I'm certainly not intending any disingenuouslyositude. That gentleman was actually the only person I've seen protesting in Clear Lake, so the protestors I have seen went from zero to one.
The latest I have heard is that they are intending to complete the Orion vehicle design, and so quite a lot of people still have quite a lot to do. I didn't know much Ares work went on in Houston.
I agree with your reading of the Augustine report, but I do not agree that there was anything great about the previous plan, even with $3 billion more to do it properly. I just don't see Mars as a worthwhile destination for anything but pride, and I'd like to think my career had something more to add than that. Near Earth Asteroids, though... you have the Protect the Earth angle, as it only takes one rock to ruin our whole day. You have the science, of studying another environment very different from the Earth or Moon. You have the spiritual change of being not just a species that jumps from planet to planet, but true spacefarers! Space becomes the destination, rather than the journey!
Since I really only get to be a part of one major program over the next 30 years, I'd rather it be NEAs than Mars. It is more exciting, and it might just save the Earth if an impact is in the near future.