Sunday, August 30, 2009

Church and State Part 2

In Part One of this series I said that marriage is a religious institution. There are many who believe marriage is a civil institution but that perception was formed on the pillars of the meddling of civil laws in the marriage institution.

One wouldn’t have to look too far to confirm that marriage was already a religious institution back in the days of Moses, long before anybody doubted its origins and long before any civil magistrate had the authority to allow or disallow marriage, prescribe benefits and regulate contracts based on a couple’s marital status.

The common perception of “the wall of separation between church and state” is that it is used to prevent religion from encroaching onto secular society. The opposite is rather the case. More often than not, civil initiatives meddle in the affairs of the religious trying to subvert it, as I shall show.

James Madison referred to the separation between church and state as the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. In the same spirit I’ll refer to the two sides of the argument as the Religious Kingdom and the Civil Kingdom.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization founded in 1947. They claim to have Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and people with no religious affiliation as members, including Democrats, Republicans and independents. Let’s assume their claim of members from a broad spectrum of beliefs is true.

Reading through AU’s historical record one finds that they were initially mostly correct in their defense of the First Amendment, especially efforts to introduce theology into public schools. Losing these cases earned religious groups the unfortunate, non descriptive pejorative of “Religious Right,” a term that Jerry Falwell himself used to describe his Moral Majority at its dissolution in 1989 in Las Vegas. He didn’t realize, foolishly I might add, that the term Religious Right was already firmly ensconced in the minds of the people as a kook-fringed fanatical organization. It was brought about entirely because of Messrs. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others’ poor judgment and failure to recognize the futile legal position they were advocating. “Religious Right” became a label under which religious groups unfairly suffer today not having a rational response – aimlessly trying to defend or explain it, without success.

What did Jerry Falwell do wrong in the 1970’s and 80’s? What did Pat Robertson do wrong in the 1990’s?

For starters, they wanted to introduce doctrines belonging to the Religious Kingdom into establishments belonging to the Civil Kingdom, a blatant violation of the First Amendment. The courts couldn’t have sided with any of these initiatives and be faithful to the law regardless of the judges' personal beliefs. Pursuing these initiatives without due regard to the legal principles governing reality not only made a mockery of honest Christian initiatives but allowed religion’s enemies to define and demonize it.

Had these gentlemen sat down and realistically analyzed their position, the course to pursue to succeed, the outcomes may have been very different. Many families destroyed and generations lost could have been saved making wasted talents available for liberty and prosperity. It appears, judging from the advantage of distance in time, as if their morally acceptable goals were doomed to fail from the outset because of rather silly and perhaps self-serving strategies.

If the Civil Kingdom’s intruders had not scaled the “wall” and invaded one of the Religious Kingdom’s domains – the education of its children – and had the Religious Kingdom’s gatekeepers not fallen for the bribe of “free” public education, the problem Messrs. Falwell and Robertson tried to rectify would never have occurred in the first place. “Free” education wasn’t free at all. The cost of the ignorance and misery which that invasion brought about is incalculable.

In my next post I will look a bit more at the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Church and State Part 1

There is enough confusion to last us a lifetime when we start discussing or deciphering this concept. Without proper citation no justice can be done to a study of the separation of church and state, either. And since that is so, I’d like to state only a few points here, which, hopefully, would provide some food for thought. Many resources are available on the Internet and elsewhere if one would like to self-study the matter.

The obvious place to start would be the wording of the Constitution or more precisely, the First Amendment. This Amendment has two basic concepts, which are called the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Let’s look at how it’s phrased:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson was the first to refer to this clause as “a wall of separation between church and state” when he wrote to a group called the Danbury Baptists. As one studies the relationship between church and state in history, one sees a common thread in the argument for a state religion as well as the one against it: the church side is referred to as the spiritual or sacred side while the state side is referred to as the secular or civil side.

Why is this of any importance? In my view both the opponents and proponents recognized that the state shouldn’t be in the soul-saving business prescribing how, who or where people should worship. Similarly, the church should not be the civil administrator of the people, making and enforcing laws that regulate civil society. The relationship between these two concepts, the civil and the religious, have been referred to in history as the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, first articulated by Martin Luther and later adopted by James Madison.

So, if a perfect application of this “wall” has been established, say, then nobody should be concerned or threatened by people praying or expressing their faith in public, neither should the government prescribe to parents how they should raise or educate their children. There should also be no concern when people express their absence of faith in anything, or how they raise and educate their children. Regardless of one's religious belief or absence thereof, the civil laws are instituted to maintain outward order and peace, making everybody subject to the civil law.

Why, then, would one ask, is prayer, for instance, prohibited in schools by citing the First Amendment? Because the people, who were supposed to protect the First Amendment, failed their duty in keeping the government out of the education of our children. Once we mandated that the civil government would be the Pater of our children’s education we foolishly demanded that the civil magistrate should also be a person of religion, violating the First Amendment.

Similarly, churches are dependent upon 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status here in the U.S., thereby avoiding having to pay taxes on tithes and other gifts the churches receive to run their operations. Both a tax-exempt and a tax are yokes on churches principally violating the First Amendment. In some cases this exposes them to reprimand and punishment from the government if they should preach certain “unacceptable” doctrines from the pulpit, which could be defined in legislation putting them at risk of violating the civil law.

In the same manner government was allowed to differentiate between married people and unmarried people by providing married couples with tax incentives and certain contractual benefits over their unmarried counterparts – another violation of the First Amendment. Marriage is a religious institution, which became dependent upon the civil magistrate’s licensing and approval and for favors and incentives. A violation of the First Amendment.

Many other violations of the First Amendment have been introduced into our society and the keepers of the gates were asleep at their posts when one would have expected them to remain loyal to the simple language of the Constitution. Were they duped by the benefits such legislation bring to their religion causing a blind spot over the admonition of the Constitution against it?

Perhaps one shouldn’t be too hard on them for not grasping the unintended consequences of seemingly innocent legislation, but it is never too late to petition and succeed at the reversal of these atrocities against the Constitution. It is also never too late to learn from their mistakes by reading into the simple language of the Constitution things that are not there. Those gate-keepers should be removed from their posts lest they, too, would impose unintended consequences on our posterity. "Unintended" is not an excuse any longer.

Religion or the absence thereof is an unalienable right of each individual and no coercion by incentive or threat of punishment should be tolerated from the other Kingdom. Ever.

To be continued.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thanks Mom

The following article was published in the Afrikaans magazine Die Sarie in South Africa written by Marisa Haasbroek.
I translated it as best I could.

“You cannot wear a T-shirt to your graduation,” I complained.
Eric pulls his robe closer to try to hide the T-shirt but I can see there is no shirt collar.

“And on how many graduation ceremonies were you, mom?”

That was a low blow; he knows how I am troubled by having a less than adequate education.

When Eric turned fourteen his dad decided to trade me in for a younger model, one without stretch marks. When I called him to know if he would attend the graduation ceremony, he barked, “I have another commitment.” I didn’t really want to invite him; it’s not as if he contributed a penny to Eric’s education.

When Eric turned fourteen, he started listening to that kind of music: no real tune with a repetitive boom-boom-boom. Sometimes I regretted having not given his dad the HiFi, too.

“Are you done?” I ask. “The ceremony starts in an hour and we still have to find parking.”

“Relax, I am going to have breakfast first.”

“No, you will ruin your clothes. Drink coffee and eat a biscuit instead.”

In his fourteenth year he got some new friends. Guys with long hair who never look you in the eye, always wearing black. Why are these teens grieving all the time? About their own or their parents’ lost lives?

All his friends have richer parents than I and when he said he would also like to go to university I was scared. Eric studied as CPA. One thing is certain, he got his head for numbers from me. Of the clerks at the office I am the most accurate.

To earn extra money I started baking and selling to a local home industry outlet. Every night till two in the morning. Eric got a job as a waiter. Between the two of us we managed to scrape through paying for his tuition.

We fought about everything. Girls, because he didn’t study more, he didn’t want to go to church, his earrings, the tattoo he wanted to put on his arm – an idea he abandoned when I threw a fit.

Just as we are fighting today.

“Don’t overdress, Ma. The people will think we aren’t used to anything. Do you have to wear that pink outfit? It makes your cheeks look reddish.”

“I still say you shouldn’t wear a T-shirt under your robe.”

“Sharrup, Ma,” he retorts.

We fight over who should drive. He wins. We fight over the route he takes and because he drives too close to the cars in front.

When we walked into the great gray building I noticed the other students with their robes and white collars.

“See, all the other students have shirts with collars.”

Because I am alone getting a seat was no problem; there are always ample seats for single people scattered all over the place. Organ music plays – softly as in the church.

I look for Eric’s name on the program and find him between the other Groves. I look for him among the rows and rows of students and see him from behind because he looks just like his dad. I swallow hard on the lump in my throat.

Everyone rises when a long line of professors walk from the back of the hall to the front. Only two continue on to the stage. The students string like a long line of ants through a side door, walking one by one onto the stage as their names are called, first stopping at the official photographer.

Every one gets a roll of paper.

There are many students that receive the B. Com degree and when the professor announced “cum laude” the audience claps a bit louder.

When the G’s started my stomach turned. What if Eric trips or something.

“Eric Grove!” announces the professor.

Eric waits for the photographer to finish and then walked to receive his degree. Instead of walking to the professor, he walked to the middle of the stage and ripped open his robe.

The audience audibly draws their breaths.

Then they started applauding, first only a few and then a roar as they all stood up. Even the professors applauded.

I remain seated.

I bit my lip but I cannot stop the tears.


was painted in large, black letters on his T-Shirt.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The things we know

I haven’t written to my blog in a couple of days due to work pressure. My mother would say, that’s good, be thankful, you have work that pressures you.

I suppose she is right. In my mind I cannot help playing games having enough money to pursue the things that I want to. But, unfortunately, human nature being what it is, I know that I would pursue very different things when there is no driving need to work. That’s where my mother’s admonition would have gravitas.

So, I sat myself down this afternoon and decided to write about things real and what I should accept rather than dream about. And then, get back to the salt mines because with the economy the way it is, I cannot afford to lose a single customer, lousy or not.

It’s about that time during the debate, which was raging in my head, that I considered what it is that we claim to know. How do we really know things?

Considered critically for a moment, I don’t even know that my mom and dad are really my parents. What I mean is I don’t know that at the same level that I know I am writing this here and now. My knowledge, who my parents are, has to be derived from other sources, which testify to me that the people who headed up our household since I can remember are indeed my parents. There are my older brothers, extended family, familiar resemblances with other family, which is genetic, and, of course, behavioral traits that are dead giveaways who my ancestors are. But still, I have to consume all this data supporting the fact that my parents are the ones who gave me life and whose genes I carry before I can claim that I know that.

Of course, unavoidably, my thoughts also wandered to other things that I don’t know for sure but have to rely on accessory evidence testifying that they are true. I concluded that I really know very little and the vast majority of what I know was made up of judgments that I made. I can, following this path of reasoning, only truly know those things with which I have been personally involved; all others are judgments that I made to fill in the mosaic of my knowledge.

One can go on and on citing many examples, but some things are more demanding to be considered in the light of this than others at this time in our political climate. One of those things is the current healthcare debate and specifically the question whether there would be “death panels” who would decide whether certain people would be best left to die than given medical care. Nobody can quote anywhere in the healthcare bill a reference to such a panel, so some say it’s nonsense to claim it’s there. Others say it’s in there. I cannot claim to know either; I have to make a judgment based on the preponderance of the evidence.

If another 47 million (let’s just use that number as given) people are going to be added to the healthcare system without an increase in service ability or patient throughput, if you will, common sense teaches that the first thing that will happen is that quality will be short-circuited to increase the number of patients that can be processed.

Another piece of evidence that needs factoring is the promise that costs will be reduced. Okay, if we increase the load but force the cost downwards to process that load, where is the pressure going to go? Doesn’t common sense teach that if you increase the volume of production or processing, that costs will go up accordingly? Even your local school kids’ lemonade stand will testify to that fact.

So, from where will the reduction in costs be funded? It has to come from somewhere. And here is where we have to make a judgment, because we don’t know. Fortunately, most adults have experienced a situation where one has to forego the pleasure of having something due to the constraints imposed upon it, such as a limited budget, limited skills, or limited time.

Thinking… Hmmm. What would a healthcare system forego due to limited resources? Quality of care? Yup. That’ll go because what the system needed to do in 30 minutes must now be completed in 20, say.

Anything else? What about rationing of care? If we consider that 25% of medical care goes to folks above 50 years of age and the percentage increases as they get older, it seems as if the talk of “bang for the healthcare buck” begins to formulate my judgment on this.

If human beings can be considered as machinery for the sake of the argument, it would make good sense to retire a piece of equipment when its maintenance costs are becoming equal to the replacement cost of a new piece of equipment. But, our old folks are people, not objects or machinery, who have constitutional rights equaling that of people at any other age; they have a right to life without compromise from anybody.

So, even though the words “death panel,” or its formulation appear nowhere in the health bill, one can easily know that it’s in there by the judgments we make based on the evidence given by the authors and proponents of the bill.

And mother's common sense.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A bit of humor

What'll we do without a bit of Humor.

A U.S. Marine squad was marching north of Fallujah when they came upon an Iraqi terrorist, badly injured and unconscious.

On the opposite side of the road was an American Marine in a similar but less serious state. The Marine was conscious and alert, and as first aid was given to both men the squad leader asked the injured Marine what had happened.

The Marine reported, "I was heavily armed and moving north along the highway, and coming south was a heavily armed insurgent. We saw each other and both took cover in the ditches along the road.

I yelled to him that Saddam Hussein was a miserable, lowlife scum bag who got what he deserved, and he yelled back that Ted Kennedy is a fat, good-for-nothing, left wing liberal drunk who doesn't know how to drive.

So I said that Osama Bin Laden dresses and acts like a mean-spirited hooker!

He retaliated by yelling, "Oh yeah? Well, so does Nancy Pelosi!"

"And, there we were, in the middle of the road, shaking hands, when a truck hit us."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Extreme Golf

Extreme Golf: Million Dollar Par 3

The Extreme 19th hole on Hanglip Mountain at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort in South Africa.

Above: leading golfers Sergio Garcia, in the red shirt, on the tee and below, Retief Goosen lines up his shot.

Forget pitch and putt - this tee-off point on top of a 430m mountain in South Africa is the hardest golf shot in the world, and more than $US1 million awaits the player who can score a hole in one.

Players must take a helicopter to the top to play the longest - and highest - par three on the planet. Taking the shot also requires courage - a player needs to teeter terrifyingly close to the edge of the mammoth hillside. Indeed, the Extreme 19th Hole is so high the ball takes almost 30 seconds to reach the ground.

See a short video of golfers attempting the 19th hole.

Channel Nine cricket commentator Mark Nicholas recently joined an elite list to have the shot in just three swings. "It was awesome, riveting and phenomenal," he said. "It's like the end of the world when you get up there and it's an awful lot of fun. "It's such an adrenalin rush taking the helicopter up and then rushing back down."

The hole is based at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort, within the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in South Africa 's north-eastern Limpopo Province . The other 18 holes were designed by world golfing legends including Trevor Immelman, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Australia 's Robert Allenby.

A round of golf - including a buggy and lunch - will set you back R450 ($60. USD). The Extreme 19th costs is R6700 ($850. USD) per four ball, that includes helicopter ride, souvenir cap and glove and a DVD of you playing the hole.

So far, no one has even come close pocketing the million-dollar prize, but Harrington became the first golfer to conquer the hole within par. Harrington said: "This is the type of innovation and excitement we need to get more people playing golf. "There aren't many new innovative ways to play the game but this is certainly one of the best. "I think this hole is awesome - I love the whole experience, the helicopter, the views, the drama and having the green the shape of Africa . "And now I've got bragging rights over all the other professionals who have played this and not managed to make a three. I love everything about it."

Ok, folks, see you there to pick up your million bucks.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Liberal Activism

It is not often that someone’s haughtiness overwhelms him to the extent that he would admit on national television of past misdeeds – criminal, perhaps.

As campaign manager for Walter Mondale’s presidential run in 1984, Bob Beckel (Wikipedia) admitted that he infiltrated town hall meetings with planted liberals to disrupt conservatives’ meetings or to swing the opinion of the meeting. That may be politics as usual for some, but for me it’s loathsome behavior indicative of an amoral character of the highest order. Admitting it with a smirk as if it's something everybody does should be shunned by all Americans, regardless from which quarter of the political arena it comes.

Here is the video clip.

Bob’s admission is clearly not aimed at redeeming his previous behavior; he is trying to cast the legitimate gathering of people to express their anger at their political leaders as a revelation that these people are guilty of equally loathsome tactics.

Bob, not everybody practices what you preach. Moreover, you didn’t follow someone else’s lead in this either, you say. You claim to be the inventor of this underhanded method of intimidating voters and falsely influencing political opinion.

I hope that there is an outcry against you and your cohorts who have demonstrated that you have no real concern for America, her people, her Constitution and laws. Basically, no morals, Bob; at least not what this country could count on.

One thing is certain; no town hall meeting organized by liberals can ever be above suspicion again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We, the prophets

I gave an award-winning speech to a Toastmasters Club on Tuesday, which I’d like to share with you.

What is the general image one conjures up in one’s mind when one hears the word “prophet?” Isn’t it an image of someone who can foretell the future? Someone who has knowledge of the future? Yes, it is.

Wouldn’t it be something to have someone who can accurately foretell what it would be like next month or next year? But, I don’t need a month or a year; I need only 10 seconds. Ten seconds! With knowledge of the next 10 seconds I will be able to clear out any casino that I can lay my hands on.

But, it doesn’t work that way. I want to tell you a few stories.

Hypothetically, if I want to right a wrong and do it in court on my own, I would read up on the law, read other cases that are similar to mine and make sure that my speech to the judge would be well rehearsed, right? Let’s assume that I casually mention that to a lawyer friend who listens to what I want to do and says, “You’ll lose.” So, I went to court and lost. I asked my friend, “How did you know?”

Let’s say you see a child play with matches and you say, “Put down those matches, you’ll get burnt.” The child continues to play with the matches and soon enough he got burnt. He asks you, “How did you know?”

My daughter is a Cordon Blue pastry chef and when I try to mock up something in the kitchen, she is quick to tell me that I can’t do this or that. “Why not?” I’d ask. “Because it will taste like leather.” I continue, not heeding her warning, and my creation tastes like leather. I ask her, “How did you know?”

What is the major difference between our general perception of a prophet and the stories that I just told you? The cause and effect have been switched around. Our general perception of a prophet is that knowledge lies in the future and prophecy is in the present. Reality tells us that knowledge lies in the here and now and prophecy lies in the future.

In these stories my lawyer friend prophesied when he said that I’ll lose my case. You prophesied to the child about getting hurt. My daughter prophesied to me that my cooking efforts would fail. Or, to put it in the language of our contemporary perception of prophets, they all foretold the future, which they couldn’t have done unless they had intimate knowledge of the subject matter.

In the case of my lawyer friend, there were two conflicting prophecies, right? I mean I also made a prophecy, that I would win. So confident was I about my foretelling that I invested a lot of time and effort in the initiative. My friend had a much higher level of knowledge and could instantly render a much more accurate prophecy than I could.

What does this mean? It means that the more knowledge we have about something in the present, the future about that something will unfold accordingly.

If you flew to New York from Los Angeles, the captain usually announces over the intercom, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard our flight to New York. We are climbing to 35,000 feet, our cruising altitude, and our flight time would be five hours and 50 minutes.” What did the captain do here? He prophesied, foretold the future, based upon his experience and knowledge. Or, his wisdom.

I want to inspire you today to rather expand your knowledge and apply it productively to unfold the future than looking for some mystical revelation.

We, the prophets, are the people who make things happen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

NBC wants harm to come to Obama?

Here is a news network, NBC, which shamelessly propagates the lies of Frank Schaeffer about events in our country today and thereby putting our elected officials at risk.

Here is the video clip:

There is a good reason, Frank, why people are angry. Their elected officials are trying to convince them that a bill that they haven’t even cared to read is a good thing. People didn’t elect aides and lawyers as their representatives, Frank. They elected the official in that office. The least elected officials can do is become familiar with the bills they vote on. They get to town hall meetings and give their constituents information that they know is false. Why would they do that, Frank? And why would you perpetuate the fraud, Frank?

What are the people supposed to do in the face of such indignant insults? There is no debate when the professors of the doctrine (of health care) represent a false perspective of the bill. How can there be? Surely, the doctrine must be understood factually before a debate is possible. It appears as if the facts of the bill are better known to the constituents than the elected officials, which kind of took them by surprise. What an insult.

Frank equates the killing of three policemen in Pittsburg, Dr. Tiller, and other assassinations with right-wing conspiracies, or, as he put it, code language for murder. The three policemen in Pittsburg were gunned down by a criminal, Richard Poplawski, Frank. Dr. Tiller was shot by a crazed man who didn’t know squat about Christianity and the fact that he shot Dr. Tiller in a church doesn’t mean he was a Christian, Frank. A person of right-wing conviction he definitely was not. Conservatives respect life and liberty. History teaches us that bigotry and slave ownership is in the play-book of liberals not conservatives and they haven't given up on that even today. So, your integrity is in serious question, Frank.

But, apparently, being angry at people who are supposed to act in the best interests of their constituents is code-speak for Richard Poplawski, Scott Roeder, Lee Harvey Oswald, and others to go out and kill people. Or, as you put it, Frank, the code-speak is like leaving a loaded gun and anyone who picks it up, that’s good for us. You self aggrandizing opportunist.

Here is Rachel Maddow's interview with Frank: Frank Schaeffer

To all my readers I say this: There can be no benefit in the slaying of anyone. It is a crime that cannot be justified; it always creates more problems than it solves and it is forbidden in the Christian doctrine, ergo, God forbids it and to link so-called "right-wing" extremists to Christianity is blantantly dishonest. Inciting violence by inference is also against the law, Frank.

The anger that people display now has everything to do with the fraud that is about to be perpetrated against them. The notion that it’s code-speak for violence against the president is an insidious tactical maneuver that was clearly initiated by the liberal clan propagated by NBC, as can be seen here.

I wonder why they would start such rumors?

Shuttling the Shuttle

Forwarded by Tyler Hall. Thanks Tyler.

Comments on carrying the shuttle by Triple Nickel, NASA Pilot.

This was circulated in email at work, from United Technologies corporate. A quick "trip report" from the pilot of the 747 that flew the shuttle back to Florida after the Hubble repair flight.

A humorous and interesting inside look at what it's like to fly two aircraft at once . . .

(I have decided to adopt one of "Triple Nickel's" phrases : "That was too close for MY laundry!")

Well, it's been 48 hours since I landed the 747 with the shuttle Atlantis on top and I am still buzzing from the experience. I have to say that my whole mind, body and soul went into the professional mode just before engine start in Mississippi, and stayed there, where it all needed to be, until well after the fact, I am not sure if it is all back to normal as I type this email. The experience was surreal. Seeing that "thing" on top of an already overly huge aircraft boggles my mind. The whole mission from takeoff to engine shutdown was unlike anything I had ever done. It was like a dream...someone else's dream.

We took off from Columbus AFB on their 12,000 foot runway, of which I used 11,999 1/2feet to get the wheels off the ground. We were at 3,500 feet left to go off the runway, throttles full power, nose wheels still hugging the ground, copilot calling out decision speeds, the weight of Atlantis now screaming through my fingers clinched tightly on the controls, tires heating up to their near maximum temperature from the speed and the weight, and not yet at rotation speed, the speed at which I would be pulling on the controls to get the nose to rise.

I just could not wait, and I mean I COULD NOT WAIT, and started pulling early. If I had waited until rotation speed, we would not have rotated enough to get airborne by the end of the runway. So I pulled on the controls early and started our rotation to the takeoff attitude. The wheels finally lifted off as we passed over the stripe marking the end of the runway and my next hurdle (physically) was a line of trees 1,000 feet off the departure end of Runway 16. All I knew was we were flying and so I directed the gear to be retracted and the flaps to be moved from Flaps 20 to Flaps 10 as I pulled even harder on the controls. I must say, those trees were beginning to look a lot like those brushes in the drive through car washes so I pulled even harder yet!

I think I saw a bird just fold its wings and fall out of a tree as if to say "Oh just take me". Okay, we cleared the trees, duh, but it was way too close for my laundry. As we started to actually climb, at only 100 feet per minute, I smelled something that reminded me of touring the Heineken Brewery in Europe...I said "is that a skunk I smell?" and the veterans of shuttle carrying looked at me and smiled and said "Tires"!

I said "TIRES??? OURS???" They smiled and shook their heads as if to call their Captain an amateur....okay, at that point I was . The tires were so hot you could smell them in the cockpit. My mind could not get over, from this point on, that this was something I had never experienced. Where's your mom when you REALLY need her?

The flight down to Florida was an eternity. We cruised at 250 knots indicated, giving us about 315 knots of ground speed at 15,000'. The miles didn't click by like I am use to them clicking by in a fighter jet at MACH ....94. We were burning fuel at a rate of 40,000 pounds per hour or 130 pounds per mile, or one gallon every length of the Fuselage.

The vibration in the cockpit was mild, compared to down below and to the rear of the fuselage where it reminded me of that football game I had as a child where you turned it on and the players Vibrated around the board. I felt like if I had plastic clips on my boots I could have vibrated to any spot in the fuselage I wanted to go without moving my legs...and the noise was deafening.

The 747 flies with its nose 5 degrees up in the air to stay level, and when you bank, it feels like the shuttle is trying to say "hey, let's roll completely over on our back"..not a good thing I kept telling myself. SO I limited my bank angle to 15 degrees and even though a 180 degree course change took a full zip code to complete, it was the safe way to turn this monster.

Airliners and even a flight of two F-16s deviated from their flight plans to catch a glimpse of us along the way. We dodged what was in reality very few clouds and storms, despite what everyone thought, and arrived in Florida with 51,000 pounds of fuel too much to land with. We can't land heavier than 600,000 pounds total weight and so we had to do something with that fuel. I had an idea...let's fly low and slow and show this beast off to all the taxpayers in Florida lucky enough to be outside on that Tuesday afternoon.

So at Ormond Beach we let down to 1,000 feet above the ground/water and flew just east of the beach out over the water. Then, once we reached the NASA airspace of the Kennedy Space Center, we cut over to the Banana/Indian Rivers and flew down the middle of them to show the people of Titusville, Port St.Johns and Melbourne just what a 747 with a shuttle on it looked like.

We stayed at 1,000 feet and since we were dragging our flaps at "Flaps 5", our speed was down to around 190 to 210 knots. We could see traffic stopping in the middle of roads to take a look. We heard later that a Little League Baseball game stop to look and everyone cheered as we became their 7th inning stretch. Oh, say can you see...

After reaching Vero Beach, we turned north to follow the coast line back up to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). There was not one person laying on the beach...they were all standing and waving! "What a sight" I thought...and figured they were thinking the same thing.

All this time I was bugging the engineers, all three of them, to re-compute our fuel and tell me when it was time to land. They kept saying "Not yet Triple, keep showing this thing off" which was not a bad thing to be doing.. However, all this time the thought that the landing, the muscling of this 600,000 pound beast, was getting closer and closer to my reality. I was pumped up! We got back to the SLF and were still 10,000 pounds too heavy to land so I said I was going to do a low approach over the SLF going the opposite direction of landing traffic that day. So at 300 feet, we flew down the runway, rocking our wings like a whale rolling on its side to say "hello" to the people looking on! One turn out of traffic and back to the runway to land...still 3,000 pounds over gross weight limit. But the engineers agreed that if the landing were smooth, there would be no problem.

"Oh thanks guys, a little extra pressure is just what I needed!" So we landed at 603,000 pounds and very smoothly if I have to say so myself. The landing was so totally controlled and on speed, that it was fun. There were a few surprises that I dealt with, like the 747 falls like a rock with the orbiter on it if you pull the throttles off at the "normal" point in a landing and secondly, if you thought you could hold the nose off the ground after the mains touchdown, think again...IT IS COMING DOWN!!! So I "flew it down" to the ground and saved what I have seen in videos of a nose slap after landing. Bob's video supports this! :8-)

Then I turned on my phone after coming to a full stop only to find 50 bazillion emails and phone messages from all of you who were so super to be watching and cheering us on! What a treat, I can't thank y'all enough. For those who watched, you wondered why we sat there so long. Well, the shuttle had very hazardous chemicals on board and we had to be "sniffed" to determine if any had leaked or were leaking. They checked for Monomethylhydrazine (N2H4 for Charlie Hudson) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). Even though we were "clean", it took way too long for them to tow us in to the mate-demate area. Sorry for those who stuck it out and even waited until we exited the jet.

I am sure I will wake up in the middle of the night here soon, screaming and standing straight up dripping wet with sweat from the realization of what had happened. It was a thrill of a lifetime. Again I want to thank everyone for your interest and support. It felt good to bring Atlantis home in one piece after she had worked so hard getting to the Hubble Space Telescope and back.

Triple Nickel
NASA Pilot

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Space Video

I watched a lot of NASA's video feed from Space Shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station last week and edited some of the feed into a short video.

I am a fool for speed, power, energy, altitude, and a vista of creation.

I am in awe of the contemporary language using words like space, orbit, space station, return to earth, and so on. When we grew up those were just fantasies and science fiction. Now, it's real.


(If you cannot view it here, watch it on Youtube: Earth Video)

Mid-Air collusion

I am watching the constant news feed on the mid-air collusion over the Hudson River in which 9 people died today. It's been nearly eight hours already and it's still wall-to-wall news cover.

It is a sad that it happened and it would be irresponsible to try and lay blame for the accident before all the facts are known.

What I want to rant about today is the level of coverage that we see for an accident of this magnitude; a national disaster it is definitely not. I mean, take the case of the 36-year old woman, Diane Schuler, who killed as many people when she drove on the wrong side of the free-way and hit an innocent on-coming car while stoned and hopelessly drunk. There was news cover at the time and the regular news analysis later, but wall-to-wall, 911-type cover there was not and correctly so.

But, why the hysteria and the repetitive, empty words of anchors to keep the clock ticking, dragging witness after witness and telephone interview with any Joe Soap and his room mate who happened to be in Manhattan today on the air?

I wonder what their motives are.

Just asking.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Well, Folks, I just got back from having surgery. It was nothing serious (provided you catch it early like I did) and was completed in the doctor's office. I developed a Basal Cell Carcinoma right in the middle of my forehead and it was removed by Moh's procedure. It should have lasted all day as they cut, analyze and cut again until all cancer has been removed. Only two cycles were necessary to get it all. So, I was out early.

That's one part of my story. The other part is the conversation I had with the doctor when he was done. "You want me to close up the hole or let it heal by itself?" he asked.

"You decide," I responded.

"No, it's your choice. Here are the ups and downs. If you let it heal by itself, it could take several weeks to heal completely and it could leave a scar, smaller than the size of the hole but larger than if we should close it up. Closing it up could take about 10 days to heal with a very small line-scar. You pick."

"How much is it going to cost me to have you close it up?" I asked, because, as you know, I pay cash. (The doctor also knew and we pretty much fixed the price before I showed up.)

"Oh, I see there's more work on your face later, so I'll close it up for you at no cost. And, I'll cut you a break on the price because we caught all of it pretty quickly."

"OK," I said in the face of such a good offer. "Close the sucker up, Doc."

He spent about 35 minutes doing some fancy suturing and I was out to pay the girl up front. She showed me the cost-worksheet and this is how it went down:

Closing of the wound:$750.00 (No Charge)
Discount on surgery:$250.00-
Total due:$1,000.00

So, a $2,250 bill became $1,000. She said I am good to go; they will send me a bill. My first thought was, that's unfair because I have nothing that the doctor can repossess should I not pay. Is he going to put my carcinoma back? Then, she added, unless you want to make a partial payment today...

She made me proud. Good girl. That's how capitalism is supposed to work. It's not cold-hearted and one-sided. It's compassionate and honest. Ask for money if you are owed any. Don't offer to send a bill if you are not prepared to wait for your money.

For the cash-for-medical-service to work it is crucial that the doctor take cash in that day, otherwise it becomes nothing but a pay-later medical scheme. (I almost wrote 'scam'). So, I offered to partial-pay $500 on the spot.

Since the money is in the bank, I'll pay the bill as soon as it arrives. I want the doctor to be happy to see me again and in-profit to continue providing his best service to me.

We are both happy: provider and consumer. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Welfare questions

I don't know if this is true or not. Enjoy it for it's humorous value if for nothing else.


I am forwarding my marriage certificate and 6 children. I had 7 but one died, which was baptized on a half sheet of paper.

I am writing to the welfare department to say that my baby was born 2 years old. When do I get my money?

Mrs. Jones has not had any clothes for a year and has been visited regularly by the clergy.

I cannot get sick pay. I have 6 children. Can you tell me why?

I am glad to report that my husband who was reported missing is dead.

This is my eight child, what are you going to do about it?

Please find for certain if my husband is dead; the man I am now living with can't eat or do anything until he knows.

I am very much annoyed to find that you have branded my boy illiterate as this is a dirty lie. I was married to his father a week before he was born.

In answer to your letter, I have given birth to a boy weighing 10 pounds. I hope this is satisfactory.

I am forwarding my marriage certificate and my 3 children, one of which was a mistake, as you will see.

My husband got his project cut off 1 week ago and I haven't had any relief since.

Unless I get my husband's money soon, I will be forced to lead an immortal life.

You have changed my little boy to a girl. Will this make any difference?

I have no children yet, as my husband is a bus driver and works day and night.

In accordance with your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.

I want my money as soon as I can get it. I have been in bed with the doctor for 2 months and he doesn't doe me any good. If things don't improve, I will have to send for another doctor.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

History Lesson

Forwarded by Dave Fitzharris. Thanks, Dave.

It's the birthday of the man who wrote: "The rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there" — Francis Scott Key, born in Frederick, Maryland (1779). In 1814, when he wrote the words that became our national anthem, Francis Scott Key was a 35-year-old lawyer. When Congress had voted in 1812 on whether to go to war with Great Britain, he had spoken out against the war and argued for diplomacy.

It was a hard time for the new United States. The British had set fire to much of Washington, D.C., and President Madison had to flee to safety. Now the British were attempting to destroy Baltimore. Key learned that a friend of his had been detained aboard a British ship, and he offered to help negotiate the man's release. By the time he had convinced the British to release his friend, they were planning their bombardment of Fort McHenry, at the entrance to the Baltimore Harbor, and Key was forced to remain aboard an enemy ship and watch the city be attacked.

The British used rockets, which were a new military weapon adapted from Chinese technology. Key was horrified as he watched these rockets fall on Fort McHenry. He later wrote, "It seemed as though Mother Earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone." He watched all night, and it seemed impossible that the fort could survive the attack.

But just after sunrise he saw the American flag still flying over the fort. In fact, Key might never have even seen the flag if the fort commander, Major Armistead, hadn't insisted on flying one of the largest American flags then in existence: 30 feet long and 42 feet high.

"The Star-Spangled Banner" actually contains four verses, although we rarely sing the last three. They are:

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner forever shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Feeding the Bears

People giving animals food have a devastating effect on both the animals and the people, experts say. Why would people continue to give animals food, knowing the damage caused by that? It boggles the mind.

Animals are not stupid in the food-sense. They work hard for their food and if people go and act all feel-good by giving them food, they still consider that a successful hunt. Easier than the previous ones, for sure, but still a hunt. Animals don’t see the benevolence in people who hand them food; they see only a new and easier source of food.

What do animals do when their food supply runs out? Their demeanor becomes more aggressive to prepare them to be more alert for the next opportunity to get food. Some migrate, others fail. It depends on the animal.

Once they view people as an easy source of food, they will return to people for more. If food is not forthcoming they become violent and will kill, even their own, to receive again that which they received in the past.

There can be no good reason why people should give wild animals food, except in emergencies provided the measures to deal with the emergency do not interfere with the animals’ ability to find food without people giving it to them. Animals also participate in the larger economy of nature causing others to benefit from their presence, doing what they were supposed to do. Receiving food from people causes them to unlearn their ability to fend for themselves and their offspring, disrupting the balance of nature and robbing them of their duty to teach their offspring how to survive, except to look to people for their survival. They have become enslaved to people, much like a domesticated pet, who couldn’t survive in the wild and would perpetually be dependent upon people, teaching their young to do the same.

Eventually they will turn up trash cans, destroy houses and participate in criminal activity quite contrary to their nature, all to survive.

Are these animals, who became accustomed to see people as their provider, lost to their species and nature? Pretty much. Unless people keep them alive and continue to provide for them, they will not survive in their natural state. Can they relearn to hunt? Yes, but I am afraid that they will not survive as long as they expect to receive food whenever they show up.

Now, do me a favor. Replace “food” with “money”; “animals” and “wild animals” with “people”, and “people” with “government” in the article above, and read it again.

I rest my case.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

If you haven’t heard the “Cash for Clunkers” phrase before, you might just be living outside of the United States. Briefly, it’s a program where government gives taxpayer money as an incentive for people to trade their older cars for newer, more fuel efficient, cars. The total incentive could be as much as $9,000 per transaction. Almost the entire price of a new, smaller car.

Needless to say, within a couple of days one billion dollars were consumed and sales of those dealerships that qualified spiked as never before.

Liberals cry out, ‘Look, our stimulus works’ as if they want to add, ‘shame on you conservatives for doubting us.’ Conservatives respond, ‘we didn’t doubt it, it’s just not a stimulus; it’s artificial and government interference in the economy.’

What are we to make of this? Who is right?

To see this in perspective, stimulus is like a blood transfusion. It is reserved for those who are in critical need for an infusion of healthy blood. The things that a stimulus and a blood transfusion share are manifold of which one is that it has to be temporary. Only the desperately ignorant would deny the certainty of this. When the stimulus expires, sales will drop because the energy that spiked the sales would have been removed. Stimuli leave no energy to perpetuate the momentum.

There are two key components in any transaction: there must be a buyer and there must be a seller. For capitalism to fire on all cylinders, the buyer must pay with funds acquired having participated in the economy and the seller must supply with goods or services having participated in the economy. This is where socialists have a blind patch on the reality of an economy – a blind patch which they swing around to cover truths that would reveal their true intent. With this stimulus they are holding their blind patch over the necessity of the buyer to participate in the economy to acquire the necessary funds from wages, profits and other participatory means before buying a new car.

In fact, using tax-payer money for a stimulus is worse: it removes the ability of some from participating in the economy and bestows it on those who should be participating, rendering them even less inclined to participate. Armed robbery, theft, embezzlement, and other, easy-money criminal activities cause the same damage.

Conservatives immediately saw the flaws in the Cash4Clunkers stimulus. Sadly, however, I don’t see them articulate the point clearly.

Let’s assume we could make the stimulus permanent, and we could spread it to other industries, too, such as household goods, food, gasoline, and leisure, wouldn’t that permanently stimulate the economy? From the huge spike in automobile sales one could safely reason that those industries would also see huge sales increases, stimulating the entire economy, right? Right.

Well, to make a stimulus permanent, personal and corporate income taxes can be cut to allow the same amount of money as the stimulus to remain with the individual – same money in the hands of the same people, just from an economic source and the freedom to spend it as they see fit, not coerced into buying a car because it's free money. It would also retain the economical participation of both the buyer and the seller and it would take the armed robbery and embezzlement similarities out of the equation. Ergo, a permanent stimulus.

This stimulus has proven that cash in the hands of buyers can do wonderful things. Socialists, however, cannot risk that money be placed in the hands of the buyers through the economic process; it has to come from their hands directly as slave owners in the past provided for their slaves.

About Me

Seeking the truth until I find it.