Too Much Star Wars?

I confess, there is a lot of science fiction I enjoy–to the point where I refuse to pick either Star Wars or Star Trek as a favorite. When Star Wars first came out, I saw it a number of times in the theater and had the movie on VHS cassette as soon as it was possible. (Kids, ask your parents to explain VHS.)

And, yes, I wish George Lucas had left well enough alone and not made all those changes to the movie. The original theater release did not need improving.

My older son and I watched it numerous times together. When my younger son was a baby and teething, colicky, or otherwise unhappy at night, I’d tell my wife that he wanted to watch Star Wars. She thought that was crazy, but when I took him into the living room, at the first chords of John Williams’s Star Wars theme music he halted his fussing. He’d snuggle into a comfortable position and was soon asleep.

Having provided my Star Wars bona fides, there are some things I see as beyond normal. I periodically get science fiction stories pushed to me on the Internet. Most recently, I ran across “Star Wars: 10 Things You Never Knew About X-Wings.”

The article (post?) goes into detail, such as:

Focusing on the main three X-Wings, the T-65B sits at 13.4m long, 11.76m wide, and 2.4m deep, weighing ten metric tons and going at a max acceleration of 3,700 G (G-force, the force acting on a body of gravity) a max atmospheric speed of 1,050 kph, and one hundred MGLT (Megalight per hour, the relative sunlight speed in realspace).

The T-70 has the same width but a shorter length and depth/height of 12.49m and 1.92m compared to the T-65B. It goes 50 more kph, 10 more MGLT, and with 100 more G-force. Upgrading one more, the T-85 is by far the biggest, at 15.68m long, 13.65m wide, and 2.7m deep. The T-85’s speed is again, by far, the most impressive at 3,800 G, 120 MGLT, and 1,300 kph max atmospheric speed. All of this information is available in the Rebel Starfighters Owners’ Workshop Manual. 

I’ve seen records of archeological digs that were less specific.

Sometimes, even science fiction has TMI (too much information).

Strict Interpretation of the US Constitution

There’s been a lot of talk, lately, as to whether the law, particularly the US Constitution should be interpreted to reflect exactly what was written or whether the law adapts with the times. I am an analyst, so I am cursed with need to make sense—to the best of my ability—of issues of importance that are presented to the masses. I do not claim superior intelligence nor do I do believe I have extraordinary understanding of legal subtleties or political intrigues. I do however view myself as a responsible American voter trying to prepare for the time I will spend in the voting booth. I ask questions when I do not know the answers. However, sometimes the best way to find the answers is to ask the right questions. In fact, the questions are often more important than the answers.

Just for the record, I have sworn an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. I will continue to honor that oath for as long as I live. I take the US Constitution seriously, just as it deserves.

There is a mad dash to nominate and approve a new Supreme Court Associate Justice in the weeks before the next presidential election. The primary goal is stated as to appoint an associate justice who will interpret the constitution so as to reflect the exact intention of the those who wrote and signed the original US Constitution in 1787. The founding fathers were responsible for creating the Great American Experiment, which is both wonderful and yet remains an experiment.

A story, which is generally accepted as true tells us: Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” To which Franklin supposedly responded, with a rejoinder at once witty and ominous: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

I believe we may be facing just that question.

The founding fathers planted the seed; for the past 230 years, those of us who love America have tried to nurture that seedling and the plant as it has grown. In my opinion, some parts of the republic have done well, while others need more tending, including some weeding and pruning, even today.

The thoughts and ideals of the founding fathers were based on their times and their norms, which is why many people today believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based on today’s norms. This is not necessarily a new idea. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US President wrote to James Madison, the fourth US President and who is considered the Father of the Constitution.

Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right (Emphasis added). It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.”

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:459, Papers 15:396

Inasmuch as Jefferson’s suggestion was never implemented, we have kept the US Constitution, more or less as written. It’s true that there have been 27 amendments, although the 18th amendment (Liquor Abolished) was negated by the 21st Amendment (Amendment 18 Repealed).  Therefore, there have actually been 25 changes to the US Constitution since 1787.

The first 10 amendments, commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791, only four years after the main body of the Constitution, and given that they were primarily the work of James Madison, I propose that it is fair to include and accept that they, too, accurately reflect the will of the founding Fathers.

Before we consider some specific passages of the Constitution, let’s first mentally adjust our perspective to social norms of the Founding Fathers in the mid eighteenth century:

  • Only gentlemen could exert significant power. A gentleman was first and foremost a landowner. In many cases the land that they held had been granted by the British Crown before the War of Independence.
  • A gentleman was invariably white.
  • Every signatory of the US Constitution was a male.
  • Every signature on the Declaration of Independence also belonged to a man.
    • The closest was Mary Katharine Goddard, who was Baltimore’s Postmaster and an important journalist. She was charged with publishing the Declaration, so at the bottom of the broadside, issued in January 1777, the following appeared, “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by Mary Katharine Goddard.”
  • Suffice to say, women could not vote. I find no record of female judges until Esther Hobart Morris served as a Justice of the Peace in 1870.
  • At the time of the Founding Fathers, women were considered chattel (property).

Given these conditions and how they conflict with our norms and mores today (Thank, God) I have a difficult time accepting that strict interpretation is the best approach for the Twenty-first century.

The primary responsibility of the Supreme Court is to review legal decisions to ensure that they agree with the US Constitution. A strict constructionist sees the gold standard as the writings of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution, for example does not address issues concerning communication beyond the printed page. The telegraph, radio, television, internet, and smartphones are outside the instructions left by the Founding Fathers. While the Founding Fathers were well familiar with issues of property and the navigation of the seas, they had no concept of vessels that operate below the seas, in the air above the land, most assuredly of people and equipment that exist and operate above the Earth, on the Moon or on other planets.

Given that, let’s examine some original sections of the US Constitution. The following sections of the original Constitution may have been amended, but the original statement, and therefore strict interpretation best reflects the Founding Fathers’ intention.

  • Section 2, third paragraph: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
    • Women counted in the census, although they could not vote.
    • Native Americans were excluded from both being counted and voting.
    • “Other Persons”—in other words slaves—counted as 3/5th of a person, giving states with slaveowners more clout than other states. The more slaves in a particular state, the more representatives that state would have. At the time of the Revolution, the population of the United States is believed to be somewhere between 2.5 million and 4 million. There were about 450,000 enslaved “other persons,” although I cannot determine how they were enumerated in the total.
  • Further down in Section 2, third paragraph, “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.”
    • The 450,000 “other persons” is believed to include an estimated 400,000 slaves brought from Africa to the Colonies plus another 50,000 who had been born in the Colonies.
      • Americans in all 50 states owned slaves at that time.
      • The “breeding stock” aspect of slavery was a profitable business
    • The effect of the headcount of both freemen and the 3/5th count of slaves on representation was not trivial. In 1790, New York had 6 representatives, Pennsylvania had 8, while Virginia had 10. The number of slaves tipped the balance in Virginia’s favor.
    • Based on the original verbiage of the US Constitution—“The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each Shall have at least one Representative.” The forefathers were looking at a small number of people in a huge landmass, but today, it’s different. Based on strict interpretation, today, we would be entitled to 11,013 members of the House of Representatives.
  • Section 8, paragraph 7 points out that the Congress shall have the Power “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.” A strict interpretation expected Congress to establish, operate, and maintain a Post Office. Back then, there were not necessarily roads in existence to provide postal communication. The Post Office needed to build and maintain those roads. Nowhere does it say that Congress can abdicate their postal responsibilities onto a pseudo-governmentally-owned-corporation or hand it over to a political sponsor to disenfranchise voters.
  • Section 8, paragraph 12 states that Congress has the authority “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a Term longer than two Years.” The Founding Fathers did not want a standing Army because of the mischief that standing armies in Europe had caused.
  • “To provide and maintain a Navy.” The United States was and is a maritime country. In the time of the Founding Fathers, we were separated from European powers by the ocean, yet we needed to free travel through the ocean in order to maintain trade and commerce.
  • “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel invasions
    “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” During the Civil War, for example, the armies of both the North and the South primarily consisted of state militias.
  • Besides slavery being legally recognized, the Constitution in Article IV, Section 2, runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners. This was superseded by the 13th Amendment, which was passed in 1865—well after the Founding Fathers had passed into history.
  • Since the Bill of Rights was written by the Founding Fathers and reflects their views, the 9th and10th Amendments are especially important:
    • Amendment 9 – Construction of the Constitution: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
    • Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and the People: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The Federal Government has expanded its authority into areas and in ways that would have shocked the Constitution’s signatories. This has resulted in rights of the individual and the state being impacted–sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

To interpret the Constitution as the Founding Fathers intended is not possible. In college, when a question on an exam asked what an author meant by a particular passage, I would answer in two parts:

  1. No one knows except the original author.
  2. Having established that, the interpretation that you taught is—and I’d regurgitate whatever the textbook or lecture opined.

If, on the other hand, we consider the Constitution to be a more current document, we would have to include the following conditions added by those who were NOT the Founding Fathers. These are not all-inclusive, but do reflect the most significant changes after the Founding Fathers passed on. A strict constructionist should, by rights, ignore every one of these since they are not from the Founding Fathers.

  • The abolition of slavery
  • All persons born in America or born anywhere to at least one American parent are citizens.
  • Voting cannot be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  • Congress can lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.
  • Attempts to legislate morality, such as Prohibition, have not succeeded.

I recommend that we admit that we’re no longer an 18th century agrarian society and act accordingly.

COVID-19 Update

I continue to track coronavirus cases, as I have since 24 May 2020. My simple linear progression is no longer adequate for anything more than broad statements. I defer to the experts and their more complex models.

However, as any analyst will tell you, there is still a lot that can be learned from the data, even if the search for future activity is taken off the table. Here are some findings and postulations that I find interesting:

There are a fair number of footnotes to the data. Some states try to backdate cases or events for a variety of reasons. It could be plain old human error, processes that are not robust enough to handle the large numbers of cases, or even an attempt to have better optics.

The daily data always decreases over the weekend. I don’t think fewer people get sick or die on weekends, but I can see the paperwork not being filed until the regular workweek.

The rate of increase for new cases has slowed, but not flattened or showing a decline. It is still showing an increase between now and the end of the year. Similarly, the number of deaths continues to rise, but not as steeply as before, hopefully indicating the benefit of experience by healthcare workers. In other words, they are more effective using the tools they’ve had, rather than a miracle drug, although Remdesivir shows promise.

Remdesivir is expensive—$3,100 for a course of treatment in the US but only $2,340 in other developed countries. The rub here is that US taxpayers reportedly invested $99 million for Gilead Pharmaceuticals to develop the drug.

As of Saturday 10 October 2020, the United States has had 7,945,505 cases of COVID-19 resulting in 219,282 deaths. Another 5,089,842 patients recovered, which means there are still 2,636,381 active cases.  These patients may never recover, but may suffer from COVID-19’s various symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Testing is still an area that is somewhat vague. It is reported that 117,601,422 tests have been administered, but there are many anecdotal tales of people having difficulty getting tested. Reports indicate that elites, whether sports stars or politicians, are tested on a regular basis, while regular citizens are reportedly refused.

I wonder what is considered a COVID-19 test. The most definitive test involves inserting a long swab into the nasopharynx, which is quite unpleasant. I can’t see the elites tolerating this on a daily or weekly basis, so maybe they’re using a less accurate but more tolerable test.

Sadly, I believe we’ve got a long way to go before we can relegate COVID-19 to the history books.

Russki TV – “Better Than Us”

Better Than Us | Drama Quarterly

I confess! I’ve been watching a science fiction series on Netflix that was produced in Russia. The tempo–at least for the beginning was slower than I’m used to–but it still was worth watching. Apparently, it was originally called Better than Human, but some other show had copyrighted that name, so it was re-titled as Better Than Us.

In a nutshell, a bot (android) by the name of Arissa has transcended the usual robotic norms, including Asimov’s rules. She has gained a sense of right and wrong, although sometimes, the way she expresses them is a bit oblique. Why? Because she has a sense of self and a sense of morality.

As Winston Churchill noted, Russia–including (in my opinion) Russian entertainment–is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

As I said, the tempo is a bit different than American TV, but interesting and worth watching nevertheless.

Oh, be aware–the closed captions do not match the translated speech, but, hey–what the hell.

Tyler’s Grandson Dies

News sources have reported that John Tyler’s grandson died on September 26, 2020 [Link to CNN]. I mean no disrespect to Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr., the grandson, but the media did leave out a few significantly interesting details. Many of us see (and dread) history as boring collection of names and dates, dry as toast, and impossible to make interesting. Just as the devil is in the details, so too are the exciting–and sometimes lurid–details of history.

John Tyler was not elected president, but was vice president to William Henry Harrison. You may remember their famous campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” Harrison’s victory against Tecumseh at Tippecanoe earned him the nickname.* When sworn in as president, Harrison only served 31 days before dying; the cause of death was from a disease, although exactly which disease is still debated.

This was the first time a president had died while in office, so there was little guidance as to how to handle it. Harrison’s cabinet wanted Tyler to be referred to as “Acting President,” but before they could make that official, Tyler announced that he was president. Period. However, he was often referred to as “His Accidency,” but most likely behind his back.

After his term expired, Tyler initially worked as a representative of Virginia on a commission to avoid a civil war. He eventually saw it as insurmountable. In 1861, Tyler voted for the secession of the slave-holding states and volunteered for appointment to the Congress of the Confederacy. Later, when elections were held, he was elected to its House of Representatives, but died before its first session.

Tyler was the only president to be buried under a flag other than the United States Flag. He was also the only president to be considered a traitor and an enemy of the state.

I told you history was interesting.

*It always strikes me as odd that so many American “heroes” main accomplishment were push Native Americans from their own land. Put another way, they coveted their neighbors’ land and commited murder to obtain it.

FUD

I spent almost a decade working for a major medical equipment manufacturer. that made and sold products like CT and MRI scanners. These came with price tags in the millions of dollars, so competition was fierce, and customers wanted to make the best possible decision as to the best product.

Our most significant competitor was General Electric whose products were very good. Picker International, the company I worked for, would often be the first to introduce new technology. We used to joke that sometimes that the leading edge was actually the “bleeding edge.” GE might have lagged behind, but by doing so, they were able to observe and then develop a competitive, yet more mature product.

One of the sales tactics we often faced was referred to as FUD–Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Competitors would ask customers if they were sure that the new technology would work. What if this or what if that? Our biggest competitor could end their sales pitch with the following statement:

No one ever got fired for buying GE.

The statement was true. However, I don’t know of any case in which someone got fired for buying a GE competitor. Nevertheless, this the argument carried a lot of weight and was difficult to counter because it is impossible to prove or disprove a negative.

FUD is a powerful persuader that is not dependent on specific, proven facts.

Now that you know what FUD is, look for it in today’s political rhetoric

The US Constitution

Yesterday was Constitution Day, which marks the signing of the US Constitution on 17 September 1787. With all of the turmoil in our society, I struggled to figure out how to write about it without throwing gasoline on anybody’s fire. This is the best I can do.

The constitution is a marvelous document both imperfect and the product of its time. Twenty-five times it has been amended (There are 27 amendments, but the 18th [Prohibition] and the 21st [repeal of Prohibition] cancel one another).

While much of the constitution describes the mechanisms of government, but to me the very soul of the Constitution is its preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

These days I read about people demanding their constitutional rights—a just and reasonable demand. However, without making a judgement about their position, I wonder how many of these people have actually read the Constitution. [Related story]

Sadly, it seems there are too few who acknowledge their responsibilities, as well as their rights. Members of the military and elected officials swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from foreign and domestic threats. I have experience with the military, and believe most are, in fact, committed to that oath, to the extent that they are willing to give their lives to do so. I do not have a similar personal familiarity with elected officials. However, I do not believe death is a significant risk for them. As near as I can tell, their risk seems to be limited to not being re-elected.

I suggest that one of the responsibilities we share is to have some familiarity with this marvelous document. I urge everyone to read the US Constitution.

Better yet, make it a habit to read it once a year—on Constitution Day.

Anti-Social Media

In the early days of the Internet, its primary users were academics who saw it as a forum for the free exchange of ideas. As such, it was afforded some legal protection by Section 230, which says:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

That’s Section 230 in its entirety—short, sweet, straightforward. However, as we know, no good deed goes unpunished. Today, much of the internet is used as to present falsehoods, launch attacks, conduct illegal transactions, etc. all while remaining anonymous.

Why? Section 230 treats “interactive computer services” as conduits, like telephone companies. The phone company (supposedly) neither knows nor cares about what you say on the phone. On the other hand, newspapers, radio, and television must adhere to certain guidelines. For example, they cannot broadcast the tone used by the National Weather Service for emergencies unless it’s either an emergency or a clearly identified test. Likewise, certain language is prohibited.

The infamous website Backpage, protected by Section 230 until it was shut down, acted as a link for sex—including sex with minors. How many of these “sex workers” were, in fact, victims of human trafficking?

So, what’s the difference between communication and content providers? I see at least two major differences:

  • Telephone conversations are between two people or, in the case of a conference call, to a group of people who choose to participate. In any case, the audience is limited in some manner.
  • Mass media, like newspapers, radio, and television are intended to be available to anyone.

To my mind, social media are, today, more like mass media. In fact, I don’t see a fundamental difference. So why aren’t they regulated like other mass media?

Money.

The owners of social media have made so much money that I believe it is unlikely, if not impossible, for any control to be imposed.

When I write a blog, even when I’m aggressively challenging someone’s position, I endeavor to write factually, civilly, and coherently. I hope someday, this will be the norm. With Section 230 in place, this is unlikely.

How About a Little Reality?

(Typing one-handed–sorry)

A million years ago, when I was in uniform, if there was a threat, I expected immediate notification of whatever was 1) known, and 2) expected. My Sailors knew, far better than me, what was important. Their experience and expertise allowed me to coordinate efforts to support them. They were better at their jobs, thank God, than I was.

When a unit is being fired upon, when a squad is pinned down by a sniper, or a ship is taking on water, the facts–however ugly–are important. If the troops at a certain position are under attack, it doesn’t matter if they are calm. Reality is reality. If they have a reasonable view of the operational environment, they will do everything to succeed.

Some politicians worry about how events make people feel. I recommend that they worry more about giving people the information to make rational decisions. Adults who feel badly, unless personally affected, will be fine.

Being upset is better than being dead.

75th Anniversary WW II

Seventy-five years ago, the Second World War ended.

That was my parent’s war. The Greatest Generation’s war. At that time, every American was, in one way or another, invested in it. It was a very different time with very different values.

In a small gesture, I’ve been watching Band of Brothers–the story of one company of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army during World War II. The first time I saw any of this series was at the Pat Tillman USO in Afghanistan. I didn’t see much of it, as I was waiting for transportation to a FOB (forward operating base) or something. Nevertheless, the small exposure piqued my interest. Years later, my family gave me the set of DVDs.

The movie portrays the essence of the soldiers’ experiences. if not every precise detail. The movie is too intense for some, so the first time I watched it was with my son, Adam, when everybody else was away on a trip. Even for me, it was intense–as well it should be.

Today, when people view the history of warfare, some say, “I don’t get it, what was in it for them?” They’re right they don’t get it,” and it’s sad that they have passed through this life without  experiencing honor, courage, commitment, and camaraderie.

Survival of the Republic

Is progress really beneficial? I’ve been contemplating that–seriously–and I’m not sure.

George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College. The initial idea was to avoid political parties. The candidate with the most votes became president, and the second place became Vice President. Therefore, George Washington became President and John Adams the Vice President.

After Washington served two terms, John Adams was elected the president, with Thomas Jefferson in second place and therefore the Vice President. The next election, Jefferson opposed Adams, won, and became president. Voila, the effort to avoid political parties died.

John Adams, who was one of the driving forces for independency, as it was called at the time, was described by others as “obnoxious and disliked.” His personality was matched by a short, rotund body, with few teeth. He might have been brilliant, but was not, in any way, attractive.

If Adams made a harsh comment, in those days, it would have merited little notice. Newspapers of the time were small and printed weekly or less. President Adams pronouncements would have been little noticed outside of Washington, DC.

Today, every comment, statement, quote, burp, or fart is immediately broadcast across the world with video of the incident, commentary, point and counterpoint within minutes.

Washington might survive today’s news cycle. Adams and his successor, Thomas Jefferson, probably wouldn’t.

Think about that. Think about the republic without Adams and Jefferson because of 24/7 cable news. I’m not saying it’s better or worse–I’m just asking you to think about it.

Are we better off today?

Virtual Flying

NOTE: I recently had shoulder surgery so I’ll be typing one handed for a while and may not blog as frequently.

I love flying–not riding in an airliner, but actually being pilot in command. However, as I’ve gotten older, it’s no longer practical. I was originally licensed as “private pilot, single-engine land.” I still qualify to fly as ‘recreational pilot,” but it would make my family nervous. Not to mention that renting an aircraft is about five times as expensive as it was when I first flew. Ouch!

The big issues over the years is that when I had spare time, I didn’t have spare money and vice-versa. Actually I’ve never really had either spare time or spare money. Sigh!

Nevertheless, in my lifetime I did learn how to fly and will be a licensed pilot for the rest of my life. Ta-da!

A few years ago, my family gave me a flight simulator as a gift, including the yoke, pedals, and throttle/lever assembly as well as the Microsoft Flight Simulator program. Wow!

Shortly thereafter, Microsoft stopped selling or supporting their flight software. Bummer!

Recently, Microsoft released a 2020 version of Flight Simulator. Yay!

I tried loading into my new lap top (circa February 2020), only to be informed that my computer wasn’t fast enough. Awww!

So, yes, I broke down and bought a real gaming computer. Ka-Ching!

My son hooked it up and I was ready to play. Hoorah!

So far, all the program seems to do is to tell me to wait while it downloads another update. Booo!

I’ll update you when I can, but this one handed typing wears me out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Can I Do?

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc on most people who are not in the ultra-rich 1 percent. Businesses are closing. People have lost jobs. Some will soon leave their homes.

5,909,970 Americans have contracted COVID-19.

180,965 Americans who have lost their lives.

2,707,783 Americans have contracted the disease and have not recovered. Some will die. Some never will recover, experiencing life-altering effects that will diminish their ability to live and work as they did before.

I haven’t seen any definitive studies, but I’d love to know how many wouldn’t have been infected if everyone had accepted that the disease is real and taken appropriate precautions–social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks. Unfortunately, some think it is a hoax.

However, it is very, very real to 5,909,970 of our fellow citizens–so far.

Take the appropriate precautions.

Guns

I generally try  to stay away from politics, but sometimes I just need to say something.

I enjoy guns. The wall of my office is a collection of antique firearms–most too old to safely fire, but interesting pieces nevertheless. I have other firearms I enjoy taking to the shooting range at a nearby USMC Base to blow holes in paper targets.

In the past, when deployed, I’ve carried a .45 caliber M1911, a 9mm Beretta, and an M-16. In each case, I was in a combat zone.

Nevertheless, there are rules relating to firearms and they are basic and sensible rules. These are true whether in combat, when you hear a noise in the middle of the night, and any other context.

  1. Treat every gun as loaded
  2. Never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.
  3. Identify your target.
  4. Always be aware of where the muzzle of the weapon is pointed (see above).
  5. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Here is the most important one:

  • You only fire your weapon when there is no other option. Unless you’re in combat in a legal war zone, this means that you can only fire when your life is in danger and you have no other option. That means that your back is to the wall.
  • Someone running away is not a threat to your life.

As I said, I have been armed with an M-16. However, to all the people who insist that they need an AR-15 (the civilian version of an M-16), I have the following advice.

  • If you need a high capacity magazine, you must be planning on killing many people.
  • If not, it means you’re a truly lousy shot who needs 30 rounds to ensure that you hit the broad side of a barn.

Either way, you should not have an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine.

Growing Up in the 21st Century

Most the world is moving from analog to digital. It’s no longer “A bit before 8 o’clock,” it’s now “7:58.” On the other hand, raising kids has gone the other way.

It used to be:

  • Birth to age 3        Infant
  • Age 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age 6 – 13              Grade/Middle School Student
  • Age 13 – 18             High School Student
  • Age 18 – 23             College Student (Away at school)
  • Age 23 – 35             Young Adult (Moving out and on their own)

Now, it’s a bit different:

  • Birth to ~ age 3        Infant
  • Age ~ 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age ~ 6 – 13              Home Schooled / Online education
  • Age ~ 18 – 23            Distance Learning College (Living at home)
  • Age ~ 23 – 35            Living at home looking for a job

What used to be distinct stages have become a continuum, with blurred lines. It’s common for our children who are now mature, educated, and desperate to be employed and independent. They’ve done everything right, but it hasn’t turned out the way they–and we–had planned.

It’s no reflection on our kids, it’s just the way things are today. I don’t know how I would have reacted to the current situation, but I suspect I would more-or-less hate it. Just like our kids.

Sorry, kids.

 

 

 

Is the Electoral College Leftover from Slavery?

I read a lot. I read all kinds of material, because it makes me think. I prefer not to rely on “echo chambers” that only reflect the ideas I already have.

I’d always been taught that the purpose was to ensure that smaller states were not drowned out by the larger states. It’s a clumsy system that has resulted in a number of elections in which the winner did not receive the most votes. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to accept that the electoral college was an effort to ensure fairness.

Now however, I’ve read a few things that challenge that belief.

Electoral votes for each state are based on the states total representation in Congress–senators and representatives. Each state gets two senators, but the number of representatives is based on population. However, for roughly the first century of the country, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person.

Slaves could not vote, of course, but they counted toward representatives and therefore to the number of electors. In essence, slave states ended up with a disproportionate amount of influence in choosing presidents.

Was this coincidental?

Is anything in politics coincidental?

COVID-19 Update

I’ve blogged in the past about my simplistic projection for the COVID-19 disease. So far, I haven’t been too far off, meaning my projections and actual cases have been reasonably close. I’m moderately surprised. Nevertheless, I’m continuing my project.

I now have about 2 1/2 months of data for new cases per day and new deaths per day. I extended the trend line projections out through the end of the year. Here’s what I’m seeing. The graph above shows the number of deaths per day. For a while it actually appeared to be trending downward, but in the past few weeks, it has dramatically increased. The massive swings from day to day, I believe, are not completely accurate. My theory is that this reflects when the paperwork was actually recorded–not necessarily when the deaths occurred. It may also reflect the delay after the death when an autopsy or other method is necessary to determine the actual cause of death.

In any case, if there is any accuracy to this projection, it’s discouraging that we might soon see more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 per day, every day. It’s worse to think that the number of deaths may, in fact, increase.

The number of cases per day is the second graph (above). It sort of looks like the curve is turning downward, but the math indicates that overall, it is expected to increase. We’ll have to wait and see how the numbers turn out. I’d prefer it would decrease, but I don’t feel comfortable saying that cases will decrease. (Let’s all cross our fingers!)

Unfortunately, in the media it seems that after a person suffers from COVID-19, the only two outcomes are–1) Death, or 2) Everything returns to normal. Unfortunately, it appears that there are other outcomes.

Some COVID-19 survivors suffer long term effects. Lungs can be damaged to the point that normal life will never again be possible. Some people have suffered from multiple organ failures. Others have experienced vascular problems requiring the amputation of limbs. I do not have access to the data specific to these outcomes, so they may be unusual or they may be common. I just hope it isn’t me.

I hope that the trend reverses. Unfortunately, it is dependent on people religiously committing to wearing masks, maintaining social distances, hand washing, etc.

I’m not optimistic.

 

Values? What Values?

For many years, in discussions with others I would propose a litmus test to guide them as to whether a behavior was appropriate or not. My test was, “If 60 Minutes was filming you doing this, or if your mother were watching, would you do it?” It seemed like a reasonable benchmark.

Today, however, neither would halt people from charging ahead with inappropriate activities. They would not feel bad and many would proudly post their shameful activities on Facebook. Facebook would get a couple of million clicks and laugh all the way to the bank.

Well, actually, they’d laugh while the electronic money transfers went to some tax haven.

What the hell happened to us? Do we all believe that we’ll never face the consequences of our choices?

I don’t believe that is true. So act as if your mother is watching.

Absentee vs Mail-In Voting

I have heard people postulate that in the upcoming election, foreign countries will flood America with “millions of phony ballots.”

When I vote in person, the poll workers compare my name and address with the voter registration printout. If I didn’t register, I don’t get to vote. If my information isn’t an exact match, I don’t get to vote. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of identification I present. If all the pieces don’t match, I don’t get to vote.

When I was deployed, I voted by absentee ballot, which was mailed from a foreign country. The return address was a vague APO AE  military post office that gave no hint as to the country from which I mailed it. There wasn’t even a stamp with a postmark on it because it was franked–my signature and unit, which gave very little actual information, took the place of a stamp.

When my absentee ballot arrived, the registrar’s office compared my information to what was on their records to make sure it matched the voters’ rolls. Only then was my vote counted.

On the other hand, if I vote by mail, there is an outer envelope for mailing, an inner envelope, and the ballot. The outer envelope indicates that my ballot came from the street, house number, city, and state where I live. The postmark gives some validation to that information. The inner envelope contains a bar code, a control number, my signature, and other identifying data. If–and only if–everything checks out, is the ballot removed from the envelope and counted.

However, if foreign governments DID flood the US with “millions of phony ballots,” they couldn’t use foreign postage stamps. So, if there were 10 million phony ballots in envelopes with US postage stamps at 55 cents each, that would be an additional $5.5 million in revenues for the United States Postal Service, all without making any difference in the US election.

Space – A Great Frontier

Echo 1 was a Mylar balloon satellite launched in 1960 that was visible from the earth. At night, we’d rush outside at the time printed in the paper and watch it go by.

During the Mercury launches 1961-1963, we sat in the classroom clustered around a transistor radio.

For Gemini launches in 1965 1nd 1966, someone brought a 45 pound “portable” black and white television into the classroom.

For the Apollo Missions, especially Apollo 11, we watched from home on console TVs with a 17 inch color cathode ray tube screen.

I lived in Florida for a portion of the shuttle era, I walked down my driveway, turned tight, and saw it live. For most people, there would be a brief mention with a few seconds of video on the evening news.

Today, I watch the Space-X Crew Dragon return to earth, with live video from inside the craft and the recovery boats on my iPad.

Cool.