Space

From the word source section at Dictionary.Com

  • c.1300, “an area, extent, expanse, lapse of time,” aphetic of O.Fr. espace, from L. spatium “room, area, distance, stretch of time,” of unknown origin.
  • Astronomical sense of “stellar depths” is first recorded 1667 in “Paradise Lost.”
  • “Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.” [Sir Fred Hoyle, “London Observer,” 1979]
  • Typographical sense is attested from 1676
  • (typewriter space bar is from 1888).
  • Space age is attested from 1946;
  • spacewalk is from 1965.

Many compounds first appeared in science fiction and speculative writing, e.g.

  • spaceship (1894, “Journey in Other Worlds”);
  • spacesuit (1920);
  • spacecraft (1930, “Scientific American”); space travel (1931);
  • space station (1936, “Rockets Through Space”); spaceman (1942, “Thrilling Wonder Stories;”
  • earlier it (spaceman) meant “journalist paid by the length of his copy,” 1892).
  • Spacious is attested from 1382.
  • 1703, “to arrange at set intervals,” from space (n.). Meaning “to be in a state of drug-induced euphoria” is recorded from 1968.
  • Space cadet “eccentric person disconnected with reality” (often implying an intimacy with hallucinogenic drugs) is a 1960s phrase, probably traceable
  • to 1950s U.S. sci-fi television program “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet,” which was watched by many children who dreamed of growing up to be one and succeeded.

I was born the year and month that Sputnik was blasted into orbit and so I grew up dreaming of the great rockets roaring into space.  My dreams died a little with the end of the Apollo era and a little more with every year of the space shuttle and ISS travesties that followed.  Not because of the actors in the piece but because of the dead hand of bureaucratic-management-executive risk aversion that could be seen crushing the glory out of the endeavor.  It was only the glorious optical archive that is Hubbles legacy that kept a dream alive, a dream rekindled with Faster Better Cheaper and the Mars flurry and then blown to full flame in the last few years with Space X, Virgin Galactic, Bigelow, Orbital, and more.

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Not Everything that President Obama has done is wrong…and by the way he hasn’t shut down a lot of things that President Bush started either

There are far too many conservatives of various flavors who seem to have gotten lost in their own narratives. Fortunately we have some smart conservatives watching out for the overspill.
This is an excellent piece by Rand Simberg of Transterrestrial Musings blowing away a rather ignorant rant against NASA’s Space Station Commercial Access plans, which by the way is going well and attracting a huge amount of investment by pure play commercial space entrepreneurs.
I believe that what we are seeing today is what the first generation science fiction writers of the 30’s to 50’s predicted, it’s just taken a whole lot longer because the technology they thought would allow us to blast off (atomic energy) was shut down due to fears, founded and unfounded.  It has taken us five decades to develop technologies that enable us to get to space inexpensively (in relative terms) burning tons of liquefied oxygen and kerosene.in what are essentially tightly controlled explosions.

Thoughts for a 4th of July in an early decade of the 21st Century

There have always been multiple visions of the future of the ‘American Experiment’ despite what comes across from the rather wan gruel we all get fed in public school unless we have unusually good and aggressive ‘social studies’ teachers.

I have read a few interesting modern histories of the united states and the best of these show that there were always multiple threads at work, more than just the now common Conservative / Progressive (NO, not Liberal.)  And I don’t necessarily associate Conservative with Republicanism and Progressives with Democratic ideals.

I think if you go back to your math/geometry and get a view of a three-dimensional graph at the origin ( 0,0,0) with +&- axis for (x,y,z) showing.  Got that picture in your head?

Now simplified political philosophy has taught the Left Right  (x-axis) Dichotomy of Communism and Fascism … which supposedly goes from the people being sovereign to the opposite of one person being sovereign.  With a smooth transition from one side to the other.  This is the sovereignty axis in my opinion And America is not at the far right, its at the middle left, because sovereignty rests in the hands of the people’s elected representatives who can be tossed out.

Now don’t forget that while so-called Communist or People’s regimes claim the mantle of the People they are always in practice Fascist oligarchic or even despotic (one person) systems. And Fascist regimes (when they dared call themselves such) were in reality Party dominated Bureaucratic states and the best run of each type were much more alike than they were different.  They are both basically Oligarchic with a tendency for one man rule.

So there has to be some other axis in play.  Call it the ownership axis, who owns what?  Say this is Up / Down,  Up is personal ownership of everything,  Down is state ownership of everything.  Here you can parse out a philosophical though perhaps not so much a practical difference between Communism and Fascism as practiced in the real world. The Communist state owns all means of production (a person theoretically is still a sovereign actor and can own personal items) Fascism tends to accentuate diverse ownership of the means of production, in fact tends to focus on ownership and ‘winning/winners’ to the detriment of other things.  If you look at the worst of the worst they didn’t really see anything wrong with slavery (but again in practice neither did the Communists, if you were sub-human enough to protest against the regime.)

And then you have the other political axis, call it the regulatory axis, one side you have anarchy, everyone establishes their own regulations, and on the other axis you have the regulatory state where every potential action is regulated by some rule.

Now mankind has never lived in either extreme, every animal has some innate regulation and the more complex an animal becomes the more it operates in some form of society which again has a set of perhaps unstated, but often iron clad, rules.  With humans language and society co developed in complexity and at some point language grew in symbolic power to the point that it enabled humans to think up and then explain new ways to regulate life (as well as explain it and pass the knowledge along so others could build on to what was known before.)  This is the foundation of modern civilization and while I’m a libertarian at heart, I know that humans have to live in a regulated world.  Life in a unregulated world would be impossibly complex because you could never ‘trust’ anyone you did not know at least somewhat, to operate within the same social context as you do.

And as much as many Conservative pundits whine about it we do not live in a regulatory state.  In practice only robots could live in the far limits of the regulatory state because they can be programmed and ‘flash’ reprogrammed to operate by the rules (if their ‘brain’ is big enough to contain said rule set.)  A human cannot learn more than a relatively small set of rules in any lifetime and operationally using rules requires that you focus on a smaller sub set.  This is the reality of the ‘joke,’ “…he knew more and more about less and less until he knew everything about nothing.”

Going back to Communist Fascist dichotomy, what does this new axis explain?  Well to be honest, nothing, in practice both Communist and Fascist states tend toward the highly regulated but in both cases the regulations tend to focus on industrial and militaristic means and social control ends.  However if you look at the ‘Democracy vs Communistic/Fascist’ it tends to show a huge spread, with distributed and relatively low levels of regulation in the Democracies and very highly concentrated and high levels of regulation in the Communist/Fascist states.

Concomitantly the D vs C/F spread on the sovereignty axis shows a wide spread and in my opinion shows a pretty concentrated blob for the C/F group well towards the single sovereign and the D’s a broad spread towards the all sovereign limit (though none get close to the limit)

And the D vs C/F on the ownership axis again shows (in my mind) the C/F’s practically as a spread towards to state ownership side and the D’s a spread towards individual ownership with the D’s getting closer to their limit than the C/F’s to theirs.

So I wandered far from my start point ehe?  No, because if you look at that graph I have tried to form in your head you should see that our Democratic and Republican politicians are in all practical senses identical to each other.  They are for sovereignty of the people, personal ownership of property and moderate levels of regulation all within bounds that most of us would find reasonable, if not totally laudatory.

As much as some ‘Con’ Pundits accuse the Pro Elite of despising America and ‘Pro’ Pundits accuse Con Elites of anti democratic tendencies, both sides almost to a man and woman love the United States of America and its People, in aggregate, if not in personal detail.  Both sides recognize many of the same national failings, but attribute them to different causes, and often times assigning them different levels of importance.  But we by and large live with in the same social memes and can Trust each other on a personal basis (fair dealing on a bet, honesty in word and deed, etc) even when we don’t necessarily agree or even trust them regarding political issues.  As long as this social cohesion can remain to under-gird our political disarray.  In fact I think we are just seeing the chaotic workings of a ‘society and polity’ that while vastly different in detail from what the founders would have recognized, is well within the bounds of what they could have hoped for given that most of what we experience day to day is utterly at odds with their day to day experience.

So, in closing:     As a Naturalized Citizen of the United States I bid all that have always been, those who have become, those who want to become and those who have simply served the greater dreams of our great experiment, have a Joyous as well as Thoughtful, 4th of July.

Best Regards

M.A.Harris

More Blue model Blue Growth

Saw an op-ed in the Indy Star that started out asking what Romney would say to a police group about explaining why we don’t need more police on the beat.

Juxtaposed with an article elsewhere pointing out that violent crime is at a 40 year low after a significant reduction for the last however many years and that even none violent crime is decreasing.  And this during a recession!

An argument can be made that this is because there are more police and more prison cells than ever before.  Or it could be because police patrolling practices with focus on trouble spots and keeping feet on the street are inherently more effective than the blanket patrol car and large precinct office staff model that preceded it.

However given that most police forces are unreconstructed and there are vast opportunities for more effective use of the people on hand, the need for more police is to me; at least unclear and possibly even preposterous.  As WRMead at ViaMeadia might say this is just more Blue model thinking, pressing for more Blue model growth.

Given that historically locking thugs up just opened niche for other predators to move in, it’s more likely that video games are absorbing a lot of youth time that used to be spent getting into trouble.  And its harder to make crime pay these days unless you have to be savvy, connected and have the gear to do it right or you get no payday.  And with the prevalence of violence in the criminal strata, it seems to me that the number of fools willing to take up the life has to be somewhat limited.

The biggest concern that I have is that a permanent criminal culture could develop, one that is all but self-sustaining, like the preceding and overlapping welfare culture.  This culture is so isolated from the larger american society that its members do not see themselves as having an interest in or path into the society at large because its alien and in some senses very cold and unfeeling.  In the criminal culture life may be ugly and short but it may also be very much focused on immediate gratification and the id of the young men who are its principal actors.

 

Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt

Winston Churchill:

 Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

Theodore Roosevelt:

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Go have a look at other interesting quotes: BrainyQuote

Two men, great men many will say, and with great flaws.  But were those flaws…Bugs or just Features…in the time and society they existed in?

Looking backwards without the right perspective can distort more than it can clarify.  Just like the too common view today that Christians have been crushing the poor Muslims ever since the Crusades.  When in fact the Crusades were a rather haphazard and ultimately futile attempt to defend the Christian majority who had lived in the middle east since Roman times. Christians who were being conquered and subjugated by the (at the time) newly minted religion of Islam and the expanding empire it formed the basis of.  It was Christian Europe (with all its faults) and probably modern civilization that was under threat, not the Moslems.

Historical Perspective and Narrative

20120221-220832.jpg

Walter Russell Mead’s blog serial Beyond Blue, currently at #5, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs (from which the pictures in this piece come) is a fascinating monograph putting the changes our society/economy is going through into perspective. Dr. Mead’s explanation goes back to the 19th century:

In the 19th century, government promoted the rise of the family farm, selling cheaply and ultimately giving away millions of acres of farmland, and promoting the rise of railroads (which could carry the produce of western farms to world markets). In the 20th century the government promoted the rise of large, stable corporate employers that offered armies of white and blue collar employees lifetime employment and a bevy of benefits.

And later this:

Currently, the American legal and regulatory system is set up to bind as many people to employers as possible. The government wants you to be a wage slave and sets up a regulatory framework that keeps as many of us as possible yoked to bosses and management. The IRS doesn’t like the self-employed, fearing they many conceal income. Banks and credit card companies view such people with suspicion, and it is notoriously difficult for start ups and part time enterprises to have access to formal finance. Many services are hard for the self-employed to get on terms like those made available to employees of large corporations: from health insurance to retirement planning, many things are harder and more expensive for the self-employed. The payroll tax system is brutal: the self-employed pay both the employer and employee halves of Social Security and Medicare taxes, almost 20 percent of income and likely to go higher. Many cities will tack on unincorporated business taxes, mass transit taxes, and other interesting feudal exactions and dues.

The gov’t used(s) the current ‘Blue Model’ in some senses as a social damping mechanism because it provides for a more hierarchical top down command system (of interest in the Cold War climate of the 50’s to80’s) while also providing a relatively efficient economy and outlets for frustration from the masses. This model has worked since the collapse of the 19th century model….the great depression…but itself is now becoming unstable/unaffordable in its turn because it requires too much command and control.

Too much how? Well now that a high percentage (all high value) workers have been amplified by basic literacy, information systems and other technology, they are capable of much more than the drudge work they used to perform at the command of a ‘supervisor’ and demand / need more autonomy. Many organizations accommodate and move on and up. Others keep the older structure or some bastardized version and sink into the muck. Companies that almost have to operate in the old mode because they deliver one sort of highly regulated good or another, get radically more expensive compared to near peers operating outside the penumbra of regulation and lose relevance and competitiveness at a steadily increasing speed. Look at the post office, once the epitome of efficiency.

George Washington, A Human for the Ages

George Washington Circa 1782

Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Rules of Behavior

A man’s intentions should be allowed in some respects to plead for his actions.

 WASHINGTON, letter to the Speaker of the House of Burgesses, Dec 1756

There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Mrs. George William Fairfax, Sep. 12, 1758

I shall not be deprived … of a comfort in the worst event, if I retain a consciousness of having acted to the best of my judgment.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Colonel Bassett, Jun. 19, 1775

It is with pleasure I receive reproof, when reproof is due, because no person can be readier to accuse me, than I am to acknowledge an error, when I am guilty of one; nor more desirous of atoning for a crime, when I am sensible of having committed it.

GEORGE WASHINGTON, letter to Governor Dinwiddie, Aug. 27, 1757

Some quotes to think about in these days of chaos that are also potent with opportunities for renewal and change, they are words of a human as true today as then.  The man who spoke or wrote them would not recognize the world of  today.   Those living today might have the same trouble with the world twenty years hence,  but the quotes will be as true then as they are now and were in the eighteenth century.