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Posted by: Jeremy McKenna on 8/11/2010 | 0 Comments

Meet the Aeroscraft ML866. It’s 165 feet tall, 244 feet wide, 647 feet long—more than the length of two football fields!--filled with 14 million cubic feet of helium, and capable of carrying a 400-ton payload at an estimated top speed of 175 mph. It takes off and lands like a helicopter—straight up, straight down—so it doesn’t need a runway. The Aeroscraft is scheduled to come to the travel market this year.

Billed as a “private air yacht,” the Aeroscraft could offer ocean cruises with luxury accommodations, “skimming just above forests, canyons and cities,” the website (http://tinyurl.com/587xz2) dreams, “then delivering its passengers to inland resorts and national parks hundred of miles from sea."

Or the versatile Aeroscraft could also serve as an “executive office in the sky,” with a high-tech business and conference center decked out with computerized offices, videoconferencing capabilities, a conference room that could handle 100 business travelers, and a transformable interior and personal stateroom.

The Aeroscraft uses six turbofan jets to lift it to its cruising altitude, where it’s driven by huge rearward electric propellers powered by a renewable resource, such as hydrogen fuel sells. A complex buoyancy-management system will provide precise adjustments in-flight to account for changes in outside conditions and passenger movement.

Whose idea was this, anyway? The Aeroscraft is the invention of Ukrainian-born Igor Pasternak, president of Worldwide Aeros Corporation in Canoga Park, California. Worldwide Aeros’s product line includes heavy-lift cargo planes, FAA-Certified airships, and tethered balloon systems.

Pasternak marvels at his baby’s future: “You can land on the snow, you can land on the water. It's a new vision of what can be done in the air.”

Posted by: Jeremy McKenna on 7/30/2010 | 0 Comments
The Real Good Experiment.  When the Blu Dot guys opened their SoHo store in 2008, they immeditately discovered what they call the “resourceful culture” of “curb-mining”--finding stuff on the street and taking it home.  
        
In early November last year, 25 Real Good Chairs were dropped off on New York City street corners—a clear invitation to attentive curb miners. 
 
(If you look closely, you'll see a Real Good red chair, just right of center, patiently waiting for its own personal miner.)
 
The catch?  The chairs were outfitted with GPS homing devices, which allowed folks all over the planet to track their whereabouts. 
 
The experiment was turned into an intriguing documentary, a groundbreaking short film that illustrates people’s behavior when they think they’re not being watched.  Here’s
the link to the film  
                                                      
Posted by: Jeremy McKenna on 7/19/2010 | 1 Comment

As you know, President Obama recently nominated Elena Kagan to succeed Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who’s retiring at age 90.  If Ms. Kagan, who’s 50, is confirmed by the U. S. Senate, there’s the real possibility that--it’s a lifetime appointment--she’ll spend four (or more) decades as a justice on the court.  The gravity of the assignment—she’d be one of only nine men and women deciding the law of the land, and might be doing so for 40 years or more—should make us look closely to determine whether she’s the right person for the job.

Kagan’s resume.  There’s no doubt—none!—that Ms. Kagan is exceptionally intelligent. She’s had an astonishing academic history. Why, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, went to Oxford to study philosophy, and got admitted to Harvard Law School, where she was elected to Harvard’s prestigious law review.

She clerked for a prominent federal judge and a renowned Supreme Court Justice, worked as a visiting law professor at the University of Chicago and at Harvard, and thereafter was selected as the first female dean at Harvard Law!  Right now, she’s the Solicitor General of the United States—again, the first woman to hold the job!—where she represents our government before the U. S. Supreme Court.  

Lyndon Johnson, if he were still alive, would be out there strutting, leading Elena Kagan's parade.
 
Kagan’s legal experience.  Academic credentials, no matter how impressive, aside, what has Ms. Kagan actually done?
 
Media coverage has focused almost exclusively on the fact that she’s never been a federal judge—actually, she’s never been a judge at any level—and  commentators wonder if Kagan's lack of judicial experience might be a deal-breaker.
 
Should judicial experience be a requirement for an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court?  Or should experience as a lawyer, a lawyer who has personally represented a client in a contract dispute in a lower court or prepared a simple will for someone or prosecuted (or defended) a drunk driver or maybe fought to stay in business during a recession—should any of these experiences be a requirement for a candidate for Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court?
 
Ms. Kagan’s entire legal practice consisted of two years at Williams & Connolly, a high-profile, white-collar law firm in D. C.  Williams & Connolly boast that they represent The Washington Post, ABC News, NBC, Turner Broadcasting, Time, CBS, Fox Television, Viacom and (oops!) Playboy. Other clients include pharmaceutical companies with controversial products—Vioxx; hormone replacement therapy; AstraZeneca, Seroquel and other medications used to dose dementia sufferers.
 
The firm’s expertise ranges from First Amendment constitutional law to criminal antitrust and intellectual property practice--nothing at all to suggest that Ms. Kagan ever represented a client (or even met one) during her two-year stint at Williams & Connolly.
 
So: while the Senate investigation was about whether Ms. Kagan would be a fiery liberal justice or a born-again Tea Partier (guess which!), shouldn’t the conversation be at least as much about real-life, on-the-ground legal experience as whether a candidate for our Supreme Court is a liberal or has been a federal judge?  I’m with Sam Rayburn: I’ll go with the one who ran for county sheriff.  Even if she lost.
 
 
 

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