Lonesome Tree in Sandhills

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tribute to Engineering Ingenuity

This Memorial Day, let's not forget the ASTRONAUTS who paid the ultimate price for exploring space and the universe that benefits the rest of us.  We take for granted so much that results from aerospace engineering.  Make this weekend a Tribute to Aerospace Engineers.

Did anyone else watch NASA's repair of the Hubble Space Telescope LIVE on NASA-TV? It is truly a tribute to engineering ingenuity!  Space shuttles no longer get attention as engineering feats, but the Atlantis shuttle was different.  It had what amounted to a giant screw driver robot arm tucked inside its bay area along with specially designed tools for repairing the Hubble Telescope.  Astronauts with feet locked on the tip of that giant screw driver were lifted up and out to work on replacing small items on the giant telescope.  Watching them work in streaming REAL TIME was AWESOME!  The tools were AMAZING!  No need to wait for the replay at IMEX theaters, check it out here

Our beautiful earth could be seen beyond to provide perspective.  Since Friday, the Atlantis and Houston have been dealing with re-entry weather problems at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  I'm again glued to my laptop watching & listening to the engineers at the controls in Houston & shuttle pilot, Chris Ferguson, bring the Atlantis safely to earth.  They have finally been given clearance for the de-orbit burn and to land at Edwards Airbase in the desert of California - at 9:00 a.m. Sunday.  BIG CHEERS to all aboard for a safe landing!!

As for the cost of NASA's space shuttles adding to our national debt - remember that post-WWII GI bill?  It helped the US become a Nation of Engineers, many were aerospace engineers.  It created millions of well-paying jobs that resulted in raising the standard of living for the maximum number of US citizens.  As a result of investing these costs of higher education in engineering, our nation paid off the tremendous burden of WWII debt - ours and that of Europe and SE Asia - all while sending Americans to the moon.  So, have some faith, folks - we will do it again!

Note the surge of engineering ingenuity is focused on designing batteries for electric automobiles.  Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, top expert on lithium-ion vehicle battery technology, is Prof. of Mechanical, Biomedical and Materials Science and Engineering, and Director of Energy Systems Engineering Program at U. of Michigan.  Dr. Sastry decided the world needed a new type of battery - not another research paper.  Last November, Dr. Sastry founded a new company, Sakti3, raised $15 million in venture capital and engaged an engineering firm with a battery systems development facility in Michigan.  Dr. Sastry is now competing aggressively for matching ARRA funds from the Dept. of Energy. 

Battle of Old War Horses

Are we ready for an Independent Party to emerge?  I am certainly past ready for the country to stop being in the grip of political sniping.  The 'Dick-Newt-Rush' junk-yard-dog style of political discourse has truly worn thin (psst! someone please tell the press corps).  Cheney choosing Rush over Powell is news?  Now General Powell's answer is on Face The Nation this Sunday morning... and this is important to us how? 

General Powell is a politician as are all top brass in our armed forces - that is how they rise to the top in the military. He was rising through those ranks when Cheney was Sec. of Defense and CEO of Halliburton/KBR.  Both are RETIRED OLD "war horses" of our federal military or bureaucracy... well, at least Gen. Powell has a legitimate claim to being in a real war.  No longer running the REAL show, I guess leadership of one political party is a good substitute if the media covers it - satisfies their egos anyway.
Meanwhile the REAL SHOW goes on with REAL BATTLES to bring...
  • Osama & Al-Queda to justice (after 6 yrs of failure),
  • a careening investment-banking-credit system under control (after being wrecked),
  • military spending & its accounting under control for first time in 30 years,
  • scientific research back to the forefront,
  • regulation back to being effective again to protect us all, and
  • JOBS back to Americans to reinvest in the USA!!
 So...our press eagerly covers these 2 old men doing battle for a political party, but fails in its First Amendment duty to cover what is most important to most citizens.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Catholics - Impact of Change

Media-chasing is like ambulance-chasing and today they chased protesters to Notre Dame where Barack Obama is giving the traditional President's send-off to U-ND graduates. The protesters would not protest Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh despite their adulterous life styles being the antithesis of Catholic teaching. Into this fray, the media tossed a popular priest with a girlfriend in Florida. A question was raised by columnist David Gibson, "Who Is a Real Catholic?" in today's Washington Post.

Protestant churches face the same tired old tug-of-war question, too, but unique issues face American Catholics - assimilation, rejection, Vatican authority, faith vs church, converts and religious politics. All of these issues have been playing a role in most Catholic families for over 60 years.

Take an average Catholic family as an example. Since 1935 Catholic parents raised an average of 6 kids, but only 3 would remain practicing Catholics as adults. 5 had 2 children each and 1 had 6 children for an average of 2.67 each. 14 of their 16 children were raised Catholic, but only 2 remained Catholics. Of 22 total potential Catholics, only 5 remain to support the church - all within 2 generations. Assuming each of the 17 ex-Catholics would have given an average of $100 per month, the economic loss to the church is over $20,400 per year - or $204,000 within 10 years. A major drop in Catholic birth rates has the same impact.

The National Council of Churches 2008 statistical report lists the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Christian group in the United States with over 67 million registered members (next largest: Southern Baptist Convention with ~ 16 million members). If a MILLION Catholic families declined by an average of 17 members in 2 generations, the economic loss to the church is $20.4 billion PER YEAR or $204 BILLION in 10 years. If that were true of 10 million Catholic families, the church would lose $204 billion per year, or $2.4 TRILLION WITHIN 10 YEARS.

Now consider that 20 million Catholic families have 17 fewer children within 2 generations. An equal number of converts or increased giving would be needed to make up an economic loss of $4.8 TRILLION. Compare church losses with our federal deficits and understanding begins to dawn as to why the Vatican continues to oppose using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.

Introduction of the birth control pill in 1964 began unraveling Vatican authority. Mom advised me to use the pill shortly before my 2nd child was born and shocked me since birth control was prohibited by the church. Drawing herself up as tall as her short frame would allow, Mom said, "If men could have babies, the Pope would make it a sacrament at Mass!" She went on about priests and bishops have no idea what it's like to be pregnant, give birth and then feed, clothe and educate children. She was very aware as the oldest of 8 children raised on a farm during the Great Depression, and felt strongly about the heavy burdens large families placed on women. Her final point was simple - my children depended on me not to have any more than I could take care of. Her approval of birth control was more powerful than the Pope!

Bishops control the money & power of the Roman Catholic authoritarian hierarchy, but it is the Catholic women who sustain the faith and future of the church. Since Vatican II, Bishops split over participation of laity - especially by women. Conservative bishops remain opposed to women's involvement other than cleaning, cooking and secretarial functions. Not surprisingly, those same bishops that are rabidly pro-life as it pertains to pre-birth, remain largely unmoved by post-birth life issues such as the lives of 500,000 children in foster care across our nation who are looked after by our government - not the church.

Religious communities have been pushing bishops to look at broader life issues, including sustainability of the earth. These Catholic religious communities have been catalysts for changes in the church historically, along with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine and the Jesuits, but the nuns did the hard work. They opened schools & hospitals to benefit poor and middle class people. As WSJ reporter John Fialco wrote in "Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America," it was women, nuns in particular, who extended the Catholic faith in America, establishing and operating over 800 hospitals and 10,000 schools plus a multitude of other charities for the poor. Now their numbers are dwindling amid huge issues about their independence from Vatican authority - a traditional tug-of-war for many of the nuns' communities.

To answer the question - the majority of Catholics are good, kind, caring people, who simply want to believe in the teachings of Jesus, help the poor, pray and attend Mass as a matter of faith in a higher power. If the last election is an indication, many came to realize that funding health coverage for low-income children and support for pregnant women is must more effective in reducing the number of abortions - more so than a staged protest.

Most Catholics don't take to the streets in righteous protests even when they agree with the protesters. It's enough for them to face reality that they're paying the claims for abuses, sexual and financial, by some priests and a few bishops, which now total almost $500 million so far... enough for a $1000 scholarship for each child coming out of foster care.

David Gibson is the author of "The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful are Shaping a New American Catholicism" and "The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Food For Thought

I have proof - actual evidence - that we're SO buried in "news junk speak" that we glide by wiggle words like might or could happen or according to anonymous sources.  Proof that we're also numb to ridiculous book deals handed out like candy to idiots who's idiocy will be marketed to other desperate idiots.  Ad agency execs live quite nicely on ad revenue thanks to such idiots.

Now my friends & family are really, really smart people... or so I thought.  I sent them an email with this Subject line:  "You're never going to believe this!!" (you know the kind).  Why? Because... well, because it was one of those "junk news for idiots" days and my little ornery streak got loose.  I just couldn't resist with Joe trying to horn in on Bristol's 15 min. of fame.  Here's the email...

Joe the Plumber announced he ditched the GOP and, according to undisclosed inside virtual sources, Joe/Sam has been courting Bristol Palin since breaking her engagement to Johnston. Joe said he proposed last weekend in NYC & Bristol squealed, "Yes!" They plan to be married in June at Governor Palin's home then retire to an undisclosed location to write their books, which total over $10 million. Now about that bridge...
Could happen, ya know!  That's how urban legends get going... keep passing them on... some surrepticiously posting ideological thrillers using "Anonymous" comments on articles or blogs about every hot-button issue under the sun.

My delicious recipe was to use all of these flavors:  "according to undisclosed inside virtual sources," which apparently was too subtle to be noticed.  The Subject line and kicker at the end were surely dead giveaways like "Now about that bridge.." (as in "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you!").

But my really, really, really smart friends & family fell for it anyway!  Hummm.. passed right on by tell-tale signs of tongue-in-cheek & bit!  I'll bet they just assumed the bridge was to nowhere...

Poor Dick Cheney!  His daughter had to duke it out with Eugene Robinson in his defense... of torture.  He so desperately wants the country to know that HE was the true DON now that he doth protest too much.

Right Wing 'Fix' for GOP: Medieval Bloodletting

I was driving to the Red Cross for a little bloodletting today & almost spewed my drink all over my dashboard when I heard what Dick Cheney told Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation about Colin Powell!!
Schieffer brought up recent banter about the Republican Party's future: "Rush Limbaugh said the other day that the party would probably be better off if Colin Powell left and just became a Democrat. Colin Powell said Republicans would be better off if they didn't have Rush Limbaugh out speaking for them. Where do you come down [on this]?"
"Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh, I think," Cheney replied. "I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican."

So Dick's prescription for an ailing Grand Old Party is to shove a military man like Powell out the door! Given a large percentage of active & inactive military people follow Powell, would that not be like a medieval bloodletting??

Shhhh!! Listen!! You can hear Jon Stewart is rubbing his hands with a big sh--eating grin on his face...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers of the Year!

MomsRising.org has a great way to tell MOTHERS they're the best! Tell your favorite Mom she's the 2009 Mother of the Year! Your favorite mom deserves national recognition! Get her on national news, thanked by President Obama, and envied by Angelina Jolie. Click here and customize it for all the moms in your life » And don't forget: MOMS LOVE HUGS, TOO!!