Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Charlie Rangel is the Poster Child for Term Limits

By Liz Peek

As the House prepares to launch on Thursday a rare, public ethics inquiry into alleged misdeeds by New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, it is clear that Rangel remains defiant. He is fighting the House Ethics Committee tooth and nail, claiming that he wants to “make certain, before this election, people know who Charlie Rangel is.” Most Americans know who Rangel is: the poster child for term limits.

Rangel, who has served nearly 40 years in the House of Representatives, including a tour as head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, illustrates the corruptive nature of political tenure.

Ask those who keep watch over our congressional scoundrels for the most common characteristic of nominees to the annual Most Corrupt list, and they will nominate prolonged service. Indeed, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has listed Rangel as one of our 15 most corrupt politicians since 2008.

The tragedy is that despite serial misbehavior, Rangel will not lose his job. The Ethics Committee (formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) will likely give him a slap on the wrist, possibly in conjunction with an apology and perhaps a bunch of roses to make sure there are no hard feelings. (Rangel has been extremely helpful in raising money for his colleagues.) Moreover, voters in his home district appear poised to reelect him. Such is the power of incumbency.

Those not paying close attention might think that the charges against Rangel -- which have not yet been specified but could include inappropriately using a rent-stabilized apartment for an office, filing inaccurate financial statements and using congressional letterhead to solicit funds for a center named for him at City College of New York -- are a one-off. They would be wrong. As his power has grown over the years, so has the number of complaints against him. One of the most egregious acts of defiance was a 2008 trip to the Caribbean hosted by corporations seeking access to legislators. This annual event engaged the Black Congressional Caucus, which routinely streamed south for a little sun and fun, despite increasingly stringent House rules forbidding receiving such largesse from corporations. There is absolutely no doubt that those attending the event knew it violated the rules.

Ken Boehm, a representative of the National Legal and Policy Center, photographed the prominently and visibly placed placards acknowledging Citigroup and IBM as among the host companies. As investigators dug deeper into charges involving the outing, the Ethics Committee finally acceded to public outrage and launched a full investigation. Who was put in charge of the inquiry? Representative G. K. Butterfield, himself a member of the Black Congressional Caucus who had attended the junket in 2005.

Two months ago, some 19 members -- nearly half of the total -- of the Black Congressional Caucus introduced a resolution aimed at muzzling the newly active Ethics Committee. They were furious that several of their colleagues -- including Rangel -- had come under investigation. The request for a softer, gentler Ethics committee was ignored. The credit for that goes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Polls have made it clear that Americans are disgusted by Congress. Yet, given the manner in which our congressional districts are formed, the importance of fundraising and the power of office, it is almost impossible to bounce an incumbent -- even if he is a crook. In 2008, 94% of House incumbents were reelected; over the past 35 years the number has dipped below 90% only once. This needs to change -- via term limits. Unhappily, getting those in office to pass a law restricting the number of terms that a senator or representative can serve is akin to asking for a suicide pact. Having said that, there are some enlightened members of Congress -- encouraged by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint -- who are pushing for term limits. It is doubtful that they will succeed, but it is a mission that should gain traction.

Power corrupts and it appears that extended power corrupts profoundly. Rangel should go, and his legacy should be term limits.

Liz Peek is a financial columnist.  For more visit

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hey Obama, How About a JOB, Not a Handout!

By Bradley Blakeman

By President Obama's own admission, America -- under his watch -- faces the worst job losses and recession since the Great Depression.

One of the first acts the president advanced after becoming our 44th president was the passage of the more than 1,000 page stimulus bill. A bill, by the way, that most lawmakers did not read and one that the president promised would create enough jobs to prevent the national unemployment rate from rising above 8%.

It is an undisputed fact that our national unemployment rate continues to hover around 9.5% and many economists argue that if you take into account those underemployed, those seasonably employed and those who have given up looking for a job all together, the actual national unemployment rate far exceeds 10%.

Let's look at just two facts with regard to unemployment since Obama took office. The following were compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

*As of 7/20/10 -- 3 million Americans have lost their jobs.

*As of 7/14/10 -- there are 14 million unemployed men and women in the United States.

According the U.S. government's own website, the over $700 billion dollar stimulus bill created 3 million jobs. That works out to a cost of $168,000 per job "created."

The propaganda signs we have all seen pop up along the highways of America touting the stimulus dollars "at work" have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and created some 17 jobs.

Writing recently for the New York Post economist Ben Stein uncovered the following with regard to the stimulus and union paybacks for supporting Obama:

"Almost half of the $820 billion end up in the pockets of Democratic-controlled unions, such as the Service Employees International Union, and federal, state, and municipal employee unions."

By the president's own standard of success, the "stimulus" was and continues to be a failure.

The answer for the Obama administration and the Democratically-controlled Congress to skyrocketing unemployment has NOT been to create jobs, it has been to pay people to be idle through the payment of unemployment benefits over long periods of time.

The president and Congressional Democrats did not seek to lower taxes, create payroll tax "holidays," reduce or eliminate capital gains taxes, eliminate the death tax or invest in generational capital improvements that would have created private sector jobs.

Instead they choose to grow government, rewarded unions and made Americans dependent on government assistance.

Mr. President, the American people want jobs NOT handouts. They want you and those like you in Congress to concentrate on job creation not government dependence. What good is becoming dependent on a government handout that is far less than what could be realized from a salary derived from permanent employment?

Republicans believe in the old Chinese proverb:

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

The Republicans were right to stand on principle in opposing continued extended unemployment benefits that only results in a deeper national deficit and does not create one single job.

This latest multi-billion dollar unemployment give away that passed in the House and Senate this week, extends benefits through November and is retroactive to the original late May cutoff.

Is it coincidence that the Democrat's extension of unemployment benefits extends through Election Day of 2010? I think not.

Democrats believe in the old Democratic tactic:

Give a man a check, and you are assured his dependence and allegiance for a lifetime.

Democrats can fool some of the people some of the time but, not enough of the people in time to save them from a rout in the midterms.

The American people cannot be bought.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Congress Bought Itself With Your $1 Billion in Taxpayer Funds

The Grand Totals

The tally of congressional spending between June 2009 and March 2010.

$674 million 
What the House spent in the last six months of 2009.

$339 million
What the House spent in the first three months of 2010.

Biggest spender: The second-highest-spending congressional office during the nine months was that of Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of California, who spent $1.3 million, with nearly a quarter of that being expenditures on staff. He was topped by fellow Democrat Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico ($1.5 million), who cannot vote on legislation.

Biggest expense: Benefits for retired federal employees took the largest slice of the pie, with the Federal Employees Retirement System showing some $80 million in expenditures.

Line Items That Left a Dent

Amount the Democratic Caucus paid for its staff to have a getaway for the weekend to set the caucus' 2009 legislative agenda at the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va.

Amount that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert received to run an office for outstanding affairs from his tenure. Hastert hasn't been the speaker since early 2007 (or even been in Congress since late 2007).

Payrolls and Benefits

The heftiest COST is paying for all those people. They need paychecks. They need insurance. And they need the government to cover those student loans. (Yup, Congress makes student loan payments for federal employees, essentially as a hiring incentive.)

Who got paid how much:

$552 million in payments for all workers on the payroll.

$51.6 million
Paid to about 637 chiefs of staff or deputy chiefs of staff.

$4.4 million
Paid to about 1,045 interns and pages

Covering the Benefits

Spent on health insurance.

Spent on life insurance.

Spent on student loan repayments.

Equipment and Supplies - It's good to be in the business of selling paper clips to Congress.

Whether it's computers, office supplies or carpet, lots of companies are ready to leap in with both feet to satisfy government contracts.You need a computer to write all those bills on...

$18 million
Spent on computer hardware.

$5.3 million
Spent on computer software (the equivalent of 26,600 Windows 7 upgrades).

Paid to CDW -- an IT company that is one of the largest businesses the House deals with.

Paid to Cisco -- a networking and server hardware company.

Paid to Dell -- which means there are a lot of black boxes floating around.

And We're a PC

A paltry $22,507 went directly to Apple. We're guessing that's probably enough to buy one of every item in its product line (but not enough for any apps).

$7.5 million
Spent on office supplies (like toner cartridges and pencils).

Holding Their Own

Despite all the biggies in this category -- CDW, Staples, Office Depot, Boise Cascade (better known as OfficeMax) -- the No. 3 recipient of congressional cash might be the most interesting: Alliance Micro, a local firm that describes itself as "a service-disabled-veteran-owned small business" and caters to printer needs, which received $502,233.

The Cost of a Well-Kept House

Spent on carpet during the nine-month period.

Spent on new drapes during the same stretch.

Finishing Touches

The office decorating didn't end there -- another $2.5 million was spent on furniture.

Food and Beverages

All those warm bodies need nourishment to get through their meetings. And between catered spreads, individual meals and thirst-quenchers, there's a lot being spent to meet that need.

$2.6 million
Spent on food and beverages for House reps and their staffers.

Spent on bottled water -- in 19,000 individual line items, many for Nestle's Deer Park water-delivery subsidiary.

Spent on Capitol Host -- the biggest congressional caterer, it describes itself as "your co-host for events from casual to elegant on Capitol Hill."

Spent on Chantilly Donuts -- Minority Whip James Clyburn's office bought $900 worth of doughnuts, and the Republican Conference ate the rest.

Drinking It All In

Spent on companies that specialize in coffee.

Spent on Coca-Cola products, the equivalent of 7,000 20-ounce bottles. Coke or Pepsi? It doesn't matter which party is buying it -- House Democrats and Republicans can agree on soft-drink brands, with Coke getting a line item while Pepsi does not. Democrats may drink it a little less, however: The Office of the Majority Whip spent around $4,543, while the Office of the Minority Leader spent $4,651. California Rep. Wally Herger, a Republican, also spent $256 on Coke for his own office.

Communication and Data

Communicating is a huge part of Congress' job. Be it through e-mail, Web, phone, mail or simply shuffling papers, it may be the most important thing our representatives do. And they do a lot of it -- aided in part by a perk most Americans don't get. (Hint: It's "franked mail," which doesn't require members of Congress to pay postage, at a cost to taxpayers of $22.6 million during the nine-month period.)

Dialing up the Dollars

Spent on telecom service from Verizon -- mostly its wireless service but also including subsidiaries like MCI and long-defunct WorldCom.

Spent on telecom service from AT&T, which doesn't separate its iPhone-centric wireless service from its legacy landline service in the data.

Spent on other notable phone companies -- Qwest, CenturyLink, Sprint, Nextel, Cincinnati Bell, nTelos, T-Mobile, Alltel and U.S. Cellular. Congress loves Verizon: Verizon Wireless, which is known for servicing BlackBerrys popular with Congress, has the largest expense in the broad-ranging telecom listing, which also covers cable service, Internet service and numerous other loosely related things. Congress spent $7,693,508 on Verizon Wireless alone.

Staying Abreast of the News

$11 million
Spent on newspapers and other resources.

Number of line items for The Washington Post (wonder why)

Number of line items for The New York Times.

Number of line items for Wall Street Journal owner Dow Jones. Premium payments for specialized info: Congressional Quarterly, which publishes dozens of very specific publications just for Congress, earned $3.3 million from the House during the nine-month period. LexisNexis, which specializes in archival articles, netted around $735,000.

Logging on - Racking up

$5.8 million
Spent on Web design, e-mail and hosting services.

Shredding for Confidentiality

Spent on shredding services during the study period.

Estimated number of sheets of paper shredded (based on the going rates of Shred-it*)
* The company, which is the leading shredder for congressional offices, charges $150 for every half-hour of on-site service, or $5 per box if you drop the paper off.

Travel Reimbursements

Those flights back home mean the plane tickets really pile up. Especially if you're the delegate from Guam or Alaska's only congressman -- but they're hardly the only well-traveled lawmakers. Note: The focus here is on expenditures labeled travel reimbursements and commercial transportation, and does not include mileage, which is recorded separately.

Spent on travel for representatives and staff.

Number of separate travel charges on the taxpayers' dime.

Average number of trip expenditures for each representative.

Frequent Fliers

The top two travelers in the House? Democrats Chellie Pingree of Maine, who has 197 travel expenditures, and Ike Skelton of Missouri, who had 163 expenditures. Neither was close to being the top spender, however. One high-spending traveler was Republican Jerry Moran of Kansas, who had 145 expenditures and an $82,000 taxpayer bill.

Traveling Cheap

Around 158 representatives spent less than $20,000, but only 37 spent more than $50,000. And distance plays a a factor with travel, too: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., for example, spent a grand total of $297. D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton doesn't have much of a need for travel, either; she spent just $57.

Costliest Route

Madeleine Bordallo, the delegate from Guam, put in for $127,368 on 33 separate travel reimbursements or charges. (She didn't take all the trips herself, as some were listed under staffers' names.) Her average reimbursement was $3,859; one reimbursement, possibly for multiple flights, cost $22,000. The flight to Guam we found on Expedia would take 27 hours and have two stops.

Flying to Alaska

Also not inexpensive, or fun: Alaska Rep. Don Young rang up $125,510 in travel charges in 113 separate travel expenditures during the period. The average reimbursement for his trips was $1,110.

Note: The focus here is on expenditures labeled travel reimbursements and commercial transportation, and  not included mileage, which is recorded separately.

I say in Novemeber, we throw the whole lot of them out and start fresh.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Your Tax $$ to Promote Spending... Your Tax $$?

Republicans are blistering over why taxpayer money is being used on signs to promote how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — better known as the stimulus bill — is being spent.

Only in America...and when the Democrats are in power.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Montana Parents Weigh In on Proposed Kindergarten Sex Ed

HELENA, MONTANA -- An overflow crowd jammed the Helena school board meeting Tuesday night to voice their concerns -- and support -- about a proposal to extend sex education to children as young as kindergarten age.

According to the 62-page draft proposal, beginning in kindergarten, school nurses will teach students proper terms such as "nipple, breast, penis, scrotum and uterus." Once they are promoted to first grade, children will learn that sexual relations could happen between two men or two women. By the time students are 10 years old, instruction will include the various ways people can have intercourse, be it vaginally, orally or through "anal penetration," according to the proposal.

"As educators and as parents and as communities, we need to be more proactive in helping inform our students at an appropriate age what the risk factors are associated with their own behaviors so that they can make better decisions about their well-being," Dr. Bruce Messinger, the Superintendent of Helena Public Schools, told Fox News.

The Montana Family Foundation is fighting the proposed changes, telling Fox News its biggest concern is teaching graphic sexual detail to kids who are not emotionally able to process or comprehend it. If the changes pass, kids as young as 5 will begin to learn medically accurate names for a number of both male and female "private parts."

"The problem is they think it would be age appropriate to teach different sexual positions and different sexual variations to 10 year olds," said Jeff Laszloffy of the Montana Family Foundation.

Messinger said parents will be able to have their kids opt-out, but Laszloffy said teachers want to have the same option.

"I think the reason it is such a concern is it tramples parental rights, it places government squarely between parents and their children," Laszloffy said.

Laszloffy said teachers are calling to seek legal advice about whether they can be forced to teach the information, and parents are threatening to pull children out of the public school system.

“Parents and taxpayers are not for this,” he said.

Tuesday night’s meeting was heated as school board trustees heard from only 64 of the more than 300 people who jammed the auditorium. More than 100 others stood outside the Front Street Learning Center as a sound system broadcast the proceedings.

Melanie Reynolds, a district health officer, defended the proposed curriculum, saying early education and intervention was needed to prevent HIV infection or other sexually transmitted diseases. She cited a report that said 40 percent of reported Chlamydia cases in county were people between the ages of 14 and 18, the Helena Independent Record reported.

Angela Helland-Hansen told the board that she was surprised to see that staff from Planned Parenthood were included in the committee that developed the document.

“Why are we allowing Planned Parenthood to help with this when they stand to profit from these people who will be their future clients?” the Record reported.

Two middle school girls said an abstinence-based program would be more effective to reduce teen pregnancy and disease than what is being proposed, the newspaper reported. There currently is no sexual education being taught in middle school.

Alicia Acuna and the Helena Independent Record contributed to this article.

It's about time parents in this country start rebelling against these whacko, liberal school administrations, who trample on parent rights by advocating giving kindergarteners condoms in New England, to teaching gay sex techniques to them in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Illegal Immigrants Rape 14-Year-Old Texas Girl at July 4th Party

Anael Martinez, left, and Anibal Escobar, right, have been charged with the rape of a 14-year-old Texas girl. The two suspects told Texas police they are illegal immigrants from Honduras.

A pair of illegal immigrants raped a 14-year-old Texas girl at July 4th party in Texas, where the teen was later found sitting naked in a bathtub, police said.

The victim told police that she went to an Independence Day party with her cousin in Horseshoe Bay, Tex., about 40 miles northwest of Austin, where she was left in a room with Anibal Escobar, 19, and Anael Martinez, 22, MyFoxAustin reported.

The two Honduran natives, who told police they are in the U.S. illegally, made advances at the victim and then raped her, she told police. The victim’s cousin discovered her in the bathtub and brought her home.

Escobar and Martinez were arrested early in the morning on July 9 and face felony charges of aggravated sexual assault, MyFoxAustin reported. Local investigators contacted Texas Rangers to assist in their investigation and translate, as none of the witnesses at the party or the suspects spoke English.

Gee, and I thought they were just coming here to get an honest job, like mowing lawns or picking fruit.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Parents "Beat" Me, and Thank God They Did

By Steven Crowder

It was the Fourth of July, and I was wading in my apartment’s community pool. A four-year-old with a Brock Lesnar-esque flat-top started squirting me with his water gun. Being a longtime advocate of “frolicking” myself, I lightly splashed the boy with some pool water in return.


Next thing I know, the little fungus had pistol-whipped me so hard that he’d broken the nozzle. Once noticing his broken toy, he started to cry. Even more surprisingly, he ran back to his all too sympathetic poolside mother to tell her about the mean man who’d broken his gun. Naturally she coddled him. What a pansy…. And what an enabler.

In my family, things would have been handled a little bit differently. First, my father would have looked me square in the face and told me “Well, I guess that was a pretty stupid thing for you to do then, huh?”

More importantly, I would have had a firm spanking awaiting me at home later in the evening, courtesy of the wooden spoon. My hide would have been so tanned that it would look like a pioneer trader's pelt.

Not only would I have never squirted a poolside stranger again, but I’d probably have avoided assaulting strangers with any item from my Fischer-Price arsenal altogether. Some might consider this abuse, others a valuable life lesson. You say tomato… I say get the belt.

See, it’s not only the physical act of “spanking” that progressive society sees as abuse, but the negative repercussions on the child’s “self-esteem.” What a crock. A four-year-old should have no self-esteem, and for good reason. What could he have possibly accomplished in his life to justify esteeming oneself so highly?

First stop, self esteem. Next stop, reality television. Snookie would be proud.

Instead of focusing on the little brat’s self-confidence, how about teaching him to esteem others first? That’s the only way that a child’s underdeveloped, candy-centric brain can truly develop any self-worth.

Unless taught otherwise, children are the most selfish, oblivious little Philistines on the planet. They have no family, no job, no responsibilities and nothing but time to think about their gluttonous, sticky selves. We should be teaching them to take some focus off of themselves and onto how they can best serve/treat others. That way, they’ll begin grow through valid accomplishments, and they’ll have an actual reason for self-esteem. Say, there’s a concept that works!

At the end of the day, if you’re not spanking your child and instilling in them the ideas of selflessness, servitude and wisdom, you’re probably looking at a future P. Diddy in the making (maybe even a Keith Olbermann, take your pick).

Welcome to the age of entitlement… it all starts with being entitled to “self-esteem.” Is discipline (both mental and physical) in place of coddling, truly child abuse? I don’t know, but it sure as hell is effective. Also, it would be conducive to me not getting pistol-whipped with a Super Soaker. Isn’t that worth fighting for?

Steven Crowder is a writer/comedian.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hope Everyone Had a Great 4th.

The contributors to this site were all out of town this past holiday weekend and weren't able to post prior to this. However, we hope everyone had a great time clebrating our nation's birthday, especially in these very precarious times when the assualt on our liberties are at full steam. No better time to remember, and honor, what it took to start this country, and the principles it was founded on. In Novemeber, we're hoping to start back down that road again, bringing this nation back in line with those principles.

Fire works over the Washington Monument, July 4, 2010  ©  Jim Giunta

Former NASA Director Says Muslim Outreach Push 'Deeply Flawed'

By Judson Berger and Tom Jones

The former head of NASA on Tuesday described as "deeply flawed" the idea that the space exploration agency's priority should be outreach to Muslim countries, after current Administrator Charles Bolden made that assertion in an interview last month.

"NASA ... represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity," Michael Griffin, who served as NASA administrator during the latter half of the Bush administration, told

Bolden created a firestorm after telling Al Jazeera last month that President Obama told him before he took the job that he wanted him to do three things: inspire children to learn math and science, expand international relationships and "perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering."

Officials from the White House and NASA on Tuesday stood by Bolden's statement that part of his mission is to improve relations with Muslim countries -- though NASA backed off the claim that such international diplomacy is Bolden's "foremost" responsibility.

Griffin said Tuesday that collaboration with other countries, including Muslim nations, is welcome and should be encouraged -- but that it would be a mistake to prioritize that over NASA's "fundamental mission" of space exploration.

"If by doing great things, people are inspired, well then that's wonderful," Griffin said. "If you get it in the wrong order ... it becomes an empty shell."

Griffin added: "That is exactly what is in danger of happening."

He also said that while welcome, Muslim-nation cooperation is not vital for U.S. advancements in space exploration.

"There is no technology they have that we need," Griffin said.

The former administrator stressed that any criticism should be directed at Obama, not Bolden, since NASA merely carries out policy.

The White House stood by Bolden on Tuesday. Spokesman Nick Shapiro said in a written statement to that Obama "wants NASA to engage with the world's best scientists and engineers as we work together to push the boundaries of exploration.

"Meeting that mandate requires NASA to partner with countries around the world like Russia and Japan, as well as collaboration with Israel and with many Muslim-majority countries. The space race began as a global competition, but, today, it is a global collaboration," he said.

Bob Jacobs, NASA's assistant administrator for public affairs, echoed that point. However, he said that Bolden was speaking of priorities when it came to "outreach" and not about NASA's primary missions of "science, aeronautics and space exploration." He said the "core mission" is exploration and that it was unfortunate Bolden's comments are now being viewed through a "partisan prism."

Though the Al Jazeera interview drew widespread attention, it wasn't the first time Bolden made the assertion.

A Feb. 16 blog in the Orlando Sentinel reported that Bolden discussed the outreach during a lecture to engineering students. As he did in the interview with Al Jazeera last month, Bolden was quoted then saying Obama told him to "find ways to reach out to dominantly Muslim countries."

He reportedly talked about the importance of helping countries establish space programs and pointed to the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, as a possible partner.

"We really like Indonesia because the State Department, the Department of Education (and) other agencies in the U.S. are reaching out to Indonesia as the largest Muslim nation in the world," he said.

Bolden did not describe such outreach as his prime mission at the time.

The NASA administrator was in the Middle East last month marking the one-year anniversary since Obama delivered an address to Muslim nations in Cairo. Bolden spoke in June at the American University in Cairo, and in the interview with Al Jazeera he described space travel as an international collaboration of which Muslim nations must be a part.

"It is a matter of trying to reach out and get the best of all worlds, if you will, and there is much to be gained by drawing in the contributions that are possible from the Muslim (nations)," he said.

He held up the International Space Station as a model, praising the contributions there from the Russians and the Chinese.

However, Bolden denied the suggestion that he was on a diplomatic mission. "Not at all. It's not a diplomatic anything," he said.

He also said the United States is not going to travel beyond low-Earth orbit on its own and that no country is going to make it to Mars without international help.

Griffin disputed this point. He said the U.S. can still make those strides without international aid if it wishes, and that, "To the extent that we wish to go to Mars, we can go to Mars."

Griffin said the U.S. should in fact seek international cooperation for those missions, but that it would be "clearly false" to suggest the U.S. needs that cooperation.

Bolden has faced criticism this year for overseeing the cancellation of the agency's Constellation program, which was building new rockets and spaceships capable of returning astronauts to the moon. Stressing the importance of international cooperation in future missions, Bolden told Al Jazeera that the moon, Mars and asteroids are still planned destinations for NASA.

But, Tom Jones, a four-time shuttle astronaut says, "NASA faces immense challenges. Its shuttle program will end early next year, and the space agency has no clear, approved plan to build the shuttle’s successor. The International Space Station and its U.S. crew members, along with their partners, are conducting important research in orbit, and NASA must operate and sustain that facility with an intense focus on safety. Due to inattention and lack of funding by our policy makers, American astronauts next year will be forced to reach the Station via Russian rockets, at least through 2015."

Jones continues on, "Once the shuttle retires, NASA doesn’t know when U.S. rockets will again launch astronauts from Cape Canaveral., or whether those rockets will be privately run, or government-owned, like the shuttle. Even less certain are the means for NASA to reach deep space, beyond the space station to the nearby asteroids or the Moon, and when American explorers might be ready for such a journey. Congress and the president have not reached any agreement on a way forward. NASA’s focus should be on proposing a vigorous, sustainable program of human and robotic exploration, building the means to carry it out, and seeking the support of the public and policy makers to continue American leadership in space exploration, particularly in the inspirational field of human spaceflight. NASA’s people are properly focused on their technical mission, and I hope NASA’s leaders will follow their example."

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