North Korea, the USA and a few thoughts from me.

This will be a blog post with a few bullet point lists. That is often a sign of not having fully absorbed the material or not being willing to aim it at a very particular audience or readership when one creates such a list. A well written prose paragraph has many advantages. The real lead in this story consists of a seven point bullet list below the big group of pictures. I have my reasons for burying it a little bit. But any reader may skip to it and find the points that I think I most have to offer this discussion of North Korea.

I realize that only the President of the United States can deal with the US foreign policy as regards North Korea. I also know that there have been many surprised by both the ICBM capacities of North Korea among those in intelligence and among media experts reporting on North Korea. Articles discussing this gap in knowledge and it meaning can be found here and here. beyond merely being an ICBM program the North Koreans of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea have demonstrated a mobile ICBM program. Mobile ICBMs are harder to wipe out completely as they can be continuously moved. In addition, North Korea has a network of fortified tunnels as a large part of it defense obsession — probably a tiny percentage of these can accommodate the huge trucks that carry these ICBMs,  but if they have 1,000s of miles of tunnels (and I have heard credible reports and seen images that make my believe that they do then perhaps they have a few hundred or even a hundred mile of key tunnels ready to accommodate these large vehicles and help them move in and out of air attacks and back and forth to different launch sites. Whether they can miniaturize atomic warheads, guide ICBMs to precise targets for small scale nukes and how long it will take them increase the range to affect not only Alaska but the rest of the United States — these are things we cannot now be sure about.

America has strong and historic interests and some or other treaty obligations in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. None of these countries is in exactly the same state of being nor the same relationship with the United States. But they are real and important interests. President Donald James Trump is facing new challenges with North Korea as manifest in their ICBM test. His tweets on the occasion of the recent test do reveal something about what is on his mind.

 North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!

I think that there are lots of good reasons to seek to cooperate with China in meeting the North Korean threat, lots of great things about China generally and lots that the U.S.A. and China can do at people to people, business to business, military to military intelligence to intelligence, and  at the highest levels of government. But I also believe that while academic, religious and commercial outreach to China is in the interest of all Americans and of the Chinese we should remember that they see the Korean Peninsula and the Yellow Sea very differently than we do and that they are a very different country.

Yantai where I lived and taught in China was 258 miles from the Capital of North Korea and about 200 miles from the relevant part of the Korean coast for accessing North Korea. It was there that I lived and had a chance to observe the way that North Koreans interacted with their neighbors from China, South Korea and  Russia within the context of Chinese society. It also was a good place to observe how Chinese and China’s government viewed Korea. However, that was in 2004 and 2005 and so many things will have changed.  Most things have changed in ways that are less promising for the kinds of pro-American visions I could see as worth working for at the time. But some underlying conditions are the same.

 

 

However, I think that the main thing I learned from interacting with North Koreans and those who knew them when I lived in Yantai, China is that they are stuck in ways and to a degree that virtually non of our rhetoric allows for…
Public rhetoric and internal agency policy may be different but when rhetoric goes on for decades it is policy.
1.North Korea is a racially and ethnically hyper-conscious regime that sees in the mingling allowed in South Korea a kind of defeat that makes their regime superior. This is rooted in Korean history.
2. China and Russia both use North Korea as an actual and potential cat’s paw for confrontation with the United States. They wish a force to balance US interests in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines and North Korea fills that bill.
3.Korea’s economy is crippled in large part because it spends so much on defense — perhaps more as a percentage of GDP than any other country in the world. That is more of a factor than any other aspect of their many problems.
4.Their economic crisis and international sanction regimes which never ends keeps them dependent on private funds from all secret enemies of the USA, aid from China, aid from Russia (mostly employment and covert aid) and involvement in activities not allowed by international law .
5. The ongoing crisis keeps the centralization of power a practical arrangement and China will not easily allow a collapsed state with millions of refugees into China or an American led invasion of the north.
6. They do realize war with the USA could be as close to suicide as one can get but they hope to deter it without losing their position and they have made decades of preparations including very sophisticated worldwide networks of operative of many kinds, cyberwar capacity, a hope to blackmail key players in crucial Asian countries, networks of fortified tunnels, massive artillery arrayed against South Korea, propaganda assets ready to deploy misinformation and the cultivation of huge units prepared for suicide missions.
7. It is certain that we do not hear reporting here on there most unique human assets and whether that is good or bad I am not sure but the absence of such reporting makes those same assets more impressive to those with whom they interact daily. In another way of saying it, they seem like invisible supermen because nobody talks about them and when they show up in any setting that makes them more credible.

We think far too much of North Korea as isolated and its leadership as crazy. That is pleasant for us. But we have to tell our military that they may have to fight, kill and die for a conflict with a less isolated and crazy regime than they have been told they were fighting. Battle commanders can tell young infantry whatever it takes to get them fired up in the field  but North Korea is a regime supported by many in South Korea as an alternative to total American dominance int he region my guess is as many as 25% would rather have North Korea continue to exist than have a Western Dominated Korean Peninsula. The Chinese and the Russians will never really support a Greater South Korea solution. North Korea has support from terrorist networks, despots and isolated states who want their weapons and expertise and are willing to return favors for such help with their own problems. There are also many Koreans who would like to see a new kind of North Korea or united Korea more like the South Korean Republic of Korea but find almost nothing helpful from the West in that decades long struggle. I support with passion a US military presence in the Far East. As corrupt as I find our society to be it still offers some support to Christians, orderly world commerce, women’s institutions,  and Americans traveling abroad. Those are all things worth fighting for. But Korea is deeply rooted in a sense of its own Korean race, culture and tradition on both sides of the DMZ. They also have deep traditions of meaningful ties to China and Japan. Those relationships are ancient and profound and full of chapters of problems we can legitimately exploit to gain Korean support but most Koreans see their country in terms of being between those two countries in lots of meaningful ways.

So there is very little chance of mobilizing a sense of wiping out the crazy North Korean regime. The regime is often able to exploit our very poor understanding of the situation.    Their commitment involves millions of people including skilled linguists with athletic ability and cosmetic surgery planted across the world. It includes hundreds of thousands  perhaps even millions who are by Western standards chronically suicidal. In addition there are things they are right about and we are wrong about. They do some things well and cherish some great values. Yes they have a society of mass killings, brutal slavery, incredible militarism and other horrors but they are a society full of millions who love their country and culture and who see that that they have patiently worked for and waited for a process of peaceful unification. They are real people in a real country whom we will have to interact with as such.

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Monsignor Richard Von Phul Mouton, Obituary Post

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette passed away Wednesday. He was 86 years old. The press has remembered him already and so have many of the institutions with which he was associated. His official obituary in the Daily Advertiser is here. More or less the same obituary appeared in other papers. I attended only the wake for complicated reasons but expect the funeral to be a grand and deserved tribute.

Mouton died at 2:21 p.m. Wednesday at Lafayette General Medical Center among those attending to his last illness was his brother, Frank Anthony Mouton. He is preceded in death by his father, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Sr., mother, Inez Genevieve von Phul Mouton, brother, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Jr., and sister-in-law, Margaret Apple Mouton. He is survived by his brothers, Frank Anthony Mouton and Marc Gilbert Mouton, Sr., sister-in-law Betty LaCour Mouton, and numerous nieces and nephews.  The Mouton family is a prominent family in the region and Alfred Mouton, at least for now, still occupies a central place on a statue in the center of Monsignor’s hometown. The Mouton House is a museum not far from the Cathedral  where Monsignor lived out much of his last phase of life since July 1, 2007, Monsignor took up residence as a Senior Priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. This nearby Mouton house seems small compared to other Plantation owners homes in the South but this  was the town house (not the larger country home) where  Governor and General Mouton — father and son– stayed over to attend mass at the nearby St. John’s  Church in Antebellum Lafayette.  The Mouton connections among Acadians (such as the governor and the General) and the non Acadian French are indeed extensive. Monsignor Mouton was very aware of his heritage though not one to harp on it with people who were not aware of it.

Richard Mouton was born on March 17, 1931 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was baptized on March 25 of the same year at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, where he would later attend  the Cathedral primary school and receive the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. He was ordained at this same Cathedral on June 4, 1955 and assigned as Associate Pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville –which has always been my real home parish where I was baptized, made my first communion and was wed — but Monsignor did not officiate at any of those sacraments and was not pastor there in any of those years.  I did not know him as Associate pastor.

When I met him he was the intellectually mature Pastor of the Parish who had returned from completing his doctoral degree in Rome. His doctoral thesis was entitled “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Mass,” Father Mouton returned to Louisiana and was assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish in Lake Charles, the current Bishop of Lake Charles Glen Provost was one of his Associate Pastors at St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville and they distinguished themselves as a team with their deep love of the liturgy. Monsignor had also gotten an international status as a priest before he was pastor — this was because in 1962,  he attended the Second Vatican Council, in the company of Bishop Maurice Shexnayder, and was subsequently appointed Peritus Concilii Vaticani Secundi (Expert of the Second Vatican Council). Still before I met him and when I was in fact two years old, In June 1966, Father Mouton was elevated to Monsignor Mouton. Like Monsignor Ignatius A. Martin with whom I lived in Duson and who had a major role to play in my parents return to the faith of their youth when he was a  Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene — Monsignor Mouton would also serve as Superintendent of Catholic Schools from June 1967 to the time he received his first assignment as Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville in 1973. It was during that period that I got to know him. Many people knew Msgr. Richard Van Phul Mouton better than I but nobody knew him exactly as I did. His official obituary did not mention founding the Christian Service Center in Abbeville, the work he did with liturgy in parish life, hosting the Lay Evangelist Training and Commissioning Program for the Diocese of Lafayette or his significant involvement with the Fr. Conley Bertrand’s Come Lord Jesus program, the ground work and development of the Catholic is the Name Weekends, fostering Perpetual Adoration, or any of the other ways in which our paths crossed most publicly. He also officiated at my great grandmother’s funeral where I read one of the readings and based on that encounter he asked me to serve as lector which I did most of the time when I was in country and he was pastor was it was my turn. Many of the friends of my youth had him as a teacher at VCHS, they told me. I never did. But despite eating hundreds of meals with priests, I was somehow closer to Monsignor than all but a tiny few. It is odd, I suppose. But my real connections were more personal and complicated, he twice asked me to enter the seminary and I twice regretfully declined — that was a long time ago, before I was married. I considered the priesthood at other times but really at those particular times I felt certain that I could not seriously pursue that option. Monsignor was also my confessor and spiritual director for some but not all of that time, I found him an insightful and serious man with whom anything could be discussed.

In February 1987, Monsignor Mouton was assigned as Pastor of St. Pius X Church in Lafayette in a an unusual swap with Fr. Donald Theriot who was the celebrant at my wedding.  Theriot came to St. Mary Magdalene from Pius X. During his time as Pastor, Monsignor participated in the development of various pastoral ministries, most notably the development of St. Thomas More Catholic High School and the founding of St. Pius X Elementary School.  I would later teach at St. Thomas More High School of which St. Pius is a Corporate Parish and would move there during my year of teaching and then away to Baton Rouge to pursue my M.A. but my parents would move there with my younger siblings and  he would remain their pastor and he would be someone I had much occasion to see. When I was teaching at St. Thomas More High School we did have some interactions. Mostly those related to crises in the school administration at a school which is normally stable but was having an unstable year. STM was in the official obituary whereas virtually nothing from Abbeville  was in it except merely his pastorate. However, it is not a matter of question that St. Pius Elementary School there is one of his greatest achievements.  He saw Catholic education as a key part of preserving the Faith and the right kind of Christian intellectual development. But he was a Ragin’ Cajun as well and continued his studies at the local secular university and not only at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Pontifical College. He saw the light of Divine Truth in all learning, although I don’t have the particular courses at hand I am pretty sure that I remember that. He lived a faith in his time.  To quote the official obituary:

If the loss of faith is a life’s greatest tragedy, then surely its preservation is a life’s greatest triumph; Monsignor Mouton was certainly a great guardian of the Church and preserved Her teachings through his ministry to the many who loved him. 

“I value the priesthood I have been graced to share in…I have happily done what I was asked to do by my Bishop, ministering to his flock, hopefully, with zeal and charity. God knows and I praise Him for the graces I believe He gave me in doing so. All the good I have done I have truly done by the grace of God.”

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton

By the Grace of God

Beyond those public ministries, going back to the family comments made at the start, Monsignor was a full and thorough example of commitment to the priesthood but he was also a man with all the connections of a man of a particular, place time and lineage.  Msgr. Mouton had a circle of not very close friends with some common regional interests and I helped people a few times with translations of Heraldic and ancestral documents because they met me when I was discussing such things with this son of Acadiana. He also had great capacity for saying a lot in a few words about places he’d been. I have probably traveled with a hundreds priests, some bishops and a few cardinals — I never remember being in the same vehicle with Monsignor. We were at many receptions together over my lifetime but only shared a meal at table perhaps four times.

Monsignor knew many challenges in life. One of them was a bit vicarious. One of his closest friends in life was also ordained Jun. 04, 1955   and Msgr. H.A. Larroque was the brilliant Canon Lawyer with whom he could discuss many ideas and concerns. Before the explosion of the child abuse crisis Monsignor had (hard as this will be for many to believe) discussed with me his concerns about safe environment issues and the need to do more in preventing problems related to sexual behavior through priestly formation. But the conversations were related to our discussions about my concerns with some seminary environments I had encountered in the world. I had no idea he was dealing with real problems among priests close at hand and not as effectively as he probably should have and felt he should have. His really good friend was caught up in dealing with religious and secular legal matters, world wide media scrutiny and countless other moral issues and it was an ordeal. With me Monsignor never pretended he or his very close friend had perfect answers to any of these crises. I was proud of the fact that the Church paid huge damage awards, sponsored programs, organized safe environment training, struggled to weather the storm and did lots of other things. I often said that while I excused nothing of the worst abuses the Church paid mostly the price of being a responsible and enduring institution in the society of shirking, dissolution and changing  names which characterizes the modern world.    But truthfully the child abuse  scandals did change something about our conversations.

Monsignor and I were both strong personalities, he was clearly the more successful of the two and much older but we held very little back in our really private conversation although they were ALWAYS  cordial they could be both heated and cordial intense and measured. During my later life we corresponded almost entirely about grave and confidential matters and enjoyed only a few brief friendly conversations. Virtually none were related to child abuse or other issues that make a lot of ink. But they were issues we both took seriously.

I considered him a great man and a good priest. Sometimes, I considered him a fairly close friend. That’s not something I find as easy to explain. I lived with Msgr. Ignatius Martin and was a close companion of a Jesuit Missionary priest named Joseph Stoffel in the Philippines. Both were friends and I knew them in more ordinary friendly ways. But Msgr. Mouton and I had some common concerns that I shared with few other people over my lifetime. We didn’t always agree. But the void he leaves cannot be filled by anyone else I know. Life has taken many turns since the days since Monsignor Mouton and I knew each other best.
I have usually posted a kind of obituary on my blog for prominent people who were also significant in my life and I am doing that again for Msgr. Mouton. For as long as the blog exists it helps me organize these memories. People have often revisited these blog entries over the years, so someone else gets something out of it as well. But Monsignor is not likely to slip my mind often for very long.

Whip Steve Scalise and Others Shot

Today is President Donald James Trump’s birthday and tomorrow is mine. That is just one pair of several reasons why I am not covering the shooting up of the Republican Congressional Baseball Team practice as well as I otherwise might in this post relatively late in the day of its occurrence.

Violence is not new to American political life. The shooter in this case appears to have been a very highly politically aware citizen with a penchant for violence. He was deeply antithetical to Republicans, he was armed, homeless and living near the park in his car. As it happened this was a park where Congressional Republicans gathered on many occasions to practice for a charity softball game against Congressional Democrats. Congressional women play against the female press corps. Both games are important events in and around our Nation’s Capital. Steve Scalise  as majority whip had a security detail. Thus it was a gunfight and not a slaughter. But the shooter appears to have been a terrorist out to kill Republicans.

I am praying for the recovery of Louisiana’s own Steve Scalise and for his family. He’s a man of small government, pro-life and cultural conservative principles. A staffer, a lobbyist, two Capitol police officers and the shooter were also transported injured from the scene. I hope to post more about this in the future.

But for now, it is surely another sign of trouble.

Ascension Memorial Day Weekend

Happy Feast of the Ascension as usually celebrated in the USA. Thursday was the real festival of the Great Commission but today (or yesterday evening in my case) is when it is really celebrated in most Catholic and some other Christian churches. At the mass I attended Fr. Louis Richard did a nice job of tying together this great feast and the national holiday of Memorial Day. Both holidays have meant a lot in my life.
Missions has a special connection to the Feast of the Ascension. Memorial day has many meanings for me, including remembering relatives I never met like Simon Drago killed defending Pearl Harbor in a hazardous training maneuver and not on the famous and infamous day. However, in recent years Memorial Day means remembering my cousin Severin Summers. Killed in action in Afghanistan, Sev is missed more than I deserve to miss him but less than he deserves to be missed. My great grandfather died of combat wounds in World War I but he died closer to World War II and after seeing my maternal grandfather ready to serve or having served in that great conflict as a bombardier instructor . But I never knew Kildren Gremillion, though I grew up with a lot of stories about his life, service and how long and hard it was for him to die of poisonous gas from serving as an American soldier in the trenches of Europe’s deadly ordeal of an earlier generation.  Sev I did know.

I could say a lot of things from my own experience about the Ascension, Jesus’s command to proclaim the gospel and make disciples is heard by all Christians. I am not devoting much time and space to this post  but I have a Facebook friend who is an Episcopalian pastor  and am sharing his post which offers a different perspective.

Almost two thousand years ago, last Thursday, Jesus Christ, having lived about thirty years in the Roman Province of Palestine (and sometimes in its Jewish puppet-state, Judea), and having been arrested, tried, crucified and buried, and having on the third day after risen from the dead, and having associated with his Galillean hillbilly disciples for another seven weeks thereafter, ascended into Heaven to be with his Father, God Almighty. He’s there, now, interceding for us, his imperfect and all-too-human brothers and sisters. Tomorrow morning at 8:30, we’ll celebrate that fact at Christ Chapel in Fairdealing, and we’d like to invite you to join us. There will be no 10:30 service there, as it’s the last Sunday of the month and Fr. Hiter willl be at St. Mark’s Anglican, in Benton, whose people are between clergymen at the moment. If you’re in (or closer to) Benton than Fairdealing, you might join the folks of St. Mark’s. They’d love to have you.

The point is that we all have missions of consequence. Americans and Christians and especially Christian Americans are reminded of those missions in a special way this weekend. I hope that we all rise to the occasion. I hope we all honor those who have.    But whether we acknowledge them or not, sufficiently or not  — the duty and  the sacrifice for a great cause has a reality beyond our making.

The New Era Continues

Rex Tillerson told Chris Wallace on Fox’s Sunday morning show that the video of him seeming calm and experienced during a Saudi sword dance appeared the way it did because this recent sword dance was not his first sword dance. Indeed AmericanOil companies — like Tillerson’s former bailiwick of Exxon Mobil have plenty to do with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The oil industry has been an imperfect bridge of communications but it is a bridge and conduit for a great deal of communication between the  United States and Saudi Arabia. Aramco, a Saudi oil giant tries to make its voice understandable abroad in communications such as this piece.

 

But it is not any less a fact that terrorist funding, Islamic teachings openly hostile to America and many other things besides oil have flowed from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and some of its neighbors for a long time.

Today, in Israel trump has his speech to the Sunni Arab nations behind him and will visit Christian and Jewish holy sites in Israel such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Bethlehem and the Wailing Wall.  But when one considers all that was being said about the anti-Islamic nature of our President’s views as President Donald John Trump was quietly preparing for a trip to Saudi Arabia it seems unlikely that the man who just closed this enormous arms deal which will strengthen Saudi defense and bolster the US defense industry is as rabidly anti-Moslem as some of his critics have suggested.. That relative success he enjoyed in Saudi Arabia will mark one leg of his trip to reach the sites near the center of the great Abrahamic religions. His visit to Israel and Vatican City will be well watched.  But the trip to Saudi Arabia came as a chosen starting place. Much can be said about how this relates to positioning vis-a-vis Russia, Syria and Iran. But many American constituents have concerns about Saudi Arabian influence in the world as well. Concerns which are not going away any time soon.

 

Meanwhile, back in the United States social discord is widespread and it is not at all easy to measure where it is going or how intense it will become. I myself am fairly deeply alienated form many aspects of our society and that allows me to take in the fact that Confederate monuments in New Orleans are coming down in relation to one act of terrorism in South Carolina while we cuddle up to the country where 9-11 actually germinated and where Osama Bin-Laden has his roots and had many supporters.  Of course terror in the deep south was not unknown before the South Carolina church shooting. But different terrors are overlooked and minimized at different times.

The President has confronted the issues of Islamic Terror but made peaceful gesture to the larger cultural networks around the terrorists — in distant Saudi Arabia.But meanwhile back here, nearer to my home, New Orleans is being transformed. There is no doubt that the removal of Confederate Monuments will remake the city’s image in some way. Not that there was not room for improvement, but this change has a distinct context. I believe that context will have a cost.

I am not blogging as much about politics as I once did. I am also preoccupied with other struggles and my success or lack thereof distinguishes me more from Tillerson and the Arab princes than our positions in geopolitics. Change keeps marching on and it is good for most of us to remember both the good of our country and our own self interest when we try to judge the significance of that change.

The Long Road: Unresolved and Continuous Stories

For anyone who can still buy a ticket this is the day of the Move Beyond Tour with Derek and Julianne Hough going to New Orleans. I had hoped to get there myself  — although it was never likely. However I think it will be a good event at the Saenger for those who can. I spent my morning at a rosary and funeral for a distant cousin — Agnes Motty. Her brother James and I were pretty close friends decades ago and I was very happy to see him again after not seeing him for decades. However, I did not monopolize him on his return trip to the homeland he does not visit that much. James was a very accomplished artist when I knew him best and says that is not much a part of the life he lives now. His sister Agnes I barely knew and there were a few of his brothers I knew just a bit mostly Louis. But it was clear the long held love they had for the sister who never married was a powerful bond among them as they gathered for the funeral.

This is being typed in part on May 18, 2017 which is my sister Sarah’s birthday. While I am a lot older than Sarah she is next in age to me among my full siblings and living siblings. Also, I have known her much longer than I knew my deceased half-brother Paul. We still spend a decent amount of time together and I called her today  she had just returned from a trip celebrating her oldest daughter Alyse graduating from Mount Saint Mary University in Maryland with many honors. Sarah and I already celebrated her birthday a bit along with an early Mothers Day and me entrusting her with a graduation gift for Alyse which she delivered in Maryland we did that over a coffee and play session we often share with her children at McDonald’s in Abbeville on Mondays. Sarah is a person who exists mostly and largely with little reference to me she has issues and concerns and autonomy that have little to do with me. But she is also one of the great long stories of my life — not to make her feel older than she is.

 

Part of this post was typed on Mothers Day, May 14, 2017 with the view to it appearing whenever it appears.  My own mother was with my Dad and others sort of separately but also with Sarah on a trip principally to visit with others in the family who are attending her granddaughter (my niece)’s graduation from Mount Saint Mary University.  It turns out that much of the family were able to gather for that event. I was happy to celbrate Mothers Day early on May 6, 2017 with most of my siblings and my mother. For all of us our relationship with our mother is a truly primal on and for me as for many it is a very long running one as well.  I was not on this trip but we have been on many together — my mother and I. The picture below is of my parents and my sister Susanna sharing a meal in the oldest building in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which was built during the end of the colonial and the start of the revolutionary period in American history. History which has long been a pursuit of mine constantly reminds us of a long set of ties to things which themselves have been around for a long time. This is the theme of this post.Family in Gettysgurg

This month I have stayed abreast of space news and watched with interest and increasing distance the discussions on the future of space exploration in which I was once a more active participant.  Time has not been kind to that involvement so far but it is an interest which has been on of the long-running interests in my life so far.

The truth is the theme of continuity has been one that has been on my mind this week, the way we all attempt to carry on in various ways. I am carrying on less successfully every year by many measures but I still hold out hope for an uptick in some trend or another. I still hope for a better life trajectory than I see before me.

 

That brings me back to my original concept for this post today. Although Julianne Hough is young I have been her fan for a long time.  I admire the fact that she had a long career in the performing arts before I became aware of her when she was still a teenager. I suppose she is just one of a lot of possible famous and nice looking people that one could take an interest in but there is more to it than that. There is a kind of message in her life that contrasts with a lot of what I do not like in the world I live in.
Julianne Hough is very attractive, but she also works hard at being human. That is not all I could say but it is a start. I would have liked to see her tour for various reasons and maybe one day I will but it is not today.

Love is a strange thing and so is family and so is friendship. In fact sex in all its permutations of attraction and disillusion is a bit odd at times as well. The handful of very famous beautiful young women who get the kind of attention Julianne Hough gets also have real lives to live and she is rooted enough to maintain a close relationship with her family. Not only doing this show with her brother but that is most notable.  Family love reminds us all that life is largely about the long run.

So here’s the deal…. I spent a little time with James mourning his sister, I called my  sister to wish her a happy birthday and I missed seeing Julianne perform with her brother. But I was aware today that each day one has to try to make life connect to the day and people who were there in the past and will be there in the future.  I also tried to trust in God for some things to work out in plans I make. But I know nothing has worked out in a big way in many years. Small successes are getting harder to find — but the show must go on. Not just for those of us in show business but for all us who live this life on any kind of stage. And we all do live out a kind of performance for those who observe our lives.

May the Fourth Be With Us All

George Lucas created the fantastical world of Star Wars after showing he could make films by creating the successful realistic film American Grafitti. He was deeply interested in mythology and also in a particular scholar of Mythology — Joseph Cambell. I read a lot of Campbell and learned from him. But we have very different points of view on many things that matter. I am for example a Christian.  Campbell was not.
I like Star Wars,  I really do and I have seen all of the films and almost all of them more than one time. But I also enjoy a wide variety of science fiction and a wide variety of other forms of art, literature and entertainment. It is certain that to me Star Wars is not my religion or my principal path through life but rather is  among my  preferred entertainments. But in a year when I am posting very few entries to this blog and in which I am not setting up a lot of holidays as thoroughly as I could I am posting on May the Fourth which is a Star Wars Fanday because it sounds like the famous blessing of that Galaxy Far, Far Away — “May the Force be with you.” Joseph Campbell was involved in the creation of the Star Wars Universe in ways both direct and indirect and was involved in promoting it directly through his series of television interviews with Bill Moyer titled The Power of Myth.  Besides being a popular television series for something of its type it was also a widely distributed book. A quirky take on the connection between Campbell and Star Wars can be found at the link here. Star Wars is not mostly about science then and is not largely hard science fiction but it is not very anti-science either. In addition it may well have had an element of challenging Christianity in the culture but some of the most devout and active Christians I know enjoy Star Wars quite a bit.  Tonight the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy comes out on movie screens across the United States and this is an example of the impact that Star Wars has had and also the fact that in the abundance of new science fiction blockbusters Star Wars is only one element one can forget how fresh and different it was when New Hope, the first film appeared. Chris Pratt has also done another science fiction role besides that of Peter Quill in the film Passengers with Jennifer Lawrence which was a great piece of hard science fiction and did fairly well — for hard science fiction. But Star Wars helped to create that audience as well.

I am not blogging frequently these days. I am working on a variety of other things but not at all with the assurance that most of it will be a fruitful and worthy expenditure of energy.  But I am occupied or preoccupied with a variety of other things. Our lives and our society are full of images and events with resonate with the Star Wars universe.  It opens us up to be spiritual, social, scientific members of our society and also to escape into a world that is not ours at all.

 

 


So we can look at the time we spend watching movies (and I watch a lot of movies) as having a special place in our imaginative lives. Perhaps for Christians like me whose lives have been adventurous but presently are not so adventurous and whose quests seem out of flow — there is something to remember in Star Wars today that will make us better at living the lives we do live and following the quests we are on.

Earth Day note.

I’m very much aware that I can now recognize the fact that I participated in a public ritual in my home town during the first observance of Earth day. It makes me proud and pleased that I did. I was just a young boy.

There has been a great deal of good work done on environmental issues since that day. However, mostly I am aware that these days I am turning away more and more from the really big issues. I am going in a direction of narrowing horizons and more limited resources. That doesn’t suit the part of me that takes up grand causes. So this Earth Day I am not doing much.

 

Why the Moon Matters Much

It is hard to look at the news cycle at the current moment or at the state of the world and readily conclude that a blog post about the Moon and humanity’s future as it relates to the Moon ought to be our top priority for understanding and exploration of ourselves and our world. Yet, amidst all my other concerns I am sure that the Moon ranks very highly indeed. It is true that I do not get paid to think about these things and have many other concerns. So there is an element of arrogance in my persistence in exploring these ideas.

When I was a child the Apollo Program was a very big part of my life in the way that other great institutions are part of a child’s life. Apollo 11 was uniquely significant amongst all space related achievements of the human race up till now. Huge numbers of people could see that the human civilization was transformed in some profound way by the fact that we could perform a crewed landing on the moon and return the crew safely to Earth. It seemed to little kids of certain types and to many others that future would involve significant human development on the Moon.  I was eight years old in 1972 when Apollo 17 was completed. The years since have seen no return of human beings to the Moon. But the Moon remains a unique site with unique and totally irreplaceable potential for human kind.

I wrote a novel in which the first set of chapters or part or book is titled The Moon. But the novel has not been published. In that novel I set the action of the early chapters mostly on the moon in in crater cap colonies.

Of course we now know that there is some water on the moon, a significant amount. But not enough for the kind of lifestyle that I depict in my novel. I do believe that a well run colonial system on the moon would eventually find other deposits of water frozen into the substrata as the novel describes and this would be among the most valued mineral assets in such and economy. However that need not be true for colonies to thrive there. There is enough water to start small colonies and we could capture comets and crash them into craters on the far side of the moon in controlled landings.  There is no question that we can approach comets and land devices on them. That was proved in the Rosetta Mission.  We could select small icy comets and learn to steer them into craters on the far side while building all early colonies on the near side. Most comets are less that ten miles across in their frozen state and there are a huge number of them. They are mostly made of water. we could develop an industry to send a comet a year of less than a quarter mile in diameter crashing into the Moon’s surface for the first many years of settlement and supply enough water needs for a thriving economy there. In time we would orbit more and even smaller comets around the moon and then break them up using most of the water on the moon and some on the ships we would build in orbit around the moon. The mass added in water would be equaled by the mass launched from the moon in space ships and components for spaceships and space stations made on the moon. Thus over a century or so we have a satellite of the same mass but perhaps two to ten percent of it mass would be liquid water and atmosphere in the crater cap colonies. ships to mars and other places could be huge, fast, safe and luxurious and still be cheaper than anything we could build on earth according to proper economic and fiscal analysis.

The best discussions we can have about the future of human development on the Moon relate to understanding how it must function in our future. There are many reasons why we should develop the Moon and do so soon. I want to discuss a few of them. First, the Moon is an accessible place the lack of atmosphere and the low gravity make it easy to launch materials into space. Earth can support lunar operations relatively easily. Rescue and support ships could reach the Moon in a few days. Communication is very rapid. The economic potential for a fully developed Moon is vast and the uses for an increasingly complex civilization on Earth are myriad.

The real world impact of developing sizable colonies on the Moon could be transformative for our civilization. Mining, space based solar power plants, huge communication satellite communication capacity and a thousand other industries could yield large results on Earth in a relatively short time. All of these concepts are relatively respectable for discussion around the world even though many people in the discussion would never really consider space colonization as a serious option. There is a great deal that needs to be tended to on Earth it is true but there are those of us who believe that colonizing the Moon will help us to tend to the things that concern us on Earth.
Beyond that it’s essential to the defense of the Earth from an attack from outside. That means taking responsibility for a threat potential which is not given serious respect in moast places. We can say that vigilance sanning and resources on the moon as weel as continuous activity around the comets and asteroids would help us to guard against collisions from and comets better than keeping all our resources on Eath and we can see that the threats from such collisions are real. that is one way in which lunar colonies would be a protective and defensive asset.  But that is not the whole picture occupying the Moon effectively would also provide at least some real advantage in deling with any technological species coming to meet us with good, evil or neutral intentions. So we must consider whether alien threats are worthy on any consideration.

As far as the possibility of Alien contact goes nothing could be less important when it is not happening and very few things could be more important when they are happening. A framework for estimating the chances for communicating with another civilization is provided by the Drake Equation. This equation is used to estimate the number of communicating civilizations around during the lifetime  (or the present moment of) a program searching for their communication signals thus predicting the  success probability for the Search for Extra(T)errestrial Intelligence or SETI

N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L

  • N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
  • R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
  • fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
  • ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
  • fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
  • fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
  • fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
  • L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

As far as security, national and otherwise goes. There is real risk if there is and it could be enormous. there are plenty of people who have claimed encounters with aliens, some may be highly credible. For examples see here, here and here. One question some people have long asked is whether the universe is more like a desert or a jungle. The desert theorists have been the most assertive in the most respected parts of the scientific establishment for a long time. But the recent search for exoplanets has revealed a lot of exoplanets and a good number of those in what is called the Goldilocks zone around their own stars (not too hot and not too cold for liquid water) and that has changed the assessment. Of course in most very ancient traditions and mythologies the Heavens were a jungle of sorts — full of mysterious and mystical creatures and creators. We don’t have to theorize about the existence of theoretically habitable planets anymore. Information about them can be seen here and here — and there are almost certainly a vast number more.

Various pieces of the alien threat assessment have to be considered.

I propose the Franksummers3ba Equation for the number of Alien First Contacts by direct visitation that humans will experience on earth and in the possible colonies within our own solar system. It is based on the Drake Equation.

N = ( R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fs • fe• fb • fr • fp • fs  •L)M

  • N= The number of civilizations which might arrive at Earth and contact  or confront humans here or in surrounding future colonies relatively unannounced.
  • R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
  • fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
  • ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
  • fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
  • fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
  • fs = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that develop space travel .
  • fe=The fraction of those civilizations that choose to locate planets like ours.
  •  fb=The fraction of those civilizations that build and launch interstellar craft: finding the political resources and will to do so as well as the wealth.
  •  fr= The fraction of those civilizations  which develop individual craft or groups of craft capable of reaching our solar system  from their launch point.
  •  fp= The fraction of those civilizations  which either reach a high percentage of detected planets in range or which highly prioritize reaching a planet like ours.
  • • fs= The fraction of those civilizations which use stealth or secrecy beyond our capacities of remote detection and which find it preferable to avoid electromagnetic or similar communication at a distance in advance of first contact.
  • Ll  = The length of time such civilizations launch such craft divided by the period of time humans survive in this solar system.
  • NOTE:  the brackets indicate that this is the product which gives us a number for contact from any launch site even though the next operation is also mathematically identical multiplication.
  • M=The rate at which civilizations of this sort reproduce autonomous launch sites which are in these parameter or civilizations enter these parameters which are otherwise disqualified by one or more factors through creating autonomous launch sites.

 

 

So that’s all I have time for here. But this is yet another post in favor of taking space colonization seriously. I am not sure what else I will be able to write on this subject because my Earthbound concerns are sufficient to take up my time and energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tragic week

An important contact in the formation of this blog posted this.

The Norton View

The security services do a remarkable job and have managed to prevent a number of attacks on Parliament.  There is always the danger that one or more will succeed.  Wednesday saw such an attack, with a tragic loss of lives.   Whenever such attacks happen – the Palace has witnessed IRA bomb attacks as well as the assassination of MP Airey Neave within the precincts – there is a review of security, but with the recognition that Parliament has to continue operating as a Parliament and be accessible to the public.   There is the obvious concern not only with the Palace itself, but also the surrounding area.  One aspect to be considered is pedestrianizing the area around the Palace, not least St Margaret’s Street and part of Parliament Square.  As for immediate changes, these will be operational matters for the security services.

I had a fairly packed programme lined up for the week.  On…

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