Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Here we go again, more NASA follies.

It turns out that during the Clinton administration NASA began an air safety survey, known as the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service, which was tasked with studying ways to reduce fatal air crashes by 80% by the year 2007. According to the Associated Press, which has spent the last 14 months wrangling with NASA to get hold of the data collected by the survey through a FIA request, NASA was on the verge of purging every bit of data collected without ever making any of it public when a House committee got wind of what was going on and ordered them not to.

Now why would NASA want to press the delete button on a file it spent years putting together, without ever letting it see the light of day? NASA's associate administrator, Thomas S. Luedtke, in a letter denying the AP's FIA request, explained: "Release of the requested data, which are sensitive and safety-related, could materially affect public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air-carriers and general-aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey."

In other words, 'whadda' crazy? If people knew how damned dangerous air travel was, it could endanger the air-carrier's profits.' (The business of the government, after all, is business, isn't it?) Indeed, the average air traveler doesn't need to know that pilots "reported twice as many bird strikes, near mid-air collisions and runway incursions as other government monitoring systems."

Is that a problem? Not really. The FAA disputes NASA's methodology, naturally, and AP reports the FAA assures everyone that it is "confident it can identify safety problems before they lead to accidents." I know I feel better. No need to look too closely at what NASA came up with.

Besides, NASA has bigger fish to fry. NASA shelved the survey a while back, AP reports, so they could divert more funds into "sending astronauts to the moon and Mars." That's W.'s big contribution to the knowledge of all mankind, sending the most technically advanced government agency the world has every seen -- the agency that put a man on the moon in less than ten years -- off on a wild goose chase to find pie in the sky. Better that than sticking its nose into places it doesn't belong like scaring everybody about global warming and the safety -- or lack thereof -- of air travel.

Isn't this just so typical of everything the government does nowadays? Newt Gingrich is right, government just doesn't work. Especially when you systematically dismantle every agency involved in protecting the public and place corporate flunkies and political hacks at the head of them. Of course, everyone knows the private sector can do anything the government can ten times better. Anyone who has ever worked for a big corporation knows that.

Has anyone who buys this business-can-do-no-wrong clap trap ever looked at what goes on every day at their job and extrapolated that to the services the government provides, the services they take for granted every day? Do you really want your boss -- or even worse, his boss -- running the FAA or the EPA? Imagine your boss in charge of the pentagon. [Well that's pretty much what we got with Rummy, I guess.] I know I don't want my physical safety placed in the hands of some jackass armed only with all the education an MBA gives you. 'Sure, I understand your house is burning down, but it’s the end of the quarter and I've got to push sales. Have you got a garden hose? Someone just broke into your house? Well, we're over budget this month, go buy a gun.'

NASA's very bad year

I've got to say, NASA is not having a good year. First there was the astronaut diaper debacle and then there was the drunken astronauts’ story and now this. What an embarrassment. Gus Grissom must be rolling in his grave.

What a shame that the same agency that brought us the likes of Neil Armstrong and the Mercury astronauts, guys with the right stuff like Deke Slayton and Al Shepard - real American heroes -- have been reduced to holding water for George W. Bush and his moneyed friends.

What can you say about a space agency that can't get into space without the help of the Russians in most of the time? The RUSSIANS! These are the same people who routinely erased all evidence of the existence of their Cosmonauts every time one of them crashed into Kazakhstan. These are the same people who brought us that orbiting deathtrap MIR, which was always either on fire or crashing into its re-supply ships. Now, when we can actually get one of our clunky space trucks into space, our astronauts spend the entire time they're hurtling around Earth trying to figure out if they're going to be able to get back without blowing up. And when one does, we have to rely on the freakin' Russians to do the job for us. We went to the MOON damn it, what the hell happened?

Now, even the Japanese are orbiting satellites around the moon and the Chinese, for Christ sake, are working on putting a man on the moon, and here is NASA; the butt of every diaper joke. Just pathetic.

Special note: NASA's IG is in hot water at the House Committee on Science and Technology:

"In November 2006, the House Science and Technology Committee began work to obtain a report from the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) investigation of NASA’s Inspector General, Robert 'Moose' Cobb. Members made the request after allegations of Cobb’s misconduct were made in November 2005. . .

The PCIE report found that Cobb abused his authority by creating a hostile work environment and appeared to lack independence in his relationships with top NASA officials, and in his review of staff’s work. The Integrity Committee of the PCIE further felt that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin’s proposed course of action for Cobb was inadequate to address his conduct. The Committee “further believed that disciplinary action up to and including removal, could be appropriate.

'Chairman Miller and Senator Nelson and I agree that NASA is poorly served by an Inspector General who is not perceived as being completely independent,' Gordon said. 'If whistleblowers and the Inspector General’s own staff do not feel that they can trust him or work with him, he cannot possibly be effective. NASA and the nation deserve better.'"

The news just gets better and better.


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