Saturday, September 27, 2008

NASA Turns 50, US Has To Hitch A Ride Into Space

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the NASA agency just as the Chinese made their first successful spacewalk and as the U.S. Senate was forced to approve a plan allowing U.S. astronauts to buy seats on Russian spacecraft so we can reach the International Space Station, just as the ISS nears completion.

The achievements of our efforts in science and space exploration are too often viewed with nostalgia for the past rather than vision for the future. NASA - and science in general - has been pushed to the sidelines by recent leadership in Washington, a move which will only serves to hamper the nation's role in cutting edge development across a wide range of scientific research and development and education as well.

Aviation Week had a fine piece attempting to connect the past with the present and future challenges of space science:

The ISS is arguably an engineering triumph for NASA comparable to the Moon landings, in difficulty if not historic impact. Humans have been living on the station continuously for eight years now, operating through an intricately choreographed construction project that has merged hardware from three continents into a functioning outpost more than 200 mi. above Earth's surface.

"But space exploration is still in its infancy, and there is a new generation of engineers and managers coming along at the field centers who have the intelligence, skills and confidence that powered their fathers and grandfathers from Explorer to Apollo to the Hubble, space shuttle and ISS.

Today they are planning an international outpost on the rim of the Moon's Shackleton Crater and a new flagship robotic mission to one of the outer planets. On the aeronautics side of the house, "the first 'A' in NASA," plans and technology are being developed for the next generation of the U.S. air transportation system.

In an election year, the ball isn't in the agency's court. NASA's next half-century - indeed its next year - will be determined by the voters, and the leaders they elect. It's probably a good time to remember John F. Kennedy's statement on picking national challenges "not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

I'd expect we can lump this program into all the others the Bush administration has left in a tangled mess, like the current financial meltdown: balance the cost of doing nothing against the costs of the failure of everything.

It's the Bush approach to bumble between failure and over-reaction to problems which have been allowed to fester and grow. When typical agency response botches the job of just getting ice and water to the ravaged Gulf Coast after Katrina, NASA has over the last eight years done remarkably well. Billions have been lost to fraud and waste in military contracts abroad and to domestic programs feebly attempting reconstruction along the Gulf.

What awaits the next president and the next Congress is a sprawling nest of critical mistakes so large and complex it will affect each citizen of this nation and those of countless others.

A recent AIAA Space Conference in San Diego offers some much needed perspective on how the politics of today and the future are linked:

Space has proven to be the silent backbone underpinning our commercial, civil, and military sectors. Three of the top issues in the upcoming election—economic competitiveness, the global war on terror, and the need for increased global climate change monitoring—are all dependent on our technological and operational achievements in space."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

TN's 1st District Gets A Candiates Debate

I had to post this ASAP. I certainly can't recall any such event taking place in my lifetime in East Tennessee -- a debate between the candidates for 1st District Congressman. It's an actual debate, not a forum or a Q and A town hall meeting.

Democrat Rob Russell sent out the following email this evening:

It's really going to happen: for the first time in anyone's memory, the Democratic, Republican, and Independent candidates for the US House will participate in an organized debate!
The League of Women Voters' US House Candidates' forum will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 7th at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville, TN starting at 7 pm.
WETS-FM's Wayne Winkler is scheduled to moderate, and questions will come from the League as well as audience members.
Please make plans to attend -- we need to show folks that Democrats in East Tennessee can do more than just vote against candidates: they can support candidates, as well!
Campaigning Full-Time in October:
Starting Oct. 6th (the day before the historic debate in Greeneville!), campaigning will be my full-time job, and I hope all of you will help me keep my schedule full. Here are some ways you can help:
1. If you there is an event, festival, meeting or gathering in your community where I can meet folks and distribute information about the campaign, email us and let us know about it!

2. Volunteer to hand out campaign cards, stickers, etc., at local events. We will send you a full "campaign kit" -- just tell us where you are going and how many pieces you think you'll need.
3. Create an event in your town or county -- it could be a backyard bbq or a rally -- to help raise money and spread the word. For instance, Jason Howze from Unicoi County is organizing a "Concert for Rob" in Johnson City on Oct. 10th at Capone's; others, such as Frank in Kingsport and Kevin in Johnson City, are having informal "meet and greet" parties at their homes on Oct. 2 and 9, respectively. If you have an idea for an event, email me.
Thanks again for all of your time, energy, and encouragment. To contribute to the campaign, go to
Rob Russell
Democratic Nominee, TN-1

I'm impressed. It is not just the Democrat and Republican, but an Independent candidate too?

I do know that for the first time in my life, this important office isn't being handed off to the next local insider, another pre-selected candidate from the Republican party which has held total control of this district for over 100 years.

Kudos to all involved in making this project happen.

Residents who seek a representative who is offering much more than the same old routine will surely want to give Rob a listen. With our area and our nation under some glaring lights of economic reality, a wise voter will seek out his take on how to best serve the 1st District and help end the ineffective leadership of the past.

Live Web TV From Downtown Knoxville

A most ambitious internet project officially started today at Cherries Internet Cafe with live web TV shows from their open-to-the-public internet cafe.

Check out the live broadcasts and explore their site here.

Happy Birthday!

The Knox News Sentinel has some more background here, and expect even more to be announced in coming days and weeks as this cutting edge tech takes off from Market Square. When you stop in, be sure and say hello to Reenie and to Jess. Unless they are working and then, hey, they're working and don't be a chucklehead and bother them.

The 2,000-square-foot cafe features computers at every booth, along with charging capabilities for laptops, cell phones and iPods.

Beginning next month, there will be boxed lunches from The Lunch Box and The Daisy Pot Tea Bar will feature more than 40 different loose leaf teas.

"I want it to be an experience with as many things that are unique and different," Gee said.

Visitors also will be able to tune in to Web broadcasts produced in a floor-to-ceiling, 500-square-foot glass studio."

A Brief Return

Please accept my thanks for all your condolences and support.

I'm putting up a quick post this cool September morning - especially since brevity and this blog have earned some praises this week.

First, this response to the current U.S. financial meltdown, proof that one single dollar can have true impact on those who brought the meltdown about --

With this $1 bill, I am going to paper cut the skin between the fingers of every investment banker, financial analyst, and backdoor accountant involved in this mess."

Here's another short shock to the system, this one for Sarah Palin.

I served with quick studies. I knew quick studies. Quick studies were a friend of mine. Sarah Palin: you're no quick study."

When I was traveling I noticed quite a few Obama for President stickers on car. But at a local market (one that actually had gasoline for sale), here's the bumper sticker I saw:

TN is For Jesus
Not For Obama

Yeah, I'm back in East TN.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Memoriam - For Alex

No posting here for a while as my sister and her family and all of our families are mourning the death of her son Alex who has died at the age of 22.

Alex Long

Ryan Alexander Long, 22, of Hixson, went home to be with the Lord on Monday, Sept. 22, 2008.

Alex was a native and lifelong resident of the Chattanooga area. He was a 2004 graduate of Hixson High School and was attending Chattanooga State Community College. Alex was currently employed with Hamilton Place Cinemas 10–17 and was of the Baptist faith. He loved Star Wars, playing video games and going to the movies.

Alex was preceded in death by his grandfathers, William J. Powell and James L. Long Sr.

He is survived by his parents, Claudia Powell Long and James "Jim" L. Long Jr.; a sister, Laura Sanders and her husband, Chris; grandmothers, Nola Powell and Zoolah Long.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home chapel with the Rev. Dewayne Roberson officiating.

Burial will follow in Chattanooga Memorial Park.

The family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. today and 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

Share your thoughts and memories at

Arrangements are by the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home, Crematory and Florist.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rationing Gasoline as Market Manipulation?

Short-term rationing, targeted in the Southeast, is being promoted by John Hofmeister, former president for Shell Oil.

America is suffering a lot more than is being reported," said Mr. Hofmeister, who is also chairman of the National Urban League. The economic slowdown may not be affecting the well-to-do, but it is "really nailing middle- and low-income people."

Oil industry blog, The Oil Drum, offers little hope for the current shortages in supplies for your local gas pumps:

If the pattern in Louisiana holds in Texas, it may take as much as 20 days after Hurricane Ike before all of the production is back on line. It will certainly be at least 10 days. This would put full production at something between September 23 and October 3. Pipeline delays of up to 18 days could delay full distribution of petroleum products until something between the first and third week in October."

Nashville is already hard hit.

Oddly, reports of the destruction of 49 oil platforms in the Gulf by Hurricane Ike should have a less than minimal effect - they were producing less than 1% of the oil from the Gulf and were slated for shutdowns anyway.

Other reports focus on the overall decline in national demand for oil and falling prices --

Regarding inventories, last week the market paid little mind to declines in U.S. crude, gasoline and distillates stockpiles as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in their weekly statistics. However, the market did respond when the EIA also confirmed that demand in the United States is steadily shrinking, with gasoline demand now down 1.6 percent and total oil demand down 3.5 percent from last year.

Meanwhile, crude and other commodities' sharp falls have appeared to help bring about the collapse of the Ospraie Fund, a large commodity hedge fund, as a result of significant losses. The Ospraie Fund, whose assets peaked at $3.8 billion late last year, fell 27 percent in August due to bets on oil, natural gas and structured products, the Wall Street Journal reported. Any loss greater than 30 percent triggered a provision allowing investors in the fund to withdraw their cash."

More Power and Money For Failure?

Once again - filled with panic, fear and a lack of information - the Bush administration and members of Congress and finance lobbyists are all screaming "Emergency!!" on the public airwaves and demanding more unchecked, unwarranted, unobstructed and unconstitutional powers. They call it a necessary bailout. You know, for the economy which has been tanking for a few years, the problems called mental delusions a few weeks ago.

Tucked neatly into the language of the legislation being pushed are these nuggets:

The three key provisions: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets (so he can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely crippled "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to accommodate this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3) best of all: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency" [Sec. 8].

Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes."

If the Bush league had ANY record of being able to accurately assess a problem facing the country, such unchecked authority would be dubious. Given the reality of constant failures from these officials and their cheerleaders, to simply go along with this plan and not actually discuss and dissect it before taking actions with worldwide influences -- that's pretty much insane.

Carefully exploring the proposed bailout is even more of a mandate as it arrives from the constantly failed and unchecked realm of "The Decider".

The topic is being discussed, thankfully, both in the media and in public forums, with such concerns in mind and about the origins of the problems and those responsible - here and here and here - just for examples.