Friday, January 29, 2010

dn: End of America's quest for Outer Space

Brian Williams reflects on his disappointment at the State of the Union Address, about the end of the US Space Program.

I have to say, my first reaction is that this makes sense. The ghetto thug worries about walling up his neighborhood, keeping the fuzz and rival gangs out.

When America tried that, after WWI, it was called the Monroe Doctrine. That is, we don't interfere overseas, and other nations won't bother us. This is the flip side of the "appeasement" strategy, which tends to encourage hostile enemies. The US Monroe Doctrine is considered to be a primary factor leading to the loss of US ships (like the passenger liner Lusitania, sunk off the Atlantic Coast by German U-Boats) and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. To be blunt - keeping our interests and troops at home bought us WWII.

Space Race

First, an apology for the "Outer Space" term. That may have been in vogue at one time, but that was before I was aware. Hollywood movies have used the term, and science fiction writers. As far as I know, about the earth the atmosphere - the air - gets very, very thin, to the point that it doesn't act much like air anymore. That is where "Low Earth Orbit" begins. Farther out the speed to remain in orbit will keep you steadily hovering directly above one single spot on earth, about 22,000 miles. We have intelligence and communications satellites there. There is room for a lot of them - an orbit at that height would be about two * pi * 22,000 miles (2 * 3.1415926 * 22,000 = 138,320 miles), all of that orbit at the same height above the earth. And, yes, I know I used an approximately correct value for pi, and for the height of a geocentric orbit.

The moon orbits the earth. The distance varies a little bit, somewhere around 239,000 miles, I think. The United States has sent spaceships to photograph, and astronauts to view, the backside of the moon (since the moon rotates so the same "face" stays turned toward the earth, approximately). There weren't a lot of surprises back there, but it is worth knowing even that much.

The US government, and science fiction writers and economists and cultists and many others have had designs and plans for living and working on the moon. Just one for-instance something killed off all the dinosaurs long ago. A similar catastrophic event may be due - wouldn't it be nice to think your children would outlive - and possibly be ready to assist in recovery - if something like that should happen again?

We used the moon, once, to communicate. I am not sure if we still do it today. One way is to aim a radio signal at the moon. When it hits, part of it will bounce back toward the Earth. You reply the same way. Now, someone else might be able to pick up one or both signals - but never be able to tell where the other sender is. Science experiments have beamed radar and lasers at the moon, garnering information about distances and the nature of the universe.

People have gotten wealthy selling the rocks brought back from the moon. And also rocks said to have come from the moon.

The story goes that high powered radar - the really big ones - kill. Walk in front of one in operation, and it is like being dropped into the center of a huge microwave. So, one day this engineer, working on a smaller radar, walks through the transmitted beam - and notices that the candy bar in his pocket melts right away. Today we call this the microwave.

Vacuum tubes, the ancestors of television CRT picture tubes - remember the ones that were deeper behind than they were wide? - were difficult to make work when things start shaking. The way airplanes, rockets, and space ships do while in the atmosphere, and occasionally even when outside the atmosphere if the rocket motors are pushing hard. So research turned out the transistor. Then the integrated circuit, when the number of transistors, and hand-soldered wires, were too big for the space and weight available. The transistor is directly a child of the space race.

In 1960 there were lots of mechanics to fix cars and farm tractors. Lots of people worked on trains, or farms.

Research to support the space effort showed us how to prepare food better, to freeze dry orange juice (Tang, before they started putting artificial sweetener into it). Many medical problems were discovered and solved in keeping people healthy in space, and in learning to detect when things go wrong. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, if not millions, live longer today because of science discovered in the quest for space.

And America, in 1960, had far fewer PhD and other college degrees per hundred thousand. Severely handicapped Americans, and their families, owe a lot to education and medicine developed to put a man on the moon, and since.

Conceding the space race

What do you call it, when in the face of armed and hostile enemies, you unilaterally throw down your weapons and refuse to defend your home and those that count on you?

That is what B. Hussein Obama is doing. Granted, the US Space Program has been running in place for decades, since Jimmy Carter (who served as an officer in the US Nuclear Navy, and never learned to pronounce nuclear correctly - it is 'nuh-clee-er'm and *not* 'nuh-kyoo-ler') and the mid 1970's. Advances and achievements have been linear and incremental. Congress and Presidents robbed NASA for money for other projects. So, no, there hasn't been a lot to show from space this year, or last year, either.

So - are we ready to build those walls, stop watching and defending against those that preach death of America and Americans or attack Americans abroad? Are we ready to invite WWIII?

Because many Americans will have (some) food to eat this year. A billion people around the world won't have enough food this year. America owes a lot of money to many nations around the world - they will not be impressed that America now says "don't bother us." India, for one example, has more honor students in high school, than America has students.

Are we done?

Are we ready to declare that sending US astronauts, and serving military men(!) at that, to the moon, is all we need to learn about space? That there is nothing for science or industry or psychology or medicine or electronics or physics or agriculture or air conditioning or energy or long-for-goodness'-sake-distance internet operation? That we want to, forever more, buy any useful information to come from the quest for space?

Because India, China, Russia, France and the European Union and others, they aren't backing down. They are pursuing manned space flight as well as automated projects. They are pursuing killer satellites and ways to live between planets and on Mars and the Moon. They are gearing up to mine and exploit asteroids, to set precedent and allegiance of locations off-earth.

As a nation we may have no desire to claim the moon as our own, kill-you-if-you-trespass (or maybe tax you) territory - but are we ready for anyone else to tell us "keep out"?

When the US engaged in the space race, back in the 1960's and 1970', the sheer adventure of the concept drew the best minds from around the globe. "Brain drain" from other nations became a foreign policy issue. Are we ready to watch the best scientists, the most imaginative, the ones most likely to be involved in occupying that "final frontier" - find solace in leaving America for places the thugs aren't walling up the 'hood?

The continued push for manned space flight, for establishing viable colonies in orbit and on the Moon and Mars, mining mineral-rich - and less concern about polluting aquifers and air - asteroids, is not a budget issue.

It is a matter of meeting responsibility. Unlike the coward that takes it on himself to unilaterally disarm in the face of an armed and hostile enemy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

nrn, we: Dishonor of MainStreamMedia, or unfair expectation?

Net Right Nation reports an editorial in today's Washington Examiner. The story lists what happens with local governments, how the press reports "executive sessions" behind closed doors with big money interests. And the Washington Examiner criticizes the national mainstream media for allowing Reid/Pelosi/Obama to take personal, secret control of writing ObamaCare.

The press isn't reporting the secret meetings, or the process used to reconcile the bills. See, the House version of health care takeover passed. Then the Senate wrote a bill loosely based on that House version, all taking into account potential benefits for national labor unions and existing money interests. Then Reid started paying off Senators to bribe them into voting for the result.

The Story

Congress, until now, used to form a Conference Committee with representatives from the House of Representatives and the Senate, and work through differences between two versions of bills. Meetings would be bipartisan, the needs and interests of supporters and critics alike would, more or less, be respected. The Conference Committee, then, under a Constitutional form of government such as the US had before the Obama non-inauguration, a merged compromise between the two versions would be reported out, and that report bill would be voted again by each house, to assure that the result was approved by both houses, then be sent to the President for signing or passing into law - or return to the Congress.

Only, Obama doesn't care for the public scrutiny or lack of control that turning the two versions over to a Conference Committee might risk. Senator Reid, especially, cannot allow a compromise bill to undue any of the graft and kickbacks added on to placate various Senators - that might lose a vote or two that might not get the report bill passed.

And we all know how badly organized . . um, labor, takes disappointment. Pelosi and Reid, and Obama, are too worried to allow the law to take it's Constitutional course.

So, that is the story.

The Problem

The problem, aside from violations of the US Constitution, is that major media reporters and organizations aren't reporting this corruption of established procedure. They aren't agitating for adherence to the promises each of the triumvirate made, about having a free and open government.

The Washington Examiner editorial and Net Right News make that point - that instead of the howling and accusations at abuses during the Bush years, the reporting seems to quietly accept payoffs and backroom dealings on the first grand expansion of the federal government this year. (Wait for the Food Safety Organization bill, the NAIS program to kick in, and wait for labor unions to win the rest of their payoffs for swinging the 2008 elections.)

Business assignments, vs. obeying the law

The Washington Examiner points out the requirements that professionalism and the nature of the task assigned to reporters covering the US Government. Except their assignment and responsibility is a matter of business practice. News organizations exist to make money, either directly for their parent media company, or as a loss leader. Stories are dropped, trimmed, edited, and reinvented based primarily on what will "sell" - first to the editor, then to the publisher, and last to the public

It is Obama, and Reid and Pelosi, that swore and oath, and oath that defines their legal status, authority, and responsibilities. They each swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and swore furthermore to execute the office to which they were elected/selected according to the definition of that office in the Constitution and in published regulations.

That doesn't seem to bother any of them, that they abuse their oath of office, they violate the authority invested in them.

Reporters, editors, and publishers for mainstream media have a business obligation to do good. It is a legal requirement for Reid/Pelosi/Obama to abide by the law.

Let's keep that straight, at the Washington Examiner and Net Right Nation. We can and should feel disappointed at the disrespect of the mainstream media, for not reporting about corruption, graft, and abuse of process in an accurate and timely manner. We should feel outraged that no one is filing criminal complaints and impeaching those that abuse their office and seek to avoid or ignore restrictions on authority defined in the US Constitution.

As you can tell, I agree with the outrage and disappointment of the Washington Examiner editorial. I just think they assume facts not in evidence - no one reporting "news" has a real, moral requirement to be complete and honest. They have jobs. Like most other US Citizens, they are entitled to pay attention or ignore the details and scope of what is done in the name of governing the United States.

Let's go through it once again. These reporters are doing what their business wants them to do. Those Congress people and that President are violating procedure and the Constitution.

The difference is pretty clear to me.

tc: Can't find Transition's Golden Land

Transition Culture us a great site. Today's post is a collection of seven videos (A Delicious array of short films about Transition) about Transition - the expected economic and ecologic decline because of global warming and Peak Oil (the end of cheap energy).

Listening to the camera guy (first video), he focuses on a traditional economy. He defines development of products, promotion of business goals, business community activation as the path to Transition. He wants to adapt a consumer-driven business model to engage in sustainable living, eschewing products transported across nations and oceans in favor of the security of locally produced food and goods. Right. That is like selling brussell's sprouts instead of Girl Scout Cookies or candy to raise money.

What I ask is - how do you engage the public? Can Transition afford to overlook the young parents of young children, striving to keep food and utilities, shelter and clothing and hygiene intact? Is it enough to rely on advertising and marketing and even political momentum to convince, in economic terms, a consuming republic to "buy" the concept?

What will cause those feeling burdened with care and nurturing others to recommend significant change?

It seems that there has to be a demonstrable "golden land" goal, lauded by those that have jumped to a new life, to assure the curious and worried that Transition is possible. There must also be a demonstrable and visceral belief that change has to happen to avoid death.

I find there are many forms of death, or massive change - a clearing away of the life from before. Change is almost always seen as the alternative to a worse loss, and is measured in pain.

Transition, done individually or piecemeal, is a change that will be devastating to cultural, social, and family ties and values. How do you move entire cultures or societies, cause painful change? Do you impose change with violence, or make TV commercials? Do you organize college professors or do you invest the plumber's union with motivation and impetus?

I have seen street protests, and formation of nearly closed groups of Transition, Peak Oil, and Warmer believers - where is the change to national building and electric code? Where are the "green" replacement engines for today's transportation vehicles, instead of wasting the energy and resources to replace the metal and (petrochemical) plastic of the whole vehicle? Where are the wholesale overhauls to mass media and public education to replace consumer-driven ethics and buying practices with sustainable and localized lifestyles?

Here in Oklahoma, US, there are many agribusiness farms and ranches. There are also the odd lots and fields left unused - why aren't there people looking to utilize those odd spaces for additional local food production, for demonstration that sustainable practices are viable and useful?

I have a reprint of a book, "10 acres enough". "No man should farm more ground than he can adequately manure (fertilize)." Breaking down big agribusiness means that the number of smaller enterprises - from a couple acres to maybe 80 or 160 acres per family. That means a *lot* of new housing, that should be build and furnished in a sustainable manner. That means a *lot* of tools to be created, from field tools to garden tools to transport from myriad fields to distribution centers. Where is all this infrastructure? If the septic system and county-wide sewer system is to be replace with composting toilets, again there is a need for a *lot* of sustainable system designs. Where are they?

In computer programming circles, it has been noted that the really good systemic changes - aside from hardware - take 20 years. The "C" programming language, Linux, Perl, object oriented programming - it took a couple of decades to find acceptance among people responsible for assets and resources.

The outcome of Kyoto, and now Copenhagen, should be seen as well-deserved bad reviews of poorly executed engineering - defined as "design to cost". It isn't enough to convince academics and a handful of politicians. Why was Copenhagen allowed to happen, without a clamor of support from labor unions and multinational corporations, from school teachers and new parents and those confined to beds or wheel chairs?

Where is the "golden land"?