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We’ve all experienced lame attempts to change the subject when people have been caught red-handed engaging in sleazy business, but the White House just made one the lamest efforts ever.

Drowning in scandals involving spying on Americans and improperly using information and political authority to harass conservative groups for their beliefs, the Administration asked for the public’s help in a massive effort to defend the Earth from asteroids.

I know, right?

Why not just have Jay Carney come out to the podium, point to the nearest tree while shouting “squirrel!” then run away?

According to the White House, the asteroid project would attempt to locate, track and defend against wayward space rocks that could cause significant damage on Earth. Supposedly, the program would enlist amateur astronomers, universities and government agencies, which would create new technologies, magically produce jobs, yada yada yada.

The price tag for tracking and blowing up space stuff is a little vague (figure billions), but the important thing is that this would be one in a series of “Grand Challenges,” which is this Administration’s weak attempt at morale boosting in light of its dismal economic failures. Other “Grand Challenges” include making electric vehicles affordable; making solar power cost-effective; something called USAID’s Grand Challenge for Development, which “catalyzes groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in poor, low resource communities” (so, condoms and abortions for blacks and Latinos?); and my favorite, the DARPA Brain Initiative (ostensibly to treat brain illnesses, but DARPA is military, founded in response to Sputnik and inventor of the Internet, sans Al Gore).

The White House is doing its best Chicken Little impression to stir up the country. According to the Washington Post, “The search for NEOs (Near Earth Objects) took on greater urgency on Feb. 15, when, on the very day that a previously detected asteroid was about to make a close pass of the Earth, an unknown 50-foot-diameter rock came out of the glare of the sun and fireballed through the atmosphere above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.”

Always beware of stories about science projects that include the word “urgency.” As soon as you read it, rest assured you’re outside the lab and firmly in political territory. Just like with the nonexistent global warming, saying it’s “urgent” that we detect space rocks is just a bid for more of your tax money to make a handful of wealthy people wealthier.