I’ve managed to catch most of the episodes of this new offering from SciFi so far. I’ve found it quite the most enjoyable bit of television viewing that I’ve stumbled across in a long time. It’s also one of the few shows that I feel comfortable letting the kids watch with me.

I liked the approach of the show introduced in the pilot, and they’ve stuck with it in the episodes I’ve watched. The lead character (Jack Carter, played by Colin Ferguson) is an average Joe who is presented with unbelievable events that he has to make sense of as the episode progresses. You see this never normal town of Eureka, inhabited by geniuses and inventors, through his eyes, allowing you to make the journey from disbelief to understanding with him. Colin Ferguson’s delivery as the straight man in a comedy sketch seems to work perfectly as his character attempts to make sense of the apparently chaotic mess that Eureka is always threatening to become.

Mixed in with the usual SciFi fare is the occasional tidbit of hard science and philosophy. I recommend it. In fact, I mention my interest in the show now, because SciFi will be re-airing the episodes that they’ve shown to date, next Wednesday starting at 4:00 pm. Just in case you want to catch up on the ones you’ve missed.

Additional: SciFi has been airing the episodes out of order. Check the episode numbers for the correct watching sequence. You’d think they’d learn from the mistakes of other networks (Fox and Firefly springs immediately to mind) but perhaps not.

Wrestling isn’t SciFi

All my life, I have had nothing but contempt for professional wrestling and the fans who watch it. Unlike the other pro sports, which have some semblance of realism and rules and are based on amatuer sports that have existed down through the ages, professional wrestling is a complete farce of a sport that takes nothing from the real sport of wrestling, and simply grandstands on the outrageousness of the actors who make thier living engaging in it.

From the implausibilty of appearing to crush someones windpipe, and not killing them, to the appearance of bashing your opponents with objects from outside the ring (a behavior that doesn’t disqualify the atheletes from continuing the exhibition) I find the entire realm of professional wrestling to be unbelievable. A surprising admission for a SciFi fan?

There is nothing scientific about professional wrestling. There is nothing futuristic about it. If anything there is more backwater ‘middle of last century’ stupidity involved in the sport than anything that might qualify it as ‘forward looking’.

So why is professional wrestling on the SciFi channel? Because SciFi was bought out by USA networks several years ago, and USA networks is convinced that everyone loves wrestling. I beg to differ. The only Star Trek series ever to be canceled, Enterprise, was scheduled with wrestling following it. Not only did the geniuses over at UPN schedule these two mismatched genres together, they actively promoted wrestling during the airing of Enterprise. If the show hadn’t have been so poorly conceived in the first place, the intellectually insulting ads for wrestling would have been sure to drive off most viewers.

…As the ads for ECW wrestling, and it’s adjacent scheduling on SciFi with Eureka is probably hurting viewership of that show. Which is too bad. I hate to see a good program like Eureka damaged by programming geniuses at USA who just don’t get it. Don’t get that Science Fiction is an intellectual pursuit (or should be) while Professional Wrestling is anti-intellectual.

UPN’s fascination with teenage boys and their boob babes spelled the end of Enterprise. Here’s hoping that SciFi has some better brains behind it.

And Then There Were Eight

After the last Blog entry on the subject of planets, I got quite a bit of feedback on my opinion; most of it negative. How to define what a planet was, based on conformance to the ecliptic plane, or on any determination other than ’roundness’ turned out to be more problematic than I at first thought. I finally came to the conclusion that what was needed was a distinction between belt objects that were round (I suggested the name ‘planetoid’ several times) and planets, rather than the other way around.

This is a lot like trying to define the word table, and coming up with a definition that fits what most people think of when they hear the word ‘table’. When I think planet, I can see virtually airless Mercury with no satellites on one end of the scale, and Jupiter the gas giant with it’s many moons on the other end. But what do they all have in common other than roundness? Gravitational dominance of their region of space, that is the other property that makes them planets. It’s what originally disqualified Ceres and her sisters in the asteroid belt. It’s why Pluto isn’t a planet way out in the Kuiper belt. The objects trapped in the Lagrange points defined by the planets just confirms this.

Imagine my surprise when I heard the news from the IAU. Pluto is no longer a planet, and the qualification for the IAU to consider a round stellar object a planet is that it must have “cleared it’s neighborhood”. I don’t care much for the wording used, but it seems to communicate the intent reasonably well. I’m on the winning side, for once.

Which makes me uneasy. I generally adhere to the observation “If you find yourself holding a majority opinion, check your assumptions”. Majorities are very rarely right, contrary to popular opinion. I was a little mollified when I discovered that the voting was limited to 424 out of a possible 10,000 members, so the majority that carried the vote is anything but. Still, it’s no different than the average city council race where more than half the population doesn’t even know it’s election day, much less bothers to vote. They still call it a win, why shouldn’t I?

Does any of this have any effect on the newly dubbed dwarf planet Pluto? No, it’s still spinning out in space, with it’s (at last count) three satellites. You wouldn’t think so to hear some of the arguments coming from the dissenters to the decision. Words like ‘farce‘. Why shouldn’t a professional community be allowed to determine the definitions for the words that they will use within their profession? Definitions in common use will remain calmly oblivious to whatever the ultimate outcome of the current astronomical dust-up is. The same majority usage that assigns definitions to words like ‘table’ will dominate the literary landscape, no matter what those of higher learning would prefer in the end.

Here’s hoping that some future child peering out a porthole in his parents’ family owned business/home (which also happens to be a spacecraft) will learn the correct usage of the word from a more knowledgeable parent.

“Hey, dad! Is that the planet Ceres?”

“Sorry son, Ceres isn’t really a planet. That’s why we have to dodge all these other rocks out here…”

Non-Libertarian Politics

Been going back and forth with a self-identified libertarian ever since posting this entry to the blog. Going back and forth enough that I think I could write a novel on the subject of misguided libertarianism alone.

If you want to follow the thread, go here:

I just can’t wrap my head around why, as a libertarian, you would want to claim kinship to proposals that have failed so miserably. And yet, this particular libertarian does so, repeatedly.

So, I’ll run through the argument again, see if I can make a dent.

None of the proposals were made by ‘Libertarians’. All of them were proposed by average politicians, most of whom had an agenda at odds with the notions of ‘freedom’. Ergo, libertarian only in name, and that name applied by a man intent on weilding a hatchet.

In order for the proposals that are being referred to as ‘libertarian’, to actually be libertarian, they would have had to produce some net gain of liberty and freedom.

Let’s look at the failed programs in question. Assess the amount of libertarian thought that goes into them.

Gov’t retained control of Bush’s ‘privatized’ social security accounts. So you could ‘invest’ a part of your portion of the Ponzi scheme however you wanted, but you still had to go through the same bureaucrats to gain access to it, and I dare say that your benefits would not have been changed just because your portion of the fund did better than the next guys.

Calling it ‘privatization’ was a complete misnomer anyway. No control of current payroll deductions was offered in the plan. The proposal amounted to no more than a gov’t controlled 401K plan. All funds for these 401K’s would come from additional voluntary deductions from the employee’s paycheck (check the facts) additional funds that would go into gov’t coffers, be subjected to bureaucratic control at outlay, and yeild not one iota of freedom or liberty over the long haul.

That isn’t privatizing social security; it’s a meaningless little shell game with no net benefit to the individual. What would have been most likely to occur was the further takeover of the stock markets, inflating already overpriced stocks, yielding a net windfall in taxes for the gov’t to fund further adventures in empire building by the sitting president.

Other than the label, no obvious libertarian content.

Reagan used the bubble created by the Savings and Loan shell game to pay for his increased military budget, and to stave off the recession that eventually did occur during Bush the first. None of his talk about reducing gov’t ever amounted to action. Gov’t increased in size during his term in office, just as it has for every other president in the modern era. No net gain for the individual, no real libertarian content, in spite of the fact that the administration at that time gave credit to CATO’s plan to deregulate Savings and Loans.

But what about voucher systems. Surely vouchers and their defeat is a blow to the libertarian cause? The problem here is, the record doesn’t actually show that vouchers have been defeated in all cases. While the privatization of schools (complete laugh there. Tax funded schooling, even when those funds are handed to the parents of students, isn’t privatization) was fought at the local and state political level; the teachers unions and other groups that rely on gov’t school money are national organizations, with vast resources at their disposal. The wonder is that even with the brute force of the NEA opposed to every change in the gov’t school system, the public school facade has crumbled a bit in the last 10 years. There are charter schools that are excused from most of the controls applied to gov’t schools, and in some places real voucher systems working. There are more and more private school options, and home schooling is in vogue.

Some of the voucher programs deserved to go down to defeat. The structure of these systems contained no benefit to the average person in terms of liberty and freedom, either because of restrictions placed upon use of the tax money, or because of the use of tax money in and of itself. I spoke to several owners of private schools in past years about this subject. Most of them would not have taken vouchers even if they had been offered. The cost of taking them would have far exceeded the benefit of access to a larger student body.

A similar fate lay in wait for medical savings accounts. The insurance lobby dealt with the threat to their profits quite handily. They did this by making themselves the arbiters of what is or isn’t a tax deductible medical savings account, and structuring those programs that offer them in such a way that there is no cost benefit to the individual to participate in one. Hardly a libertarian defeat.

But surely foreign policy is…? Don’t even get me started on that subject. I’ve had a message from a friend concerning this issue sitting in my inbox for over a year now. I’m still working up the rant on the subject. I think it will be a novel when I’m done. Calling the gov’ts continued infatuation with armies and things that go ‘boom’ a failure of libertarianism is about the lamest excuse for journalism I’ve seen in a long time. Libertarians are far from being “of one mind” on the subject; we are neither isolationist nor pacifist. To make these assumptions is to purposefully mislead the reader into thinking libertarians cannot cope with the challenges facing us today.

The conquest of the Middle East that Bush has embarked on has only just begun. How that’s going to turn out is anyone’s guess. Libertarians were warning people for years that something like 9/11 was bound to occur if we kept meddling in the affairs of other countries. Now that it has occurred, we have every right to eliminate the threat to us. I don’t know when (or if) the gov’t will ever get around to that.

The big picture, like the forest lost in the trees, looks very different from the portrait being offered. Some idiot with a hatchet and penchant for word play writes a book and an article and talks about how libertarian politics has failed; don’t just shrug and go along with it.

It was nearly a hundred years from Marx and his manifesto to popular support for socialism; and that being based on the juxtaposition of altruist principles in agreement with socialist principles. Objectivism and Libertarianism emerged, what, 50 years ago? Throwing in the towel already, are we? I’m not willing to call the game ‘over’. It continues as long as I draw breath.

If your response to all this is still “Uh huh, what you’re saying is: it is not libertarian enough for you to call it libertarian.” Then I’d like to suggest the following; “put your paper hat back on and stop bothering the customers”. Leave the thinking to those of us more suited to the task.

Civics 101

When I heard the story of the Flag Burning Teacher my first thought was, every lesson on free speech should start that way. Maybe it would finally get the point across, what “…no law abridging the freedom of speech” really means.

Why gov’t school and private school attempts to limit the freedom of speech of their students, even at home, by banning any participation on social sites like Myspace, should be rabidly opposed for the abuse of power that it is.

To really drive the point home, perhaps the lesson should include some book burnings as well. The Bible and the Qur’an, for instance. Perhaps a well known work of Einstein. Let’s show what stupidity it is to think it proves anything by burning something. The stupidity of the wasted effort to ban the burning of symbols as well.

These same people who get so outraged about flag burning have most likely attended a church that has engaged in book burning at some time or other. Personally, I find much more to be outraged at when it comes to the willful destruction of thought and knowledge, than I do when the subject of destruction is nothing more than a flag.

The Roasting Of Bill Shatner

While the trivia on the Comedy Central site was fun…

When it comes to the roast itself, I have to say, I think I’ve been out of circulation too long. I remember roasts back when they were on ‘regular’ television. I don’t remember the raunch level being that high. Actually, it couldn’t have been. The censors would never have let it on the air. Why they bothered to bleep out the little they did is a wonder to me.

Editing for content is generally a mystery to me anyway. If I tune in to watch The Terminator, I’m expecting to watch The Terminator, not some whitewashed film in which the killing machine doesn’t unload a full clip into his victims just to make sure they are dead. A film in which the (low) classic line “Fuck you, Asshole!” gets bleeped or changed. What’s the point in watching a film that has been modified like that? If you’re a bible thumper who gets upset at that kind of language and graphic violence, I daresay that a nicer version of the killing machine is not going to win you over. Why would they even tune in at all, other than to make sure the rest of us aren’t watching the filth that they object to?

Editing for content pretty much sums up why I don’t watch films on ‘regular’ television in the first place. Time was, I could watch movies and shows on cable channels and see them unedited; well, at least unedited except for the asinine pan and scan process, that is. But at least the content wasn’t modified to suit the squeamish. Highlander chops off heads, Terminator uses full clips, the horror films are in full gore mode, and people talk like average people rather than the cardboard cutouts in Mayberry. Apparently, this is no longer the case.

So I’m sitting there last night, watching without a doubt the raunchiest roast I’ve ever seen, and they’re bleeping the fucks and shits and whatever. Betty White can tell a joke about a cock ring (Not her best bit. When I watched the show through a second time I would have sworn that she was consciously imitating Don Rickles and Phyllis Diller, or Perhaps Ruth Buzzi, at different points in her routine, as sort of a salute to the old Dean Martin Roasts. Pretty funny) but she can’t say the word ‘cock’, you have to bleep it? On Comedy Central, a cable channel I have to pay for, part of a service I requested? After midnight, no less? I don’t get it.

I hate to break it to you people, I’m a pretty good lip reader these days. Partial deafness forces that on you (a condition Bill and I share) I saw her say the word. If I wanted to get offended, the joke itself would have been offensive, hearing the word would have made no difference. As it is, the fact that the content was edited at all is offensive to me.

Here’s the point I’m getting at. If something offends me, I don’t turn it on. I generally don’t watch Comedy Central because the raunch level is too high. Nothing at all to do with the amount of ‘cursing’ that goes on, and everything to do with the continuous blatant sexual references. I have a pre-teen in the house, he doesn’t need that kind of exposure, so I don’t watch it (the daughter stumbled in on The Succubus episode of South Park when she was about the son’s age now. She had nightmares about it afterwards. I’ve just steered clear of the channel since) I also don’t watch many of my favorite films with the kids in the room, and for much the same reason.

[The children generally don’t want to watch what I watch anyway (Discovery Channels, mostly) They want to watch Cartoon Network, which I have to turn off after Adult Swim starts. Something else I don’t get. A network that caters to children, that has pretty graphic adult content after 10 pm. Futurama is great. Family Guy, I just don’t get. It just gets lamer from that point on, until you hit the Anime at two in the morning. What’s with that? Why all on the same channel?]

I tuned in to Comedy Central after putting the kids to bed, because I suspected what I was going to be watching would be off the charts on the raunch scale. It was. I don’t even know if the wife will be able to sit through it. I don’t know why I bothered. The lame-ass ‘bleeping’ every few minutes in the middle of jokes that wouldn’t make the uncensored list in the first place just ruins the whole effect. What a waste.

Periodically, when watching network television, I catch the occasional promo for “the Network Premiere of (insert sex and gore fest film name here)” and I turn to the wife and say, “How are they going to make that film conform to network censor standards?” I never find out, because I either have the film on disk, or I can rent it. When it comes to Comedy Central’s offerings, I’ll probably never see the uncensored versions. I paid for it once already, and they shafted me on content. Why would I bother to pay for it again?

Mandatory Voting

Given a choice, I go to the polls. Not because there is a social contract, and not because “voting fixes everything”; but because it should be in my best interest to participate in the political process.

Like everything else in the world these days, there are some people who seem to think that we shouldn’t be given that choice. Stumbled across a three year old article from Nixon associate John Dean concerning the appalling voter turn out at recent elections. The obvious solution to a Nixonite is (Nixon being known for his fondness of price controls and other top down gov’t interference) mandatory voting. Well, we are talking about John Dean, and it was three years ago. What about today?

Doing a bit of sniffing around, I turned up another more recent article from Norman J. Ornstein. He’s concerned about the polarization in congress. In his opinion, the cause of this is low voter turnout. His solution? Mandatory voting.

Personally, I think that congress isn’t polarized enough. They still seem to pass way too many laws in any given term; laws that, in most cases, are probably beyond the authority of the US Congress. In any case, I very seriously doubt that mandatory voting will affect the makeup of congress. Opinion polling being what it is, it seems to me that even if you forced everyone to vote, blue states would remain blue, and red states would remain red. Could be wrong, but let’s not go there anyway.

Ornstein bemoans the defeat of ‘centrist’ Joe Lieberman in the most recent primaries in Massachusetts by Ned Lamont, “a darling of the left”; with an anemic primary turnout of 46%. Shocking, isn’t it? That the Democrat party would nominate a left/liberal candidate rather than a centrist? Here’s a thought; why is the public expected to fund and participate in party primaries at all? Where is it written that there are only two parties, and participation in their nomination process should be mandatory for the public?

I think it’s great that the Democrats should nominate candidates that agree with their platform. That was my major complaint against John Kerry; he wasn’t a Democrat. If having to choose between the lessor of two evils is distasteful to Mr. Ornstein, perhaps the solution is to open up the political process, not attempt to control it more with mandatory voting.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this suggestion. It seems to roll out with nearly every election cycle; pundits bemoaning the lack of interest in the general population for the political process. As usual, most of the pundits simply have it backwards. People aren’t interested because there aren’t any real choices to be made. The average citizen knows that no matter what the candidates say in order to get elected, their votes in congress are bought and sold by the backers who get them there.

Why bother voting, when the real decisions are made by others? My answer is to vote in protest. Cast a ballot for any candidate that isn’t an incumbent. Vote no on all bond proposals. Let them know we aren’t happy with the way things are going. Vote third party (Go LP!) if it’s available to you.

But now, turn it around. Voting is mandatory. What’s a self-respecting protest voter to do in that instance? Don’t vote. Imagine the headache that would cause. They’d have to hire every other citizen as a cop just to have enough people to enforce the law. Or, if you wish to avoid a costly legal penalty, cast a blank ballot. Nobody wins the election, does that mean the gov’t has to close up shop? What a nice dream that is.

It’s mandatory to vote in Australia, and many other places. In Australia, they have actually attempted to enforce the law, which has given rise to the “donkey vote”; pinning the tail on the donkey, pulling the lever for whoever because you are required to. The gov’t estimates that this is a rather low percentage of the population (1 or 2 percent) but I’d be willing to bet that half the people who show up to vote simply pull the lever next to the name they recognize. Voila, instant incumbent re-election, at very low cost.

Which is, I think, the real reason that mandatory voting is even discussed. To artificially prop up the legitimacy of the sitting gov’t, and to insure that it continues to sit for as long as it wishes. After all, if they aren’t seen as legitimate, what’s to stop them from going the way of the USSR?

…And if the population is really that apathetic, who’s to say they shouldn’t?

This is another one of those subjects that look different when thinking clearly; when your thinking isn’t muddied with the duplicity of trying to arrange a society without force when there is force being applied around us all the time by the very constraints of physical existence as a living creature.

Try not eating, not breathing, not sleeping if you think you aren’t forced to engage in these behaviors. Let me know how that works out.

Voting should be mandatory with a minimal fine for failing to vote. The funds can go into a coffer that is dedicated towards elections and campaigning. We need to stop this delusion that you can abstain from society while living in it. If you want to live like Robinson Caruso, I suggest you find an an island and get to it. The rest of us like the benefits of society. Things like computers, automobiles and smartphones. Things that take a society to build.

Primaries should be partiless. All candidates running for an office go on a single ballot, and the top two vote getters then go on to the general election regardless of party. Faction is the problem here and removing the factions from the process is the cure.

I’m compiling notes for the Politics 101 that I’ve been threatening to write for quite some time now. It’s starting to take shape, finally.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Sort of a follow on to The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions. (and, apparently, I’m still trying to teach people to think) If, in fact, your actions amount to more than (feel) good intent, there’s bound to be some whiner out there who isn’t happy about it. Rest assured, they’ll do everything they can to make sure that you never try that again.

So, today I get a private message from the Austin_Browncoats moderator about my negative wit, as currently displayed on her list, and a reference to a total buffoon that picked a fight with me a year ago on the list because I dared to suggest that Firefly was dead.

It is dead. The show was cancelled. It might be revived, but it won’t be the same show. Star Trek never came back from it’s cancellation. Oh, they made movies, and they made spin off series, but the Original Series (TOS, for the Trekkers out there) remains as the same 79 episodes. It effectively died when NBC pulled the plug in 1969. For the fans it ‘lives on’, but considering what they’ve done to the Star Trek universe of late, it looks more undead than alive. Perhaps 14 episodes and a movie, coda (fade out) would be a kinder fate for Firefly than the fate that befell Star Trek.

Back to the buffoon. She ranted and raved for a few days, then packed up and left the list in a huff because “she had better things to do elsewhere”. Fine by me. Hadn’t heard anything of significance from her before the meltdown, didn’t see that it was much of a loss. I made my apologies to the list, and went on.

Only to have it thrown back in my face today. Well, that’s just fine and dandy. Yes, I tend to speak my mind, and I don’t generally give much thought to the impact this might have. I try to be concise and to the point, colorful yet clear, but I don’t really care if it ruffles feathers. It’s the way I talk (when I say anything at all) and it’s the way I write. Honesty is the best policy, and I follow that policy to the letter.

Like the latest dust up. Someone who probably should know better forwards that old Cough CPR post to the list. Now, most lists (including mine) have notices about forwarding this type of junk to the list. It generally amounts to “don’t”. Being aware that this is a bogus bit of netlore that could be potentially fatal, I immediately zipped off a rebuttal. Very shortly afterward, I get a response from the original author defending her post as being sent with “the best of intentions” along with some companion sympathy shoulder rubbing posts from another member.

So here’s another tempest in a teapot starting to boil. And who’s fault is it? Mine!

Yepper. How dare I speak in such a condescending fashion. Well, excuse me for trying to keep people from killing themselves with CPR tips that won’t work as advertised, and hurting someone else’s feelings in the process. I should remember the good intentions the post was sent with and not worry about those people who might actually kill themselves with the advice contained in the post.

However, the tempest never gets to a full boil. Why? Not because the moderator put a lid on it, deleting posts on the subject (Attn: Ms. moderator. Firefly fans should have more balls than to go whining to the authorities when the other kids in the sandbox don’t play nice. It just seems a bit counter to the whole “livin’ on the raggedy edge” kind of mindset) no, it never came to a boil because I resisted saying the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The last post in the thread shows up, tearing at the hair and bewailing my lack of common decency for daring to take this poor woman to task for something she posted with the best of intentions…

…and I let it slide.

So, in the For What It’s Worth department I have this response:

No. Good intentions are not required as a prerequisite for doing good. Knowing the difference between the good and the bad is. Good intentions that yield bad results might as well be bad intentions. Common decency compelled me to set the record straight in the first place. Otherwise I’d have been more than happy to let the boat float along undisturbed, just like the rest of the sheep who can watch someone being mugged in an alleyway and do nothing about it.

You can feel good about the fact that my good deed has not gone unpunished.

The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics

Read a rather amusing hatchet job the other day “The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics”. The poster who forwarded it didn’t include a source for the article. I am always suspicious of articles that are posted without source reference, It makes fact-checking that much harder. So I decided to take the time to look up the source for this one.

As for the content of the article, the author takes many liberties with the label “Libertarian”. Most of them erroneous. While his examples are indeed libertarian positions (ending Social Security was one of them) the people who are promoting them are far from libertarian in belief. Most of them tout the ideas a conservative, and the politicians promoting these ideas would never admit to having any libertarian leanings.

In browsing the write up on his book, It looks as if Ronald Reagan is one of his heroes. Reagan too promoted libertarian ideas cloaked as conservative ones. One of them was the the foundation of the Savings and Loan debacle. Just like his current peer in office, Reagan’s attempt at ‘free market’ corrections to the Savings and Loan mess were only free market in name, and left the industry wide open for the type of theft that eventually brought Savings and Loans to an end.

So too the ‘privatization’ of Social Security proposed by ‘W’ wasn’t privatization at all; and the voucher systems intended to correct the failing public schools were not rejected by the citizenry but were in fact shot down by teacher’s unions nearly everywhere they were proposed. Some limited voucher systems have taken hold. Find the info here.

The foundation that the author is part of also leaves me cold. New America? What’s wrong with the old one? How about we just discover Real America, and leave it at that, eh? Like the New Deal, I don’t think there’s very much American over at New America. Maybe it’s just me.

As it is, the Libertarian Party is still alive and kicking (albeit hampered by a core constituency that seems to think not voting is some form of effective protest movement) Mark Twain’s quote sprang immediately to mind when I read the article title.

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”

What has come stumbling to it’s ineffectual end is the illusion that we have two parties in the US today. Anyone who has been paying attention should have a hard time determining the difference between Liberal and Conservative right now; trying to separate the Socialists who are only looking out for our best interests, from the Fascists who are only doing what’s right for the rest of us. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

You know, once you pull your head out of your big, fat ass the world tends to look completely different. What amuses me about posts like this these days is how convinced I was that everybody else was clueless and I was the only one thinking clearly. Now I’m just happy to still be thinking, muddled as it all seems to be. Saner but sadder, from a philosophical standpoint. 
Once again, I cite the Big Bowl of Crow I ate awhile back. Still trying to digest some of that. 

So, How Many Planets are There, Anyway?

I started this entry several months ago, when the latest planet-sized object beyond Pluto’s orbit was located. At that time the astronomers were hemming and hawing over whether they were going to call it a planet; but since they called Pluto a planet, they pretty much had to call this discovery a planet as well. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. It appears that event has now taken place.

‘The other shoe’ is the IAU definition of ‘planet’. They recently formed a committee to come up with a definition that could be applied to all solar systems, and now they are floating that definition amongst their peers, looking for acceptance.

This new definition would yield 12 planets for this solar system, based on current knowledge. Some astronomers think this number could go as high as 24.

Personally, I think the astronomers are missing a key point in defining what is or isn’t a planet. Anyone who looks at the orbit of Pluto (or the Plutons, as the new definition refers to them) and contrasts it with the orbits of the ‘classical’ 8 inner planets, can probably get the point I’m trying to make here. Pluto is clearly not of the same nature as the rest of the planets. It’s orbit describes a body that is more akin to a comet than to a planet. The definition of planet should reflect this.

A planet should first and foremost be formed from the original accretion disk of the star that it orbits, or follow the same orbital pathway that the star’s gravity and spin dictates. Anything of planet size that doesn’t conform to this plane should be referred to as a ‘planetoid‘; of planet size, but not truly a planet.

Of course, this kind of level-headed thinking on the subject would yield no new planets for current and future astronomers to hang their names on, so I’m not looking for any of them to notice the argument at all, human nature being what it is.

Call me old fashioned, but I really think these types of defining moments should reflect the need for clarity, not the desire for self-aggrandizement.