Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Where Have You Been?

Where have I been?

I'm slightly embarrassed to make note that it has been more than two years since my last post here!  I never, ever intended that.

I look back to see what concerned me two and four years ago.  I found it interesting to note that I'm still really concerned about the same things.  The direction this country is going, primarily.

Late last night (New Year's Eve), the US Senate passed a financial bill to raise our taxes.  Tonight, the House of Representatives also voted to make it law.

Some weird things about this.

First, as specified in our Constitution, all tax/spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives.  Unless I misunderstand this really a lot, this one originated in the Senate, with final negotiations being completed by former Senator, now Vice-President, Joe Biden, and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Second, the "budget" is normally proposed by the President and introduced into the House, as a beginning point.  This President hasn't proposed a budget nor had one introduced for the past three years of his reign.

Third, some provisions had already been put into place last year to force some cuts in spending to take place 1/1/13 if Congress did not act to avert them.  This has been called "The Fiscal Cliff", since the cuts were drastic and the tax increases severe.

Fourth, the entire world has known for more than a year that we were driving closer and closer to this "cliff", and everyone waited until past the last minute to get this negotiated and done!!

Our President even scheduled a family vacation, half a world away from his office, during these negotiations.

I don't know how this strikes you, but it really bothers me a lot!!

The thing that bothers me most is that what was done over this holiday actually increased taxes and spending and didn't address our mounting, dangerous budget in the least.  In fact, it adds to what we owe!

Our national debt passed $16-TRILLION back during September and is rapidly approaching $17-trillion.
I borrowed the following from  , an editorial writer for US News . . .

In 2012, the U.S. will spend around $220 billion in net interest on its debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office — a figure that is expected to spiral ever higher in coming years.
Erskine Bowles, a co-chair of the president's bipartisan deficit-reduction commission known as "Simpson-Bowles," has called the nation's compound interest burden one of the biggest long-term challenges facing the United States.

"We'll be spending over $1 trillion a year on interest by 2020. That's $1 trillion we can't spend to educate our kids or to replace our badly worn-out infrastructure," said Bowles at a recent forum hosted by IHS Global Insight. "What makes it doubly bad is that trillion will be spent principally in Asia, because that's where our debt is."
Given that most Americans' financial dealings tend to be on a much smaller scale, those multi-billion-dollar totals can be enough to make a layperson's eyes glaze over. Here is a comparison of how the nation's interest spending compares to spending in other areas.

If something good doesn't happen first, there will come a point, easily within the lifetimes of our children, when the amount we must pay each year will be more than all the taxes we can possibly collect.  It's so close to that point now that anything unforeseen -- even a "minor" war -- could send out country into deep financial crisis and failure.  We don't even want to think about the results of that.  Many in our beloved country would not survive!

I'm asking you to do more than vote!!

I'm asking you, if you don't already know your representative in Congress well enough to speak to him/her the next time they come home to the district, GET TO KNOW THEM.  Quickly!!  Write, text, email, call.  Next time you get a chance, meet that person face to face and tell them they MUST reduce spending.

It's not merely a "slogan".  It's the absolute truth.  The only way to get out of the mess our country's in is to REDUCE SPENDING.  It's going to hurt some.  It will undoubtedly hurt some a lot!  But, like the family who gets more debt than they can pay, something must be done, even if it is painful.  It's the only way to survive.

You and I probably have programs that we like.  We'll be tempted to say, "Cut somewhere else. Don't cut MY favorite program!"  But, every program and government department should be negotiable.

A few examples:

The Department of Education.  In my opinion, the Federal Government should not be involved in education in the first place.  We should eliminate the entire Department.  Likely it would cause some chaos to do it overnight, but it could be reduced to nothing over a four or five year planned phase-out.

First, I'd eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, then, Education.  I'll not explain why EPA.  That would take more space than I have left.

Those are two departments.  There are others.

Eliminate ALL subsidies.

I know you may "have a dog in this hunt."  Many do.

I hear many of my more "progressive" friends yelling loudly, "Eliminate oil company subsidies!"

I agree!  BUT . . . I believe we should eliminate ALL subsidies, including what we pay former President Carter NOT to grow peanuts.  (Actually, I really don't know that the Carter Farm gets subsidies, but many, many peanut "farmers" do!)  Same with soybeans, and on and on!!  I say, stop every one of them.

Stop subsidizing "green industry"!  IF green industry is a good idea, let private enterprise alone.  If it's good, someone will find a way to make it profitable.  (Actually, I plan a short blog shortly, to propose a workable, renewable energy model.  The one we've been pouring money into will not work, even if technology is "perfected"!)

Then, we should wind down all foreign aid.  Where we have a need to bolster an ally to help us defend ourselves, then some form of foreign aid seems justified.  But, supporting people and governments who hate and are trying their best to destroy us doesn't make any sense to me at all!

Anyway, I'm back.

I'll try to post more often from now own.

I may not know all the answers.  Shucks, I don't even know all the questions, but we'll kick around a few, anyway!

Happy 2013!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Happens In Financial Collapse?

  In my early years, I remember my parents and their friends talking about the Depression and hoping that "one day" it would end.
  I was born 3 years before the USA got into World War II.  The Depression was still oppressing a large number of Americans, all across the country.
  FDR has been widely credited with ending the Depression, when in fact, he made it both worse and longer than it would have been had he not tampered with the economy through his "New Deal" policies.
  I try to watch and read news and commentary from a number of sources and with varying political points of view.  I've been concerned for several months that a few leading economists -- among them Arthur Laffer and Stuart Varney -- have been forecasting economic "collapse" for the US economy.  Their consensus is that economic affairs will come down around our years no later than mid-2011!
  That's SOON!!
  It's been the conservative news media that have been warning of this for months.  Now I see that the rest of the media -- not wishing to be perceived as ignorant of financial matters -- are now beginning to point with alarm at future events.  In case you can't link to the link at the beginning of this post, I strongly recommend you read this article:
  While I'm not exactly sure what "economic hell" is, I know it is not good!
  You and I are riding this train, and they won't let us anywhere near the throttle in the engine room, so, what do we need to do in order to ride out this coming "economic hell".
  Many financial advisors recommend converting any cash assets you have into precious metal coins -- gold or silver US coins. That sounds good to me, but having some experience in those markets, I recommend Silver Eagles from the US Mint. Those are worth somewhere near $20 today, and will have some value as a medium of exchange even when the paper dollars in your pocket are worthless.

  Gold coins are OK, I guess, if you have a large amount of cash to stash, but because of their relative value, they might be too valuable to worth very much as a medium of exchange in crisis except for "big ticket" items, not for every day commerce.  If you do decide to convert to gold and/or silver coins, I strongly recommend that you invest only in bullion coins from the US Mint. They are of reliable and accurate weight and content. With coins from any other source, you cannot be sure of either.
  To prepare for such dire events, there are more urgent needs needing your attention than currency. After all, our parents and grandparents made it through the Depression with very little or no cash at all!
  . . . more later.  Your comments, ideas, and suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It IS rocket science . . .

  Operation Paperclip.

  Does that sound clandestine?  How about Project Bumper?

  As World War II was in its final throes, a race developed which was to foreshadow world events for another 40 years of "Cold War".  The falling 3rd Reich was leaving bits and pieces, some of them quite valuable, for the victors to take as spoils of war.

  The Russians and Americans raced to see who could claim the prizes at Peenemünde.

  As the German nation was disintegrating, and cloaked by its death spasms, many of the men and women who reported for work daily at Peenemünde, scanned the skies and nearby terrain for the troops approaching from both sides.

  When it was clear to them that the Russians may arrive first, a number of the brilliant "whiz kids" of early rocket science gathered up their drawings and designs from this top-secret missile test and development facility, and made a near-frenzied dash toward the American forces.

  Operation Paperclip was the hush-hush intelligence-directed project to grab up Dr. Kurt Debus and his team of pioneers and bring them safely to the United States.  In a carefully, though hurriedly, devised plan, intelligence officers worked to find ways around an edict by President Harry Truman, crafting false identities for more than a hundred scientists, technicians, and managers from the secret base and other places vital to the German rocket program.  Under these assumed identities, the team, headed by the brilliant young techno-scientific mind of Werner von Braun, was spirited to places in the United States where they could continue their work, experimentation with rockets, and research.

  Along with the team, a number of captured German V-2 rockets, whose predecessors had terrorized Europe, were brought to the States.  For more than two years, the team continued working on the projects they had begun in another land, but with some added features and equipment from the American work.

  Project Bumper became the code-name for experimentation which mounted an American-made WAC Corporal missile atop the German-made V-2, as an experimental second stage.  During 1948 and 1949, from the White Sands Proving Grounds, the team launched at least six "mated" vehicles in test flights, with varying degrees of success.

  The team packed up their gear and moved to a triangular spit of land on the central east coast of Florida, and in 1950, on July 24th, completed the first rocket launch over the Joint Long Range Proving Ground, from Cape Canaveral.

  A few days ago, we passed the milestone -- 60 years since that first historic launch from Cape Canaveral.  Dr. Kurt Debus later became the first Director of the space program facilities based at The Cape - as it came to be known -- and Dr. von Braun became the "father" of the U.S. program to fly men to the moon and back.

  Debus, von Braun, Rocco Petrone, and their teams are gone from among us now, but the benefits of their brilliance and dedication are still blessing the world.

  A hearty salute to the men and women who pioneered the world's exploration of earth and space with rocket science, and to their successors who have carried on their dangerous, but exciting work.

  This old Gentleman Farmer is humbled and honored to have "walked among them", and values his charter membership in the "Aerospace, Missile, and Range Pioneers", begun at Cape Canaveral during the 1960s, to honor those men and women who gave us their dreams.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the Blessings of Liberty . . .

  The United STATES of America . . .

  Why does every generation need reminding that ours is a "federation of free and independent states"?

  A group of independent states got together (convened) and in agreement, they created a federation among themselves.  They agreed to be bound together and protected by this federation, but only in common needs they could not handle as well individually.

  In the vision granted by wisdom from above, people in the states knew they needed to band together for some purposes, making themselves stronger together than they could be acting separately, even in concert.
  Any inter-state agreements may have been good, but they recognized their need for a "better" union for common needs and goals.  So, in order to form a more perfect union of their efforts they agreed to federate themselves.
  Of course, to "form a more perfect union" was not the end result for which they met, but for the blessings that such a federating could bring them all: establishing Justice, insuring domestic Tranquility (peace in their homelands), providing a greater ability to defend themselves than their individual mililtias could provide, and unarguably the most important objective, to "secure the Blessings of Liberty" for themselves and their children.
  For these purposes, our Fathers created, ordained, and established the "Constitution for the United STATES of America."

  Then, they wrote the design of our federation of states, describing the three branches our government would take, the way the branches would "check and balance" each other, and the areas in which they were authorized to act on behalf of the member States.
  To assure that future generations would never have reason to get a wrong idea that the federated government was "in charge" of everything pertaining to this land, in their wisdom, they appended a list of 10 "amendments" to this new Constitution.  In them they restated "God-given" rights and freedoms which could not be taken away from the people by this federation nor by any State.
  The last of these ten is the most telling: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  Representatives of the convened States wanted all future generations to know that this indeed is a federation, empowered by the states themselves and intending to delegate to the more perfect union ONLY certain specific authority the branches needed to carry out the purposes of establishing justice, insuring domestic peace, providing a defense against common enemies, and securing the marvelous blessings of LIBERTY for all of us who have so far succeeded them.

  We need to burn these ideas into our minds, and to the minds of our children and their children, else, continually, they will be taken from us.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Pledge . . .

  I pledge . . .
   . . . allegiance
   . . . to the flag of the United States of America
   . . . and to the Republic for which it stands
   . . . . one nation under God
   . . . with liberty and justice for all!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome Back !

  I was shocked!
  Just looked at the date of the gentlemanfarmer's last post.  My, how time flies! (I heard that somewhere before!)
  For better or worse, for richer or poorer, I promise to post more frequently.

  There are campaigns going on all over our Country for who will SERVE us for the next two, four, or six years in various posts -- ranging from the White House to the Outhouse. 
  Of course, President B.H. Obama's progressive circus has a few more days in town, but much of everything else is up for grabs these days.  As I read the newspapers, blogs, emails, and TEA-leaves, I get a sense of "throw the rascals out", ranging from sea-to-shining-sea, and border-to-porous-border.
  Our tendency to "throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater" sadly, is going to waste a few good people, because the country is restless and there's a serious uprising from the right.  Invigorated by TEAParty rallies and seemingly led by no one yet, the sense of the movement is to take out anyone who appears to be part of the political "system" that has let us down, and led us down, and to replace them with citizen-representatives.
  I see new faces and names on campaign posters.  Business people who've never been involved are running for office.  Doctors. Ranchers. Others.  That's very encouraging.
  Our founders intended that we have "citizen representation" from the beginning. It's time we returned to that with surveyors, farmers, architects and others, leaving their fields, instruments, and businesses to serve a term or two, then go home.
   Allowing our representatives to become "entrenched" and by refusing to challenge the endowed power of incumbents, had gotten us into this mess.

  It IS time again to throw the TEA into the harbor and the incumbents into the streets!!

  Long live Liberty!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

" . . . a giant leap for mankind . . . ?

Forty years ago this past day (July 16), I actually started my day on the evening before. I don't remember whether or not I slept at all that night.

The early part of the day on the 16th, I was in the UPI Radio studio trailer at the Press site on Merritt Island, FL -- a huge government reservation then known as The Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Our "soundproofed" studio was in the back part of the trailer with the UPI Wire Service writers in the front. We sat immediately south of the towering VAB - The Saturn Vehicle Assembly Building and about 3.5 miles west of the launch pad. That was considered to be a "safe distance" in case the Saturn V rocket exploded on or slightly above the launch pad.

With microphones in front of me, at my side were my "sidekick", Les Roberson, who would describe the liftoff of Apollo 11 from outside the studio where he could get an unobstructed view. Later in our coverage, Les would be our "color commentator". On the other side was our producer / director, Scott Peters. Les was local to Brevard County, Florida. Scott was the Radio News Director for UPI Radio and UPI Audio Services. During the earlier Project Gemini, in Houston, at the Manned Spaceflight Center was Col. John "Shorty" Powers, our "technical expert". However, for the moon flights, I handled both anchorman and "expert" responsibilities.

We began our coverage for this historic flight for the first manned landing on the moon from the studio at the KSC Press Site. As soon as the Apollo spacecraft had left earth orbit and was "safely" on its way toward the moon, Scott jumped on a flight for Houston and I stayed in Florida. A couple of days later, history would be made . . . by the NASA team and three brave space explorers, and by the UPI team.

Leading up to this flight, UPI had sent a photographer to meet me, and we had travelled all over the area, taking publicity photos of me, looking up at the sky, standing in front of the Saturn V rocket on its launch pad, seated in the studio at our microphones . . . all kinds of locales. The pictures were then used by the UPI Sales Department to "sell" our coverage of the American Space Program to radio stations all over the world. By the time we opened our mics for the first words of this broadcast, we were speaking via the largest radio network ever put together for any event in history.

Radio stations from all over the States and several "foreign" countries had been contacting me for weeks to record "promos" for them, promoting our space coverage on their local stations. It was a wonderful and rewarding chore. I got to speak with news reporters and production managers all over the world. What an experience!

I knew our coverage would be making history, but at launch time, I hadn't even the faintest notion that I would be a part of that history, not just a reporting observer.

As soon as Scott Peters arrived in our studio at the Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston and could take over our broadcasts, with our engineer, we left our studio near the Apollo launch pad and moved to our regular studio at Cocoa Beach. This studio had some advantages for us, not the least of which were several UPI newswire teletype machines.

With these machines, clacking away in the next room from the broadcast studio, we could keep track of anything else that just might be going on in the world at the same time as Apollo 11's landmark flight. And some things WERE going on.

Most of the day after launch was relatively quiet, with our making an "updater" broadcast twice each hour and a full report at the top of the hour for all of our affiliates around the world. Even though this trip was unique for what it signified, if one could ever say that flights to the moon had become routine, this part of the Apollo mission had been done before. Several flights had already been made to the vicinity of the moon. Though this was to become the first "lander", the transition from earth to moon had been practiced enough that the entire team (and the news corps) had become relatively familiar with the trip and what to expect.

Little did we realize at the time, that events were unfolding elsewhere in the country that would take much of the attention away from this historic event and carve out another niche in history, for an unexpected tragedy.

On Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, five young men were partying with several "boiler-room girls" who had been working on Bobby Kennedy's Presidential campaign. Who could have known that the next day, young Edward (Ted) Kennedy would take one of those girls in his Oldsmobile 88, and make a wrong turn off the Chappaquiddick bridge, right into eight feet of cold, dark water, and history.

For the rest of this historic flight, the Apollo 11 astronauts would share headlines with the story of Kennedy and the tragic drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne.

10:15 p.m., Monday July 20, 2009

Over the years since President Kennedy's announcement that we would land Americans on the moon before the end of the decade of the 60s, anticipation had been building. More excitement built with each flight. The "race" with the Soviet Union was in the minds of all who followed each new advancement by our space program and our astronauts.

As exciting as the first trip for a moon landing was, during the approximately 72 hour transit time from earth orbit to lunar orbit and landing, for most of the three days there were some deadly dull moments.

All that dullness faded quickly as Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin separated their moon landing craft -- Eagle -- from the main capsule. Mike Collins stayed with the ship that would bring them home, and did not get to leave his footprints in the lunar dust on this first mission.

Everyone who was near a TV was glued to the "smeary" black-and-white pictures being beamed back from the moon.

I was in our darkened little studio, watching a NASA monitor, listening to the "air-to-ground" at this same time that evening, and doing my very best to describe the awesomely technical things which were happening so they could be understood by "the milkman in Milwaukee" who could not see them. Our audio engineer Bill Wilson was in the other half of the studio and found it hard to keep his eyes on the network audio controls, because he, too, was watching the monitor.

As the Eagle descended, I kept one eye on the Apollo 11 flight plan, and listened as they read out the "numbers" describing the historic descent, altitude, speed, fuel remaining.

"Fuel remaining" began to be more and more critical as they blasted the rockets engines, bearing them down gently toward the dusty surface. Flight controllers in Houston at the Manned Spaceflight Center were even more on the edge of their seats than I. When the spacecraft finally did touch and the engines were shut down, there were 10 seconds of fuel left. With the "coolness" of an experienced test pilot, Neil Armstrong had used all his fuel efficiently, moving laterally as he descended, searching for a smooth place to land. He did not want to land with one of the Eagle's legs in a crater. A tipped over spacecraft would have meant that it would become their tomb instead of their lifeboat which would return them triumphantly to earth. No one knew how deeply the lander's feet would sink into the lunar dust either. There were estimates, of course, but no one yet knew how deep the dust went, nor whether it would even support a man, not to mention their much heavier spacecraft.

We all breathed again when Neil Armstrong said, "Houston, the Eagle has landed!"

And now 40 years ago tonight, the two of them would be leaving the relative safety of Eagle to step onto the surface, fulfilling an age-old dream of mankind.

What he said, as he took the last big step off the end of the ladder was, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." The voice-activated communications gear turned off their transmitters when there was no sound being made, then turned it on again when an astronaut started to speak. It took sometimes a full syllable for the transmitter to become completely activated. Armstrong had paused just long enough after "step for . . ." for the transmitter to turn off. When he said, "a man"...the "a" was lost from the transmission while the mic "keyed up" again.

Because of that fluke, the first words forever remembered as coming from the moon's surface were "That's one small step for . . . man . . . one giant leap for mankind."

Regardless, there is little doubt that the speech he had rehearsed was true. One of the largest of technological "giant steps" mankind has ever taken.

So many myths have grown up around that moon landing . . . I'd like to address them all, but probably have not yet even HEARD them all.

One of my friends and colleagues during those years covering the space program was Jay Barbree, NBC Radio News correspondent for more than 50 years now. I suggest you read his column from today on MSNBC's website. Jay deals with all of the myths I've heard, and much better than I.

My own personal little piece of history?

I heard today that a record 40 million viewers were watching the event unfold on television, spread across all the networks. Those who could not watch were listening to radios wherever they could find them.

I mentioned earlier that UPI Radio had put together the largest radio network in history for this signal event. Not only was it the largest around the world, but across the United States as well. At the time, Mutual Radio Network had the largest number of station affiliates of the major networks, followed by ABC Radio Network.
For this event, UPI Radio surpassed even Mutual by about 100 station affiliates.

The next day following the first moon walk, our producer Scott Peters told me that a Nielson survey indicated that 30 million people had been listening to our broadcast in the United States alone.

Thirty million!!

I almost wet my pants!

Thirty million was a new record for listening to one radio broadcast up to that time. I don't know whether, 40 years later, that record still stands. But, it was my own personal little piece of history. I've been blessed to have been a part of it.

Of course, the astronauts returned safely with several pieces of the most valuable real estate ever discovered. They brought back about 60 pounds of moon rocks and dust to be studied by scientists ever since. The space program and brief lunar explorations are still paying dividends 40 years later.

That about wraps it up from here for now. This is Art Thompson, UPI Radio, at the Kennedy Space Center.