Category Archives: Blog

Updates and tidbits

Back from Space

SpaceX’s Dragon Demo-2 flight has ended with the successful return to earth of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley after spending more than two months on the International Space Station. As I wrote at the time of their launch, this flight marks the return to America of the ability to send humans into space.

After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2000, Americans who wanted to go the the ISS had to buy a seat on a Russian rocket. NASA began, during the Obama-Biden administration, what is called the “Commercial Crew” program effectively outsourcing this task to private industry. SpaceX is the first to successfully demonstrate this capability. This flight was named “Demo-2.” The first regularly contracted flight of the Crew Dragon is set to take four astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, to the space station later this year.

As they left the capsule Behnken and Hurley thanks the SpaceX team. The SpaceX communicator said, “Thanks for riding SpaceX.” For America’s space program, a new day has begun.

There’s always something

And while we are at it, what the heck is wrong with some people. The Coast Guard had, at NASA’s request, cleared out the splashdown area in the Gulf of Mexico west of Pensacola, Florida, and posted marine hazard warnings. But that didn’t stop a bunch of idiots in pleasure boats from pulling in close after the landing to take in the scene.

It is not clear where the Coast Guard had disappeared to, but SpaceX’s recovery boats had to chase the civilians away from the potentially dangerous area, spacecraft just back to earth are loaded with toxic fuels and prone to release hazardous vapors. NASA and the Coast Guard say they’ll do better next time.

And speaking of some people

Here is our little friendly friend, the Covid-19 virus. This is the little monster which has killed hundreds of thousands, injured others, severely damaged our society and devastated our economy.

The best way to control the spread of this killer is to social distance, self-quarantine, and when you must be out in public, wear a mask. Refusing to wear a mask is crazy.

This is not a matter of personal liberty. Personal liberty does not give you the right to hurt others. There’s an old aphorism, “Your liberty ends where my nose begins.” Which means something like you can swing your arms around all you want. But if you hit me I get to clobber you. Or better yet, sue you for everything you’ve got. Ditto the Covid. Come within six feet of me without wearing a mask and it’s an assault.

Out of juice

Why is it that storm after storm produces hundreds of thousands of people without electricity for a week or more? I actually lost power for only seven hours. But that’s because I sued my local electric company, PSE&G, a decade ago and as a result they rerouted the power supply for my block to a newer, more reliable circuit. Mine had been on a 100 year old wire running across a ridge surrounded by trees which were always shorting the wire. The people across the street were without power for five days. I did lose my Internet for a week.

Verizon explained that their FiOS fiber runs on PSE&G’s poles and until the electric company had restored their service and declared the poles safe Verizon couldn’t gain access to fix their own circuits. Storms happen. With global warming, they are happening more often. Things can be done. Trees an be trimmed. Wires rerouted. Wires can also be buried. All it takes is money. Aha!

Biden – Harris

I’ll certainly have more of this as the campaign progresses but for now I’ll just say this is a great choice. Kamala Harris is, most importantly, ready to step in if something should happen to President Biden. She will be able to work with Congress, especially if the Democrats can win back the majority in the Senate. One of her legislative specialties is desperately needed criminal justice reform. She is also close to Biden’s position on the ideological spectrum, a left of center moderate with a history as a prosecutor.

But putting all that aside, this would still be a historic decision, and one which puts the Biden-Harris ticket in sharp contrast to the incumbents, Trump-Pence. Harris is the first woman of color to be on a national major party ticket. She is the daughter of two immigrants. Her father, Donald Harris, is a well known Stanford economics professor. He is from Jamaica. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris was a cancer researcher at UC Berkeley and a civil rights activist. She was from British India. She died in 2009 from colon cancer.

As Biden himself learned during the debates, Harris can be an aggressive opponent on the campaign trail. I can see her easily filling the traditional role of a vice-presidential candidate, dishing it back to Trump as fast as he throws it. Biden is 77 years old, Harris is 55. The Biden-Harris ticket reflects the changing of America. Trump-Pence continue to dream of the return of the 1950’s past.

####

Trump’s gestapo comes to portland

Hard to believe but the fears I raised in my last column have now been realized and the situation is far worse.

The headlines exploded around the world on the morning of July 15th, summed up best by this Oregon PBS report, “Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles to Grab Protestors Off Portland Streets.”

It is positively frightening. And it can happen to you. It can happen to me. It can happen to any one of us.

Read more

Who the hell are these people?

Embed from Getty Images

What would you do if you saw these people advancing on you? What if they ordered you to stand still, or drop to your knees, or put your hands up in the air? One of these thugs, they do remind me of a motorcycle gang, is carrying a shield marked “police.” But you can buy one of those in any army-navy store. These guys have no badges, no insignia, no nametags, no proof they have the authority to order you or anyone else about. I don’t know about you but facing them I’d be scared stiff.

These ghost soldiers confronted residents of our nation’s capital city and it was a sight unseen in modern times. The residents these stormtroopers confronted were almost all peacefully protesting. That is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Actually, calling these guys stormtroopers is unfair to stormtroopers, who in Star Wars wore white. They are more like Robocop, the cyborg created by corporations to enforce their interests in a dystopian comic book future.

Read more

Memorial Day 2020

On Memorial Day we in the United States honor the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces bravely defending the freedoms so many of us take for granted. It is a solemn occasion, meant to be a day for reflection. An acknowledgement of the sacrifices made and the lives cut short.

Presidents traditionally place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. The Tomb is marked with the words, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”

Read more

The Justices Take a Landmark Step. Unwillingly.

Mark your calendar. Beginning May 4 and ending May 13, the Supreme Court of the United States will make history. It took the coronavirus pandemic to do it, but over six dates the Court will hear oral arguments on ten cases, and the people of the United States will be able for the first time to hear those arguments as they happen.

This is happening because the Court, like most of us, is practicing Covid-19 social distancing protocols, with the justices and staff working mostly from their homes. The Court first delayed these arguments, then decided to hold the hearings via teleconference.

Read more

Issac Asimov at 100

I must have been eight years old. My Uncle Alan, my Dad’s older brother, had already established his expertise at “uncling” by introducing me to the Museum of Science and Industry buying me my first model train set, a Lionel Steamer, and showing me where he stashed his bottomless supply of Hershey chocolate bars.

Now he was to open up my world another notch by leading me to his stack of science fiction. The 25¢ pulp magazines of short stories, and the 50¢ paperbacks. On the top of the paperback stack was I Robot by Isaac Asimov. Right then and there began my decades long love for science fiction. Read more

L’état n’est pas Donald Trump

L’affaire Trump has entered a new stage. In a scathing eight page letter to Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, White House counsel Pat Cipollone declared that Donald Trump “cannot participate” in the House’s impeachment inquiry, complaining the “inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections.”

The Trumpies of course love the letter even though it reads like Trump himself sketched it out, filling it with his long list of lies and manufactured grievances, and then handed it to Cipollone. I can imagine Cipollone struggling to take out Trump’s usual adjectives like, “lil’ Adam Schiff,” and adding some legalese. The resulting argument would get a failing grade in anyone’s first year Constitutional Law course.

Read more

« Older Entries