Posts Tagged ‘China’

Warning: Time for Ideas Not Attacks

This cannot be just another mud-slinging Presidential contest.  Our economy- the world economy- is looking at a steep drop off a tall cliff if leaders do not step forward and if we keep on with politics-as-usual.

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz has a terrific analysis piece that makes all the right points.  He juxtaposes the horrible jobless numbers released Friday with what was a week of campaign hijinks from both sides.  The American electorate needs and deserves this election to be a battle of ideas about how to keep the economy from falling into a second recession.  Both the President and his Republican opponent need to give us details on their vision for the next four years instead of relying on attack strategies that usually work well in typical election years.

There is nothing typical about where we are today.  The continuing debt meltdown in Europe coupled with suddenly slowing economies in China and Brazil have combined to paint a dire situation for the world economy.  The challenges are as formidable as anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

This has to be about more than “we’re not doing as badly as everyone else.” Nor do we have the luxury of wasting our precious time discussing television celebrities and birth certificates.

This desperately needs to be a referendum in November on ideas and policy.  If the campaign devolves into the usual non-stop partisan warfare that has helped get us into this mess to begin with and skirts around the hard truths we need to address in terms of both economic growth and debt reduction- then our elected President will have neither a philosophical mandate or the public support for the actions he needs to take to protect us from economic calamity.

This is a time for adults not adolescent spit-ball battles and clever pot-shots.

Mystery in Space

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…it’s….a baby space shuttle launched Thursday night by the Air Force under a deep veil of secrecy. Meet the X-37B:

It reads like a cheesy techno-thriller. Developed by Boeing’s Phantom Works Division and under the operation of the Air Force Space Command’s 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, the unmanned craft is a tiny version of the space shuttle. Only 29 feet long and with a wingspan of 14 feet, it will live in low-earth orbit for possibly 270 days before making an automated landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The location of Mission Control is unknown.

The government is not saying what it will do, what experiments will be conducted, what the ultimate point of the thing is, other than it appears to be the U.S. military’s first space plane.

Some speculate it’s an extension of predator technology; remote-controlled airborne vehicles that started out as surveillance tools but now carry weaponry and are employed regularly in attacks on terrorist targets along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. In other words, it’s a potential fast-response space vehicle fairly easily launched and landed. But this mission is said to be just a test of the viability of the craft for later operational programs.

Others speculate it’s a program that started decades ago that sort of gained its own bureaucratic momentum and couldn’t be stopped. A military space specialist interviewed by puts it this way:

The second explanation is that of bureaucratic inertia in military programs which is why the justifications and cost estimates are so obscure and mysterious. Once started, programs are difficult to kill especially when the proponents speak of marvelous capabilities analogous to aircraft style operation down the road.

It does have geo-political implications. The Chinese, for example, are likely to see it as the first efforts at U.S. militarization of space and take it as a threat and maybe even a challenge.

I’m not really sure what to make of it. A military space race is not necessarily a comforting prospect. On the other hand, presuming this isn’t some bureaucratic boondoggle- maybe it’s us just being really clever and sophisticated in developing the modern tools we need to beat the bad guys.

I am assuming, of course, that we will always be the good guys.