6.90$ per year at BK for your family. Or, 57c/month. Or 1.8c/day. I could walk a mall for an hour and probably find more money than that.

This is why we can never balance the budget by cutting discretionary spending. Never! You can cut every single budget item in the discretionary spending category and we would still be short 634B (That is part of the problem, we put a B instead of writing it all the way out: 634,000,000,000). Or, if you made 60,000/year, you would be short 18,000. It is nice that people like to talk about cutting or balancing the budget, but unless you are willing to cut SS, Medicaid, and or Medicare, it is pointless. (Defense is complete different. To lower that, you have to stop waging war on everyone.)

In addition, I don't have any hard stats, but I do know many of the companies that made it through the past couple years still pumped money into R&D. The idea that we could do without teflon sounds nice, but doesn't quite work. Technologies don't advance in a vacuum. It reminds me of a game called Civilization where you start off with very basic technologies like pottery. Once learned, you are able to research newer techs, and newer techs. Soon, you are researching space tech. I know it is a game, but the same is true for tech irl. A simple search on Teflon produces a plethora of uses, many of which are not personal. One that I did not know was with the Manhattan Project. And as a point of clarification, Manhattan Project 1942; Space program 1958. Teflon was not invented by NASA, but by DuPont in 1938. So before you say things like, "I could do without Teflon" make sure you are willing to give up every single thing that relied upon it, and every single tech that relied them. You might as well say, I could do without any tech, or further, I could do without my club just like my 'ancestors' did. (not trying to slam by calling you a caveman, but rather the premise that techs are invented in vacuums leads to pre-club living)

But I digress. Was the shuttle program worth it? I don't think anyone can quantify its worth. However, for 1.2c/day I would continue it in some form.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Daniel, You missed the

Daniel,

You missed the analogy. The thinking being lampooned is that since the big problem is so big, we don't need to worry about the accumulative little problems. As I said before, I never meant that the space project alone could balance the budget. I have said, cut everything to one degree or another. I have only stated, repeatedly, that the space program is one of those things that must go way down the priority list. It is not a necessity, and we are deep in debt. Should have been halted several years ago, along with many other programs, until there was money to consider restoring it again.

In addition, you make my point in your third paragraph. You switch from government R&D to private enterprise. I assume the private companies are making a profit and have money to spend on R&D, or their doors would be closed. The government doesn't have the money right now. Everything non-essential must go, and many of the essentials must be squeezed.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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All do respects Chip, we

All do respects Chip, we cannot even come close to balancing the budget if we stop all discretionary spending. To name a few: Health and Human Services (84B), Education (64B), Housing and Urban Development (42B), Justice (27B), and agriculture (25B). Again, this is not that we are just cutting their budget, but that we are completely getting rid of these programs. Even if we include Defense we are short 55,000,000,000.

NASA may not be all that important, but again, let me put it in an analogy we can understand. You make 60k/year. You are over your budget by 36k/y 3k/m 98/d. You are saying we should start with budget items like going out to eat to Burger King (see last paragraph) should be cut.(183/y 15.25/m 50c/d) Sure, money is money, but c'mon, any individual would immediately look at their budget and realize they cannot start balancing their budget with this. They would realize, if they know math, they have to sell their merc and buy a Kia to save 200/month or take public transportation and save even more. Downsize their apartment by 200$/month. (although, for an individual to be this behind is probably near impossible to balance, unless they had some major extravagant things that cost closer to 750-2000/month)

With all that said, what has to happen is a drastic cut on Medicare, Medicaid, SS, and defense, say 350B for each. That puts us still 244B short. However, that number is much easier to reduce by cutting some discretionary spending, although I don't think it is possible without crippling our government. But then again, if you completely got rid of NASA, you are still only dealing with 2.7% of that 244B deficit. That is better and easier to comprehend, but still extremely far from balanced.

My point about companies was that some companies, despite not having money, still put money in R&D. But, I cannot find the article yet, so I will leave that alone.

Was off on the math, it is more than once a year. Sorry to not do the math correctly.

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By the way, these videos

By the way, these videos should really be watched by all to help us understand numbers beyond a couple thousand. http://www.youtube.com/user/10000Pennies

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Ok, this is me sighing

Ok, this is me sighing (couldn't find a smiley). Let me say it one more time.

I AGREE.

CUT EVERYTHING.

Not just NASA. Not just discretionary funds. Everything! I spoke directly about NASA because that's what this thread was about - NASA. I don't care how small the effect on the overall budget. NASA is NONESSENTIAL. Cut it. Then take that big red pen and move elsewhere in the budget. And keep cutting nonessential and shrinking essentials until we can get the budget under control. Then, when we have discretionary funds again, let's start debating about the best use of those funds.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Let's prevent some sighing

Chip,

To prevent us talking past each other, why don't you list a few of the items you find essential in comparison to the space program. I'm curious to know what great items should get our money that we would save by cutting all of NASA, rather than just the shuttle program. Or even which discretionary items would take precedence over the space program. Would any of them include scientific research and exploration?

Dave Barnhart

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Ok Dave, I'll spitball for a

Ok Dave, I'll spitball for a minute.

I don't think the fed should be involved in education. Localize and privatize. That's almost 1 trillion in 2011

I think welfare should be substantially limited and eventually phased out - localize and privatize. That's .5 trillion this year.

Military spending is currently 59% of discretionary spending. Surely that can be cut back, though I think it is one of the top priorities of gov. Withdrawing from the wars is a huge portion of that expense. I would have been more in favor of toppling the regimes and leaving than performing a decade of dubious nation building.

Pensions represent almost 1 trillion this year. Reduce the size and scope of government. Deregulate. Return the work force to the private sector. This one is only affected over time.

I am all for complete overhaul. I have no problem research and exploration. I focused on NASA because it was the subject of this article.
Basic premise = we must live within out means
Basic premise = we cannot support current spending
Basic premise = all non essentials must be cut until we can find "extra" money again
Basic Premise = if that still doesn't get us back within budget, essentials will have to be trimmed (see 1st premise)

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Trimming vs. essentials

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Military spending is currently 59% of discretionary spending. Surely that can be cut back, though I think it is one of the top priorities of gov.

I actually don't substantially disagree with your trims, but you don't list much of what you consider essential, other than military (which I also agree with, within reason -- clearly we cannot keep supporting current levels).

Quote:
I am all for complete overhaul. I have no problem research and exploration. I focused on NASA because it was the subject of this article.

I get that you don't consider NASA essential. What I don't know is what (other than defense) you consider an essential expense. Obviously, I still think what we get from it is worth more than it costs, and you don't, which is why I would make cuts elsewhere to keep NASA.

I also understand you "have no problem" with research and exploration, but I can't tell if you consider it an essential or not. I'm guessing that you don't.

Quote:

Basic premise = we must live within out means
Basic premise = we cannot support current spending
Basic premise = all non essentials must be cut until we can find "extra" money again
Basic Premise = if that still doesn't get us back within budget, essentials will have to be trimmed (see 1st premise)

I don't generally disagree with your basic premises, though we might quibble over the "essentialness" of some things, which is why I wanted to know what you consider essential.

Dave Barnhart

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I think, based on Romans 13,

I think, based on Romans 13, that the primary essential is defense. Given our current age, infrastructure would also fit within the parameters of promoting and protecting an environment where good can thrive and evil is punished. Research and exploration would also fall here, though I think another step removed from infrastructure, so less important. However, I still think that the vast majority of this ought to find its source in the private, for-profit sector rather than government.

I know this is still very general. I'll try to throw out some more specific details later. If you have any particulars to throw out for conversation, I'd be happy to bat them around with you as well.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Addition to post 25

I should add lest someone misunderstand, defense and domestic peace in the first sentence.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Never guess who said this

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

- Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006 #fb

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture
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Ok Dave, maybe I need to

Ok Dave, maybe I need to rethink funding of NASA.

New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism - read http://blogs.forbes.com/jamestaylor/2011/07/27/new-nasa-data-blow-gaping... here.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?