Monday, December 14, 2015

Government "Logic..."

(and yes, those are sneer quotes, to borrow a phrase from the esteemed seneschal of the Bastion of Liberty)

Today, the FAA released its model airplane registration policy.  In part:
If you own a drone, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) registry. A federal law effective December 21, 2015 requires unmanned aircraft registration, and you are subject to civil and criminal penalties if you do not register.
 Failure to register an aircraft may result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. The FAA may assess civil penalties up to $27,500. Criminal penalties include fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years.
All owners of small UAS weighing more than 250 grams (0.55 lbs.) and less than 55 lbs. must register using this new system
Initial registration fee is $5.  You will be required to renew every three years and you must pay a $5 renewal fee.
When operating your UAS you must be able to present the certificate in either print or electronic format if asked for proof of registration.

In other words:

Perfect Example of What is Wrong with the President's Policies

As reported by various news organizations:

To try to allay Americans' concerns about the growing domestic and global terror threat posed by the Islamic State (ISIS), President Obama this week will visit the Pentagon and the National Counterterrorism Center, where he is expected to further explain his plan to stop the extremist group. 

This is a perfect demonstration of just how fundamentally wrong this president is.  He shouldn't be going to the Pentagon to talk about his plan to stop ISIS...  He should be going to the Pentagon to hear THEIR plan for stopping ISIS.  The President is an unfathomably vain and narcissistic person who knows only how to do is tell people what he thinks should be done and has not the slightest inclination to listen to the thoughts and opinions of anyone else.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How to denigrate with class...

Earlier this week, Fox News handed out a 2 week suspension to one its contributors.  Lt Col Ralph Peters, angry about the President's non-response to terror attacks in the US, labeled the President "a total pussy."

Personally, I've heard worse things said on the air under the guise of prime time "entertainment." But Fox News probably had to bow to the inevitable pressure that it would get from the rest of the news and entertainment industry (not to mention the heavy hand of the Obama administration's FCC) and handed out a punishment.

Two days later, Fox News analyst Brit Hume used the term "milksop" to describe the President.  Like the Fox anchor, I was not immediately familiar with the term -- although I could make some guesses based on its context.

Looking it up, I was delighted to find these synonyms for the word:

Milksop:   weakling, coward, wimp (informal), jessie (Scottish, slang), pussy (slang, mainly US), sissy, namby-pamby, wuss (slang), chinless wonder (British, informal), dastard (archaic) •  You are a coward and a milksop.

Well played, Brit...  well played.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why Are Urbanites Generally Liberal?

In my younger years, I used to wonder why so many people in the cities tended to be liberal; and people in rural areas tended towards conservative.  With a few more decades under my belt -- as well as having lived in and/or visited a variety of environments -- I think I have a pretty good understanding of the reasons.

Sure, I know why city liberals THINK they're liberal...  Their reasoning is that people who are more educated go to the cities because that's where "important" and "high tech" work is done.  Certainly, anyone who is more educated HAS to be liberal.  While we uneducated country bumpkins aren't smart enough to know better.

There may be a grain of truth to this reasoning -- if you replace "educated" with "indoctrinated."  That said, I survived my college indoctrination relatively unscathed, although I did have a brief flirtation with some liberal principles (mostly due to a lady I was dating through some of my college years).  

Though I am probably what most city liberals would call a redneck country bumpkin, I'll put my degrees and career experience up against their any day*.  And many of my rural brethren are equally educated -- try to be a farmer, today, without a firm understanding of agricultural science and business/economics.   And those who don't have the college experience have a great deal of common sense and wisdom, as well as various skills in productive trades and businesses.

In reality, however, the biggest difference between the city elites and denizens of "flyover country" is that urbanites don't actually have to DO anything themselves.  Every one of the necessities of life is provided to them.  They don't have to grow/hunt their own food, get their own water, produce their own power, keep themselves warm, get rid of garbage, take care of sanitation, or any of the other functions that are required to sustain life.  One small hiccough in the power grid, food source, or any other bit of their support infrastructure, and they are totally lost.  Whereas those of us in the rural environment are used to doing much of this for ourselves.  Sure, we get electricity from the power grid, have propane or oil delivered for heat, go to the grocery stores for food, etc.; but we are just as capable of getting these things ourselves if something goes wrong with the infrastructure.

I think you get the picture, but here's a classic example to make my point:

In the winter of  '96-97 (if I recall correctly), there was a big east coast ice storm.  Power lines were down over a wide area of northern Virginia, Maryland, and the DC suburbs.  I was amazed at watching news coverage of how people in DC and Baltimore metro areas were incapable of coping.  Not only did they have no way to keep warm, they couldn't figure out how to keep their food cold --  IN WINTER! City officials eventually had trucks delivering dry ice to neighborhoods for people to put in their refrigerators... (repeat, IN WINTER!!!).  

Those few that had generators had to continuously be reminded not to run generators in their house or garage.  Still, there were a few deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning, and a few fires from people using fireplaces that hadn't been serviced in many years or kerosene heaters that were not used right.  People were burning any bit of wood they had in order to keep warm.

During these (and similar weather-related outages) we "country bumpkins," on the other hand, can start a fire in the woodstove, properly operate a generator, make use of stored water/food, make use of a garden, or even hunt for fresh meat.  During my tenure in "flyover" country, I've had to endure several periods where electricity was out for many days.  No problem -- almost enjoyable, even -- like camping with all the luxuries of home.

Because urbanites are used to government taking care of their every need, they see that as the logical way that the world should work -- and they will vote to continue and even expand the status quo.

But I'm not here to put down city folks -- to each his own.  I see, and even somewhat understand the appeal of city life.  The flash, the amenities, the social life, etc., are attractive to some folks.  Live and let live, I say.

Unfortunately, however, those in the city don't feel the same way.  Because they don't understand how to DO things, they tend to make policies based on the notion that most people don't know how to DO things.  Here's a perfect example:

On the late show with Stephen Colbert, he made the following comment regarding the recent shootings:

”Why is so easy to buy bullets when I have to show three forms of ID to buy Sudafed?”
To a city person, this seems perfectly reasonable.  After all, because he doesn't know how a firearm works, how to load ammunition, or even the difference between bullets and ammunition, he assumes that the only way to get ammunition is to get it from a store (after all, that's where he and all his elitist comrades get all their stuff).  And because he's never purchased a firearm or ammunition, he has no idea what is required.  (And I'm sure he hasn't bought his own Sudafed, either -- I haven't needed 3 forms of ID to do so.  I do have to prove I'm of age to buy ammunition, however -- although at my age, a simple glance is all that's needed.)  But we'll take his comment at face value for now.

Were I (or most of my fellow rural residents) to answer his rhetorical question, the answer would be, "Because Sudafed is difficult to produce on your own, while ammunition is quite easy."

Restricting the purchase of ammunition will only impact those who are already incapable of doing things themselves.  If someone is going to make the effort to carry out a terrorist attack, I'm quite sure they'll be able to produce there own ammunition just as easily as the pipe bombs they are making.

Again, I would normally say live and let live.  But these small pockets of high population densities tend to overwhelm the desires of the rest of their respective states.  Take Virginia, for example:  Without exception, usually 2 or 3 counties (in the Washington, DC metro area, and around Richmond) vote Democrat, while the rest of the counties vote Republican.  Due to the large (and growing) liberal populations in the few areas, however, their desires rule the state.  Over the last few years, I've seen Virginia acquire Democratic senators and a governor (Terry McAuliffe if you can believe it), with 3 counties carrying the state in the last 2 presidential elections -- contributing to the election of President Obama.

Unfortunately, I see this trend continuing here in Virginia, as well as other formerly "red" states. Many former Maryland residents are flocking to the DC Virginia suburb and carrying their liberal practices with them (strangely enough, Marylanders recently voted in their second Republican governor in almost 50 years).  Colorado is another example.  Generally conservative (and hugely independent)  folks, mass migrations from California to the Denver and Boulder metro areas are changing the face of Colorado politics.  Californians, in a desire to escape the world they created, are emigrating to Colorado, but turning it into the very place they were trying to escape.

I wish I had an answer to solve this.  Unfortunately, I don't -- my only hope at this point is to try keep as far away from urban areas as possible.  And as much as it pains me to consider another move (after far too many moves during my active duty AF years), I am looking for places to escape from the growing liberalization of my current state.


*  Not that this would do much good.  Recently, I spent a very long evening discussing climate change with a bunch of young, recently-graduated liberal arts majors (in the area of English and Literature). As a point of reference, I am a degreed meteorologist with >30 years experience in the following areas:

  • Operational weather forecasting
  • Weather satellite data processing for numerical weather prediction
  • Software development and implementation for optical, IR, and microwave radiative transfer analysis
  • Computer modeling and simulation
  • Solar/terrestrial interaction and effects on terrestrial weather
  • Climate modeling under a NASA program I worked on for a few years
Yet, these liberal arts folks refused to accept any of my points and assertions (complete with published journal references), instead relying only on the information with which they were indoctrinated (very little of which they understood in the first place).  Needless to say, the discussion proved fruitless....  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

As if we needed another example...

... of left wing media bias.

In a recently-published article by the Denver Post, there is this bit of outrageous journalistic malpractice regarding the Colorado Springs killings last week.

Describing the primitive living conditions of the killer, the article describes the trailer he had been living in, the crucifix on his door, some bible verses on his wall, and a hand-written prayer visible through the window -- none of which would be out of place in many homes across the US.

There was one small picture of the travel trailer:

along with this very large and prominent close-up view:

Looking at these pictures, the average reader would be convinced that the shooter was a rabid pro-life evangelist.

Only by reading the very small print caption would you note the following:
One of a few neighbors of Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear in Hartsel. This home, owned by a man people called Brother Ray, looked like an underground compound and was completely surrounded by a large handmade log fence. 

In other words, the Denver Post showed a picture of a different trailer with pro-life bumper stickers that happened to be within a thousand feet of the killer's in order to equate the killer with the pro-life movement.

Journalism is dead....

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wimp Nation

I've been traveling the last couple of weeks and have tried (somewhat successfully) to remain off-line in order to avoid reading news and commentary that might further enhance my ever-increasing level of cynicism.  Trying to get back in the saddle, I have a few new works in the pipeline.  Until then, here's a piece that I'll link to...  I wish I wrote it, because it echos my own thoughts very nicely.

The United States has become a nation of weak, pampered, easily frightened, helpless milquetoasts who have never caught a fish, fired a gun, chopped a log, hitchhiked across the country, or been in a schoolyard fight. If their cat dies, they call a grief therapist. Everything frightens Americans.
This ménage of middle-school delicates is not the country that fought World War II, or Vietnam. It is a jellyfish threatening to collapse under any serious stress. Corrupt, seriously divided racially, the middle-class sinking, ruled by fools and kleptocrats, a house of pudding cannot stand.  Scared, fat, weak, fragile, narcissistic, herd-minded, prissy, censorious and, increasingly, ignorant. Deliberately ignorant. This is wonderful stuff.

Read the whole thing at:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Wisdom in nursery rhymes

Remember this one?
There was an old woman who swallowed a cow,
I don't know how she swallowed a cow!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
Perhaps she'll die.
Each "remedy" for the previous mistake just makes matters worse and requires a more extreme follow-on.

Why, you wonder, do I bring this up? Because everything that seems to come out of Washington, DC, seems to follow this pattern. Every "remedy" they put forth seems only to add to the problem. What's worse, is that the initial "problem" they set forth to fix was caused by them to begin with.
Take the past kerfuffle about the Hobby Lobby ruling. That's just a distraction... a side issue, arguing over the side effects of a treatment and not the root cause of the illness. I've heard it argued "Why should an employer get involved in anyone's healthcare?" Simple: Because we have demanded that they be involved in it by paying for it. With the ACA employer mandate, Washington has used the force of law to decree that employers are to be involved in our healthcare.

The essence is this: Why is health insurance even tied to an employer? I get my auto, home, and life insurance on my own... why not health insurance?

So now we get to the real issue...What caused the change that tied health care to our employers?

As you may guess, the problem originated as a response to policies put forth by Washington, DC. It was a way of circumventing the World War II wage and price controls. Barred from offering higher salaries to attract workers, employers offered health insurance instead. Aided by an IRS ruling that said workers who received health benefits did not have to pay income taxes on them, and by the fact that employers could write off the cost of the health benefits as a business related expense, this accidental arrangement became the primary way most Americans access health care.

So, that's the point where we swallowed a fly. And every remedy by DC since then has only added to the problem. I just worry about the last of the old lady's treatments...

"There was an old woman who swallowed a horse, She's dead—of course!" I can only hope we haven't gotten to the horse, yet.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Liberal Perception Disorder

Looking at the world through evil-tinted glasses

At today's liberal indoctrination camps around the country (i.e., college campuses), everyone is being trained to be "spring loaded" to perceive innocent phrases/displays as bigoted "microaggressions," dog-whistle words, or racial hatred.   Earlier this week, at the University of Delaware, we saw a classic case of what I like to call "looking at the world through evil-tinted glasses," or what might better be labeled as "Liberal Perception Disorder."

Some overly-sensitive students saw this debris in a tree (it looks like string and coat hangers) and automatically assumed a hate crime had been perpetrated upon their fragile psyches -- and reported this to campus officials.  

Of course the school jumped the gun by crying "Hate Crime!" and accusing people on campus of perpetrating it before even looking at this string. And the reaction of the student body was also over the top -- looking like they had just witnessed a horrific death of a loved one. 
Three alleged nooses were supposedly found dangling from a tree on UD’s Green and had provoked a torrent of outrage within hours from minorities on campus who said they reflected a climate of hate.
“I’ve been called the n-word multiple times. I’ve dealt with a lot of racial BS at this campus, but never, never in my wildest imagination did I think in my last year here … that in the middle of the night I would run up to a tree with three nooses hanging up there,” student Gerti Wilson told Delaware Online. Another student, Morgan Franklin, said she broke down in tears at the horrible sight, and claimed it proved “my safety is not a concern” on campus.
UD officials moved rapidly to condemn the ferocious hate crime via a statement sent to students.

In an absurd demonstration of Liberal Perception Disorder (LPD), for a bit of simple string and wire, this is what they saw:

These days, of course, everyone has been programmed to see racism/sexism/etc-ism everywhere (regardless of intent) -- that there is no other possible explanation for a piece of string and coat hanger in a tree other than an evil white racist perpetrating a "hate crime." (I also despise the concept of "hate crime" but that's an entirely different issue that I do not want to get into, now.) 

Of course, University officials were quick to jump on the "Hate Crime" bandwagon, accusing members of the campus community of racial hatred, and quickly organizing a rally to further indoctrinate the student population.  After a (very) short investigation, the true origins of this heinous crime was uncovered.  These were leftover decorations from a previous event.

University officials -- from the president on down -- should have given the student population a sincere apology for accusing them of this crime, and for stirring up even more racial animus.  Of course, none was forthcoming.  Instead they held a rally to decry the racism that didn't occur.

Of course, LPD can only be selectively applied.  Take the recent events in Irving Texas where a young Muslim student by the name of Ahmed Mohamed brought an altered clock to school.  The administration there, of course, was not allowed to perceive this clock as anything other than the creative invention of a prodigy student, regardless of the fact that young Mr. Mohamed's "clock" COULD have been perceived as something other than it was.

I'm a pretty cynical guy, but even I don't see evil everywhere I look.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Hate to Say I Told You So -- Part II

In an earlier post, I wrote (I Hate to Say I Told You So...):

We've seen -- and I fear we will continue to see -- more and more cases of violence as overly-sensitive young adults, conditioned by today's academic environment, encounter a real world which will cause them psychological trauma for every perceived slight, insult, or disappointment they experience.  

It didn't take long before we saw the first case of this (High School Football Players Who ‘Blindsided’ Referee Say He Made Racist Remarks):

On a high school football field in Texas, one player made a beeline for a referee, slamming into him from behind and knocking him down. 
A second player followed up, appearing to dive into the man’s back as he was on the ground.
The two players accused of the hit ... charge that Mr. Watts made racial slurs directed at them. 

So, there you have it.  A violent attack made on a defenseless person simply due to the words he allegedly spoke.  

I'm reminded of this scene from the original Star Trek Pilot (re-packaged into the 2-part episode entitled "The Menagerie"):

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ahmed, the Clockmaker....

... and the self-congratulating leftists

If you've spent even a few minutes being exposed to social media, you've no doubt heard the sorry tale of 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed, who was detained and reportedly suspended from his Irving, Texas school after a teacher thought that his "homemade" clock looked like a bomb.

Let me say from the start that this is clearly an extreme over-reaction on the part of the school and police. They KNEW it was not a bomb. If they were even remotely worried that it was an actual bomb, they would have evacuated the school and brought in a bomb squad.   And since he didn't do anything with it that could be even remotely called a hoax, the charge of "Hoax Bomb" also doesn't hold water.

The school called this "a suspicious-looking device." What, they've never looked inside any sort of appliance or electronics device???? Amazing ignorance on the part of the teachers, administration, and police.  Clearly, the school and police have much to atone for in this case.

Immediately upon seeing this story, I considered this yet another of these horrid, "zero-tolerance" overreactions, much like a young boy being suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade into an imaginary box containing imaginary monsters, or the young school girl who was suspended for talking about her Hello Kitty bubble blowing gun, or the young boy suspended for chewing his pop tart into a shape that looked like a gun, or...  well, you've heard all too many of these stories.

Suddenly, however, all sorts of notable famous people (in politics as well as the tech industry) -- from President Obama and Hillary Clinton to senior people at Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. lauding him in as if he were the second coming of Steve Jobs and inviting him for visits to the White House or internships at Twitter.

You'd think this kid created a life-changing invention that would save humanity.  No, he constructed a clock.  And he didn't build it from scratch, or even from a kit... he simply took the guts (display, circuit boards, transformer) out of a commercial product and put it in his own case. OK, not bad, but there are 14 year old kids (and younger) building more complex things than this from scratch -- designing and building their own circuit boards, programming their own processors, etc.

Yes, this kid should be encouraged to continue his pursuits. Maybe he will find the skills and creativity needed to be a good engineer, someday. But this project is nothing exceptional to be creating the interest that it has.

When wondering to my friends about this, some said that maybe the project wasn't so great, but it's still heartening to see the country stand up for this kid.

You know what?  I'll be heartened when I see the country stand up for ALL kids who have been mistreated by ridiculous school policies and overreactions. At this point, however, I am deeply suspicious of those people (and their motivations) who are falling over themselves to heap such praise and support on this kid.

So what is driving this?  Could it have to do with the fact that young Mr. Mohamed is Muslim and the extreme reaction by the school might be considered (by some, at least) as a case of bigotry?

Like those who vote for less-than-talented talent show contestants with obvious disabilities or sad back-stories, or those who pick a marginally popular transgender person as their homecoming queen, much of this outpouring of support is self-congratulatory fluff so people can very publicly demonstrate just how open-minded they are.  Why else would leaders of various tech industries fall over themselves to acknowledge such a mediocre project?

If I haven't earned enough scorn for this assessment, let me try harder...

Being a cynical SOB, I also see a possibility that the entire event was "engineered" to create such a stir and gain notoriety. Consider the following:

Mr. Mohamed showed the project to a teacher in 1st period. Later in the day, a different teacher heard something beep in his bag. At the end of class, Mr. Mohamed showed her the clock -- which precipitated the events that followed. I don't see anything in the picture of the clock released by the Dallas PD that would enable it to make any sound if not plugged in. The photo shows no battery (one would assume that the picture would show the clock as it was confiscated).

So, what made noise that drew the teacher's attention? As I said, the cynical part of me tells me that he had something else to draw attention to the clock, trying to get the reaction he got. (And make no mistake, I think the reaction WAS wrong and SHOULD be brought to light).

I've seen too many of these stories that began with an immediate rallying of the public in support of some "victim," but ended up being a deception.

I immediately had doubts back in 1994 as Susan Smith got nationwide attention for claiming that a black man carjacked her and kidnapped her kids, leading to a huge demonstration of public support to her, as well as a massive man hunt (it was later found that she drove her car into a lake to kill them).

I was equally dubious when I saw Richard and Mayumi Heene's claim that their little boy had accidentally launched himself in a "flying saucer" balloon, causing a huge in-air pursuit of the balloon and massive TV coverage (it was later found that they deliberately perpetrated the hoax to promote a TV show they were pitching).

Sometimes my cynicism is proven to be unfounded; too often, unfortunately, it is not. Time will tell.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Let's Roll!

On this day, a great evil was visited upon the US. As with everyone else, this day is very deeply etched in my memory. The horror felt as I saw it unfold on TV, the blackness in the pit of my stomach, the despair for the loss of life, and the worry for my friends and colleagues in the Pentagon are renewed afresh every year.

Yet, in the midst of seeing the very worst that people could be, we also saw the very best that people could be. First responders charging headlong into danger, strangers helping each other in the streets, an unprecedented show of support by the general population to donate supplies and funding...

And a handful of passengers on Flight 93. Seeing what had happened on their aircraft, and hearing the stories of what had happened in NYC and Washington, DC, said that they weren't going to let that happen. "We're going to try something."

These are the stories I want to hold on to.

"Let's Roll!"

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Going Backwards at Warp Speed

The fear of words...

It's hard to imagine a fictional world with such a broad fan base as the Star Trek universe. Through multiple series, movies, books, games, etc., many people see reflected the sort of world they'd like to see come to fruition.  Many people, especially those on the left, see an idealistic socialist utopia where everyone gets along and nobody lives for want of anything.  

The 1960's original series, especially, pointed to the idea that people of all races could get along, working and living together.  Although this theme was apparent throughout the series, a few episodes directly touched on this.  One episode where this wasn't an intended theme, however, makes a great point.  In "The Savage Curtain," an alien facsimile of Abraham Lincoln visits the Enterprise.  Upon meeting Lt. Uhura, the following exchange occurs:

LINCOLN: What a charming negress. Oh, forgive me, my dear. I know in my time some used that term as a description of property.  
UHURA: But why should I object to that term, sir? You see, in our century we've learned not to fear words.  
KIRK: May I present our communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura.  
LINCOLN: The foolishness of my century had me apologizing where no offense was given.  
KIRK: We've each learned to be delighted with what we are.

For all their expressed desire to see that aspect of the Star Trek universe made into reality in our time, the left has been fighting (intentionally or unintentionally) to keep it from happening.  They have made many words so feared, so despised, that the mere utterance of any one of them will result in being fired, shunned, barred from polite society, and, in extreme cases, shot through the lungs.  

Instead of teaching youngsters NOT to fear words, we instead teach them not only to fear words, but to willingly, actively seek being harmed by them -- regardless of the intent of the speaker.  Just take a look at many of the concepts developed by the left over recent years:  Microaggressions, trigger warnings, dog whistle words, etc.  

So, rather than trying to move forward towards the ideals that our parents tried to teach us ("Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"), we are heading backwards to a world filled with people having such fragile egos that the utterance of a single word can be construed as an aggressive attack requiring protection of some higher authority (i.e., the thought police).  And if such protection is not provided by the authorities, then the "victim" of the horrific attack of words now feels justified in stopping the "aggression" by any means necessary.

Think I'm wrong?  Take a look at the recent shooting on live TV in Roanoke, VA.  The shooter (I will not use his name and give him further notoriety) felt justified in attacking and killing former co-workers because they uttered such racist words as "swing" and "field" as in, "Let's swing by Starbucks before heading out to the field."    

Racist?  "How in God's name could this be even remotely racist?" you may ask.  According to complaints filed by the shooter, "swing by" is something that monkeys do, and "the field" is where black people go to pick cotton.  

Again...  Think I'm wrong?  I may be, but I fear not.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Too many lawyers...

I've been re-watching the science fiction series, "Farscape" over the last few weeks (if you haven't seen it, it's definitely worth watching on Netflix).

In one episode, the characters find themselves embroiled in trouble on the planet of Litigaria, a planet with libraries' worth of horribly convoluted and complex laws... due to the fact that 90% of the planet's population are lawyers, and also that the ruling bodies are law firms.

When trying to figure out how the laws became so out of hand, they found that there was originally one set or book of laws... all of the other books exist merely to expand on what's in here... As more and more people devoted themselves to the law, the law had to grow more complex to justify them all.

Eventually, our heroes get out of trouble and defeat the villainous lawyer/head of state by referring back to the original set of laws (which had nearly been forgotten).

I have to wonder if there are any parallels between the fictional world, and our own nearly incomprehensible volumes of laws, the growing numbers of members in the political leadership that use them to their advantage, and the fact that too many of them have lost site of our original laws -- the US Constitution.

Just a thought...

Bad Science...

Incompetence or Malice?

I have a lot of disgust with how the scientific process is often distorted to sway public opinion.  All too often, data are presented in a way that is downright misleading, and most of today's general public don't have the scientific training (or even exposure) to recognize that they are being bamboozled. 

For example...  These graphs were used to support someone's pet theory relating the study parameter to biological age as determined by what stage of puberty a child falls under  (in this case, making the case that middle and high school students need a later start to the school day)  This presentation highlights a commonly-used tactic to make one's data look more compelling than it really is).  As we will discuss, these data are totally meaningless...

In this case, the ranges of values for each category far exceed the trend that was concluded from the data. Also, the text of the report states that the error ranges shown are only +/- one half standard deviation (showing only ~34% of the overall range of the variation). If a range chosen showed 90% of the variation (as would be required to really demonstrate any correlation, the slope of the line would be completely unnoticeable (and even more meaningless).

Furthermore, the "puberty" categories used are completely subjective -- and were not selected a priori.  In other words, the category that each subject was placed in was not determined before evaluating the students, but after -- allowing the researcher to assign the category based on the behavior being studied studied.  

We can't evaluate the effect of the poor practice in assigning the categories, but CAN examine the data with a more realistic presentation.  If I were to graph the left chart properly (full scales on the axes and showing the full range of +/- 1 standard deviation), it would look like this:

Given the range of variability in the data for each category, I would have a very tough time claiming any validity for a meaningful trend in this data.  Yet, these are the kind of data tricks/deceits that are used to persuade voters (and the political machines in DC) to take all manner of extreme actions to "improve" our lives.

Author Robert Heinlein once observed, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don't rule out malice."

Sometimes it's tough to know which motivation to blame.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

That's all there is...

Finding wisdom in unexpected places

I am a huge fan of the space program, especially of what I like to think of at the golden age -- the Apollo missions to the Moon.  As a middle- and high-school student, I used to find excuses to stay home from school to watch the launches on TV, and remained glued to the TV any time there was live coverage.  Astronauts were (and still are) some of those people I consider my greatest heroes.

As I get older and more philosophical (and hopefully, marginally wiser), I started looking beyond the "coolness factor" of the space program, and seeing the humanity of those behind it -- not just the astronauts, but their families, flight controllers, spacecraft engineers, etc.  It was a truly great time for humanity as well as space exploration.

There are many good books and documentaries of this time, but a few of them are stand-outs:

1)  Andrew Chaiken's book "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts" is probably the best book on some of the people who made this happen (particularly the astronauts).

2) Tom Hanks' HBO series, "From the Earth to the Moon" (derived from Chaikin's book) presents these stories in hugely accurate and spell-binding way.

3)  Astronaut Gene Cernan's book, "Last Man on the Moon"

4)  "In the Shadow of the Moon" is a video documentary gathering the thoughts and impressions of the remaining Apollo astronauts with some spectacular video.

This link shows a particularly good clip from  the HBO series (if you haven't seen it, you should). The narration is by the actor portraying Apollo 12 Lunar Module pilot, Alan Bean, realizing the most important aspect of any endeavor -- "... whether it's across town, or to the moon and back...."

Worth watching...

"Cultural Appropriation:" Another way for Progressives to get upset

Yup, you heard right...  "Cultural Appropriation."

I first became aware of this phrase a couple of weeks ago when one of my liberal friends linked to this video elsewhere.  Be warned, there are a few F-bombs here (another pet peeve of mine -- why anyone thinks that such gratuitous language helps their case is beyond me).

I'd never heard of the concept before. The more I think about it, the more I consider the concept completely ludicrous. Let's look at the definition of "appropriation" 

noun; the action of taking something for one's own use, typically without the owner's permission

1st: Who "owns" a hair style or musical genre that requires permission to use?

2nd: Even if someone could claim "ownership" of a hair style, the act of me adopting it (had I sufficient hair to do such a thing) does not deprive the "owner" of the hair style the ability to wear it. 

The very idea that someone would object to someone like me "appropriating" something just boggles my mind... Should I not be allowed to enjoy, say, Spanish guitar? Should Darius Rucker not be allowed to put his own spin on country music? Should Barbara Streisand not be allowed to put out an album of Christmas songs? I could go on, but I think you get the idea... 

I'm sorry, but the very thought is so utterly alien and nonsensical to me that I'm having a tough time understanding how this is even a thing... (were I prone to such language in polite society, I'd be tempted to drop a few choice words on this topic). 

Aside from the occasional profanities, this guy in this video is mostly spot on. 

One point where I'd disagree... The gentleman (can't find his name on the videos or his page) implied he might have a problem with someone "appropriating" some cultural aspect for reasons other than liking it. Can't go along with that. That would be akin to saying that a company can't sell a certain item -- say a religious icon -- unless they were followers. I'm pretty sure all sellers of Christmas-related items are not Christian. 

In my mind, the closest thing to "cultural appropriation" would be in the definition of a "melting pot." Without the merging and adopting of various cultures outside our own, there would not be the rich tapestry of cultures that exist in today's world. Rock and Roll wouldn't exist, as wouldn't so many other musical styles. 

In short, like the term "microaggressions," cultural appropriations is another invention of the left -- used to further give people another excuse to be upset at the world in large.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Madness Continues

Yeah, we've gone off the deep end...

A school sent a little girl home with a note to her parents stating that the girl's lunch box was inappropriate for school because it was festooned with violent imagery...

And just what was this violent imagery that was so horrific as to warrant such fear that innocent school children would be psychologically scarred for life?  Was it Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator attempting to snuff the life out of Sarah Conner?  Or perhaps Anthony Hopkin's Hannibal Lecter having a late night snack of liver and chianti?  (I'm pretty sure it couldn't have been shots from the undercover Planned Parenthood videos).

No the image that prompted such immediate concern from school officials was Wonder Woman...  Yup, that's right -- Wonder Woman.

And my liberal friends -- who argued with me most strenuously about the need for controls on speech that can be seen as "micro-aggressions" (God, how I hate that term) -- are inexplicably surprised by this story.  

<Sigh>   Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed and read the news.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I Hate to Say I Told You So...

A few days back, I penned a lengthy treatise on the flawed ideas of "protecting" students (and people in general) from being exposed to "harmful" thoughts and words:

Supporting this idea, The Atlantic magazine published an article where the author described the desire of modern society to shield people (but especially young adults) from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable.  
But the implementation of this absurd notion frequently goes far beyond merely shielding people from "bad" thoughts.  
This movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness.  (   

The author then reached an all-to-prophetic conclusion:
When speech comes to be seen as a form of violence, vindictive protectiveness can justify a hostile, and perhaps even violent, response.” 
So now we reach yet another unfortunate tie-in with current events.  Earlier today, a man by the name of Vester Lee Flanagan shot and killed a reporter and cameraman during a live broadcast. A disgruntled former reporter for WDBJ TV in Roanoke, Flanagan's VA Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with hateful and vindictive statements about how he had been mistreated by coworkers (and society, in general) because of his being black and gay.  

According to the WDBJ Station Manager:
Vester was an unhappy man. We employed him as a reporter and he had some talent in that respect and some experience. He quickly gathered a reputation of someone who was difficult to work with. He was sort of looking out to people to say things he could take offense to. Eventually, after many incidents of his anger, we dismissed him. He did not take that well. We had to call police to escort him from the building.

It's still early, but it looks like the horrific events outside of Roanoke, VA were motivated by the shooter's inability to cope with perceived slights against him, and responded with the violence that is justified by vindictive protectiveness. Clearly, his employer and coworkers felt that he had been looking for reasons to be offended.  And the indoctrination from today's society dictated that such verbal offenses justified some sort of response.

We've seen -- and I fear we will continue to see -- more and more cases of violence as overly-sensitive young adults, conditioned by today's academic environment, encounter a real world which will cause them psychological trauma for every perceived slight, insult, or disappointment they experience.  

Proponents of such a system have blood on their hands.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Breakfast and the Science of Consensus

Interesting developments bringing into question the general consensus that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Increasing numbers of studies are now showing that this may not be true.
The bottom line of these studies is that no causal link is found between eating breakfast and the various health benefits ascribed to it.  In fact, no strong statistical links can be found between either eating or skipping breakfast and various measures of health.  I recommend reading the linked articles for details.
A couple of interesting side points, as well.

  1.  I heard a story (unconfirmed, but trying to track it down) that this "consensus" had its roots in a clever advertising campaign intended to sell more ham -- a campaign that was NOT directed at potential customers. The genius behind this marketing concept developed slick, glossy pamphlets quoting fictitious studies extolling the virtues of a healthy breakfast of ham and eggs. This was distributed to doctors who then advised their patients about this new research. I don't know if this is true or if I am mis-remembering the story, but it sounds like something an ad company would do.
  2. The linked article nicely illustrates the dangers of using "consensus" as a component of scientific research.  When such a strong consensus is assumed a priori, subconscious biases induce the following problems where researchers 

  • Offered biased interpretation of their own results
  • Improperly used causal language to describe their results
  • Misleadingly cited others' results
  • Improperly used causal language when citing others' work.
On the matter of consensus, I like to think about Dr. Richard Feynman's commentary on the Millikan oil drop experiment, used to determine the charge of electron: 

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air.

It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn't they discover the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of—this history—because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong—and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that...

So, if scientists can be wrong for reasons of "consensus" on a single, measurable value of a physical constant, might they be more likely to be swayed by consensus on something as amorphous and unmeasurable as climate change? I think you know my answer to that.

Political Corruption and Donations -- a Chicken and Egg Quandary 

I get continually frustrated with the continuous cries to stop the corruption of politics by "big business" and their money. I counter that money couldn't corrupt politics if politicians didn't sell favors granted by their ability to wield power over others.
Recently, from one of my favorite blogs: "... the usual conception of corruption is that it occurs when business corrupts government, in reality exactly the reverse is the case: persons who wield political power actively seek to sell the use of that power to persons who can enrich them. In point of fact, business cannot corrupt government, because the power to create privileges in the marketplace by an action of the State must exist and be 'advertised for sale' before it can be purchased."
These are not new thoughts. The earliest reference to this concept (that I could find) comes from Isabel Paterson (January 22, 1886 – January 10, 1961), a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and a leading literary critic of her day.
Just something worth thinking about.

Science, Models, and Verification

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Models

Some of the biggest tools used to warn of the impending perils of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are computer models showing increasing global temperatures over the coming years. These models, it is said, are settled scientific proof that AGW is a threat to our very existence.
Having had some experience with computer models over the last few decades, I find them valuable tools... a good computer model can be used to anticipate all sorts of future events. Some examples are:
  • When the Space Shuttle flew for the very first time in 1981, it was the first spacecraft ever to fly with a crew on its very first flight. Engineers felt confident that their computer models of the Shuttle's performance in all flight domains adequately predicted how the spacecraft would actually fly. Turns out they were right.
  • Numerical weather prediction (NWP) models are usually quite accurate in predicting future weather a few days out (the occasional missed forecast notwithstanding -- but that's as much a failure of input data as it is of the model).
  • Engineers can build virtual prototypes of new products, testing them in cyberspace to find weaknesses before having to build real products -- saving cost in testing as well as reducing time from design to production.
There are more, but you get the idea. These examples cover a wide range of domains, but the models used in all of these areas have one thing in common -- Verification and Validation (V&V). The models, themselves, were put through a rigorous regime of tests. They were used to predict an outcome of some future event or system performance which was then compared to reality. If the predicted performance was different from reality, it was back to the drawing board. Thus, models used for operational decisions -- especially for critical things like the first Space Shuttle flight -- have been tested thoroughly enough to have a high degree of confidence their predictions will match reality.
No models are 100% accurate; very few are even mostly right... most require updates to include new knowledge or capabilities. Even our well-exercised weather models' predictions are compared to the actual weather occurrences on a daily basis -- any differences are used to regularly update or "tune" the models in hopes of improving their predictive skills.
This leads us to the models used to support AGW predictions. Certainly, a great deal of research and scientific knowledge has gone into their creation -- we can't deny that. However, there is one area where AGW models fall short -- Verification and Validation. The predicted AGW conditions and changes are unique to our time and are predicted to happen over decades (or more) -- thus, we can't truly compare model predictions to an outcome that hasn't happened, yet... and won't happen for a hundred years.
This, alone, would give me pause when considering the AGW predictions made by computer modeling. However, we have the ability to look at the model predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) back in 2000. The dire predictions by the IPPC in their past and current reports are certainly frightening enough. But they are based on models whose performance has never been verified or validated.
In the 15 years since, there has been enough data collected so that we can assess the quality of these predictions in the short term -- our own V&V, if you will. The data of choice for this V&V is average global temperatures based on satellite-sensed atmospheric temperatures. These data come from microwave radiometers flying on DoD and NOAA weather satellites (and were available as far back as the late 70's). I have a good deal of experience with them, as one of my jobs in the Air Force was in charge of processing these sensor data from the spacecraft, and making them ready for inclusion in the Air Force NWP models. Thus, I can confirm that these are a good measure of temperature throughout the entire depth of the atmosphere.

So, what do we see when comparing satellite-sensed temperatures against prediction? Take a look at the this chart. 

The set of green lines represents the range of IPCC model predicted temperature change from 2000 to present. The black line represents the satellite-sensed average global temperature changes. While we clearly see a bump of about 0.25 degrees in the late 90s, the global temperatures have been, on average, remarkably steady since then. No rise in temperatures has been seen over the period of the IPCC forecasts, in complete contrast to the model predictions.
In any other business, we would say back to the drawing board -- clearly, something is amiss in the models that have skewed the predictions away from reality. Computer models are not "science" in and of their own. The scientific process isn't just research and prediction. Theories must be verified by actual measurements if they are to be accepted. If the predictions are wrong, then there is something wrong with the theory. In other words, the science isn't settled.
In the AGW industry, however, we charge full speed ahead, reality be damned. Excuses for the missed predictions are found (and disproved, BTW), and the cries of "The Science Is Settled" continue.
So, the next time AGW proponents try to scare you with dire predictions of a hellishly hot Earth, just remember the models used to make these predictions have either never been validated, or have failed the validation efforts made so far.

Emotional Inoculation (Revisited)

(Originally posted as a guest column on a blog of which I've been a long-time reader and admirer,

I thought it would be appropriate to repost this article in light of recent events.


     If I were to tell you that this graph represented the distribution of the 27 worst outbreaks of some unspecified disease in all of US history grouped by decade, you might rightly wonder what recent events have occurred that have resulted in the recent surge of cases over the last few decades, but especially the most recent 10 years. I'll get back to this graph a little later, but for now, let's look at some background.

     Some years back, I found myself curious about the nearly obsessive way many of today's parents clean and disinfect everything within eyesight of their child. Growing up, my brothers and I constantly played in the dirt, local streams/creeks, etc., and never suffered any ill effects. Our parents (and friends' parents) never disinfected our toys and playground equipment with anti-microbial wipes. Nor would they keep us from playing in dirt or “dirty” environments.
     I started thinking that exposure to dirt and germs, like modern vaccinations, were vital to helping develop a healthy immune system. After all, how can a body develop resistance to germs if it is never exposed to any? Might this desire to overprotect children actually be harmful to them? Could this be the reason we are seeing increasing numbers of cases of food allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, etc.?
     Sure enough, an increasing number of medical specialists are coming to a similar conclusion. Parents are keeping things TOO clean. A simple web search will find numerous studies and analyses supporting this idea. Summaries of some are linked here:
     You might be wondering what this has to do with anything. Well, read on...
     Over the last decade or two, I've seen a disturbing trend towards “protecting” children (even high school- and college-age kids) from having their feelings hurt. While out and out “bullying” is reprehensible, we've gone so far as to eliminate typical school-age teasing. And I should know about that, having received more than my fair share of it (I AM a nerd/geek and DO have a big head and AM pretty poor at athletic pursuits). Did this hurt me? Yeah, I guess it did – at first. But I quickly learned that the old saying about “sticks and stones” was true – words could not hurt me unless I let them. I had control of my feelings, and nobody else.
     By being exposed to the “dirty environment” of typical school children, I developed an immunity to it – the ability to resist these barbs, and not letting them hurt me. Today, however, children's egos are not allowed to be bruised at all... Teachers can't use red pens when grading, trophies are given to everyone just for participating, and any conflict between students is immediate stopped by teachers. In short, children's psyches are coddled, being overprotected from anything that might cause them distress. In other words, they are not being inoculated against disappointment or insults. More recently, however, young minds are being shielded from “bad thoughts.”
     I recently came across a terrific article in the September issue of The Atlantic magazine ( that discusses this, not just at the grade-school level, but at the college level. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but will provide a few key quotes:
     “Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.”

     “Two terms have risen quickly from obscurity into common campus parlance. Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless. For example, by some campus guidelines, it is a microaggression to ask an Asian American or Latino American “Where were you born?,” because this implies that he or she is not a real American. Trigger warnings are alerts that professors are expected to issue if something in a course might cause a strong emotional response. For example, some students have called for warnings that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart describes racial violence and that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby portrays misogyny and physical abuse, so that students who have been previously victimized by racism or domestic violence can choose to avoid these works, which they believe might “trigger” a recurrence of past trauma.”
     This movement – call it political correctness, for lack of a better phrase – “... presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm. The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into “safe spaces” where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.” (emphasis mine)
     “... children born after 1980—the Millennials—got a consistent message from adults: life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm, not just from strangers but from one another as well.”

     “Even joking about microaggressions can be seen as an aggression, warranting punishment.... When speech comes to be seen as a form of violence, vindictive protectiveness can justify a hostile, and perhaps even violent, response.” (emphasis mine)

     “Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for the students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship. When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game.” (emphasis mine)

     Not exposing a child's developing immune system to a normal physical environment (e.g., dirt and bacteria) harms that child – with disastrous results as the child is then unable to deal with these germs when inevitably exposed to them later in life.
     Likewise, not exposing a child's developing psyche to a normal emotional environment (e.g., insults and disappointments) harms the child just as much – he or she will also inevitably be exposed to these realities later in life... there's no getting around it Someone not prepared to deal with these events as a child will be ill-equipped to deal with them as an adult. This practice has been increasing exponentially over the last few decades – we are seeing a new generation of kids and young adults entering the “real world” who have not been “inoculated” against disappointment. If you're wondering what the long-term effect of this might be, reconsider this quote from The Atlantic article:
     “When speech comes to be seen as a form of violence, vindictive protectiveness can justify a hostile, and perhaps even violent, response.”

     Now, let's get back to the graph shown at the beginning of this screed. The graph represents the occurrences of the 27 worst mass shootings in US History grouped by decade.  With the exception of one in 1949 and one in 1966, these events are a fairly recent phenomena.  Indeed, the most recent decade has seen almost half of the 27 worst shootings. And more than half of these are committed by people under 35.

Note:  With the recent shooting in Oregon, we can add another horrific number to the column for this decade, and another attributed to the product of today's school educational system.

Is there an actual connection between these events and the increasing inability of today's youth to deal with perceived slights? I think it's possible and certainly worth further study.