Friday, December 21, 2012

The Maya were close!



The Mayan calendar was created by a civilization whose dominance ended 1100 years ago. Many people have been fascinated by the apparent “prediction” of the end of the world on Dec 21, 2012 as their long count calendar came to an end, and of the approximate correlation in time of other ancient prophetic visionaries such as Nostradamus. And yet we all awoke this morning to find the earth still here and pretty much undisturbed from the night before. Were the Maya wrong? Not necessarily.

The Maya had an amazing grasp of astronomy and extremely detailed celestial calendars based on extremely long periods of time and ever-greater cycles. They knew something was up this year, and left us a clue in their calendar. But as advanced as they were, they had no advanced technology, including computers, with which to refine their predictions. However, there is a civilization that came to dominance after the Maya, and that has the tools available.

The current dominant civilization is not linked by a common government or religion, but rather by a common pursuit of knowledge. This civilization has produced computers, invented and expanded the internet, developed particle colliders that peer into the structure of matter, cloned animals, decoded DNA, built spaceships that have taken men to the moon and keep men in orbit around the earth, sent landers to Mars, sent probes to every planet in the solar system and even sent probes beyond the solar system. They have mapped the cosmos in space and time, created telescopes that see back in time to the early universe with clarity, created theories about the origin of the universe, and have built the most precise time keeping devices ever conceived, accurate to within billionths of a second over long periods of time. And, they have predicted an end date to the world only 10 days later than that proposed by the Maya.

On Feb 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree implementing the most widely accepted civil calendar, one that is now referred to as the Gregorian calendar. Note that this calendar was implemented almost 700 years after the preeminence of the Maya in their region ended. The Gregorian calendar adds a day every 4 years to keep aligned with the solar equinoxes. A Gregorian year is actually 365.2425 days. The calendar has been modified slightly over the years since its introduction, but the concept on which it was based remains sound.

The technological civilization mentioned above has refined the calendar to include leap seconds that allow the calendar and time keeping devices to remain collated over extremely long periods, comparable to the Mayan long count calendar. And this civilization has predicted an end of the world on December 31, 2012!

In exactly the same way that the Mayan calendar ended on December 21, 2012, the Gregorian calendar ends only 10 days later on December 31, 2012. Had the Maya had at their disposal the same accurate technology as the current technological civilization, perhaps they would have modified their calendar accordingly. One can only assume that this more advanced civilization has more correctly predicted the end date.

As I write this, I have on my desk a copy of the current long-count Gregorian calendar. In addition to 12 pictures of very cute puppies, the long count begins on January 1, 2012 and – crucially –ends on December 31, 2012. There are no more entries after this date! Thus, only 10 days from the 1100 year old Maya prediction of apocalypse on December 21, 2012, the best minds of the 21st century have scheduled the same event.

As I began to write this, I was convinced that this new prediction was more accurate, and should therefore be heeded and revered. But I did a little research that has shaken this belief.

It turns out that every year since its inception in 1582, the Gregorian calendar has ended on December 31 of that year. In reading old news accounts, I could not find any evidence of widespread concern over the end of the world correlating to the end of the calendar, not even early on. In fact, some individuals even made a joke of the so-called calendar end, even making 2, 5 and 10-year calendars – mocking the very idea of a cataclysmic end. The single exception I did find was minor panic over the end of the calendar year denoted as 1999.  Even though the end of the year 999 did not produce similar concern. There is no real basis for interpreting this fear, though some people blamed it on the very computer equipment that allowed the predictions in the first place!

Clearly this year’s long-count Gregorian calendar end is more critical than those in times past, due to its correlation with the Maya and perhaps Nostradamus. I will prepare as well as I can – deferring bill payments till the first of the next year, for example. But, given the fact that the Gregorian calendar has incorrectly predicted the fall of civilization for 429 previous long count periods, I will not hold my breath, and I intend to sleep soundly on December 31st, not even waiting till midnight to watch the curtain fall.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reason and Health Insurance


The debate over health care keeps getting wrapped up in a discussion over health insurance in a manner that continues to sow confusion.  This confusion makes it impossible to properly frame the debate, leaving Congress free to pursue whatever their goals are, nefarious or otherwise.

When one buys auto liability insurance, there is one major purpose – to protect the insured against a catastrophic loss, generally due to harming another individual, but also to protect one’s own self in case of a major bodily harm.  But the purpose is not to ensure that adequate care in the hospital is achieved, as we’ll see in a minute.

When one buys home insurance, the main reason is not to insure the house.  If one carries a mortgage, the main goal of the insurance is to pay off the loan in the event of a catastrophe.  If one does not have a mortgage, the main purpose is to ensure the equity one has stored up in the house, generally a significant portion of one’s life savings.

In both cases, the insurance is not designed so much to fix what was lost, but rather to avoid losing one’s life savings and face financial ruin.  A lawsuit arising from a car accident could wipe out one’s entire wealth, including future earnings.  One generally sets liability limits at a level much higher than one’s ability to cover by liquidating everything else one owns.  The same is true of liability limits for personal injury on one’s property.  Insurance levels are set high enough so that an injured party goes after the insurance and not your own personal wealth.

In this country, if you are in a car accident, or if you have a heart attack, or are faced with advanced COPD, you will get all the help you need from our health care system.  You will also get bills for the services provided.  If you have no ability to pay, you ultimately will not be required to.  But if you have assets, and a sound credit history that you wish to protect, you will be required to pay.  Depending on the extent of your bills, you could be wiped out financially just meeting your payment obligations.  For this reason, if you have assets, you require health insurance.  Not because you won’t get the treatment you require if you don’t (because you will), but rather to avoid losing one’s life savings or facing financial ruin.

Insurance is for those with something to lose, to protect against such loss.  It actually makes no sense for an individual with very little to lose financially to have insurance, since there is very little to protect, and the risk of loss is small.  Individuals with moderate to great net worth, on the other hand, do need insurance to protect those assets.

The media and the government have very effectively tied the concept of insurance together with the concept of the health care system, implying that government control of the health care system is really just a form of insurance for all individuals.

This country needs a free market health system where innovations thrive due to the need to secure a profit and outperform the competition.  Gross product and revenue from this system feeds the government in the form of taxes on services and supplies.  Making health care a part of the government system eliminates this tax base, making the entire system an expense; a budget item; one to be fed by tax revenues from all other segments of the economy.  A revenue and innovation producer, one seventh of the economy, will become a tax burden, and quality and innovation will falter.

Health care is the entire economic system of innovation, treatments, research, individuals and ideas.  Health insurance is a means to determine how and how much any individual is on the hook for.  The two cannot be confused, and certainly cannot be merged.  The government has no business in the business of health care.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Defense of Marriage

While this is not a new topic, it is still one that interests me.  Let me begin by saying that I am not at all against the government or businesses conferring benefits and recognition to same sex couples, and I am against discrimination against couples or individuals for their sexual orientation. 

However, there continues to be a push to “redefine” marriage, as though changing a definition somehow changes the condition of various groups of people or alters the facts of a situation.  This is simply not the case.  Consider the following examples:

1.     Either O.J. Simpson killed Nichole Simpson or he did not.  The status of this fact, yes he did or no he did not, is absolute, one way or the other, not open to one’s beliefs.  However, respectable people have differing opinions as to whether OJ committed the crime.  If OJ committed the crime, then those who believe he did are correct in their beliefs, and those who believe he did not commit the crime are wrong in their beliefs.  The first group would be called, “individuals who believe OJ killed Nichole.”  The second group would be called, “individuals who do not believe OJ killed Nichole.”  These two groups cannot be called by the same name, unless you ascribe to them a meaningless title such as “individuals who believe one way or another about whether OJ killed Nichole.”  The reason the name is meaningless is that it provides no information about the beliefs of the members of the group.

2.     Since its inception, then, the name “Christian” has been a name ascribed to individuals who believe that Christ was and is the son of God.  All other beliefs fall under the category of individuals who do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, and all these beliefs can be categorized under the title “Non Christian.”  The combination of all possible beliefs we can call “Belief Systems.”   The universe of “Belief Systems” is made up of the union of the two groups, “Christian and Non Christian,” and can be described as “Those who believe that Christ was and is the son of God and those who do not believe that Christ was and is the son of God.”  While one can change the definition of the name Christian to mean “Those who believe in the deity of Jesus Christ and those who do not,” those who do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ will not have achieved the conceptual status of those who believe in the deity of Jesus Christ by changing the definition.  Instead, as in the case of OJ’s guilt, we have simply arrived at a meaningless title.  We have not changed the conceptual basis of what “Christian” is; we have simply lost the use of the word previously used to describe that concept.  Where one word formerly had meaning, we must now qualify its use to achieve context, as in “Christians who believe in the deity of Jesus Christ,” or “Christians who do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ.”  As a result, the word “Christian” has been stripped of its meaning.

The term “Marriage” has been a name ascribed to “the union of one man and one woman.”  Other possible groupings have always existed, in the realm of ideas or in actuality, but such groupings are not ascribed the name “Marriage.”  For this discussion we will call these alternative groupings “Alternative Groupings,” and define them as “the union of other than one man and one woman.”  The combination of all possible groupings, marriages and alternative groupings, we can assign the same name, namely “Unions.”  While one can accommodate other possible unions by changing the definition of the name marriage, these unions do not then become marriage, instead, since “Unions” has now been replaced by the word “Marriages,” we must come up with a new name for the union of one man and one woman to replace the name that was redefined.  So changing the definition of a name does not change the conceptual grouping of individuals in that category.  Instead, it simply confuses the meaning of the name, and requires a new name to represent the concept formerly represented by the old name. 

Unions other than those between one man and one woman do not achieve the conceptual status of a union between one man and one woman by changing the definition of a term.  Instead, as in the case of OJ’s guilt or belief in the deity of Christ, we simply arrive at a meaningless title.  In this case, marriage would come to mean “the union of one man and one woman or the union of other than one man and one woman.”  We have not changed the conceptual basis of what “marriage” is; we have simply lost the use of the word previously used to describe that concept.  Where one word formerly had a meaning, we now must qualify its use to achieve context, as in “marriage of one man and one woman,” or “marriage of other than one man and one woman.”  As a result, the word “marriage” has been stripped of its meaning.

The desire of marriage redefinition supporters is to redefine the meaning of the word “Marriage” to become “the union of one man and one woman or the union of other than one man and one woman.”  While they would likely divide the group of individuals including “the union of other than one man and one woman” into different subgroups, some combination of subsets of that group would now find themselves in the new “Marriage” group, while others, such as the union of a man and two women or of a woman and a child, would presumably be excluded from the “Marriage” group, though, as is currently the situation, they would still belong to “the union of other than one man and one woman.”  Now, among individuals who adopt this new definition of “Marriage,” not only do certain groupings represent “Marriage involving the union of other than one man and one woman,” but, anyone who fails to adopt his new definition is “narrow, self-serving, naïve and not worthy of serious consideration.”  As a result, the word “Marriage” has undergone two definition changes.  In the first step, “Marriage” changes from “the union of one man and one woman” to “the union of one man and one woman or the union of other than one man and one woman.”  In the second step, the definition has changed to “the union of other than one man and one woman or the union of those who are narrow, self-serving, naïve and not worthy of serious consideration.” 

As the word “Marriage” has now lost its meaning under this definition change, I would now have to classify myself not merely as “Married,” but as “Married, narrow, self-serving, naïve and not worthy of serious consideration.”  In this respect I would maintain my conceptual identity as “an individual who believes in marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” as opposed to “an individual who believes in marriage as the union of one man and one woman or other than one man and one woman,” even though both groups now fall under the new meaning of “Marriage.” Perhaps those in support of the change could propose names for the two sub-groups of the new “Marriage” term.  I assume they would lean along the lines of “Marriage” for those represented by “the union of other than one man and one woman,” and “Bigot” for those represented by “the union of one man and one woman.”  If such is the case, I will be proud to be a “Bigot,” and to remain faithfully married to the one woman who has been my wife for 23 years.

The ultimate issue is that words have meaning, and in many cases that meaning is important.  For example, the word "gay" has been adopted by a minority of the population at large to mean “homosexual.”  Any other use of that word offends many of the individuals who refer to themselves as “gay.”  For example, if a teenager observes a friend doing something out of the ordinary, and remarks, “That’s so gay,” one is expected to reprimand the teen as being insensitive (or even homophobic).  One can be certain that if a radio host remarked of the actions of a politician, actor or sports team that, “That’s so gay,” the radio host would be suspended or fired immediately with apologies from the management and the host, and several days worth of television coverage on the topic.  I’m not saying this wrong.  I am saying that a minority of the population ascribes a certain meaning to the word “gay,” and they want to protect and defend the meaning of this word as it applies to them. At the same time, a majority of the population ascribes a certain meaning to the word “marriage,” and that meaning is “the union of one man and one woman.” This majority wants to protect and defend the meaning of this word as it applies to them. 

Now, for some reason in the current arena of political correctness, when a minority group defines a word as positive or negative, acceptable or unacceptable, or possessing a certain meaning, the majority must fall in line or be labeled as insensitive, prejudiced, mean or phobic.  Yet, when a majority group defines a word as possessing a certain meaning, even when they are simply defending the meaning the word has traditionally carried, they are again judged as insensitive, prejudiced, mean or phobic.  How can it be that in all cases the desires and whims of the minority trump the desires and traditions of the majority?

Marriage” means “the union of one man and one woman.”  Let those who want rights, recognition and benefits of other types of unions pursue those goals, and I, personally, support such equality and freedom from fear and prejudice in the work force and in society.  But let the word “marriage” retain its meaning, and let the majority of people who understand and define marriage to be “the union of one man and one woman” enjoy the same agreements and protections of that definition as do the individuals who refer to themselves as “gay.”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

California Dreaming

The Supreme Court (as in the U.S. Supreme Court) has told California to relieve its overcrowding in prisons.  Jerry Brown has come up with an unexpected and unique solution - raise taxes.  But is this necessary?

The order is to remove about 33,000 inmates from the prison system.  Transferring them to local jails requires more funding for those facilities, thus the tax proposal.  And of course, this itself is only a short term bridge, not a solution.

Consider the following from The Sacramento Bee, Jan 26, 2010 (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2010/01/corrections-sta.html):

"As of Dec. 31, 2009, California prisons had 22,173 inmates with an immigration hold or potential immigration hold, according to a Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation analysis. That represented 13 percent of the state's 168,830 inmates."

These "immigration hold" individuals remain a potential burden to the taxpayer system whether they are inmates or walking free.  However, by simply implementing the law of the land, these individuals can be removed from the prison system and from the country, while they work on correcting the particular "hold" that exists on their immigration status.  

It is interesting that the courts (and California) ignore the immigration status of the inmate population, and instead concentrate on the "grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care,"  that the court identified in its 5-4 ruling (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/23/BAGK1JJQRJ.DTL#ixzz1NIUNqQTZ) as a right to which every inmate is apparently entitled.




Friday, May 20, 2011

Who Really Pays the Taxes?

It is common to quote the statistics that the top 1% of wage earners pay 38% of the Federal Income Tax collected, or that the top 10% pay 70% of the taxes collected.  But these statistics, as seemingly outrageous as they are, actually grossly understate the real situation.  When talking about 1% of the population, they should be compared to other 1% segments, not to the remaining 99% as a whole.  For example, let's say Jane makes $1M a year, but has 99 workers earning $40K a year.  The total wages for all 100 workers is $4.96M.  It is nonsensical to say that Jane makes only 20% of what the other employees make.  But this is exactly what is being done above when one states that “the top 1% of wage earners pay 38% of the tax.”  Instead, one generally correctly states that Jane earns 25 times more than the average employee.  We get envious when we learn Jane makes 25 times more than we do, but it is not at all distressing to be told instead that she makes 20% of what we make.  

So with the tax burden, the question one must ask is, “What do the top wage earners pay in taxes in relation to other groups of the same size?”, or, "How much more does a top wage earner pay on average than any other wage earner?" 

For example, compare the top 1% of wage earners to the 99 other groups containing 1% of wage earners.  The top 1% pays 38% of all federal income taxes, while the other 99 groups pay, on average, only 0.63% of the taxes each (62%/99 = .63%).  Thus, the top 1% of wage earners pay 60 times more in taxes than their average counterparts in any other group including 1% of wage earners (38/.63 = 60).  This means that each member of the top 1% group pays, on average, 60 times more in taxes than any member in any other 1% group.  If this were income, and the average member of the other 99 groups earned $27K per year (they do), then the average pay in the top 1% group would be $1.6M (it isn’t - it is, in fact, $380K). 

The charts below demonstrate graphically how much the top 1%, 5% and 10% of wage earners pay in relation to other groups of the same size.  The top 1% of wage earners pays 60 times more in taxes than any other 1% group.  Stated differently: The top 1% of wage earners pays 6,000% more in taxes than any other 1% group.  So with Jane, we weren't upset when we heard she made 20% of what we make.  But when we learned she actually makes 25 times more than us, we got interested.  Likewise, it might not sound so bad to learn that top wage earners pay 38% of all taxes.  But isn't it another story when we learn they pay 6,000% more than we do?  

One must then ask: "If paying 6,000% more than any other group of tax payers is not a fair share, then what is?"















Who Edited Obama's Birth Certificate?

The press seems quite content to accept or propose that Obama's birth certificate was edited by some well meaning individual solely to make it "more legible."  Thus while they acknowledge the editing, they pass it off as harmless.

That the birth certificate was edited, on a MAC, in photoshop, is indisputable (see for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s9StxsFllY). Jerome Corsi, of World Net Daily and author of Where's the Birth Certificate?: The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President, agrees.

So, given that everyone acknowledges the edits, and given that they were done for aesthetic reasons, one must ask:  Why hasn't the editor come forward?  Or, more importantly: Why hasn't the White House identified the benign editor?  If I were the individual who took the original scan, and subsequently "cleaned it up," on my own accord, I would have immediately made this known once the controversy began.

How simple it would be to say, "Wait a minute - there is no conspiracy here.  I have the original file.  Here it is.  And here are my changes.  I was only trying to help."  Conversely, the White House should have immediately put the matter to bed by saying, "Yes, we posted an edited birth certificate to make it more legible.  However, here is the original, and here is the individual that cleaned it up for us."

Since neither of these has happened, one can only assume that the birth certificate was altered nefariously at best, and created out of whole cloth at worst.

When one scans a document, the name of the scanner goes with the file (i.e. Epson or Xerox), and stays with the file, even during edits.  In this case, the source of the file is not a scanner, but rather MAC OSX 10.  This is not a scanner, it is an operating system on an Apple computer.  A computer is not a scanner, thus, it appears the birth certificate was created in Photoshop on a Mac computer, presumably from imported and created images.

This is why no one can come forward and say, "I made the edits, and here is the original."  There simply is no original that matches the posted item to any acceptable degree.