Wednesday’s Book Review: “GPS Declassified”

GPS DeclassifiedGPS Declassified: From Smart Bombs to Smartphones. By Richard D. Easton and Eric F. Frazier. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013. Foreword by Rick W. Sturdevant. Illustrations, acknowledgments, abbreviations, notes, selected bibliography, index. Pp. xii – 301. ISBN: 978-1-61234-408-9. Hardcover with dustjacket. $34.95 USD.

It’s an age old problem. How do you know where you are on the Earth, in the air, or in the universe? Humans have been trying to solve that problem for eons, and some of the solutions are ingenious. GPS Declassified is an attempt to tell the fascinating story of space-based navigational systems. Originally established by the Department of Defense, the Global Positioning System (GPS) relies on 24 satellites in medium orbit around the Earth coupled with several ground tracking stations, and receivers on vehicles or with a hand-held device. It’s essentially a passive system, as receivers make contact with at least four satellites and triangulate positions. Coupled with computer aided systems this can provide real-time data about location, movement, altitude, and the like.

As Richard D. Easton and Eric F. Frazier make clear, spaceflight engineers realized very early the potential of this type of navigation system. In the latter 1950s scientists and engineers established that the Doppler shift of radio transmissions could help establish the location of a terrestrial receiving station. This became the basis of the U.S. Navy’s Transit satellite navigation system for SLBM submarines to improve missile accuracy. That system proved the concept, and there were even some civilian uses that emerged in the latter 1960s.

In addition, the U.S. Navy and the Air Force first competed and then collaborated on an approach called TIMATION (Time and Navigation) that used the precise timing of signals from numerous satellites to fix an accurate position. According to this book, it was TIMATION that formed the basis in 1973 of the NAVSTAR GPS (Navigation Signal Timing and Ranging Global Positioning System) program managed by the U.S. Air Force. Co-author Richard Easton has an ax to grind here, and he does so effectively. For years there has been a debate over who should receive credit for originating GPS. Roger Easton, the co-author’s father, was intimately involved in the TIMATION system and insisted that the Naval Research Laboratory and he were responsible for the GPS architecture. Brad Parkinson, the USAF officer who headed the project for his service, insisted that the lion’s share of the credit should go to the Air Force and himself. Richard Easton presents here a good defense of his father’s position.

Whether one cares about this debate over origins or not, the results of GPS have been profound. The first NAVSTAR satellites, launched between 1978 and 1985, transformed military navigation. I remember seeing aircraft tracked on a big screen in the Command Post using this system while historian at the Military Airlift Command (MAC) between 1987 and 1990. It was remarkable for all involved to be able to track the progress of every MAC aircraft worldwide 24/7.

Within a short time, in no small measure because of the shoot-down of flight KAL 007 in 1983 by the Soviet Air Force after the aircraft entered Soviet airspace, Ronald Reagan directed the extension of this capability to be available to everyone. Once this occurred, the civilian use of GPS exploded, with a huge range of applications, utilizing both the positioning and precision time signal capabilities of the system, becoming embedded in the civil and commercial infrastructure and the social fabric of everyday life. As the system became more capable, its uses widened. At present it is viewed as an indispensable resource for all manner of navigational needs. It has replaced printed maps as the navigational tool of choice for virtually everyone, and the fine art of map reading has become something of a lost art for a generation of children born since the 1980s.

Richard Easton and Eric Frazier offer in this book a solid basic history of the subject. As an introduction it is quite useful. It also seeks, in the authors’ minds, to correct what they view as errors and omissions in the GPS origins story. Finally, it tells quite a number of stories about the uses of GPS and how the technology has changed our lives, and then they go on to project possibilities for uses yet to be realized. This is a useful work about a complex topic. It is not the final word on the subject, however. Indeed, I don’t believe that a final word on anything can ever exist.

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Do We Need to Renew the Promise of American Life?

Herbert Croly, 1869-1930

I was struck while rereading Herbert Croly’s 1909 political manifesto, The Promise of American Life, about its continually important message. Croly was a leading figure in the Progressive Movement of the first two decades of the twentieth century, a political philosopher, and co-founder of The New Republic, a magazine still being published. His political philosophy influenced many leading progressives including Theodore Roosevelt and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.

For all that he achieved during his long life, there is no question but that Croly’s 1909 book, The Promise of American Life, offered a powerful, seminal, and motivating statement for the Progressive Movement then dominating the United States. It presented a manifesto for change in a time when Americans felt keenly that the nation had “run off the rails” and set on course a tradition that reached fruition in the “New Deal” of the 1930s and the “Great Society” of the 1960s.

In The Promise of American Life Croly compared the political philosophies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the chief protagonists of defining the nature of American government during the 1790s. Hamilton espoused a broad national government based on collective power, while Jefferson was more individualistic and libertarian in position. In melding these two philosophies, Croly believed that the power of the national government must ensure “a share of the responsibility and the benefits, derived from political economic association, upon the whole community” (The Promise of American life, Macmillan, p. 194). He confessed in this book, “I shall not disguise the fact that on the whole my own preferences are on the side of Hamilton rather than of Jefferson” (pp. 42-43).

The balancing of the yin and yang of Hamilton/Jefferson political philosophy was held in creative balance through the Civil War era, but the individualistic, libertarian America of Jefferson’s agrarian ideal was destroyed by the forces of industrialization, urbanization, centralization, and modernity afterward. Accordingly, Croly advocated a new political consensus that included as its core a form of Hamiltonian nationalism, but with a sense of social responsibility and care for the less fortunate.

Since the power of big business, trusts, interest groups, and economic specialization had transformed the nation in the latter part of the nineteenth century, only the embracing of a counterbalance to this power would serve the society of the future. Croly pressed for the centralization of power in the Federal Government to ensure democracy, a “New Nationalism.” As Croly wrote, “the traditional American confidence in individual freedom has resulted in a morally and socially undesirable distribution of wealth” (p. 22). He argued for a national government that was more rather than less powerful than it had been, as a bulwark against overbearing self-interest, greed, corruption, and unchecked power.

At the same time, Croly valued the individual motivated by civic virtue and “constructive individualism” and urged all to pursue this objective. In sum, despite his reputation, Croly’s public philosophy is as much a plea for preserving and cultivating individuality in a time of consolidation as it is a call for a renewed American nationalism.

Croly’s ideas seem even more appropriate for the early twenty-first century than they were for when first written more than 100 years ago. Corporatism, greed, and self-interest offer no less a threat than in Croly’s time. It seems to me that his prescriptions still hold, collective action through a strong, democratic institutions.

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Governing Antarctica: A Continent Dedicated to Science or a Place of Geopolitical Rivalry?

The Antarctic Region in 2002.

In many respects, the history of cooperation and collaboration in Antarctic science mirrors the larger story of how the various great powers have interrelated since the conclusion of World War II. If one were to characterize it accurately throughout the last fifty-plus years, the undeniable conclusion is that all parties have enjoyed an uneasy relationship in which they have recognized that they were better off cooperating rather than competing on the icy continent.

This approach to dealing with Antarctica is really a relic of the Cold War rivalries of the latter 1950s, and especially of the remarkable scientific endeavor known as the International Geophysical Year (IGY). The IGY took place in 1957-1958, and 12 nations participated directly in Antarctic research during that organized scientific research effort.

Because of its success, within a year afterward, these same 12 nations met in Washington, DC, to sign the Antarctic Treaty, which “internationalized” Antarctica on a limited basis as a “continent dedicated to peace and science.” Article IV of the Antarctic Treaty suspended (or “froze” in the official pun of the conference) all sovereignty claims to the continent for its duration, bringing to an end the active phase of very real disputes between Great Britain, Argentina, and Chile over control of the continent.

To many people at the time, it appeared as if the idealism of science had trumped Cold War geopolitics. Historians have tended to follow this idealistic interpretation of the connection between the IGY and the Antarctic Treaty, and the southern continent tends to be held up as an all too rare example of scientific cooperation fostering political harmony.

The South Pole Station founded by the United States in 1957 as a part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY).

Of course, the IGY did indeed play an important role in the resolution of the Antarctic sovereignty dispute, but not in quite the idealistic way that the traditional narrative has suggested. The actual science of the IGY, and the improved understanding of the Antarctic environment that it facilitated, played an important role in the partial resolution of the question of sovereignty. As officials in the treaty nations, especially in Great Britain and the United States, learned more about the reality of the Antarctica environment through the work of IGY—in particular the realization that it contained little or nothing of immediate economic value—they acceded to arguments in favor of internationalizing the continent. There was, in any eventuality, not much of a downside in the foreseeable future.

Accordingly, the U.S. led an effort to diffuse geopolitical tensions in Antarctica by internationalizing the continent. As the various nations accepted this position they found themselves members of the Antarctic Treaty system’s “exclusive club,” which continues to govern the continent to this day.

Initially the Antarctic Treaty signatory countries disagreed on the question of the Soviet Union’s role on the continent. U.S. officials, perhaps somewhat naively, believed that they could create a treaty regime for Antarctica that would exclude the Soviet Union. British officials—who were especially keen to resolve the dispute—argued, more realistically, that the communist superpower would have to be included for any internationalization of Antarctica to work. After some discussion, the British position prevailed.

Since the ratification of the Antartic Treaty in 1960 the international partners have jockeyed and cajoled each other seeking to gain advantage, competitive or otherwise, in Antarctic activities.

In many ways, all the parties to the treaty got exactly what they wanted from the Antarctic Treaty: limited internationalism diffused political tensions, while claims (for the British) and the reservation of the right to make claims (for the United States) remained in a state of suspended animation, to be brought out again if ever the occasion should demand. The Argentineans and Chileans viewed the Antarctic environment differently, seeing it as an “integral part” of their national territories. They opposed any form of internationalization and only participated in the Antarctic Treaty negotiations when they realized that the weight of international opinion was against them. Nevertheless, despite this reluctance, their participation helped to give credibility to the solution of Antarctic internationalization. Science also offered the Antarctic Treaty signatories a useful tool for excluding unwanted countries from their new political club. Far from being a simple story of (good) science trumping (bad) geopolitics, the history of the connection between the IGY and the Antarctic Treaty involved the political exploitation of scientific goodwill to achieve essentially political objectives.

We now understand that the poles are critical to understanding the Earth’s environment. The ozone hole discovered over Antarctica led to successful efforts to mitigate its expansion.

Rather than bringing imperial interests in Antarctica to an end, as the traditional interpretation would suggest, the Antarctic Treaty reformulated and retained these interests. This observation opens Antarctica to study from a postcolonial framework. Postcolonial scholarship seeks to highlight and challenge continued imperial practices of exclusion and unequal power relationships after the “decolonization” of most of the colonized world in the mid-twentieth century. Despite the numerous achievements of the Antarctic Treaty system in protecting the environment and maintaining peace, it remains firmly rooted in the power structures of imperialism and the Cold War. The Antarctic Treaty itself is a distinctly postcolonial treaty, because the retention of imperial influence is written into its text.

The Antarctic Treaty has been quite successful overall. In addition to having an intrinsic value of its own—especially at a time of growing awareness of the centrality of the southern continent to the global environment—science has also done much to keep the peace in Antarctica. Scientific cooperation has laid the basis for half a century of peaceful coexistence in a region that was becoming increasingly contentious in the 1940s and 1950s.

Interestingly, a question must be asked, what might take place should something of worth be found in Antarctica?Historian John Krige of Georgia Tech has astutely commented that “collaboration has worked most smoothly when the science or technology is not of direct strategic (used here to mean commercial or military) importance.” As soon as a government feels that its national interests are directly involved, it would prefer to “go it alone.” What would happen to the trety system governing the continent if anyone discovered anything in Antarctica of great worth?

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Reinterpreting Exploration”

Reinterpreting ExplorationReinterpreting Exploration: The West in the World. Edited by Dane Kennedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Acknowledgments, figures, contributors, index. Vii – 236. ISBN: 978-0-19-975534-9. Hardcover. USD $89.10.

Dane Kennedy has assembled a fine collection of historiographical essays on various aspects of western discovery, exploration, and exploitation of other parts of the world. Focusing on the history of the history of these themes Reinterpreting Exploration offers a state of the art in understandings. This is not a book for the casual reader, the buff, or the aficionado. It is fundamentally constructed for historians seeking basic understanding of a major field.

Kennedy emphasizes in his introduction the central role of Western Civilization’s encounters with other peoples and lands as a means of understanding the nature of these peoples. Much of the historical study of this subject has celebrated both individual heroism and national glory; accordingly, this volume focuses on each essayist addresses exploration’s role in shaping a Western sense of exceptionalism, the place of this exceptionalism in the imperial ambitions of European and American powers, and the nature of the cultural engagement with other peoples that resulted.

The individual essays had application across broad arenas despite their relatively narrow subjects. For instance, there are essays on the shifting interpretations of interactions, exploration and enlightenment, exploration and it’s reporting in books and articles, and the legends of individual explorers and expeditions. There are also regional studies of exploration, relating to Imperial Russia, the Pacific Islands, East Africa, Central Asia, and Antarctica.

For those interested in spaceflight the most interesting essay will probably be the one by Michael F. Robinson who concentrates the relationship of exploration and scientific advancement. Robinson invokes Stephen Pyne’s characterization of the “third great age of discovery” as a twentieth century development in which humans began to explore beyond regions where they could survive without artificial life support; at the poles, under the sea, and in space. While Robinson takes issue with this characterization of recent exploration he allows that it is a useful entrée point for seeking to place the themes of discover, exploration, conquest, and exploitation present in these regions into broader intellectual construct that includes both science and empire.

The most interesting part of this book is that the theme of exploration, whether something that is largely a Western phenomenon or something that is universal to all humankind (and there is a debate raging on that issue), has been inextricably tied up on the process of mediation between knowledge seeking and empire-building. Exploration has also been constantly the linkage between representation and reality; themes from these relationships require incorporation into historical studies of space exploration in the making of the modern world.





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Reconsidering the Place of Cooperative Programs in Relation to the International Space Station

Artist's conception of International Space Station.

Artist’s conception of International Space Station.

The national space programs of the worlds have long been dominated by national concerns over international affairs. This is most assuredly the case with the United States. Manifested in the context of both competition and cooperation, international concerns have been a powerful shaper of the U.S. civil space program since its beginning.

This was present from the outset, when the U.S. decided to orbit its first satellite as a result of decisions made in the International Council of Scientific Unions to sponsor investigations about the Earth as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), held between July 1, 1957, and December 31, 1958. This international scientific organization asked the United States and other nations to develop Earth-observing scientific satellites whose data would be made available to all Union members on an equitable basis, and on July 29, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the U.S.’s intention of beginning the Vanguard project as an international scientific endeavor.

The Apollo program, so properly viewed as an outgrowth of international competition between the U.S. and the USSR, came close in 1962 and 1963 to becoming a truly international effort. In the fall of 1961 President John F. Kennedy explored the possibility of reshaping the program from one of competition into one that fostered international cooperation by bringing the Soviet Union, then the only other spacefaring nation, into it as a full partner. The President’s vision sought to remake Apollo into a program that instead of heightening Cold War rivalries with the Soviet Union would lessen them and build bridges between two great nations. His concerns prompted NASA and State Department officials to open negotiations with Soviet leaders, but the timing was inappropriate for cooperative ventures. However, a series of early crises–Berlin, Cuban missile, etc.–mitigated efforts at genuine cooperation.

As late as September 1963 President John F. Kennedy before the United Nations suggested the possibility of a U.S./USSR “joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; . . . why, therefore, should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries–indeed of all the world–cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending some day in this decade to the moon not representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all of our countries.” He closed by urging, “Let us do the big things together.” His cooperative vision, unfortunately, elicited no response from the other side, save dismissals by a few Soviet editors who pronounced it “premature.”

Astronaut Susan J. Helms, Expedition Two flight engineer, works at the Human Research Facility's (HRF) Ultrasound Flat Screen Display and Keyboard Module in the Destiny/U.S. Laboratory.

Astronaut Susan J. Helms, Expedition Two flight engineer, works at the Human Research Facility’s (HRF) Ultrasound Flat Screen Display and Keyboard Module in the Destiny/U.S. Laboratory.

During the years of the Space Shuttle’s development, from the 1970s into  the mid 1980s, the competition lessened, for after the Americans bested their Soviet competitors in the Moon race the Soviet Union appears not to have participated in any serious race for a shuttle, preferring expendable rocket boosters for space tasks. Nonetheless, international considerations did not lessen. In 1970 Richard Nixon asked NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine to make the shuttle an international program, and by 1972 he had negotiated a series of agreements with European nations that would have provided for true cooperation. A coalition of groups, however, were concerned about the problems of program management in an international context and with emerging European interests in science and technology and consolidation of the continental economy. The result was that the cooperative thrust became less compelling over time and only the Canada arm and Spacelab on the Shuttle were international in scope.

When it came to constructing and supplying a space station, the principal destination for the American shuttle, the U.S. chose to emphasize cooperation with its allies the European Space Agency, Canada, and Japan in building a permanently occupied and large space station Freedom. By the middle part of the 1980s, however, competition had dropped to a low ebb, and ceased altogether with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1989.

But international competition and cooperation has not been the sole driving force in the U.S. space effort, and presidential leadership of it. Sometimes the successes of a program turn out to be more than the founders envisioned, and such is the case with NASA. In the passage of years into the twenty first century the international use of satellites for telephones and for television and for guidance of ships at sea and for weather observation and for managing the earth’s natural resources has made a large difference in the shape of world affairs, in bringing nations together.

Perhaps the most important change in spaceflight has been a steady movement from U.S./U.S.S.R. competition to widespread international cooperation in civil space activities. To be sure, in NASA’s statutory statement of 1958 a mandate appeared for international cooperation: “The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.” President Kennedy asked the nations to “do the big things together.”

Astronauts Mike Fossum (left) and Ron Garan, undertaking a spacewalk from STS-124 on June 5, 2008, construction and maintenance on the International Space Station. During the seven-hour, 11-minute spacewalk, Fossum and Garan installed television cameras on the front and rear of the Kibo Japanese Pressurized Module (JPM) to assist Kibo robotic arm operations, removed thermal covers from the Kibo robotic arm, prepared an upper JPM docking port for flight day seven's attachment of the Kibo logistics module, readied a spare nitrogen tank assembly for its installation during the third spacewalk, retrieved a failed television camera from the Port 1 truss, and inspected the port Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ).

Astronauts Mike Fossum (left) and Ron Garan, undertaking a spacewalk from STS-124 on June 5, 2008, construction and maintenance on the International Space Station. During the seven-hour, 11-minute spacewalk, Fossum and Garan installed television cameras on the front and rear of the Kibo Japanese Pressurized Module (JPM) to assist Kibo robotic arm operations, removed thermal covers from the Kibo robotic arm, prepared an upper JPM docking port for flight day seven’s attachment of the Kibo logistics module, readied a spare nitrogen tank assembly for its installation during the third spacewalk, retrieved a failed television camera from the Port 1 truss, and inspected the port Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ).

The vision of a slain President fifty years ago, true international cooperation has been realized with the efforts of the International Space Station. There is some discussion of the possibility if abandoning this space station in 2020 or 2024, only a few years after its completion. This could be a travesty. Having spent more than a decade building it, we must utilize it for scientific research for at least that same amount of time after its completion.

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Good Charlie/Bad Charlie: What Made Charlie Finley Tick?

This essay is based on material collected for a biography of Charlie Finley that G. Michael Green and I recently published with Walker and Co.

Charles O. Finley, the owner of the Kansas City/Oakland A’s between 1960 and 1980, had a public persona as one of the dark princes of Major League Baseball. He engaged in manipulation, connivance, and cajolery for what he wanted, and mostly what he wanted was respect and success. He publicly and bitterly warred with his players, his many managers, other MLB owners, the city leaders where his team played, sports journalists, and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. He enjoyed joking that his initial “O.” stood for “Owner,” a title he ensured no one ever forgot. Others had different words, and “obnoxious,” “outrageous,” and “obstreperous” were only a few of them. The meddlesome Finley micro-managed every aspect of his team’s operation, even including field tactics during games. He had spies watching the actions of his employees and reporting on incidents both large and small. His autocratic manner was well-known throughout MLB and stories of his antics abound, forever affecting perceptions of his reign over the A’s.

Virtually everyone that came to know Charlie Finley recognized a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde character of his personality. Finley valued control over everything, and this affected everything he did. A self-made millionaire, Finley had gotten himself out of the steel mills of Gary, Indiana, through hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice. He was brash, profane, and overbearing, possessing all of the delicacy of a wrecking ball. One of his key priorities was respect, he craved it and he demanded it and if it did not come through the normal course of events there could be hell to pay.

Control seems to have dictated so many of Charlie Finley’s activities virtually everyone recognized it. As attorney Bill Myers—one of several lawyers in Finley’s employ at one time or another over the years—said: “I think he had purpose in whatever he did and I think he also arranged to control people.” Joe Rudi, an all-star outfielder for the A’s during their glory days in Oakland said it best: “He was still of the old mind set of the owners, he was the plantation owner and we were his slaves to do whatever he wanted. I mean basically if they didn’t like you, they could stick you to where there was nothing you could do—you were stuck! And he liked that control, he was a control freak—just look at how he ran his office—he didn’t have anybody up there. He had a couple of people who worked in his front office, his cousin and then Carolyn who told him everything that was going on and what was happening and all that kind of stuff so that’s the kind of control person he was!”

Charlie Finley giving direction to A’s Manager Dick Williams in the early 1970s.

In addition to his obsession with control, Charlie Finley filled the classic description of a workaholic, but one condescending of others who did not have the same work ethic. As attorney Bill Myers said of Finley: “He had a lot of drive. He was a fighter, a scrapper. When he wanted something, he went for it. There’s no question about it; he would do anything to do what he wanted to get done.” Myers found Finley a paradox, a person who drove himself hard, expected everyone else to do likewise, and was bombastic, rude, and cheap at one given moment and then self-effacing, charming, and even generous at another.

Bobby Winkles, who managed the A’s in Oakland for Finley in 1977 and 1978, explained how he treated everyone as a lackey. Winkles liked to get up early, during the season or not, and play golf. One day during the season he was playing when his wife took a call from Charlie Finley. She told him that her husband was on the golf course and unavailable. “Well, I want you to pass this on to your husband,” Finley said. “I might be calling him for something important. I might call him for a trade. I might call him for anything, and I want him to be accountable to me, so if he’s going to be away from the house any more than 20 minutes, I want to know the phone number of where he’s gonna be.” Winkles emphasized “that’s a true story.” Finley would have loved cellular telephones.

Darold Knowles tells the hilarious story that A’s manager Dick Williams got so fed up with all of the phone calls from Charlie Finley that once during a baseball game the phone rang in the dugout “and our trainer picked it up and answered it and said, ‘It’s Mr. Finley, Dick. He wants to talk to you.’ And I remember Dick saying, ‘Tell him I’m not here’.”

Charlie Finley cultivated an intimidation factor in dealing with underlings, associates, and virtually everyone else. His comptroller for the A’s, Charles Cottonaro, recalled that Finley was “a pretty imposing figure, and I think he did that on purpose…, to create an image.” Cottonaro added that “one of the reasons is sometimes he might be unsure of himself as far as certain things because he tried to handle too much.” If his gruff personality emanated from a sense of personal inadequacy, Finley’s inferiority complex must have been massive because his overcompensation was extreme.

A’s admiring their World Series rings, Reggie Jackson, Charlie Finley, Gene Tenace, and Mgr. Dick Williams. (photo 1973 Ron Riesterer)

At the same time, even as Finley was domineering, a control freak, a micromanager, and a bully, he also could be remarkably charming and helpful. There are numerous stories of Finley’s generosity and aide to his players and coaches that few know about.  Former A’s pitcher Lew Krausse recalled how Finley help his players financially. “He would take any portion of your salary, put it in the stock market, and guarantee that you’d never lose a dime…I saw him write guys checks back in the ‘70s that you wouldn’t believe…. He even did it for me when I was playing in Milwaukee.” Krausse recalled that Finley wrote him a check for over $70,000 at one point. Bobby Winkles had similar recollections of Finley’s aid to players and coaches, although all agreed that in other settings he could be hard to deal with.

His generosity knew no bounds when it was his idea, and his stinginess was equally evident when others tried to force him to do something that was not his idea. As an example of how remarkably charitable he could be, Wayne Causey tells the story of how he was having an excellent year in 1961 when Pat Friday called him into the office and told him that Finley wanted to give him a raise. He tore up the old contract, “and I think he raised me to 10 or 12 thousand,” and made it “retroactive back to the beginning of the season and that’ll be your contract for ’62. Well that tickled me to death, I thought that was pretty nice to do…and there were several players that he had done that for that I know of.”

Charlie Finley and the A’s mascot, Charlie O., the Missouri mule. Many wondered which of them was more stubborn.

How do we account for the various aspects of Charlie Finley’s character? He was aggressive, combative, a bully, and deeply conflicted. He sought to impose his will on everyone he encountered. It might be a “paternalistic” relationship, but it might also be adversarial. He was also generally honest, helpful, supportive, and at times—very generous. I have asked this question many times, will the real Charlie Finley please stand up?

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Final Frontier”

Final FrontierFinal Frontier: The Pioneering Science and Technology of Exploring the Universe. By Brian Clegg. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014. Acknowledgments, notes, index. 291 Pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. ISBN-13: 978-1250039439. $26.99.

Every year there are several of these types of books that appear, all seeking to sell the possibilities of a bright, exciting future for humans in space. Brian Clegg, a UK science writer, uses his considerable literary skills to excite the public about trips to Mars, colonies in space, mining asteroids, and even traveling into interstellar space. He may be successful in many settings, but having seen this type of hype many times before I’m skeptical of all of his arguments.

Clegg begins with the maxim, human beings are naturally curious and therefore are by definition explorers. It drove terrestrial expansion; it drove the climbing of the highest mountains and the sailing of the broadest oceans. Space, of course, is the final frontier, hence the title of this book. Unfortunately, it is all rather trite. Furthermore, there are so many caveats and subtleties to such statements that they may not be used without significant clarifying explanation. For example, even if we accept that humans are natural explorers there are many ways to explore and not all of them require physical movement from one geographical location to another. Additionally, exploration has been motivated throughout human history by a search for resources of one type or another. Finding something that we want, of course, ensures that we will move there and colonize but absent finding anything that we want will ensure that further movement will be stillborn.

Clegg makes space exploration, up to and including colonization of other worlds, sound so easy. I wish it were. He celebrates the experience of the American West and its movement of overlanders across the Great Plains to Oregon and California. This was truly an epic migration, but he fails to appreciate fully the rush for land and gold that drove that effort. He also fails to appreciate the less desirable aspects of the process of Westering in the United States, the displacement and near extinction of many native peoples as well as the exploitation and extraction of wealth in the most destructive means possible.

He finds unfortunate that Americans seem to have lost their stomach for exploration and longs for a return to an expansive exploration agenda. Like too many other space advocates he hopes for a space race with China, commenting that “as Chinese activity builds it may be that once again the U.S. government will feel the need to flex its muscles and make it clear who has the technological supremacy—and in principle also who has a military foothold in locations where gravity alone has the potential to turn a lump of rock into a more power weapon than a nuclear bomb” (p. 5). He seems not to appreciate that China is not terrifying rival that the Soviet Union was. Mostly, Americans want to trade with China rather than nuke it.

Like virtually all champions of human activities in space, Brian Clegg emphasizes the possibility of the settlement of Mars, He accepts the argument of Bob Zubrin on this, laying out the Mars Direct agenda as the appropriate way forward. He also adopts the terraformation of Mars as a way to turn it into a habitable planet. I wish it were as easy as Clegg suggests.

For Clegg the best means to move beyond Earth is through private enterprise. Great idea, I agree. The challenge is advancing a profit motive? There are some entrepreneurs who want to build rockets and go into space for its excitement, etc., but there are many more who will never become involved until they can see a means of enhancing their fortunes. That is especially true of financiers. Thus far, we have not been successful in finding a monetary driver for going beyond low-Earth orbit. Will it arise in the next half century? Should it do so, nothing will keep humanity from moving outward. Absent that profit motive many of Clegg’s concepts will not be realized.

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Announcing the “Space Policy and History Forum #16″

Searching for Life in the Solar System and Beyond

Space Policy and History Forum #16

by Dr. Ellen Stofan

Chief Scientist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NASA Headquarters


NASA science pushes the boundaries of our knowledge about Earth, the Solar System including our Sun, and the universe. Our studies of Earth are helping us to better monitor and model our changing climate, while exploring the planets of our solar system and planets around other stars helps to address the question – Are we alone? From exploring Europa, to building the James Webb Space Telescope, to sending human explorers to Mars

NASA’s current and future science endeavors are aimed at addressing this fundamental question.


Dr. Ellen Stofan was appointed NASA chief scientist on August 25, 2013, serving as principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs and science-related strategic planning and investments. Prior to her appointment, Stofan was vice president of Proxemy Research in Laytonsville, Md., and honorary professor in the department of Earth sciences at University College London in England. Her research has focused on the geology of Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Earth. Stofan is an associate member of the Cassini Mission to Saturn Radar Team and a co-investigator on the Mars Express Mission’s MARSIS sounder. She also was principal investigator on the Titan Mare Explorer, a proposed mission to send a floating lander to a sea on Titan. Her appointment as chief scientist marks a return to NASA for Dr. Stofan. From 1991 through 2000, she held a number of senior scientist positions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., including chief scientist for NASA’s New Millennium Program, deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus, and experiment scientist for SIR-C, an instrument that provided radar images of Earth on two shuttle flights in 1994. Stofan holds master and doctorate degrees in geological sciences from Brown University in Providence, R.I., and a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. She has received many awards and honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Stofan has authored and published numerous professional papers, books and book chapters, and has chaired committees including the National Research Council Inner Planets Panel for the recent Planetary Science Decadal Survey and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group.

Date and Time

June 22, 2015 (Monday), 4:00-5:00 P.M.

Location, Parking, and Access 

The lecture will be held at the National Air and Space Museum, 600 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., 4:00-5:00 p.m. Space is limited to 50 attendees, so please RSVP to Roger to get your name on the list.  This will be for access to the 3rd floor of the Museum, where we will be meeting in the Director’s Conference Room. You may check in and obtain a badge for access to the building at the guard desk just to the right as you enter the Independence Ave. doors. If you have any questions regarding access, please contact Roger. Parking is not available in NASM, and is limited elsewhere; we recommend using the Metro system for travel to the National Air and Space Museum—the Smithsonian and L’Enfant Plaza stops are close by.

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Embracing the All-American Automobile

Henry Ford with his Model T.

Henry Ford with his Model T.

No doubt, the railroads of the nineteenth century enabled Americans to move about with a speed and ease never possible before. Even so, they did not provide the freedom to which Americans have long believed they have a special right. That came with the automobile. It freed those in the beginning of the twentieth century from the tyranny of schedules, from the strictures of where the track went, from the necessity of dealing with outside transportation providers, and from the ever so subtle and demeaning task of relating to other travelers in a very public and at times cramped space.

There is something liberating about being able to depart your home in a private vehicle at a time of your choosing and to travel privately point to point in comfort without any significant assistance from an outside entity to a destination of your choosing. That freedom lay at the heart of the attraction of the automobile in America.

With the development of the first practical internal combustion engines in the latter nineteenth century, it did not take a genius to see that the time of personal transportation vehicles had arrived. In 1902 Russell Olds—not Henry Ford—created the first mass assembly line to manufacture automobiles, and was selling 2,500 per year. By 1908, however, Ford had designed his Model T, nicknamed the Flivver, and the age of the automobile had arrived. With a pricetag of only $360 by 1916, made possible by Ford’s creation of the most efficient assembly line ever devised, the Model T was within the price range of many American families and it brought a revolution in transportation. By 1928 Ford had sold 15 million automobiles and the age of personal mechanical transport had arrived. First one car, and then two, became core purchases of every family.

Certainly, no people in the world adopted the automobile as thoroughly and enthusiastically as Americans. While early purchasers were not unlike purchasers of new technological products today—they were attracted by the novelty and the adventure—a truly fundamental revolution in transportation came when such individuals as Henry Ford made it possible for ordinary citizens to own automobiles. But a question must be asked about why Americans love this technology so much. Three essential reasons seem to emerge from any investigation of this question.

First, Americans have embraced technology as no other nation in human history. We seem to love anything that is mechanical and seems to offer promise for making our lives different. And this has made us distinct from other peoples of the world. Many farmers in France, for instance, have still not given up their horse-drawn farming implements, finding them efficient, inexpensive, and totally satisfactory. I cannot imagine a farmer in the United States—aside from the Amish and those working on living history farms—using horses in their daily work. We are a nation in love with technology of all types, including that which might bring our destruction.

Second, Americans are enamored with the new. We believe that we live in a new land, and we identify ourselves as a new people. For such to have any chance of being true, we must also embrace new things. This relates tangibly to the concept of progress—an intrinsically American ideal that envisions a better future. We all know the phrase, “every day, in every way, things are getting better and better.” In many instances these beliefs have been utopian in outlook. Many Americans have seen our role, captured in essence in our frontiering experience, as a re-enactment and democratic renewal of the original “social contract,” together with the creation of personal virtue and collective good. This progress ultimately redeems the nation. We tend to view new technology in the same way, and it has been played out in our acceptance of new ideas and mechanical objects. Whether it actually holds such a promise is an open question, but it has been a part of our American psyche for centuries.

1933 Auburn speedster.

1933 Auburn speedster.

Third, the promise of the personal automobile seduced Americans as no earlier form of mechanical transportation. It allowed motorists to choose their travel times and routes according to personal convenience. While railroads rigidly adhered to schedules, to which all must submit, automobiles freed Americans to travel when and where they wished. It represented democratic promise writ large.

Nothing demonstrates these three themes in an embracing of the automobile more effectively than John Steinbeck’s novel of the plight of Depression-era “Okies,” The Grapes of Wrath. It tells the epic story of the Joad family’s migration by automobile from the Oklahoma dust bowl along U.S. Highway 66 to the promised land of California. In stark and moving detail Steinbeck depicts the lives of ordinary people striving to preserve their humanity in the face of social and economic desperation.

When the Joads lose their tenant farm in Oklahoma, they join thousands of others, traveling the narrow concrete highways toward California and the dream of a piece of land for their own. Each night on the road, they and their fellow migrants recreate society: leaders are chosen; unspoken codes of privacy and generosity evolve; and lust, violence, and murderous rage erupt. It is a powerful portrait of the bitter conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of our fierce reaction to injustice, and of quiet, stoical strength. And in The Grapes of Wrath the automobile, and all that it means to Americans, comes to the fore.

In essence, the automobile created a much more mobile society than ever possible before. With the automobile came the new tradition of the “Sunday drive,” with city folks going out to the country. It also enabled rural Americans to come into urban areas for shopping and entertainment. Cars broke down the distinctions between urban and rural America. It also broke down the stability of family life. It was far easier for individual family members to go their own way. And it contributed to a break down in traditional morality. Children could escape parental supervision, as cars became a sort of “bedroom on wheels.”

In 1929 sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd published a study called Middletown, based on field research done in Muncie, Indiana, in 1924-1925. The Lynds showed how, under the influence of industrialization, traditional values and customs were changing, including peoples’ attitudes toward the automobile and the vehicle’s use in a fundamental reordering of society. They found that at all income levels; the automobile had come to seem a necessity, rather than an economic luxury. People were willing to sacrifice food, clothing, and their savings in order to keep the family car.

1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser.

1958 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser.

It also altered in a fundamental way the relationship between the federal government and big business. American business, led by icons such as Henry Ford, regained the status of folk hero they had enjoyed in the days before the Progressivism of the early twentieth century. Many Americans felt they also had the opportunity to participate in prosperity and they began to equate prosperity and progress in part because of the opportunity to own an automobile.

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Homesteading Space”

Homesteading SpaceHomesteading Space: The Skylab Story. By David Hitt, Owen Garriott, Joseph P. Kerwin, with the diary of Alan L. Bean. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-080-3224-34-6. 548 pages. $29.95.

Accounts by astronauts are sometimes entertaining, sometimes insightful and reflective, sometimes revealing, and sometimes inspiring. A very few accomplish all of those goals. Perhaps the gold standard for this is Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins’s Carrying the Fire. While Homesteading Space is not the same thoughtful, perceptive account as Carrying the Fire, but it is a worthy recollection of an important but largely forgotten program.

It tells a significant part of the story of the Skylab orbital workshop, the first American space station launched in 1973 and occupied through the middle part of 1974 by three crews of astronauts. Owen Garriott, Joseph P. Kerwin, and Alan L. Bean were all astronauts that flew aboard Skylab and with the help of journalist David Hitt Homesteading Space does a credible job of telling their story. A 100-ton orbital workshop launched into orbit with the last use of the giant Saturn V launch vehicle in May 1973. Almost immediately, technical problems developed due to vibrations during lift‑off and the first crew to fly, astronauts Pete Conrad, Paul J. Weitz, and Homesteading Space co-author Joseph P. Kerwin, had to resolve them and make Skylab operational. That first group of astronauts returned to Earth on June 22, 1973, and two other Skylab crews followed, one each with co-authors Garriott and Bean.

All three crews occupied the Skylab workshop for a total of 171 days and 13 hours. It was the site of nearly 300 scientific and technical experiments. In Skylab, both the total hours in space and the total hours spent in performance of EVA under microgravity conditions exceeded the combined totals of all of the world’s previous space flights up to that time.

Skylab was the first real test of long-duration spaceflight undertaken by the United States. Homesteading Space is a useful personal recollection of three astronauts who flew on Skylab. It is a welcome account of a lesser known program.

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