Archive for February 2016

Leap Frogging Thru the Centuries   3 comments

“So, you’re about my age, I think,” I said to Nick. “How old are you?”

“Well, I will celebrate my 11th birthday in 18 months.”

Nick was a psychiatrist I worked with and I was 39 years old, so I began to wonder if he was channeling one of our delusional clients until he revealed …

“I was born February 29.”

To my credit, I immediately recognized the significance of this date and we had a lovely conversation about Leap Day (otherwise known as intercalary year or bissextile year). Turned out, Nick enjoyed his unique birthday and had lots of humorous observations about the whole topic. Some of them are included here as well as contributions from my teenage son who is, apparently, a calendar geek.

Nick shares his birthday with Lord Byron, which might lend credence to the astrologers’ belief that people born on Leap Day often have unusual talents.

Welcome to the Open Book Blog Hop and do follow the link to check out my fellow blog hoppers posts on this subject. Pay particular attention to Kelly Williams’ Blue Honor blog.

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It’s really an odd concept, when you consider it, that one year in four would have an extra day. I mean, shouldn’t a year just be a year? Uh … no!

A year is simply a segment of cyclical time that can measured and described in any number of ways. Some cultures tabulate the turning of the sun, others the waxing and waning of the moon, still others the dance of the stars and planets in the heaven. The ancient Celts pegged their calendar to the seasons. In our modern time, there are fiscal years, tax years, school years, and liturgical years.

All this makes creating an accurate and practical calendar astonishingly complicated. Take a basic fact — the Earth takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds to turn on its axis. Y

Then the moon circles the Earth, spinning as it does. The sun reflecting off the moon’s face is what we call the moon phases — from thinnest silver crescent to shining full disk. A complete moon cycle takes 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 28 seconds for a month.

The Earth is a satellite of the sun. As it orbits, it draws closer and then retreats, tilting one pole and then the other toward that blast furnace in the center of our solar system. This revolution results in the seasons. One orbit takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. We call it the solar year.

So, you see the problem, right? While we might wish things to be very symmetrical and ordered, the natural cycle of celestial bodies does not conform to our OCD. Calendar scientists have tried many times to fix this lack of synchronicity, resulting the modified Gregorian calendar (itself a modification of the Julian calendar) that is based on a cycle of 400 years comprising 146,097 days, giving a year of average length 365.2425 days. It does this by creating leap years that are omitted in years divisible by 100, but not divisible by 400. Yeah, only a mathematician could make that one up.

It was around the 1500s when the Roman Catholic church notices that Easter seemed to be occurring later and later in the spring and that just wouldn’t do because nobody is really into pastel eggs in October.

The Julian calendar did not calculate leap years very well … there were too many of them, so the calendar was adjusted so that leap years occur every four years EXCEPT for years ending in 00. This turned out to be too large of a correction and it still didn’t fix the problem of Easter occuring too late in spring, so Pope Gregory XIII ordered the year 1582 shortened by 10 days.The last day of the Julian calendar was October 4, 1582 and the first day of the Gregorian calendar was October 15, 1582. Historians would probably like to dig Gregory up and pummel him to death because not every country adopted this theft of days right away, so it makes for some very interesting historical discrepancies. For example — the England and American colonies did not adjust their calendar until 1754. That’s 180 years where they were using the wrong calendar, so if the date of some event really matters, historians have a hard slog of figuring it out.

The perceived theft of 10 days caused widespread discontent. Apparently there were riots in some countries because some landlords used the 10-day loss as an excuse to charge early for land rents. It even spawned a school of conspiracy theorists who believed the Roman Catholic Church adjusted the calendar to make up history or to adjust events to match prophesies. There were actually movements that called for the return of the 10 days.

So, here we are in the 21st century and we’re still trying to figure out the calendar. Maybe someday we’ll figure out a way to make it accurately depict the world we live in without all the complicated mechanizations, but … I wouldn’t count on it — although the International Fixed Calendar really has some merits.

 

 

 

 

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Posted February 28, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook, Uncategorized

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Are We Stupid, America?   9 comments

Super Tuesday ought to show us whether this country has truly gone off the rails. I’m holding my breath, hoping I’m wrong, but I increasingly can’t believe my own hopes.Either Hillary or Bernie will be the leader in the Democratic race. She’s and incompetent liar in the pocket of Wall Street who plays fast and loose with state secrets.

Image result for image of donald trumpEither Hillary or Bernie will be the leader in the Democratic race. She’s and incompetent liar in the pocket of Wall Street who plays fast and loose with state secrets. She may well be under indictment by the time of the general election. Oh my!

Bernie — aw, Bernie — sweet old deluded grandfather who has failed to learn from history that socialism doesn’t work because sooner or later those who pay the bills run out of money and rebel. If he were to win, we’d be $22 trillion in debt when he took office and he’s promised the electorate the moon. He can’t afford anything but moonlight and he hasn’t got the skills to balance the budget (although truth be told, maybe nobody does).

The Donald may well win Super Tuesday. Are we stupid America? Really, are we total lunatics or did IQs drop sharply during the Obama administration? Or maybe it’s just been a long, slow slide since Woodrow Wilson.

So here we are, standing on an event horizon and by Wednesday morning, we’ll know the answer to my Are we stupid? questions. But let’s say Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz comes out victorious. They’d have a fight against Hillary, but the contrast would be sharp against Bernie. And ….

$22 trillion in debt when they take office.The economy is stalled. Sure, it “grew” slightly last month. It’ll cycle back down next. The results of that sort of anchor on the economy were predicted during the Bush 2 administration. We were warned, we did not listen, and here we are. The next president has to deal with it. Declaring that it doesn’t matter and going full-steam ahead will not fix the problem. It’s highly possible that none of current frontrunners could fix this problem.

Maybe I’m wrong. My mom certainly thought America’s days were numbered during the Carter administration and we’ve hung on for 40 more years. But we’re in a whole lot more danger in 2016 than we were in 1980. Back then, the people were smart, full of common sense and they’d been through the Depression. Today …?

Are we stupid, America?

 

 

Posted February 27, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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Modern American Civil War   Leave a comment

This is one of my first posts o the blog. When it came up in the feed today, I thought it might be illustrative because of where we are today, a few years later

aurorawatcherak

Disclaimer — I am the descendant abolitionists and I have never lived in the American South. This is a thought experiment about today, not about the Civil War of 1861.

The American Civil War was, I submit, more about economics and culture than slavery. Slavery was a symptom of the divide between the two American nations. I use “nation” deliberately because you can form countries from multiple people groups, but it rarely works out well. Think the USSR, Iraq, Yugoslavia. The tensions that tear these countries apart are found in the differing cultural values of the peoples who are forced to live together. A tyrannical central authority can force coexistence only so long.

The civil divide we have in the United States in 2012 is more about economics and culture than it is about politics or bigotry. Let’s get real — 53% of the American electorate in 2008 elected Barack…

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Posted February 27, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Now Available on Smashwords   Leave a comment

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverThe Willow Branch is now available on Smashwords and through its network – Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. Hey, if you’ve read the book, please leave a review on Smashwords or any of your favorite e-book outlets. It looks really lonely and unloved, even though it has reviews on Amazon.

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Why I Like the Foreign Press   Leave a comment

Here is a perfect example of why I like the foreign press.

 

“If you kill Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you,” Republican senator Lindsey Graham said in remarks skewering his party’s presidential field at the Washington press club foundation dinner on Thursday night.

The Texas senator, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, is extremely unpopular among his congressional colleagues.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/26/lindsey-graham-killing-ted-cruz-roasts-republican-candidates-rubio-trump

 

I didn’t even bother to analyze Linsey Graham in my rundown of Republican candidates because he actually ranks below Donald Trump in my mind. If I was going to vote for a Democrat, I would vote for Graham. He’s about as far from a conservative as Trump is — which is to say, progressive, liberal. That he endorsed dynasty (Bush for the uninformed) after he dropped out of the race just confirms to me that he is part of the Washington elite that really doesn’t get that the people are starting to wake up to the concept of “We the people” once more. We don’t want or need his tutulage.

Which is not to say that the entire country – right and left — has not become bat-shit crazy.

Really! Donald Trump is winning all the GOP primaries. What is up with that?

A friend suggests that Trump and Sanders are evidence that the United States has become France circa 1780s, a largely oppressed nation filled with entertained and unthoughtful people who whiff the concept of liberty and have no idea what it should look like or how they should conduct themselves in pursuit of it. The French revolutionaries followed some pretty bizarre people, promising some pretty bizarre things. It ended with a blood bath, followed by a dictatorship.

If he’s right, we’re in a lot of trouble, America. We have this great history, but our education system has so dumb-downed our kids (and our own generation, but we’ve had more time to read the classics on our own) that most of us have no idea of our responsibilities in a (classical) liberal society. We see that clearly in those who would vote Democrat. They buy the promises without ever talking about the current annual deficit that 100% of the rich’s income could not close and asking “where will you get the money.” Buy a clue — after the rich cannot close the gap, the government is coming for more of your pay check!

Democrats don’t seem to understand that (all they ever hear of the concept is when Tom Rogan can squeeze a word in edgewise on the MacLaughlin Group, but I’m not sure if Republicans get it either.

Ultimately, I’m a non-partisan conservative, so I’m speaking to conservatives right now.

  • If you really think that Trump is the answer to what is wrong with this country …
  • If you really believe he is different from Hillary …
  • If you think personality is more important than issues …

You are part of the problem. You’ve drank too much neo-conservative BS and you have completely lost any good sense you ever had. So wake up and smell the coffee! If Trump wins Super Tuesday, he’s the Republican nominee. I’m voting Libertarian, so I don’t care — except that it assures that either bat-shit-crazy and incompetent elitist Hillary Clinton or ivory-tower Bernie Sanders will be the next president of the United States.

Heck, what am I saying? It would be highly entertaining to watch Trump against Sanders and I place even money on who might win. Maybe we should just go for it and take the country over a cliff right now so then we can turn back to rebuilding it.

Of course, that leaves the question remaining — who will the first dictator be?

Trump Media   1 comment

This is 4th in a series.

So has Fox essentially endorsed Trump as my friend claims? Umm, no, but kind of yes.

Fox News commentators clearly do not like Donald Trump, but … given his accusation of bias in their coverage of him, they appear to have gone overboard to counter the claim. A quick read of the online front page shows a lot of Trump-centric reporting. Within those articles you find hints that the reporters are puzzled by Trump’s ascendancy, but I found very little evidence that they think a Trump presidency is a good idea.

Just to reiterate – Trump is not a conservative on pretty much any issue. I will not be voting for him. If he were the only candidate of any party on the ballot, I would write someone in.

But he is newsworthy, especially now that he is winning primaries. I do think that some of the reason he’s winning those primaries is the media coverage of him. There’s a lot to be said for name-recognition. He’s the primary (not meant as a pun) reason that I plan to vote in the Alaska Presidential Preference Poll next week. I have to change my party affiliation to do it. I’ll be a Republican for two hours like I was back in 2012. I plan to vote against him, if for no other reason than to help show that Alaska isn’t as insane as New Hampshire. I will be so disappointed with my fellow Alaskans if I am proven wrong.

In analyzing the news coverage from CNN, Fox and PBS, I have to say I see a lot of media manipulation from CNN and PBS. They don’t like Trump, but they sure want to make it seem that Trump is acceptable to the broad spectrum of conservatives (not necessarily Republicans) in this country. He is not. When we talk among ourselves, we keep asking the same question — “What the hell is wrong with the voters of … (name that GOP primary state)?” CONSERVATIVES are not the ones voting for Trump. So why does he keep winning GOP primaries?

Firs, the GOP has not the American conservative party. It represents business interests which are, by and large, moderate progressives. They want money from the government to help them advance their commercial interests. The struggle in the GOP right now is that the business interests thought that they could woe political, fiscal and social conservatives into the party and that we would vote without thinking, but the Internet has made us all more informed these days and those political, fiscal and social conservatives are becoming very dissatisfied with the GOP. Many actual conservatives stayed home for the 2012 election because they didn’t want to vote from Romney and they couldn’t vote for Obama. For whatever reason, they have not elected to vote 3rd party … yet. I think that time is coming.

So, others are voting for Trump, mostly in a wave of populism by voters who don’t ordinarily vote in GOP primaries. These are the people who might be considered moderate, who have little interest in actual politics, but they saw their health insurance costs increase by 25-40% with Obamacare and they see their college-graduate offspring unable to find jobs commensurate with their education and they are angry and want change. They see Trump as a change agent — regardless of whether they would actually want the change he would bring about. They aren’t sophisticated voters who study the issues before they go to the polls. They are voting emotionally.

Moreover, at the risk of making a provocative statement that I might have to defend — it seems almost as if the coverage of the latest Trump moment acts as campaigning for him. Is it possible that the liberal press prefers Trump to be the GOP nominee because then the Democrats can pretty much nominate anyone they want and be assured of a win?

I don’t know. I don’t really care much anymore. I’m probably voting Libertarian in the general. I think if the GOP nominates Trump, the GOP won’t be around to nominate anyone in 2020. They’re the Whigs circa 1856, about to slide into the dustbin of history. But hey, don’t worry. I suspect the Democratic Party is not far behind them. Especially if they nominate Bernie Sanders, they don’t have a long time left. Whether the nation just decides it needs new political parties (or none, please!) or there simply isn’t a nation in the 2020s will be an interesting thing to observe … from a state that has natural resources that can be sold on the open market so that the federal government isn’t all that necessary for our survival. Remember, we’re $19.3 trillion in debt and President Obama wants Congress to pass a budget that would add more than $9 trillion to that debt over the next 10 years. The prediction that there might not be a nation to elect a president becomes more and more believable with every year that passes.

Fox News is Biased   1 comment

This is 3rd in a series.

“I am so disappointed that Fox has jumped into Trump’s pool,” a friend said. “I rely on them for a right-of-center balance to CNN and MSN and now …. What part of ‘Trump is anything but a conservative’ do they not understand?”

It should be noted that no media outlet today reports “straight” news. I don’t think broadcast ever did. My parents didn’t realize that Walter Cronkite was slanting their news for decades, but an analysis of his reports on Vietnam in comparison to the actual history of the Vietnam conflict shows that he was. If he did it just on that one subject, I have to conclude he did it on many other subjects.

http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/104635

When Fox News was created, the management team admitted that they were deliberately creating a news network to counterbalance the left-of-center bias of CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC. Before we had cable, I would watch network news while on the exercise machines at our health club. I’d been watching CNN for years and then I stumbled onto Fox one day and immediately saw the bias of its editorial segments. Being a former news reporter, however, I quickly analyzed their news coverage and determined that they weren’t manipulating the hard news, but they were definitely peddling conservative-adjacent opinion during those segments.

It made me much more aware that CNN was doing the same in its opinion pieces, only their editorial emphasis was decidedly left of center. I’ve already shown that I think CNN manipulates the news in recent years and I’ve shown why I believe that. Their opinion segments moved hard left during the during the first Obama term, but when they saw a huge drop off in viewership, they corrected to a more left-moderate position. You now hear occasional criticisms of Obama on CNN. I think they’re too few. If the CNN reporters were worth their salaries, they’d be paying more attention to things that the American public finds suspicious — Bengazi, Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice — these are just a few examples where CNN just basically ignores the news they don’t want to deal with.

But, so does Fox. It should be said that Fox shows its bias all the time — but it’s honest about that and I can respect it for holding to its position that it is a counterbalance to the other networks. I’d rather a biased, but honest news source than a biased, but dishonest news course. Fox’s coverage may seem extreme to a liberal, but that’s because liberals tend to refuse to listen to contrarian facts.

As I said, you can get balanced news — mostly, by watching more than one network. My next post will be on my friend’s statement.

 

CNN’s Liberal Bias   1 comment

This is 2nd in a series.

Back in 2008, X declared that he got a thrill up his leg whenever he heard Obama speak. X is a commentator and commentators are allowed to be biased — they’re dealing in opinion — but it sort of set the table for CNN’s “news” campaigning for Obama. Conservatives switched the channel in droves and Fox became the #1 news station in cable because of it.

But it’s eight years later, so certainly things have changed. I will admit that CNN has returned to more moderate reportage, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t have a liberal bias.

 

I chose to look at just one issue – guns. CNN has an anti-gun bias, so I knew when it started the series that it would not be balanced.

http://www.kctv5.com/story/31294730/local-gun-ranges-offer-shooting-classes-specifically-for-kids

A balanced approach would have taken that paragraph that said police departments think it’s a good idea for kids to be trained in gun handling and placed it after the Brady Center statement that this makes kids too comfortable with guns so as not to seem to contradict the gun range or the police. It is not CNN’s job as a news agency to insert its reporters’ political bias into news stories.

Here’s another one. The pastor says he supports the 2nd amendment, but he’s also for “common sense” control  measures and he preaches to his congregation that God agrees with him. One man’s common sense is another man’s tyranny.

http://www.kctv5.com/story/31271818/god-and-guns-leawood-pastor-takes-on-two-dicey-issues

I’m assuming he’s found those verses in the Bible that support his position. For the record, I read my Bible a lot and I haven’t and neither has my pastor, who has a PhD in New Testament theology. Speaking of my pastor, who I think owns a gun or two, nowhere in the CNN article does it mention that the good pastor is violating the law. Assuming his church is a federally-recognized non-profit, he has agreed not to talk about political issues from the pulpit. That gate swings both ways. My pastor can’t speak out against the government from the pulpit and Pastor Hamilton should not be able to carry water for the current administration from the pulpit. Maybe CNN should do another series on how some churches try to dictate the politics of their congregations from the pulpit while others do not.

Here’s another one.

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/12/us/cnn-guns-project/gun-shop-owner.html

The article is entitled “The gun shop owner” and has a photo of one looking a bit skeptical, but the reporter apparently didn’t talk to any gun shop owners. The story is really about a suicide prevention group trying to obligate gun shop owners into playing social worker when they sell guns. Saying “they support gun rights” doesn’t mean anything. If this group supports the right to own a gun that is locked up in an armory where you can’t use it, then they don’t support actual gun rights. And, yeah, the program is targeted to gun shop owners, so interview a couple of them and show us what they think.

The entire series is online. What I noticed was that the positive gun stories were very short segments often “balanced” with much longer segments that were negative of guns and many were followed with commentary that tried to make the positive gun stories seem like a really bad idea.

http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/12/us/cnn-guns-project/

If you’re a liberal who is afraid of guns, you’re not going to see anything wrong with CNN’s coverage of this issue. It’s just one issue. I could have targeted two dozen. If you’re a conservative who grew up around guns and carries concealed, you will very much see a problem with CNN’s coverage on this issue.

And that’s what I mean by liberal bias at CNN. Yes, there are conservative sites that are equally biased on the subject of guns. Their bias is pro-gun and many CNN viewers will insist they are inaccurate in their view of the facts. But here’s the thing — if you live around guns and are not afraid of them, you can judge for yourself what it true about a subject you have personal experience with.

News Bias #1   3 comments

This is a series. Check out the links at the bottom

I stated in a Blog Hop recently that CNN has a clear liberal bias. I was promptly confronted by a fellow blogger who disagrees.

That’s fine. As I told her, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However … it might be worth a survey to see what I mean. While I’m at it, I’m going to probably survey Fox too, just to be fair and balanced.

To be clear, I don’t have cable television. What I know of CNN broadcast these days is what I catch at friends’ houses. I read it online and, if I have time, I watch the video clips. I think it might be easier to see the bias when you’re reading it. But it’s somewhat plain in the broadcast version too. We still had cable during the 2008 Presidential election and we cared because the governor of Alaska was a Vice Presidential nominee. At the start of the election season, I considered CNN to be the balanced choice among the three main cable networks. By election night, I no longer trusted them to give us actual facts.

It’s a fact that how ignorant you are often is a function of where you live. I know Alaska because this is home. So when CNN started reporting things about Sarah Palin, particularly her actions as governor, I was skeptical and did some research. Part of this was prompted by my left-leaning East Coast sister-in-law who would call with “gotcha” items she’d seen on CNN. It might have been beyond the skills of the average office-worker (though I doubt that), but I trained as a journalist and worked as a reporter and the State of Alaska has a lot of information online where CNN reporters could have checked their facts … and clearly did not.

“She slashed the education budget ….” Well, no, the Legislature, drunk on the rising price of oil and commensurate rising revenue, proposed a 30% increase in the state education budget. Alaska’s governor has line-item veto and Palin held the education budget at a modest 3% increase over the year before because, she reasoned that the price of oil was going to go down eventually and Alaska would be in a better position to absorb that drop if our state budget wasn’t bloated. She put the unspent revenue in savings and that is actually what Alaska is using to fund the Parnell-bloated government in these days of low low oil prices.

“She charged victims for rape kits ….” I checked with a friend who worked in the Mat-Su Health Center and then with another friend who works in the local hospital. It is standard operating procedure for hospitals to charge rape kits to the patient’s insurance and then the 20% deductible is picked up by a state fund. Apparently this doesn’t just happen in Alaska. It’s SOP across the country. It may seem uncaring, but those kits cost about $400 and someone has to pay the bill.

“She increased taxes ….” Well, actually, she lowered taxes and fees on ordinary Alaskans while giving the oil tax system a long overdue overhaul that the people of the state had been demanding all through the prior Murkowski administration. As it was, we were still collecting lower taxes on the oil industry that Norway and only slightly above California.

From the start of my investigation until Election night 2008, I investigated 87 separate items of “What the heck are they talking about?” having to do with Alaska. In six instances, the allegation turned out to be almost completely right. That left 81 instances where the facts were discoverable online and CNN got the facts wrong or distorted the facts to make it seem that Palin, and by extension Alaska, was out of control and just plain crazy.

I gave CNN a pass at the time and said that they were unaware of their liberal bias and probably were just filtering the facts through their distorted lens of conservatives. I’ve since admitted they have a decidedly liberal bent that is obvious to anyone who isn’t themselves a liberal.

When I trained as a journalist, I was taught to balance a story and to fight my bias. I didn’t have much bias back then (a test I took in Political Science class said I was a moderate), but I always hit pause and said “Are my facts balanced? Do I use any emotion words that have no place in a news story? Am I being manipulative or just reporting the facts?” Reporting balanced news is not an easy task and it’s become increasingly rare for reporters to do it.

Next post will be a run-down of recent stories that show CNN’s ongoing bias. Yes, it is the view from the libertarian end of the political spectrum, but here’s something for the liberals to understand —

You are not moderates and when you completely agree with a news article or a news network, that is a sign that the network is not balanced and that the reportage you’re viewing is probably not accurate. I recognize that, which is why I read a variety of news sites — even sites that I almost always completely disagree with, like PBS, because I feel capable of filtering what they are saying through my common sense and deciding for myself what seems true and what does not. I’m therefore not bothered by being confronted with contrarian news. If you’re bothered by it, you might want to consider that your presuppositions need to be challenged.

Other articles in this series

News Bias (this article)

CNN’s Liberal Bias

Fox News is Honestly Biased

Trump Media

Posted February 25, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Media, Uncategorized

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