Category: Technology

Applying RICO to the Biden Crime Family, the Dems, and the Media

Applying RICO to the Biden Crime Family, the Dems, and the Media

At the end of my last piece in this space, I promised to discuss why, and how, the RICO statute – the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – can and should be applied to the Biden crime family, the Democratic Party which has protected and furthered it, and the mass and social media that have engaged in a deliberate cover-up of its criminal activities. That’s what I will do in this piece.

Let me make some things clear up front. First and foremost, this is not about partisan politics. This is about corruption and crime that goes so deep that every American, regardless of political preference, needs to be not just concerned, but outraged. As a matter of disclosure, I will say that I support Donald Trump and will vote for him on election day, not so much because I am a huge fan of Trump – though I have more reasons to be one this time around than I did four years ago – but because the alternative is utterly unacceptable, and should be to any right-thinking voter. The pity is that so many people have already early voted without full knowledge of key facts that may have influenced how they voted.

Second, I’m not going to try to detail all of Joe Biden’s wrongdoing. That can take (and has taken) books. I’ve laid out in some detail much of the wrongdoing in my posts over the past year, and I urge to you read the primary stories where I laid out the corruption fostered by Biden in Ukraine and China. Many of the conclusions I drew then and in subsequent stories concerned how Biden’s son Hunter exploited his father’s position as Vice President of the United States to further his own business and profit interests. We now have compelling evidence that not only confirms what I detailed in those pieces, but that goes further to clearly and unambiguously implicate Joe Biden himself in clear abuse of his position and illegal profiteering, with the extent of the wrongdoing taking in many more countries, including Russia, Kazakhstan, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

Plausible deniability”

Rather than simply repeat information that now is publicly available – though repressed by most in the mainstream media and censored and blocked by the social media giants – I urge you in the strongest terms to go directly to the primary sources (links below) for confirmation that this is not just speculation at this point, and it decidedly is not Russian disinformation, as frauds and liars such as Calif. Rep. Adam Schiff would try to mislead you into believing. Both John Ratcliffe, Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI, the latter of which seized the Hunter Biden laptop in December 2019, have confirmed that the emails are not the product of Russian misinformation.

Foremost in your own investigation, if you did not watch it in real time as it aired on Fox News on Oct. 27, spend the time to listen to Tucker Carlson’s hour-long interview with Tony Bobulinski, a former business partner with the Bidens, who lays out exactly the highly dubious nature of the Bidens’ business activities and Joe Biden’s role in them (Bobulinkski, among other things, confirms that it is Joe Biden who is referred to as “the big guy” and “the chairman” in the emails contained on Hunter Biden’s laptop):

Tucker Carlson interview with Tony Bobulinkski – video and transcript of the full interview on the RealClear Politics site

Read and download the full report (below) of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance – focus especially on the summary, and on pages 65-87 of the report:

Final Report – Homeland Security/Finance Committees

Read the transcript of former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s speech to the Republican National Convention in August in which she outlines the corruption of Joe Biden and the Biden family

And read the stories in the New York Post about the emails and other items on Hunter Biden’s laptop:

The initial Oct. 14 story about how emails reveal how Hunter introduced a top Burisma official to his father.

Oct. 15 story detailing Hunter Biden’s murky business dealings in China

Oct. 16 story about Hunter’s troubled life and pained soul

Oct. 23 story about how Biden business group eyed N.Y. Gov. Mario Cuomo and Sen. Chuck Schumer for deals

Oct. 27 piece by Michael Goodwin in the Post about Joe Biden meetings

See an index of more of the Post‘s Hunter Biden stories

At one point in the Carlson interview, Bobulinski, a former Naval officer, said this:

And I’m — I’m thinking about the Biden family, like, how are they doing this? I know Joe decided not to run in 2016, but what if he ran in the future? Aren’t they taking political risk or headline risk?

And I remember looking at Jim Biden [Joe Biden’s brother and a campaign adviser, and one of the main beneficiaries of the Biden family business] and saying, how are you guys getting away with this, like, aren’t you concerned?

And he — he looked at me and he laughed a little bit and said, ‘plausible deniability.’ ”

You may recall that the administration of Richard Nixon attempted – unsuccessfully, as it turned out – to cover its tracks during Watergate through application of “plausible deniability,” and it’s been used as a form of cover by the CIA going back to the Kennedy administration.

The RICO Act

The RICO Act was passed in 1970 to combat crime conducted as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. It targets organizations, and not just individuals, engaged in such criminal activities as illegal gambling, money laundering, bribery, kidnapping, extortion, sex and drug trafficking, murder, counterfeiting, and embezzlement, among others. To obtain a RICO conviction, the government must prove two or more covered criminal acts over a 10-year period, and must show that a defendant was invested in, maintained an interest in, or participated in a criminal enterprise that was involved in interstate or foreign commerce.

Read the full text of the RICO Act here

If you look at the Biden situation, referring to the above sources, several elements appear to fall under the RICO Act:

  • An ongoing enterprise
  • More than two instances of possible criminal activity
  • Involvement in interstate or foreign commerce
  • Potential criminal activities, including:
    • Extortion (using U.S. public funds, adding an additional level to the offense)
    • Bribery
    • Money laundering
    • Tax evasion
    • Violation of FARA (the Foreign Agents Registration Act)
    • Violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
    • Sanctions violations (negotiations to acquire a percentage of the Russian state-controlled energy company, Rosneft)

Any of the actions of the Biden family would be bad enough, but what becomes a matter of grave national concern are the deliberate and coordinated actions of the Democratic Party, Party-affiliated PACs, the mass media, and social media, to cover up the various potential offenses committed by Joe Biden, a candidate for President of the United States, and to prevent a large percentage of the American electorate from gaining knowledge of those offenses. This could have lasting impact on the country, and given the criminal nature of the actions being concealed, these parties are implicating themselves in their conduct and, therefore, should also be investigated for RICO violations.

If you have any doubt that this cover-up is deliberate and coordinated, all you have to do is consider that no mainstream broadcast network, other than Fox News, has spent any time reporting on any of this. Even worse than the usual lack of any kind of journalistic vetting of Biden or his running mate, you would have heard how the whole email thing is a product of “Russian disinformation.” Never mind the enormous resources and time the media spent on the last bout of “Russian disinformation,” waged allegedly to support Trump, which turned out to be a complete hoax. This time around, this matter is far from a myth or a hoax, but no attention is being given to it by the mass media. Publicly supported NPR went so far as to state outright that they won’t cover the Biden email scandal.

It has been credibly reported that officials of Democrat-controlled PACs called major media chiefs following the Bobulinski interview and threatened that they would have no access to a Biden administration if they carried any news of the interview. The result: Zero minutes of coverage on any media network outside Fox News. This goes beyond mere journalistic malpractice, which has become a commonplace. This is extortion, and by being complicit in it the media has become an accomplice to a crime. Given the national interest in the outcome of the election and the ability to make valid judgments about the candidates, and the very real possibility that a Presidential candidate could be compromised with America’s leading adversary, Communist China, I would argue this should at minimum merit a RICO investigation, and possible prosecution, by the Justice Department.

As troubling, Tucker Carlson is reporting as I’m writing this, on the night following the Bobulinski interview, that a package of original documents associated with the case, shipped cross-country from New York to Los Angeles by major national private courier, arrived opened and empty, and a thorough investigation by the courier company could not reveal what happened to the documents or who was involved in absconding with them. These are tactics more associated with Communist China or the former Soviet Union. But this is what is happening in 2020 America, a week before the most critical election in our time.

Bobulinski is reported to be staying at a location remote from his family in order to help protect his family from attacks.

Be aware that at no time has Joe Biden or his campaign denied the existence of the Hunter Biden emails. The best they can do is try to discredit how they came into the possession of the Post, which, of course, is Russia, Russia, Russia. Keep in mind that the U.S. had a Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resign his office exactly 47 years ago this month for corruption that is probably vastly eclipsed by Biden’s corruption. How the country has changed since that time, when such things were taken seriously. What is happening now with the media refusing to cover a major corruption story is unprecedented. The overseas media is covering this story more than the American media, which is scandalous.

Jack Dorsey lies under oath to the Senate

In my earlier post, Democracy Dies in Darkness – which I consider perhaps the most significant piece I’ve written in my 50-plus-year journalism career – I expressed the alarm every American should share at the way the social media giants, Twitter and Facebook foremost among them, have suppressed the Post stories, and retweets of them. On Oct. 28, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey lied under oath to Sen. Ted Cruz, falsely and repeatedly claiming the block against the Post had been lifted. It has not been lifted, and the Post went on to relate how other media outlets were content to stand by as Twitter attempted to get the Post to essentially retract its documented stand, not unlike what would happen in an authoritarian state.

Along with being investigated for RICO violations, one hopes that Cruz and other senators to whom Dorsey lied make a criminal referral for perjury naming Dorsey.

The time for talk has passed,” said Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. “Take away the special status given these tech companies.”

Hawley has been a consistent critic of the tech companies, and an advocate of removing the Section 230 protections afforded them and which shield them from liability based on their biased actions. But as Hawley pointed out, it was two hours into the hearings when Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act even came up, indicative of how Congress has not shown any resolve in doing anything substantive to rein in the enormous power – and damage being done to our democracy – of the tech giants.

Already in a Brave New World

It would be inaccurate to say that we are facing loss of our democracy if these things are allowed to continue. In effect, we are already there, and we have clearly entered this Brave New World where truth is turned on its head and thought control is forced on us. Should there be a Democractic victory, as illegitimate as it might be, in next week’s elections, we are facing entrenchment of these things on a permanent basis, as I described in my last piece where I asked if America is ready for the one-party state Party leaders have in mind.

Perhaps, you might ask, how people can be so ready to sell out their own country and its freedoms in favor of an authoritarian enemy and system? But consider how for decades there were many Americans – and these included journalists, teachers, scientists, artists, and others – who sold out to the former Soviet Union. They did this in support of their ideology, their view of what a “just” society might look like, their belief, as misguided as it was, that Soviet Communism represented a better solution for the country.

Why should we be surprised now that there are those today – including those same categories of people who sold out to the Soviets, and maybe now throw in some politicians, corrupt and otherwise, too – who are ready to toss in with our leading adversary. That includes one of the two candidates for President of the country. After all, Joe Biden himself has said it: “Come on, man, I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”

Again, the state of affairs in 2020 America.

Featured image: Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, Larry Downing, Reuters. Used under Fair Use.

Tony Bobulinski, Fox News. Used under Fair Use.

Jack Dorsey on the cover of the New York Post of Oct. 29, 2020. Used under Fair Use.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

Democracy Dies in Darkness

Democracy dies in darkness. If you care at all about the very survival of American democracy, you should be absolutely terrified of what is happening right now with the cold-blooded and utterly partisan repression of information being perpetrated by the social media giants, bolstered by the mainstream media. Unprecedented in the nation’s history – in the world’s history – it is not government carrying out this bald-faced censorship, but private enterprises, arguably the most powerful corporations on the face of the earth.

This frightening trend toward non-governmental repression, whether it is from the social media giants, cancel culture, or militant forces on the left such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter, was the subject of my recent posting on Banned Books Week: Canceling of Thought in 2020 America on my Stoned Cherry blog. In just two weeks, its prescience has come to the fore in what I would assess to be the single biggest threat facing our democracy.

When the New York Post broke the story confirming what many of us have long suspected, that former Vice President Joe Biden had used his official position to favor the business and financial fortunes of his son, Hunter, and, worse, may have himself gained vast financial benefit, not just in Ukraine but in China, the social media giants Twitter and Facebook immediately shut down the story. They then went even further, and blocked any attempts to repeat the story, such as through retweets, and even shut down the accounts of the Post itself and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. The mainstream media, in lockstep, hardly even mentioned, or downplayed, what the Post reported, and Biden and his campaign have been virtually silent on the story, and has not been pressed on it. You can be excused if you feel you’re in Belarus, Russia, China, or even North Korea, and not in the United States of America, with the concerted attempt to keep the public from even knowing about this story.

What we are witnessing is the utter crushing of the free flow of information in this country, and it is coming from private, but extraordinarily powerful, actors. And it is coming entirely from one side of the political spectrum. This is something I have been warning about on this blog for years now, but it has now reached a critical state.

Keep in mind that the Post is not some frivolous journal. Depending on the method and time of calculating circulation, its readership ranks anywhere from No. 1 to No. 6 nationally, and, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, it is the oldest continually published newspaper in the country. Despite allowing dubious stories negative about President Trump to appear and remain on their platforms, including stories based on anonymous sources and illegally obtained (and never verified) information, Twitter and Facebook justified their actions based on these very grounds, as well as the untrue grounds that the Post‘s information had been “hacked.”

This piece isn’t intended to deal in detail with what the Post found and reported about the senior Biden’s involvement in furthering his son’s business dealings, but rather with the egregious repression of the information to keep it from reaching the voting public. I’d direct you — and strongly urge you – to read the actual stories (we, not being Twitter or Facebook, are happy to be a medium for the free flow of information), which, if accurate, confirm in detail what I previously opined about Biden’s abuse of his office while he was Vice President in the Obama Administration:

The initial Oct. 14 story reporting on emails that reveal how Hunter introduced a top Burisma official to his father

The Oct. 15 story detailing Hunter Biden’s murky business dealings in China

The Oct. 16 story about Hunter’s troubled life and pained soul

The Post stories

In brief, the stories report what some 40,000 emails – as well as thousands of texts, videos, and photos, some showing Hunter in “very compromising positions,” including having sex with an unidentified woman while smoking crack cocaine – to and from Hunter Biden reveal about his personal life, business dealings, and the leveraging of his father’s position to further his business interests and prodigious income, both in Ukraine and China. The emails were on a water-damaged laptop left in April 2019 with a computer repair shop in Delaware, and which was never picked up. While the shop owner couldn’t identify the customer as Hunter Biden, the laptop bore a sticker of the Beau Biden Foundation, named after Hunter’s late brother, and the email address was that of Hunter Biden at that time.

The shop owner, after numerous unsuccessful attempts at contacting the customer, eventually informed the FBI of its existence, and the agency seized the laptop in December. Meanwhile, the shop owner had made a copy of the hard drive, which he turned over to Robert Costello, attorney for Trump legal advisor Rudy Giuliani. In due course, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon informed the Post about the emails, and on Sunday Giuliani turned the drive copy over to the Post.

While it is true that the authenticity of the emails has not been confirmed, the Biden campaign initially did not deny their existence or authenticity, pointing only to the action by the social media platforms to block stories concerning them as “proof” they weren’t true. Subsequently, the campaign painted them as promoting some sort of “conspiracy theory.” The Democratic smear campaign went into full “Russia conspiracy” mode, with California Rep. Adam Schiff, Liar-in-Chief in the Congress, hauling out that now long-debunked theory to attempt to delegitimize the emails. That there are people foolish enough to continue to believe that sort of nonsense is indicative of the deliberate failure of the media to propagate truthful information in this country.

As further confirmation of the clear media bias that has taken hold, moderator George Stephanopoulis did not ask Joe Biden a single question about the Post reports during Thursday night’s townhall on ABC, and neither did any of the voters posting their softball questions. How this is not considered journalistic malpractice eludes me. Meanwhile, on NBC, moderator Savannah Guthrie, sounding more like a petulant high school girl than a professional journalist, hurled accusatory statements (often inaccurate) at President Trump who, to his credit, responded to them, and the often challenging questions put to him by voters, with grace and directness. Given that NBC came under attacks both from without and within even for hosting the townhall with Trump, can there be any residual doubt that there is almost no fairness or honesty left in the mass media?

There are so many things wrong with this whole state of affairs it leaves one grasping for what to include and what to leave out, so as not to confuse the issue or wind up going on for thousands of words on the topic. With some 20 million people reported to have already voted in this critically important election, how can it be considered a democratic process when virtually all the powerful levers of information are working to suppress reports that, in earlier times, would have been considered crucial to determining the outcome of an election?

Applying the Twitter standard used to suppress the Post stories, the American public would not have known about the Pentagon Papers (hacked), COINTELPRO (stolen), Watergate (unidentified sources), or the revelations of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks (hacked and unidentified soures), or Edward Snowdon (also hacked and unidentified sources). Would America be a different country today were those revelations suppressed? Undoubtedly. Would it be a better country? I doubt many would even attempt to make that argument. Further underscoring the issue, news of the trial of Assange has been largely ignored in the same media that relies on the First Amendment to defend its egregious actions, posing a further threat to freedom of expression, even more under attack in the U.K. than in the U.S.

Pushing back

There are some efforts going on to bring the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, all tech giants, to heel before things go further down the rat hole of Chinese-style repression. Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley have called for a subpoena to haul Twitter CEO Jack Dempsey to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 23, and Hawley – a key advocate for limiting the power of social media to suppress ideas they don’t like – is calling for the Committee to subpoena Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Hawley also has joined senators Marco Rubio, Kelly Loefler, and Kevin Cramer in seeking a clarification of the Section 230 rules which protect platforms from civil liability when third parties post false or misleading information. The argument is that the platforms are abusing the special protection Section 230 gives them and, if they are going to censor third-party posts, then they should be subject to the same liability as any media source not given such protection.

Additionally, the RNC has filed a complaint against Twitter with the Federal Elections Commission, alleging that its censorship of the Post stories amounts to an illegal campaign contribution to the Biden campaign.

I would contend that the time for hearings and testimony has past, and it’s time for action. In any event, note that all the concerns are being raised by Republicans. If you think the Democrats are concerned about protecting free speech, you would be seriously mistaken. When they have the weight of what amounts to state media on their side, they remain unmysteriously silent. Partisanship and the pursuit of power supersedes basic American and human rights, as far as they’re concerned. In the one-party Democratic state of California, for instance, an Orwellian-style “Ministry of Truth” has been proposed to seek out and block what it determines to be “fake news,” and a similar measure has been introduced by a Dem in Congress. They see themselves as the arbiters of what is “truth,” and the less you know about what is really going on, the better for them, they reason. But is that better for you?

How would you feel to learn that Joe Biden used his influence and public funds to have a Ukrainian prosecutor, who was investigating the company on whose board his son served, fired? Or that he lied to you about not meeting with a top executive of that same company? Or that he sold out American interests to companies and institutions controlled by the Chinese Communist Party to benefit his son, and very possibly himself? Who, you might wonder, is the “big guy” referred to in one of the reputed Hunter emails, promised a carve out of 10% of a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars with China’s largest private energy company? Might it be Papa Joe himself? And have you ever wondered how Biden got as wealthy as he is, living off his government salary for 47 years?

Read the Post stories and see what you think.

If it’s up to Big Tech, the majority in the mass media, and the Democratic Party, you won’t ever find out answers to these, and many other, questions. And you should be very terrified, indeed. Democracy dies in darkness, and night is closing in all around us.

Featured image: Candle in Darkness, Rahul, Pexels. Used with permission.

The Elephant in the Room: The Other America Roars Back

The Elephant in the Room: The Other America Roars Back

If you had any doubt that there really are two Americas, that doubt would have been shattered had you, like me, watched both the Democratic National Convention last week and the Republican National Convention this week. In stark contrast to the Dems’ dark and dystopian view of America, the GOP’s vision of the country was one of hope, progress, and unity. And while the DNC chose to present their view largely through a format of endless small video screens, much like a Zoom infomercial, reflecting the fear they would like to keep the country living in, the RNC chose a live, open, and dynamic format that, while different from a traditional convention, at least conveyed vivacity and unabashed spirit.

Honestly, as I said in my piece last week, I was expecting another largely virtual convention. That expectation went by the wayside from the very opening of the proceedings and was quickly forgotten. Dubbed “Land of Greatness” by the GOP, this was clearly, and refreshingly, an event with real people speaking to the country in real life, not a bunch of talking heads on screens and, in too many cases, in pre-recorded videos and speeches. Also refreshingly absent were the Hollywood elites that the Dems had chosen to emcee their convention.

It has been reported that President Trump used some of The Apprentice’s producers to help plan the RNC convention, and their influence and talent was clearly evident. Heretofore we were led to believe that the Democratic Party had the edge on using technology to its advantage, but if that was true in past years it’s no longer the case. And as the RNC convention demonstrated, technology or no technology, there is no substitute for people speaking directly and unfiltered to the audience.

From the opening speeches of the first night through the finale of Trump’s acceptance speech to a gathering of between 1,000 and 2,000 people on the South Lawn of the White House, followed by one of the most amazing fireworks displays over the National Mall that I’ve ever seen and a rousing operatic set by tenor Christopher Macchio, this convention walked all over the Dems’ Zoom display with big elephant feet. And while the Dems studiously avoided even one word of mention of the other elephants in the country, the months of violence and civil unrest rocking cities all across the nation, or how China was allowed to bleed away millions of American jobs, the Republicans took them head-on, portraying Democratic complicity in permitting both and how the country could look forward to more of the same were Joe Biden elected in November. Perhaps more even than the convention’s production values, this message may have resonated with voters. But we’ll get to that.

No More (Just) Mr. White Guy

Another myth dispelled throughout the most recent four nights is that the Republican Party is a party of old white men. While the Dems tried to make us believe that the country consists almost entirely of blacks and Hispanics, the Republicans demonstrated that people of all different backgrounds – white, black, Hispanic, Native American, men, women, old, young, natural born, and immigrant – can and do find a home in the GOP and, in case after case, to rise to positions of great authority within the party and the country. It was a direct refutation of the identity politics the Dems rely on and showed that people of drive and talent are welcomed and can thrive within the Republican Party based not on the color of their skin, but rather – in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., frequently cited during the convention – the quality of their character.

Some of the people of color, both luminaries and the largely unheralded, who spoke during the convention, all of whom had nothing but words of praise for the President, include:

  • Legendary NFL star Herschel Walker
  • South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott
  • Candidate for Congress from Baltimore Kim Klacik
  • Maximo Alvarez, Cuban exile and founder of Sunshine Gasoline
  • Former South Carolina Governor and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
  • Democratic Georgia state legislator Vernon Jones
  • Norma Urrabazo, pastor and executive at the National Latina/Latino Commission
  • Myron Lizer, vice president of the Navajo Nation
  • Jon Ponder, former inmate and founder of HOPE for Prisoners, Inc.
  • Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez
  • Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron
  • Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng
  • Burgess Owens, former NFL player and candidate for Congress from Utah
  • Civil rights activist Clarence Henderson
  • White House advisor Ja’Ron Smith
  • Marine Corps veteran Stacia Brightmom
  • Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes
  • Ann Dorn, widow of former police captain David Dorn, killed in St. Louis looting
  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson
  • Alice Johnson, former inmate whose sentence was commuted by President Trump

A recurrent theme was how the media portrayal of Trump as a racist and misogynist was false. Herschel Walker, speaking on the opening night, perhaps said it best.

It hurt my soul to hear the terrible names that people call Donald. The worst one is racist. I take it out as a personal insult that people would think I’ve had a 37-year friendship with a racist. People who think that don’t know what they’re talking about,” Walker said. “Growing up in the deep South, I’ve seen racism up close. I know what it is and it isn’t Donald Trump. Just because someone loves and respect the flag, our national anthem, and our country doesn’t mean they don’t care about social justice. I care about all of those things. So does Donald Trump. He shows how much he cares about social justice in the black community through his actions and his actions speaks louder than stickers or slogans on a jersey.”

Walker’s sentiments were echoed by Jon Ponder, a convicted bank robber released early from prison and who went on to found HOPE for Prisoners, Inc., an organization that helps former convicts get a new start in life. In one of several moments in which Trump himself appeared, the President signed a full pardon for Ponder right on camera. Looking on approvingly was Richard Beasley, the former FBI agent who had arrested Ponder and with whom he is now friends.

On the last night, Alice Marie Johnson, another former prisoner whose sentence had been commuted by the President after she spent more than two decades behind bars for a non-violent drug conviction that was her first offense, gave a moving presentation. She related how she had been sentenced to life in prison without parole, a product of the crime bill that Joe Biden had helped get passed in the 1990s.

I was once told that the only way I would be reunited with my family would be as a corpse,” Johnson said. “But through the grace of God and the love and compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight and I assure you, I am not a ghost. I am alive, I am whole and most importantly, I am free.”

Going one step further, the day after the convention Trump gave Johnson a full pardon.

Other speakers who gave moving and powerful accounts of their encounters with the President and how he supported them were Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was murdered in the Parkland high school massacre; Nicholas Sandmann, the Covington, Kentucky, teen who was ridiculed by the media mob simply for wearing a MAGA hat; pro-life advocate and former Planned Parenthood employee Abby Johnson; and Carl and Marsha Mueller, whose daughter, Kayla, was held captive, tortured, raped, and murdered by ISIS.

The Big Media Lie

If you had any doubt about the source for creating and maintaining the two separate Americas, the mass media quickly wiped out any question you might have had about that. Because I didn’t want the interruptions with talking heads that marked coverage of the DNC convention on Fox News, I watched all four nights of it on MSNBC, which normally I’ll avoid like the plague. On MSNBC, I was able to see the entire DNC convention uninterrupted. But that wasn’t to be the case for the RNC convention. Early on the first night, as Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who had defended their home and lives from a mob of Black Lives Matter protestors only to be charged with gun violations by the same prosecutor who refused to charge any of the looters or rioters in her jurisdiction, were telling their story, MSNBC cut in so Rachel Maddow could “explain the lies” told by the McCloskeys. Now wait a minute. I don’t need a despicable character and congenital liar like Rachel Maddow explaining anything to me, nor do I need the likes of former Missouri Senator and Democratic hack Claire McCaskell, called out of the hangar of washed-up politicians by Maddow, or the racist Don Lemon or the general idiot Chris Cuomo on CNN, telling me about what the McCloskeys actually experienced. I’ve seen it first-hand and to me it’s clear who the liars are, and it’s not the McCloskeys.

Despite the biggest and most shameless lies told during the DNC convention, never once did Maddow or the others on the leftist networks interrupt it or “explain” any of those lies. But they did it repeatedly during the Republican convention. While Fox News was still doing its talking heads thing, I searched for a source where I could watch the RNC convention without it being filtered through interpretations or distortions of either side of the political spectrum. And I found it on C-Span, where I was able to watch the rest of the convention in its entirety without interruption.

I am sure I was not alone in this. While overall viewership ratings were down slightly for the RNC versus the DNC (as it was in 2016, too), it was off markedly for MSNBC and CNN. Meanwhile, Fox News, during Sean Hannity’s segment, scored record viewership for any convention coverage ever – more than 7 million viewers on the first night, compared with 2 million on CNN and less than 1.6 million on MSNBC, and 8 million on the second night. But the real gainer was C-Span, where viewership for the RNC convention was a rocking six times that for the DNC convention. On the first night of the RNC, 440,000 viewers, myself among them, tuned in on C-Span, versus just 76,000 for the DNC in the equivalent time slot, and this pattern continued through the week. The DNC performance on social media, according to Nielson Media Research, was no better. I think this was an indictment of the kind of distorted coverage provided by the other networks, especially the ones on the left.

To me, it is encouraging that so many Americans still want to get their news unfiltered and can see through the lies told them by the likes of CNN and MSNBC. Allowed to do so, it’s clear that views can begin to change. The post-convention show on C-Span took calls from viewers all over the country, with separate call-in numbers for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. It was no surprise that almost all the callers on the Republican line supported Trump. What was a surprise was how almost all the callers on the Democratic line said they were changing their support to Trump and, in some cases, changing their party affiliation to Republican after being life-long Democrats. Most of those on the Independent line also said they’d vote for Trump in November. Again, this pattern continued through the convention.

Probably the issue that was most cited by those shifting their support to Trump was the violence afflicting the country and the belief that the Dems were either unable or unwilling to do anything about it. It didn’t hurt that the worst of the unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was going on during the convention, and people were fed up watching American cities being destroyed by mindless violence. Apparently this message started to get through to the Dem leadership, and even to the talking heads of CNN and MSNBC.

After nearly three months trying to convince viewers that all that was going on was “peaceful protesting,” Cuomo came out Tuesday, the second night of the RNC convention, and called anti-police rioting “a Rorschach test for where this country is,” adding, I think it probably represents the biggest threat to the Democratic cause.” And then Lemon, who previously had gone so far as to defend the rioting as a “mechanism for a restructure of our country or for some sort of change,” agreed with Cuomo’s Rorschach reference. And then he went on to reveal the real crux of the matter in his eyes: “The rioting has to stop. Chris, as you know and I know, it’s showing up in the polling. It’s showing up in focus groups. It is the only thing – it is the only thing right now that is sticking.”

So it’s not the loss of property, the loss of life, the destruction of livelihoods, the tearing down and burning of whole segments of American cities that is the problem. It’s that the poll numbers for Biden and “the Democratic cause” are going down. Got it?

Do you still doubt the key role the media play in creating and fostering the divisions the country is suffering through? The bigger question is, how can democracy even survive such bias and untruths?

Melania

Melania Trump, the largely unheralded First Lady, deserves a section of this posting all by herself. While all the adult Trump children – Donald Jr., Tiffany, Eric, and Ivanka – had speaking rolls during the convention, First Lady Melania’s presentation at the end of the second night was perhaps the most remarkable from a family member.

You didn’t have to wonder whether she used to be a model. That was apparent seeing the grace with which she carried herself coming down the long White House arcade to the podium. We get to see so little of this First Lady that it’s remarkable observing her beauty and composure, not to mention her striking wardrobe (it doesn’t hurt being married to a billionaire, but one can certainly see the attraction she held, and apparently still does, for the President).

Melania must be the most classicly feminine and cultured First Lady the country has had since Jacqueline Kennedy. Were Trump a Democrat and not a Republican, the media would be fawning all over her like a 15-year-old boy in heat, but instead she’s almost shut out, when not being actively derided. Part of that is probably the result of her own reticence to be the center of attention – we remember how at the beginning of the President’s term she preferred to stay in New York with son Barron – but the rest is pure prejudice.

It was striking to hear a First Lady speak with an accent. To me, it signified how open and welcoming this country is, to not only elect a black man to the country’s highest office, but now to have a foreign-born First Lady. And once she started speaking, it was clear the audience of about 100 people gathered in the Rose Garden, which she recently had renovated after many years without an updating, loved her. She seemed to have some difficulty with the teleprompters, holding her head in one direction or the other for a bit longer than seemed natural, but she spoke with confidence and expressed herself with a clarity that belied the fact that English is not her native language. If only Joe Biden could be as coherent.

The First Lady spoke of her immigrant roots.

Growing up as a young child in Slovenia, which was under Communist rule at the time, I always heard about an amazing place called America, a place that stands for freedom and opportunity,” she said. “As an immigrant and a very independent woman, I understand what a privilege it is to live here and to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that we have.”

Melania acknowledged the pain caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying, “”My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one, and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering.” She also spoke of her work addressing the opioid epidemic, and her work with children both here and in Africa. She spoke to the mothers of the country about her “Be Best” campaign to encourage more civility in online discourse and the concerns they share about the use of social media by their children. And she addressed how her husband’s approach did not please everyone, but – garnering a laugh from the audience – she said, “Whether you like it or not, you always know what he’s thinking.”

Melania also addressed the issues of racial justice confronting the country, and described how she saw the legacy of the slave trade first-hand upon arriving in Ghana.

“It is a harsh reality that we are not proud of parts of our history,” she said, but went on to urge an end to the unrest, saying, “Stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice.”

It occurred to me that Trump and his re-election campaign would be advised to make greater use of Melania, getting her out front-and-center to help influence hearts and minds. But, of course, most in the media had nothing good to say about her speech, and then another washed-up member of the Hollywood elite, Bette Midler, tweeted, “#beBest is back! A UGE bore! She can speak several words in a few languages. Get that illegal alien off the stage!”

If that wasn’t bad enough, she went on to tweet, “Oh God. She still can’t speak English.”

Well, Miss M – the M surely stands for Moron – how good is your Slovenian? What ignorance. But there must still be some decency left in this country because there was an outpouring of tweets accusing Midler of xenophobia and racism, which of course were appropriate words to categorize the venom contained in her mindless tweets.

The Dems Have Nothing to Say

It seems all the Dems have to offer in response are the kinds of gripes one has come to expect from them. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech, given from Jerusalem where he is on a trip promoting relations in the region, was criticized as a Hatch Act violation. Never mind the substance of what he said, or the demonstrable positive influence he and this Administration has had in the Middle East, in stark contrast to the mess Trump’s and Pompeo’s predecessors helped create.

Further criticisms were offered of Trump’s pardon of Jon Ponder or his overseeing of a naturalization ceremony for five new American citizens. Not to mention – horror of horrors! – his use of the White House and the South Lawn for his acceptance speech and the closing festivities. Never mind that Obama, in eight years, couldn’t manage to achieve criminal justice reform, which Trump has, or deported more people from the country than has Trump.

And of course, the other big criticism: People at the White House events weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. That’s the best they can do. Now remember, their candidate has said he’d shut the country down and require everyone to wear masks, so why would we be surprised? Never mind that the scientific evidence is, at best, mixed whether masks offer any real benefit, and no criticism has been made of rioters not wearing masks. But anything to divide us, and any criticism of Republicans is fair, right?

Note also that the Republican Party paid for the fireworks and other features of the closing ceremonies and no tax dollars were expended on them, but that won’t be enough to stop Nancy Pelosi and her gang from mounting one more expensive and pointless investigation.

But you know what? The Dems have squandered so much of the taxpayers’ money, the nation’s reputation, and our patience, I really don’t give a damn whether Pompeo broke the Hatch Act or whether it was technically proper or not that Trump used the White House as a backdrop during the convention. If the President can stir a bit of patriotic feeling and even a bit of excitement in his activities, I say go at it. The only marvel to me is that he has survived four years of the relentless and feckless and, at base, illegal and treasonous attacks mounted by the Dems and the dogs in their partisan media.

While Biden supporters all breathed a big sigh of relief at the end of their convention that their candidate managed to get through 25 minutes reading off a teleprompter and was greeted by flashing headlights in a Wilmington parking lot, Trump went almost three times as long, 70 minutes, in his acceptance speech, and no one doubted that he could. And then, as Uncle Joe cowered in his basement, Trump was off the next day for a campaign rally in New Hampshire.

But it wasn’t acceptable to the nihilists that one of the two major parties could hold its convention unmolested. After the final refrains from Macchio and the applause had died down, those attending the closing ceremonies at the White House were greeted by taunts, assaults, and death threats from the violent leftists, anarchists, and general morons and useful idiots gathered in the streets outside the White House grounds.

Among those attacked and threatened by the violent mobs were Sen. Rand Paul and his wife, Kelley. Beset by about 100 Black Lives Matter activists – some of which Paul said appeared to have been brought in from outside the area – Paul credited the D.C. police with possibly saving his and his wife’s life.

I truly believe this with every fiber of my being,” Rand said, “had they gotten at us they would have gotten us to the ground, we might not have been killed, might just have been injured by being kicked in the head, or kicked in the stomach until we were senseless.”

The couple finally had to seek protection from the security detail assigned to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to escape the mob. Needless to say, there have been no denunciations of this mob violence on White House guests by Biden or any other Democrat.

This is what the country has come to, and why after two weeks of political blather I am slightly more hopeful that Donald Trump will be re-elected in November and we at least will have a chance, as slim as it might be, of being spared from the abyss.

Featured Image: GOP Elephant and Flag, from latinovations.com, used under Fair Use
Melania Trump: Brendan Smialowski, AFP-Getty Images, used under Fair Use

Back to the Future

Back to the Future

It had been 3,249 days – nearly nine years – since Americans went to space aboard an American launch vehicle and from American soil, when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, bearing the Crew Dragon capsule with two astronauts aboard, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30. The launch broke a hiatus that existed since the last U.S. manned launch, that of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011, and during which only Russian vehicles, launched from the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, brought Americans to space.

The occasion was so momentous I decided I needed to be there, near the launch site, to see America’s return to manned spaceflight. For several years, in the 1980s, I covered the space program as a journalist and saw many launches, manned and unmanned, from KSC and adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In the intervening 35 years my interest in space and America’s place in it drifted, as it did for much of the country. All that changed Saturday.

Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken
Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken during a dress rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center on May 23. Photo by NASA/Kim Shiflett.

As impressive as the launch was, the tens of thousands of people who had come from all over the state of Florida, from all over the country, and even from abroad, to see the launch, was incredibly gratifying. To me, that was a big part of the story Saturday, just as it was three days earlier when similar crowds turned out, only to suffer disappointment when weather caused the launch to be scrubbed about 15 minutes before the planned liftoff.

Despite nine years during which no manned launches originated on American soil, people clearly are still interested in space exploration, and that interest is now passing to new generations of young people and children, generations which are likely to see people again set foot on the moon, and then going on to other planets, maybe even doing those things themselves.

Crowds watch SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
Crowds watch SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from shore of Indian River in Titusville, Fla., Saturday. Photo by the author.

As I’ve said before, to me perhaps the biggest tragedy of the cut-backs to the space program that happened after the last moon voyage occurred in the 1970s was that there were generations, billions of people, billions of children who were born and lived on this planet, but who were not alive as humans walked on the moon. All they could do was what people did for eons before American astronauts set foot on our nearest natural satellite, which was look toward the heavens, toward the moon, toward the planets and stars, and wonder what it would be like to go there, to dream about doing so. And now that dream once more is coming close to becoming a reality.

It could be as early as 2024 when we go back to the moon. And not many years after that when we send a manned mission to Mars, departing from the moon, which would serve as a stepping stone to reduce the cost and difficulty of breaking free from earth’s gravity.

Saturday’s launch marked another first: It was the first time that a launch vehicle and capsule built by a private company, SpaceX, carried astronauts into orbit. This is the new direction of spaceflight, a partnership between NASA and private enterprise, not just for private contractors to assemble parts and systems designed by NASA, but to design, build, and operate complete launch systems. Hot on SpaceX’s contrail is another private space venture, United Space Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, two aerospace giants, which also is hoping to carry astronauts into orbit.

Crowds watch SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
Crowds watch SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from shore of Indian River in Titusville, Fla., Saturday. Apollo and Shuttle-era Vehicle Assembly Building visible at right. Photo by the author.

We clearly have come a long way since the early days of the space program. Tuesday marked 55 years since, on June 3, 1965, astronaut Ed White made the first American spacewalk, remaining outside the Gemini 4 capsule, which he shared with Command Pilot James McDivitt, for 23 minutes. More recently, we have come up from what was probably the absolute nadir for the country’s space program when, 10 years ago, then-NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden – himself a former astronaut – told Al Jazeera television that he had been charged by President Barack Obama with the “perhaps foremost” task for the agency: “ . . . to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering.”

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket heads to orbit
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket heads to orbit over the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral. Photo by the author.

There was no thought of that Saturday as the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule rose from Pad 39A into the blue Florida sky, carrying Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS), 263 statute miles above the earth’s surface. Even as riots and violence was tearing apart cities across the country, and the nation was still reeling under months of lock-downs occasioned by an invading virus, the feeling of pride and happiness among those gathered along the shores of the Indian River or on the beaches and bridges and in the parks of Brevard County – people of all races, genders, nationalities, and ages – was evident.

Perhaps reflective of the feeling of those present would be the words of SpaceX founder and its self-styled Chief Technology Officer, Elon Musk. Himself born in South Africa and a citizen of three countries, including this one, Musk has described the U.S. as “[inarguably] the greatest country that has ever existed on Earth,” calling it “the greatest force for good of any country that’s ever been.” I think few present Saturday would have argued with those words.

Second Lady Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence, and President Donald Trump
From left to right, Second Lady Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence, and President Donald Trump, watch as Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon lifts off from Kenneday Space Center on Saturday. To the right out of the image is First Lady Melania Trump. The last time a president came to KSC to witness a launch was in October 1998 when President Bill Clinton came to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The Ride Up and Docking

The next crucial part of the mission came Sunday morning, 19 hours after launch, when the Crew Dragon capsule docked with the ISS. The docking went flawlessly, too, almost eerily smoothly, and it was enthralling watching it unfold on C-Span back in the confines of my living room. One wishes that terrestrial television transmission of sports and other events went as smoothly as the video being beamed down from space.

Behnken and Hurley, both Air Force test pilots, even got to pilot the capsule manually for awhile as they sped around the earth at 17,500 MPH in pursuit of the ISS, catching up with it at 10:16 a.m. EDT Sunday. The only apparent mishap was when Behnken bumped his head on the hatchway, causing some bleeding he mopped up with a handkerchief, as the astronauts came across from the Crew Dragon into the vestibule of the space station.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket heads to orbit
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket heads to orbit over the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral. Photo by the author.

Welcoming Hurley and Behnken aboard the ISS were American astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Antoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Vagner on Saturday had captured a rare image of the launch of the Falcon 9 as the ISS passed east of Cape Canaveral.

Cassidy later told reporters that the Crew Dragon emitted a new car smell.

“In fact, there was a little bit of space smell in the vestibule, Cassidy said. “When we got that hatch open, you could tell it was a brand new vehicle, with smiley faces on the other side, [a] smiley face on mine — just as if you had bought a new car, the same kind of reaction. Wonderful to see my friends and wonderful to see a brand new vehicle.”

Comparing the ride up with his previous ascent on the Space Shuttle, Behnken said the liftoff was smoother, largely due to the Shuttle’s twin and powerful solid rocket boosters, though other parts of the ascent were rougher.

“But Dragon was huffing and puffing all the way into orbit, and we were definitely driving or riding a dragon all the way up,” he said. “It was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the Space Shuttle was up to MECO [main engine cutoff] — a little bit less g’s but a little bit more alive is probably the best way I would describe it.”

The next manned SpaceX launch is projected to be around Aug. 30. But even given the successes of the SpaceX launch system, there will be at least one more American astronaut, Kate Rubins, to be launched on a Russian rocket in October. The U.S. pays the Russians $90 million per seat for those launches, but that probably will soon turn around and the Russians will begin paying the U.S. to launch their cosmonauts on our vehicles, at a more economical cost of $55 million per seat. A big part of the cost saving results from SpaceX’s use of recoverable and refurbishable first-stage boosters, unlike the Russians’ non-recoverable launch system.

After Saturday’s successful launch, Musk couldn’t help but get in a dig at the Russians during the post-launch news conference. In a jab at Russian space agency Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin who, in 2014, had said the U.S. might as well “deliver its astronauts to the ISS by using a trampoline,” Musk, sitting in a panel chaired by NASA Administrator James Bridenstine, quipped, “The trampoline is working.” Musk quickly added, “It’s an inside joke,” as he and Bridenstine both laughed.

While Rogozin’s spokesman was less than gracious, saying what happened Saturday should have happened a long time ago, Rogozin himself took Musk’s comment in stride.

Tweeted the Russian space chief to his American counterpart, “Please convey my sincere greetings to @elonmusk (I loved his joke) and @SpaceX team. Looking forward to further cooperation!”

A rivalry that has gone on for more than six decades isn’t likely to abate any time soon, cooperation aboard the ISS or not. For now, Americans have a lot to be proud about, and they showed it at the Cape on Saturday.

Crowds watch SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
Crowds watch SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from shore of Indian River in Titusville, Fla., Saturday. Photo by the author.

BONUS: Polaroid images from the moon contributed by reader Gary Green. See them here.

Featured Image: SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon capsule lifts off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center Saturday. Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Voyage to the Moon: A Personal Journey

Voyage to the Moon: A Personal Journey

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” – Words on the plaque left on the moon by the crew of Apollo 11

There have and will be many words written and numerous commemorations broadcast this week to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first time humans set foot on the moon. For that reason, and others of a more personal nature, this will be an account of my own journey leading up to that momentous event, and since, and not any kind of historic or scientific record of the flight of Apollo 11 or the first moon landing. Yes, it’s long. But it’s been a long trip.

What happened on July 20 and 21, 1969, to me was the culmination not just of my own interest in space and space exploration that I had pursued since I was a child, but the result of many centuries of human scientific development and evolution, and also the climax of the eons that preceded them when primitive humans looked up at the moon with wonder, yearning, and maybe even fear. That phrase on the Apollo 11 plaque, “We came in peace for all mankind,” best summed up my feelings on that historic night.

The Early Years

I can’t say specifically what triggered my early interest in space, except perhaps a general interest in science, but I do know that by the age of 9 I was writing novellas about future space explorers engaged in both dramatic and mundane tasks in the far reaches of the solar system. Starring protagonist Fairleigh Starr and his intrepid crew aboard the space freighter Euphrates, I still have those little string-bound books and their illustrative covers, hand-drawn in crayon on cardboard, somewhere in my archives. I also still have some of my early astronomy books.

I don’t remember the exact year or my age, but at some point my father got me an actual, real, reflecting telescope, and this opened up new vistas beyond our planet to me. Many were the nights he and I would brave the cold out in our driveway pointing the telescope toward the moon and beyond. Under the red skies of Northeastern New Jersey, illuminated as they were by the myriad lights of the New York Metro area, it was hard, if not impossible, to see much beyond the biggest and brightest celestial objects, the moon being paramount among them. All these decades later I can still picture in my mind’s eye the distinct craters and the bright silvery surface of earth’s sole natural satellite as seen vividly through that telescope.

The late 1950s and early 1960s were heady times for anyone interested in space exploration. In fact, they were heady times even for those not so interested. As the United States faltered through one failed launch after another, the Soviets – known more generally to us as the Russians – were succeeding in their advance into space. The thing that got our attention more than anything was the successful launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, in October 1957. More than attention, it struck fear into the hearts of many, including my own mother, who tucked her 7-year-old son, being me, into bed one post-Sputnik night, saying as she did, “I don’t think we’re going to live to see Christmas this year.” Thanks for that, Mom.

As it turned out, we did survive to see that Christmas, and many since. But again it was the Russians who were first to send a man not just into space, but into orbit, when cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin circled the earth one time on April 15, 1961. Less than a month later, on May 5, 1961, the U.S. finally succeeded in launching the first American into space, astronaut Alan Shephard, on a 15-minute sub-orbital flight launched atop a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral. Watching the launch and recovery of the Freedom 7 Mercury capsule on TV still remains in my memory, as do the other Mercury launches and recoveries to follow. And then, nine months later on February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, three times, aboard the capsule Friendship 7, and the U.S. took the lead in what was clearly a space race. By then I was hooked on space, and there was no looking back.

What led us on the path to the moon was a speech President John Kennedy gave to Congress on May 25, 1961, when he said that the U.S. “. . . should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” Kennedy repeated the same objective in a now-famous speech he delivered to 40,000 people in the stadium at Rice University in Houston on September 12, 1962, saying, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

The course was set to the moon, and despite a chorus of naysayers, the objective was reached, Kennedy’s challenge fulfilled, on July 20, 1969.

The mission of Apollo 11 had lifted off four days earlier, on July 16, 1969, at 9:32 a.m. EDT (13:32 UTC), from Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral – known at the time as Cape Kennedy in JFK’s honor – carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins toward the moon. A product of the work of Wernher von Braun and his team of German rocket engineers brought to the U.S. following World War II, the Saturn V rocket that bore them aloft was, and remains, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, so loud on launch its sound waves broke windows in Titusville, 12 miles away. Armstrong later described the initial ascent as a very bumpy ride, at least until first-stage separation, when he said things became smooth and totally silent. At that point, the world waited, and watched.

“The Eagle Has Landed”

July 1969, exactly a half century ago, was a personally tumultuous time for me. At 19 ½, in the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Rutgers University, I was in the midst of my first real affair, and that in itself was proving more challenging than I had bargained for (Sheila was an artist, she didn’t look back – thank you Bob Dylan for summing things up so well). I had a summer job mowing grass and picking up litter on the New Jersey Turnpike, out of the Secaucus yard in the most congested and polluted sector of the Pike in its final miles between Newark Airport and Exit 18, the northern terminus and gateway to the George Washington Bridge. I was living back at home for the summer and in a state of ongoing conflict with both my parents. Worse was how I sensed my father often didn’t have the heart for the conflict, but my mother goaded him into it and to appease or please her, he’d rise to the occasion.

It also was perhaps the most creative time of my life. On the many and prolonged breaks my maintenance team on the Turnpike would take, once Moe, our supervisor, had driven off and left us to our own devices, we would drop our mowers and tools and retreat to the shade under an overpass, or occasionally wander off the Pike to some nearby diner for a late breakfast. While the other guys sat around and shot the shit for hours, I would sequester myself to write and draw in my own imagined, but productive, world. Along with my writing, I was able to draw in ways I had never before, nor since, been capable of. If you can imagine completely changing the gears in your head, that was what it was like that summer.

I don’t remember all the details or reasons, but the small group of friends of which Sheila and I were a part could not be together the night of the moon landing. It was a Sunday night, July 20, and I had work the next morning, moon landing or no moon landing. As I recall, my high school friend John Horohan was with his girlfriend Jane, who had introduced me to Sheila, and I don’t remember whether Sheila was with them or somewhere else. She wasn’t with me, though, nor I with her, which was the main thing.

The lunar lander had touched down on the moon’s surface earlier that afternoon, almost out of fuel and in a different location – the Sea of Tranquility – than initially planned, at 4:17 p.m. EDT (20:17 UTC). As it turned out, Armstrong had to take over the controls of the lander following a computer overload and finding too many bus-sized boulders at the initial West Crater landing site. It was with relief when Mission Control, along with the rest of the world, heard Armstrong’s words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

The actual moon walk was planned for later that night, and that to us was the big event. I had been sleeping out on our enclosed back porch, as I was wont to do in the summers spent at home, and that night I was watching there in the dark, on the small TV we kept on the porch, the events unfolding 240,000 miles away on the moon. On the moon! My parents were upstairs in their room also watching on their TV, and we could have been on separate planets for the divide between us on that historic night. Other than some forays my mother would make down to check on me – mostly to harass me for staying up past my alleged bedtime, as I recall – we had little or no contact that night.

The telephone provided the link between me and my friends, a kind of lifeline as it were, and we stayed in touch intermittently via it as the time approached for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to step out of the lunar lander and descend the craft’s ladder to the surface of the moon. As we and 600 million other people around the globe watched, that came at 10:56 p.m. EDT (02:56 UTC on July 21), when Armstrong stepped down onto the lunar surface, uttering the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” (controversy has dogged those words ever since, and it’s pretty well believed that a blip in the radio transmission changed the intended and spoken “one small step for a man” to what is commonly attributed to Armstrong). Aldrin followed Armstrong down the ladder, and together, as we watched in fascination and through bleary eyes and blurry black and white video images, the pair bounced around on the lunar surface, collecting moon rocks as they did, for the next two and a quarter hours. Meanwhile, Collins, in the command module, named Columbia, orbited the moon, keeping an eye on things from 69 miles above the lunar surface.

Little did I realize at the time what connections I would have with Armstrong, and especially Aldrin, and other men who set foot on the moon, a decade and a half later.

The Aftermath

What I saw in the lunar mission and the success of Apollo 11 was not just a victory and amazing achievement for America, but the culmination of centuries of discoveries and achievements of many people of many nationalities. There was Copernicus, a Pole, who in the Sixteenth Century, postulated a universe with the sun, not the earth, at its center. He was preceded in the heliocentric theory by Aristarchus of Samos, a Greek, eighteen centuries earlier, and followed in the next century by Galileo, an Italian, who was declared a heretic for his beliefs by the Catholic Church in 1633. It took the Church three more centuries to finally concede that it’s supposedly infallible belief was, well, wrong. Galileo’s theories of gravity also proved to be correct, not bad for a heretic.

There was Newton, an Englishman, and his discoveries of the laws of physics. And Lippershey, a Dutchman, who invented the telescope. And da Vinci, another Italian, who had invented an actual flying machine – the helicopter – and the parachute, and who also had postulated a heliocentric universe. The Chinese in the Ninth Century invented the rocket, but Goddard, an American, invented the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926. And von Braun and the other German rocket engineers brought it all together, with American support and funding, with the Saturn V. I don’t mean this list to be inclusive, but simply illustrative of the worldwide, global contributions over the centuries that finally resulted in Apollo 11 and the moon landing.

Indeed, as the plaque said, “We came in peace for all mankind.” And at the moment of mankind’s first steps on the moon and the days that followed, the world was largely united in hailing a feat that previously existed only in the realm of dreams and the imagination. Of course, there are still those on the fringe who continue to imagine that the whole moon landing was staged, that the astronauts descended to some hidden chamber under the launch pad or went to Hollywood, where there was a set made to look like a moonscape and the whole thing was an elaborate deception. And when I was posted as a diplomat to Albania in the 1990s, people there said they had been told by the previous Communist regime that it was the Russians, not the Americans, who had landed men on the moon.

A week after the lunar landing and walk, on July 27, 1969, my father died, unexpectedly, in front of me, in the midst of one more of our low-level conflicts. He had gotten to witness people walking on the moon, something almost unimaginable at the time of his birth in 1913, and then he was gone. And thus, with his death, began the rest of my life, the half century that followed.

After Apollo 11, there were just six more lunar missions – five lunar landings, one short of what was planned when Apollo 13 ran into serious problems en route to the moon and had to return to earth without reaching its destination. Later, as a journalist covering the space program, I lost count of the number of times when engineers and managers who had been involved with the Apollo program told me that getting men to the moon was not the big challenge of the Apollo program. It was getting the crew of Apollo 13 back alive. In any event, with the splashdown of Apollo 17 on December 19, 1972, the moon program was over, less than three and a half years after the launch of Apollo 11. The country, embroiled in the Vietnam War and deeply divided, was withdrawing into itself, and Congress cut NASA’s funding. What was left of funding for manned space flight was directed toward the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission with the Soviet Union and three missions of Skylab, the world’s first space station. After all the years of striving to reach the moon, and meeting the challenge President Kennedy laid down, we reverted to missions in low earth orbit. To this day, that is where we have remained.

What struck me then, and continues to trouble me, is how for eons people looked to the heavens and wondered and dreamed of what it would be like to walk on the moon. And now billions of people, billions of children, and adults, were born and lived since the last human left the moon, and again are left to look toward the heavens, toward the moon, and wonder and dream, just as primitive humans did millennia ago.

As America and the space program drifted through the 1970s, I looked inward, too, and essentially cut myself off from what was going on in the world, and what remained of the space program. I had this peculiar idea that if I cut off the news of the world and its problems those problems would go away and leave me alone. It didn’t take more than several years to realize that’s not how things work.

A Return to Space

My return to space came in 1982. After detours through Woodstock and Key West and grad school at the University of Florida, I wound up taking up a reporting job in Cocoa, Fla., at the doorstep to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. While I was with the weekly paper, The Tribune, I struck up a friendship with the lead reporter, Peter Adams, at our sister daily, TODAY (now FLORIDA TODAY). Perhaps it could only happen in Brevard County, Fla., but the lead reporter was the Science Writer, formerly known as the Aerospace Writer, whose primary duty entailed covering the space program.

The Space Shuttle program was under way, with the launch of the orbiter Columbia and STS-1 in April of 1981. Peter invited me to accompany him to witness a launch of the Shuttle at KSC, the launch of Columbia and STS-5 on November 11, 1982. It was one of the most exciting things I’d ever witnessed, and again, I was hooked. I later finagled my first assignment actually covering a space launch, as a freelancer for The Globe and Mail of Toronto, reporting on the launch of a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral carrying a Canadian satellite that subsequently failed to go into orbit and was lost. Peter and I continued to remain in close contact, and when he left the paper to go to The Orlando Sentinel, our main competition, he recommended me for the choice position of Science Writer. I not only moved to my first position on a daily, but to the premier reporting position, with the charge to report daily on the space program and other science topics.

The first launch I was to cover as primary reporter was the maiden launch of the new orbiter, Challenger. But before it could launch I received a phone call from a confidential informant late one night in the newsroom. The word was that a problem with the Shuttle’s main engines had been discovered and the launch would be delayed, possibly for months. I was able to chase down other sources to confirm the report, and we were first to break the story of Challenger’s impending lengthy delay, which turned out to be totally correct. I had already managed to win the confidence of those closest to the Shuttle program and to break my first big story.

Challenger finally did launch on April 4, 1983, carrying a tracking and relay satellite into orbit. The flight, the first of many Space Shuttle missions I would cover, also featured the first EVA – Extra-Vehicular Activity, or space walk – of the Shuttle program. In my time as Science Writer, I got to cover many other firsts: The first flight of Spacelab. The first American woman in space. The first flight of two women in space, and the first space walk by an American woman. The first African-American in space. The first Shuttle night launch. The first launch of the orbiter Discovery. The first Shuttle landing at KSC. The first recovery and return to earth of orbiting satellites. The first classified Department of Defense Shuttle mission. The first in-space repair of an orbiting satellite. The first flight of a politician in space. Many of my stories got national play via the Gannett News Service and appearance in USA TODAY, for which TODAY served as the model.

I approached my work as a Science Writer the same way I approached other reporting positions I had filled, which was to build in as much diversity and have as much fun with it as I could, all while doing a competent and credible job of reporting. I felt my specialty was taking highly complex scientific and technical details and issues and translating them in a way that just about any reader could understand, without dumbing them down. In the course of my term, I managed to score a wonderful stint at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., got to visit the WET-F – the huge water tank where astronauts practice doing EVAs in simulated weightlessness – in Houston, launched my own weather rocket, the Yacenda-1, from Cape Canaveral, flew aboard a NOAA hurricane tracker plane through a tropical storm, rode on the huge transporter that carried the Shuttle to the launch pad, and sat at desks of scientists with actual moon rocks on them. I came up with the term “astroworker” – a word my editors hated and took out at every chance they could, which is why you’ve never seen it – to encapsulate the kind of manual activity many astronauts and mission specialists engage in while in space.

More than anything was the thrill of meeting, interviewing, and in some cases spending time with people who had helped establish America’s place in space, people that had just been names bordering on mythological to me, and now I had the opportunity to be face-to-face with them. I got to interview and know half the men who had walked on the moon. It was said even then that Neil Armstrong rarely granted interviews. I had a telephone interview with him while he was a professor in Ohio, and he was indeed the humble, quiet, non-self-aggrandizing person I had been told he was. And I got to pal around for several days with Buzz Aldrin, who was and is every bit the character he was ascribed to being, though also knowledgeable and serious about America’s space pursuits. He told me of what was to be his next mission, setting up a space science program at the University of North Dakota. I love that the President featured Aldrin at the most recent State of the Union address.

I got to visit Edgar Mitchell and meet his family aboard Mitchell’s yacht when it was docked in Brevard County. I had the opportunity to interview Alan Bean about his art and Alan Shephard about his beer business. I had a number of encounters with Fred Haise, of Apollo 13 fame, both as a reporter and later as someone bidding for business from the company with which he became an executive, Grumman Aerospace. As then chief of the astronaut corps, John Young was someone I got to see and quote in numerous news conferences. I was able to meet Tom Stafford at an evening event. Though he wasn’t an astronaut, I got to interview Chuck Yeager, the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound and live to tell about it. And, a high point, I got to hang out with Walt Cunningham of Apollo 7 fame during some very entertaining days at Cape Canaveral when I had invited him to speak at a conference I helped organize, and then some time later have lunch with him at Brennan’s in Houston. I still remember the moment when we were waiting to board a tour bus at KSC and Cunningham was sitting on top of a waste basket, just as a place to rest. The bus driver informed us we needed to get tickets to take the tour, and then, realizing who the unassuming guy sitting on the trash can was, came bounding back off the bus, practically giddy and shaking, blurting out, “I’m sorry, Mr. Cunningham! I didn’t recognize you at first! Of course you don’t need a ticket! Anything you want, Mr. Cunningham!”

Along with all the other names and personalities, I got to interview Judy Resnik, one of my most memorable interviews. I still have the tape of that interview in which Resnik said she didn’t fear going up on the Shuttle since NASA took such care looking after the astronauts’ safety. When Challenger blew up on the bitterly cold morning of January 28, 1986, taking the lives of Resnik and her six crew mates with it, NASA wasn’t looking out for the astronauts’ safety, and neither was it when Columbia disintegrated on reentry on February 1, 2003. Both were avoidable disasters.

Looking Forward

I was no longer covering the space program at the time of the Challenger disaster — in fact, earlier the very morning it occurred I had looked toward the space center and said to myself, “One day that thing is going to blow up and I won’t be there when it does” — but I still was involved with space through my public relations firm, ITech International, which specialized in aerospace and high technology, among other areas. To me, the Challenger disaster was personal, both on account of the needless death of Judy Resnik and the other astronauts and specialists and the civilian school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, aboard, all of whom I had seen in news conferences and reported on, but because I helped bring Challenger into the world, covering its first launch, and the issues that had delayed that launch.

Following the Challenger disaster my old paper, TODAY, invited me to write an op-ed piece about the disaster and my views on where the country should go in its wake. In it I wrote how the Space Shuttle was equivalent to the early iterations of airliners that eventually led up to the DC-3, the first commercially successful airliner, and rather than expending money on another Shuttle orbiter, the nation should dedicate itself to new iterations of space transportation systems and go on to further space exploration. Obviously, Congress and NASA felt otherwise, and the space agency went on to build the orbiter Endeavour, which launched for the first time on May 7, 1992. And then, with the landing at KSC of the orbiter Atlantis on July 21, 2011, the Space Shuttle program came to an end.

And now, 50 years after the triumph of Apollo 11, we remain confined to low earth orbit. The International Space Station, development of which began when I was still involved with the space program, is the sole embodiment of humans in space. Since the end of the Shuttle program, the U.S. doesn’t even have the means of bringing our own astronauts to and from the ISS, depending on Russian rockets to do so. There are commercial rockets in the late development stage that are expected to be able to carry people to and from the ISS, but they’re not certified for this purpose yet. In fact, much of what holds promise for the future of space exploration rests with private companies, such as SpaceX and Boeing and several others.

I’m sure there is a lot of important work that goes on aboard the ISS, but I would venture that few people outside the program can name even one or two projects, specifically, that the ISS crews are working on. There is even credible argument that space is an expensive and not terribly great place for doing science. Regardless, whatever they are doing, it doesn’t provide the kind of excitement and global attention that deep-space exploration, most notably the Apollo lunar voyages, provided, and can provide. I am not denigrating the tremendously exciting and important and truly amazing unmanned space missions we’ve conducted. Our knowledge of the solar system and the universe beyond has been expanded enormously by these missions, and they should be continued. But somehow they lack the appeal and drama of manned missions of exploration to new destinations.

NASA and the space program reached its nadir in 2010 when its then-Adminstrator, Charles Bolden – himself a former astronaut – told Al Jazeera television that he had been charged by President Barack Obama with three primary tasks: Encourage children to learn about math and science, improve relations with foreign nations, and, Bolden said, “perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering.”

Compare that with President Kennedy’s challenge, that the nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade was out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. Not because it was easy, but because it was hard. In the intervening decades, it seems we have come down not just from the moon, but from rising to the kind of challenge the nation responded to in the 1960s.

Now there is talk of going to Mars. I’m happy to see that. While recognizing the costs and dangers involved in such missions, I think it is inevitable that the human spirit is always going to drive us on to bigger and more daring ventures, whether on earth or in space. I think it makes a lot of sense for us to go back first to the moon, and establish a base there. It takes a whole lot less energy to launch a rocket from a place where the gravity is one-sixth what it is on earth. There may be other justifications for a base on the moon, but that one alone provides justification if, in fact, we are intent on going to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system.

Most of my space interest these days is constrained to looking at the full moon, when it appears and the skies are clear, and watching for night launches from Cape Canaveral. I’m living 120 miles from the launch site, but in the dark of night I can get pretty clear views of the launches, which continue to excite me. Recently, during the latest SpaceX launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket from Pad 39A on June 25, the same launch pad from which Apollo 11 launched, I actually got to see the return to earth of the two first-stage boosters that came back to land at KSC. I think that was even more exciting than the launch, all the more so since I wasn’t expecting to be able to see that, just as watching the first Shuttle landing at KSC from the grandstand beside the runway was so exciting 35 years ago. I’m sure that one of these days I’m going to need to go back down to the space center and watch a launch from closer up.

And now, fifty years after that first footstep on the moon, I and the other 7.7-whatever billion people on this planet can only look up at the moon, and wonder: Will mankind ever again set foot on that celestial body? Will my children get to go there? Some might even wonder if they, themselves, will get a chance to go to the moon.

It is of such wonderment that giant leaps are born.

Watch the actual ignition and liftoff of Apollo 11 shot by a NASA camera at the launch pad

All images by NASA except the last image which is by SpaceX

This is a joint posting with my fiction site. It also appears on Medium.