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View from the Edge

Peter Riva of Gila has offered his many years of columns for this online newspaper. His writings have been published in East Coast newspapers, and he decided to share them with the Beat and you, our readers.

Whatever happens in November, America will be like a huge lumbering oil tanker, like the Exxon Valdez, needing to or deliberately changing direction, needing to make a course change as fast as possible to fit the needs of the election result. But like that tanker needing 8 slow miles to make a significant course change, America will be changing course – for the better or worse. It will be painful for half the population, no matter who prevails.

If the incumbent wins, authoritarianism will return with a vengeance, blind “full steam ahead” belligerency revived vis-à-vis the world’s other powers, and, above all, measures will be taken to solidify the incumbent’s grip on the DC power, even at the expense of our global respect and standing from long-standing allies, many of whom will be discarded. World safety will be the casualty, I fear. The players able to cash in on the incumbent’s desire of isolationism will be China, Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia and, never least, N. Korea.

The last time science made a leap forward with our understanding of incredibly small objects it ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki—not to mention either the nuclear Cold War which lasted almost a half-century and the nuclear proliferation that continues to this day. The atom was, until 1932, almost the thing of myth until James Chadwick was able to accurately describe the physical presence of a neutron, proton, and electron and their relationship to the mass of each atom in the Periodic Table. Coupled with Einstein’s Theory of relativity and that famous formula, it was a brief hop, skip, and a jump to the first nuclear reactor and the A-bomb. What’s changed since then? Different elements have been used for the runaway reaction, different compounds used to contain the reaction and harness it, fission or fusion, but in essence that teeny, tiny, particle called the atom has been harnessed and has irrevocably changed the world—for good and bad.

There is considerable worry about the pandemic, the federal and local deficits, Covid payouts, municipal support, hospital support, evictions, mortgage payments, and on and on… all the way down the list of needed assistance to the most basic of necessity for the American population: Food. 

Yes, we’re in a mess. We have no idea who has got the virus, we have no way to trace those in contact, we have become a selfish community refusing to protect others even by wearing a teeny-tiny mask. Don’t wear a mask? It’s a statement of not caring about your fellow woman or man in case you have the virus.

Every telephone call, every TV show, every download, every email, everything now travels on the Internet. No matter what computer or TV cable or Internet connection you are using, and no matter what anti-virus software you are using, you are being spied upon. Literally spied on without your knowledge or permission. This is confusing because many companies like Norton or McAfee or Kaspersky sell you software that promise to protect you. In fact, your router and Internet provider have “firewalls” to keep your information safe. 

Safe? Really? Nope.

Here's how to think about it: Imagine you are watching a train of freight cars rumbling along a track.

Think the early 1950’s… things are in development in secret airbases that you will only get to see ten years from now—but that does not mean they aren’t already there, ready to be deployed and—in every event—years ahead of what you and the world think we’re building. Now, you may think that being 1st is good for the USA, but first—like the A Bomb—has implications that go beyond a momentary advantage.

So, the next combat aircraft to enter the U.S. Air Force will not be a manned sixth-generation fighter or even the Northrop Grumman B-21 bomber. In 2023—if not already in secret—the Air Force expects fly the first operational versions of a new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) called Skyborg. What the heck is that? It’s a provocative blending of flight with a cybernetic organism.

There is no reason the average person could know future employment trends unless you spend a great deal of time studying, researching, and, never least, have access to the movers and shakers who are likely to be sculpting the future. However, there are some clues for the normal people out here--clues that are out in the public domain which, if you look closely, indicate that huge employment trends are developing.

How many spaceports are there in the USA? Do you know? Can you guess? When I was a kid there were two, one strictly military and the other for manned spaceflight: Wallops Flight Facility and Cape Canaveral. Now?

What, exactly is the national debt? U.S. federal debt is basically two parts: one held by the public and the other intragovernmental debt (mostly Social Security’s money which the govt. has always borrowed against and then claimed that SS is going broke because they borrowed all the money at near zero interest rate). As of May, total debt held by the public was $19.8 trillion, and intragovernmental debt was another $6 trillion. In the media and politicians’ utterances, these two amounts are lumped together, but they should be treated separately. The interest paid on debt held by the public is paid by the Treasury in the form of real interest to the owners of that debt. The interest paid on intragovernmental debt money the federal government pays itself and doesn’t ever really refund Social Security.

The Space Development Agency (SDA), with help from the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will soon launch a batch of 40 interlinked satellites that will form a net of protection over the USA (at least). Much like castles in the Middle Ages that provided protection in times of conflict for the outlying villages, the USA space net may well provide (at a cost!) protection for other nations who agree to sign on—either as allies or paying customers. The new forms of tracking technology on those satellites will perform the challenging task of remotely targeting hypersonic missiles as they maneuver in the atmosphere hundreds of miles below.

And with targeting comes the defensive weapons to shoot down hypersonic missiles from enemies—ours and those of our “customers.”