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Posts Tagged ‘2012’

And so the 2012 campaign begins…

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

While serious issues get pushed to the back burner, it is obvious that the presidential campaign is underway as Donald Trump makes a fool of himself and President Obama uses his office to start countering political campaigns. I know mud-slinging and misinformation have been a part of campaigns since elections have been held, but the modern main-stream media really adds fuel to the fire. Has anyone ever heard of research. I start to wonder if media has any journalists left, or if they all are simply reporters. Political blogs are even worse. One egregious example is from a progressive blogger who tweeted, “When will [Michele Bachmann] produce her birth certificate and prove she’s from this planet?” Honestly? I don’t agree with Representative Bachmann on many things, including the fact she questioned President Obama’s birth certificate. Or there is this article asking Sarah Palin to produce her college papers. I think she is completely misguided and then tries to distract people by saying “Don’t let the White House distract you from real issues.” Then look at the “@” replies to her tweet. The political rhetoric is so childish it sickens me. This kind of childish rhetoric degrades the political conversation and provides no platform for compromise or discussion.

Let me get out a few facts about the “Birther” conspiracy. The people pushing need to understand the purpose of the “natural born Citizen” clause as stated in our Constitution. It was meant to prevent a dual loyalty, i.e. to prevent someone from making decisions that would benefit another country over our own. All presidents go through an extensive process within their respective parties, so any doubt as to a person’s loyalty would be exposed long before any election. The electors in the Electoral College also provide a buffer (albeit weak) to preventing a rogue candidate from being elected. This was one of the reasons the Electoral College was set up in the first place, because the Founding Fathers knew a pure democracy would never survive. Instead they set up a democratic republic – so if someone ever tries to tell you we are a democracy, make sure to tell them they are wrong. By having a “filtered majority,” we prevent mob rule and in a sense gain more control over our government.

Neither party seems to get it, because as the Republicans go after President Obama over his birth certificate, this Democratic blog seems to think the Constitution mandates the President to make us a moral beacon in the world. They are right that the job of the President is to “…preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution…,” but even our first President warned us to stay out of foreign entanglements. There are people in the world who don’t believe in the freedom we have in our country, and we can’t force them to change their mind. The President’s job is to make sure we always have our freedom here. It ends at our borders.

So, in the worst-case scenario someone were to be elected that was not a “natural born Citizen,” we would still have options. It would be obvious rather quickly if an executive was granting favors to a particular country or set of countries. The President can’t make law. Even the President’s ability to make war is a bit more limited since the Korean and Vietnam conflicts brought up the whole issue of a declaration of war. If the President were to be caught showing dual loyalty, he could be impeached by the House and brought to trial in the Senate. There are even mechanisms in place for the Vice President to take over temporarily if the President is thought to have lost his capacity to lead. We have a pretty good system to prevent a rogue President.

With President Obama specifically, conservatives really just need to stop. Use some logic. First, President Obama has hardly deviated at all from President Bush’s policies of spending and war-making. So, how is it that President Obama’s policies could be construed as anti-American? Second, let’s just say the “birther” campaign were to be successful, then we would get Joe Biden as President? Is his policy going to be that much different?

The bottom line on the “birther” issue is that it is pretty clear President Obama was born in Hawaii. Perhaps the information is not perfectly crystal clear, but I don’t think his loyalty is in question. If anything, it should show us that we need to improve our documentation of all people in the United States to prevent terrorism, identity theft, medical records, etc. There is a whole host of things that cold be improved if we came up with better ways to document, identify, and protect individuals. It also should show us that the “natural born Citizen” clause, along with the 14th amendment, should be reexamined and clarified.

One other campaign issue that is in full swing is the economy. Here again, both sides need to get off their power trip. A hardcore, left-wing website claims that Greece’s austerity measures have worsened their economy. There is a basic rule in any scientific study which is: Correlation does not equal causation. So Greece’s economy got worse, and it just so happens that Greece cut government spending, so it must be that reduction in spending that caused the economy to worsen. It’s not true. Think of it this way: If government spending could improve the economy ad infinitum, why doesn’t the government simply spend more? Does anyone really think that if the United States government doubled its spending that the economy would rocket off into massive growth?

The Democrats started with the mistake of stating that the economy would instantly improve if the stimulus plan was passed. Joe Biden promised that the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8% (it currently sits at about 8.8%). The Republicans are saying if we don’t cut spending and reform entitlements immediately that the U.S. will fall off a cliff. Is there anyone who can inject a dose of reality? They are even going so far as to say that spending cuts and lower taxes would immediately jump-start the economy. The Republicans also point to President Reagan’s tax cuts as a key driver to the economic boom in the 1980s that doubled the federal revenue. Although there is some evidence that is true, further supported by cuts in the 1920s and 1960s, tax policy alone doesn’t drive the economy.

The reality is there is a limit to how much revenue our government can collect and still be within the bounds of a free society. We have to understand there is a balance to taxation and freedom, and if taxes are too low or too high we put that freedom in jeopardy. In fact, the Reagan tax cuts actually made tax collections more progressive, i.e. the rich paid more as a percentage of tax revenues while the bottom 50% paid less. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon said of high taxes:

The history of taxation shows that taxes which are inherently excessive are not paid. The high rates inevitably put pressure upon the taxpayer to withdraw his capital from productive business and invest it in tax-exempt securities or to find other lawful methods of avoiding the realization of taxable income. The result is that the sources of taxation are drying up; wealth is failing to carry its share of the tax burden; and capital is being diverted into channels which yield neither revenue to the Government nor profit to the people.

Note: Link above is to another blog essay that has a nice mathematical example of balancing taxes with the freedom to invest.

We can’t keep spending at current levels, but we can’t just slash and burn without some thought into how to soften the landing. Tax policy, economic policy (i.e. the federal reserve and government borrowing), business regulation, personal freedom, and every other aspect of government affect the economy. We need reasonable taxes and regulation and a reasonable safety net combined with a large level of personal responsibility. The current major parties only want their own small part of that policy. It’s time they expand their minds. Whoever does it first will be getting my vote in 2012.

Supermoon – not all that special

March 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I might be a little bit late to the party, but I wanted to make sure at least a few places on the internet had the correct science.

The “science” being reported on the “supermoon” makes me really sad sbout science education and science reporting in the United States. If one takes a look at a lunar calendar, you will see the moon has a perigee at this distance about every 2 1/2 years or so. In fact, the last one in December 2008 was also at a full moon. The minor difference is this year the close perigee happens right about the exact time of the full moon, where as the in 2008 it happened about 4 hours after the full moon. The irony is in 2011, the true full moon happened at about 4 pm in the Central Time Zone (when the moon was still hidden) whereas in 2008 the full moon happened about 7:30 pm in the Central Time Zone. That means the perigee happened about 11:30pm in the Central Time Zone. So during that night in 2008, you could actually see the moon be closer than you could in 2011.

Some want to call this the supermoon because it is happening right at the time of the full moon (within the hour the moon is truly “full”).  Well, if you want to go by that, then 1993 doesn’t work either.  In 1993 (which is when most are reporting the last time this happened), the perigee of the moon happened over an hour before the full moon.  Now in 1992, the perigee happened within the hour of the full moon, but it happened in January.  By my math, that is over 19 years ago.  It should also be noted it was even closer than it was this year by 29 km.

Before that, the new moon in 2005 was that close – so it would have been bigger during the day when the moon was visible due to earth shine. In 2003, 2001, 1998, 1994 all had large full moons as well (within 200 km of this year’s supermoon). There is no way that 200 km would be noticeable when the moon is still over 350,000 km away. In 2008, the perigee was actually 10 km closer and would have actually been visible in our time zone when it occurred.

Update:

I checked the calendar for the next few years, and May 6, 2012 the full moon falls right on the perigee, although about 400 km farther than this year.  June 23, 2013, the same thing happens.  August 10, 2014, another full moon perigee and only 300 km farther than this year.  September 28, 2015 is yet another.  November 14, 2016 is a perigee even closer than this year, at 356,511 km (compared to 356,577 this year) .  The perigee precedes the full moon by 2 hours in this instance, but again it is unnoticeable compared to the “true” full moon.  Maybe we can call this one the ultra-moon?

While it is neat to think the moon is a couple percent larger visibly than average and a good 8% or so larger [Update] can appear up to 14% larger (thanks NASA) than when it is farthest away, it is hardly a unique occurrence.  Every full moon perigee is roughly 14% larger than a full moon at apogee, give or take 1%.

One other thing to note: people are often fooled to thinking the moon is very much larger by how it looks when it first rises.  This is simply an optical illusion as explained here.  If you want proof it is an illusion, when the moon is on the horizon, bend over and view it between your legs.  It will appear normal size.  When viewing it normally, our brains fool us because of buildings, trees, etc. in the foreground.

For all of you interested in astronomy, I recommend following Phil Plait or Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter, read Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog .  These guys are experts and some of the best personalities in science.

Birds falling from the sky does not mean the end of the world.

January 5, 2011 1 comment

After seeing today’s news, I thought it would be a good time to get something up on the web to debunk some of these crazy people.  Some of you may have heard of the birds dying in Arkansas and Louisiana, or more recently in Sweden. There have also been large fish deaths in various areas around the U.S.

Crazy people say it “is a sign from god” or that “the end of the world is near.” Other different crazy people claim the government is poisoning us and the death of a U.S. official is proof of such a claim.

The first premise is pretty easy. An all-powerful god is going to kill a few of the millions of birds and fish as a way of communicating? Alfred Hitchcock must therefore be god. (That was sarcasm if you didn’t notice)

The more complex scenario is the government conspiracy theory. Because of the way probability works, there isn’t a way to 100% rule out that there is some secret government entity involved in these strange happenings. But with a little math, a little reading, and a little logic, you can be at ease that this was a natural, albeit unusual event.

Here’s a real basic summary of why large government conspiracies don’t work. Let’s say from top to bottom 200 people are needed to carry out such a mission of testing chemicals on the U.S. Further, let’s say that they are 99% likely they will keep quiet about such events. In such case, you take 0.99^200 = 13.4% chance that no one will talk. I think WikiLeaks has shown it is pretty hard to keep anyone quiet for long. Another example regarding JFK can be found here.

Tackling logic second brings us to the principle of Occam’s Razor. Again this is not definitive proof, but somewhat of a natural order that says that the “real” or “correct” theory tends towards the simpler ones. It is a delicate balance of leaving enough information to adequately explain the outcome of a scenario or hypothesis without unnecessary complexity. Some government conspiracies also fall under the argument from ignorance (Ad ignorantiam). This is the “well, prove me wrong” argument. Lack of evidence of non-existence does not logically make something exist.

Finally, reading about past events and talking to scientists will reveal much more likely scenarios. First, there was severe weather in Arkansas the day of the event. Secondly, it has been a very cold winter and could have caused too much stress on the birds. (see this link with a quote from a fiction book that talks about this type of phenomenon) These types of birds have poor night vision and usually roost at night, so if they were frightened by weather or fireworks as proposed, it is easy to imagine them running into power lines, houses, cars, etc. These birds are pretty fast, so imagine thousands of people riding their bikes in fog or rain without headlights at 20 mph and see how many would crash. There are other strange phenomenon of frogs and fish raining from the sky that can often come with a simpler explanation than the “end of days.”

So don’t believe the crazies such as those in this comment section or believe the government is secretly poisoning us. We may not get a definitive answer, or it could be multiple causes. We could also find out with good certainty what caused each of these events. Just know that it isn’t the end of days.