Friday, March 4, 2005
1. SCIENCE BUDGET: TAX REVENUES DOWN, WAR COSTS UP, BIG TROUBLE.
You don't have to be Alan Greenspan to know what happens when taxes are cut during a costly war. And it's happening. Science, with no champions in this administration, looks to be one of the big losers. NASA, alone among science agencies, would get an increase under the Bush request, but the entire 5%, and more, is destined for the Moon-Mars Initiative, which has no discernable science content. Meanwhile, Hubble will be dropped in the ocean.
2. MOON-MARS INITIATIVE: EXPLORING THE OUTER LIMITS OF POLITICS.
So what's really behind "The Vision"? Why is the administration pushing so hard for a science initiative that scientists scorn, and which won't take place on Bush's watch? Ah, but that's the plan. It will be up to the next administration, stuck with a huge deficit, to decide whether to go ahead with a meaningless but staggeringly expensive program to see if humans can do what robots are already doing. As one well-informed NASA watcher put it, "Moon-Mars is a poison pill. It hangs responsibility for ending the humans-in-space program on the next administration."
3. FAITH-BASED GOVERNMENT: TOO IMPORTANT TO LEAVE TO CONGRESS?
David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, complained last month that although the conservative religious community had delivered the votes for the Republican landslide, they hadn't seen much faith money. Stung, the White House called a meeting with 300 religious leaders. "It is said that faith can move mountains," the President told the cheering throng, "and I'm here to talk about how to move that mountain." The mountain, it seems, is Congress. Legislation to make it easier for religious charities to obtain government cash was blocked in Bush' s first term. Although Kuo complained that the White House wasn't committed to ending the stalemate, Bush bypassed Capitol Hill with three executive orders establishing faith-based offices in 10 federal agencies that passed out $2B in 2004. They pray for more. WN prays for the First Amendment.
4. THE LAW: THOU SHALT SUBJECT EACH CLAIM TO A DOUBLE-BLIND TEST.
The day after the President's meeting with religious leaders, the Supreme Court debated whether displays of the Ten Commandments on government property violated the separation of church and state. The monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol, begins with the words, "I AM the LORD thy God," followed by the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." That seems pretty clear, but Justice Kennedy suggested that, "If an atheist walks by he can avert his eyes." Meanwhile, in Estes Park, CO, there will be a recall election to decide whether to unseat a Board member for refusing to say "under God" when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings.