Trump: He kept his promises

Trump at a recent rally
He does what he says.

In my long life, I have seen many politicians come and go. The one abiding constant for them all was that you could expect them to break their promises once elected.

Until 2000 Democrats routinely spouted moderate and even conservative ideas during campaigns, only to quickly move left once elected. Some, like Bill Clinton, lied routinely on all matters, simply to please whoever he was talking to. After he left office Democrats have since been more public about their socialist and even communist ideologies, but still they have often lied whenever they found it convenient, such as Barack Obama’s support for normal marriage, until he found he could support perversion and get away with it.

Republicans have been even more dishonest. For decades they would paint themselves as the defenders of small and limited government, of freedom, of balanced budgets, only to throw all those ideas out the window once they gained control. Until 1994 they could make these claims without fear of revealing their untruthfulness, since they had not run both houses of Congress since just after World War II. They were the loyal opposition, whining from the sidelines about Democratic overreach.

After 1994 that excuse disappeared, and the result was blatant lying. Even though the Republican Congress during the latter half of Bill Clinton’s administration managed to balance the federal budget for several years, they did not do this by reducing government. No, all they did was allow inflation to catch up so that a thriving economy would cover their big budgets. No agency got trimmed. No agency got eliminated. Power and money continued to flow into Washington and into the pockets of politicians of both parties.

Under George Bush Jr. this dishonesty became even more obvious. » Read more

September 11, 2001 through the Eyes of a Child

Link here. The horror of that terrorist act, no different than the horrifying acts of rioting and looting dressed up as fake protests today, should not be forgotten. This article gives us possibly the most important perspective, the impact that horror had on the innocent children of the time.

Matthew John Bocci wrote the book Sway as a way to sort out his feelings. He was nine years old when his father died during the collapse of the World Trade Center. It took one week for the family to find out his father was dead. “Even though I knew he was dead, I still needed to find out the how. I became obsessed. I wondered if he had jumped, since he worked on the 105th floor and I saw all the smoke. My thoughts were that if he had jumped, maybe I could see him looking out a window beforehand. Even though I found out my dad did not jump, when I see the footage, it brings a lot of sadness. I look at it and think my father was in that building and he never had a chance to get out. In the book, I wrote, ‘What could you say, especially to a nine-year-old whose father was obliterated?'”

He went on to say, “My dad was selfless. He actually called my mom two minutes after the plane hit the building to tell her he loved her and us. He said goodbye. I now try to look at the positives he left behind. He was honorable, put family first, and was very humble. I think how brave he was, smart, resourceful, funny, determined, hardworking, and caring.”

Because of his father’s death, Matthew’s life spiraled out of control. He searched for answers and a father figure. Unfortunately, his Uncle Phil filled that role. He took advantage of Matthew’s grief by sexually abusing him. To cope, Matthew turned to drugs. But thankfully, after many years of drug abuse, he got himself straightened out, had his uncle arrested and convicted of child abuse, and is now five years sober.

To my mind, the worst result of both 9/11 and today’s riots is our society’s generally weak response. We never really did wipe out the scourge of Islamic terrorism after 9/11, which since then has only worsened. For children like Matthew, who lost his father, there is thus no closure or a feeling of justice.

And today we seem paralyzed to act against the home-grown terrorists in our midst, allowing them to commit some equally ugly acts while doing little to stop them. We must therefore ask ourselves, what are today’s children learning from this failure?

For evil to flourish good men need only do nothing. And sadly nothing is much of what America has been doing for the past two decades.

John Ford’s The Searchers

An evening pause: A very detailed look at some of the behind-the-scenes history for one of John Ford’s best westerns, The Searchers (1956), starring John Wayne.

This isn’t my favorite Ford film. I prefer My Darling Clementine (1946). Nonetheless, The Searchers is still one of the best, and this short documentary will also give you a feel for the actual American culture of the time, a culture that cared about the truth and tried to treat people with respect.

If you want to watch but save time, you can set the playing speed at 2X normal and understand everything completely.

Hat tip Tom Biggar.

NASA’s first Orbiting Geophysical Observatory to burn up in atmosphere

The first of six Orbiting Geophysical Observatories, dubbed OGO-1, is set to to burn up in the atmosphere sometime in the next week.

Launched September 5, 1964, OGO-1 operated until 1969. It along with the five later OGO satellites were designed to study the Earth’s magnetic field as well as the Van Allen Belts across a solar minimum and maximum. Together they proved the magnetosphere was homogeneous, somewhat the same wherever data was obtained.

As the first such observatory, the spacecraft was also a technology test. Thus, the failure of its attitude control system, preventing about half its instruments from gathering data, was not really a failure. It laid the groundwork for all such research satellites to follow over the next half century.

Skylab astronaut Gerry Carr passes away at 88

R.I.P. Gerry Carr, the commander of the last and longest Skylab mission in the 1970s, has passed away at 88.

Carr’s first and only spaceflight was as the commander of Skylab 4 (also referred to as SL-4 or “Skylab 3” as appeared on the crew’s mission patch). The third of three crewed stays of increasing duration aboard the orbital workshop, Carr and his Skylab 4 crewmates, Ed Gibson and William “Bill” Pogue, set what was then a record spending 84 days in space.

“We proved, I think, just absolutely, positively that the human being can live in weightless environment for an extended period of time,” Carr said during a NASA oral history interview in October 2000. “But medically, we gathered the data that I think gave the Russians and other people the understanding and the courage to say, ‘Okay, we can stay up for longer periods of time.'”

The obituary at the link includes Carr’s lifelong effort to explain that the crew never “mutinied,” as the press has tried to say for decades. Instead, they spent days and repeated long communications with mission control trying to get it to understand that the crew was being overworked because NASA was micro-managing their workload from the ground. They finally made mission control recognize this, after a long public conversation. Sadly, NASA had to relearn this lesson again in the 1990s during its first long missions on the Russian Mir space station (See chapters 3 and 12 in Leaving Earth).

Ivashka and Baba-Yaga

A evening pause: An entertaining animated cartoon from Soviet Russia, 1938. It subconsciously reveals much about Russia’s rough society of that time between the world wars. Even in the 1930s Russia was still largely an illiterate peasant culture, less than three generations since the freeing of the serfs and now ruled by Stalin and the communists with an iron hand.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

Blind Willie Johnson – Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)

An evening pause: This cover of Johnson’s song is by someone who for some reason doesn’t give his name on his youtube page. Blind Willie Johnson was a gospel singer from the 1920s who had been blinded as a child. If you want to hear him performing his magnificent guitar piece go here. There are no visuals, sadly, which is why I choose this cover, as it is I think important to see the playing to understand how brilliant the piece is.

Hat tip Mike Nelson, who in noting that Johnson’s recorded performance was one of the pieces of music included on the Voyager spacecraft the U.S. sent beyond the solar system, asks, “Is this the behavior of a “systemically” racist society?”

Midnight repost: The real meaning of the Apollo 8 Earthrise image

Tonight’s midnight repost essay, written to celebrate the 50th anniversary in December 2018 of the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon, I think is a fitting finale to my month-long retrospective of past essays from Behind the Black. Unlike many others, which document the culture decline of our once great country, this essay looks hopefully to the grand future of the human race, once we have escaped this prison of Earth and begin to explore and settle the wider universe.

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The real meaning of the Apollo 8 Earthrise image

Earthrise, as seen by a space-farer

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the moment when the three astronauts on Apollo 8 witnessed their first Earthrise while in orbit around the Moon, and Bill Anders snapped the picture of that Earthrise that has been been called “the most influential environmental picture ever taken.”

The last few days have seen numerous articles celebrating this iconic image. While all have captured in varying degrees the significance and influence of that picture on human society on Earth, all have failed to depict this image as Bill Anders, the photographer, took it. He did not frame the shot, in his mind, with the horizon on the bottom of the frame, as it has been depicted repeatedly in practically every article about this image, since the day it was published back in 1968.

Instead, Anders saw himself as an spaceman in a capsule orbiting the waist of the Moon. He also saw the Earth as merely another space object, now appearing from behind the waist of that Moon. As a result, he framed the shot with the horizon to the right, with the Earth moving from right to left as it moved out from behind the Moon, as shown on the right.

His perspective was that of a spacefarer, an explorer of the universe that sees the planets around him as objects within that universe in which he floats.
» Read more

Midnight repost: American Kristallnacht

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: Though this essay was only first posted less than two months ago, it bears repeating, over and over and over again, whenever power-hungry thugs use violence to achieve their ends.

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American Kristallnacht

It might have been an accident, or maybe it was because of the events of the past three months, but earlier this year I decided to finally read William Shirer’s masterpiece, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Previously I had only read the first few chapters in order to learn something about Hitler’s background. Now it was time to read the whole book.

I am only halfway through it but no matter. Every page has sent terror through my soul, as it appears to not be a history of the 1930s foolishness and madness that allowed a megalomaniac to become the leader of a powerful nation, intent on conquering the world while committing genocide against millions, but a news report of modern America.

What we have seen for the past three months — accelerated to madness with riots this week — has been nothing more than a return to the Nazi tactics of the 1930s, with the only difference being that the targets have not been just Jews, but all private businesses as well as anyone who dares to oppose their wanton destruction. In fact, the use of rocks to break windows and loot businesses and attack and even kill their owners this week was so reminiscent of Kristallnacht that I find it more than horrifying. From the link:
» Read more

Midnight repost: A flag in the dust

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: This essay was posted originally on July 20, 2010, then reposted on July 20, 2011, to celebrate the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. It seems fitting to post it again, on this, the 51st anniversary of that landing.

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A flag in the dust

Today, July 20th, is the anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, the first time ever that a human being arrived on another planet. Americans love to celebrate this event, as it symbolizes one of the finest moments in our history, when we set out to achieve something truly great and noble and succeeded far better than we could have imagined. Not only did we get to the Moon as promised, over the next three and a half years we sent another five missions, each with increasingly sophisticated equipment, each sent to explore some increasingly alien terrain. Forty-plus years later, no one has come close to matching this achievement, a fact that emphasizes how difficult it was for the United States to accomplish it.

There is one small but very important detail about the Apollo 11 mission, however, that most Americans are unaware of. » Read more

MeTrónomoS – One Small Step

An evening pause: For this anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the Moon, a short musical piece, with images, that nicely encapsulates that 1960s space effort. If you are passionate about the human effort to become a space-faring civilization and you don’t know who and what mission each clip portrays, you need to find out.

British Airways retires 747 fleet

Because of the crash in customer demand due to the Wuhan virus panic, British Airways has abruptly retired its entire fleet of 747s.

This retirement had been planned, as the 747 is expensive to operate. The airline had planned however to phase them out over several years. Now they simply don’t need them, as they are flying so few passengers.

I am fortunate that I got to fly on one in 2019, in a vacation trip to Wales with Diane. This might have been the only time I ever flew on a 747, and it was a remarkably smooth flight, both during take-off and landing. It is sad to see this magnificent American achievement finally leave us.

Midnight repost: A visitor’s look at Israel

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: Almost my entire family now lives in Israel, or more precisely, in a variety of settlements in the West Bank. I thus periodically go there to visit, and when I do, I have almost always written one or more essays giving my perspective of the situation there in the West Bank, as seen up close and free from the distorted narratives of our bankrupt media.

The following links will take you to all these essays. I strongly recommend that you read them in order, especially because the first five came from my 2013 visit, and form as a group a deeper analysis. The last three, from 2014, 2017, and 2018, provide some more recent perspectives.

I am sure my readers will find themselves very surprised by what I have learned.

Midnight repost: Obama’s legacy of hate

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: This essay was posted originally on August 19, 2019. It quite correctly predicts the looting, rioting, and violence going on now against monuments honoring past American heroes and defenders of freedom. It also correctly predicts that this looting, rioting, and violence is as yet only beginning. Be prepared for far worse, especially if you wish to defend the honor of the American dream of individual freedom, personal responsibility, and rule by law.

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Obama’s legacy of hate

Of all of Obama’s achievements, probably the one that is going to ring down the decades the longest and maybe do the most to destroy the United States and western civilization was his willingness to either endorse or refuse to condemn the use of slanders and lies to advance the political power of his Democratic Party and the left.

The most obvious example of this were the false accusations by top Democrats that the Tea Party protesters against Obamacare were “racist”, despite zero evidence. (I speak from personal experience, as I was involved in Tea Party groups in both the DC and Tucson areas.) Obama was in a position to tamp down this hateful and dishonest rhetoric. Instead, he allowed members of his administration to encourage it.

This political tactic has now become pervasive and dominant throughout the Democratic Party and its minions in the mainstream press. This fact became especially evident to me this past weekend, during a demonstration in Portland by a group called the Proud Boys. This group was formed in 2016 in reaction to the modern political leftist pressure forcing Americans to adhere to leftist dogma. From their own webpage:
» Read more

Midnight repost: “We stand for freedom.”

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: This essay, portions of which was adapted from the fourth chapter of Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8, was posted originally on May 25, 2011, the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s speech to Congress where he committed the nation to landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

It seems fitting to repost on July 4th, Independence Day.

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Kennedy's speech

“We stand for freedom.”

Fifty years ago today, John Kennedy stood before Congress and the nation and declared that the United States was going to the Moon. Amazingly, though this is by far the most remembered speech Kennedy ever gave, very few people remember why he gave the speech, and what he was actually trying to achieve by making it.

Above all, going to the Moon and exploring space was not his primary goal.
» Read more

Kate Smith – God Bless America

The modern hate-mongers have attempted to cancel Kate Smith, not because she did anything wrong but because her breath-taking performance of this song, done repeatedly in all venues during her lifetime, infuriates them.

What isn’t often played, but is included in this version, is the opening verse:

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

I will always swear allegiance to freedom. May my country always consider itself among the ranks of free nations.

This short film appears to blend the song’s first performance in 1940, when the U.S. was not yet in World War II, with footage showing Americans of all stripes, listening. The scenes are staged, using Hollywood actors (including future president Ronald Reagan), but the feelings and thoughts expressed are all sincere and real.

Kate Smith – God Bless America from Visual Turn on Vimeo.

The Declaration of Independence

On this day, when we celebrate the founding of the United States — a nation that for more than two centuries has been a beacon of liberty to the entire world — it is the obligation of every American to reflect again on the opening words of the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is what our Founding Fathers gave to us, the right to pursue our own personal happiness, in freedom.

What do the rioters and protesters during the past month offer? What do they propose for future generations, as they out of blind hatred tear down statues of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and numerous war heroes who fought for this ideal?

I think too few Americans are asking these questions. I ask them, and demand that everyone else do as well. I think just asking them will help clarify the situation for all.

How Beautiful We Were

For Independence Day, I think this poem is worth reading to remind us what kind of country was bequeathed to us, and created, by the Founding Fathers two hundred and forty-four years ago.

It begins like so:

A short list. In no particular order.

We told our children that any child could grow up to be President. And then we made it come true.

We had car shows, boat shows, beauty shows and dog shows.

We ran robots on the surface of Mars by remote control.

Our women came from all over the world in all shapes and sizes and hues and scents.

We actually believed that all men are created equal and tried to make it come true.

Everybody liked our movies and loved our television shows.

We tried to educate everybody, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes we succeeded.

We did Levis.

We held the torch high and hundreds of millions came. No matter what the cost.

We saved Europe twice and liberated it once.

We believed so deeply and so abidingly in free speech that we protected and honored and, in some cases, even elected traitors.

We let you be as freaky as you wanted to be.

Read it all, to remind yourself of the refreshing possibilities that freedom bestows. It truly allows everyone, as it says at the base of the Statue of Liberty, to breathe free.

Thomas Jefferson — The meaning of the Declaration of Independence

An evening pause: Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, in which lovers of freedom and individual rights celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, where by this nation committed itself forever to providing its citizens “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Those words were written by Thomas Jefferson. In tonight’s evening pause, Steve Edenbo as Thomas Jefferson recites Jefferson’s thoughts on the meaning of his own words, taken from a letter he wrote just prior to the 50th anniversary of that signing in 1826, and mere weeks from his death.

May true Americans never stop honoring these words, and that man.

Midnight repost: “What ever you do, don’t ‘shut up.'”

The tenth anniversary retrospective of Behind the Black continues: Tonight’s midnight repost is actually something not by me, but a video commentary by Andrew Klavan that he broadcast in 2011 and I embedded as a post in January of that year.

Sadly, his words have not become dated in the slightest. If anything, they has become more topical. And as then, I abide by his final words, “Whatever you do, don’t ‘shut up.””

Midnight repost: Behind the Black

In celebration of the tenth anniversary the Behind the Black, I will each evening at midnight this month repost an earlier essay or article posted on the website sometime during the past ten years. Since I have posted more than 22,000 times since I started this website in July of 2010, I have plenty of good stuff to choose from. The thirty reposts over the next month will highlight some of the best.

We begin with what is really the only Easter Egg on Behind the Black, as it has sat as a unheralded link dubbed only Behind the Black on the main page since the website’s beginning. That link takes you to the following essay, excerpted and adapted from the final afterword in the paperback edition of my book about the Hubble Space Telescope, The Universe in a Mirror.

It explains much about my goals in all that I write.
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Behind the Black

At the end of the last spacewalk during this last servicing mission to Hubble, astronaut John Grunsfeld took a few moments to reflect on Hubble’s importance. This was Grunsfeld’s third spaceflight and eighth spacewalk to Hubble, and no one had been more passionate or dedicated in his effort to get all of Hubble’s repairs and upgrades completed.

“As Arthur C. Clarke says,” Grunsfeld said, “the only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.”

For most of human history, the range of each person’s experience was of a distant and unreachable horizon. This untouchable horizon defined “the limits of the possible.” No matter how far an individual traveled, there was always a forever receding horizon line of unknown territory tantalizingly out of reach before him.
» Read more

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

The words spoken during the opening credits of a 1950s children’s television show:

Faster than a speeding bullet.
More powerful than a locomotive.
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Look up in the sky!
It’s a bird.
It’s a plane.
It’s Superman!

Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.

Superman, who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American Way.

That television show was obviously Superman, starring George Reeves, and these opening words expressed the mythology and basic ideals by which this most popular of all comic-book super-heroes lived.

I grew up with those words. They had been bequeathed to me by the American generation that had fought and won World War II against the genocidal Nazis, and expressed the fundamental ideals of that generation.

Much of the meaning of these fundamental ideals is outright and clear.

Truth means you always strive to be honest, and when you make a mistake you admit to it, without flinching. Or as Superman says quite clearly in the 1978 film, “I never lie,” saying this immediately after repeating that he is here “to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.”

Justice means you strive to administer the rules fairly so that the innocent are protected and the guilty are punished properly. It also means that you treat others justly, with respect and kindness, while defiantly standing up to those who would do the weak harm.

The phrase “the American Way” however is more puzzling. As a child I accepted it, but I have spent a lifetime as a historian and reader trying to understand it on a more fundamental level. The writers in the 1950s who gave that task to Superman knew what it meant, and assumed everyone else did. By the 1950s and 1960s they however no longer did a good job of teaching its meaning to my sixties generation, and many from my time grew up not understanding it.

I think I finally hit upon its basic meaning in writing Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8. As I said in trying to explain why the astronauts on that mission choose to read the first twelve verses of the Old Testament on Christmas Eve while orbiting the Moon,
» Read more

Lego Antikythera Mechanism

An evening pause: From the youtube webpage:

The Antikythera Mechanism is the oldest known scientific computer, built in Greece at around 100 BCE. Lost for 2000 years, it was recovered from a shipwreck in 1901. But not until a century later was its purpose understood: an astronomical clock that determines the positions of celestial bodies with extraordinary precision. In 2010, we built a fully-functional replica out of Lego.

Hat tip Shaun Karry.

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