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Will changes to air traffic control improve US aviation safety?

One of the goals of the FAA’s NextGen “Next Generation” Air Traffic Control System is increased aerospace safety. This is something we should all be able get behind. Isn’t it? The safer they can make flying, the better. Right? Right? Um, maybe. Before jumping to conclusions, let’s take a look at how NextGen addresses enhancing safety.

When most of us think of the dangers of air travel, we are pretty much worrying about not crashing, or being hijacked or abducted by terrorists. Changing air traffic routing has nothing to do with terrorists or other hijackers, but there is no doubt that not crashing is one of my personal priorities when travelling for pleasure or business. What causes airplanes to crash? There are a handful of factors involving equipment failure, human error, and mother nature (e.g. weather, clouds, lighting, birds, pterodactyls).

How can NextGen stop planes from crashing? NextGen only addresses air traffic control, so it has nothing to do with equipment failures, weather, or flying dinosaurs. While the FAA works tirelessly to help protect us from mistakes made by ground crew, as well as pilots that may be poorly trained, overworked, psychologically unstable, or otherwise unqualified, NextGen wont help with any of that either. By changing flight patters, the FAA claims that NextGen will reduce hazards that arise from congested air space, crossing flight paths, and air traffic controller errors. This is important because it will help to stop the scourge of mid-air collisions that are plaguing our skies. Wait. Huh? The scourge of mid-air collisions that are plaguing our skies? What scourge of mid-air collisions that are plaguing our skies?

Aviation Disasters

From the fiery end of the Hindenburg to the attacks of 9/11, there have been disasters throughout the history of aviation. Some will recall Valujet flight 592, which crashed near Miami after a fire erupted in the cargo hold. The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 may never be solved. Air France flight 447 cost the lives of 228 people; the unexplained explosion of TWA flight 800 will long be remembered. The "Bermuda Triangle" seems to have claimed many an airplane. Celebrities including Amelia Erhard to Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Otis Redding, and many others have died in airplanes.

But air traffic controllers (ATC) did not direct the airplanes that struck the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. The one thing we know about MH370 is that it was out of contact with ATC when it disappeared, and it was definitely not in US airspace. Actions by controllers could not have saved any of the airplanes brought down by fire or explosion. The region of the Bermuda Triangle is not controlled by the FAA, and if the planes lost there had been in contact with ATC, their disappearance might not be such a mystery. Celebrities killed in airplane crashes virtually always died in private planes, not commercial flights under ATC guidance.

The history of mid-air collisions in the US

In the middle of the 20th century there were a series of mid-air collisions in the US that prompted the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. This act created the Federal Aviation Agency (later renamed the Federal Aviation Administration) whose primary responsibility was air traffic safety. The FAA has done a great job. According to Wikipedia, since the founding of the FAA in August 1958, there have been just 14 mid-air collisions (exclusive of military aircraft which fall outside the purview of the FAA.) Of course, each of these was a tragedy. But most of them were not commercial flights controlled by ATC.

One incident involved a collision of a commercial flight with a military plane. The two most recent collisions in US airspace involved news helicopters colliding in one case, and a private plane hitting a tour helicopter in the other. None of these would have been avoided if  NextGen had been implemented at the time.

Of the remaining 11 mid-air tragedies, 8 involved private planes striking commercial jets. It has been suggested that NextGen actually increases the hazard of collisions between commercial and private flights (aka “general aviation”.) The reason is that on takeoff and landing, commercial flights are now flying at lower altitudes, closer to the airspace where private planes fly. Whether or not this is true, NextGen does not address general aviation, so there is no reason to believe that it would decrease collisions between private planes, private planes and commercial airliners, or helicopter accidents. Even if NextGen did make it safer for commercial and private aircraft to share the same airspace, there have been no such collisions since 1990 – twenty-six years of safe flying in our skies.

The remaining three mid-air collisions happened in the 1960's, killing a total of 220 people. The first, the “Park Slope Plane Crash” of 1960, was the result of a combination of equipment failure, failed communications, and human error. The 1965 “Carmel Collision” could indeed have been avoided by better air traffic control. Thankfully, in that incident, of 112 people onboard there were only 4 fatalities, due to the efforts of the pilots of the two planes. Lastly, a mid-air collision in 1967 could probably have been avoided through better air traffic control. Would improvements by the FAA have saved these lives? Quite possibly. But keep in mind that these incidents occurred almost 50 years ago.

A virtually perfect record

There are over 31 million commercial flights over the USA each year, yet there have only been three incidents involving collisions of two commercial flights since the FAA was established, and none in almost 50 years. Over 600 million people fly in our skies each year. Of the billions of people that have traveled by air since the founding of the FAA 57 years ago, just 220 of them died in accidents that might be attributed to air traffic control. I don’t want to sound crass to people whose lives were touched by these events, but, statistically speaking, commercial air travel has been almost 100% safe from the kind of crashes that NextGen claims to address.

The FAA proposes that NextGen will improve safety. But how can it? How do you improve on an almost perfect record? There is no scourge of mid-air collisions that needs to be addressed. Travelling by plane is incredibly safe. Even if we include private planes, helicopters, military aircraft, and crashes that didn’t involve air traffic control, it is not dangerous to fly. When considering the number of flights, miles flown, billions of passengers carried, and tons of cargo delivered, air travel is astonishingly safe.

Safety is a red herring

NextGen may well have benefits in terms of efficiency, fuel savings, convenience, time saving, and increases in capacity. It is well worth considering how significant these improvements may be, and the trade-offs for people in the air and on the ground. However, the FAA’s claim that NextGen somehow improves on the near-perfect record of American air traffic control is specious. When debating the merits of NextGen, we should be concerned about not harming the extraordinary safety of air travel we all currently enjoy. Claims of increased safety should be left out of the argument.

As always, I look forward to reading your thoughts.

April 20, 2017, 11:35 AM EDT

Washington, DC (AP) -- At a press conference today, newly appointed Surgeon General, Dr. Bob “Biff” Tannen, reported that an additional 216 workers on the Trans-Mexico Peace Wall have come down with the Zika virus, bringing the total to 892. When asked about the Government’s response to this health crisis, Dr. Tannen replied that he and President Trump had come up with a plan to stop the virus, which he described as “tremendous.” Pressed for details, the Surgeon General would only say that the plan would “win against Shitka [sic]” and that it was “the best plan ever.” He also noted that Mexico would be paying for the Zika eradication program.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, respected expert on the Zika virus and former Director of the CDC, was contacted for his thoughts on the outbreak at his new home in Geneva, Switzerland. When asked about the Trump-Tannen plan for fighting Zika, Dr. Frieden responded, “Call me in four years. Until then I recommend holding your breath.” Frieden, and much of the rest of the CDC staff, emigrated after President Trump defunded the CDC, using their budget to purchase gold letters and “dazzle lighting” for the Washington Monument Renovation project.


The FAA planned, designed, and implemented NextGen (their "Next Generation" air traffic control system) with very little public input or scrutiny. Since the rollout, there has been a huge outcry from people on the ground that have been impacted by the new flight paths. Until recently, the FAA seemed intent on ignoring all complaints and feedback.

As readers of this blog may know, I am fond of thought experiments. They help me get my brain around an issue. The other day I got to wondering about what would have happened if the impacts of NextGen were not the discomfort, annoyance, and potential loss of property values that are currently being reported. What if NextGen were fatal?

What if, for every day that NextGen were in place, some number of people living under the new flight paths died. Random people. Not young or old, or with impaired immune systems. Not people of any particular race, ethnicity or socio-economic status. For no apparent reason, every day, when a plane went over, some number of people would die.

Lets think about what would happen if in every region where NextGen was rolled out, one thousand people per day living under the new flight paths died. I would hope that NextGen would be rolled back instantly. They wouldn’t just stop the rollout. They wouldn’t form committees to study the problem. They would immediately roll back the implementation of the plan. There would be mass migrations of people away from the affected areas – even after the rollback. There would be congressional hearings, firings of engineers and scientists, lawsuits, and massive reparations. Right?

OK. That’s an extreme thought experiment. One thousand people per day is a lot of deaths. What if it were one hundred, or ten, or just one? There are millions of people in the bay area. What if NextGen measurably improved airplane safety and efficiency, but, as a direct result of the changed flight plans, one person on the ground died every day that wouldn’t have died under the prior air traffic system? I imagine that the effect would be the same as with one thousand people killed per day.

Let’s continue. What if it were one person per month? Or one person per year? What if the implementation of NextGen would cause the random death of one person per century? What if there were a one in a million chance that in any given year a person would die? It could be this year, or, it could be a million years from now. At what point would we say that was acceptable “collateral damage” for a new level of aerospace safety and efficiency? After all, even if the one death happened this year, it still probably wouldn’t be you. Right? What number would you choose? Or, is there any number of deaths that would be deemed acceptable? If we knew for certain that the chances were one in a million, or one in a billion, or one in a trillion, would people be willing to live under flight paths? I live quite close to the Hayward fault. We are overdue for a major earthquake. When that happens, some number of people are likely to die. But housing prices in my area have never been higher.

What about the other end of the spectrum? What if airplanes were silent and invisible? What if they were undetectable without radar or other special equipment? Now imagine that some people living under NextGen flight paths complained that they were scared by the idea that there were airplanes above them. What if some people said that they were terrified by the possibility of an engine falling off of a plane, or an invisible airplane suddenly crashing into their house? What if they said that they couldn’t sleep, their health was failing, and they could no long work, just from the thought of airplanes above them?

Would we expect the FAA to accommodate one person complaining that their life was being ruined by the fear of airplanes, even though there was no tangible impact on them? What if ten people were so effected? What if 10% of people under the flight paths were having their lives significantly affected by the knowledge that airplanes were flying over their neighborhood, even though there was no evidence of their passage? Would the FAA, Congress, and the nation declare that these people were just nuts? Would they say that progress should not be impeded by delusions? What if it were 20%? Or 50%? What if 100% of people living under NextGen flight paths indicated that they were being negatively impacted simply because there were airplanes up there somewhere? Is there any number of people complaining of "irrational" fears that would cause a change in NextGen?

To me the most important question is, who gets to make these decisions? The benefits are some amount of predicted increase in safety and efficiency*. The impacts lie somewhere on a scale from millions of deaths to the unfounded fears of one person. But who gets to decide the trade-off?

As it currently stands, Congress empowered the FAA to make the rules, and then directed them to develop a Next Generation air traffic control system with little or no further input. It was the FAA that decided how many decibels is “loud”, and how much of a change in decibels is an “impact.” The FAA themselves then concluded that the NextGen changes did not create an impact. There have been lawsuits against the FAA over NextGen, but they are failing, since there aren't grounds to sue. If you sue the FAA claiming that the noise is impacting you, and the FAA says that the numbers show no impact, then your suit is baseless. Is the fox guarding the hen-house, or does the FAA just not appreciate the true impacts of these changes in certain areas? How much do we trust the FAA to make the right choices, and who gets to decide?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but, I find them inherently interesting. They help me to think about the actual impacts of NextGen and the FAA’s lack of response. I would love to hear your thoughts.

* Note: According to the FAA's Environmental Assessment for Northern California Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex, section 5.7.1, "The Proposed Action would result in a relatively small increase in aircraft fuel burned: 0.40 percent in 2014 and 0.36 percent increase in 2019." This implies that NextGen is less efficient. However, it is not clear from the wording of the section if this refers to total energy use, fuel used by airplanes in while flying within the metroplex, or an increase in fuel purchased in the region for refueling of aircraft.

Airplanes crash into my quiet life

My peace and serenity have been taken from me. Nine years ago I bought a home in a quiet neighborhood of Oakland, California. I then spent over two and half years designing and building my “dream house.” I am very proud of what I created, and I love being here. But, recently, the FAA took the quiet life from me and my neighborhood.

For the past couple of years the FAA has been rolling out “NextGen”, the “Next Generation” air traffic control system. I won’t bother going into the details of NextGen – it is a very complicated set of changes, and is well documented elsewhere. Suffice it to say that NextGen has had noise impacts in every city where there is a major air traffic hub. The City of Phoenix, Arizona, was the first to sue the FAA over NextGen noise. Other citizens and cities have sued or threatened lawsuits. Congress-people are introducing bills to stop the changes and require the FAA to respond to complaints. Groups are organizing all over the country. The reason is that NextGen has changed flight patterns around airports, causing new routing of airplanes, and concentrating air traffic in narrow bands of high noise. Two of those bands go over my home.

The relationship between airports and communities

Since the start of commercial aviation, airports and communities have been involved in a conversation. Depending on where and when an airport was built, it may have been sited well away from the city (e.g. the new Denver International Airport), or, it may have been placed close in to facilitate easy access - the airport in Phoenix is downtown.Many airports are built on the edges of metropolitan areas.

But cities grow and change, and airports grow and change as well. Airports that were once on the edges of town may find themselves engulfed by the cities they serve, surrounded by commercial or residential areas that weren’t there when the planners first chose the site.

During the 90 years since its founding, Oakland airport and the community have been having a conversation about noise and air traffic impacts. Sometimes it has been explicit: When neighborhoods were excessively impacted, the airport met with the communities and attempted to accommodate their needs. The airport has worked to be a good citizen, serving the needs of Oakland and the region.

The invisible conversation

At the same time there has been an invisible “conversation” going on. Businesses that serve or rely on aviation, and other forms of transportation, have located near the airport. Real estate prices in these loud areas are generally low, so operations such as warehouses and storage units, that depend on low real estate costs, find the area around the airport to be attractive.

Some people want to live near the airport. They may work for airlines, aviation support companies, or the airport itself. They choose to accept noise in exchange for proximity. Frequent travelers may also make this choice, and there are hotels that cater to travelers by being as close to the airport as possible. Some people might live near the airport because they don’t mind the noise and choose lower real-estate costs over quiet. Finally, of course, there are far too many people who are forced to live in uncomfortable and unpleasant places due to financial hardship.

Others choose to live away from transit, airports, city centers, and other sources of disturbance. Such choices may mean long, difficult commutes; poor access to restaurants, shopping and entertainment.; they may face high real estate costs and property taxes. Some people are willing to go deeply into debt to purchase homes where there is peace and quiet.

This is not limited to the area around the airport. Any place in the metropolitan area that airplane noise can be heard will experience this kind of natural, organic separation. Residents self-sort by the priority they place on silence vs. other needs. Over years, people vote with their dollars and their feet to be closer to, or farther from, noisy locations. They also vote in elections for representatives that support their needs and desires. City planners establish zoning laws that enforce the decades old patterns created by peoples' choices of buying and selling, building and demolishing. These zoning regulations create the framework of stability that give residents and businesses the confidence to invest in the community.

This is not novel to Oakland. It happens everywhere in America. Through generations of explicit and implicit negotiation, a city falls into a certain shape.

The FAA upsets the apple cart

Then, suddenly, without any notice or conversation, the FAA upended the apple cart - showing no consideration for the delicate balance of quiet and noise worked out over the years. Formerly airplanes flight paths were spread out over a broad area. The NextGen system is now concentrating air traffic in narrow bands. Many of these fly above areas that used to be quiet - the very places where the most noise-sensitive individuals have settled.

As for myself, I have sacrificed proximity to transit, recreation, and city services. I have sacrificed time, effort, and energy. And I have sacrificed money. All because I place a high priority on peace and quiet. I would love to live downtown, with all it has to offer. But I can’t stand the noise! So, I live in Montclair where it is quiet – where it was quiet.

The FAA's mistaken mission

How could this possibly happen? Our communities have had an ongoing relationship with our airports. How can the FAA ignore that? I believe the answer is in their mission statement, which reads:
Our continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.
Period. Therein lies the root of the problem. NextGen achieves this mission. NextGen makes the aerospace system safer and more efficient. Mission accomplished. The problem is that while the FAA has succeeded in their mission, it was the wrong mission.

I propose that the first step in stopping the noise problems created by NextGen is to change the mission statement of the FAA. I believe that the FAA’s mission statement should proudly proclaim:
Our continuing mission is to create and maintain an aerospace system that best serves the people of the United States.
If this had been the mission of the FAA, NextGen would have been designed very differently. The needs, comfort, and safety of people on the ground would have been every bit as important as the safety and efficiency of the system in the air.

The FAA is no doubt reluctant to meet with us, and take our needs into consideration, because NextGen is fulfilling their mission. Changing their mission to reflect the needs of the people will change the whole conversation.

The mission statement that I propose will not be alien to the FAA. Their “Vision Statement” says,
We strive to reach the next level of safety, efficiency, environmental responsibility and global leadership. We are accountable to the American public and our stakeholders.
Somehow that vision of accountability to the American public has been overlooked. The mission overran the vision.

How do we move forward?

We need to remind the FAA that we are their ultimate customers, and we are the arbiters of their success or failure. They should be reminded every day by putting this into their mission statement. The Federal Aviation Administration exists for the benefit of the American people, not for the benefit of abstract notions of safety and efficiency. Change the mission statement and NextGen will naturally change to serve the new mission – one that enhances the lives of all Americans, in the air and on the ground.

Life is dukkha.
The hummingbird does not know this.
Oh to be a hummingbird.

The second amendment to the constitution of the United States states reads,
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Gun rights advocates vigorously support the Second Amendment. They point to writings by the founding fathers to bolster the argument that the amendment was well considered and precisely expressed their intent. These advocates maintain that along with the Constitution itself, the Second Amendment has helped this Democracy survive for over two hundred years. Consistently they use the Second Amendment to the Constitution as proof against regulating gun ownership. 

Meanwhile, those that support gun control suggest that the Second Amendment is flawed. That it is outdated. That the authors did not mean what it said, or were not in agreement about its content and how it was written. Gun control advocates maintain that the founding fathers could not have envisioned the power of modern weaponry – if they had they would not have used such strong and absolute language as, “shall not be infringed.”

As a thought experiment, I like to imagine an alternate reality, or parallel universe, in which the Second Amendment has different text. Let’s call it “Amendment 2A” (i.e. “Amendment 2 Alternate Reality.”)
Weapons, being capable of creating great harm and suffering, Congress shall strictly regulate the manufacture, possession, and use of arms, and shall enact and update laws from time to time to ensure that new weapons may not circumvent the regulations hereby compelled.
I wonder if, in this alternate reality, gun control advocates would support the 2A Amendment with the same kinds of arguments that gun rights groups use to advocate for the 2nd Amendment in our universe. Would people fighting for the rights of gun owners attack Amendment 2A, claiming that their founding fathers couldn’t have foreseen the dangers of the modern world – thieves, rapists, terrorists, and drug-lords. Would they suggest that Amendment 2A was outdated? That the authors hadn’t meant it to be so strongly worded? That gun rights should be expanded in spite of the 2A Amendment?

I ask this because there seems to be a strong correlation between conservatism, the belief in the fundamental rights of gun ownership, and originalism (the doctrine of interpreting the Constitution’s meaning as fixed at the time of its enactment.) Conversely, Liberals usually favor gun control and also tend towards loose Constitutional interpretation [except with respect to the first amendment, for which Liberals will fight to the death for the rights of the worst people in the world to say horrible things about them.]

I wonder to what degree these sets of corresponding attitudes are based on underlying beliefs. Is strict versus loose interpretation of the Bill of Rights simply a tool to defend or attack on this specific issue, or, do opinions on constitutional interpretation and gun ownership live within the people on the two sides of these issues, regardless of whether or not the constitution supports their position on guns.

If the Bill of Rights contained Amendment 2A, compelling gun control, instead of the 2nd Amendment that we actually have, would gun control advocates favor originalism and strict constitutional interpretation? Would gun rights groups call for loose interpretation? Or are attitudes towards guns, constitutional interpretation, and liberal vs. conservative values, connected at a deeper level. Would conservatives who favored gun ownership rights fight for strict interpretation of Amendment 2A, in spite of the fact that it would weaken their claims with respect to guns? Would liberals call for loose constitutional interpretation, even if 2A was the tool they used to compel gun control?

I wonder. What are your thoughts?

Punxsutawney Phil says, "There will be 30 more winters before groundhogs become extinct due to global climate change. Then you'll have to predict your own damned weather."

- Cartoon by Andrew Sigal -


I have been watching the Republicans for some months now, and I've learned a lot from them. I am now ready to announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

I will be running as a Republican. Some of you might be asking what qualifications I have to be President, and why am I running on the Republican ticket. Clearly you are not familiar with my record, so let me fill you in.

I spent 16 years as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, during which time I took that organization from a $3 million deficit, to a $14 billion surplus. Using those funds, I personally increased Republican voter registration to unprecedented levels.

I have outstanding executive experience from my time as governors of both Massachusetts and Alabama. My fiscal policies in Massachusetts allowed me to lower taxes in that state to the lowest in the nation, while I tripled job growth in Alabama.

As for foreign policy experience, I was the chief negotiator for the Allies at Versailles. Later, as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, I was instrumental in bringing about his famous 1972 visit to China and meeting with Mao Zedong. I have a proven track record that shows that I know how to manage foreign leaders. In fact, just last year Vladimir Putin tried to kiss me in a bathroom at de Gaulle airport, but I was able to say to him, "No, Vlad. Not here. Not now."

Don’t bother to fact check any of this, I promise you that it is all 100% true. Besides, only a terrorist would question the veracity of a Republican.

[Oh, and I happen to know that Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina are having an affair.]

Thank you. I look forward to your support.



My fellow Americans, my candidacy is rooted in a platform of freedom and liberty. Nothing is more important to Americans than the freedom to have liberty when they are free. I will safeguard your liberty and make sure that freedom freely rings across this great land - a land grounded in the free expression of that liberty. I will liberally use the word "freedom", and freely speak out for freedom and liberty in this land of the free. I will use the freedom that I feel when liberty courses through my veins to inspire free liberty and freedom for all.

Thank you for your support. Stay free.



As your President, first thing, day one, I will make it illegal to give a child a name that is hard to pronounce. I will also direct the office of homeland security to stop letting anyone into the country whose names involve funny letters like that "O" with a slash through it. What is that anyway? My name is made up of good old USA American letters. That "O" with a slash through it, I just don’t know about that. No one whose name contains an "O" with a slash through it, or unnecessary dots on top, will be let into the country until our representatives are able to investigate what that is all about.



As your President I will secure our borders. I will set up a 3000-mile-long row of piñatas across our southern border, since it is well known that no Mexican can pass a piñata without having a party.



Under a Sigal presidency, you can rest assured that I will punch terrorists right in the nose!



When you make me your President, I will bring American jobs back to the US from China using a bold, three-part plan:
  1. I will move all the people from China to the US.
  2. I will give them jobs.
  3. I will mandate that lists of 3 things may include only 2 things.
I will do this on my first day of as your President.

Vote Sigal!



Nothing is more important to Americans than feeling that they are safe. No other President will give you the sense of security that I will. I pledge to you that first thing, day one, I will work tirelessly to improve the perception of security that all Americans hold so dear.



As your President, I promise that first thing, day one, Walmart greeters will no longer be allowed to use the internet.



I am deeply angered by my opponents’ baseless accusations that I am an atheist. According to Wikipedia, Christianity is the #1 most common religion in America, with Protestantism being the #1 form of Christianity. Evangelical Protestantism is the #1 sect of Protestantism, making up more than one quarter of the citizens of this great nation - the greatest nation that God has ever put on earth.

In keeping with my pledge to uphold American values and the American way of life, I say to you today that I have never been more proud to be an Evangelical Protestant.



Andrew Sigal is the only candidate that has been endorsed by both Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow.



I am the only candidate who has the guts to tell our enemies, and our friends, across the globe, that we don't like them. Other candidates are willing use strong language to condemn those that would attack this country. But none among them will come out and say to our allies, "we hate you too." It is easy to stand up to your foes and threaten retaliation for their actions. It takes a really strong leader to go up against our supporters and let them know that they are on thin ice too.



I want to be known as the Education President. I won’t do anything to improve education in this country, I just want to be known as the Education President.



The stature of this nation on the world stage has fallen embarrassingly low. World leaders no longer want to come here to meet with our President. Even religious leaders such as the Pope refuse to visit America.

As President I will be committed to reversing this deplorable situation. To show the world that I mean business, I will direct the office of Homeland Security to deny entrance into the country by any foreign leader who refuses to come here.



I want you all to know that I know you are in pain, and I feel your pain. So, you rub my back and I'll rub yours - if you catch my drift.



All of the candidates from both parties are old. I mean really, really, old. None of them understand the internet and technology the way I do.

As an engineer at Bolt, Baranek and Newman, I invented the internet, the mouse, and the iPhone. I am the only candidate who knows how to send an Evite to ISIS. Ask yourself, would you trust Jeb Bush to get the invite list right? Would Bernie Sanders know how to send out a reminder message? Does Ben Carson know what a computer is?

I don’t want a President that might be tricked into giving the nuclear launch codes to a Nigerian prince. Do you?



On my web site you will find an eleven-point plan for developing a 14-point plan for reducing the deficit. All of the other candidates will tell you that they have a plan for reducing the deficit, but, when pressed for details, they always evade the question. This is because in reality they don't have a comprehensive plan for developing a plan for reducing the deficit.

With my detailed eleven point plan I am ready to hit the ground running, day one, to develop a plan for reducing the deficit.



Never before in our nation’s history have we faced more certain destruction. This country deserves a strong leader to lead it through these dangerous times. I am that leader.

My fellow Americans, as President, I will do whatever it takes to keep our country safe. Nothing is more important than the safety of this, the greatest nation on earth. Not even the first amendment is more important than our safety. Not the third, forth, or fifth amendments. Not even the sixth through 27th amendments to our Constitution are as important as our safety. After all, if we don’t feel safe, how can we enjoy those liberties that we each take for granted every single day.

As your leader I will act strongly, swiftly, and decisively to protect America and its Americans. If those in Congress won’t act with me, I will appoint Congress-people that will. It has never been more important for the Congress to line up behind their Republican leader.

Everyone knows that there is nothing more patriotic than supporting your democratically elected Republican President. As my mother told me, if anyone in Congress or the media doesn’t have something nice to say about their Republican President, then they shouldn’t say anything at all.

Now is the time for all citizens, young and old, tall and short, Christian and Catholic, white and tan, boy and man, to pull together as one. With Congress and the Judiciary solidly supporting a true leader - one that knows that leadership means leading - we will restore the safety and security of our country once more. I am that true leader.



I am the only candidate that really understands the threat that global warming poses to America and our American way of life. As your President, I will face this threat head on. I will direct the Army Corps of Engineers to build a wall across our southern border to stop the hot air from Mexico entering our country. I will also build a wall of fans along our northern border to keep our country cool.

I will do this first thing, day one.

As for the impact of global climate change on other countries? Let 'em buy their own damned fans.



The other candidates for President have shown time and again that they cannot be trusted. They will lie for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Tonight I want to assure you that I will always tell you the truth - except when you don’t want to hear it, or when it would be bad for you, or when it might hurt my chances of being elected.

A Sigal White House will have a policy of 100% transparency about every issue where we feel that you need 100% transparency. With Andrew Sigal as your President, you need never worry about discovering something terrible that you didn’t want to know.

This is my pledge to you.


Vote SIGAL in 2016
Thank you for your support!



I recently stumbled across a blog post discussing the idea that a lot of people think that there are 52 states in the United States of America. Apparently, the purpose of the blog, “The Mandela Effect”, is to consider why it is that different people remember the same event or historical fact differently. The blog’s author has a theory that people may have different memories because they slide back and forth between alternate realities (or something like that.) I think that the author is serious about this idea - but to be honest, I’m not entirely sure.

In the post in question, she wonders if people might think the US has 52 states because they mistakenly believe that Puerto Rico and Washington D. C. are states. She asks “is this simple confusion or a glimpse into alternate geography in another timestream?” [sic] To stimulate the conversation, she provides illuminating anecdotes from a number of readers.

I would have just left this alone, but, after a brief internet search I found that the question of 50 vs. 52 states has come up repeatedly. You can find it on Ask.comYahoo Answers, and even a site entitled “Debunking the Mandala Effect”. Even though I am not a cartographer, sociologist, or psychologist, I couldn’t resist throwing my ring into the hat.

As on The Mandala Effect blog, in the attempts to answer the question, “why do people think that there are 52 states”, one of the most common themes is that some people believe that Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. are states. [FYI – they aren't. At least not yet... in this time-stream. ] I find it highly unlikely that misunderstandings about Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia is the right answer. Here’s why: the intersection between the set of people that believe there are 52 states, those that know that Puerto Rico is related to the USA in some way, and those that know that Washington D. C. isn’t just a city, is vanishingly small. Here is a Venn Diagram to illustrate:

The intersection isn't zero, but it's pretty close.

Granted that my only qualification for answering this question is that I possess a functioning frontal lobe, I believe that this has more to do with two other factors. The first is visual. Here is a fairly ordinary map of the USA – the kind that people run across all the time:

If you have heard that there are 50 states, but you don’t really know much about the geography of the US, you see this big blob cut up into pieces. It is unlikely that you are going to count them. It is easy to assume that there are 50. Then there are two other sets of blobs. I doubt that many viewers think about this consciously, but, somewhere in the back of the mind, over time, it is easy to turn a blob assumed to be made of 50 pieces, plus two other blobs, into 52 states.

The second factor is the way peoples' memories work. Our brains are bombarded with vast amounts of information, some important and some not. It is normal for humans to remember approximations, unless, for some reason, they really need to know a fact with precision. If you don’t have a compelling reason to know how many states make up the United States of America, your brain is likely to store it as a fuzzy "50-ish". This would be true for a great many non-Americans, and a terrifying number of American citizens as well.

In "western” nations we have the number “52” trained into us, because there are 52 playing cards in a standard deck. This exact number is stored because you learned it while playing cards - especially if your father ever taught you “52 pickup.” (Aside: why do I say "your father" and not "a parent"? Because I don't think many mothers are that cruel, and besides, they know that they might be the one that has to "pick up.")

If someone asks you how many states there are, you may recall that it is about 50, but, of course, you want to give a precise number. Your brain’s memory systems start looking for the number. Along the way they bump into the big, bold, shiny number 52. You don’t want to appear “slow”, so as soon as you come up with a number that seems right, you use it. Fifty-two is about 50-ish, so that is the answer you give. If questioned about your answer, self-justification circuits kick in which solidify it in your mind. Also, you just heard someone say that there are 52 states. Even though that someone is you, brains sometimes don’t realize that, and furthermore, as far as your brain is concerned, you are an authoritative source. If you said something, you can believe it.

Voila. A pair of really solid  reasons why a person that doesn’t need to know how many states make up the USA could easily think there are 52, and feel quite convinced that they are correct. No need to slip into a different timestream, the answer is right here.

New York (AP) -- December 15, 2015 -- Donald Trump withdraws from presidential race.

Speaking to a capacity crowd at Trump Tower, Donald J. Trump announced today that he is withdrawing his name as a candidate for President of the United States.

Earlier in the day the Trump campaign put out a press release saying only that he had an announcement to make, and that “it’s going to be huge.” Expecting a signature remark insulting a major ethnic or religious group, the media packed the lobby of the 68-story tower venue. But no one knew how “huge” this announcement was really going to be. Trump’s surprise statement drew gasps from the crowd.

Trumps speech was uncharacteristically brief. He noted that his goal in running for the nomination as the Republican candidate was to ruin the Republican Party and demonstrate what a “bunch of numbskulls” they had fielded as candidates. He stated that by taking positions that were “idiotic”, “unconstitutional”, and “wildly inflammatory”, he was able to prod the other candidates into showing their true colors as “demented and even demonic.”

“Trying to meet or beat the nonsense that I was spouting off, each of the other Republican candidates have made statements that pretty much guaranty they could never be elected”, said Trump.

After his prepared statement, one member of the press regained their ability to speak long enough to ask Trump what made him decide to withdraw from the race at this time.

“My work is done here,” he stated flatly. “I expected to have to stay in until Super Tuesday, but this was a slam dunk.” He added, “Everyone knows I am the greatest in the world at selling people shit, but even I didn’t know I was this great.” Though he did concede that “no one could have predicted the impact of that lunatic Carson,” in helping to unhinge voters, candidates, and the party. “Every time I made a crazy statement, Carson would reply with something even more off-the-wall. That was a gift that kept on giving,” said Trump, smiling broadly.

“I’m really excited about getting this thing put to bed so I can get some golf in over the holidays,” he noted.

Mr. Trump turned from the podium as audience members variously fainted, cried, reached for hip flasks, or began speaking gibberish into their microphones.

But Trump had one more surprise up his sleeve. Turning back to the audience he made a final comment. “Before I go, I just want to apologize to women, Mexicans, Muslims, golfers, and thinking people everywhere,” he said. Trump then ripped off his toupee and used it to wave to the crowd, while stepping onto the up-escalator of the building, ascending into the tower from which he had emerged just six short months earlier.

The Republican Party was not immediately available for comment.

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