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Vol. 5 No. 1
Online Edition
January 26, 2004


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In my last Soapbox I spoke of pivotal battles, what today are called Tipping Points. I like to think of this in terms of classic physics. One of the simplest "machines" is a lever, a necessary element of which is the fulcrum, the pivot point or tipping point. Put a small but adequate amount of weight on the long end of the lever and very heavy lifting can be accomplished.

The War on Terrorism is such a shadowy war we may never know the actual tipping point until years, perhaps many years later. Hunting down individuals, especially individuals who don't want to be found is a lengthy business requiring an abundance of patience. But while we keep them busy hiding and running they are less effective in planning and executing attacks. The best they can seem to do is increase our posture, for example forcing the "Level Orange Holidays of 2003". I was particularly amused by the defiant American spirit reflected in the wearing of the orange, cat-in-the-hat style hats, in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Oh Yeah, we're scared.

Clearly the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq was a tipping point. This is one of those tipping points that are pretty clear before and after the fact. There is another, more ominous tipping point yet to be reached. To assure it tips in the direction of stability we must maintain law and order in Iraq while creating a representative form of government that all the tribes of Iraq can accept.

If we fail the country will tip into a civil war with Kurds, Shia and Sunni killing each other, perhaps fracturing the country into three. We saw the results in the former Yugoslavia when this happened and it isn't pretty or cleaned up yet. Turkey is especially concerned because of the large number of Kurds in their eastern provinces. There is risk that a fracturing of Iraq could lead to a larger regional disturbance.

I have just finished The Enemy Within by Michael Savage. I have mixed feelings about the book. On the one hand I agree that our country has shaken off some principles that are good in the liberalized zeal to shake off the bad. Yes, I also agree that we must rediscover those values and principles and reestablish them in their proper place in our country.

On the other hand, like Rush Limbaugh, I think that he is an agitator; he certainly made me agitated while I read the book. My point is that anger and agitation are not the vehicles for effective change. You and I can effect change with out pocketbooks, by where we spend our money. We can effect change by speaking out when the issue is important; we should not develop too high a comfort level as members of "the silent majority". We can also effect change over the coming year with our votes, for this is a presidential election year. Such years are guaranteed to be some kind of tipping point every eight years thanks to the 22nd amendment but sometimes every four years too.

I always get a laugh when the talking-head pundits are proven wrong. Take the Iowa Caucuses for example. In the days before the caucuses Governor Dean was all but declared the Democratic Presidential nominee. Talk about tipping points! Between his showing and subsequent public meltdowns he's probably finished.

The pundits now say that General Wesley Clark is probably finished after New Hampshire. I suppose there's only room for one war hero in the Democratic field. Whether you like him or not, you have to admire Senator Kerry for having put his money where his mouth is and mortgaging his home to keep his campaign financially afloat. He is a war hero. He is experienced in National Government. He would make a formidable opponent to President Bush in the Presidential election in November. Watch over the next weeks as the primaries occur state by state.

I have found little substantial disagreement with the performance by President Bush so far. There are always lots to be troubled by what our Government does, but there are two things it must not do. It must not fail to provide for the common defense. It must assure economic stability and long-term growth.

I am troubled by his speech on space exploration however. As I wrote in earlier editions the problem of space travel is getting out of and back into the atmosphere. New methods must be developed first and foremost. Perhaps there is a better way than the shuttle to boost large payloads and men, even return men to earth. In a manner, this was addressed in his speech.

But the only way a moon base makes sense is if there's water. If there's water then there's fuel and oxygen to live off of and to refuel rockets with. It is yet to be proven that there is water on the moon. OK, I'll concede that if we had fusion technology we could mine helium-3 on the moon. But we don't have fusion power yet either.

So we have to launch everything into space and we're back to the cardinal problems of launch and return. Once that problem is resolved what we really need is a base from which to search for water, a base from which a minimal velocity change, what the space scientists call "delta-vee", is needed to get on the way. So we don't have to launch so much mass, so much dead weight lifting.

Such tipping points are called "LeGrange Points" or "L-points". They are all over the place in the solar system, but the one most useful to us is the one between the earth and the moon. It isn't sexy like the moon, but serves as a better base of operations. Unless we find water on the moon of course. In the meantime the ISS represents the only facility from which research into the space environment and it's effect on humans and materials can be studied. It can serve adequately as a way station for payloads heading to the next base of operations, regardless of where that may be.

The Mars Rover Spirit is on Mars and communicating with ground controllers. Sort of anyhow. Spirit was landed in the Gusev crater, considered the most likely place to find water of all the feasible landing sites. It was working fine until Wednesday, 21 January 2004. What happened is, at the present, a puzzle. Let's hope it gets fixed and its twin, Opportunity, which has also landed successfully, will continue to explore Mars and contribute to unlocking its mysteries. Let's also hope that they avoid their tipping point and remain flat on the Martian surface.

Former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neil has published his book and quotes President Bush as saying "deficits don't matter". How very Keynesian! Deficit spending by government has a very powerful effect, a leveraging effect, on the national economy. Secretary O'Neil wanted balanced or surplus budgeting. But there's a war on and wars are defined by deficit spending and always have been. The key is the level of the deficit and the discrete number of dollars, no matter how large a sum it may seem. doesn't matter; percent of GDP or some other such aggregate are what matters. Right now, deficits are running less than 3% GDP, and that's pretty good leverage. If the deficit spending doesn't result in a war won and a growing economy then it's a catastrophic mistake. Time will tell but it looks to me that the economy is improving and we're winning the war. Remember that we're not out of the woods until the Fed begins raising rates.

Here's a final tip. To improve profits buy high quality surplus materials. Buying lower cost materials is the most leveraged means to improve profitability. Better than cutting labor and overhead costs. Better than increasing sales. So browse our site, check the listings and find an item you need. We'll save you money and improve your profits!

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The woman's husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months, yet she had stayed by his bedside every single day. One day, when he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer.

As she sat by him, he whispered, eyes full of tears, "My dearest, you have been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business failed, you were there. When I got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you stayed right here. When my health started failing, you were still by my side. You know what?"

"What dear?" she gently asked, smiling as her heart began to fill with warmth. "I think you're bad luck."


A professor at Mississippi State University was giving a lecture on the supernatural. To get a feel for his audience, he asks "How many people here believe in ghosts?"

About 90 students raise their hands.

"Well, that's a good start. Out of those of you who believe in ghosts, do any of you think you've seen a ghost?" About 40 students raise their hands.

"That's really good. I'm really glad you take this
seriously. Has anyone here ever talked to a ghost?"

About 15 students raise their hands.

"Has anyone here ever touched a ghost?" 3 students raise their hands.

That's fantastic. Now let me ask you one question further...Have any of you ever made love to a ghost?"

Way in the back, Bubba raises his hand.

The professor takes off his glasses, and says, "Son, all the years I've been giving this lecture; no one has ever claimed to have made love to a ghost.

You've got to come up here and tell us about your experience."

The big redneck student replied with a nod and a grin, and began to make his way up to the podium. When he reached the front of the room, the professor asks, "So, Bubba, tell us what it's like to have sex with a ghost?"

Bubba replied, "Sheeee-iiiitt! From way back thar I thought you said, "Goats!


"We are recalling all of the new Minnesota quarters that were recently issued", Treasury Undersecretary Russell Shackelford said in a press conference Monday. "This comes in the wake of numerous reports to this agency that the quarters will not work in parking meters, toll booths, vending machines, pay phones, or other coin-operated devices. We believe the problem lies in a design flaw," said Skackelford.

The winning design for the Minnesota quarter was submitted by Sven Petersen of New Ulm, Minnesota. Sven commented, "Apparently, the duct tape holding the two dimes and nickel together keeps jamming the coin-operated devices."



Just in case you might think of Iraq as "only" an oil rich nation, ruled by an evil dictator for 30 years, whether it has been supporting terrorists or may not be very important, here are a few important facts regarding the important history and roles that this nation has played down through history. It's amazing how far a place can fall with the wrong leadership.

1. The Garden of Eden was in Iraq. (it sure doesn't look much like Paradise on earth today thanks to Saddam)

2. Mesopotamia which is now Iraq was the cradle of civilization!

3. Noah built the ark in Iraq.

4. The Tower of Babel was in Iraq.

5. Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq!

6. Isaac's wife Rebekah is from Nahor which is in Iraq.

7. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.

8. Jonah preached in Nineveh - which is in Iraq.

9. Assyria which is in Iraq conquered the ten tribes of Israel.

10. Amos cried out in Iraq!

11. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon saw the "writing on the wall" in Iraq. (Hey, This One Saddam finally did too!)




The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not Eureka! (i.e. I found it!) but 'That's funny...?

Isaac Asimov , 1920 - 1992


Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always can do that but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Mark Twain
American Author and Humorist


The greatest gift we can give somebody is to give them back their self-confidence.

Reb Nachman of Breslov
Chassidic master (1772-1810).


Never, Never, Never Quit

Winston Churchill


Often the greatest growth takes place under the hardest of circumstances. Look deeply to learn the lessons of the coldest, most painful times, for within them lies your greatest potential for transformation



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