Beware of Warmongers!

In 1971 the Pentagon Papers were disclosed to the public. They revealed that the Johnson Administration had “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress” about the Vietnam War. [1][2]

Just one month ago the Washington Post disclosed government documents revealing that “senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign.” [3]

We’ve also known for years that we were lied into a war in Iraq when the U.S. failed to discover the so-called “weapons of mass destruction” the neocons in the Bush Administration were fear mongering about. The Center for Public Integrity reported that “President Bush and top administration officials made more than 900 false statements in the two years following Sept. 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Iraq under Saddam Hussein…. The statements by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials ‘were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.'” [4]

Now we have the Trump Administration claiming that we were facing an “imminent” threat from Iranian general Qasem Soleimani to justify the U.S. strike that killed him last week. YET they haven’t provided ANY evidence of that claim to Congress. [5]

While, for now, it appears that we may be backing off from all out war as a result of Iran’s measured and limited response, tensions have increased and the least little thing might trigger a very deadly conflict. [6]

In 2002 the U. S. Armed Forces conducted a $250 million war game against Iran called “Millennium Challenge 2002.” It was supposed to last 14 days, but the retired Marine Corps general they picked to command Iran’s (“Red”) forces basically wiped out most of the U.S. Navy (“Blue” forces) in that area in a strike on the first day (which would have resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 U.S. service personnel).

The game was suspended and restarted, and the participants were ordered to follow a script drafted to ensure a victory of U.S. (“Blue”) forces. In objection to the new script restricting him, the retired general complained and resigned from the game. [7]

This is not saying what might happen today in a real conflict with the current actors, and possibly things have been learned since then, but Iran’s forces are supposedly 4 times greater than what the U.S. faced in Iraq, and that conflict resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people on both sides, cost trillions of dollars, and we’re still involved in a conflict there 16 years later. [8]

In other words, a war with Iran would likely not be as quick and easy as some are saying, and we shouldn’t automatically believe ANYTHING coming out of the mouths of Trump, his administration, senior U.S. officials involved in the military industrial complex, war mongering representatives in the House or Senate, or war mongering pundits on cable.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are a group of neocons who have been pushing for conflicts like this for many years now (going back as far as the George H. W. Bush Administration). They were behind the War in Iraq during the George W. Bush Administration and they still have a lot of influence. John Bolton is just one of them. [9]

1. Pentagon Papers

2. Gulf of Tonkin Incident

3. Afghanistan War Confidential Documents

4. ‘Orchestrated Deception’ by Bush on Iraq

5. Trump says four U.S. embassies were targeted in attack planned by Qassem Soleimani

6. On the brink of war with Iran, Trump steps back

7. Millennium Challenge 2002

8. Iraq War

9. Project for the New American Century

Nancy Pelosi

Years ago Pelosi blocked the House from launching impeachment hearings of George W. Bush and recently admitted she KNEW the Bush administration was lying about Iraq at the time.

Up until recently Pelosi fought against launching an impeachment inquiry of Trump (which should have started over a year ago) until she was dragged into it. Up until then, she was his foremost enabler by resisting it.

Then Pelosi successfully limited the scope of the impeachment inquiry of Trump to Ukraine. By limiting the scope of impeachment she placed a poor political calculation over the oath she swore to protect the Constitution.

In the same week as articles for impeachment were passed in the House, Pelosi and establishment Democrats gave Trump some of the biggest wins of his presidency (the USMCA Trade deal and a new defense spending bill that increases spending by $22 billion, gives Trump money for his border wall, and formally establishes Trump’s “Space Force”).

Now Pelosi seems to think that delaying sending the articles of impeachment over to the Senate will somehow give her leverage over how the Senate will conduct the trial. I’m not sure why she believes this gives her any leverage AT ALL. I’m sure they’d be HAPPY if she NEVER sends it over. The longer she delays the more public support will decline, and the better Republicans will be able to frame it to their advantage.

Wimpy Democrats

Democrats are so wimpy.

I’m no fan of Pelosi who had to be dragged into conducting an impeachment inquiry into Trump–almost against her will. Up until then, she was his foremost enabler by resisting one. An impeachment inquiry should have been launched over a year ago even before the Mueller Report came out. Now the inquiry has been limited to Ukraine, and there are only two articles of impeachment.

Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator involving the violation of campaign finance laws, which his former lawyer Michael Cohen is already serving time for committing. Adding that to the articles of impeachment should have been a lay-up. Robert Mueller outlined 10 occasions where Trump obstructed justice in his report, so adding those shouldn’t have been very hard either. There’s also enough public information to add violations of the emoluments clause to the articles.

Michael Cohen testified before Congress that Trump previously lowered values of his property for tax purposes and raised them to obtain loans which indicates he has committed both tax and bank fraud. Maybe Democrats could have discovered more about that (as well as likely money laundering of Russian oligarchs) if they had been investigating Trump’s financial interests and making a concerted effort to obtain Trump’s business and tax returns much, much earlier. Legislators in New York went out of their way to make it possible for Rep. Richard Neal (Democratic Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee) to ask for Trump’s state tax returns, but Neal dragged his feet long enough for Trump to start lawsuits to stop them from being released for the time being. Neal also dragged his feet before he requested Trump’s federal tax returns. And, after the Treasury Department refused to furnish them, Neal waited MONTHS before suing the Treasury and the IRS to try and obtain the documents. In other words, Democrats have never seemed all that interested in “following the money” regarding Trump, where his biggest crimes might have been exposed. [Trump was probably worried that Mueller was looking into the money laundering angle (which would explain his obstruction efforts), but Mueller didn’t.]

Regardless, these are just SOME of the crimes that should have been covered in the hearings and eventually included in any articles of impeachment. IMO, narrowing the focus is a mistake for many reasons, not the least of which is what it signals to the future. As Brian Klaas wrote in a Washington Post article back in October, “There is no clause in the Constitution that allows presidents to commit crimes. If some of his abuses are not included in the eventual articles of impeachment, it sets the precedent that a future president can get away with similar conduct.”

These people in Congress swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. By limiting the scope of impeachment, they are sacrificing principle and violating their oath for a poor political calculation.

Stuck On Hold

It’s almost impossible to call a business or organization and have your call answered by a human being anymore.

And to talk to an actual human being, you first have to go through automated menu hell.

It doesn’t matter how recently the menu options were changed. Even if they haven’t been changed in the last 10 years, the recording still says: “Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed.”

Then it goes to the menu of options. If you want to talk to an actual human, you can be sure it will be the last option offered to you. And you can count yourself lucky if you don’t have to go through multiple layers of menus to get to that option.

After you have successfully navigated your way to the point they are going to put you in touch with a person, you’re frequently asked to provide information about yourself first. For example, the recording may ask you for your account number or other such information to identify you. I’m not sure what the point of this is considering whoever you end up talking to will ask for this same information again anyway.

Then you have to listen to another recording that lets you know how everyone is busy at the moment due to the high volume of calls (despite how important your call is to them), and that your call will be answered in the order it was received. It sometimes gives estimated wait times, and It will usually let you know how you might be able to accomplish whatever your calling about online by visiting their website instead of continuing to hold. The recording might also try to plug something else they offer, and they will let you know that your call might be monitored or recorded for training purposes.

Then you go to holding mode….

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, this usually meant that some reel-to-reel taped muzak would play. Because it played so often, the tape would become stretched over time and sound distorted. Despite the fact we’re now in the digital age, the muzak they play still sounds just like those old distorted reel-to-reel tapes. It’s also usually unpleasantly loud.

While you’re waiting on hold, listening to this horrible muzak, the recording about how everyone is busy due to the high volume of calls will repeat (as if anyone holding must have Alzheimer’s and will need to be reminded every 20 seconds or else they’ll forget).

It’s like they are doing everything in their power to avoid having you talk to an actual person.

Then when you do finally get someone on the phone, all too frequently they have to transfer you to someone else where you have to go through the holding process all over again, or, when they try to make the transfer, you get disconnected and have to start all over at square one.

And if you ever end up having to talk to a specific person at the place you’re calling, 99% of the time you’ll find they are away from their phone or away from their desk. You’ll have to leave a message and wait for them to call you back at their convenience, not yours. I’m not sure why so many people are so rarely at their work station anymore unless it’s because everyone seems to be spending more time in meetings where they can spend time talking about work rather than spending time actually doing it.

Why Bernie Sanders is the Best Candidate to Run Against Trump

* In polls for several years now, in head-to-head match-ups, Bernie has had either the first or second largest lead against Trump.
* In polls for several years now Bernie has been at the top or top tier of highest favorability ratings among Democrats. In the most recent poll, he was #1.
* Bernie has the largest, broadest, and most passionate base across the country. He’s the candidate who seems to have the most grassroots support and grassroots energy.
* Bernie is the candidate who may do more to motivate the key younger demographic everyone says is most important (as well as those who don’t normally vote). During the 2016 primary, his support among the younger demographic was greater than Clinton and Trump combined. Running anyone else may cause many of these people to sit it out or vote for a third party candidate again.
* Bernie is the candidate who did well in 2016 in red states like Kansas, Idaho, and Indiana, and key Trump swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin. And, just a few weeks ago, for example, a poll showed Bernie beating Trump by a bigger margin in Texas (6 points) than any other candidate, and a poll out just a couple of days ago shows Bernie as the only candidate who beats Trump in Iowa.
* Bernie (and Yang) do best with Trump cross-over Republicans.
* Bernie is bringing in more money than any other candidate with small dollar donations and is even setting records. This means there are more people making a personal investment in him than anyone else. People putting their money where their mouth is may indicate they are more likely to vote. [Not long ago the NYT published a map of candidates with the most individual donors across the US. Bernie Sanders was represented in blue, and blue so dominated the map across the country they had to provide another map that didn’t include him so people could see where all the support for the other candidates were.]
Just Three Additional Reasons To Support Bernie
* Bernie is the candidate who we might trust most to fight for the things he’s advocating for because he has decades of receipts fighting for those things, and we might trust him because he is not corrupted by big money donors or corporations.
* For those who believe we are currently living in an oligarchy posing as a democracy with politicians bought and paid for by the most wealthy and the largest corporations, Bernie has the boldest plans to make the fundamental changes needed to bring back our democracy. Unless we address this situation, we are unlikely to get anything else done including…
* For those who REALLY believe climate change is an EXISTENTIAL threat to humanity, Bernie has the boldest plans to address the situation in time to make a difference.
Of course, politicians bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry aren’t going to be interested in taking strong action on climate change. Just like politicians who take money from the NRA aren’t going to be interested in any gun control, politicians who receive money from the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance companies aren’t going to be interested in “Medicare for all,” politicians receiving large donations from corporations aren’t going to be interested in raising the minimum wage, politicians who have been corrupted by big money donors aren’t going to be interested in getting money out of politics and returning us to our democracy, and so on and on.
Polls continue to show that this kind of legalized corruption is a top concern among all voters, and Bernie has the boldest plans of any candidate to address it.

Why I Support Bernie Sanders in 2020

A 2014 study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern universities concluded that: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence” and “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

The study found that the influence of the average American is at a “non-significant, near-zero level.”

Earlier, George Carlin argued that:

“The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ¬ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.”

Carlin argued that we only have the ‘illusion’ of choice. The Princeton and Northwestern study indicates this may be the case: that we already have an oligarchy posing as a democracy.

Probably the #1 progressive issue –above and beyond all others–is the legalized corruption that is taking place in our government which has undermined our democracy to the point that the influence of the average American is at a “non-significant, near-zero level.”

Now, if one REALLY believes that climate change is an EXISTENTIAL threat to humanity, and that we only have about 12 years to turn things around before we are screwed like the climate scientists are telling us (which obviously means that we need to START taking BOLD action ASAP in order begin to turn things around by the 12 year mark), then we will need someone LEADING who will PUSH to take the BOLD action we need to save ourselves.

Of course, politicians bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry aren’t going to be interested in taking strong action on climate change. Just like politicians who take money from the NRA aren’t going to be interested in any gun control, politicians who receive money from the pharmaceutical industry and health insurance companies aren’t going to be interested in “Medicare for all,” politicians receiving large donations from corporations aren’t going to be interested in raising the minimum wage, politicians who have been corrupted by Big Money donors aren’t going to be interested in getting money out of politics and returning us to our Democracy, and so on and on.

Polls continue to show that this kind of legalized corruption is a top concern among all voters.

Why would anyone want to vote FOR a candidate who is corrupted by corporate interests over ours? Why would anyone want to vote FOR an oligarchy that doesn’t represent them?? Why would anyone want to vote FOR a candidate who may be willing to compromise humanity’s future regarding climate change by not taking bold enough action in time???

So, if Trump gets reelected, we’re screwed, BUT if we elect a candidate who is willing to compromise humanity’s future by not taking bold enough action regarding climate change in time, we are just as screwed.

This is just ONE reason I support progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and Justice Democrats like AOC. They’re NOT corrupted by the establishment oligarchy, so they can actually represent the People instead, and they are already pushing for BOLD action regarding climate change.

I would not be willing to bet humanity’s future on anyone who is corrupted by corporate interests, no matter what they might promise to get elected.

Here’s the second reason…

If it’s purely a matter of who stands the best chance of beating Trump, regardless of who it is, I think the best argument could be made for Sanders…

The energy in the Democratic Party is in the progressive wing. That’s the wing that has the most grassroots support.

Not long ago the NYT published a map of candidates with the most individual donors across the U.S. (see below).

Bernie Sanders was represented in blue, and blue so dominated the map across the country they had to provide another map that didn’t include him so people could see where all the support for the other candidates were.

Polls continue to show Sanders has the highest favorability ratings of all candidates. He’s the candidate who seems to have the most grassroots support and grassroots energy; he’s the candidate who might do more to motivate the key younger demographic everyone says is most important (as well as those who don’t normally vote); he’s the candidate who did well in 2016 in red states like Kansas, Idaho, and Indiana, and key Trump swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin; he’s the candidate who might be able to peel off the most Republicans (he’s even the top second choice among Biden supporters for some reason); he’s the candidate who we might trust most to fight for the things he’s advocating for (because he has decades of receipts); he’s the candidate who always polls well in head-to-head match-ups against Trump, and so on.

I could also make the argument that despite many of his policy positions being labeled as “radical” and “far left,” they are actually popular and mainstream, but I’ll save going into that here for brevity’s sake.

Right now, the two most viable progressive candidates running are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The polls are currently showing them 2 and 3 behind Biden (but together they make up a larger share of Democrats who support them).

Biden is polling best at the moment, but I expect that gaffe machine to eventually self-destruct. And he doesn’t have nearly the grassroots support that Bernie does… or any of the energy.

IMO, anyone with a pulse SHOULD be able to beat Trump in 2020. However, I think the ONLY way Democrats MIGHT lose is if they run another establishment Democrat against a populist once again.

IMO, running establishment, so-called “centrist” candidates (who would rather reach out to Republicans and get their hands slapped every time than inspire their base) is what caused Democrats to lose 1,000 seats across the country leading up to 2016, and it’s what caused all three branches of government to fall into Republican hands before the last mid-terms.

IMO, Trump was so detestable, he inspired enough Democratic voters to get off their asses and give us back the House in the last mid-terms–and hopefully that is evidence of what will happen in 2020–BUT a sure way to KILL that motivation is to spit in the eye of progressives once again.

My hope is that Sanders and Warren come together for the win in the end. I think that will inspire the most enthusiasm and give us the best chance for a landslide that will carry over to the House and Senate (so it will be easier to get progressive policies passed).

Here’s the third reason…

EVEN IF, we elect someone as supposedly “radical” as Sanders (or even Warren), it’s going to be a tremendous uphill battle to bring about the changes needed to get back our democracy and save our planet for humanity.

REMEMBER: for those who may still think progressive ideas are too radical… we don’t elect monarchs or dictators, so whoever is elected probably won’t be able to get all of what they want done to the extent they want to get it done. They will still have to FIGHT for it, and what they do get done will probably end up getting watered down by the opposition (even the opposition in their own party).

But I think Democrats (in general) have forgotten how to get things done.

You DON’T START OUT by trying to compromise.

Democrats should relearn how to play the game Tug-of-War…

When you play Tug-of-War, the objective is to move the opposing team to your side. At the beginning of the game, you DON’T position your team on the boundary between the opposing sides, NOR do you initially position your team on the opposing team’s side and try to drag them onto yours from there. You position your team well on your own side, BEYOND where you expect to eventually pull them!!!

In my opinion, the best and easiest way we can “unify” is for those who would normally back an establishment candidate to back a REAL progressive this time. That way we can keep the energy on our side and bring in younger voters (who might not normally vote).

Now is NOT the time for incrementalism or compromises with corrupt politicians.

Now is the time for bold and dramatic action to save ourselves, our democracy, and our planet.

Right now, I think Sanders and Warren are the most viable candidates who stand a ghost of a chance of doing that.

We can’t afford to waste time trying to reach out to Republicans or compromise with corporate influence, and we can’t afford to waste time with incrementalism and gradualism.

MLK argued against the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism” when he said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

If we ever had a time when there was the “fierce urgency of now,” this is it.

If that doesn’t happen, we are screwed.

And it may already be too late.

I have more reasons I could go into, but this should be enough for now. 

Space Is Big. Really Big.

No one knows the full extent of the size of the universe we inhabit because we can’t see it all, and we never will. In the part we can observe, there are at least two trillion galaxies, which contain many more stars than there are gains of sand on the Earth.
Many of these stars may have a solar system of planets, so there might be as many or more planets than there are stars. Earth is just one of these planets in one of these solar systems in one of these two trillion galaxies in the observable universe.
It is hard to contemplate the magnitude of what I’m trying to say….
What we can see in all directions is rather BIG. There are other planets in our solar system that are bigger than our planet, the sun is much bigger than any of the planets in our solar system, and there are plenty of other suns that are much bigger than our sun. And there are bigger things than stars. And there are all those massive Black Holes in the centers of most galaxies and sprinkled throughout them.
We used to believe that all of reality turned about us, that we were the center of the universe, that it was ALL ABOUT US. We used to think that the Sun revolved around the Earth, then we found it was the other way around. We used to think that stars were just small celestial spheres in the dome of heaven above us, now we know that our solar-system is just one of perhaps tens of billions of solar systems in the Milky Way (maybe as many as 100 billion). We used to think our galaxy was the whole universe, now we know that there are so many other galaxies that if ours disappeared, no one might notice (and maybe there would be no one to notice). We used to believe that ours was the only universe, now some think that there might be an infinite number of universes.
On the Grand Scale of Things, our Earth may be much, much tinier in relationship to the universe (or multiverse) than a subatomic particle is in relationship to us.
In 1977, NASA launched the space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 on a Grand Tour to the planets in our outer Solar System. In 1990 when Voyager 1 was approximately 6 billion kilometers or 3.7 billion miles away and had completed its primary mission, astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan convinced NASA to turn around its camera and take one last photograph of Earth. The resulting image of Earth took up less than one pixel (0.12 pixels) in the 640,000 pixel photograph.
The Pale Blue Dot, Earth

Here is what Sagan had to say about it later in some of the best lines ever spoken by anyone….
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Launched in 1977 and traveling at 17 kilometers per second (11 mi/s), it wasn’t until August 25, 2012, that Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to cross the boundary between our sun’s solar wind and the rest of the galaxy and enter interstellar space. In about 40,000 years it may pass within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, which is racing towards our Solar System at 119 km/s (430,000 km/h; 270,000 mph).
However big many objects in the observable universe may be in relationship to us, they all pale in relationship to the size of the observable universe itself. Despite the fact that the number of stars we may see are possibly 10 times more numerous than all the grains of sand on Earth, they are very far apart from each other.
Our own Milky Way galaxy contains between 200 and 400 billion stars, and the distance between the local stars in our galaxy is proportional to two grains of sand more than 30 miles apart.
Proxima Centauri is the closest star to us after the sun is about 4.24 light years away. If Voyager 1 was headed in that direction (which it isn’t), it would take 76,000 years to make it there. Using some kind of Gravity Assist method like Helios 2 did to get a slingshot effect from the Sun (setting the record for the fastest man-made object ever at over 240,000 km/hr or 150,000 miles/hr), it would take about 19,000 years.
Some proposed technically feasible methods include the Radio Frequency (RF) Resonant Cavity Thruster (or EM Drive), which would reduce the travel time to 13,000 years, and the Nuclear Thermal and Nuclear Electric Propulsion methods which might cut it down to a mere 1,000 years.
Proposals for more theoretical methods like Nuclear Pulse Propulsion, Fusion Rockets, Fusion Ramjets, and so on could cut the travel time down to a few dozen years but are problematic for many reasons and aren’t very economically feasible. A Laser Sail method could get us there in a dozen years or so, but it would take a steady flow of all the power consumed on Earth every day and a sail hundreds of miles in diameter. Using some kind of Antimatter Engine could cut the time down to as little as 8 years, but it would require hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of metric tons of antimatter fuel, but it currently costs over a trillion dollars to produce just one gram of antimatter, and the total amount we’ve ever created is less than 20 nanograms (this is not counting the tremendous size and cost of the ship and many other technological hurdles that would have to be overcome).
Even if we could travel at or very near to the speed of light, it would still take 4.24 years or more just to reach the nearest star beyond our sun. And traveling at or close to the speed of light may not even be possible. As you approach the speed of light, whatever spaceship you’re traveling in becomes increasingly more massive requiring more energy until the amount of energy required approaches infinity. The speed of light is the cosmic speed-limit because reaching it may require an infinite amount of energy.
Of course, the most theoretical proposed method is some kind of “Warp Drive,” where you would ride in a kind of “warp bubble” that stretches out the fabric of space-time into a wave to cause the space ahead to contract and the space behind to expand. You wouldn’t be violating the speed of light cosmic speed limit because you wouldn’t actually be moving through space. You would be resting in a bubble that would be warping the space around it. This method could cut the travel time to less than 4 years, but it may not be actually possible. It may require a prohibitive amount of energy to work, and we may find that it violates one or more of the fundamental laws of nature.
Our Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light year in diameter (tiny compared to the galaxy M87 at 980,000 light years in diameter or the galaxy Hercules A, which is 1.5 million light years across). If Voyager 1 were headed to the center of our galaxy (which it isn’t), it would take more than 450,000,000 years to make the trip. Even if it could travel at the speed of light, it would take over 26,000 years.
The two trillion galaxies in our observable universe are separated from each other by even greater distances than local stars are within these galaxies.
The Milky Way has some smaller satellite galaxies around it, but the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way is Andromeda, 2.5 million light-years away. Even with some kind of light-speed rocket or Warp Drive, ever making a trip like that may forever be beyond us.
The Andromeda Galaxy is estimated to collide with the Milky Way Galaxy in about 4.5 billion years, so it may be easier to wait for it to come to us. But aside from galaxies which are gravitationally drawn to each other in local groups like Andromeda and the Milky Way are in ours, the universe is getting bigger all the time due to Dark Energy at an ever increasing rate. The 2.5 million light-years from the Milky Way to Andromeda is a short hop compared to the size of the observable universe which has an estimated diameter of 93 billion light years and a radius of about 46.5 billion light years. And the universe is getting bigger and bigger at an exponential rate all the time.
As Douglas Adams said in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.”


Moon Landing 50th Anniversary – Part 2

Before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made this proposal:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

At Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962, he said:

“We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon…We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

These are some of his remarks about the challenge to go to the Moon on November 21, 1963, the day before he was assassinated in Dallas:

“Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall–and then they had no choice but to follow them.

“This Nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome.”

They were overcome and Kennedy’s challenge was met.

Before the decade was out, on July 20, 1969–with over 530 million people watching from Planet Earth–the Lunar Module ‘Eagle’ carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed at 4:17 p.m. EDT.

At 4:18 p.m. Armstrong said:

“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Attached to the ladder on the descent stage of the Lunar Module was a plaque with this inscription: 

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind”

Later, at 10:56 p.m. Armstrong stepped onto the Moon surface and said:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Aldrin joined him about 19 minutes later, and together they spent a little over 2 hours on the Moon.

They returned to the Lunar Module at about 1:10 a.m. EDT July 21st.

If someone had to pick a date to start counting from as the dawn of a new era, July 20, 1969 is a worthy choice to consider.

The ‘political cartoon’ that appeared in the paper I have from the next day I thought was especially poignant.

Moon Landing 50th Anniversary – Part 1

A friend asked me once what I thought was the most significant news event to happen in my lifetime. He thought I my answer might be the 9-11 attack, or the John F. Kennedy assassination, or something along those lines.

I answered that I thought it was when we landed on the Moon.

That was a massive accomplishment!!!

It was the culmination of millions of years of evolution, including thousands of years of advances in mathematics, science, and technology.

It should be a national and international holiday.

In May 1961, when Kennedy proposed that the U.S. “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” he was raising the bar about as high as it could have been raised. It was an incredible challenge that would require new concepts, new designs, and new technology. It would also require tremendous effort, tremendous investment, and tremendous coordination.

Growing up, I had been a big fan of NASA ever since I could remember….

I was born when Explorer 1–the first satellite launched by the United States–was still sending data back to Earth, and a little over 5 months before NASA was formed. At one time, I knew every mission, the astronauts that flew them, the nicknames of the spacecraft, and what happened with each one.

By July 1969, I was following the flight of Apollo 11 as closely as I could. I was one of millions of people all over the world watching the Moon Landing (on CBS with Walter Cronkite, of course).

The technology was fairly primitive by today’s standards….

Nevertheless, the Apollo Guidance Computer was a massive breakthrough at the time with 2k of memory and 32k of storage to land on the Moon, and it could preform 8 tasks at once!!!

During the descent they first had some trouble with communications, and then, after that was resolved, two computer alarms went off: 1202 and 1201.

The astronauts had been trained in simulators for almost everything anybody could imagine happening. Usually, if anything like this happened, the answer was to “abort” the landing.

The astronauts didn’t know these alarms meant and had never trained for them.

And at first, even NASA didn’t know what they meant either.

Basically, what was happening was that the computer was getting too much information to process. However, it was set to reboot automatically when that happened and return to the same place it was before it had to reboot, so it was more like some hiccups in the system, and Mission Control was still getting data.[The people who wrote that software in assembly language to land on the Moon probably had to be more succinct in their coding than most any other software program that comes out today, and it wasn’t a fault with the software that caused the problem, it was when Aldrin turned on some radar that would be useful if they had to abort. Aldrin also noticed the correlation and suggested that his action was related to the alarms. The extra data coming in as a result of Aldrin flipping that switch was enough to exceed the computer’s capacity and sound the alarms.]

Imagine you are one of the two people in the Lunar Module on your way down to be the first in all of human history to land on the Moon. You’re doing something that’s NEVER been done before and millions of people all over the word are listening to every word you say and every breath you take. The hopes of humanity are all focused on you, your margin of error is incredibly tiny with death just out the window, just one small mistake away…. and alarms are going off on your landing computer.

NASA came back with a “go” on those alarms. In other words, “ignore them” and “keep going.”

When Armstrong could get a good look at the landing site situation, he realized that it wasn’t the one projected. They were 2 seconds off, so they were two miles further downfield than they planned.

They were headed to land in a crater with car-size rocks all around.

Armstrong decided to take control of the landing to the extent he could. He expended almost all the remaining fuel in the lander to land passed that. This took them another two miles away from the original landing site.

At the end, when his fuel was about to run out, and dust was blowing up from the landing thrusters–making it difficult for him to see exactly where he was landing (or what he might be landing on)–they finally touched down so gently that it was hardly noticeable.Buzz Aldrin says, “Contact light.”

However, they actually hadn’t ‘landed’ at this point. The landing legs had probes extending down and he was reporting that at least one of the probes had touched the surface.

Then Neil Armstrong says, “Shutdown” and Aldrin responds, “Okay. Engine stop.”

There was a short technical exchange between Armstrong and Aldrin that was part of the post-shutdown process, then there was the “official” announcement by Armstrong: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” [Houston was where Mission Control was located. Armstrong come up with the name “Tranquility Base” because they had landed in the lava-plain Mare Tranquillitatis (“Sea of Tranquility”). The “Eagle” was the name of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module.]

One can make an argument for any of these as the first words spoken from the Moon.

Regardless, considering all the pressure they were under and ongoing drama going on I just relayed, the words exchanged between the two astronauts and Mission Control during the entire descent are exceedingly calm.

Mission Control expresses the pent-up relief everyone must have felt once they had landed in their response, “Roger, Twan…Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”

Keeping all that in mind, this video is one of the best there is to watch the landing.