Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Space or Bust!

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that it is not of the “I got up and watched TV and ate a burger today” sort. Which is to say, I try to wait to write until I feel I really have something worth saying--though that is certainly often and rightly disputed. I generally try to keep it to relevant theological, political and entertainment issues. But every once in a while, something happens in my life that is too incredible to keep quiet about. This is one of those times. (Feel free to click on any of the images to enlarge them.)

Just over a week ago I joined Stephanie in Florida where she was working and attending a space conference.

That Friday we were given an exclusive VIP tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

First, we visited the International Space Station Center. Here, the various components of the space station wait in limbo for a shuttle flight to wing them to orbit where they will be added to the ever-growing orbiting laboratory.

To construct the station, the large components, built and contributed by multiple countries, are almost entirely completed on Earth, so that when they are launched into orbit from the cargo bay of the space shuttle the amount of installation required by the astronauts on the ISS is minimal. Currently the assembly sequence is just under half complete. Its construction is behind schedule, largely due to the halting of all shuttle flights following the Columbia disaster in early 2003. The path to construction began again this year with shuttle Discovery’s “return to flight.”

After the ISS Center, we stopped by the Orbital Processing Facility (0PF), the hangar bay where the shuttles rest and are worked on before and after space flight.

At a height of 100 feet, each of the three buildings houses an orbiter, and serves as a hangar and maintenance bay. Each space flight requires years of mission planning and months of getting the shuttle prepared to go into orbit.

Believe it or not, there is a shuttle under of all this! Once inside the high bay the orbiter is jacked up off its landing gear and is surrounded by platforms and scaffolds which allow access to every portion of the vehicle.

Large cranes are used to remove previous payloads and to provide support to any heavy equipment which may be used for orbiter processing. Engineers inspect every system on the orbiter and repair or replace items failing the rigorous exam. Fuel pumps must be removed, inspected, and refurbished. New engines or previously refurbished engines are installed. Electricians inspect every circuit and computer system.

Every one of the 32,000 heat tiles must be inspected and replaced if they are damaged or missing. Note the green tags on these tiles—each one is due for individual inspection. This process takes anywhere from weeks to months.

At the end of all this activity, the orbiter is lowered on to a mover, gear up and locked, and towed to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the next step on our tour.

The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) was originally built for the assembly of Apollo/Saturn vehicles and was later modified to support Space Shuttle operations.

The VAB stands 525 feet high and is the world's largest building in volume under a single roof. In this huge complex, the orbiter is mated to the two solid rocket boosters and the external tank. Together this stack will be carried to the launch pad aboard the crawler-transporter.

The process of integrating the major shuttle parts is called stacking and takes about four to six weeks. After the massive external fuel tank is joined with the two solid rocket boosters, the orbiter is hoisted by two metal slings and rotated from the horizontal to the vertical. To miss the series of platforms built around the half-finished stack, the crane lifts the orbiter over 300 feet into the air and lowers it beside the other pieces.

The crawler, which weighs six million pounds, is 131 feet long, 114 feet wide, and one story tall. It has two huge metallic tracks similar to an armored tank. Rolling out the shuttle out takes six hours. The distance between the VAB and the launch pad is only 3.4 miles.

Here, on the 13th of 46 floors, the remains of shuttle Columbia are interred.

Below, Stephanie stands on the exact gantry where Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the other astronaut heroes of the Apollo program made their way to their massive Saturn V rockets.

But the Florida visit wasn't only about space. It was also about seeing some wonderful friends in Jacksonville, namely old Navy (that's the organization with boats, not cheap clothes) buddies from Sicily. We found an Italian resturant and spent hours catching up.

Anybody who knew me in Sicily, or now for that matter, knows that pictures of Uncle Brandon in poses such as this one were commonplace. It was equally wonderful seeing some of my younger friends!

We were even able to visit the base in Jax, climb aboard a P-3 Orion and admire the S-3 Viking below, my "office" for most of my years in the service.

After Jax, we drove to Pensacola where we spent several wonderful days with my Aunt Deletha...

...eating seafood (well, at least I was) and combing the white beaches looking at shells and the massive hurricane damage.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, if jealousy is a sin then Lord have mercy. I am soo jealous. Having grown up with the space program, seeing your pictures brings back many memories. Cheers to Stephanie and Brandon.

Calvin Wulf

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Coolest. Post. Ever!
I am an avowed Space Nerd, but have never seen a picture of the orbiter hanging above the fuel tank like that.

Still, I'm surprised with the VAB's record in volume. It beats out domed stadiums or even St. Peters? I've gotten dizzy in those places. It must be the VAB's sheer height.

I don't give you grief anymore about your spelling, but as an Aviation/Aerospace Nerd, I have to point out that it's "hangar" and not "hanger," hanging orbiter or not. Sorry, it's just a thing.

And, ahem, if I were to maintain a blog, there is nothing wrong with the occasional "I got up and watched TV and ate a burger today" entry. You know, for posterity.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Those Analysis guys. Lookin' good. Did you ever see that punk Scarola?

1:59 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Yeah, there is some contention over the VAB volume. The NASA official we were with said it was the 3rd largest in the world by volume behind some Boeing 747 plant and another structure which escaped him at the moment. Sources, even official ones online claim it is the largest. So who knows. Guess we can all agree on the fact that either way, it is one stinking big building.

Ah, the Analysis guys. No, no Scary-ola. He tried to make it but was working. Punk. As was Sonny and Manny Cortez. Sniff.

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Ah, I forgot about that Boeing plant. I've seen pictures. It is ungodly vast. The eye can't quite tell the brain what it is seeing.
Like the planet factory in Hitchhiker's.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


thanks a lot to keep me in copy. I like a lot your blog and it's so nice to keep an eye in the States :)!!

UAO NASA is wonderful!!

Have a good day,


10:41 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Great post, Brandon. Neat opportunity you and Stephanie got there! As one interested in space and learning about how we learn about all that stuff, that was a real treat for me. Thanks.

I was half expecting a prompt for a debate about the appropriateness and/or necessity of the vast resources committed to the extraordinary works of human endeavor you were able to visit. Or something about how else could or should that money be used... something like that.

But pure information is fun too. Thanks again for sharing, B.


1:37 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Oh, I'll leave that one up to Stephanie and pass on your comments to her. She's got some great arguments for this topic...

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

If you use a cell phone, subscribe to satellite TV or radio, watch the daily weather forecast, have been diagnosed and treated in a major medical facility, orient yourself with GPS technology, benefit from smoke detectors and fire resistant fabrics, or use cordless tools, you do indeed have an interest in continued space exploration and the innovation and technologies it brings to your daily life. That's just a small representation of the more than 1,400 space technologies that have been adapted from space technologies.

As to the cost to continue our exploration of the universe, it costs the average citizen 15 cents per day. NASA's budget is $1.6 billion. The U.S. Army spent half that just last year on advertising. We spend it in Iraq every 9 days (http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-08-26-iraq-war-clock_x.htm).

For those who say it should go to education or health care, perhaps. But those budgets are currently more than $500 billion per year. Will an additional $1 billion really make that big of a difference?

And most estimates are that for every $1 invested in NASA, we get a return of between $7 and $10. That's better than most stock investments.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Yes, but Stephanie, wouldn't that money be better spent on updating biology textbooks or upgrading our feeding-tube technology?

I have no use for this "science." My camera-phone and Blackberry are powered on Faith.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

$.15 X 365=54.75. I think I rather keep that 55 bucks thank you very much. Of course I'd also rather keep the ~$17,000 I contribute towards the Bureau of Education (I imagine I could do a lot with that money in a private school of my choosing) But before you freak out and think that I am against space exploration let me say that I am all for space exploration...in private hands.

If the X competition taught us anything it’s that private minds can, always have, and always will find out how to do it cheaper, in less time and with out money taken from my wallet. I say NASA needs to go not because I am against space exploration, but because I am for it. By subsidizing this beast the Federal Government all but monopolizes its grip on the industry. If you want to see real innovation in action put the space program back in private hands where it belongs and let citizens capitalize on it. You yourself said that there are huge profits to be made by those who are willing to take the challenge. Federal involvement in this arena has serve only retarded the advance of space exploration, as it does in any arena in which it enters. As a government agency NASA doesn’t even need to bid for the contracts for crying out loud! Even Boeing and Lockheed have to bid. Everybody got so pissed at Halliburton (with good cause) for its no-bid contract but give NASA a yearly pass. NASA sucks up money, imagination, innovation and the competitive spirit that once made this country so great. All those products mentioned would have still been discovered and released to the market with out NASA’s help, I dare say they would have even been better for it. And let’s not forget what else NASA brought us-the ability to exterminate entire cities anywhere on the globe within 45 minutes or less or your money back. Yeah, you can’t argue with results like that. Hurray NASA! That in fact is the only reason the Federal government got into space “exploration” in the first place. The moon be damned, we’ve gotta be able to nuke those commies! Fine, they (the Federal government) got their precious ICBMs and spy satellites; not shut NASA off and put space exploration back in the hands of the people.

5:07 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

One more note/question. You said that we get a return of $7 to $10 for every dollar we put into it? $1.6 billion times 7 comes out to $11.2 billion. Times ten and it comes out to $16 billion. Question: in what form do we receive those 11.2 to 16 billion dollars? Does NASA or the government send us a check every year saying “thanks for your investment, here are your dividends”? If I multiply my investment of $54.75 by 7 I should be receiving a check for $383.25, $547.50 if multiplied by 10. I can’t recall ever receiving one of those checks. Oh, I get it-by “we” you really mean corporate enterprises that utilize that technology in their product lines and then charge us for it. Never mind, I got it now.

And if NASA holds the patents to all these incredible gizmos then why aren’t they solvent yet? Why do they still receive government funding from my tax? I should think that patent for Teflon alone should have financed at least one person’s trip into space by now. If the government doesn’t hold the patents for these products who does? I never agreed to finance NASA’s coffers and in return get none of the spoils for it. They can pay their own damn way like everybody else has to. Space exploration is not the purpose or mission of government.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Now see what's you've done, Paul. And it was such a nice little post.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Has space exploration advanced to the point where private companies can jump in and start turning a profit within a reasonable time frame? (say, 5-10 years?). If so, I’d like to see what that business model is.
The X competition was just about the hardware: designing it, building it, launching it, and returning it. It wasn’t about sustainability, as I understand it.

That’s a great idea, completely privatizing space travel, but I’m not sure there are many venture capitalists in the entire world that are willing to sink untold millions, maybe billions, into the deep-sink hole of a space-faring infrastructure that couldn’t reliably and consistently pay for itself for decades to come. I could be wrong on this, but my intuition and all my marginal knowledge of the business world tells me no.

If you got rid of NASA, as inefficient and bogged down with bureaucracy as it is, we would see space travel simply grind to a complete halt, with the sole exceptions of a few eccentric multi-billionaires or the occasional publicity stunt from a massive aerospace corporation.

Sorry, Brandon. It was such a nice little post.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

So Jonathan, in one post "private hands" are the good guys and in the next "corporate enterprises" are evil. I'm confused here seeings as how they are both one in the same.

I don't think anyone in the space industry is against a certain degree of, even a large degree of privatization. They have publicly said as much. But Nate's right--there is no immediate profit in it which instantly saps its viability. You need an organization with a view for the big picture, not the immediate dollar. No organization can or will hold to something that is incapable of immediate or even foreseeable financial rewards other than the government.

And before we knock government exploration, let's think of Lewis and Clark, Columbus, and many others whose deeds would never have crossed into greatness had it not been for the fact that their governments sponsored their endeavors.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Also, I am unsure of how the existence of NASA puts a stranglehold on private attempts to capitalize on space. I would think its inefficiency would create more of an incentive to go out and beat it (e.g., the postal service?), and possibly even steal its engineering talent pool (to which there is a surfeit of applicants that can’t find positions in NASA’s extremely competitive environment...I know, I’ve checked).
Please elaborate; there may be issues I’m not considering.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie, reluctantly, said...

Jonathan, I am under the impression you think the government should finance very little, if nothing at all. And that you’re not really open to considering alternatives. But here goes…

In the history of the world, the most ambitious projects have been government sponsored. Largely, these projects have been either to defend a nation or because of the hope of economic return, sometimes both. And because of these ambitious projects, Columbus discovered the western world and Lewis and Clark discovered the western United States. These ambitious projects have yielded great returns.

You say, “Federal involvement in this arena has serve only retarded the advance of space exploration, as it does in any arena in which it enters.” (sic)

I can agree with you only if you’re saying that federal involvment has slowed the advance of space exploration because of the sharp drop in federal funding for space exploration. But I don’t think that’s what you’re saying.

With NASA, those returns actually go to the entrepreneurs who figure out how to use space technology here on earth. Those products have been commercialized. That money is back in the market. It may not be in your pocket, but it could be if you were the engineer who applied the communication technology for space exploration to cell phones. Then you could set the prices the market would bear and others would complain about the high prices.

And I’m not even talking about all the advances in science that have resulted, which alone should convince us that space exploration is worthwhile.

You’re right that the reason the government got involved in space exploration was for national security reasons. As a former member of the armed services, I expect you already know how vital space technologies are to our national security. For the foreseeable future, the government will continue to invest in space exploration, as our space technologies enable national security on the ground, in the air, and at sea.

NASA does support and is in favor of commercialization. Read some of what NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has been saying lately. He’s working on a tight budget and is definitely in favor of the marketplace working to produce lower-cost options for space exploration. But commercialization is in its infancy.

By the way, Nate, the aerospace industry (and most scientific industries, for that matter) are actually beginning to feel a shortage of qualified engineers as the baby boomers retire and we realize that we have not fostered a strong scientific community since the Apollo era.

p.s. Teflon – and Tang, for that matter, were not developed for the space program. You could have at least used the example of cordless tools which are just as ubiquitous and actually came from space technology.

Geez, now I’ve not only allowed myself to be drug into an online debate with Jonathan, I’ve also mirrored his long responses.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Here's a timely and relevant article that explains a bit more how NASA's technologies enter the marketplace. And benefit small business entrepreneurs!

Seed money yields successes

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

But Stephanie, your posts are full of facts and other necessary tid bits. Jonathan's raise great questions as my post seems to have... and I still think it's a nice post although not so little. Part of my intention was to mete out some of the information that has been presented by way of dialogue. Although, I appreciated and marveled at the amount of detail Brandon included in the original post, I had more questions, many of which have been answered.

Now for some comments which always end up looking like questions: I was curious about the expenditures and comparisons of other expenditures, like education's budget, and what the comparison's were to the expense to Spain et al with their voyages and what they expected to gain from their investments when exploring the Americas.

My thoughts aren't organized but I'll post them anyway: we get some technology and gain some knowledge. That is the bottom line benefit of space exploration?

Our quest for knowledge of the solar system and beyond at a comparatively low price to other things I think is a good and just pursuit. The British did such with voyages like the one Darwin went on with the HMS Beagle, it was a survey voyage.

Regarding the exercise of free enterprise: don't contractors bid to NASA? Why should NASA have to bid to the gov't?

Sorry I don't have more than questions and an observation or two to contribute to the debate. I do enjoy it all. Thanks Brandon, Stephanie, Jonathan and the other faithful regular contributors.


4:18 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I think the bottom line benefit of continued space exploration is national security. I can assure you China, Russia, and the other 50 or so countries pursuing space are not doing so simply to explore.

Getting to space, building space assets, and conducting a viable program of continued exploration of space produces the most advanced technology in the world. If the U.S. wants to remain a leader in the world, it must retain its leadership in space and high technology.

Now, in addition to national security, we get other benefits: satisfaction of the human nature to explore, technologies and products that boost the economy, scientific knowledge – including the unique laboratory devoid of gravity aboard the International Space Station, inspiration to students to study maths and sciences, and really pretty pictures of the universe.

Contractors do bid to NASA, not the government. I meant to address that comment from Jonathan. For example, the development of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle currently is being competed.

NASA conducts several survey voyages, the most recent of which are the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which have now been roaming around collecting information for nearly two years.

The comparisons might be useful and interesting, but I don’t have that on hand. As to what the Spanish expected to gain from their investments when exploring the Americas…I believe the original motivation was to find a “shortcut” to the East Indies to bring back spices and riches. Subsequent voyages also were conducted for the hope of economic return.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Why is NASA handling national security issues? That’s why we have a Defense Department, and the NSA, and the CIA, and the NRO, and let’s not forget everybody’s favorite: the Homeland Security Department. The Air Force has rather robust space program now and regularly sends up satellites and various others things on its own. They can handle it, and if not then integrate NASA into the DOD and be done with it. The government doesn’t need to spend our money to see how algae grow in a zero G environment. I’m not saying that that isn’t worth studying mind you; I just really don’t think I should have to pay for it. You have said your self that the yearly symposium at the Broadmoor attracts just as many DOD personnel as it does scientist. If NASA is just a tool of national security, why all this BS about the ‘wonderful benefits for all mankind’ propaganda? I’m not trying to knock your job Stephanie, but why does a national security asset need what basically amounts to a PR firm to get all the dupes on board with what NASA does with our money?

Yes Stephanie, I really do think that the government should fund very little and stay the hell out of everybody’s business and wallets. I think I remember reading something about the government’s purpose being to secure the rights of the people; something about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or some such non-sense. I fail to see how NASA secures my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Am I missing something?

As far as Columbus, Lewis and Clark and company etc are concerned, yeah I still feel secure in knocking government involvement in exploration Brandon. As much as these things may have benefited us I think we might get a very different perspective from the locals who inhabited the places before we “explored” them and claimed them. Manifest Destiny ring any bells? Exploration in our past (and indeed any government’s past) has always walked hand in hand with some of mankind’s greatest atrocities. I have seen nothing in the present day to convince me that has changed one iota. Exploration is just a fancy sounding way of saying ‘future exploitation’. If I’m wrong then give me an example to disprove that.


8:44 AM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Yeah! Think of the Martians!

No offense, but:
Jesus. H. Christ.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Nate said...

I had red herring for lunch yesterday, so no thanks.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

"I have seen nothing in the present day to convince me that has changed one iota." Whoa there, Col. Ludlow!

11:41 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

You make some very strong points, Jonathan, several of which I agree with to a certain degree. However, your version of government, nice as it may be on paper will never and has never existed, even at the flash-point of its inception in America.

A government that does nothing but support the rights and liberties of its people, while idealistic, will implode because the people's right and liberties hinge, so often, on their physical needs-- needs which your government cannot address. In your model, the government does nothing, for example, to aid hurricane victims during a disaster or other such emergency. Frankly, I don't want to live in such a country; you're welcome to it.

It could be argued also, that these experiments, even ones done on algae in outer space directly or indirectly contribute toward the betterment of medicine and science and a hundred uses that enrich and prolong the very rights and liberties you so cherish.

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SHUT UPALREADY. Gosh you guy's must of been a real pain in your mother's side with all this one upping. You two are so annoying to read.
Oh Great pictures Brandon. Thanks

2:47 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Friend, your lack of intestinal fortitude insofar as rhetorical debate is concerned prompts me to point out that there are, in fact, other blogs about kitty cats, snowflakes, wild mountain flowers in bloom and the aforementioned hamburgers. I suggest you try to find them.

Thanks for the compliment, though. I'll try not to find something argumentative in it.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...


Wild Mountain Flowers!


Aforementioned Hamburgers!

4:32 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Nate, as far as I’m concerned the Martians have it coming after they agreed to act in Tim Burton’s retched “Mar’s Attacks”. Damn the Martians I say! As far as red herrings are concerned…Paul started it!

Brandon, although it didn’t last very long this country did once espouse the principles of minimalist governing…and it worked. The growth of our nation’s government started slowly, but sure enough it picked up speed and continues to grow exponentially, as it does we lose our freedoms at exactly the same exponential rate. The government was not meant to control us, we were meant to control the government. Try to tell me without laughing that we are in control of the government today. It is largely our own faults, but there it is.

“In your model, the government does nothing, for example, to aid hurricane victims during a disaster or other such emergency.” This is the part where I’m supposed to fall out of my chair laughing, right? You mean aid like, oh, I don’t know…how FEMA came to the aid of hurricane victims? Ironic that you should use that as your example; Katrina is a perfect example of how inept and incapable the government is at ‘aiding’ its citizens. I would argue that the people of America did far and away more for the victims of hurricane Katrina than ever was or could have been done by the government. Disasters will always be a part of life, sorrow will always stalk us, and tragedy will always haunt our existence…with or without the aid of the government. What I remember most in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina were armed men physically forcing a sixty year old woman out of her house against her will and in violation of everything the constitution stands for (if you aren’t free to make bad decisions, than you’re not free at all). I remember armored personnel carriers flanked by troops with loaded M16’s at the ready. And I remember the reports that the government (the one you put your faith in) failed to re-enforce the levies after they were told multiple times on both the state and federal level that they would not hold in the event of a hurricane and thousands would die as a result of their failure. Is that the kind of aid you’re referring to?

I did appreciate one thing you said though: “Whoa there, Col. Ludlow!” After reading that I thought on it and realized just how true that is and just how much my thinking now mirrors his. The crossovers and similarities are starting to freak me out a little. Epic as it may be, I really don’t feel like leaving this world mono e mono with a grizzly bear, or after being partially paralyzed from a stroke. One thing is certain though: I will always be there for you-“Brother it would be an honor.”

“Empowerment doesn’t mean getting the government to force other people to solver your problems. It means freeing yourself from the government, so that you can solve your own problems.” - Harry Browne

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” - William Pitt

9:42 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

I swear I did my best to keep that brief! It was far shorter than many of my previous posts.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

“Liberal activism views life as a series of problems to be solved by government.”

“Can anybody point to any social or business problem the government has solved yet?” - Ray Kraft

9:56 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

It worked? When? For how long? Why was it abandoned? Could it be that our fledgling government realized that a system that protects its citizen's rights but not those citizens themselves could not last? Could it be that it realized that its citizenry would, sooner than later, rise up and crush it and toss aside the carcass of its insignificance and impotence?

While I largely agree with the sentiments of what you are saying, you yearn for a Utopia that never was and never will be. Is it not more wise then, to work for what can be, and approximate the closest government possible, rather than dream for the impossible and find your life spent perpetually tilting at windmills?

You've read my blogs and heard me speak--no one's more aware of or enraged at FEMA's incompetence than I (except perhaps those who experienced its incompetence first hand). I have never even hinted that I thought they did a bang up job this hurricane season. But my analogy holds. Why? Because in your form of government, FEMA doesn't even exist at all. Because in your form of government, the victims rejoice that they are able to band together as uber-citizens, euphoric that they have no one but each other to help them in their times of greatest trial and that no pesky government is there to get in the way of their own brave, courageous, and plucky resolve. Give me a break.

I referred to our dear Mr. Ludlow not only because you sound like him these days, but because you stole his line, nearly word for word. I appreciate and echo the latter sentiment, though.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Red Herring said...

We sure have strayed from the debate of NASA and whether or not it should be publicly funded or not. But that's how conversations go...

I'm wondering how this non-governmental utopia would work. In a quasi-capitalistic society such as ours, someone will always be vying for power and influence. If we didn't have a president, representatives or other form of government, the local megamerchant (synonymous with Warlord) would control us and we would be complaining about that entity.

How would capitalistic abuses of individuals be addressed in such a society? I agree the system is a far cry from what the founders envisioned, even those who were in favor of a more powerful centralized gov't. Reform does need to happen and the incompetencies and excesses of agencies like FEMA.

A socialist society is not what I am suggesting although here is an interesting article of a well-known company and its socialist practices: http://www.fortune.com/fortune/technology/articles/0,15114,1135386-1,00.html

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure." Alexander Tyler

Paul "the red" Herring

3:18 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Brandon, I really, really do not mean to be rude, but…you can’t seriously be that naive! Government systems based on minimalism aren’t “abandoned” because they don’t protect the citizens (and for the record Paul, I’m not in any way advocating anarchy, there is a need for a governing body, it just needs to be tightly limited to certain functions and not allowed to stray outside of those arenas). What you view as a process of fine tuning and adjusting I view as the slow measured march of totalitarianism. Our government is not in the process of perfecting itself; it is consuming more and more of what were once basic liberties. Governments change over time because people become complacent and allow themselves to be bribed by promises from politicians who hope to get elected. They yearn for ever greater power and they cajole the people to get it.

An ideal example would be Gray Davis’ ploy for support during the California recall election. Hoping to turn out minority voters (in this case, Hispanic voters in particular) he signed reforms into law that gave illegal aliens the ability to obtain drivers licenses and thereby-among other things-vote (and of course they would want to vote for their benefactor). By this process we have seen much of our liberties dashed in the name of charity, welfare, and “fairness”. This of course goes to the heart of the Alexander Tyler quote as mentioned by Paul (A favorite quote of mine as well…by the way you misquoted him a little: it “largesse”, not “gifts” I would like to note however that we are not a democracy, we are a constitutional republic). This is not the only way in which are liberties are stripped however (more on that at a later date-I don’t want to go over my word limit).

There is also a certain amount of personal responsibility at play here. When million dollar homes sitting on stilts in California came crashing to the ground after a land slide the state government sought and received federal disaster relief. That means that our taxes were spent to rebuild their homes. I’m sorry, but that is wrong. They knew (or should have known) the risks involved in building their opulent homes in such a precarious manner, it should not fall to me or anyone else to have to pay for their mistakes. The same can be said for the residence of New Orleans. They knew (or should have known) the risks involved in living in a city that is fifty feet below sea level (I realize that the situation was more complicated than that for many residents, but the government wasn’t able to help that situation either was it?). It should not fall to me to bail them out when the inevitable occurs. I am happy to donate money to aid them in their time of need however (across the nation people opened up their homes, wallets and businesses to accommodate all those affected by this disaster-hampered considerable, I might add, by the government’s bumbling), but let me determine that. Charity is not charity when it is achieved through government coercion.

How far do you take that anyway? If I never check the oil in my car and the engine seizes up one day should you be forced to pay for my lack of foresight? I hardly think so. But then where do you draw the line? The principle is the same even if the dollar amounts change.

Let me see…NASA – funding - proper role of government. That makes sense. It really was a nice little post though. Sorry.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Incidentally Paul, the second half of that quote is perhaps more apt than the first and somewhat telling of the situation we are in: "From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship." -Alexander Tyler

How true. Since when is trying to avert such a outcome to be decried as "tilting at windmills"?

11:33 PM  
Blogger gabster said...

First off I would like to say that I in no way am fully knowlegable about the complete inner workings of our government (nor do I think anyone is), but I have to say that I agree with Jonathan on his assessment about our government. The only reason the government came in and became the power over the US was because we as a people were in financial pain with the depression. Before that states ruled their own people, and government stayed out. It has flip flopped now with the government telling the states what to do. Could the states say no...sure! They could change the drinking age in their state, they could do a lot of things...but they don't because big government would yank money and support from them and they know it. So no longer are we free to govern ourselves, we have struck a deal and sold our soul, and now we are paying for it!!

And to whoever said that our household was interesting growing up...yep it sure was...and is today! I wouldn't have it any other way. I love that my brothers are thinkers and don't just believe everything they hear. I love that they debate. Does it get out of hand...sometimes...but we all love each other very much, and I for one love my brothers very much. They challange me, and make me think and imagine. I wouldn't trade them for anything!


2:07 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Dear Lord! Another one!

3:42 PM  

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