I began to think that I had an answer to the latter question when I saw an Aug. 8 National Review article, written by R. J. Smith and Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, entitled Spaceship Earth. I couldn't help but notice some striking similarities between that article and my Aug. 5 blog entry, One Shuttle Commander's Enlightening "Discovery". (Of course, theirs was a rather deliberate analysis while mine was more of a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic commentary, with bits of cynicism and a dash of hyperbolic vitriol thrown in for good measure.)
Concerning the remarks made by shuttle Discovery's Commander Eileen Collins about how "deforestation" is "widespread in some parts of the world," I wrote:
I realize that we're down here and you're up there, and perhaps we can't see the deforestation for the lack of trees, but do you see those big brown patches? Those are called deserts. ... Deserts are notorious for their lack of forests.Smith and Murray wrote:
The nonsense is that everything evaluated is done so simply in area extent. The desert is larger!When it came to the commander's comments that the planet's atmosphere is "so very thin" and, since "we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have," I wrote:
As long as there are plants and algae, I don't think that will be a problem. You've heard of a process called photosynthesis, right? Of course you have. You have two master's degrees.Smith and Murray replied:
... [W]hat is her concern? That people are using it all up by breathing? This is grade-school environmentalism at best, not the sort of thinking we should expect from the highly qualified scientists that astronauts are supposed to be.To Collins's statement that we need to "replace the resources that have been used," I responded:
We'll start pumping oil back into the ground just as soon as you rocket scientists invent a car that runs on hugs and happy thoughts.From Smith and Murray:
What is that supposed to mean? Refill copper mines with more copper or start pumping crude oil into depleted reservoirs?About the overall sermonizing on environmental issues, I wrote:
Like Bowie's Major Tom, there really is nothing these astronauts can do except talk about what the Earth looks like from a tin can floating in space. And now that the shuttle has become a celestial soapbox for environmentalist ramblings that have no basis in scientific fact, perhaps it's time to ground it permanently.Smith and Murray:
As for Eileen Collins's comments themselves, a moment's thought reveals them for the platitudinous claptrap we have come to expect from people who don't know all that much about Spaceship Earth.Now, I sincerely doubt that Smith and Murray have ever read my writings. Any similarity between events or persons, living or dead, was purely coincidental. But since I wasn't the only one to pick up on the environmentalist, PC implications (i.e., the sheer pointlessness) of this latest space shuttle mission I can only conclude that what I had to say was somewhat relevant in this case.
I tried, in my own feeble way, to make light of Commander Collins's doom-and-gloom sermon on the fragility of Planet Earth (which has been around for how long now?). Unfortunately, that message was seemingly lost on those who were offended that anyone would dare to criticize such a "cool" government program like the space shuttle, no matter how wasteful it may be. Let's just say that most of the e-mails I received in response to my breviloquent breakdown weren't exactly positive.
One such e-mail came from "Chris," who saw what I wrote on SierraTimes.com:
You sad [expletive deleted], disrespectful [expletive deleted] moron who wrote this [expletive deleted] column about Collins and Shuttle Discovery. When this sad little site gets named and shamed we'll wreck your server. [Expletive deleted] idiot.Now, I have received some hateful e-mails before, but this one was so deliciously clever and insightfully eloquent that I had to reply.
I thanked him for reading and asked what it was he found so disrespectful. (It certainly wasn't my use of profanity.) When he didn't answer, I decided to use the online tools at my disposal to find out who this guy is.
Running a Google search for his e-mail address, I came across a few discussion forums that bore his profile. It turns out that "Chris" lives in England, drives a Ford Probe and is a fan of the band Evanescence. Most importantly, he is the U.K. Director of Communications for NASA!
On one hand, I am not at all surprised to learn that the most vile, hate-filled response to my critique of the latest Discovery mission came from a NASA press officer. No doubt he would like to see me shipped off to Orwell's Ministry of Love for a little "rehabilitation."
On the other hand, I am quite flattered that a government propagandist took time away from his busy schedule to read what I had to say. And with readers like that, Lord willing, I won't be quitting anytime soon.