Not drinking the "Kool-Aid of Change"

People who know me know I'm very politically outspoken. Surrounded by liberal democrat friends in casual conversation, I am usually the first to lob a comment on the socialist insanity du jour. Nowadays nothing angers up my blood more than the mass-hysteria caused by the presence of our Hawaiian-manger-born Lord and Savior Barack H. Obama – sent to us from the Heavens above as the Agent of Change we most desperately need.

I have not watched the Democratic Convention because the sight of so much delusion concentrated in one single spot is mind-numbing and incredibly painful to watch. It's easy to go into the multiple reasons why I believe an Obama presidency would be a very bad thing for this country. The facts are out there and some of them are absolute and impossible to argue against: lack of experience (trumps all), shady background, lack of good judgment, etc. But this presidency has been turned by democrats into another (round 2) referendum on George W. Bush. Any opposition to Obama (past the standard "You must be a racist") is met with "McCain will be four more years of failing Bush policies." That's all they have.

To counter-point that ridiculous argument, first and foremost, John McCain is known as a "maverick" because of his constant disagreements with the Republican Party. The examples are known by all. He has reached across the isle on immigration and campaign reform issues to the chagrin of most conservatives. He is not a Bush clone. But then again, can we attribute all the ills of the world on "W"? The economy is bad and it's because of Bush, not Greenspan's policies and the lack of scruples by lenders and borrowers alike. Iraq is a mess,… no wait,… it's better now – never mind. Iraq still serves as the "root of all evil" for libs despite things turning dramatically since the surge (which McCain supported and Obama opposed). Oil is at $120 (and fluctuating) a barrel and it's Bush's fault, not a combination of a weak dollar (see economy), speculative trading, and the universal rules of supply and demand (blame Adam Smith). But let's assume that the past congressional elections were a referendum of the GOP and Bush. The Democrats won control of the House and Senate. What have they done with it? How are their approval ratings? Is their failure to accomplish anything Bush's fault too?

So here's one for change. Let's change and adopt a failed socialized healthcare system like the one offered in Canada and England. Let's change to increase taxes for "the rich," a no-fail/sure-fire way to boost an ailing economy. Let's change our "warmongering" policies and try to psychologically understand our self-declared enemies. Let's change our policies on how we view and pursue success – monetary success (or "windfall profits") should be redistributed to the people, this is, after all, the People's Republic of America. And finally, let's change Washington by electing someone's who's overwhelming lack of experience is overshadowed by the inspiring ability to eloquently deliver a speech.

Drink up friends. Change is a-coming. Wear a cup.

Created: 8/28/2008

Global Warming vs. Gravity

When out to dinner with friends the other night, we got to speaking about politics and subsequently about politics’ newly adopted red-headed stepchild Mr. Global Warming. My friend asked me “Do you believe in global warming?” Regardless of whether I “believe” in it or not (the real question should have been “Do you agree with the conclusion that human carbon-emissions are drastically changing the earth’s temperature?”), I said I didn’t – I love argument. Outraged, he produced his car keys, showed them to me, and quickly dropped them to the ground. He then asked “Do you believe in gravity?” That was a classic moment.

Science should be exact. When it isn’t, it shouldn’t pretend to be. When someone asks the ridiculous question “Do you believe in global warming?” what should one answer? It sounds almost like “Do you believe in Jesus?” or “Do you believe in Santa?” Unlike the last two, there’s no room for faith in the first one. It should be what it is – that’s that.

I don’t remember this snowballing amount of misinformation and political bias when we dealt with the hole in the ozone issue back in the eighties. There was an unequivocal and conclusive problem with string data to support it – there was little or no disagreement about it – the gears turned and the production of the biggest contributors (CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons) to the problem was banned globally. Whether there is more to be done in this arena is not the issue. What’s important to note is the swift reaction to indisputable scientific research in this case. Why is it that everybody is not similarly unified in the fight against global warming?

Fact is the earth’s temperature has been changing since before we were around – drastically over millions of years. What can the last 100 years or so of recorded temperatures (the earliest of which’s accuracy is subject to question) tell us conclusively about the future?

I will begin by saying I’m not an environmental scientist. I have used regressive analysis and modeling (a methodology used by scientists) to forecast future statistical behavior often though. It’s amazing to see how minor numeric manipulation, bad data, or unrepresentative samples can drastically alter the projection of future results. Graphs speak volumes, but what you show in a graph can also lead to wrong conclusions. This is statistical analysis 101. Numbers and graphs lie… or can be made to lie.

I present to you Exhibit A. This is a hypothetical graphical display of my recorded body weight during the past six months:

I can draw some very interesting conclusions from this graph. It looks like I’m well on my way to a slimmer body. If I project forward a few months, I predict I will be about 168 lbs by December – awesome. That’s the perfect time to ask for a brand new wardrobe. As a matter of fact, I’m going to start buying clothes right now. My data is accurate and my forecasting is sound. I believe what the most current numbers paint a clear enough picture of what’s to come. There’s no need to wait or debate.

Although my mind is made up, some one has challenged my conclusions (they just don’t want to buy me new clothes – dang cheapos). They have suggested I include more data in my analysis. Having data to spare available, I will make use of a sample that's five times larger that previously used. If anything, I believe this should help validate my sound conclusions.

I present you Exhibit B – a hypothetical graphical display of my recorded weight for the past 30 months:

Hmm. This more complete data set shows me something completely different. It seems like my weight is strongly correlated to the time of the year. I actually can reach a whole new set of conclusions from this data. It seems pretty clear that I should expect my weight to bottom out around the end of summer and then increase during the fall and winter months (my birthday, college football, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all are contributing factors to my weight? No way!). After that season, my weight will drop again, and so it’ll go on – probably on average trending higher year over year if nothing significant changes in my behavior.

Gosh, I’m glad I didn’t decide to perform the first analysis in early December. I would’ve had a miserable holiday season, depriving myself from seasonal treats and cursing into the winds about the upcoming complications of being 200+ lbs in the near future.

I think I made it quite clear with a simplistic one-dimensional example. There is so much dissent amongst scientists because a very dangerous conclusion has been reached with questionable data (not necessarily all the data, but definitely the sample size). There’s also the whole cause and effect issue – is this climate change based solely on human-generated carbon-emissions or are there other factors at play (such as the sun getting warmer). So not only do we all have to agree that there is indeed a sustainable global warming trend, but also that we are the causes behind it. Ultimately if we can’t conclusively prove both, then what is our “moral obligation” to drastically change our lifestyles?

We all want cleaner air. We all want cleaner water. We all want more fuel efficient vehicles. We all want less dependency on foreign oil. None of these things needs to be political. The markets are reacting to these consumer demands. Let our free economic engine fuel the change. Social responsibility is an important piece for this movement. Alarmism and scare tactics urging more government control of our lives will only lead to more political divisiveness.

Created: 6/1/2007
Last Edited: 6/1/2007

Treading Dangerous Waters

By having a whole politics section, I know I’m putting myself out there. They say it’s not proper to bring up politics in polite conversation. I think it’s not healthy to ignore politics since politicians continue to acquire control of our lives. We need to understand politics and the reasons behind the politicians’ actions to fully comprehend what’s at stake.

Politics is a very polarizing subject in America. Events such as the attacks on 9/11/2001 should’ve brought this nation closer together, yet its fallout has pulled us further apart. There are left-wingers, there are right-wingers, and then there are the majority of the American people, wandering from left to right to center on different issues. Some apathetic, some torn, many ignorant, these are the voters that decide elections. The hard right and the hard left will walk party lines begrudgingly opting for the better of two evils if they don’t support their own party’s candidate.

This is a country desperate for a true moderate – someone almost completely divorced from either party that can gain traction with the ever-growing middle. Unfortunately the past has taught the country some sobering lessons. Conservatives say Perot cost Bush I his reelection, taking enough middle-right votes to tilt the scale in favor of Clinton. Liberals will say that Nader cost Gore the election, taking some far-left votes and giving the election to Bush II (and yes, Bush II won, get over it). These instances almost force voters to align themselves with a party whether you agree with their agendas or not. Therefore that makes me a Republican. In a perfect system where voters could without danger of consequence vote their true heart’s choice, I’d be in favor of a social libertarian with a strong fiscally conservative agenda, hell-bent on the reduction of government and its involvement in people’s lives. I can dream, can’t I?

Created: 6/1/2007