Close Encounters

A Timeline

  • Earth: circa 200000 BCE (Homo sapiens)
  • Moon: 4 January 1959 CE (Luna 1)
  • Venus: 14 December 1962 (Mariner 2)
  • Mercury: 21 September 1974 (Mariner 10)
  • Mars: 15 July 1965 (Mariner 4)
  • Jupiter: 3 December 1973 (Pioneer 10)
  • Saturn: 1 September 1979 (Pioneer 11)
  • 21P/Giacobini–Zinner: 11 September 1985 (ICE/ISEE-3)
  • Uranus: 24 January 1986 (Voyager 2)
  • 1P/Halley (Halley’s Comet): 6 March 1986 (Vega 1)
  • Neptune: 25 August 1989 (Voyager 2)
  • 951 Gaspra: 29 October 1991 (Galileo)
  • 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup: 10 July 1992 (Giotto)
  • 243 Ida: 28 August 1993 (Galileo)
  • C/1996 B2: 1 May 1996 (Ulysses)
  • 253 Mathilde: 27 June 1997 (NEAR Shoemaker)
  • 9969 Braille: 29 July 1999 (Deep Space 1)
  • 2685 Masursky: 23 January 2000 (Cassini)
  • 433 Eros: 14 February 2000 (NEAR Shoemaker)
  • 19P/Borrelly: 22 September 2001 (Deep Space 1)
  • 5535 Annefrank: 2 November 2002 (Stardust)
  • 81P/Wild (Wild 2): 2 January 2004 (Stardust)
  • Titan: 14 January 2005 (Huygens)
  • 9P/Tempel (Tempel 1): 4 July 2005 (Deep Impact)
  • 25143 Itokawa: 19 November 2005 (Hayabusa)
  • 132524 APL: 13 June 2006 (New Horizons)
  • 2867 Šteins: 5 September 2008 (Rosetta)
  • 21 Lutetia: 10 July 2010 (Rosetta)
  • 103P/Hartley (Hartley 2): 4 November 2010 (Deep Impact)
  • 4 Vesta: 16 July 2011 (Dawn)
  • 4179 Toutatis: 13 December 2012 (Chang’e 2)
  • 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko: 6 August 2014 (Rosetta)
  • 1 Ceres: 6 March 2015 (Dawn)
  • Pluto: 14 July 2015 (New Horizons)
  • 1999 JU3/162173 Ryugu: 27 June 2018 (Hayabusa 2)
  • 1999 RQ36/101955 Bennu: December 2018 (OSIRIS-REx)
  • 2014 MU69/486958 Ultima Thule: 1 January 2019 (New Horizons)
  • 1981 EQ5/52246 Donaldjohanson: April 2025 (Lucy)
  • 1973 SO/3548 Eurybates: August 2027 (Lucy)
  • 1999 WB2/15094 Polymele: September 2027 (Lucy)
  • 1997 TS25/11351 Leucus: April 2028 (Lucy)
  • 1999 VQ10/21900 Orus: November 2028 (Lucy)
  • 16 Psyche: 2030 (Psyche)
  • 617 Patroclus/1906 VY+Menoetius: March 2033 (Lucy)

Platform Shoes

The Democrats and the Republicans in this country (and for that matter, the Libertarians, Greens, and Constitution Party) all have their key issues and platforms on which they typically run. And they all suck. I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this assessment.

Here are their official respective platforms for 2012-2016:

What I believe—if I were to form a political party—would include things like this on the “key” issues:

  • Budget and Spending: I’m not quite sure where all the money goes. $3,133,118,000,000 (and climbing) goes in to the government’s coffers, and obviously more than that goes out, or the number on this thing wouldn’t keep going up. I do know that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security make up roughly 50% of the total, but I don’t see how the next biggest outlay (the DoD) really requires spending nearly as much as the entire rest of the world combined. If that’s cut, (along with a few other unnecessary expenditures), we might just be able to salvage a future economy out of the current mess. But I also know that a big chunk of what’s spent is required based on contracts and other agreements of various kinds, and I don’t advise trying to duck out of those, either. Which makes the whole thing a bit trickier.
  • Civil Rights: I don’t see why this needs to be an issue, but it most certainly is. Why are minorities (of all stripes: racial, sexual, religious, etc.) treated differently than the majorities? There’s no reason for it. Marriage should be equal. Atheists and humanists should have chaplains in the military. The racial issues are trickier to solve mostly because they seem intimately tied with economic issues, but they’re just as important.
  • Economy: I’m not entirely sure how to frame this. Budget and Spending covers some of the issue, but because I’m not an economist, I don’t know how one might go about promoting job creation and general economic growth, but it seems rather hit and miss on most policies implemented by both parties. One thing I do know: ignore Arthur Laffler.
  • Education: There’s all this uproar about “Common Core”. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but the public perception is terrible. I don’t think this is nearly the biggest issue, however. Many district policies (at least here—my wife is a teacher so I hear a lot about it) seem designed to keep the “low” kids behind, let the “high” kids lag until they’re “on grade level”, and focus on the barely-behind students. This is one reason I like the “unschooling” model, but I certainly don’t think it should be the only model used. Every tool available should be used to educate our kids. And administrators should be required to teach at least some of the time so as not to get out of touch with what their policies require. One more thing: the number of administrators at any school should probably not exceed the number of teachers (this happens a lot of places, from what I hear).
  • Elections: For those of us with easy access to state ID cards, voter ID laws are more of an annoyance than anything else. In-person voter fraud was almost nil prior to the passage of these laws, and I doubt it has changed significantly. As for funding of elections, while I think the Super PAC idea and Citizens United can cause problems, I don’t know that it’s significantly altered the outcome of elections so far. Time will tell, of course.
  • Energy: Invest in solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima have all taught us lessons, but nuclear is a proven, safe, high-yield option. Allowing breeder reactors in this country would improve supply, too.
  • Environment: Florida’s already almost a lost cause; it’ll be underwater in 100 years. But we can do something! Anthropogenic global warming is a thing, and we need to do our best to reduce it as much as possible. Renewable energy (like above) is a good start. Taking ourselves and China off the fossil fuel burning “train” would eliminate approximately 24% of all CO2 emissions. Other industrial processes certainly need work, but that’s a huge start!
  • Family Values: Great! So long as you’re not discriminating on what constitutes a family…
  • Foreign Relations: Whether some like it or not, we live in a community of nations.
  • Government Accountability: Yes, please!
  • Gun Control: I don’t think total elimination of guns in the hands of private citizens is necessarily the correct course of action, but I question whether people truly need AK-47s with 100-round drum magazines for their personal protection or for hunting. Countries that have eliminated the use of guns by private citizens have likewise nearly eliminated the use of guns on private citizens, which is a point that should not be taken lightly. And firing 30 rounds through a MAK 90 as quickly as one can pull the trigger (at a target) can be quite cathartic.
  • Health Care: Everyone ought to have it, or at the very least access to it, and not be subsequently saddled with crippling debt (even with insurance).
  • Higher Education: This suffers a few of the same problems as “lower” education, but has some unique ones of its own. Any “profit” gained through tuition should be reinvested for better facilities and/or for scholarships. Sports should be, if not a separate endeavor altogether, massively overhauled, granting player compensation commensurate with the revenue generated.
  • Immigration: Our system is so screwed up. I’m all for encouraging legal immigration over the illegal kind, but since the legal version is so f***ed up, I see why it’s done. The waiting list is absurdly long, and those who perhaps should be prioritized (e.g. those who helped the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan or Iraq who, along with their families, are in serious danger of losing their lives because of it) still wait years, even decades, to be processed. No wonder people try to sneak in!
  • Jobs: Yep, people need ’em.
  • Liberty: I’m all for that one, too!
  • National Security: It’s gotten a tad out of hand. DoD spending constitutes 47% of the planet’s defense budget. The TSA isn’t doing anything but putting on an elaborate show, annoying the s*** out of people (and, more often than not, sexually molesting them). Gitmo should be closed. Torture should be halted (yes, waterboarding is torture and no, torture never provided a bit of “actionable intelligence”).
  • Science and Technology: Pay attention to the friggin’ scientists when it comes to scientific issues! Anthropogenic global warming? Survey says: yes! Vaccinations save lives and are not in any way linked to autism? Survey says: correct! GMO crops are entirely safe to eat? Survey says: affirmative! Contraceptives and comprehensive sex education prevent unintended pregnancies? Survey says: absolutely! Etc., etc., etc.

There are issues that none of the major parties seem to make big deals over, however, that still need addressed:

  • Incarceration: End the “War on Drugs”
  • American Territories: Ever think of giving them rights? Or representation? Remember that letter written back in July of 1776, somewhere around the 4th?
  • Capital Punishment: Stop it!
  • Usury: Why is this an issue?
  • Police Militarization: Really? Really?
  • Civil Asset Forfeiture: Not unless the owner is convicted of a crime.
  • Pretty much everything John Oliver has discussed (and probably will discuss) on Last Week Tonight

On top of this, though, I’m fully aware that I’m not an expert on any of this stuff. But if I were a political party, or candidate, I’d look for experts, and (more importantly) listen to them!