A Republic, If You Can Keep It

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Of the many memorable quotes from old Ben Franklin, his observation on the type of government established by the Constitutional Convention may be the most prescient: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Keeping our Republic is entirely up to us, because if enough of us desire tyranny (or can be fooled into voting for it), then it’s over. No amount of resistance can stop the destruction of our system once there’s a critical mass of voters behind it. There will always be people who look to exploit the ignorant among us. And right now, far too many of us have no understanding of our constitutional system and the rule of law.

The Constitution is not some nebulous idea foisted on us by a bunch of privileged white men: it is the guard rail they established to protect future generations of Americans from a government that they expected to eventually try to exceed the boundaries set for it.

Because they knew. From history and personal experience, they knew the extent to which men were corruptible and power-hungry. Our Founders understood human nature better than most, and Franklin in particular had a way of distilling complex thoughts down to their memorable essence: “Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you.”

Think about that. There will always be grasping people with ill intentions who’d like to take advantage of the rest of us who only desire to be left the hell alone. So they pester, cajole, snipe, intimidate, and bully until we knuckle under because we’re otherwise too busy living our lives to care enough to push back.

So don’t be a pushover. Don’t be passive. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you compromise just a little bit more, maybe the other side will finally accept your good intentions and leave you alone.

How’s that worked out through history?

It’s cynical, but that’s where we are now. Our choices are reduced to a fully armed and operational, out-in-the-open Democrat Socialist party versus a neutered and flaccid Whig Republican “party.” One caters to the Politically-Connected Rich while claiming to be the party of the poor and downtrodden, while the other represents the Chamber-of-Commerce Rich as it pretends to represent us knuckle-draggin’, gun-totin’, Bible-thumpin’ Real Americans.

Bitch, please.

No wonder we’ve been left with such miserable nominees. The fix was always in for Hillary, and I’m not convinced Team Donkey didn’t tip the scales for Trump either. The Wikileaks dumps pretty much confirmed that he was her preferred opponent from early on.

Well, be careful what you wish for. No matter what else happens, Trump is a disruptive force in a system that is ripe for disruption. That doesn’t mean it’ll turn out well, just that it’s going to happen. If he loses, the disruption will be confined to the GOP (which richly deserves it and will hopefully emerge stronger – again, no guarantees).

But if he wins…

Look: much as I would’ve preferred someone else, Trump’s our guy. He’s a loudmouth, thin-skinned ignoramus who will probably do something stupid and/or impeachable within his first year in office.

But so will Hillary, if she hasn’t already (which she has). Assuming the GOP retains Congress, they’re far more likely to go after Trump than Clinton. It’s always easier to pick a fight with your own side when you know the other side would happily burn down Capitol Hill while their buddies in the press pin the blame on you. And once again, enough of the public will buy it to make a difference.

Maybe. It feels like something is changing, like enough of us are finally learning how thoroughly corrupt the system is.

For one, the press has moved from transparent bias to outright collusion. They feed debate questions ahead of time to their favored candidates, while soliciting hostile questions to use against the designated opponent.

Is there a qualitative difference between private and public corruption? I think so. Trump has no doubt cut many corners, screwed over many people, and cooked many books in his day (I’m frankly surprised that the Clinton Crime Family hasn’t dumped more than they have. Maybe he’s cleaner than any of us thought). Meanwhile, the FBI Director lays out a bulletproof case for multiple indictments of Queen Hillary but in the end pulls his punches because “she didn’t mean it” or some such twaddle. No matter that intent isn’t required when we’re talking about violating the Espionage Act. I’m no lawyer, but I can read.

Which all brings us to the Unforgivable Sin: the loss of our rule of law. Our society can withstand a lot, but when it becomes clear that the law only applies to certain people then things sour quickly. This why I went from Never to If I Must to Enthusiastically Trump: when one side gets a pass on the worst kinds of corruption and abuses of power while the other side is continually harassed by “neutral” government entities, what are we to think? What are we to do when the whole system feels like it’s hanging by a thread?

For starters, we vote against the corrupt. We’ll figure out the rest later.

In the meantime, don’t feed the wolves.

SpaceX: Going Big or Going Home

If you’re a space nerd, I don’t have to tell you how big a deal today is. SpaceX just dropped this concept video for a taste of what they’re up to before the main event:

Yeah, it’s big. It’ll be interesting to hear how they plan to put all those windows up in the pointy end. Watch here to find out:

Not to be outdone, Blue Origin’s been rather busy too:

New Glenn wind tunnel model. Credit: Blue Origin

New Glenn wind tunnel model. Credit: Blue Origin

Welcome to the future, y’all.

New From Blue

Just breaking via Twitter:

I must admit to a little bit of hero-worship for this guy: he made his fortune by giving people what they want via Amazon, and is using that fortune to build what he really wants. Not to mention that Kindle Direct almost single-handedly enabled my burgeoning writing career (as did Elon Musk to a barely lesser degree, who initially financed SpaceX with the money he made from selling PayPal). To have these two in competition is going to do more for our expansion into the solar system than anything since Apollo (which sadly didn’t do much in the long term). And I do kind of prefer Blue’s “open ended” approach to SpaceX’s “Occupy Mars” guiding philosophy – that is, we’ll build the vehicles. Someone else can buy them and send them wherever they want.

Ignoring Popular Science’s childish penis-envy headline, Mr. Bezos is engaging in a bit of a blocking play: SpaceX has been touting the Big Reveal of their Mars vehicle architecture later this month. That’s twice now where Bezos has stolen his thunder, so it’ll be telling to see Musk’s response as he wasn’t especially gracious about New Shepard’s first landing.

Much more at Ars Technica and The Verge, but I’ll note this from the Ars piece:

And this may just be the beginning. When Ars visited with Bezos earlier this year, the Amazon.com founder said, “Our first orbital vehicle will not be our last, and it will be the smallest orbital vehicle we will ever build.” Indeed, in his e-mail sent Monday, Bezos teased just this, writing “New Glenn is a very important step. It won’t be the last of course. Up next on our drawing board: New Armstrong. But that’s a story for the future.”

Obligatory Horn-Tooting

The online magazine Science Fiction & Fantasy World ran a nice little interview with yours truly, which I almost missed thanks to the holiday weekend. Makes me feel like a real author. Probably need to change my photo to something more erudite and writer-ly, like maybe a smoking jacket in a leather armchair in front of a wall of books that I’ve never read. Something like this guy…

You can leave anytime, just buy my books! Here, have some champagne.

Happy Moon Day

Forty-seven years ago today, Americans landed on the moon. I was five years old and still remember every bit of it, including my parents letting me stay up way past my bedtime to watch an unassuming man from Wapokoneta, OH, step out and take a stroll.

For the closest thing you may ever have to a front-row seat, check out these painstakingly synchronized audio and video loops from both the spacecraft and mission control. And this video does an excellent job of explaining what was going on inside Eagle and the split-second judgments they had to make just to keep going:

Any one of those glitches could’ve ended in an abort if they weren’t resolved. Not to mention that the computer took them about three seconds long, which would’ve put them down into a boulder field. Being the steely-eyed missile man that he was, Armstrong recognized this with about 500 feet left to go and flew them forward to safer ground. When they finally landed, it was estimated that they had less than twenty seconds of fuel left.

Would that we might muster the will to do such things again.

Decline of the West

This piece in PJ Media set my blood boiling. Read at your own risk, but here’s the takeaway:

…the Islamic Republic of Iran:

  • Helped design the 9/11 plot
  • Provided intelligence support to identify and train the operatives who carried it out
  • Allowed the future hijackers to evade U.S. and Pakistani surveillance on key trips to Afghanistan — where they received the final order of mission from Osama bin Laden — by escorting them through Iranian borders without passport stamps
  • Evacuated hundreds of top al-Qaeda operatives from Afghanistan to Iran after 9/11 just as U.S. forces launched their offensive
  • Provided safe haven and continued financial support to al-Qaeda cadres for years after 9/11
  • Allowed al-Qaeda to use Iran as an operational base for additional terror attacks, in particular the May 2003 bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Iran? Really? Color me unsurprised.

After 9/11, the U.S. declared war on terror and entered Afghanistan and Iraq. But if Bush had really been serious about attacking jihad terror at its root, he would have invaded Saudi Arabia and Iran instead. Under Obama, the denial and willful ignorance have only gotten exponentially worse.

So one President lets them off the hook while the next gives them free license to build nukes. Yeah, this’ll turn out just peachy.

I’m done with these damned fools. Elect whoever you want, I’ll be stocking up on canned food and ammo. If our government won’t defend us, then we’ll just have to be prepared to do it ourselves.