Archive | February, 2020

205. How Candidates Really Get Elected

28 Feb

Commentators and reporters often make demands of candidates that only serve purposes such as dramatizing and attracting attention. At the same time, I am generally pleased by the way our traditional press and reporters operate. Some self interest is always present, so it is mostly up to the candidates themselves, to stay out of trouble. There are two types of potentially troublesome demands: urging attacks on fellow candidates, and the other is to provide detailed plans. 

Attacks and competition can lower the likely success of all candidates in a party. Providing a lot of details, sometimes is OK, but every detail can cause rejection by a certain segment of the population. For example, I would suggest that those in favor of Medicare-for-all should say something like this: “our general goals are to provide complete low cost and even zero cost, to all citizens. I (the candidate) will work hard towards this goal. And any such legislation brought to me that has the support of Congress and the people, I will sign into law. Healthcare is so complicated and with so many opposing interests, no one person can make final decisions. I will encourage the appropriate Congressional and citizen committees. And of course,  every plan developed will require OMB estimates of cost. A good immediate plan could simply be improvements to ObamaCare, while more comprehensive new plans are gradually implemented.

Traits for a successful candidate. 

The candidate must be likable. Sounds superficial, but very important for votes. This trait answers my title question: “How candidates really get elected.” This factor probably is most important, but some other traits below could be significant.

The candidate must emphasize key issues for voters, like wages, health care, and jobs.

The candidate must have a substantial history of worthy causes and patriotism.

The candidate should be free of scandals and dishonesty. Sometimes this does not matter much. If folks really like you, then these are less important.

The candidate must look and act “presidential.” This means reasonably good looks, and a mostly serious demeanor with only a few humorous exceptions. Sad to say,  superficial features are very important, particularly to less well educated people.

The candidate must answer questions well and have a pleasant voice.

The candidate must demonstrate that he/she has good judgement. This can be demonstrated by how he/she organizes and runs his/her campaign. All his interactions with people should be appropriate.

            A Good Candidate is Not Necessarily a Good President

The characteristics of a good “candidate” are not necessarily the same as a good president. A really good president would have very good analytic abilities. He would be able to understand and deal with very complicated issues. He should have working experience with this type of thinking.  A candidate could do well, even without this ability.

My assessment of the candidates.

When I study the current list of Democrat candidates for president, it appears to me that every major candidate has a significant flaw. First, I want to say that most are very decent people and all would be a great improvement over Trump. Here are the details.

Age is significant. Three contenders if elected, will reach age 80 in their first term in office. Bernie Sanders is the oldest and also the most radical. He has to lose some votes for these two reasons. In his first primary, I voted for him and I respect him a lot, but he is not as sharp as he was previously. Like POTUS, he has a very dedicated following. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg has some serious political problems, but could be a good president. He should be welcomed and respected because he promises a lot of financial support to whoever emerges. He has a lot of relevant experience and can deal with tough problems. Joe Biden (former vice-president) has a lot of support from black people and unequaled amounts of experience. He is likable in many ways and would make a good president. But he has always made “gaffs” and he tends to be even more inconsistent at his current age. I have personal experience with old age and realize the memory, mental capacity, and strength limitations. Ten years ago, all three could have done well in debating Trump.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is very capable and was my favorite for many years. But I and others were disappointed by her nasty attacks of other Democrat candidates. These attacks could be overlooked, but lately she has not pleased the voters enough. She also developed a health care plan that was very expensive — definitely a victim of too much detail in her plans. Also, she is losing some votes to Sanders.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is highly intelligent, strong, speaks well, and is very young. I think he has the ability to be a great president and could defeat Trump in debates. In my eyes, he has no flaws, but he will lose the redneck votes because of his love preferences. This is a shame because he is a great person.

The other candidates are good people, but so far, at least, have not gotten enough votes. Senator Amy Klobuchar is really outstanding and has the ability to be a great president. Also, she has a good record of electability. Billionaire Tom Steyer has a good recent record of the right values, but so far, not enough votes. I don’t know of any “flaws,” but for one thing, there is a lack of name recognition. There is a small possibility that he could emerge because others have serious flaws. Governor Jay Inslee dropped out, but I viewed him very favorably.

For me, the best choice is not so clear. One problem is that a candidate could do well with Democrat voters, but not so well with the general population (an example is Bernie Sanders). For people like me, it is best to wait and see who is most supported by the voters, before my actual decision.

 

 

204. GMO’s Evoke Unwarranted Fears

25 Feb

GMO-Picture-CornI write blogs, tweets, and other comments on a variety of subjects. Studying the critics of these pieces suggests to me, that many people don’t understand and/or distrust science in general. My position is that the work of scientists provides numerous benefits for all citizens, including better foods, electronics, transportation, health care, pet care, climate-change info, etc. Scientific information and discovery for many is also exciting and interesting and helps us to understand the world around us.

My current scientific topic is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) foods. Genetic modifications involve the manipulation of DNA molecules in the laboratory. The  manipulations lead to relatively permanent changes, including: enhanced plant growth, plants that better survive insect and disease attacks, plants that require less water, and will grow in unhealthy soil, and other improvements.

Given all the potential and existing benefits, GMO foods should be carefully studied and regulated. Certified products will provide extensive nourishment for an ever increasing Earth population. Also, global warming can reduce crop yields due to fires, droughts and other weather anomalies. It is extremely important to have the best plants available as demand increases. It will be of particular benefit to farmers in developing countries that are struggling to survive. Crop plants modified to do well in unusual soil conditions, in somewhat salty water, and in partial droughts, will be of great benefit.

Here are a few facts: Even now, GMO crops are widely used as livestock feed without any adverse reports. If they were poison, surely they would have made our hamburgers toxic, but this has not happened. Note also, that modifying plant DNA by “breeding,” is common and has occurred for ages.  In my previous blog, I discussed seaweed as a potential major food source, and also for its absorption of the greenhouse gas CO2. Genetic improvements of seaweed could be of great benefit.

An advantage of GMO as a way to modify, is that the modifications are known and can be evaluated for safety. Many natural modifications are unknown. Nature, in some cases, does produce toxic plants. There is always a tendency to want natural products, and I am the same way. Yet for many years we have modified plants through breeding, developed medicines that are not natural, and we all eat food that undergoes many “processes.” We need to move forward, in a safe way, with valuable innovations.

Here is a good, easy-to-read source of GMO facts by Kurzgesagt:                                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TmcXYp8xu4

203. Ocean Science Can Save the World

8 Feb

The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the Earth’s water. Ocean researchers say that we know more about our moon than the deep ocean. Recently, there is more concern about oceans as a source of food supply and because of their role in climate-change. As I will describe below, better usage of the oceans can both feed the world and save us from the dangers of global warming.

Johnson and Davis (TED-ED June 2019) and a World Bank Group Report have suggested improvements to ocean farming techniques. Currently, there is an aquaculture, in which many large pens, offshore, are used to hold and grow fish for human consumption. The fish are crowded and stressed. Large concentrated piles of waste result and can lead to disease. Often, breaks in the nets can cause a dangerous release of the penned fish.

It is better to  farm seaweedSeaweed-imageand shellfish. These species have a very low maintenance. The seaweed feed off of sunlight and operators do not need to supply food. The seaweed can be prepared in various ways so as to be more appetizing, can be ground-up and mixed with animal feed, and can also be used as a bio-fuel. Growing seaweed can help with the depletion of fish and can counteract ocean acidification by absorbing CO2.

“Seaweed” is a group of algae that are only found in marine waters (salty sea waters). In terms of  human consumption, it produces algae protein and algae oil similar to soy. It also is a source of valuable omega-3 fatty acids similar to fish oils. There are three different types: red, brown and green.

Growing massive amounts of seaweed can help with global warming.  Seaweed captures CO2, removing it from the atmosphere. A good reference for this  feature is: Tim Flannery, TEDSummit 2019 Can seaweed help curb global warming.”  One problem with this system is that seaweed eventually rots and the carbon is released back into the environment. A solution is to lower the seaweed in the water to a depth where it will best retain the CO2. Scientists are working on various solutions to the release. As research continues, it may be possible to develop seaweed species that are more efficient in using CO2 and in keeping it stored.

There are many publications regarding the depletion of fish in our oceans.  A really good discussion of this is: Jackie Savitz, TEDxMidAtlantic 2013, Save the oceans, feed the worldShe describes how good international regulations can restore depleted species and greatly increase the fish available for increasing populations. 

Angelicque White (TED@NAS, Nov. 2019) writes about microbes in the oceans, that indicate and affect ocean health. When there are major changes such as ocean warming, the microbes are the first affected. 

Ocean microbes are tiny plants and animals that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are at the bottom of the food chain. All animals in the ocean depend ultimately on this basic food source. Microbes absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, so they improve the composition of the atmosphere. 

Climate-change results in warming water, which tends to increase harmful algal blooms. The extra CO2 in the air also leads to ocean acidification, which has many adverse effects on ocean life.  The ecosystem health is generally affected. The changes impact economically important fisheries, like crab and salmon; and also affected are marine mammals like whales, dolphins, seals, and otters. Also important is that warmer waters increase the intensity of hurricanes.

Here are all the climate-change and other ocean problems listed by Angelicque White: harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, eutrophication, melting of the polar ice caps, expansion of oxygen minimum zones, pollution, loss of biodiversity,  and overfishing.

My conclusion and main point here, is that ocean science has the potential to help with many world problems. A responsible government will support research in this area.

202. Deaths and Traffic Lights.

2 Feb

There is an old saying going back decades: A corner only gets a traffic light, when there is a traffic death there. When I think about what is currently happening in our world, this saying comes to mind. In order for certain good things to happen, we need the impetus of a disaster. Many do not address issues, unless they perceive some sort of major risk.  We could say that the enemy of good government is complacency. 

.                        Complacency Leads to Dictatorships

The first application that comes to mind is the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Under past presidents, Republican or Democrat, people were not really alarmed. Of course, there were criticisms and complaints, but generally, most of us went about our business not particularly concerned. After a long period of questionable actions, concern really mounted. In the 2018 elections, Democrats finally became alarmed and massive numbers voted.  In fact the surge also led to an impeachment. Now, we clearly see the need for a “traffic light on the corner.” And, after a little hesitation, I will state that the President’s behavior has been so egregious for years, that even if you think the articles of impeachment are a little weak, they are still justified. I am sure that if the founding fathers were presented with our current facts, they would agree with his removal from office.

For many people, there is a complacency about climate-change. They might even believe the science, but in their narrow world they don’t feel the danger. It’s another variation of the traffic-light dilemma. No traffic light because my life is OK.

The traffic-light principle could also be applied to the errant evolution of the Republican party. It appears that after Trump was nominated, the Party was able to eliminate more responsible and intelligent members, and attract more transactional and financially desperate folks. The Repubs and Dems ignored the dangers and the errant drift was not prevented because there was no dramatic “death,” just a slow almost invisible decline. After the firing of Comey, the problems were more visible and a Special Councel, Mueller, was appointed.

I want to point out that the “traffic-light” effect is very common.  In one of the subdivisions I lived in, a minority faction was elected because the majority of residents, really did not care much. They were only concerned after the minority group did some inappropriate and expensive things for themselves.

I think if you look around the world, you can see how this traffic-light principle has had its effects. In many nations, there is an acceptance of government for a long time, and change (often bloody) only occurs at some breaking point. I think many of the “Arab Spring” nations went through such a transition.  In Russia, the initial effects of Putin’s leadership were beneficial. And so the population just did not get very alarmed about Putin’s gradual transition to autocracy. Hopefully, some day they will be able to put in the “traffic light.”