Friday, January 27, 2012

A moon base, seriously

Newt Gingrich has promised the American people that if he is elected President he will make sure there is an American moon base by the end of his second term.  We hear a lot of outlandish promises from politicians like "We will increase revenues by lowering taxes" and "I will fund tax cuts by finding efficiencies that do not reduce services" all the time but rarely does someone who is considered a real contender come out with something so utterly ridiculous.  The US is facing a debt and deficit issue that can be safely termed catastrophic and there are monstrous cuts coming to every part of the government and yet good ole Newt wants to find a few trillion to establish a base on the moon just for show.  There is nothing there that could possibly be thought to be worth the cost at this point so the only real reason is to show off.  Perhaps Newt thinks that America needs to compensate for something?

I remember awhile ago in Ontario elections the issue of the Catholic school board came up and politicians were scrambling to come up with a stance that wouldn't alienate the Catholics.  It is terrible that we still have this situation with the province officially supporting religious discrimination and homophobia (among other things) but the politicians are too worried about the Catholic vote to get rid of it.  One of the platforms that was put forward was support for separate school boards for all religions.  This way the Catholic church won't protest since it will still get to push its particular brand of insanity and we can offer the same for Jews, Lutherans, Buddhists, Taoists, Flying Spaghetti Monsterists, atheists.... Oh wait, that is just as stupid and impractical as a moon base.  A real party was literally suggesting that they would have hundreds of school boards to accommodate every religious belief around.  Somehow the staggering cost and the issue of supporting random cults and such never came up in their planning sessions?

I have a huge amount of tolerance for politicians who say stupid things under pressure in debates and such.  They are trying to appear smooth, suave, intelligent and patriotic while answering very difficult questions in many cases.  It is hard to do and sometimes even really clever and competent people make mistakes in such a situation.  What I can't fathom is how idiotic policies like moon bases and separate school boards for Wiccans (not to knock their religion in particular, just their numbers, which are clearly not worth a school board) get out of the planning stages.  Surely they have somebody listening at their meetings who can figure out that these sorts of crazy projects aren't going to work?  It doesn't surprise me that politicians are nuts but it does surprise me that their handlers and assistants don't manage to have enough brains and moxie to convince the politicians that their ideas are going to sink their campaigns.


  1. I don't recall who proposed creating a board for every religion. Who/When was that?

  2. John Tory, Conservative, 2007 Ontario election. You can find some data here:,_2007

  3. I read some of the things Gingrich said about the moon base, and I think it might actually be political genius at work. He said that America has always dreamed big, and that *of course* his opponents were against it because they were only pragmatic while he is a romantic.

    I think his campaign team should print up T-Shirts that say, "F*$! it, let's go to the moon"

  4. There might be some opposition when his opponents ask "So which programs exactly are you cutting to get the 2 trillion dollars you need to go to the moon?" That said, maybe positioning yourself as the big thinker isn't so bad as distinguishing yourself in the field can be really powerful. He even set it up so that if he is done his first term and no moon base is in sight he hasn't reneged on his promise!

  5. I would vote for someone promising a moon base. I think funneling money into crazy research projects is a much better use of it than pretty much anything else governments do with it. A lot of very good dominoes start dropping if they put any kind of effort into going back to the moon.

    (As an aside, I can't comment on this blog from work anymore either. If I ever load an individual post page it display the page and then starts loading the comments. Then it just goes to a blank page. If I hit escape during the loading of comments it'll show me the post but the comment buttons won't work.)

  6. You think a moon base is more useful than roads, schools, hospitals, welfare, old age pensions, police, firefighting, and paying down debt we have already accumulated? That surprises me greatly, and I can't say I agree at all.

    (I have no idea why you can't comment any more from work. I didn't change anything but the comments are different in appearance. Maybe next time I am over at your place I can look at your settings and figure it out?)

  7. Tory proposed a tax credit for anyone who sent their children to a religious school. This might increase the number of school boards, but at no point did they suggest that there would be a school board for every religion as your caricature would suggest.

  8. You know, I don't think a moonbase is more useful than roads, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be trying to build a moonbase. I feel like we've become a nation of worriers and haters (speaking of Canada here, but it seems similar down south). It's very silly to think that all government spending will have a net positive return because the money will just circulate through the economy, but some of it does. I can see the thinking that putting money into space exploration is exactly the right kind of spending (both knowledge and manufacturing based, will likely lead to useful consumer products, probably creates salable expertise).

    Right now all we seem to think about is what we can't afford and about how to protect our own pockets - no wonder consumer confidence is not doing well.

    I picture two different scenarios:

    1) Things as we expect them to go now (most countries keep trying to nickel and dime their budgets, devalue their currency, and keep interest rates at nothing in an attempt to keep the rich rich)

    2) The US ignores their debt crisis, let's their dollar die and prints a new currency when it does and builds a damn moonbase.

    The first scenario is awful and the second one is beyond stupid. To be honest, I'm not sure which one would make the US or the world a better place 20, 50 or 100 years from now.

  9. @Anonymous

    Fair enough, that wasn't what I recalled (and I couldn't find corroborating details anywhere, do you have a link?) but it is a ludicrous solution even then. The government should not be supporting religious schools. If you want your kid to be religiously educated you need to do it yourself. Hopefully not, but I don't get to make the rules.


    There are plenty of things we can research and build that generate science, expertise, jobs and interest that actually have a chance of being useful in and of themselves. I don't think scientific research is a bad use of money, nor do I think that of infrastructure projects. I just think a moon base is crazy because it is useless.

  10. Oh sure, moonbase is stupid and useless for sure. If someone wanted to do something smart or useful that would be a great alternative to moonbases.

    It appears that my recollection was wrong. I was confusing the program with the plan for tax credits for all private schools PCs ran on the previous election.
    The actual program is still feasible in that it does not involve creating new schools for different religions, just bringing the ones which already exists (or can be formed) into the public system. I'm not arguing that this is morally right, just that it is feasible. Unlike the moonbase plan which is not so much morally wrong, just infeasible.

    1. It is certainly feasible.... if we are willing to double our education budget without improving (secular) student outcomes.

      We must remember that each school and system require: Buildings, maintenance, busing, etc, etc, etc. Most would be redundant systems.

      I think that we can all agree, however, that it is comically unfair, unjust, and unreasonable to have a public system for only ONE religion.

  12. Maybe the moonbase itself isn't terribly useful but it is a potential stepping stone on the way to the manned exploration and colonization of other planets. Obama massively cut into NASA and it's hard to imagine where space exploration research is going to come from if that isn't reversed at some point, and soon. Getting young people excited about exploring the moon and Mars is going to do more for education than spending that money on schools the way they currently are.

    Would it be better to completely revamp public education in the US and change the culture so that teachers are thought of as being awesome (and paid enough to encourage people to consider becoming one)? Probably. I'd vote for that guy, too. But that guy isn't an option. Given the choice between status quo (which I don't think is working) and crazy-insano I choose crazy-insano. Invade a middle eastern country or build a moonbase? Moonbase it up! Build a lot of prisons and change laws to fill them or build a moonbase? Blast off!

  13. Yeah, the real problem with Gingrich isn't so much the moonbase, it's everything else. He wants to start foreign wars, build more prisons *and* build a moonbase. The moonbase is pretty much his best idea.