Orion’s Big Day…

So why does it seem as though we’ve done this before?

Dec. 5, 2014 — The big rocket stood upright grand and gleaming as the first rays of the early morning Florida sun back lit it with a surreal glow reminiscent of 2001 A Space Odyssey’s sunrise on the moon that triggered the monolith to send a radio signal toward Jupiter (or Saturn, depending on whether one is speaking of the movie or the book) to tell someone that it had been found. The countdown reached zero and the Delta roared and belched fire to tell the thousands of people gathered to witness this event that they had indeed found it.

OC_bannerAnd as the most powerful rocket in the world with the Orion capsule perched proudly on top slowly climbed into the air and its date with destiny, I looked around at all the people gathered from all walks of media; radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, Internet and more (is there more?) all gushing into their microphones, cameras, computers, telephones and more (is there more?) about this test flight heralding the dawn of a new era in space travel and about how this technology is by God going to get us where no human being has ever gone before and that this, this heat shield test, was a most wondrous event that would transform mankind info a multi-planet civilization. Only one little problem with that:

We did it all before. It didn’t transform us then and there’s a really, really good chance (given the reality of US politics) that it won’t transform us now.

What we witnessed the morning of December 5, 2014 was exactly the same thing we witnessed on the morning of November 7, 1967 when Apollo 4 took off, unmanned, on its first heat shield test flight except that they did it better in 1967. As opposed to today’s four hour test, the Apollo ship did a nine hour test and came screaming back into the atmosphere at 25,000 mph.

Apollo’s heat shield was made of Avcoat, an epoxy novolac resin with special additives in a fiberglass honeycomb matrix. As the heat shield got hotter during reentry it flaked off (ablated) and blew away, hence, it’s called an ablative heat shield.

The Orion heat shield is made of Avcoat, an epoxy novolac resin with special additives in a fiberglass honeycomb matrix. As the heat shield gets hotter during reentry it flakes off (ablates) and blows away. That’s right; it’s exactly the same as Apollo’s heat shield.

Orion itself is a capsule. It is launched like, flies like and lands like…just like… the Apollo capsule. It’s a tad bigger but not much. Unlike Apollo, Orion will have a miniature port-a-potty on board–no diapers for these crews (can you say, “…uh, would you all turn around please?”). Orion also has updated computers and flight software but that’s to be expected. Most of the control switches have been replaced with virtual switches on a glass display. Ever tried to use a touch screen wearing a spacesuit? Good luck. But, I digress…

Everything tested this morning was tested thoroughly twelve times before; forty seven years before. The heat shield, flight parameters, capsule design, everything, was not only tested in test flights (two of them) but in actual trips to the moon and back (ten of them). So this morning’s test was nothing special, innovative or exciting. It simply proved that we could duplicate and upgrade what had been already created by the grandparents of the Orion designers. There is no imaginative thinking, no radical design no futuristic creativity anywhere in the SLS/Orion package. It borrows from everything that has gone before and will use pre-owned shuttle engines in the core and even Saturn rocket motors (albeit, upgraded a tad) in the upper stages.

Say friends, are you building a launch system to get a few people into space? Well, come on down to Zoom Used Rocket Parts for the best deal on everything from fairings to engines…barely used RS-25s, Saturn era J-2s, and solids you can now just throw away. You name it we’ve got it at Zoom at prices that will amaze you. Can’t pay cash? No problem…we have a payment plan that will knock your socks off. Really! You don’t need socks in space anyway.

NASA seems to be confusing the creation of new ways of doing things, such as laser welding, with innovation. Coming up with a new way to splice two wires together is not the same as coming up with something that eliminates the wires entirely. They’re copying everything that has been done already.  There’s no inventing anything radical or even new and it’s still going to be another six to eight years before Orion flies anywhere carrying people. Wow. Why? The Orion project was started in, what, 2009? Launching humans in 2021 means it will have taken twelve years to copy what it took NASA seven years to do completely from scratch back in the sixties when there was no technology. In the epic words of Kenan Thompson, “What’s up with that?” In 1962 when JFK said we were going to the moon by 1969, there was no space program, no rockets, no guidance systems, no astronauts, no capsules, no computers, no space suits, nothing. Seven short years later we landed on the moon-hell, we drove a car on the moon! It took only ten years to develop the space shuttle, a whole new radical thing. Now, in 2014, after 7 successful moon landings and returns, 135 shuttle flights, building a space station, launching space telescopes and doing nothing but simply copying and upgrading old ideas, we still can’t get back into space in a timely manner. Folks, there’s something wrong here. I don’t know what it is, but something’s amiss. It seems as though every time NASA releases a new goal date for the first manned flight, it’s moved up a year. It was 2017. Now, it’s 2021. Is there a stall tactic somewhere in the mix? It certainly seems as though they’re stalling for time to either find fixes for the program or develop a more convincing PR campaign to sell it to those of us who might be seeing through it.

NASA has to know what’s wrong with this whole Orion concept. Here are some of the items on my list:

One: Orion is a little bigger, but not much, than Apollo. That extra room though will be used up by one or more extra astronauts and a miniature port-a-potty. Hopefully there will be a curtain of some sort that can be pulled around the miniature port-a-potty. Can you imagine being stuck in one room with three or four other people and a port-a-potty for six weeks or longer? Or, up to six months if Mars is involved?

Two: There’s no airlock. Need to make a spacewalk for some reason? The entire ship needs to be at vacuum and the entire crew needs to be in space suits. When the spacewalk is over and the hatch closed the cabin is re-pressurized-unless of course the re-pressurization unit fails or the hatch won’t close (hatch closing problems occurring with the shuttle delayed several launches) in which case the astronauts could very well end up kinda dead.

Three: The issue of radiation. DNA ripping high energy particles from outside our solar system are zipping around everywhere in space. The Apollo astronauts saw them as flashes of light passing right through their eye balls. And, should the sun decide to release a gigantic solar flare in the direction of the ship the crew needs a place to hide. The best place would be in a small room with six walls made out of lead or thick bags of water. Unfortunately, Orion has no room for either room. Unless NASA is planning to lash several Orions and their service modules together to make one big ship, going anywhere in Orion could be very hazardous to one’s health.

Four: The minute SpaceX successfully reuses its entire launch package, the cost of blasting Orion into space with no reusable parts means that NASA will have a gigantic white elephant (red herring?) on its hands. Orion will be launched atop the largest, most bullish rocket ever thrown together from spare parts, the SLS – the Space Launch System. You just make a central core out of what used to be a shuttle fuel tank, stick a few old shuttle engines on it and a Delta IV Heavy second stage then strap on a couple of five-segment shuttle boosters (same as but bigger than the ones that blew up Challenger) and presto you have the SLS. Why it would take eight to ten years to nail this stuff together is anyone’s guess (maybe because the parts were never designed to work together?). But, the point is, the only thing that comes back is the capsule which NASA is proudly touting as ‘reusable.’ Everything else is thrown away including the SRBs, the Solid Rocket Boosters that were reusable during the shuttle program (remember, they came floating back down on parachutes with on-board cameras capturing all the action and then YouTubing it?) but which are now expendable. The SLS will cost as much to launch as the shuttle did (a half a bil) and, while it is ten times safer than the shuttle, it does only a tenth as much and will be about a tenth as comfortable. Again, it’s like Delta or Southwest throwing away the plane after every flight.

orion2Five: “Splashing” Orion down in the ocean with little or no maneuvering control and sending the expensive US Navy to retrieve it  Long term distance missions are very, very different from short term LEO missions. A Low Earth Orbit mission affords the crew at least moderate control of their landing environment. Many times the space shuttles delayed their returns for one reason or another (usually weather). But, long duration missions at vast distances from earth are an entirely different ballgame. A returning deep-space ship must have the ability to control when and where it will land. What if, after a six-week long mission to an asteroid, there’s a typhoon in the landing area? The capsule, establishing its trajectory weeks earlier and barreling back at 25,000+ miles an hour, can’t change course or even pick out a nice quite patch of ocean and maneuver to it. It’s gonna land in that typhoon and the parachutes will more than likely get ripped to shreds. In reality, far less than typhoon strength winds can damage the parachutes (the weakest link in the whole system) and cause catastrophic mission failure. Prior to the December 5th test flight, NASA made sure the weather in the landing area as well as the launch area was  ideal. They will not have this control at the end of a long mission. Unless a crew can completely control their landing parameters, they stand a real chance of ending their mission ingloriously.

Off the top of my head, there are at least two solutions to the landing problem.

Solution 1: Don’t land. Bleed 7,500 miles an hour off your speed with an EOIB (Earth Orbit Insertion Burn) and dock with a space station. Then take a different ship (a shuttle?) down to the ground. Assemble the refuelable long duration mission ship itself in orbit. Doing a series of launches of spacecraft modular segments to an orbiting service/re-fueling station and piecing the ship together in space would mean that it can be much bigger, more functional and much more comfortable than any capsule and once it’s built it can make many trips to many asteroids and comets and even to the moon and never need to be ground launched thus saving all that money. To be fair, NASA is considering this plan but far into the future.

Solution 2: Launch a ram/scram/kazam jet powered winged ship up the side of Pikes Peak on a magnetic levitation track that could land right back at Peterson AFB or Colorado Springs International or just fly around a while and check out the sights. To be fair, NASA is considering this plan but even farther into the future.

But implementing either of those solutions would require that NASA create something new that’s designed to solve the problems inherent with long-duration flights. And that would, of course, require more money. Unfortunately, given that the chairman of the House Science Committee is a literalist who believes that the earth is only 6,000 years old and science is a crock there’s probably not much use in asking him for more money. It’s a wonder he funds a space program at all since he knows that if one goes high enough one will reach Heaven. He Babels about it all the time.

I don’t mean to be a spoil sport or ruin the euphoric mood created by the NASA/Boeing/ULA/Airbus/Lockheed Martin PR teams but the Orion project is flawed from the start. I know it, you know it and NASA has to know it. Almost in a panic-driven knee-jerk reaction to the shuttle’s negative image, NASA’s goal became to take as much of the danger out of a launch as possible and do it on a shoestring budget. So they’ve reverted back to good old days thinking; get the humans up there and then, hopefully, get ‘em back. But that philosophy was spawned during the cold war when going to space didn’t mean exploration or research. The sixties space program was designed to simply shoot some bodies out there before the Russians did. If a big slingshot would have worked, they would have used that. That’s not what they should be doing. NASA should take the lead creating technologies that will eventually result in the general population having ready access to space. They don’t need to risk four lives sending people to an asteroid to prove that they can do it or justify their existence. And they especially don’t need to send 3 or 4 people to Mars and hope they make it back using pre-landed equipment exposed to the elements of that frozen dusty windstorm ridden rock for two years before those people even got there.

NASA needs to figure out how to eventually send hundreds of people to Mars to build settlements and eventually cities there. The logical way to do that is to develop the “stuff” needed to build and sustain a city on the moon first. The only differences between the moon and Mars are:  Mars is further away, Mars is a little warmer (but not much), Mars has a little more gravity and Mars has a thin, thin  atmosphere that, while being almost a vacuum, does allow the appearance of daytime by scattering some light. Mars is as inhospitable as the moon so if we built a moon city it would allow us to learn how to live and function on a vacuum packed heavenly body. We could create and test equipment that right this minute we don’t even know we need. We could monitor our people and their mental stability, challenge our methods and our creativity and  learn how to function as an off-world community so we could eventually do Mars correctly. And we could accomplish it all close to home so we at least would have the possibility of rescue should something go wrong. Hey, maybe, just maybe, we could develop methods to even rescue people on a Mars mission. That could be important. The worst thing you can hear a Marsnaut say is, “Geez, we didn’t see that coming!”

For some reason, under the guise of innovation NASA seems to have degraded to junk dealer status cobbling a bunch of old parts and old ideas together into something that flies (unless the winds exceed 19 knots). Is their job now the same as it was in 1963; to just get a few bodies somewhere for the sake of doing it? Or, is NASA’s job to be cutting edge; to innovate, create processes, equipment, and concepts that never before existed and fashion a cost efficient space travel system capable of moving mankind as a whole forward to populate and colonize other worlds? Then, shouldn’t they be doing  that? Yeah, I think so, too. Unless, of course, they’re just holding it together until their Warp Drive is ready or until Elon Musk does the job for them.

Wiki notes:

The Space Access Society, Space Frontier Foundation and the Planetary Society called for cancellation of the project, arguing that SLS will consume the funds for other projects from the NASA budget and will not reduce launch costs;[75][76][77] some estimate this cost for the SLS to be about $8,500 per pound lifted to low earth orbit (LEO).[78][better source needed]U.S. RepresentativeDana Rohrabacher and others added that instead, a propellant depot should be developed and the Commercial Crew Development program accelerated.[75][79][80][81][82] Two studies, one not publicly released from NASA[83][84] and another from the Georgia Institute of Technology, show this option to be a possibly cheaper alternative.[85][86]

Others suggest it will cost less to use an existing lower payload capacity rocket (Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9, or the derivative Falcon Heavy), with on-orbit assembly and propellant depots as needed, rather than develop a new launch vehicle for space exploration without competition for the whole design.[87][88][89][90][91] The Augustine commission proposed an option for a commercial 75 metric ton launcher with lower operating costs, and noted that a 40 to 60 t launcher can support lunar exploration.[92]

Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin, who co-authored the Mars Direct concept, suggested that a heavy lift vehicle should be developed for $5 billion on fixed-price requests for proposal. Zubrin also disagrees with those that say the U.S. does not need a heavy-lift vehicle.[93] Based upon extrapolations of increased payload lift capabilities from past experience with SpaceX‘s Falcon launch vehicles, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk guaranteed that his company could build the conceptual Falcon XX, a vehicle in the 140-150 t payload range, for $2.5 billion, or $300 million per launch, but cautioned that this price tag did not include a potential upper-stage upgrade.[94][95] SpaceX’s privately-fundedMCT launch vehicle, powered by nine Raptor engines, has also been proposed for lofting very large payloads from Earth in the 2020s.[96]

Rep. Tom McClintock and other groups argue that the Congressional mandates forcing NASA to use Space Shuttle components for SLS amounts to a de facto non-competitive, single source requirement assuring contracts to existing shuttle suppliers, and calling the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate possible violations of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA).[76][97][98] Opponents of the heavy launch vehicle have critically used the name “Senate launch system”.[45] The Competitive Space Task Force, in September 2011, said that the new government launcher directly violates NASA’s charter, the Space Act, and the 1998 Commercial Space Act requirements for NASA to pursue the “fullest possible engagement of commercial providers” and to “seek and encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space”.[75]

Wow! You made it all the way through to the end. Congradchewlashuns! It’s Miller time!

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Elon Does Spaceport Drones While NASA Tests 1969 Tech

November 26, 2014

And now for something completely different…

You probably know by now that Elon Musk of Space X has done more to advance the affordability of going into space in the last five years than NASA or ESA or JXA or anyone else has done in the last 25, or 30, or 35, or… like, everrr. Boeing and Lockheed Martin especially are just sucking money and listening to Frankie Avalon records. But Elon Musk is another story. With Elon, doing it, tomorrow is not soon enough. He wants it now. And, he wants it all (yeah, I heard it, too).

Here is the latest thing:

His whole plan is to reuse all parts of his launch system; 1st stage, 2nd stage, 3rd stage and capsule. He says all the parts will return, eventually, to the launch pad from whence they departed spewing smoke and flames, land under power spewing more smoke and flames, be refueled and continue to spew again and again and again. Unfortunately, physics being physics and fuel being heavy, a first-stage rocket cannot carry enough fuel to make it from the separation point somewhere over the ocean say around Atlanta’s parallel back to the Cape.

spacexbarge

So, Elon designed this mobile landing pad, with a big spacy “X” on top, on a barge that will be located off shore under where the rocket would normally come splashing down and sink. His rocket, though, will have enough fuel left after separation from the stage above it to make a controlled decent to the barge where it will spew more flames and smoke and land where the spacy “X” marks the spot. It will then get refueled, re-launch itself, fly back to the cape and spew some more to land from where it took off originally. And, here’s the thing, there’s nobody on the barge. It’s an “autonomous spaceport drone ship” with a 300 ft by 100 ft landing pad on top. Using thrusters re-purposed from old oil rigs it is capable of locating itself via GPS to within about 20 feet of exactly where it’s needed. The “brain” in the rocket will further compensate for error down to just a couple of feet. Elon will need a few of these platforms scattered around the north Atlantic to service the various stages of his launch system except the human carrying capsule itself. The “Dragon” capsule, on second thought let’s call this the Dragon Spaceship because it is, the Dragon spaceship part of this system will, of course, after leaving the ISS, land directly back at its launch site because where Dragon lands is completely controllable by when and where it executes its “Super Draco engine” powered de-orbit burn.

To accomplish all of this Elon Musk had to think outside the very locked box that is conventional NASA thinking, i.e., ’60s tech good, big rocket, capsule, splash down, throw everything away, play Fabian record. Can you imagine the cost of an airline ticket if Delta had to junk their plane after each trip? Let’s see, $40-mil divided by 200 passengers, that’s $200,000 a ticket.

Orion Launch:

So, while Nancy and I will be headed to the Cape to broadcast the launch of the first test flight of the Orion capsule a week from tomorrow on December 4th (at, yawn, 7:05 am – so we leave here at about 2 am), I’ll be thinking to myself, “We’re here to watch them test technology that was perfected in 1969.” This will be a test of Orion’s heat shield. The unmanned capsule will go out to about 3,400 miles or so, do two laps around the planet and come screaming back in at about 20,000 miles an hour. If it burns up they’ll know the heat shield’s got a problem. But the Apollo moon capsules, including the ill-fated Apollo 13 ship, all came screaming back at 25,000+ miles an hour and they all made it safely. So, what’s to test? We still need an entire Navy flotilla to pluck one little spaceship with a couple of people in it out of the water. How is that cool? Or, cost-effective? Or, even cost efficient? Elon’s idea is, like, way seriously  betterrr. Come back to where you took off, open the door, climb down the ladder, go home. The second time that reusable rocket is used it will cost half as much to use as the first time they used it. The third time, half as much again. The fourth time…now were saving some serious money. And, the thing is, all of this could have been done years ago. But nobody climbed out of that damned box.

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Happy or angry aliens

NASAJPL@NASAJPL

Space BBQ? Smokin’ hot galaxy contains the same carbon compounds as a charred hamburger! -Tweet #1976 at https://twitter.com/#!/NASAJPL.

“Space is so big, so vast, that whatever might exist probably does.” – Lyle Wood, “The Conversation

Jill Tarter.

Ring a bell?

Jill Tarter is SETI’s lead alien hunter. The heroine of Carl Sagan’s book and subsequent movie, “Contact,” is based on her.

Well, it seems that Jill takes issue with Stephen Hawking. Sir Hawking warns that aliens , should they ever come for a visit, may not be friendly. She says the opposite. Well, actually, she says, “Often the aliens of science fiction say more about us than they do about themselves.  While Sir Stephen Hawking warned that alien life might try to conquer or colonize Earth, I respectfully disagree. If aliens were able to visit Earth that would mean they would have technological capabilities sophisticated enough not to need slaves, food, or other planets.  If aliens were to come here it would be simply to explore.  Considering the age of the Universe, we probably wouldn’t be their first extraterrestrial encounter, either.  We should look at movies like ‘Men in Black III,’ ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Battleship’ as great entertainment and metaphors for our own fears, but we should not consider them harbingers of alien visitation.” 

I agree with… Sir Stephen.

I not only agree with him I find it odd that Jill doesn’t. She has spent decades listening for radio signals from outer space. Yet, in doing that very thing she is assuming a number of things; (1) that there are alien races out there in roughly the same state of technological development as we using the antiquated method of radio to communicate rather than photonic subspace thought transference, (2) that they have already conquered all their problems such as pollution, disease, d.u.i., over crowding, global warming (or cooling) and other natural disasters, and (3) that they have all the resources they need and can just go happily gallivanting around the galaxy at the drop of a hat exploring and looking for other forms of life to study (and occasionally probe). I believe just the opposite is true especially for beings technologically within around, say, 10,000 or so years of us…maybe more.

The fact that we orbit an average size third generation yellow dwarf star pretty much means that any average size third generation yellow dwarf star can have a planet with life. The fact that it took 3.5 billion years for life on this planet to become technological means that that very well could be a universal constant. It probably takes around 3 to 4 billion years with all the right things happening for a planet to spawn sentient life that develops technology. The fact that it took 9.5 billion years for the sun to form after the galaxy coalesced pretty much means that it took that long for other stars with rocky planets to form because the early suns in the Milky Way were made mostly of hydrogen and had to form and explode form and explode over and over again for several billion years time in order for there to be enough rock to make the earth and other terrestrial planets. Remember, all that exists except for hydrogen and maybe a little helium, was cooked up in the centers of stars that exploded and spewed out their contents into space billions of years ago. All that exploding and spewing is what created the dust and heavy elements of which the rocky planets are made. Every atom in your very body was made in the heart of a star that exploded billions of years ago before the earth even existed. These facts are true for us and would be equally true for any other race out there in “the black,” if I may borrow a phrase from Firefly. Therefore, most planets a reasonable
starship ride’s distance from us (at, let’s say, “warp five”) would have formed around the same time as the sun, give or take a few minutes, so their planets would be about the age of the earth as would their civilizations.

Another reason I don’t believe there are exploring civilizations out there millions or tens of millions of years more advanced than us is because they are not here teaching us how to clean up our planet, cure disease and live in peace and harmony. Despite Betty and Barney Hill, Art Bell (and now George Noory), and all the alien abduction book writers with vested interests in Roswell, NM museums who propagate the myth for profit there is absolutely no proof that any alien has ever visited planet earth.

So, getting to the crux now of my argument that aliens may not be friendly…

We humans do not explore space for the sake of exploring it. We humans explore space for the sake of exploiting it. And we do that because we need to do that. We need to mine the helium 3 on the moon to power fusion reactors on earth not only to alleviate pollution but because we’re simply running out of fuel here and wind power and bio-fuels just won’t cut it. To wind-power the world there would have to be windmills everywhere covering almost all land masses. Manufacturing all the fuel we need from soy beans would leave no room for growing food crops and there are a lot of mouths to feed… seven billion is a huge number. We need to mine asteroids and learn to grow food off earth. We need to mine asteroids and sell the food we grow and the minerals we mine off earth to the people back on the earth because they need it. And, even more than that, we need to find more water somewhere. Why do we need to do these things? Because humans keep procreating. We’re procreating out of control. It took 40,000 years for the human population to reach one-billion. it took only a couple of decades to go from six to seven-billion. Faster than an eye-blink we’ll be at eight, nine, ten-billion people and the earth then will be completely unable to supply enough food, water and energy to go around.

And I don’t think these problems could be exclusive to earthlings. They would more than likely plague any alien civilization, too.

Side note: I believe aliens would probably be more like us than most scientists today believe (or at least admit)…and here’s why. The brain controls the body so it should be at the top o’ the bod. It’s sensory inputs for sound, smell and video (ears, nose and eyes) would be close to the brain because the shorter the distance the less latency (signal traveling time before processing) there is. An image recognized by the brain a full second after it is seen is useless so the sensory inputs need to have short signal paths. Hence the ears, nose and eyes go on the head. The mouth would be there, too because swallowing up is hard. The life sustaining organs would therefore be in a bag (because organs hanging on the outside are yucky) below the head but above any transport apparatus an alien being might have. A good transport apparatus is a pair of legs but wheels work well, too, as do pogo sticks. Of course a large bag of helium could be suspended above the being enabling it to float everywhere but it would still need something akin to arms and hands to allow it to do the complex work necessary for building techy things. I think aliens would be a lot like us because 3.5 billion years of natural selection on earth has shown that our very logical design works. And it probably works elsewhere.

So, here we are leading our rocky little lives on our rocky little world. And I would venture to say that if there is a space faring alien civilization out there it is within less than a million years or so years of us technologically speaking and more than likely would have pretty much the same problems as we…maybe worse.

For one thing, a civilization older than us would be that much closer to the terminal output phase of its star (the moment when the star becomes too hot for life to exist on its planets) and may be encountering warmness problems which would result in extreme food and water shortages. That will start happening to whatever people are around on earth in about 500,000 to a million years as the sun slowly transitions from main sequence to termination sequence.

For another thing, just because a civilization is technologically advanced doesn’t mean it’s interested in space travel. Most of us on earth aren’t. Ask ten random people who the first person to walk on the moon was and you’ll get at least 6 wrong answers. Ask ten random people how many of their fellow citizens are currently in space and you’ll get lots of strange looks because over 70% of Americans aren’t aware that there even are people in space at this moment in time. So maybe the aliens were just so busy creating comfortable lives with a bunch of fun things, I don’t even know what (apologies to Mark Foster), that they failed to notice that they were overpopulating their planet and running out of food and water until, say, about, oh, a thousand years ago and now they need to find a new orb  for their 14-billion people. “Well, it took 500 years to build the fleet and 500 years to get to the solar system with the ringed planet, but, look, out the window, there’s our little jewel now…our new home…the blue one…with all the water.”

For still another thing, maybe there are evil civilizations running around pillaging planets; taking the water, the resources, the life forms (for food?) and then moving on. Maybe that explains why we haven’t picked up any radio signals yet.  Someone’s eaten everybody. And, maybe, just maybe, they’re headed our way. “It’s a cook book!”

Because of its complexity, danger, expense, use of resources and for many other reasons, it’s far more likely that any sentient aliens out there capable of space travel would be traveling in space to solve their problems for the good of their people not just to have fun smelling alien roses, weighing the rocks and probing the lifeforms on random planets.

Given the incredible size of just our Galaxy, the Milky Way, alone, it certainly is plausible that there is an alien race exploring for just explorations sake. However, alien races, like the human race, would be far more likely to venture off world not because they can but because they must. And, if that’s the case, perhaps we’d better be on guard because they could show up any day now…and there’s no place to go and no one to rescue us.

“What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue: Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won’t be troubling you much longer.”  -Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”

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Hummmmm….

OK, I admit, I’m not a gun advocate. I believe that in the 21st century we should be more concerned about feeding the hungry, clothing the ragged, educating the kids in all countries and figuring out a way to make a flying car rather than whether or not we remember to strap on our “shootin’ iron” before we leave home in the morning.  But then, I’m nuts.

So, how about this: We have a nationwide vote for one of two alternatives. We vote to either do away will all guns OR require every American to wear a sidearm in plain sight, just like in the old west, pardner.

See, here’s the thing with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case that bothers me:

According to the NRA and gun advocates everywhere, “The Bradys,” as gun advocates call those of us who don’t like guns so very much (everyone knows why we’re called that, I hope), are misrepresenting Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in flyers they are handing out at airports and other places to tourists entering our fair state. Now, I don’t want to get the NRA’s position wrong so here is an exert from one of their associated websites word for word explaining their position and the Florida SYG law:

“Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law:
It Ain’t What the Bradys Say It Is
Most readers of this website will not be surprised that some anti-gun advocates have serious difficulties with facts, truth, logic and the derivatives thereof.  Still, Brady bunch* attacks on Florida’s new self-defense law, which took effect on October 1, are so viciously misleading as to eliminate any credibility the group has or ever again will have, even among the more responsible of their own kind.  Given the brevity and simplicity of the law, so clearly distorted by the Bradys, the cynical calculation of the group has to be that no one will actually read it.
On its website, in newspaper ads and in flyers handed out in Florida airports to inbound tourists, the Bradys repeatedly label the law as the “Shoot First” law and warn visitors not to argue with, shout at or make threatening gestures to “local people.”  A Florida map is made to resemble a handgun.  There’s more misrepresentative, hyperbolic scare-mongering.
The Florida law is not a gun law.  Period.  It contains zero references to guns or shooting, unless you feel propagandistically compelled to count one of those ubiquitous legislative “Whereases” that references the Florida Constitution’s “right of the people to bear arms…”
The Florida law is a self-defense, self-protection law.  It has four key components:
  • It establishes that law-abiding residents and visitors may legally presume the threat of bodily harm or death from anyone who breaks into a residence or occupied vehicle and may use defensive force, including deadly force, against the intruder.
  • In any other place where a person “has a right to be,” that person has “no duty to retreat” if attacked and may “meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
  • In either case, a person using any force permitted by the law is immune from criminal prosecution or civil action and cannot be arrested unless a law enforcement agency determines there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful.
  • If a civil action is brought and the court finds the defendant to be immune based on the parameters of the law, the defendant will be awarded all costs of defense.
Florida’s law, like countless others from legislative sausage grinders, could have been better drafted.  It unquestionably will be challenged in court, over and over again, by those who abhor even the concept of applied individual self-defense or by legal gadflies with nothing better to do with their time.
It is a tough law — on those with criminal intent.  As is often the case, its ultimate goal is as much to deter as to be used.  Whether it ever results in much change remains to be seen.  But by removing ambiguities regarding legal responses to imminent threats to life and property and removing an obligation to retreat, the law attempts to rebalance justice on behalf of innocent, law-abiding Floridians, as well as the state’s numerous law-abiding visitors, specifically included.  Whether those visitors are comforted or frightened by the law should be based on accurately understanding it, not blatant attempts by a faltering advocacy group to harm Florida tourism.”

So, here’s the thing that bothers me that I haven’t heard anyone else anywhere mentioning:

Was Trayvon Martin standing his ground?  I mean… he had a right to, right?

So, the kid had some problems in school. What kid doesn’t these days. The last time I checked using pot or having a temper are not crimes punishable by death.

So, Trayvon sees this guy stalking him, maybe even coming right up to him waving a gun, saying or even shouting things like, “…you stupid f—— punks” (which he has already admitted to having said), and possibly even grabbing Martin or accosting him in some other way. Didn’t Treyvon have the right to “STAND HIS GROUND?” And, what constitutes “standing your ground?” Maybe Martin pushed Zimmerman away and Zimmerman fell injuring his head. Or, maybe not. But, even according to the gun advocate’s (who seem to be lining up in defense of Zimmerman) definition of the law [“In any other place where a person “has a right to be,” that person has “no duty to retreat” if attacked and may “meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” ], Trayvon (1) had a right to be there as his father was visiting someone who lived in the neighborhood, (2) had no duty to retreat and (3) was unjustly attacked by George Zimmerman and thus had every right to use deadly force to defend himself to prevent his own death which, as we now know, certainly was a real danger.

In a nutshell, George Zimmerman armed with both a gun and a “cop wannabe” fixation, stalked and attacked a kid without provocation (and after being told by the police to stay away from Martin) for “looking guilty.” The kid defended himself according to the SYG law and was ultimately shot to death for doing so.

Further, since the kid was armed only with Skittles and an ice tea, was en route to his father’s friends home, and was not perpetrating a crime of any kind, the guilty party in this case can only be the self-appointed neighborhood guardian George Zimmerman. As evidenced by his phone call to 911, Zimmerman did the unauthorized following, the stalking, the approaching, the accosting, the shooting and the killing. George Zimmerman was the attacker. One cannot be the attacker AND the one “standing his ground,” only the person being attacked can stand his ground and that person was Trayvon Martin.

So, why is George Zimmerman not in jail?

And, “propagandistically?” Really?


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Save America Through New 1% Tax Plan

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about a new tax plan for the country in a light-hearted almost frivolous manner because I really didn’t think anyone would take it seriously.

Boy, was I mistaken. I’ve heard from lots of people who think it’s the greatest tax plan ever devised and believe it should be the law of the land.

So, I thought I’d re-post it with a little more detail.

In a nutshell, there are more kinds of taxes than one can shake a stick at; income tax, corporate tax, corporate licensing taxes, ad-velorum taxes, non ad-velorum taxes, sales tax, personal property tax, inheritance tax, telephone tax, gas tax, coffin tax, taxes upon taxes upon taxes. And still the governments don’t have enough money. Let’s face it, folks, governments, local, state, and federal, have to have money. I know that thought sends shivers down the spine of tea-partyers everywhere but it’s true (unless you LIKE driving on pot holes). Now, I do agree that government bureaucrats do not handle money well as evidenced by the fact that one state that received 20-million dollars in federal aid a year ago with which to weatherproof thousands of homes and create hundreds of new jobs, weatherproofed only three homes and created ten, count ‘em, ten, jobs in an entire YEAR… with TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS! But, nevertheless, governments do need an income stream.

The fact that SOME goofballs don’t know what they’re doing doesn’t mean that we should eliminate government. Since its inception the United States has been the greatest country on earth and, guess what, it’s had a government the whole time. Government does good, too. Social Security is keeping thousands, if not millions, of elderly Americans from living under bridges. We’ve gone to the moon for goodness sake and won two world wars and created a magnificent society that is still the envy of the world.

So, let’s agree that our governments on all levels need cash.

Wouldn’t it be great though if we had just one low tax? A tax that would replace all the other taxes and provide all of our governments, state, local and federal with at least FOUR TIMES the money they’re taking in now. This simple tax of just 1% on transactions (sort of like a 1% sales tax) would eliminate income taxes, sales taxes, and all property taxes. There would be no more Social Security or Medicare deductions, no inheritance tax, no license plate tax, no business license tax, no telephone bill tax, etc., no other taxes or government FEES of any kind whatsoever.

And, this one tax, so light it would hardly be felt by anyone or any corporation, would do the trick.

Now, I ask you…

Wouldn’t that be swell?

But, how, you ask…could this be? This is a radical new idea…undoubtedly something cooked up in the deep, dark recesses of a tortured, drug infused, radical, politically rancid mind.

Nope. This idea was proposed by our founding fathers in the Federalist Papers around 1780 or so as being the only fair and correct way for the governments of the nation to raise funds. It’s been ignored completely since 1780.

In a nutshell, the idea would work like this…

There would be a detailed Constitutional amendment passed that would:

  1. Outlaw all taxes and fees charged by any government whether local, state or federal.
  2. Provide for a 1% transaction tax to be charged on ALL transactions, whether retail, wholesale, buying raw products for manufacturing, etc. There would be no exemptions or exceptions…ever. Since there are 2,500-trillion dollars worth of transactions made annually in the US, this would provide roughly 25-trillion dollars of government(s) income annually.
  3. Designate the IRS along with the various states sales taxing departments as the United States Tax and Disbursement Agency.
  4. Detail how the USTDA would collect and disburse the taxes each month with half the proceeds going to the federal government and half being divided among the various state governments strictly according to US census population rank, because that’s the way it came in.
  5. Lock in the amount of the tax at 1% and provide that the percentage could not be changed without a Constitutional amendment.
  6. Require that 100% of all monies taken in be disbursed within forty-five days. The money must keep circulating and the government must not maintain a surplus.
  7. Require that the US debt be paid off by utilizing a specific percentage of the monies taken in over a specific time frame.
  8. Require that 98% off all monies taken in be invested back into the United States for specific purposes in the following proportions: (hypothetical percentages – real ones would HAVE to be in the constitutional amendment) 20% for social security and Medicare, 15% for military, 20% for infrastructure, 10% for debt retirement, 15% for education, 18% miscellaneous and 2% for foreign aid.
  9. Mandate that after the US debt is paid,  congressional funding must  strictly adhere to the constitutional amendment guidelines.
  10. Rescind the ability of any branch of government to borrow money for any purpose except a national emergency or catastrophe.

That’s it. Pretty simple.

The US government currently takes in roughly 2.6-trillion annually. The above tax plan would increase that to 12.5 trillion as well as more than quadruple the amounts taken in by each of the states. And the beauty of the plan is that at a tax rate of 1% NOBODY WOULD FEEL IT!

You would get ALL of your paycheck, no withholding, no social security or Medicare payments withheld. And, you would pay no property taxes on your house, no fees when you went in to renew your driver’s license or license plate… nothing. Your house payment, car payment, credit card bill, etc., would have the 1% TT added to them  (again, it’s a tax on transactions). The average house payment today is about $1,300 a month so $13 would be tacked on to pay the transaction tax. Can you live with that? A $60 credit card payment would be $60-dollars and 60-cents. When you go to the store and buy a new flat screen for $1200, you wouldn’t pay $96 in sales tax, you’d pay a $12 transaction tax. But this tax would do the trick because EVERYBODY pays it… consumers, businesses, manufacturers, everybody. And, because everybody pays it, the percentage can be small enough that it’s barely noticeable for anyone.

That’s it. A simple little plan that would revolutionize the US, give the governments more than enough money to pay off the debt and continue into the future with a rosy glow.

Thanks for your attention.

United We Stand!

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Downgrade the US? Not InThis Lifetime

Standard & Poor’s is a United States–based financial-services company owned by McGraw-Hill Companies.  They just “downgraded” the United States’ credit rating from AAA to AA+, the same as Latvia. Congratulations,  according to McGraw-Hill we’re now living in  a third world country.

So, here’s the deal; the economy of the world is run by three companies, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. These three privately owned companies decide arbitrarily how good a credit risk large companies, banking concerns and countries are and how likely they are to pay back any debt they might incur. This is quite different from the credit reporting agencies you and I deal with whenever we want to get a mortgage or a loan. Those agencies simply supply a formulated credit score to a lender based on one’s income, current debt and payment history. All very simple. What they don’t do is try to dig up “dirt” on people and try to factor that into their rating number. But, this is what the “big three” do. Setting aside the fact that S&P rated the junk derivatives that created our current financial mess as AAA to begin with because the banks paid them to do it, we find that, when it comes to rating countries (who do not pay them), they factor in much more than income vs payment history. They look at pretty much everything; the political atmosphere,  the world situation, perceived image, wars, everything,  and then make an “informed decision” based on… well… pretty much their gut feeling. And, that’s not right. It’s not right because they failed to factor in a few things, like:

  1. The US has never defaulted on any loan ever.
  2. The US economy keeps the world going. The people in China don’t buy the crap they make in China…they know how badly its made.  We buy it.
  3. The US gives roughly $50-billion a year away in aid to countries that treat us like dirt, including Russia, Egypt, Pakistan, and others.
  4. The US not only forgave most WW1 and WW2 debts, we rebuilt (or helped rebuild with free or low-interest money) the nations involved including England, Germany, Japan and Russia.
  5. We are the only nation ever to land humans on another planet.
  6. 90% of the cost of the “International Space Station” came from the US.
  7. The US not only gave the world such things as swim fins, the octant, mail order, and lightning rods, but also flexible catheters, swivel chairs, flatboats, the artificial diffraction grating, the cracker and the graham cracker, the cotton gin, the wheel cypher, cupcakes, suspension bridges, fire hydrants, amphibious vehicles, vapor-compression refrigeration, the automobile assembly line, coffee percolators, the circular saw, dental floss, the milling machine, the profile lathe, the platform scale, flanged T rails, the telegraph and quadruplex telegraph, Morse code, the combine harvester, the steam shovel, relays, circuit breakers, the self-polishing cast steel plow, vulcanized rubber, anesthesia, grain elevators, the ice cream maker, the rotary printing press, the Pratt truss, Pressure sensitive tape, the gas mask, doughnuts, the pin tumbler lock, jackhammers, the safety pin, the vibrating shuttle, fire alarm boxes, the elevator brake, clothespins, condensed milk, toilet paper, pink lemonade, the monkey wrench, Mason jars, pencil erasers, the ironing board, dustpans, burglar alarms, the electric stove, the escalator, repeating rifles, postcards, machine guns, the socket wrench, cowboy hats, urinals, the motorcycle, barbed wire, refrigerator cars, paper bags, football, the pipe wrench, sandblasting, railway air brakes, earmuffs, sporks, the ice cream soda, the jockstrap, QWERTY, dental drills, mimeograph machines, audio synthesizers, the airbrush, tattoo machines, the phonograph, microphones, jet engines, birth control pills, photographic plates, cartons (think milk), the cash register, the electric chair, metal detectors, electric fans, salt water taffy, the solar cell, the thermostat, the dissolvable pill, popcorn machines, photographic film, skyscrapers, screen doors, slot machines, the AC motor, the drinking straw, and millions upon millions of other things, like flashlights and screw on wine bottle tops, that make life better for everyone in the world.
  8. It was the US physicists that kept Japan’s nuclear power plant from a catastrophic failure.
  9. It was NASA that helped Russia deorbit its MIR space station safely.
  10. It was the US who helped bolster the Russian economy after the Soviet Union collapsed by helping them locate and drill for oil and bolstering their space program to the tune of billions of dollars.
  11. If they could, almost every person in the world would move to the US. The immigration service has a list of citizenship requests years long. How many US citizens want to move somewhere else?

So, sorry Standard & Poor’s, you can play with your little letters any way you want but you will NEVER downgrade the United States…not in our eyes.

Of course, the US economy is having troubles thanks to Ronald Reagan who started the “cut taxes and borrow what we need” thinking (yes, the US was debt-free until Reagan took office – look it up) and George W. Bush who not only invaded a country without provocation but who’s Neo-liberalism demanded that market forces be given free reign and government controls  scrapped, especially on financial markets, thus making sure the financial industry was well deregulated and then bailed out before leaving office.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world is watching our situation very carefully and three factors play into how our financial crisis is seen worldwide. First, that the world’s largest economy is being held hostage by what some call the “Taliban” wing of the Republican party, whose insistence on zero compromise and dollar for dollar cuts for raising the debt ceiling have paralyzed the normal workings of the U.S. economy.

The second factor is that while many countries are deeply unhappy with the dollar’s global hegemony, there is no clear consensus about what might replace it. The euro has recently been tanking thanks to the Greek, Irish and possibly soon, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish fiscal crises, the yen has been hammered by the fallout from Fukushima, and China does not want the yuan to play a major role in world trade, as it could well lead to an inflationary spiral that could short-circuit China’s thriving economy.

And last but hardly least, oil exporting nations like Russia are subject to the vagaries of the fluctuation of the dollar, as it is the exclusive currency used in both New York’s NYMEX and London’s ICE energy exchanges.

The final casualty of all this ultimately is the U.S. fiscal global prestige, which dates back to the end of the Second World War. The fact that a minority of right-wing Congressional leaders have chosen to play chicken with the U.S. economy in order to achieve their extremist national political goals has been a highly sobering and distressing experience for foreign nations to watch, which along with the global recession caused by the casino roulette machinations of American Wall Street banksters, has, as a Chinese banker put it today, “effectively driven a stake through the heart of the U.S. free market enterprise model.”

Well, guess what… the corpse is still twitching.

I believe both Republicans AND Democrats are Americans and love this country. Until the hate mongers, starting with Rush Limbaugh, started spewing their venom, both US political parties worked pretty well together. Folks, we cannot continue with the right absolutely hating the left. And, I mean HATING! People I have known since childhood now won’t speak to me since finding out I’m not a card carrying right-wing ultra conservative.  In reality I’m in the middle somewhere between the left and the right but, I must say, I’m leaning more left all the time. I just don’t hear the hate coming from the left that I do from the right… I hear logic and common sense.What Limbaugh, Fox News, Beck and others spew is almost exactly the same as what the German media said in 1940 about the Jews. And this MUST stop. On both sides.

My solution? Kick the radicals (Tea Partyers and radical Democrats) out and continue on in the spirit of America together. If that’s possible.  It’s up to us. Do we fight back and make the US great again or do we stay “downgraded” and let America die. Because, make no mistake about it, it is fading rapidly…especially in the eyes of the rest of the world. And, whether we like that or not, it’s a fact… we live in a global economy so what we do and how we act affects the rest of the world deeply. We cannot afford to be radical. We need to return to what we are, a Constitutional republic, not a theocracy or radical isolationist nation, and start acting responsibly, like adults.

Question: Since when is it patriotic to NOT want to pay taxes? I run five businesses and I don’t hire people because my personal tax rate is low, I hire people when my business NEEDS to hire people – when my sales support it. Taxes, especially personal income tax, play a very small part, if any, in my decisions to hire.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin said today that the U.S. is a “parasite on the global economy.”

I can’t believe we’re buying trips to space from him.

Can you?

Time to start showing the world who’s boss.

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Please Tell Me Why This Wouldn’t Work

Reading Charlie Reese’s re-post below got me a-thinkin’.

There are more kinds of taxes than one can shake a stick at (assuming one is prone to shaking sticks). More kinds of taxes than Carter has pills (assuming Carter still has pills). There are more kinds of taxes than there are grains of sand on every beach in the known universe (and that’s a lot!). Now, c’mon, admit it…the government HAS to have money. I know that thought sends shivers down the spine of tea-partyers everywhere but it’s true (unless you LIKE driving on pot holes).  Wouldn’t it be great though if we had just one tax? A tax that would replace all the other taxes. There would be no more income tax, no sales tax, no property tax, no Social Security or Medicare deductions, no inheritance tax, no license plate tax, no business license tax, no telephone bill tax, etc., No other taxes whatsoever. Now, I ask you…

Wouldn’t that be swell?

But, how, you ask. How could this be? This is a radical new idea…undoubtedly something cooked up in the deep, dark recesses of a tortured, drug infused, radical, politically rancid mind.

Not really. This idea was proposed by our founding fathers in the Federalist Papers around 1780 or so as being the only fair and correct way for the governments of the nation to raise funds. It’s been ignored completely since 1780.

In a nutshell, the idea would work like this…

There would be a detailed Constitutional amendment passed that would:

  1. Outlaw all taxes and fees charged by any government whether local, state or federal.
  2. Provide for a 1% transaction tax to be charged on all transactions, whether retail, wholesale, buying raw products for manufacturing, etc. There would be no exemptions, or exceptions ever. Since there are 2,500-trillion dollars worth of transactions annually in the US, this would provide roughly 25-trillion dollars of government(s) income annually.
  3. Designate the IRS along with the various states sales taxing departments as the United States Tax and Disbursement Agency.
  4. Detail how the USTDA would collect and disburse the taxes each month with half the proceeds going to the federal government and half being divided among the various state governments strictly according to US census population rank, because that’s the way it came in.
  5. Lock in the amount of the tax at 1% and provide that the percentage could not be changed without a Constitutional amendment.

That’s it. Pretty simple.

The US government currently takes in roughly 4.6-trillion annually. The above tax plan would triple that as well as more than triple the amounts taken in by each of the states. And the beauty of the plan is that at a tax rate of 1% NOBODY WOULD FEEL IT!

You would get ALL of your paycheck, no withholding, no social security or Medicare payments withheld. And, you would pay no property taxes on your house, no fees when you went in to renew your driver’s license or license plate… nothing. Your house payment, car payment, credit card bill, etc., would have the 1% TT added to them  (again, it’s a tax on transactions). The average house payment today is about $1,300 a month so $13 would be tacked on to pay the transaction tax. Can you live with that? A $60 credit card payment would be $60-dollars and 60-cents. When you go to the store and buy a new flat screen for $1200, you wouldn’t pay $96 in sales tax, you’d pay a $12 transaction tax. But this tax would do the trick because EVERYBODY pays it… consumers, businesses, manufacturers, everybody. And, because everybody pays it, the percentage can be small enough that it’s barely noticeable for anyone.

That’s it. A simple little plan that would revolutionize the US, give the governments more than enough money to pay off the debt and continue into the future with a rosy glow.

Somebody…please tell me why this wouldn’t work. There’s GOT to be a downside or we would have done it already. Wouldn’t we?

Oh, and let’s not use the old, “The politicians would have to give up their power,” bromide. Isn’t there any OTHER reason this wouldn’t work?

Rock on, gang!

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